The other day, I ran across a nice little post by Chris Brogan—“7 Ways to Bore the Hell Out of People.”
You’ll notice he did everything by the book.
The title promised a unique benefit, as all blog titles should. It included a number, as all blog titles should. The post gave readers exactly what they came for, as all blog posts should.
Oh, and it even included a colorful graphic. (Cool! A bunch of sevens. See what he did there?)
I love the way Chris turned the conventional blog post template on its head and gave it a sound flogging. His post was personal, genuine, and funny—like a beautiful oasis in a desert full of dry, dull, formulaic blog posts. He not only convinced me to click through, but he also made me a fan. I shared his post with great joy.
Sadly, gems like Chris’s are becoming increasingly rare.
In my RSS feed, I see a great many B2B blog posts that follow to a T the conventional rules for online writing (catchy title, teaser subheads, short paragraphs, bulleted lists, etc.). The writing is fluent and technically correct, in *most* cases. The substance is generally sound and (at least minimally) well supported.
But something is frequently missing in these posts. Call it a spark of personality, a streak of humanness, a personal stamp—that certain X factor that makes me want to stand up and shout, share what I’ve read with my social media communities, learn more about the author, and sign up to receive future posts in my RSS feed or inbox.
Stop Leading People Down the Beaten Path
In a world of never-ending content, playing it safe is a losing proposition. Parroting what’s already been written a gazillion times isn’t reassuring to readers; it’s mind-numbing. Using worn-out templates without investing an ounce of creative energy is going to leave readers feeling as though they’ve wasted their time (surely not the response you desire).
Yes, it’s true: People are inclined to click on a “top 10 tips” or a “five worst mistakes” type of headline. Maybe deep down we’re afraid that if we pass this one or that one by, we’ll miss the boat. If it has a dramatic headline, it MUST contain some groundbreaking truth that will make us rethink our entire strategy and give us a sizable edge!
Alas, here’s what we often find instead:
Top 10 Tips for Writing a Blog Post
–Create a top-10 list.
–Share on social media.[ . . . ]
Pinch me! I must be dreaming, because I’m deep in REM sleep mode.
If your blog marches to this same predictable rhythm, you’re not giving readers much to look forward to or talk about in their social circles. You might as well stop posting and revisit your purpose, your objectives, and what’s really driving your efforts.
If You Invest Your Whole Heart, Readers Will Respond
Person A loves grinding out blog posts so he can cross them off his to-do list. Person B puts her whole heart into conceiving, writing, and proofreading her posts. Naturally, these two writers are going to achieve very different results.
One blog that has a lot of heart—making it one of my favorites—is that of Birddog B2B, a London-based B2B marketing agency. This blog has everything: lively, pointed commentary; confidence born of experience; creative spin; irreverent humor; and plenty of useful insights and advice.
OK, maybe you’re uncomfortable with audacious and edgy. What works for one B2B blogger might not suit another’s goals and tastes. But to write a truly engaging and memorable blog post, you need to loosen up, let down your guard (yes, assume a little risk) and communicate authentically—with personality, authority, and passion.
Run-of-the-Mill, or Thoughtful and Clever? The Choice Is Yours
Your readers want to be moved in ways they might not have expected—e.g., awakened, entertained, provoked, inspired, cheered, bolstered, challenged—which isn’t possible if you color in the same old lines that someone else has drawn.
If you want your next blog post to stand out and make a real impact, you need to:
1. Go in with a servant’s heart. Ask not what your audience can do for you; ask what you can do for your audience.
2. Find a creative theme. Draw on your knowledge and experience outside the marketing arena. (I discussed this in an earlier post about the “Seven Creamy Layers of Effective B2B Content Writing.”)
3. Have fun with your hook. You need to whet your readers’ appetite before you launch into the meat and potatoes of your post. Give the opening line or paragraph your best creative effort.
4. Bring in a variety of elements to enliven your post. You can use virtually anything—data, metaphors, personal anecdotes, quotes, humor, mythical legends, industry debates, social science, historic events, cultural phenomena—to enrich the reader’s experience.
5. Be conversational. A blog post should feel like an intimate, two-way dialogue. If it’s stiff and reads like a lecture, you’re writing for the wrong channel.
6. Have no fear. If you’re sincerely committed to giving readers something they’ll enjoy and value (and you’ve proofread carefully), don’t second-guess yourself. Go forth and publish, and let the chips fall where they may.