Always consider your audience to be as insightful and intelligent as you are, and endeavor to engage them. Writing down to your readers, even if the demographic is abysmal, alienates groups and is apparent. Why does it matter if you click away at keys, picturing Mensa readers or nose-picking high school students?
When you write for smarty-pants Redditor-types, you’re much more likely to research with due diligence, to write with intention, and to push yourself. Linkbait is pithy. It is clever and ahead of the trends. How could you ever produce something captivating if you imagine blasé tweens perusing it before bedtime?
Accept the challenge to entertain yourself, and then pursue knowledge, social awareness, and the air of an authority, and you’ll be ready to compose compelling content. Sound impossible? Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.
If you take on the assignment to write 1,000 words about silk boxers, regardless of the given title or agenda, you’d better know your thread counts! Actually, you’d better know if silk is composed of ‘thread counts,’ too. Know your topic before you ever dream of outlining and writing. Writing off the cuff is sloppy, produces text that’s been written by 50 underpaid hacks already, and informs your readers of nothing. Why share nothing, when you could be a font for information?
Not sure how to determine your depth and breadth of knowledge on a topic? Before researching, ask yourself questions, and then intentionally seek the answers (for example, if silk boxers have thread counts). Likely you are asking questions others don’t know the answers to, and by learning the answers, you can be the one to educate others. Great ideas are borne of passion and curiosity: write down what you’re curious about (pertaining to your topic/boxers), and explore! Don’t be the vapid party boor who is too dull to le Google a question for the sake of knowing.
I try to mention this in every post, because so many writers ignore it. Be social: on every social network of worth, in every comment thread, and even in random submissions. You need to know it to do it. If you’ve submitted 3,000 pictures of kittens to r/Aww (ahem, Stephanie Weingart), have a page on every network Kutcher has molested, and read insatiably what other sociable types are up to, you’re much, much more likely to write something the social groups will want to read and share.
Using last year’s meme to be [like a boss] will only alienate your writing, even if it is well-researched and charming. So, take the time to ingratiate yourself with the natives. Get dugg, upboated, and liked enough times, and you’ll have a subconscious algorithm for what’s popping now (even though it needs to be researched and updated daily). Much like all teen movies are directed squarely at teens, social content must be aimed directly at social networks and their users: if you want them to like it, make it about them and specifically for them.
BECOME AN AUTHORITY
Not born with the je ne sais quoi to become Student Body President? Here’s your chance to earn that air online, and pull klout in your favor. Becoming an authority takes time: there’s no shortcut to trust, rapport, and respect. However, you can begin on that path and eventually wield said klout for amazing things, like getting instant approval from casual content browsers.
Start by branding yourself (using one name and image across the board is effective for writers and designers), and presenting a clear and concise image of who you are, and what you care about. Write consistently, if possible, and always strive to write high quality content. Inconsistency leads to mistrust and confusion, which can lead to negative feedback (even if content is amazing and well researched).
Why does authority matter? Because, as a reader, people will find and read the content put out by trusted authorities before they will browse that of new writers. Why would you take your car to a new mechanic if the old one is so cheap, efficient, and honest? Be the dependable one people come to know and faithfully follow.
Although it’s sad to see one of your listicles fall from #1 off of the front page completely, a content creator must always be humbled by the great works of others. See what they’re doing well, appreciate it fully, and find a method to become better. You must truly appreciate how people are out-doing you to be able to confront it with honesty and new methodologies.
Compliment your competitors and mean it: though you’re fighting for the same limited resource, it can be done honorably. Ask yourself in earnest: why didn’t you think of that first? Have you been neglecting a topic? Then, when you understand how your rankings fell, adjust your course.
Sure, The Great Gatsby is a wonderful read, but why do people re-read it? The text itself is rhythmic and entertaining, the images forced into your mind are light and fun, and the duration is manageable. Similarly, your linkbait must be a fun party that ends before the guests want to leave.
There are many, many different ways to be entertaining, but you probably already know your personal strengths. For some, humor is the way to keep text entertaining. For others, it’s by conveying facts in patterns that make sense and captivate a reader. However you entertain your audience, make sure you’re doing it. Never write in haste just to get it done, or people will notice. Because this is the vaguest suggestion, I’ll list a few specific tips:
- Write sentences of different lengths so the text doesn’t feel monotone to readers.
- Sprinkle some alliteration in, and a few slant rhymes.
- Always follow a fact by the answer to “So What?” Why should the reader care about that fact, and is it even surprising?
- Remember that lighthearted is always more pleasant than dramatic or depressing. People prefer to read ‘happy’ things, and to share them.
- Please only use humor if you are actually funny (ask more than just your mom).
Know your topic from a place of passion: ask and answer questions about it before you attempt to teach others. Know your audience, and cater to them (pandering is strictly forbidden and always transparent). Be consistent, and eventually the trust bestowed upon you will assist your content in link-ability. Acknowledge others’ wins, and be honest with yourself about shortcomings you should mend. With all of your knowledge and full presence of mind, write in an engaging and entertaining way. Finally, always ask yourself, “Would I want to read this?” before publishing.