Do you want to seduce readers with captivating content that will leave them wanting more?
You’ve spent sleepless nights, carefully crafting each word. You finally hit “publish,” and what happens?
Nobody reads them. No comments, no tweets, no sharing on any media.
Why does it happen?
I hate to break it to you… but most people won’t finish reading your articles.
And the reason is impatient readers.
Jakob Nielsen’s seminal web usability study from 1997 showed that 79 percent of web users scan rather than read. Think about how you use the web. You’re in search of information. And if you don’t find it on the page you’re visiting, you click away and look elsewhere.
In simple words, we are not reading. We are just sweeping for information.
And 38% of people don’t even scroll down…
…And 50% leave before they reach half-way.
As for reaching the end of your latest story? Less than 25% even get to the bottom.
Professionals (those who make a living from their words) know that effective writing basically consists of two stages.
· Ability to maintain interest
· Second, making certain that it truly is informative.
The first step is crucial. Maintaining interest cannot be achieved by telling readers that your paper is “important”, therefore they should read it. Of course, you are going to say that. After all, you wrote it.
The key is curiosity.
According to research by Carnegie Mellon’s George Lowenstein, curiosity occurs when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know.
Curiosity is a kind of cognitive thirst that wants to be quenched. When we’re curious, when our interest is aroused, we want to figure out what’s going on. And when our curiosity is wakened, we’re likely to follow along to see where something leads because we need to know the outcome.
By creating curiosity, you’re teasing your reader with a hint of what’s to come, without giving all the answers away. It is curiosity only that compels people to click on a blog post they see on Twitter, an ad on Facebook, or a marketing email in their inbox.
And here are some ways to stir reader curiosity and give them the unexpected.
Find the Human Story.
A story is like glue; it will help your content stick in readers’ minds. If it’s a good story, it will speak to readers’ emotions, which is even better.
Consider the below example. The topic of sewage is hardly something that will make the reader curious. But I have brought a human element to it by introducing the story about a treatment plant which is recycling sewage water into drinking water for the past 50 years without any modern technology.
On the outskirts of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, there’s a huge, churning vat of nasty brown liquid. It is so stinky that you cannot go within 500 meters of it. But that is where raw sewage is been turned into drinking water for the last 50 years. The Goreangab waste treatment plant’s cutting-edge technology is based on the humblest of creatures — bacteria. Only bacteria. That is, it!!!
Nothing is boring when there’s a good story to tell. Always look for an emotional angle or the human story. Everyone loves content they can relate to. Real life stories connect with people. We like to see how people have overcome difficulties. We like to learn from others.
Always remember even if the industry is boring, humans are always interesting.
Master the Art of using “Trivia” effectively.
The dictionary definition of trivia is “unimportant details, considerations, or pieces of information of little importance or value.”
That said, trivia is mostly quirks of information which makes very interesting reading. they might not add value but certainly, add up the spice quotient of the article.
Taking the same sewage example where we have some interesting trivia.
· Do you know in the older era sewers, streams often served the dual purpose of sewage disposal and water supply, and hence there were frequent, disastrous epidemics of cholera, typhoid fever, and other waterborne diseases?
· Houses in the ancient Roman Empire had flushing toilets and indoor plumbing and were connected to a public sewer system.
· The Burj Dubai, the tallest skyscraper in the world, relies on trucks to carry at 15 tons of sewage daily to a treatment plant.
People very rarely read dense paragraphs online (even in the exciting industries!) Instead, they skim the page, and look for highlights. Thick chunks of writing almost never work.
Instead, break it down into bite-sized chunks. Turn your thoughts into quick facts and bullet points. And intersperse the stats and figures with bits of trivia to spruce up the content. This makes it much easier to digest rather than a paragraph of hardcore technical stuff.
Write like you speak, and let it flow! A natural tone of voice will naturally flow onto the paper and make it great reading.
Make Your Topic Personal
There’s no better way to get someone engaged on a topic than to make it personal. As Dale Carnegie said, “People aren’t interested in you. They’re interested in themselves.”
Individuals want to feel a connection to the information they’re receiving. One of the best ways to do this is to localize the topic that you’re covering.
For example, if you have a topic that you want to convey to a reader, give it in the context of their community. A topic of concern to an entire section of people could be described using a real-life example from a local community network.
Coming back to our sewage example, localize it by giving useful information that might help people aware of the problems at hand.
· What would happen if sewage was not treated?
· How Does Sewage Affect the Environment?
· Can breathing raw sewage harm you?
· Can a sewer leak make you sick?
Content is often best when it ties into the feelings an individual is having in the present moment. Connect your topic to moments that people will be able to easily relate to. Using this sentiment to your advantage is a great way to increase engagement.
Connect the topic to today’s headlines
One more interesting way of making your content engaging is to tie it to a trending topic.
Current events are a great way to help spruce up a subject that might otherwise be considered boring. Depending on your topic, you can tie it into current events surrounding sports, news, politics, and celebrity gossip.
Going back to our sewage example, connect your article to the disasters that happened due to mismanagement of sewage.
· On April 20, 2007, millions of liters of raw sewage flowed into the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh, Scotland, in one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history.
· In April 2011, as many as 200 homes in Mexico flooded after a local sewage pipe cracked. After heavy rains overwhelmed the sewage system, as much as 6,000 cubic meters per second of raw sewage flooded the area.
· On March 24, 2006, a sewer line rupture in Waikiki, Hawaii, resulted in 48 million gallons of raw sewage reaching the Ala Wai Canal. This was the largest spill of untreated water waste in Hawaii in nearly 20 years.
Experts on infectious diseases don’t get much press until there’s an outbreak of influenza or some other communicable disease. The intricacies of criminal law are only interesting when a sensational murder trial is on Court TV and so on……………
To make your content just as hot, scan the papers for a captivating story and connect it to your content.
And Lastly, find a way to make the reader participate.
When it comes to writing, boring topics are a lot less boring when the readers can take part in the discussion. Write in such a way so that readers get a chance to ponder and exercise their “little grey cells” in the words of Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous detective.
For example, we can end our sewage article with a question.
So how do we prevent future sewage disasters?
Sewage treatment remains a basic human right — yet more than 3.4 million people die each year from sanitation-related causes, 99 percent of them in the developing world. While constructing proper sanitation treatment plants around the world remains critically important, how can the Western world improve its own wastewater treatment?
Include an interactive survey, where readers must give detailed answers to thoughtful questions. Require them to complete a short quiz after each section before they can move on to the next. If readers are part of the topic, they’re more likely to pay attention. Once readers start participating, your writing remains no longer “your” writing. It is “their” story now and they are an integral part of it.
As William Styron has rightly observed.
“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”
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