It doesn’t really matter if you’ve written the best, most perfectly researched text in the world. Nobody’s going to read it. That’s the sad reality.
Content marketing, let alone alone content writing is a tricky thing and there’s no formula when it comes to making sure that everyone will read through till the end. However, there are couple of tricks that I have learnt that will increase your chances of success.
This article is not about flowery language and great grammar,(though these things do matter!). It more about how to captivate your audience and keep them hooked till the end and hopefully give them reason to share your piece.
1. Make your headline viral
Viral has become the codeword when it comes to online success. It is tossed around with everyone wanting it. Can you make my campaign viral like the “Zvirikufaya” videos. I often here this from many clients. We all want to publish viral social media updates, viral YouTube videos and viral website or blog content.
Well, the things you believe have viral potential may not necessarily be the ones that your audience is going to be impressed by. I firmly believe it begins with the headline.
When choosing a headline, try and consider the following:
- Emotional appeal – make people laugh or feel something and you’ve got them hooked
- Something curious that everyone wants to know
- A trending topic (doing your research is crucial)
- A list, a series, a specific number of tips – like this and most of my blog articles.
- A how to guide, a practical explanation of something complex or something that everybody wants to learn how to do
I love Buzzfeed headlines. Countless analysis has been carried out to find out what makes them so likely to go viral. Guess what, most of them correspond to at least one or more of the criteria mentioned above.
The above pic shows the current top posts on Buzzfeed. Take a look at the titles and see how they correspond to the viral suggestions above.
Take note of one thing – a viral headline should deliver on its promise. Don’t go for clickbait headlines. If you promise people to prove whether Nicki Minaj’s butt is real, you better deliver! Otherwise, you’ll lose the audience that you’ve already misled into giving you a try.
2. Focus on your first paragraph
You absolutely need to have a great opener. This is a no brainer. The first paragraph will determine the fate of your text. Just think about it – have you taken the time to read content that has a boring, long and convoluted first paragraph? I guess not.
This is the most difficult aspect of writing content. Coming up with the perfect opener every single time is impossible. But you can still turn to the following approaches and ensure the decency of the lead:
- Ask a question that the audience is eager to learn about
- Provide a glimpse into a secret that you’re going to share through the article
- Be direct and tell people what the article is all about
- Make it humorous, tell a good joke
- Start with a great and catchy quote that is relevant – like in this article
This analytical piece shows what types of first paragraphs are most capable of getting the audience engaged. It also provides examples of lead graphs that belong to each of the categories.
Here’s another interesting case study. Based on heatmaps, researchers have found out that an articles most important and engaging information should be made available in the first two paragraphs.
One writer I have come to respect has managed to work the art of powerful opening paragraphs. Tinashe Nyaruwanga. Writing on Social Media Predictions for 2016 this is how he opened:
“The digital era is here.
Social Media is now the part of our personal and business lives.
The dawn of social media is changing the landscape. A lot of the things that worked in the past no longer work today.
They are a distant but fond memory. The social web, micro blogging and digital marketing are all new skills we have to learn.
This means un-learning and letting go of knowledge we spent a lot of time learning.
Apart from the fact that he quotes me in his article, this is an article I would be interested in reading just by reading the opening paragraph.
You get it?
3. Find your unique tone and voice
Guess what makes some writers better than others. Here’s a hint – it’s not extensive research, it’s not practice (though experience will certainly help) and it’s not in-depth knowledge of the topic being discussed.
What make great writers great is that they have their unique tone and voice. Certain people’s content is easy to recognize among hundreds of other articles. One example that comes to mind is Makaitah who writes deep and thought provoking fiction articles
Write in your own voice without trying to replicate anyone. Don’t choose a certain writing style because you think it’s going to appeal to the audience. Readers have a way of knowing that your writing is far from authentic. This is one of the biggest sins in the world of content writing.
Tone and voice are key elements of branding. Find yours and stick to it.
4. Focus, Focus, Focus
I firmly believe that good content is focused content. your readers don’t have all day to explore all of the ideas that you have in your head. Choose one topic and stick to it. If possible choose one subject area and focus your entire articles on it. I go back to the example of Tinashe Nyaruwanga who writes digital marketing. If your interest is Fashion they write about fashion in all its glory.
One useful tip that I learnt is to create an outline before you start writing content. An outline will keep you from digressing and losing the sharpness of your piece.
Great writers do just one thing and they do it perfectly. Your writing should be able to answer these questions:
- What’s your point?
- Why are you telling the story?
- How will it benefit your reader?
These are the questions you should be capable of answering before getting started with the text.
One final thing to remember is that you don’t have to make your writing “pretty”. There’s no need to use big words and long sentences. Tell your story, make your point and end when you’re done. Trying to write a certain number of words and putting a lot of filler content in will instantly decrease the strength of the argument and of your writing.
5. Be persuasive
This is a very challenging aspect of content writing but an essential one. After all, you want to persuade people through your text. You want them to do something after they’re done reading.
A few principles of persuasive writing include the following:
- Appeal to logic and to a person’s sense of reason – make them believe that what you’re telling them is the right thing to do
- Appeal to the emotions of people – make them desire something and get them feeling drawn to it. Use emotional appeal sparingly, otherwise you risk making the text too soppy
- Reciprocity – people like to get something before giving back. Thus, give them valuable information if you’d like them to undertake a certain course of action
- Appeal to traditions –through this technique, you will be asking people to accept an argument because it has worked in the past, standing the test of time
Lastly successful writing is difficult. I am yet to master it. It involves talent, strategic planning, practice and dedication. Take it slow, do your research and work on refining your writing skills. If you’re consistent and eager to perfect your content, you’ll soon see the positive outcome of your efforts.