I’ve been carefully reviewing a number of my articles and blog posts from the past couple of years. In particular I’ve been looking at exactly which posts and articles are considered to provide more value to my readers.
By understanding not only which blog posts and articles have had the greatest effect, but also why they have had that effect, I can adapt my future copywriting and content development to provide more of what people have enjoyed in the past, and improve the effectiveness of my content in the future.
It has been interesting evaluating which posts and articles have gained most interest, and of course there have been a variety of ways in which I have evaluated them. In particular I was looking at four things:
1. Blog posts or articles which have generated a greater number of comments, and encouraged responses and engagement from a number of readers
2. Content which has been shared most often through Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and social bookmarking sites
3. Content which has been linked to or syndicated more widely
4. Content or posts which have been personally recommended through popular social media platforms such as Twitter
So What Can You Do To Encourage Active Engagement On Your Blog?
1. Play Devil’s Advocate!
Interestingly what I’ve found is that I am often wrong. What I mean is that sometimes I can write an article or blog post which is based on a huge amount of research, includes lots of valuable information, and raises what I consider to be important and relevant points, yet such posts or articles may not encourage as much engagement as others which may not be as academically researched or informative.
In terms of encouraging engagement in the form of comments I have found that those posts which have produced more commenting are often those in which I have played devil’s advocate, proposing ideas which are designed to get people to criticise what I’m saying, rather than passively accepting it. A good example can be found here.
I suppose that whilst you yourself may well find that you read half a dozen blog posts with your morning coffee, nodding wisely through most of them, you may then come across one which you feel has got it wrong, or which has missed an important point, or with which you simply disagree entirely, and that’s when you are more likely to put your coffee down, and start hammering out a response on your keyboard.
That’s engagement, and the lesson here I think is that playing it safe, following the crowd, providing interesting but ultimately depthless and unoriginal content is never going to stimulate your readers into becoming active participants.
2. Images count in blogs more than you think
I’ve found a common pattern has emerged which suggests that those blog posts or articles which include a greater proportion of supporting images have also encouraged engagement and sharing. It seems that if I write a 500 word blog post, and include no images, or just one fairly uninspiring image, it will certainly be read, and shared, but not as widely as if I include a larger image, or two images which break up the text.
I suspect that this may partly be because of the way many of us have adapted our reading techniques having spent so long reading content which is web based. With so much content we have become used to breaking it up, quickly scanning through text, extracting the key points and then moving on. Clear and memorable visual images help to not only break text up so that it is more likely to be read, but such images also provide mental anchors.
By this I mean that a visual image is more easily remembered than a series of points, and that image can become a mental anchor which allows us to remember quickly where we can go to remind ourselves of the detail of the points we remember being valuable.
That may sound a little vague, and I am no qualified psychologist – I’m simply making an educated guess, but the statistics don’t lie. For that reason alone it is worth bearing in mind when creating subsequent posts and content.
3. Want engagement? Remember to ask for it!
Finally, it is also clear that including a call to action at least once at the end of the blog post or article makes an enormous difference. When you’re having a conversation with somebody you will often end what you are saying by asking them whether they agree, whether they understand, and what they think about it. Prompting the other person, either with a clear question or with a vocal inflection which indicates you are interested in knowing what they think, turns a monologue or speech into a conversation.
Doing the same thing with your blogs and articles clearly helps to prompt readers to engage actively rather than passively appreciating what you’ve done and then moving on.
Although not necessarily the only factors involved, I think these three points make it clear that to encourage active engagement, in the form of commenting, linking and sharing your content, it pays to be a little controversial, to include visually memorable images, and to include a clear call to action at least at the end.
I’m sure I’m not alone in regularly checking back to see how my content is doing, and asking why exactly some content does so much better than others. But I’m interested in your experiences as well. Have you actually ever gone back through blog posts and articles in order to try to identify why some posts seem to do so much better than others? Have you come to any conclusions as to why some of your content encourages a more actively engaged audience? Please share your thoughts, ideas and experiences below and let’s see what other patterns you have discovered.