Popular blogging platform WordPress reveals that its users produce about 500,000 new posts every day. Given that number, don’t you sometimes wish the Internet had a loudspeaker system, one that only you could use?
But you, unlike spammers, exercise restraint. You don’t want to be that person who uses capital letters in tweets or solicits e-mail addresses for shady Nigerian trust funds or Viagra campaigns. You want to earn attention and keep it.
Given the fierce competition, how can a blogger set herself apart? Below are five strategies bloggers can use to engage an audience without being demanding, annoying, or spammy.
1. Be As Specific As Possible
Most human beings have voyeuristic tendencies. So why not appeal to them? Being nosy is how we learn about the world and also how we gauge whether or not we’re “normal.” If you bait your reader with a personal anecdote, developed with rich detail, the reader will gladly enter the world you have created. For example, instead of writing, “I went to the store,” you could write, “I jogged to the nearest 7-11 to pick up my favorite celebrity tabloid.” Which statement piques your curiosity?
2. Avoid “Talking Down” To Your Reader
Even an expert in a niche field should spend time practicing how to explain challenging and/or complicated concepts in lay terms. Don’t assume the reader understands what you mean; he or she can’t stop and ask you a question. If you don’t often have the chance to discuss your work outside of the workplace, you may want to ask a patient, willing friend (who’s not an expert in your field) to interview you. If you can find a friend who works in a communications-related field, that’s a plus!
3. Use Transitions And Section Headings When Possible
Transitions are words or phrases that help your reader follow your train of thought. Examples include “for instance,” “on the other hand,” and “similarly.” Using transitions in your writing will also help you make sure that your ideas are arranged in an understandable pattern. Section headings, usually bolded titles that break up a lengthy chunk of text, will help your reader skip to relevant information and absorb the main ideas.
4. Make Use Of Rhetorical Questions And Quotes
A rhetorical question is a question the writer asks the audience without expecting a reply. The question is not necessarily answered in the text but is used to make a point and to slow the pace. Use rhetorical questions sparingly but remember that they can make a big impact, especially in an introductory paragraph. Also, consider quoting thought leaders or other experts in your field. By supporting your own thoughts and opinions with the thoughts and opinions of others, you are demonstrating that you’ve done your research.
5. Incorporate Multimedia Wisely
Think of your favorite teacher or class. Did that person spend the allotted class time simply lecturing? Most likely, your teacher incorporated elements like images, videos, and group discussion. In your blog post, media shouldn’t substitute for good writing, but it can definitely enhance it and keep the writer interested. Choose media like images, video, and sound wisely and use restraint.
Try it now: brainstorm an idea for your next blog post. If you don’t have a blog, think about your next form of professional correspondence, maybe even an e-mail. How can you incorporate one of the above strategies into your writing, and what response do you hope to elicit from your audience?
In the past, have you had success with engaging an audience, whether through written or spoken word? Share your tips, too!