(Guest Post: I’m on vacation, so I invited Tim Handorf to write a guest post. Tim writes on the topics of online colleges and universities. He welcomes your comments at his email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
As a blogger, you know by now that increasing your traffic means grabbing your audience’s attention and keeping it. The Internet is a veritable distraction mine filled with bells and whistles and flashing lights, so keeping a large audience enthralled and focused is a constant but rewarding challenge.
While Writing on the Web and other websites like it have featured dozens of solid tips for improving your blog writing, I’m going to offer a source of divine inspiration when the going gets tough. That’s right. Reality TV.
The invasion of reality-based shows in our popular imagination isn’t always mentally stimulating. Some shows, like Bad Girls Club or The Hills, are downright silly and immature. But I’ll be darned if they aren’t mind-bogglingly popular. And the range of viewership is startlingly diverse–even my mother, a woman hailing from a different country, culture, and generation–is obsessed.
One Sunday afternoon, splayed on the couch watching a marathon run of America’s Next Top Model, I started thinking about what, exactly, is it that makes these shows so attention grabbing, and what can I take away from the experience to get more readers reading my own blogs? Here are a few things I noticed.
1. People love personal stories.
I’m convinced that at the core of reality TV’s popularity is its microscopic look at personal detail. While your blog may not necessarily be a hub of personal confessions, always throw in some personal detail when writing any article, no matter how technical or abstract the subject matter is.
Nearly all readers desire seeing the person connected to her work. Even though America’s Next Top Model is about modeling, would anyone really care as much if we didn’t get the occasional personal glimpse into each model’s life? Probably not.
2. People love unique personalities.
The characters on reality TV shows that get the most buzz are those who have developed original personalities. Call it exhibitionism, but it works. When writing for your blog be sure to develop a unique (even quirky) personality and keep it consistent. Even if you aren’t the most extroverted person in real life, you can bring the talkative, vivacious you out in your writing. If it’s appropriate to an idea you are you are trying to describe, say something outrageous.
3. People love a good fight.
While there aren’t necessarily “fights” in the blogging world as they exist in many of these reality TV shows, I do see a distinct connection. People love controversy, and nowhere can you engender the kind of controversy like you can by being smart about responding to comments. Just as in reality TV shows, where the occasional disagreement–whether it’s physical or verbal rough-and-tumble–gives the show some renewed gusto, so too does a periodic squabble in the comments section of any given article.
Since you’re in charge of moderating comments, be generous in allowing commentators to disagree with the viewpoints you’ve put forth, and always respond to such comments in a timely and bold manner to keep the conversation going. Encourage debate among readers as well.
4. People want something to look forward to–a sense of continuity.
Even though reality shows are supposed to mimic real life, they are, of course scripted, in a manner of speaking. That is to say, directors imbue a narrative to the subject. Ever notice how reality shows, like all good TV shows, leave off at a point where you are dying to know what happens next? Also, most reality shows give a bit of a sneak preview, so you’ll know what to look forward to, even though it’s still shrouded in mystery.
The same goes for your blog. It helps to think of your blog as one long story. One article builds on the next in some way, and it’s a good practice to hint to your audience what direction you’re taking with your next blog post, but always withhold the details and make them wait. If done right, incorporating a narrative structure into your blog as a whole will have readers dying for more.
While I’m not suggesting that every blogger waste their time watching a bunch of reality TV shows, it’s always good to look for inspiration from other media that draw large audiences.
If you want to gain a larger and larger fan-base, it helps to be aware of popular sentiment. By putting your hand on the pulse of current trends, you can find ways to incorporate these trends into your own blog and hit it big.