My hypothesis proved right. Mixing knowledge with emotions is the key.
I always wanted to share my learnings with other people.
This is an important part of who I am. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for my sharing attitude.
Interestingly enough, though, seldom my sharing came in the form of blog posts. Every time I tried to write something and let the world know about it, it reached very few people and my efforts were mostly in vain.
I was left frustrated and wondering if my content was not interesting, or if the channels I was sharing my content through were not the right ones.
As we’ll see later, I was wrong in both cases.
How did it start
My first post
It’s the 27th of December 2017 and I’m spending the Xmas vacations with my family. I remember that day very clearly.
I just decided to start blogging again because the knowledge I accumulated during my current job was really worth sharing.
The next day I wake up very early, open my laptop and jot down the draft of my first article. After roughly a hour, I have a 800 words post ready for publication. At the bottom, I paste the link for subscribing to my newly created newsletter.
I press Publish and wait.
Boom! After few hours I already have thousands of views and hundreds or reads and claps. In the evening, Medium notifies me that a publication wants to add my post to their collection and me as an author. I accept, and few moments later the views count just keeps growing insanely. The post is definitely going viral.
I am now excited. For the first time, I share my knowledge and my opinions with thousands of people that in turn share their opinions and contribute to the diffusion of the post.
Proving a hypothesis
After the excitement fades away, I’m left with a big question in mind.
How can this be possible? Why is this post so successful, when all my previous blogging attempts failed miserably?
I have a hypothesis, but I have to prove it.
So I write a second post, and a third. Same style as the first one. I publish them one after another in the first days of 2018.
Long story short, they both get featured on large Medium publications and reach tens of thousands of readers in hours. Not to mention the multitude of visits from news aggregators and social media websites.
My hypothesis proved right.
My newsletter at this point counts 800 subscribers.
Since then, it never stopped growing. At the time of writing, more than 1150 people receive it on a weekly basis.
In the previous paragraph I mentioned that I had a hypothesis.
Proving it right allowed me to gain 1000 subscribers in three months. It was extremely effective for reaching an audience broader that I could ever imagine.
So, what was my hypothesis about?
Opinions and emotions
In my previous blogging attempts, I always tried to give an objective point of view of the topic under discussion. And I always carefully left out my opinions because I thought they didn’t belong to a technical post.
Opinions are also highly context dependent. So I knew that the moment I would post something opinionated, someone could argue that my point of view was partial.
I couldn’t accept that. I couldn’t face that someone would tell me that I’m “wrong”.
But on the morning of December the 28th 2017 something changed.
I told myself that I don’t care about what other people think about my opinion.
I told myself that I am a valid professional in my field and this is enough to make my opinion interesting, if not valuable, to other professionals.
I told myself that something written without opinions or emotions is called a manual, or a tutorial. For sure not a story.
This is why I decided to publish my first post in a highly opinionated fashion and projecting all my emotions into it.
When I saw the results, I immediately knew why it worked, though I had to prove it rationally by repetition.
People got engaged in my post because of my opinions. People were discussing about it because their emotions were matching or opposite to mine. People were sharing it because it felt like something powerful to them.
My hypothesis was that my post went viral because of the opinions and emotions I used to write it.
And I guess I was right. I wrote the two following articles with the same intensity, without caring if I wasn’t mentioning some edge case in which I could be wrong or my opinion not valid at all.
A new blog was born. It was technical. It was emotional. It was opinionated. And it worked.
I published many posts since then, even if only three months have passed, and now I want to share with you a list of principles, or practices, that can help you achieve my same results.
How to engage your readers
1. Share your opinion
You’re not a journalist, you’re not an academic, yours is not a peer reviewed publication. People want to read your posts because they want to know your opinion.
2. Don’t be balanced
Leave out the many “what if”s and “yes, but”s that are in your head. Don’t listen to them. Be extreme and honest with your opinion. Don’t write something just to please your readers, do it because you believe in what you’re writing.
3. Be knowledgeable
You must know what you’re talking about. Never write something you’re just guessing or you don’t believe it’s true only to provoke a reaction in your audience. The more authority you have in your field, the more extreme you can go with your opinion.
4. Leverage the readers’ emotions
People want to argue. They want to be right. They want to tell you that you are wrong. They want to feel. It’s all about their emotions and biases. Leverage them, but always being respectful in their regards.
5. You won’t convince everyone
Be comfortable with the fact that many won’t agree with you. Be comfortable with the fact that some will openly attack you. Ignore them. You won’t be able to change their mind and even if so you’ll only lose your time without any tangible gain.
6. Don’t reply by default
Don’t lose time replying to every comment. Do it only when someone shows a constructive approach. Do it when you actually want to engage in the conversation to get insights our of it. Your time is precious, don’t waste it.
7. Use an assertive style
Write simple and short sentences. Embolden your most important ones.
Go on a new line often.
Use an imperative style. Talk to your reader directly by using “you” instead of “we” or an impersonal subject.
This helps your readers keeping their pace, deeply connecting with your words and diving into them only to reemerge at the end of the post.
How to gain new readers
8. Use publications
When publishing on Medium, submit your posts to publications. They provide a huge echo to your content and make your opinion more authoritative.
9. Share it, but don’t try too hard
Share your post on social media and news aggregator, but don’t spend too much effort on that. When your content is valid and people are truly engaged, it will go around the world by itself.
How to retain your readers
10. Commit to write constantly
It can be once a day, once a week, once every two weeks. It doesn’t matter. Just be consistent. And constant. People need to know that “she’ll probably publish something new by tomorrow”.
11. Keep your style consistent
People need to recognize you. People need to see you in your words. It’s like being in a TV show. Every episode, you are always the same character, with the same traits and personality. While you still need to openly show your emotions, keep your transient mood off the keyboard.
12. Keep your content consistent
People don’t like to read about healthy recipes on Monday and the ultimate list to earn a 6 figures on Friday. You can dedicate a small percentage of your posts to off-topics, but don’t overdo that. People will get confused otherwise and lose interest in your content.
13. Use a CTA
Add a Call To Action at the bottom of every post. If someone is interested enough to get to the end of it, she could also be interested in knowing more about your content. So this is a good time to suggest her to subscribe to your newsletter and receive your new posts directly into her inbox.
And last but not least…
14. Use a Lead Magnet
You must include a lead magnet in your CTA. This is an order. This is what brings those hundreds of subscribers directly to your newsletter. Everything else are crumbles.
Even if you write your best post ever, it won’t bring you a tenth of the subscribers you could get if you included a lead magnet in your CTA.
Do you see the lack of growth in my list between mid January and the beginning of February? I simply forgot (!) to add the lead magnet to the posts I published in those weeks. And for a few days I thought I was wrong with all this opinions and emotions thing. Terrible.
Informational posts are useful, but they’ll never engage people as much as opinionated and emotional ones.
Marketing people know it very well and we should really learn a couple of tricks from them (for example, what is a lead magnet and how to use it).
If you really want to share your knowledge, do it by mixing everything you know with your personal experience and point of view.
Your readers will thank you and happily subscribe to your newsletter. You’ll seldom see someone unsubscribing. People will follow your activity and wait for your next post to be published, to share it and comment it.
That’s how you do it. That’s how you find the right momentum to quickly grow your subscribers list and have the successful blog you always dreamed about.