When it comes to innovative content, we’re usually trying to come up with compelling things to say that will bring us attention and enhanced credibility, maybe much like we would if we were writing a serialized book. But this is definitely not a book.
In fact, online content in general and blogging in particular are very non-bookish indeed, thanks to the real-time interactivity the medium allows. Instead of a static monologue, blogs are a two-way multimedia interactive environment.
Let’s take a look at four ways you can spark interaction with your audience that increases engagement and makes you a more innovative content producer.
1. Encourage Comments
Encouraging blog comments is the most obvious way to interact with your readers, and there’s more to it than simply asking readers to leave a comment. Luckily, we covered that very topic recently with One Simple Way to Generate More Comments on Your Blog. It seems James knew what he was talking about, since the post scored over 100 comments.
But beyond the ways in which you can end your post to encourage comments, what you say in substance will make a big difference, too. When you take the time to be strategic about your subject matter, you’ll be naturally asking big questions and tackling tough topics, both of which tend to lead to robust reader discussion.
2. Turn Questions into Content
One of the easiest ways to create compelling content is to simply invite readers to ask questions, and then answer the questions in public. This is the entire basis of the iconic status of folks like Dear Abbey and Ann Landers, and the technique can be applied to just about any subject matter.
Why does this work so well? Because the format forces you to focus on what your readers are most interested in—themselves and their own challenges. Here are a few ways people are using this strategy online:
- Advice Column: Maki just recently launched Ask Dosh Dosh, and he gives a lot of great reasons why adding an advice column to your blog can benefit both you and your readers.
- Audio Advice: The radio call-in format is decades old, but easier that ever thanks to free services like Blog Talk Radio that allow anyone to interact with their audience with audio.
- Video Advice: Check out how Ask Dan & Jennifer takes the same basic approach, but instead they use video and a casual setting to bring the advice column into the age of You Tube.
3. Reader Activities
For some blogs, getting readers to perform tasks, assignments and peer reviews can add a lot of value. If you’re taking an educational approach to blogging (you are, right?), then why not add in elements usually found in paid training programs?
For example, Darren Rowse of Problogger does Group Writing Projects and Community Blog Consulting. I’ll be doing an ongoing series on magazine headline remix challenges, and I occasionally even rewrite headlines for readers as a group learning experience.
You don’t need to have an audience of bloggers for this to work. Just think about which individual activities and group collaborations can help your readers “get” what you’re talking about at a deeper level.
4. Multimedia Engagement
Starting now and into the future, you’ll see more and more content being supplemented with multimedia that can be interacted with in ways that increase engagement. This is some of the stuff we’re showing people how to create in Teaching Sells for paid content environments, but I expect to see it trickle into the blogosphere as competition increases.
For example, say you want to differentiate between the standard model for selling information products using the “funnel” approach compared to the “access” model of membership sites. First, you’d want to make sure that people understand what the funnel approach is all about, so you provide a bit of interactive multimedia content (with audio) that prompts readers to “lean forward” and interact with the data however they want to.
Go ahead, click that last link above (it won’t bite, but there is audio). You’d be shocked at how easy it is to create this kind of content, and the tools are getting cheaper and more powerful all the time.
What Did I Miss?
These four ways to increase interaction levels are the most obvious, but I’m betting there are others out there. Feel free to share any methods you’ve seen or ideas that you have in the comment section.
Reader Comments (52)
One of the most powerful tools for the online crafts blogging community is Reader Activities. I’ve seen lots of these – from weekly and monthly challenges to Robin Atkin’s year long commitment to a “Bead Journal Monthly” in which ~250 subscribers create a piece of embroidery work for their own 12 page “journey”. The reward to the reader comes in the form of engaging in a group activity, creating a personal work of art, and the possibility of the collection of works becoming an exhibit. Pretty cool I’d say!
Thanks Copyblogger, you’re always spot on!
Adam Kayce : Monk At Work says
Um, the link in #4…? Supposed to be audio or something?
Jason Unger says
Brian — great demo with the sales funnel. I’m not quite sure where/if this fits in your four ways, but I know some bloggers who run contests by telling their readers to comment and point out their comments on other stories.
Perhaps that’s using great content to create interactivity, though.
John Hoff says
This might be categorized under Interactivity, but what about introducing a chat module with a blog. Maybe every Friday at noon Pacific time a blog post is put out on, well . . . my site 🙂
Then for comments, a chat module is used where I can interact with site visitors and we can comment together.
The blog owner could then assign certain usual readers to be fill-in chat lead (takes my place, for example) for a number of days following. The fill in would be something like a moderator in forums.
James Chartrand - Web Content Writer Tips says
Each of these four points comes down to one simple concept: getting personal with your reader. Interaction means that you have to step out and be a real person to connect with your readers as real people. Through video or through commenting, it’s all part of becoming part of the crowd and not just standing aside leading the group.
Another strategy? Asking people to give their advice and opinion on something you struggle with. They’re thrilled to be the expert telling the pro what to do!
(And thank you. I didn’t hit 371 comments but I’m darned pleased with the 100 that thread got!)
Brian Clark says
Adam, try it now. The b5 servers had a major hiccup right when this was posted.
Internet Marketing Smarts says
A twist on #2.
Read the comments you’re getting and base your content on that. It’s amazing the things I learn from my users on my work at home blog. You get your usual, great article comments. But then someone ask something really compelling or responds with a point you never considered and bingo you have new content ideas.
Some of my best post have come because of that and the response is great because it usually means that other people were thinking the same thing but failed to mention it.
So that’s a great way to run with content. If you have hundreds of comments you probably have a wealth of content for weeks or months. Don’t let it go to waste.
Joan Stewart, The Publiicty Hound says
I used a combination of all four items above.
I’m a publicity expert, and came cross an interesting video of a TV news team’s investigation in Atlanta. They learned that three hotels in Atlanta never washed the glasses and coffee cups in guests’ rooms. Instead, housekeeping simply wiped them clean for the next guest to use over again.
When the news team contacted the hotels, the hotels either denied any wrongdoing or said “no comment.” I asked my readers what they would have done in a situation like that if they were the hotel’s spokesperson. I offerd a prize to the person who submitted the best answer.
I received 75 comments at my blog and most of them were fabulous. I sought feedback from a respected team of former TV investigative reporters.
The winner got to select $200 worth of my products. It was a wonderful contest that used all four of your strategies mentioned above, in combination with my ezine and blog.
You can see the video and read the entire thing at http://tinyurl.com/28aqm9
Michael Martine says
On the web, live streaming is starting to come into its own, with services like Ustream, which is both live and interactive. You wouldn’t want to do something like that without planning and structuring, so I would say that qualifies as content.
I’ve had some fun on my blog with SlideCasting as well, from slideshare.com. Very easy to do for time-pressed bloggers: make a PowerPoint deck (a good one), record and upload a separate audio track, and use slideshare’s tools to sync them. Embed like a YouTube video.
Latarsha Lytle says
Your post suggests that we continually find ways to relate to our web-visitor in a mutually engaging manner.
It’s about opening the communication channels to create a more fluid and organic relationship with our web-niche.
I have begun to evaluate my site for ways I can give my web-visitors a more fluid way to communicate with me.
In the end, it’s about building relationships and providing our web-visitors with something that adds value to their lives.
Thanks for sharing your insight.
vineet nair says
Your style is amazing and content very inspiring. Just when I think I am about to predict you will write next you come up with something surprising and refreshing..
I loved your audio presentation on sales funnel.
did u use cametasia ?
Well put. I’m a fan of question-driven and task-based content. That’s actually how I build my books. It’s the backbone. At the end of the day, it’s either answer a question or show me how.
A good wrapper method that ties these together is “scenario-driven” content. Stories and scenarios help the rubber meet the road.
Joanna Young says
I’m looking forward to more headline remix challenges, the last one worked a treat 🙂
Picking up on the comments point, I try and include at least one post a month that’s based on the best of the comments I receive. It seems a shame to leave them languishing in the comment box. It’s also a simple way to say thanks to my readers.
How about video blogging? With the rise of ‘premium’ themes featuring video highlighting, it’s the next big thing to come up.
Another great post! I am doing a combination of blogging and video blogging, and participating in forums and using Twitter as well to try to find more subscribers. I am currently on day 30 of a 92-day juicefeast, but there are a lot of juice feasters out there these days, and they all have interesting blogs. I will keep trying, though! Oh, and I will be signing up to your RSS feed asap! ;o)
Adam Kayce says
Excellent – figured it was something like this (just wanted to let you know).
Great video, too – simple and to the point.
And thanks for this Series; it’s a real gem.
Mike Piper says
So I checked out Articulate Engage. Looks like exactly what I’m looking for. Problem: I’m a Mac user. Anybody aware of a similar product for Mac?
I liked the bit best about getting readers to comment. Getting the balance right between being authoritative and being interested in what others think is not easy. As well as getting the balance right between providing information and being interesting.
Brian Clark says
Mike, not so far. Articulate serves the corporate e-learning market, which is heavily PC-centric. So, now you know why I still keep a PC despite being a Mac convert.
aaron wall says
Some of my tools are the most popular pages on my site. I use my keyword suggestion tool almost every day.
Lots of tools have a nominal onetime build cost and very little required maintenance.
Adding value to your readers who blog is another great way to get involvement – having posts or activities that involve you linking out to them seems to be a really effective way to get bloggers involved. It may be simple, but it’s important to keep in mind when you’re doing adivce columns, profile features, community projects, etc.
Maria Reyes-McDavis says
Once again, great post! Contests (already mentioned) is a great way I develop interactivity and as basic as the questions seem — they work.
17 people who have commented failed to list their name AND website in their comment slugs. This is a small failure of “innovation” on their part that decreases changes of people “interacting” with their comment links.
Santa Barbara Real Estate Voice says
Thanks for the post. For Real Estate Agents I believe this is more than crucial. The hardest part about our business is often just generating leads and contacts. Having a site as engaging as possible is now starting to superceed the traditional static websites.
I think an area that allows potential clients to pose a question in a widget without making a call or signing up etc. is a good easy tool to establish contact with your customers.
I look forward to receiving your posts in my inbox and after reading this late last night have added a questions answered section on research.
Great post as always, thanks.
Interactivity is to readership as marshmallows are to smores. The answer: absolutely ESSENTIAL. I bet if Mitt Romney were a blogger, he could just pay people to read his articles.
Colin Joss says
The 3rd way is the least one I have ever seen around the internet. Most blogger would jump from number #2 (Turning question into content) to #4 (Multimedia / Video). I think it is for practicality means.
Saim Baig says
I think it would be a good idea to put questions & encourage comments at start.Then we can slowly move on to the lager steps like Multimedia.But some key points are shown in the article.Thanks
Um, the link in #4…? Supposed to be audio or something?
Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says
My readers like doing quick surveys too and helping me choose slogans, blog post topics or book names. I’d love the blog headline help. I rely on your tips and (modestly aside) sometimes I come up with great headlines because of your tips. But other times I can’t get there. Look at this one: Bloggers: Do You Give Your Readers What They Want? It’s crying out for some headline workshopping!
Melissa Giovagnoli says
I just recently held a contest to find great new business book ideas and authors that had two rounds. The first was resulted in three people winning $500 prizes, each, with four top judges voting on which three should win.
Round #2 then eliminated two of the three with the top winner getting a book coaching contract by me. I ended up with over 300 comments on that blog page. It also helped me learn a lot about what matters most to those who read business books.
This article's comments are closed.