Recruiting new talent for quality web prose may seem easy, but it can be a challenge for seasoned content managers. Because ‘good writers’ may only be good at one style of writing, for example, journalistic, turning them into linkbait jockeys can be impossible. Therefore a ‘good writer’ may be a sub-par linkbait writer, even if he or she can produce fantastic newspaper pieces.
How does a recruiter identify talent, if not by the quality of writing? Here are a few tips for finding the right writer to groom, resources to help prospects become linkbait ninjas, and pitfalls to avoid during the training process.
1. Teachable is Better Than Taught
If you can speak to a prospective writer, pay attention to his or her phraseology: does this person consider himself taught, or do selected words imply the person is still learning? Though in other sectors a confident person who proclaims he is already taught may be choice, for writers, selecting one who loves learning or is still developing skills is key to engraining new tactics. For this reason, writers who have attained graduate degrees in writing may be difficult to re-train, whereas those with less formal training may be better at free thinking.
Linkbait writers need to think on their feet, just like improv actors: if resources for a piece of content are incomplete, or an assigned angle isn’t easy to write, you need a professional juggler who can make it work. Another reason why those who are open to new lessons are far better writers for linkbait is because needs and styles will always change rapidly. Few things shared like a cure for plague today will be doing well next year: linkbait writers must adapt to trends, algorithms, and competition, always keeping linkbait fascinating and fresh.
2. A Researcher & Editor Walk Into a Bar…
It sounds like a joke, but an excellent researcher who writes paired with a great editor can be a winning combination that would out-do any perfect linkbait writer. Why? Solid research, even provided by a mediocre writer, is going to do better socially. People want real information, and surprising connections; not clever wording of something they’ve read 18 times this year.
Excellent writers who are uncreative are milled out of leading universities in droves. The people who write great linkbait usually don’t have that kind of panache: instead, they provide a quirky perspective, fun new findings, and well-executed research.
3. The Best Policy
If you’ve ever worked with someone who is so eager to please that they create opportunities to be pleasing, either by filling in the blanks of research with their own opinions, or plain-ol’ lying about resources for content, then you surely appreciate someone who is honest. Honest writers will admit when something is impossible (after thorough research), rather than pleasing their editor and client by dreaming-up facts.
Identifying honest writers is sometimes impossible, but if a dishonest writer is identified during the grooming process, this person should be disqualified immediately. It’s impossible to train someone to be faithful to facts, unless you begin in the cradle as his or her parent. Know when to cut your losses. Even a great editor who is competent and committed to fact checking could eventually miss something that would disgrace a client when discovered by social users.
Never underestimate the need for linkbait writers who know how to read instructions and execute them. Too many writers begin to deviate, believing they can provide better headlines, angles, or stories than what is assigned: however, what if that old angle, headline, or story was the one being bought?
A prospective linkbait jockey must be able to accept limitations and direction (without getting snarky). After all, what use is a piece of content that is fabulous, but fails to meet the client’s needs?
1. BlueGlass Blog
The BlueGlass blog has excellent resources that can be used as training documents for new linkbait writers. From focuses on content brevity to headline creation, researching for content to producing skimmable text, the information is invaluable for writers.
2. Search Engine Land
With excellent pieces like How to Research, Create, and Distribute Highly-Linkable Content, Search Engine Land is a great place to find writerly resources.
3. Search Engine Journal
Good Copy, Bad Copy: The Magic is in the Headline is one of many winning pieces on this site. Writers and editors can find pieces to perfect prose on a regular basis on Search Engine Journal.
This article is a great start for writers who are brought into linkbait from other genres of writing.
For writers who need background on what they’re writing and why, this piece explains the process in enough detail that a social novice would be able to grasp and implement the information.
1. Clumsy Resources
It’s too easy to take a new writer’s knowledge for granted, and assign him or her projects with too-little support. Most new linkbait writers require several resources as examples of what to write, or where to obtain information, in addition to clear instructions that detail expectations.
Providing sloppy resources that a seasoned linkbait jockey would quickly distill into linkbait voodoo may result in a frustrated, insecure novice. To build a new linkbait writer’s confidence, supply him or her with a recipe for success: great resources, clear instructions, and examples of what has worked in this niche, already. If you set n00bs up for failure, it will be your own failure when you have to recruit new talent, again.
2. Overly-Familiar Instructions
“Do That Thing Moz Did in That Piece With the Fish, but With Ninjas.”
New writers are nervous and eager to please, but those nerves often block-out common sense. Vague directions to a person who is working on overdrive to impress you may result in misdirected garbage prose.
In order to help a new linkbait ninja produce something winning, describe things precisely, as though he or she should have no knowledge of the topic. That way, if he or she knows nothing about ‘Moz,’ there’s no need to admit it. Give new people the opportunity to learn things on the path to perfection; don’t expect new linkbait writers to know everything upfront.
3. Being a Critic
I am a critical judge of content, even when it is from a new linkbaiter: sometimes a list of 43 issues with one, six-page piece may be sent back to a writer. However, something that must accompany any critique is a list of compliments, or ‘wins.’ This list—however small—will build confidence in a writer that he or she is doing something right, and that ‘linkbait ninja’ status can be attained eventually. Otherwise, new writers may feel that they, alone, are failures who will always get everything wrong.
Providing a list of compliments will guide a linkbait jockey to produce what you want. Don’t hold back with the praise; like many things in life, giving detailed information about what you like will often yield more of what you like, which leaves less space for what you dislike.
Recruiting takes time and an eye for aptitude. However, before you can recognize linkbaiter skills in others, you have to know what they are: honesty, a knack for thorough research, an open minded learning style, and being able to take direction are traits every linkbait writer should have.
Once you find people who can be trained, be sure to provide them with understandable resources and to avoid the common pitfalls manager experience with new teams. Once your new writers are ready to enter the social world as linkbait ninjas, you will be excited to use their pieces as resources for your next batch of gurus.
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