How to Be Interesting

How to Be Interesting

by Jonathan Morrow / Blogger
July 18, 2008

“Be interesting.”

It’s good advice, but it’s nothing new. You’ve probably known from
the beginning that being able to interest readers is a crucial part of
growing a popular blog. It’s pretty obvious that no one is going to
stick around unless they find your blog interesting.

But how are you supposed to do it exactly? How can you “be interesting?”

Far too much of what we write about attention and interest is
abstract. We talk about differentiation, value, and triggers — all
useful concepts, but you can’t point to them. You can’t hold out your
hand and say, “Give me some differentiation.” As a result, it’s hard to
wrap your mind around what those things actually mean.

I’d like to change that. Over the past
few weeks, I’ve paid attention to the things that command attention,
both of myself and others, and I’ve made a list of 21 techniques that
work. It’s far from all of them I’m sure, but it should be enough to
get you started.

1) Be wrong: The world is full of people trying to
do the right things. It’s become so common that many of us are bored by
it. We long for someone that is willing to do the wrong thing, say the
wrong thing, be the wrong thing. If you have the courage to be that person, you’ll find lots of people paying attention to you.

2) Be right: You can also gain attention by being
right… but only if you’re more right than everyone else. Run a mile
faster than anyone else, explain your topic more clearly than anyone
else, be funnier than everyone else. Embody perfection, and people will
take notice.

3) Communicate what others can’t: As writers, we
take ideas from our heads and put them on the page. Sometimes we forget
how difficult that is for some people and how valuable that makes us.
Lots of people would give anything to be able to say what they mean.
But they can’t. So, they turn to songs, books, and art that communicate
for them. Be a producer of those things, and you’ll never lose their
attention.

4) Do something: Everybody online is trying to say
something important, but very few are trying to do something important.
If you want attention, dare not to just give advice to others, but to
live that advice yourself. Then blog about it.

5) Surprise people: Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick,
say that one of the best ways to set yourself apart is to break
people’s “guessing machines.” Take a surprising position, making
outlandish analogy, or otherwise do the opposite of what you normally
do. As long as it’s unexpected, people will stop and pay attention.

6) Make people laugh: Bloggers are far too serious.
We’re so busy trying to teach that we forget to entertain. As a result,
large portions of our readerships fall asleep. And what’s the best way
to wake people up? Humor. Public speakers have been using it for ages,
and as long as it’s appropriate for your audience, humor can wake your
readers up and get them paying attention again.

7) Offer them an aspirin: Some of the best blog
posts ever written are simple as an aspirin. Your reader has a
headache, you have a cure, so you offer them that cure in the form of a
blog post. They pay attention… not because of how pretty or well
crafted your blog post is, but because it cures their headache.
Conclusion: try acting like a pharmacist, not a blogger, and you’ll
never lack for attention.

8) Show a (half) naked woman: Ever noticed that a
disproportionate number of advertisements feature a scantily clad
woman? That’s because it works. It draws the attention of not only men
(as you’d expect), but also women. For whatever reason, nearly everyone
finds their attention drawn to it. Here’s proof that it even works with blog posts.

9) Tell them who they are: “Who am I?” is not just
a question; it’s a universal quest that most of us follow for our
entire lives, continually defining and redefining ourselves, always
insecure about whether who we are being is really us. As a blogger, you
can (and should) harness that insecurity. Turn your blog into something
that defines your readers, like this one, this one, and this one.

10) Predict the future: Every once in awhile, use
your expertise to make a bizarre claim about the future. If you have
any authority at all, people will take notice. Imagine if Brian wrote a
convincing, well reasoned argument that online courses are the business
model of the future. Oh wait… he did, and some of the biggest names in Internet marketing continue to talk about it.

11) Unleash your inner dork: Many blog posts are
like miniature textbooks; they’re instructive, well-organized, and put
you to sleep with their lack of enthusiasm. If you want to become
famous on the web, stop trying to sound like an all-knowing teacher and
unleash the “inner dork” inside of you — the part of you that’s so
enamored with your topic that everyone else thinks it’s funny… but they
pay attention anyway. More on dorkyness here.

12) Be courageous: Most of the videos on YouTube are there to make you laugh, but amongst them, you’ll find this rare gem
that has attracted the attention of over 9 million people. The fact is,
pretty much everyone has felt the foot of adversity on their neck, but
very few of us respond to it with courage and grace. Be one of those
people, and you’ll find the world watching.

13) Be startlingly honest: Every once in awhile,
tell the truth. Be so honest that you’re scared to click the “Post”
button. Be so honest that no one knows what to say in the comments
section. Be so honest that your lawyer tells you to stop. You’ll feel better… and people will talk about you.

14) Be irreverent: Want to stir people up? Make fun
of their god, their politics, their family — anything they hold dear.
Yes, they’ll be offended, but lots of other people will think it’s
hilarious. If you can’t stomach being hated by a portion of the world
and loved by another, then you don’t deserve to have a blog.

15) Tell a good story: This one has been drilled
into us so many times that I almost didn’t include it… except for one
thing: people still don’t get it. Yes, stories support your points,
make solid openers, and teach people while entertaining them, but a
good story can make you a legend. I’m not talking about the little
anecdotes that pepper the blogosphere. I’m talking about the story that
haunts you on your deathbed. Forget about all the others. Tell me that
one.

Rest of this article….  

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