Improving Your Blog: Creativity
Gawd, I’m bored. Aren’t you? There’s nothing new on lately? Everything is the same old same old. I’ve seen it all, haven’t you? There’s nothing new.
No, I’m not talking about television. Okay, I could be, but I’m talking about blogs.
Come on! Aren’t you getting bored reading post after post of “how to succeed in blogging”, “the top 25 SEO tips”, “make money with blogging”, “get-rich-quick with blogs”, and “my top web traffic tips” that litter the web?
As part of my ongoing series on improving your blog tips, a look at the redundant tips I give to many of my clients, I’ve covered clarity, cleanliness, consistency, and it’s turn for some creativity tips.
It’s About Getting Attention
Recently, David Peralty wrote “Quality Doesn’t Matter If No One Reads Your Post”, an interesting perspective on how hard you have to work to get attention to your blog today. He says that while quality content is still required, it takes more than just good writing to build an audience. It takes marketing and promotion.
Though, as one of the commenters stated, it’s not always about building an audience with your blog, especially if the joy is in the blogging not marketing, unless you are in the business of turning your blog into a business. Then it becomes about marketing and promotion and less about the personal satisfaction.
What better way to market your blog than to demand attention.
Today, there are a lot of ways of getting attention. You can submit your blog posts to site submission services, beg bloggers to link to your blog posts or submit your posts for you, but that’s been done. Everyone’s doing it. It seems as soon as someone hits Publish, their next step is to ping the bells of every promotional and directory site around the web, and submit their blog post everywhere else.
Again, same old, same old. If everyone is doing it, where’s the edge? How do you get a foot up? How do you really create linkable, attention-getting content?
No matter how hard you work on writing your content, unless you get a little creative, it won’t get the attention it did the first time someone shouted “The Top Ten Tips” from the roof of the blogosphere.
We’ve all seen it before, done it before, and are bored.
If you want to get someone’s attention,
you need to show them something they’ve never seen before,
or show them something in a way they’ve never seen before.
Lorelle and Brent VanFossen
Show Me Something I’ve Never Seen Before
There isn’t much we haven’t seen before once we cross the threshold of 40, unless we’ve been living in a cave. Television, movies, the Internet, we’re flooded with information, entertainment, and stuff constantly. We see things that aren’t even human or earth-bound! Beyond imagination. Struggling to find something no one has seen before is hard. Very hard.
Without the “possible”, the movie and entertainment industry would die. So would blogs.
The popularity of online video sites, like YouTube, brought visual images into our homes and offices in a new personal way, a method not seen since the first news images started entering homes during the Vietnam War. It brought things we’d only talked about or heard into our lives visually, up close and personal. While not completely new, the presentation form is still a novelty.
The visual impact, literally, of the Diet Coke and Mentos eruption experiment seen on YouTube and Google Video was an explosion heard around the web. Many copied the technique and created their own videos, Wikipedia created a page on the technique and news, and even Urban Legends Snopes had to create a myth page about deaths from mixing Mentos and Coke due to the popularity of the YouTube video that spread across the net, mostly via blogs and social networking sites.
The concept of viral marketing, using sensationalized media campaigns to promote products and services, is not new, but has found a new face with such attempts as the “Bride Has Massive Hair Wig Out” found to be promoting shampoo, and Lonelygirl15 as an actress looking for fame (and a movie deal) via the web. Nothing like a little controversy to get attention, which is not new, but the technology that uses controversy is new.
While it’s challenging to find new ways to show you new things, the real key to create success with your blog is to show us things in a way we’ve never seen before.
Show Me Something in a Way I’ve Never Seen Before
Recently, I was doing a lot of interviews and conferences with little time to spare, when a trackback popped up in my blog about an interview I did with Liz Strauss of Successful and Outstanding Bloggers. Since I’d never heard of Jan of Circular Communication, nor got an interview request, I was very curious about this “interview” trackback link.
Having never met nor contacted us, Jan published a virtual interview with Liz and I. He created a series of questions he would want to ask us if he had the chance to sit down and have a conversation with the two of us, then dug through our blogs to uncover the answers to the questions.
I was so delighted with this unique interview style and presentation, and tickled with the resulting article, I called Liz and said, “This is someone we have to get to know!” I did and the connection lead to an invitation to guest blog during my two month anniversary celebration, in which he shared his original “virtual interview” technique with my readers so they could learn how this fascinating way of interviewing works.
A lot of bloggers want to get attention by interviewing popular bloggers or celebrities on their blogs, but Jan found a way to do it without inconveniencing me, attracting attention and a lot of new readers for his creative and unusual method.
Liquid Egg Product is a personal blog covering sports, geek stuff, martial arts, and has a mascot. Donnie and his Liquid Egg Product Mascot (Liquid E.P. Mascot) work as a team directly or indirectly (with inserted commentary) to report on whatever interests the blogger at the moment. Sometimes, as in this example of the Mascot wanting to run for US President, their dialog makes up the blog post, offering an interesting commentary on US politics. Why waste time arguing and depending upon a human blogging partner when your blog can have a mascot to help you say the things you wish you could really say on your blog?
I Can Has Cheezburger? started out as a novelty. Pictures of cats doing funny things are something people love. They fill up calendars, note cards, pictures, and our scrapbooks. Here’s a picture of Fluffy hanging from the curtains! [Here’s a picture of my cat, Holiday, sleeping on my shortwave radio while we’re traveling and listening to the news.] So why not invite people to submit their funny cat pictures and have some fun with it, and make some money along the way? I Can Has Cheezburger is now listed in the top 25 most visited blogs in the world.
Instead of just sitting in the editorial backseat of blogging, Pelf left a tremendous impression on me with her passion for sea turtles and helping people in a unique and very personal way. Through the evolution of her blog and finding her passion, she decided to get out of the backseat of life and become one of the first in a new trend of bloggers, a campaign blogger, a champion blogger who blogs to help others, tackling personal, medical, and charity issues in her new blog, The Giving Hands. She’s blogging about things we all know, but doing so in a way that changes our perceptions of the issues.
Personally, I struggle constantly to find new ways of showing you how to do old things in new ways. When I decided to do a month long series on nothing but WordPress Plugins, I had several ways of showcasing some of your favorite WordPress Plugins. I finally decided to let WordPress fans share their favorite WordPress Plugins by creating a post of Lists of Your Favorite WordPress Plugins. I spent a year researching the best of the best lists of blogger’s favorite WordPress Plugins they published on their blogs. I followed it up with a summary of What Are Your Favorite WordPress Plugins?, culled from those posts.
Taking this further, Staska went through my list and used his own statistic analysis to come up with TOP 30 WordPress Plugins in Blogosphere, again, showing us the same information I’d posted in a new way.
There are many ways of showing us a new way of doing the same old things, ways that excite and attract attention, creating linkable posts and expert and entertaining blogs.
If you want attention from other bloggers, don’t ask, show. Show us you are unique. Show us you enjoy breaking free of the crowd. A little trackback wouldn’t hurt, but do it because you want to show us something in a new way, a way we haven’t seen before.
You can change the entire way you blog, or just change your perspective and show the world a new way of seeing on the occasional blog post. It’s up to you how far you want to go to get attention.
Tips for Finding a New Way of Showing Us The Same Stuff
Look at the topics you want to blog about. How are others blogging about the same topics? What’s their angle? What’s their perspective? Can you find a new way of writing about the same subject from a new angle?
Here are some tips:
- What’s missing? What’s missing from the points that everyone is making? Find it and make it.
- Say it better: If you can’t find a new angle, then say it better. Make the point with more clarity and in a way that improves upon the point rather than restating it.
- Look at the big picture: A lot of people whine about the parts of the picture without looking at the whole. Stand back and look at the big picture and blog about that.
- Point to the little picture: Sometimes the little corner of the big picture is really the most important point that isn’t getting enough coverage or attention. Point that out and write from that angle.
- Answer why: Many accuse. Many blame. Many rant. Many rave. But who really finds out the truth of why? Dig in and report on the “why” not just the “because”.
- Give the Solution: Again, many complain but few really come up with the answer to the problem. Give the solution or options to solve the issue. Go beyond the why to give us the answers.
- Go in reverse: Nothing wrong with taking the alternative point of view on the subject. Instead of telling them how, tell them how not to.
- Don’t worry about being first. Be right. So many rush from their feeds to their blog without really processing the information. Take time to get it right, to think it through, to find more information. Be the one who gives the reliable perspective not the hurried one.
I really believe that the “cream rises” and that social bookmarking and networking sites will figure out a way to make the scam so abhorrent and impossible, natural selection will occur and the best and most interesting posts, blogs and bloggers will rise to the top. Until then, wave your flags in interesting ways, and you will get our attention – if the content backs up its worth.
Article Series on Improving Your Blog Tips
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.
Well, I think this blog is definitely helpful!
I can’t understand how anyone can call I Can has Cheezburgr a blog. It’s a website for cat pics and questionable English. But in the original sense of the word, where one human being writes on the Internet about his world, what’s going on in it, what he thinks about that, what he feels, wants, what stuff he has to share in terms of links, tips, etc – then you can’t call it a blog. It may be hosted on a blog platform, but beyond that, forget it.
There’s nothing wrong with blogging for attention, but all this talk about rank and getting noticed and such is taking away from the fun of just thinking and writing. There are so many millions of people out there reading blogs that even if you are only noticed by a fraction of them, you can still have a decent-sized readership. Why not be content with that? We can’t all be in the first 25 or 25,000 even, but that shouldn’t stop you from simply enjoying the activity.
Changing your blog to gain attention means you end up with something that in the end is less a reflection of you than of what you think people expect of you, something you’re doing to please others instead of yourself. Not a recipe for happiness in real life, either.
A great series about improvements and how to develop ideas and enhancements.
Somebody has to say it :)
@ian in hamburg:
Which is exactly what I’ve been saying. If you are into the business of blogging, then you better pay attention to how it works and what works, and do that and do it new and differently if you want the attention and traffic.
If you don’t, then just enjoy what you do. Please yourself first. It’s amazing what good things happen when you lead your life through your life’s passion. Especially in a blog format.
As for Icanhascheezburgr, it’s a blog for sure, and uses cat pictures and such to make it’s point. No different from those using video, photographs, or any other medium to convey their message. A blog has no “rules” for message conveyance. Cat pictures are opinions and entertainment. Why should it get less valued?
The neat thing about Icanhascheezburgr is that the readers are contributors. In talking to the site owners, they never thought anything so silly would take off. Such success wasn’t in their plans. They liked the idea of sharing funny cat pictures with funny sayings, and the misspellings make it different from the other lolcats sites. Little did they realize they’d hit on a magical formula for unique, participatory entertainment. Go to respect that, whether or not we like the pictures or the English. :D
I’m going to turn you on to the best attention-getting device know to the world, bar none: Billy The Blogging Poet Movie. Enjoy the movie.
@Billy The Blogging Poet:
I’m not sure what the attention-getting “device” is, especially as I deal with words being the medium of influence, not visual media. However, a blogging poet with other interesting hobbies is not unusual, but is interesting.
This is a great article and gave rise to an interesting debate on a long car journey. My blog is in the early stages but it is a real struggle to get the attention of my target market, who are vacation home owners. Doing something different doesn’t make much difference if the traffic isn’t there in the first place.
I write a lot of ‘solution’ posts because I know the questions are out there – but am looking at more creative ways of getting the message across.
Doing something different always makes a difference, traffic or not. Is your blog’s income and purpose controlled by the number of people who visit, or the one to three people whose lives are changed or helped because of what you blog about?
If you find an interesting and creative way to reach your audience, you might be getting through were others aren’t. I have never used traffic as a measuring stick for my success, and I think it’s a terrible choice for any blogger.
You have a tiny market, and I think you need to reach out further beyond that market to those who don’t think it’s possible for them to even use a vacation home. This is the creative part of thinking outside of the box. I have friends who have used vacation homes, but I assume they are way outside of my financial capabilities. Breaking that assumption might be the creative twist you need to help reach out further.
this is very informative, i used to face the problem of not finding what to write about because most of the topics were already used, thank u:)
Another Great post!!! I just want to complement you on your site which is filled to the brim with some unbelivebly good stuff – keep it up. Thanks