23 August 2016

3 Key Tips on How to Create a Killer Blog Post

Completing a blog post for an assignment and creating a blog post for an audience are two different things. A blog post for an assignment is usually completed because we have to. It is therefore usually an uninspired summary of what the student thinks the teacher wants.

A blog post for an audience is created to share, in order to interact with and inform an authentic, global, unknown readership. Creating a blog post for an audience is much harder than writing an essay or completing a blog for an assignment. You have to think about so many more things! This short introduction will give 3 key tips to creating that killer blog post: 1) write for story; 2) hook the reader; 3) design for effect.

1. Writing for story is different than writing for teachers

The most important component of any blog post is the content. What we need to remember is that we are writing a story to be read by a global audience, not an assignment to be read by an audience of one. When we write for story we need to be writing for a purpose.

Writing a purposeful story has two essential elements: focus and transition. Most importantly, as Jon Franklin, in Writing for Story, says is that a story needs a focus—the mind of the audience has to have something specific to focus on in order to make an identification.

Franklin uses a helpful analogy to understand these two elements. Imagine a filmmaker wanting to capture the essence of a huge crowd of people. The filmmaker would go about this in two ways. First, she would zoom in on individual faces, faces that would visually show the emotion and movement of the person. Second, the filmmaker would zoom out, pan, and find another face, in other words, transition from one face to another by showing the magnitude of the crowd. In this way, “the crowd in the hands of the filmmaker would become a human thing, and therefore meaningful.”

Ira Glass, in the first part of a great four part interview, describes a similar process, which he calls “anecdote and reflection” (h/t Corey Topf). The anecdote is the series of events or actions; these raise questions that act as bait for your reader. The reflection is the why behind the anecdote or action; these give meaning to the story.

In almost all narratives a focus starts with an image or anecdote, and these images become the fundamental component of story. Franklin stresses that the human mind is preoccupied with action. In order to focus the audience’s mind on action, successful images must be based on active verbs—”if they aren’t, they can’t transmit much in the way of meaningful information.”

One final note about successful narratives. Almost all successful stories use a basic common literary technique. There is a complication and a hero; a problem to be solved and a hero who solves it. Usually the best stories find ways to incorporate this technique as well.

2. You have 1 second to hook a potential reader

My product redesign post.
Hate your sneakers? Here’s 3 reasons why.
What title are you more likely to click on? Why? Well, there is a reason why clickbait was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014. No matter how great your content is, we still live in a digital world oversaturated with digital information. And we are all competing for the attention of the same audience at any given time.

The title is so important because it is the title’s job to turn a potential reader into an actual reader. Or at least get them to the landing page. Then it is the job of the content (and design—see below!) to keep them there. Take the title of #2 seriously—you probably have around 1 second to make a potential reader click on your article. Create multiple titles, prototype and iterate, ask for feedback, and then choose your title carefully...and don’t be afraid to be bold!

3. Do not forget about design!

Design is not just for Paris fashion shows and hipsters in Apple stores. Thinking seriously about best design practices while creating a blog post should be at the forefront of every creator’s mind. There are two major design ideas to keep in mind while creating a killer blog post:
  1. Use Images
  2. Keep it Clean
Use Images
Images should be large, high quality, visually interesting, and most importantly, visually explanatory. Images help tell the story. Numerous studies have shown that people learn better from words and pictures than just words alone. Killer blog posts take advantage of this research by creating visually rich posts that use high quality, complementary images, and use them with effect.

Keep it Clean
Keep it clean refers to following a few basic rules about reading on the internet. Almost all good blogs incorporate these 3 key elements:
  • Simplicity
  • Readability 
  • Consistency 
Simplicity—do not overwhelm the reader with craziness, anywhere. Simplify the layout, the links, the ads, the sidebars, etc. Less is more when creating a blog post for reading.

Readability—focus on easiness on the eyes. Pay careful attention to your font selection, color schemes, word length, images and graphics, pretty much everything you put in. Again, less is usually more.
(For an interesting discussion on color schemes, contrast, and readability, go here.)

Consistency—use consistent layout choices to indicate to your reader what to expect. Same fonts, same colors, same branding, etc. Consistency equals professionalism, accuracy, and reliability, and gives readers a sense of trust in the source.

If you use this and have any suggestions, please share them in the comment section below (disclaimer: I have no formal educational experience in teaching writing).



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