When you’re blogging, you’re talking to people. As it says in the Cluetrain Manifesto (a more prophetic book has not been written since): Markets are conversations. One of the most powerful forms of talking with people is telling stories. We see a lot of great advice on blogs regarding blog SEO, focusing on a niche, creating linkbait, and monetization. There is much solemn head-nodding whenever anyone says: “content is king.”
Do you think it’s any coincidence that the rise of the internet and the explosion of storytelling as an art and as a profession has happened at the same time? I don’t. We are in the middle of a tsunami of social media. Web 2.0 is really all about humanity connecting through technology. What is more social than one human being holding the rapt attention of other human beings as a story is told?
Much of the best advertising and marketing tells a story. Think about Ben & Jerry’s ice cream: many people already know their story by this point. Their story does their advertising for them. Think about Lance Armstrong. When Lance endorses a product, the advertising for that product isn’t selling the product on its own merits at all. It’s Lance’s incredible story that is selling the product.
Your blog is a story, too. What you blog about are the events of your story. You and others are characters in your story. Each blog post is an episode or chapter in your story. Is your story worth reading? Is your story exciting, funny, heart-breaking, or inspiring?
Let’s take a quick look at some characteristics of stories that we can apply to blogs and blogging.
Characters are not necessarily people. Sometimes we create fictionalized or exaggerated versions of people, and their job is to play a teaching role in the story. If you blog about how to buy a car and you teach your reader by writing dialog between a car-buyer and a sleazy car salesman, you’ve created characters to teach a point. It doesn’t matter that the characters aren’t real and that you’re not quoting an actual conversation word for word. We know the characters aren’t “real,” and that’s fine. They serve the lesson of the story and we get that.
Takeaway: Put characters in your stories. One way to use characters is in a post like “10 types of nightmare clients” or “Do you make these mistakes?” and that sort of thing, where exaggerated characters are examples for us to follow or avoid.
Ever read a post from a blogger who just rambles on endlessly? Awful, isn’t it? They need to have a point to their writing. They don’t know or have forgotten that a blog is like an episodic television show: something has to happen during this episode. There must be some drama, or humor, or a villain has to do something dastardly (there’s a character, again).
Takeaway: You can write all the great blogging tips you want, but you’ll have a much stronger following if you’re doing something worth people’s attention. You create the plot of your own story, and you write your story on your blog. Are you doing something worth my attention?
That sounds pretty obvious, I know, but let’s think about this: if you write a blog post in which you recount a personal story about what to do, what not to do, and the lessons learned, nobody else can touch that. What I mean by that is relating a personal story, you are making your content unique. It can only come from you. You are connecting with people on a more fundamentally human level.
Takeaway: The more of yourself you put into your blogging (and I’m not talking about crossing the line into being over personal about the wrong details) the less like everyone else your blogging will be. Uniqueness and creativity count for a lot when there are a million make money blogs out there nobody wants to read.
When stories are told well, people learn from them without feeling as though they’re being talked down to or preached at. People often learn better from example than they do from instruction. Of course, it’s possible to tell a story badly and sound like you’re pushing an agenda. Never mind that you are pushing an agenda, but never forget that the reason why someone would want to hear a story is often different than the reason the storyteller has for telling it. As a blogger, telling your story through your blog, day after day, you have to continually ask yourself: why would someone want to hear my story? What’s happening in my story that’s interesting to others?
Takeaway: Use your story to provide a teachable example. Tell your story for your reason, but tell it so that it connects with the wants of people who will read it.
So… what’s your story?
Michael Martine has been involved in web design and internet marketing since the late 90's. He is a blog coach and consultant at Remarkablogger. He lives in beautiful Vermont, U.S.A., with his wife, step-daughter, and grandchild.