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July 25, 2007

Don’t Fake It: The Secret to Creating Kickass Content

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Or at least that’s what the famous Lorelle VanFossen told an adoring audience on Saturday.

Lorelle said the problem with most blog posts is that they look like they were written in 10 minutes by people who can’t type, can’t think and who make you think they were released for the day or the institution got computers (hee!). Lorelle says this is how most people have come to associate blogging.

I think Lorelle’s definition of the typical blog is both horribly sad and frighteningly accurate. Most blogs out there aren’t worth the time it takes to read them. Frankly, a lot of the content out there in the blogosphere kinda sucks.

But it doesn’t have to.

The secret to creating kick ass content is to show your audience something they’ve never seen before. If you can’t do that, then show them something in a way they’ve never seen before. It’s shock and awe time, people.

The best way to do that is to look for the missing subjects. There are holes everywhere in content. Not everything can be said and even if it has been said it can be said better and cleaner.

Need an example? Go do a search for [install WordPress]. There are more than 35 million results! Do we really need another? Maybe we do, maybe we don’t. Do you know something those other 35 million+ people didn’t? If not, look between the lines and find what’s missing. Are people talking about the problem or are they merely describing the symptoms?

Lorelle said something during her presentation that really hit home with me. She said that in school we’re trained not to ask why, but as bloggers there will always be that little part of us that demands to know the why. And once we know the why we’ll blog about it so that everyone else knows too. We’re kind of annoying that way.

Another way to create great content is to look at the whole calendar. This is something we’re starting to look at more at Bruce Clay. We’re creating sort of a blog/newsletter site map to see what we’ve written about before and what we just thought we’ve written about before. There’s nothing worse than looking through the blog trying to track down that entry I just know I wrote about social media to find out that I never actually wrote. We’re looking for the holes.

You may be wondering why I didn’t liveblog WordCamp 2007. That’s kind of my thing, right? Being thrown into conferences, attending the sessions and typing so fast that I don’t even remember being there? Well, I didn’t want to do that this time. This time around the conference was more for personal fulfillment than for business obligation and I wanted to really enjoy it. Taking notes during the session and then thinking about them gave me time to be what Lorelle called "the sensible blogger". Instead of blogging in the moment and trying to get the information out there in a panic, I took a day or two to process what I was hearing.

You come across this a lot in the blogosphere – bloggers who are in a race to be first out of the gate. It’s great getting the scoop, don’t get me wrong, but when you write in a hurry you set a frantic tone for readers. Everything you write gets a panicky feeling. By the time readers make it through your entry they’re jazzed up enough that they could run through a brick wall. I mean, sure, it’s funny to watch them try but every now and then someone gets hurt.

Use your blog to start a conversation.

Stop writing for your 8th grade teacher. Yes, I know you were taught to write in complete sentences, so was I, but stop giving away the whole idea. Blogging incomplete ideas leaves room for your readers to complete them. Yes, you can write 101 Tricks to Search Engine Optimization, but then what’s left for readers to bring to the conversation? Nothing. You’ve said it all.

Something Lorelle said that particularly interested me was the idea that as a blogger you blog for one person – you.

She said that a successful blog is one that you land on with an intention of looking for info and when you arrive it immediately feels familiar and safe. It looks like you. You know what you need, what you need to say and that you want your readers to feel the same way. In essence, you want your readers to be you.

I was somewhat taken aback by that statement because that’s never how I’ve looked at this blog, perhaps because it’s of the corporate variety and not my personal blog. However, I’ve always tried to write for the Bruce Clay audience, not for myself. Was that a misstep? Maybe it was. Lorelle says to blog for you and to you because people want to do business with others who are like them and who meet their expectations. Do you agree? Do you want more Lisa with your Bruce Clay?

One last tip from Lorelle that I absolutely loved (somewhat paraphrased as I was typing this in the moment):

Preserve your story…blog well. Write for the future. Write for your children. Put your entire body inside your blog. What I build today is not for me, it is not for my children, it is not for my grandchildren, it’s for my great, great, great, great grandchildren. They will have the benefits of what I do today.

Admit it; you aw’d.

Whatever you do, don’t fake it. It’s never been difficult to tell when a blogger is faking it. And, as Lorelle said, these people bore the snot out of all of us. Don’t bore me. And don’t lie! If you’re an old person and you want to revisit what it was like to be 14 (why you would I don’t know, but to each is own), that’s fine, but tell the world what you’re doing. Don’t lie about it, okay?

Now go blog something kickass!

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3 responses to “Don’t Fake It: The Secret to Creating Kickass Content”

  1. Marty writes:

    Oh no you can’t fool folks with fake content, at least not for long. You can only fool yourself. Get a blogger to click on fake-junk-content and you’ve converted a potential evangelist friend to a detractor. You can’t break promises made with bogus hyperbolic headlines. The content quality must be there to keep the promise.

  2. Chuck Aikens writes:

    Good article. I am new to blogging, but not new to original thinking…I will try to keep your ideas in mind as I continue to create the ‘voice’ of my blog.

  3. Lorelle writes:

    Actually, the first part, about the 10 minute blog posts, was said by a friend of mine in Israel. It’s hard to disagree with, as you explained.

    And WOW! What a wonderful description of my talk. You did it better than I did. :D

    And doesn’t it definitely work better when you blog after rather than during. You’re right, and proof that it takes some jelling of the brain cells to process the information – and do a better job of it.

    Thank you for the kind words and the great descriptions. I’m glad my little talk made such an impact. I’ll be spelling this out on my blog more over the next week, but I can tell that I’m still too close to the event to make sense of it. Thanks for giving me a little perspective, too.



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