How do you get someone to read a blog post of yours?
Do you write one of those clickbait come-on headlines?
Do you promise to reveal something incredible if only someone keeps reading?
Do you remind people to read what you wrote by sending them an email?
Do you keep the article or blog short, sweet and informative? With a headline that’s clever as well as informative?
I prefer the last – keeping it all concise and helpful. And also true. And if we promise something, we don’t bury it at the end of the mailing – we tell you right away what exactly we would like to help you with, and then we explain why we can do this.
But I’m often asked by clients why the blogs we provide for them aren’t longer than 350 to 500 words (some people want blogs to be as long as 1,500 to 2,000 words). But for us, a blog is a way to get someone engaged on a point and then come back for more. Blogs aren’t meant to be essays explaining something in detail. Besides, people don’t have the time to read everything you send – so if you keep it short, they’re more likely to taste what you’re offering, and if they like what they see they might come back for more.
But if you send out a long missive and readers become bored by it or feel they just don’t have the time to devote to the information you impart in such detail, they’re no longer likely to spend that much of their energy on what you give them. That bubble of expectation is burst.
It’s the nature of today’s sped-up world: we need to keep people engaged, but we don’t have time to do it. And we surely can’t lure them into reading something, only to be deceived by some come-hither headline that doesn’t live up to its come-on. But this has always been the case: people don’t have much time to spend on you unless what you offer provides something that solves a problem they have.
I saw once a photo of a famous old cover of National Lampoon, the satirical magazine that was popular in the early 1970s (and that led to many comic films). The headline read: “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.” It pictured a dog looking sideways at a pistol held to its head. It must have been shocking and funny back then, but this kind of humor is far less funny today, in our age of homegrown terrorists with easy access to firearms. But it struck me that even 40-something years ago, the editors of National Lampoon knew how difficult it was to get people to read something.
Today, people want information – but they also want it to be efficient and entertaining. So what we aim for, when we work with clients on turning their thoughts and works into smaller bits that can be easily digested by time-pressed readers, is to do just that. Make is useful, make it short, and repeat. Readers might not read everything you send, but if what you offer is good, they’ll read some of it – and that’s a great start.[rps]