It’s a tried and true technique that we all use—and like many techniques, authors fall back on this one because it works. Whether it’s because we feel they get read more, they set expectations for what the reader is in for, or it just gives you a chance to feel like Dave Letterman doing his countdown, the list post is a staple of any blog. The lists come in many different forms (Top 10, Worst 3) and can be very effective, but I’m pleading with my fellow writers to take a break from lists…by making a list of my own (yes, the irony is intentional).
Clients often ask us what their teams can write about, and how they can ensure they don’t run out of topics after the first few posts. Writer’s block hits just about everyone at one point or another, but sometimes coming at a topic with a different approach can help you to get un-stuck. With that in mind, here’s my 11 Ways to Take a Break from Lists and Bring Variety to Your Content.
Writing a Blog Post – What Can I Write About (besides lists)?
1. Answer a Question: What do your customers always ask you?
I put this one at the top of my list because it’s the most obvious, but often most overlooked. It’s also what inspired me to write this post in the first place. What questions do your prospects or customers often ask you? Answering these questions will help address buyer’s concerns, help educate your audience, will be interesting to readers, and may just be the same questions people type into the question answering machine (AKA Google) setting you up to be the company they see first when they use this “machine.”
2. Stories: Talk about a recent relevant business experience
You are blogging because your business has something interesting to say (right?) – and everyone loves a good story. Recent business experiences that can help your customers and prospects are a great way to engage them, show them more about your business, and show them the human side of the company.
3. Instructional: Tell your audience how to do something
Educating your audience is a great way to share your expertise, but many are afraid to do it and give their “secrets” away. Our friends Joe Pulizzi and Jay Baer made a great point about this in their recent post Content Marketing for Professional Services: Does It Cannibalize Your Business? – I particularly like the point that “having a grocery list doesn’t make you a chef.”
4. Reviews: Product or service reviews
Reviewing a product or service in your industry can allow you to spotlight some useful characteristics and show your company as forward-thinking and sharp evaluators.
5. Interviews: Recap discussion with interesting people
Interviews are great ways to introduce your audience to somebody that they may not yet know, showcase a partner or customer and give them some exposure, or show your company as one that’s connected to the right people. It also takes some weight off of you the author (though you do still have to ask great questions).
6. Case Studies: Show problem/solution/results
Taking your audience through a challenge and how you addressed it will show them how you think. This might ultimately help readers solve similar problems that they are currently facing or position you as someone uniquely qualified to assist with a related issue down the road.
7. Link: Provide a link to an interesting article with commentary
Share your viewpoint on a hot topic, interesting article, or something that recently struck you. By curating content for your audience and providing viewpoints you help expose them to different authors and perspectives.
8. Contrast: Compare two options
These posts serve as a great way to evaluate the pros and cons of different approaches – Mac vs. Windows, hiring vs. outsourcing, “tastes great” vs. “less filling” – help your audience understand the benefits and downsides of each.
9. Rant: Bring the passion
Rants can often be powerful particularly if you hit on the right hot topic. Of course you’ll want to make sure that your stance is something that aligns with your brand (and any company policies) but a good rant can get the juices flowing on a post and draw a passionate audience.
10. Research: Recap your study or someone else’s
This is a great way to position your company as a thought leader in the industry, as well as turn your post into one repeatedly referenced and visited by information seekers. And, if you pick the right topic you may see increased inbound links and continuous traffic from search engines on relevant terms.
11. Predictions: Tell us what will be hot in the coming year/quarter/etc.
Predicting the future is hard – there can be some hits and some misses (at least we’re hoping the Mayans were off on that 2012 thing), but it’s a good way to show that you and your company are looking forward. Bonus idea – ask partners and colleagues to submit their predictions and “crowd-source” the post. They’ll get extra exposure, help with the content, and even drive their network to you.
I hope these 11 ideas will make it easier to occasionally break free from lists and explore other blog post formats. What other tips do you have for getting away from lists? Tell us in the comments section below.
For more about Content Marketing, and ways to be more successful with your blog, download our free content marketing webinar: What if You Build It and They Still Don’t Come? – The Anatomy of a Content Marketing Strategy.