There’s a problem with blogs.
It’s not that they’re ineffective.
And it’s not that they’re bad for engagement – they’re great!
The problem is that people are used to them.
Yep – people are familiar with blogs, how they work, and how they can expect to be treated when they comment on or subscribe to one.
A reply to a comment is de rigueur, and a subscription means you get a cool piece of content and useful updates.
And of course – you use all of the resources available to you to make sure that your writing is stirring and top-notch in every way.
But it’s no longer impressive enough.
All the work we do as writers and bloggers to make our readers feel special and valued and turn them into happy customers and consumers only works because our herculean efforts are the minimum expected criteria for a good blog.
And that’s a problem.
To really take things to the next level – to get not just happy readers but raving, evangelizing fans – we’ve got to do still more.
Luckily, there are some good ways to do that that haven’t been totally played out yet.
None of them are easy – but all of them are possible and can have a huge impact on every aspect of your business…
More than a Blog… a Topic of Conversation!
These days, what really sets an engagement and blogging superstar apart from the rest of the pack isn’t just being a fantastic, ethical and conscientious blogger – it means giving your readers everything they need to be interesting themselves.
What does this mean? It means you have to give your readers something to talk about – beyond your content. They need to think about the experience they have with you as well as the information you’ve given them.
You may be familiar with the 6 Buttons of Buzz; the taboo, the unusual, the outrageous, the hilarious, the remarkable and secrets. These are all things that people absolutely must talk about.
Think about the last time you read a really juicy piece of salacious gossip about your favorite celebrity (come on –we all have one). Did you lean forward a little bit, widen your eyes or hold your breath for a second or two longer than usual?
You probably did. And maybe, if you’ve got the type of friends who don’t make fun of you for caring about who got booted off Project Runway, you might even have shared the info.
But whether you shared the information or not, you did more than consume content passively. You had an experience with it – it made you feel something above and beyond the acquisition of new information.
Any of the six buttons of buzz can have this kind of effect on your readers – so don’t be afraid to use them.
Personal Email and… Phone Calls too!
AWeber and other auto-responder services have done a world of good for the blogging community. They allow us to connect with all our interested subscribers, and really make it easy to pay lots of people more (or less) personal attention.
But an auto-responder still goes only so far. Most people know that you’re working with one, and totally understand the reasons for it. So when you go out of your way to send an unsolicited personal email to someone – just to find out how it’s going – thank them for their support and get their input on something, they sit up and take notice.
When you’re able to probe for how much understanding your reader has and adjust on the spot, you’re able to give them an experience that is hugely valuable.ctivities and Games
Finally, you can supercharge your engagement by getting your audience to play. Yep, play.
Whether it’s through a contest, giveaways or voting, polls or comment competitions, getting people to play gets them thinking about you in a whole new light. You’re not just the writer with the lovely prose and insightful ideas; you’re the person who got them to go out and do X. Who connected them with Y. Who gave them a great story to tell (not to mention bragging rights!) around the dinner table.
Comment competitions are great because they encourage active engagement. You pose a question – preferably one that really gets the heart racing (remember your buttons of buzz!) – and let the comments roll in. You can set whatever criteria you’d like for winning: content, discussion, insight, research – the more challenging you make it, the sweeter the victory will be.
Polls and voting are a slightly less intense form of game – remember what inspires people to action, and make the poll or vote so interesting or funny that it’s absolutely impossible not to share. Humor works particularly well for this because people love surprises.
Polls and voting are not always the most scintillating activities for readers to take part in (think census forms and municipal by-elections), but you can make it a treat with a few well-timed funnies. Joke answers (Skeletor is a personal favorite of mine), absurd suggestions and crazy rules (that are obviously not meant to be followed) are good places to start.
Contests are the big one in the play category, both in how much work they’re going to be for you, and the possible benefits you can reap from them. They’re a lot of work. You need to plan in advance what you’ll be asking people to do (Take and submit pictures? Write articles? Tweet? Connect with new people? All of the above?), and you need to put some thought and some cash into the prizes – when you ask for the moon, be prepared to reward the stars!
Requiring people to engage with you and with each other, teaching them new skills and getting a little innocent extra promotion to boot will make your contest memorable for all concerned.
Speaking of Games…
If this interested you at all – and you’d like to get a firsthand look at experiential marketing – why don’t you come over and check out the Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt?
Not only will you get the chance to win some fabulous prizes – that’s merely the tip of the iceberg – you’ll also compete with some of the coolest new marketers on the internet to extend your reach, increase and improve your relationships, experiment with new media, and yes, write like the dickens. Or maybe the Dickens… that remains to be seen.
Hope to see you there!
About the author:
Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a the “Freddy Kreuger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works over at Firepole Marketing. Right now, there’s a hugely exciting Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt going on over there, and it’s not too late to get in on the action, expand your reach online, and engage with an amazing community of marketers.
Image: Excited toddler courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com
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