There are three commandments I follow when developing content for my professional and personal blogs:
- Be honest.
- Be human.
- Don’t be boring.
Even if you religiously subscribe to those tenets, it still can be a struggle to keep your message from going stale.
Here are four ways you can keep your content as fresh as possible.
1. Surprise Yourself
You can still be honest and human even if you choose to write against your own character from time to time.
Taking on a different voice than you usually employ, or write about a topic you cover on a constant basis in a radical way not only lends credibility to your skills as a writer, but it will add life to your blog when there are lulls in your traffic.
For instance, my personal blog Hardball Heart generally focuses on baseball and the antics of my close-knit family. I usually craft the content with the thought “my mother is going to read this” in the back of my head.
But every now and then I work in a post that’s a surprise to both her and me. Last year, I watched the movie The Graduate and was so intoxicated by the action in the film that I pumped out a 1,800-word blog post on how Dustin Hoffman’s character might navigate his, um, “situation” in today’s over sharing, digitally obsessed world.
It retained enough of my character that my audience wouldn’t think it was written by someone else, and it wasn’t created just for the shock value and to chase after a few more Google search hits. It was honest, human, and certainly wasn’t boring.
And the best part was that it sparked a new wave of creativity that extended into my professional endeavors.
Surprises are gifts that tend to lead to more good ideas, so embrace the other sides of your nature in order to make your content discover them in a natural way.
2. Know What’s Going on in the World
It’s fine if you think newspapers are dying and that information on what’s going on in the world is gleaned better online than in any other form.
What is unacceptable is if you don’t learn something on a daily basis about the world you currently inhabit.
There are already too many blogs that spend so much time shouting about the news of the day without having any knowledge on why that news might be important.
A lot of bloggers are fully prepared to shout their own opinions off the cuff, but the truly great ones look at an issue from all sides and research every aspect of it before they write a single sentence.
More information leads to more nuanced views and helps your audience develop opinions of their own rather than just accepting yours. If you’re not making your audience think, you’re not an effective blogger.
There’s an old saying one of my journalism teachers used to trot out whenever my class wouldn’t question a story or opinion enough. “Every idea a person has was probably put there by someone else.” He challenged us not to accumulate ideas, but to tear them apart, evaluate them, put them back together, and come to our own conclusions.
That’s what you want to be to your reader.
Become an expert in whatever content idea area you’re covering, present a plethora of ideas, and incite your reader to engage fully in independent thinking.
3. Incorporate Images and Multimedia
I’m a words guy, but there is something refreshing about a break in the action.
Aren’t you more excited to read the rest of this post after watching this clip from The Three Amigos?
Not only will adding pictures and videos help your blog’s search numbers, but it prevents you from losing readers whose attention spans can’t handle a couple thousand words without some kind of added entertainment. Plus, the choices you make reveal what kind of human you are.
If you’re already fully infusing your personality into your words, adding a fun clip or meme will make your audience connect with you even faster and on multiple levels.
Consider this blog post my colleague Stephanie Schaefer and I wrote leading up to the 2013 Academy Awards for JCKonline. The biggest challenge with writing about celebrities is that it’s often hard (and expensive) to retain photo rights. Steph solved that problem by finding YouTube clips of the best Oscar jewelry looks of all time, that not only solved our rights problem, but also added an interactive element to the post. The commentary we provided matched the voices we’ve developed on the site and worked better with video footage rather than a static image. The post created exactly the type of buzz before our live red carpet coverage we wanted and was a big hit across our social media sites.
Bottom line? The more effective you are at adding cool elements to your blog, the more engagement you’ll get from your readers who will then have more reason to share your content.
4. Have Fun
I wrote the majority of this post on a run through Astoria Park in New York City.
I’ve written things in my head during marathon nights out in the city, bleary-eyed on the subway headed home, watching coworkers perform stand up comedy, and while my nieces and nephews are clamoring for my attention (okay, they really just want to search train videos on my laptop, but still).
The point is you can’t be human by just reading about what’s going on in the world; you actually have to live in it too.
Meet new people. Interact with coworkers you don’t engage with on a regular basis.
Get out of your comfort zone as much as humanly possible.
Content is indeed everywhere, and the more fun you’re having, the more of it you can tap into.
If you’re having a good time outside of your blog, odds are you’re having fun creating content for it. And the more you have fun, the more response you’ll get from your audience.