A while back I made two posts about our online brand identity. You can find them here and here. This follow up post is about how to maximise the potential of one of your posts. I’ll be discussing the easy ways to turn a good post into a great post. And we’ll be starting with…
So many bloggers race to print news stories first. They’ll see a story on the news or read about it online and rush to be the first to post it on their particular hosts site.
Why bother? Wouldn’t you rather be right than first? Take your time, do some research on the story and see what else you can find out about it. If different reputable sources are reporting different versions of events, make sure you include both versions in your post and explain that things aren’t clear yet.
A common mistake is to simply link to a news story, but you may as well simply include a link to a news site on your sidebar and never post anything. At least tell your readers what you think of the story. Is it something that excites you or worries you? It’s your blog so make the post your own rather than just an advert for another site.
This is a tiny point but can seriously affect a reader’s enjoyment of a post. Without spellchecking and text formatting a long piece of text can be quite bland or even annoying to read.
So you’ve made a wonderful post, corrected all the spelling and checked your facts, but at the moment it’s all text and not all that interesting to people who aren’t actively involved with the subject (and therefore presumably already at least as well read on it as you). What can you do to make people read that post? How do you make someone who already knows about the things you’re posting about read the post and, at the same time, have someone with no prior interest in the subject want to read the post too. Simple – add some source material. This can come in many forms but the simplest are links and images – the glitter of blog posts – sprinkled liberally around the post. Source material can enrich a post, making it more fun to read, and more educational.
To find your source material, start by collecting images and add the ones you find to be most relevant to the post. Don’t get rid of the others yet though. You may need them.
Now move on to links. Links should add education or entertainment to a post. You might link to the dictionary definition of an uncommon word or term you’ve used in the post, or to a Wikipedia article on something you’ve mentioned in passing that others may not be familiar with. From your leftover images, have a look through your post and see if you can add a link to them somewhere that would make sense in the content of the post.
The trick with links and images is to use them to garnish your post but not to let them dominate it. A basic guideline for source material is no more than two links and one image per paragraph with no more than four images in a post. It adds to the post without losing the main subject behind all the source materials.
As an example, I’ve left all source materials out of this post except for the links to previous posts. Doesn’t this one look a little bland compared to the others? Which brings us to…
No-one wants to read a gigantic post, even if it’s packed to the gills with extra source material. The best way to deal with that problem is to cut your large post into several smaller ones, each dealing with a certain aspect of the subject you’re covering. Unfortunately that presents a whole new problem – how to ensure that readers of one part will read the others?
Okay, I’m lying to you. This isn’t a new problem, it’s an old one and was solved decades ago with a cinematic process called cliffhangers. The idea is to leave your post having reached a conclusion for it’s subject but promise your readers more to ensure they return.
Give your readers a reason to come back for more. Tell them at the end of a post that you’ll post more on a subject, if you plan to, and give them a preview of what your next post on the subject will be specifically about. If you leave your readers with enough to think about, but promise more at a later date, you’re all but guaranteeing readers for your later post.
The effect this has on readers is a subtle unconscious one. They start to feel that you care about them simply because you’ve broken your posts down into more readable chunks, and they’ll start to reciprocate that care by reading your posts more thoroughly. Their senses of anticipation will be heightened as they associate your posts with their weekly television serials and, when you mention a follow-up, they usually can’t resist looking forward to it and they’ll probably tell you so in your comments. Speaking of which…
If your posts are the bones of your blog, then the comments you get are the flesh and blood. They’re what makes a post come alive and grow. There may be points you’ve missed in your post that your commenters point out or they may have a completely different point of view to you. Engage your commenters in conversation. Talk to them about their views on the subject. See what they think.
Some commenters will remember similar situations to whatever you posted about, expanding the scope of your posts beyond your original vision. I enjoy making my posts, but I love reading the comments on them and watching how the topic grows in them. Good comments and developing them into good conversation can make a post so much more.
In the end some of these are things I do on my page and they seem to work for me, others I’ve seen used and they work for others but aren’t my style. However these approaches (both the ones I practice and the ones I don’t) may or may not work for you. You may find that some are more enjoyable than others and that you concentrate on those. That’s a good thing. Only the things you really enjoy doing will work for you.
You may have your own techniques that you use to make your posts have more impact. These work for you where they wouldn’t for others because you’re a unique person (just like the rest of us) and your approach to writing posts will be different to mine. If I’ve given anyone some ideas with this post then it’s served it’s purpose. But always remember one thing:- it’s your blog, not mine and you’ll write it your own way and that’s the way it should be.