For a blogger, there’s nothing worse than writing posts and feeling like nobody is reading them. That feeling takes hold when you share your blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social platforms and then nothing happens—no reposts, no comments, no reaction of any kind.
Lack of social media sharing is more than just an ego problem for the blogger. No social sharing means no traffic coming to the blog, no audience growth, brand awareness, or sales leads. In today’s social media-dominated marketing environment, it could be argued that without social media sharing, a blog’s value is limited to the point where it may not be worth the effort to maintain one.
Writing technique and strategy are not the only factors that contribute to a blog’s social media share-worthiness, but without them, other factors such as design and outreach, will not get you very far. Let’s talk about writing issues that can make your blog content get noticed on social media.
Write About Your Data
Nothing Is Greater than Data
No matter what business you are in, everyone else in that business or an associated business craves market intelligence. In most industries, useful market intelligence is very hard to come by.
In the industry I came from, packaging, everyone wanted to know about such things as corrugated linerboard price movement, average manufacturing and distribution operating profit margins, packaging company health care costs as a percentage of revenue, current demand for various flexible packaging films, etc. Well, good luck getting that information! It was available through industry association reports (costly), or independent market research reports (more costly), but otherwise, most of the data one could collect was anecdotal. This is why blog posts that share a company’s own data concerning revenue, profitability, customer behavior, and 1000 other things are highly sought after.
Every business person wants to benchmark. Every business person wants to base strategic and operating decisions on facts and what has been proven to work or not work.
At Straight North, we collect a lot of data and have done extremely well getting that information shared on social media. In particular, our insights about lead validation, based on analysis of (now) more than 1 million online conversions, has received a great deal of social media attention because the information has three attributes that data detective are looking for:
We used a broad sampling (1 million phone and form conversions).
Results were not necessarily intuitive (more conversions turn out to be non-leads than many people think).
We explain our methodology in collecting and analyzing the data.
From a writing standpoint, it is very important not to use this technique in a cavalier fashion. A lot of bloggers misuse the technique, writing posts with splashy headlines. For example, a customer poll they took that led to a surprising conclusion except that the poll consisted of only 10 responses. Such data is not reliable; if the sample size is not reported at all, it’s not transparent either. Posts like these are sometimes successful in acquiring social shares, but are they valuable social shares? No, they are not; because serious business people will recognize gimmicky reporting for what it is, and go away with a negative impression of the company.
To develop topics, brainstorm to identify issues you struggle with in your business. What information would you want to know if you could ask a competitor, a supplier, or a customer anything? Those are the topics that you can be sure like-minded communities on social media will want to learn about and share.
Develop a Defining Writing Style
Data sharing, the technique just discussed appeals to the intellect as a way to promote social sharing. Having an appealing writing style is an emotional technique. Both approaches are necessary to motivate people to share your blog content.
Some bloggers think having a strong writing style means being edgy, sarcastic, snarky. Not so! Darren Rowse from ProBlogger is one of the most popular and successful bloggers in the world. He comes across in his posts as sincere, practical, down-to-earth and clear-headed—very appealing qualities in a person from whom you are taking advice.
The way to develop a defining writing style—
Don’t put on an act; write in a way that reflects your personality. If you put on an act, you won’t be consistent, and then you’ll be spotted as a phony. It’s bad for the brand and for your career!
Writers, like everyone, have many personality traits—so a writer could be writing a funny post, an analytical post, and then a rant post. But if every post has a different personality, your social media communities won’t be able to get their heads around you—they will wind up not sharing your content as a result. You have to constrain yourself to exposing only certain parts of your personality in your posts, at least most of the time.
Crafting a style is more than just your attitude; it is also your approach to the topics about which you blog. Having a consistent editorial perspective makes you more predictable and definable to your social media community, which gives people more confidence in sharing your posts. So what are you?
- A debunker of myths
- An impartial reporter of facts
- A contrarian
- A relentless analyzer of data
- A theorist
- A visionary
- A simplifier of complex issues
To acquire a reputation for being any one of these (or something else) helps social media participants understand who will be interested in your posts, and how to frame the posts when they share them. Over time, defining yourself in such a way will make your posts a must-read for those interested in theory, analysis, contrary perspective etc.
Follow Best Practices for Blog Post Composition
David Meerman Scott, Enemy of Gobbledygook
Even if you have great data and great personality, social sharing will go nowhere unless people actually read your posts, so let’s get into some block-and-tackle writing issues. This is basic stuff, but it’s amazing how many bloggers fail to adhere to common sense rules that make or break a post’s readability and shareability. To me, these are the most important writing techniques for blogging:
- Short sentences
- Short paragraphs
- Use of subheads, bullets, and bold text to enhance scanning
- No gobbledygook (PDF)
- Stick with a reading level appropriate to your audience — here are readability tools
- Spend most of your writing time crafting headlines and subheads — here is a great headline analyzer to help you attract social shares
- Lead with what the post is about and why it is worth reading
- Avoid overly sales content — people don’t like to be sold when reading a post
- It’s okay to leave questions unanswered, especially if you want to encourage commenting
On the issue of blog post word count, the best advice I’ve ever heard is to make the post long enough to get your point across clearly. Padding posts to achieve some perceived SEO critical mass is a waste of time; padded posts are reader turn-offs and discourage social sharing. On the other hand, if all you have to say on a topic amounts to 100 words, perhaps you need to broaden the topic or think about it a bit harder! In any event, some bloggers become known for writing exceedingly long and detailed posts (Neil Patel), and others for writing very short ones (Seth Godin). If you can go decisively and consistently one direction or the other, you will establish a stronger blogging identity and improve the shareability of your posts.
About the author
Brad Shorr is the Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an Internet marketing agency in Chicago that offers SEO, PPC, and web design services. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications including Moz, American Marketing Association, and Forbes.