By Christine OKelly | January 6, 2008
I started a blog a few years ago (that you’ve probably never heard of) that went nowhere at all. When I started this blog, I made one conscious decision to use more of one particular word – and that I believe has made all the difference.
Is it possible that a single word could generate more blog subscribers and make your content more engaging, more interesting, and more linkable? I think so – and it is something that anyone can do. But using this word is not a matter of simply copying it and pasting it into your blog posts. Using this word requires a completely different mindset – a new way of approaching topics and writing.
That word is: “I ”
When I started my very first blog I wrote wimpy content. I mean, the posts were ok, but they weren’t unique. I didn’t inject enough of my own personal experience into the posts to make them interesting or useful.
I didn’t like reading blogs like mine. I wanted to read blogs from people who had first hand experience with what they were writing about. I wanted to read about the real trials and tribulations that went on behind the scenes in order to get to the end result. When I started Self Made Chick, I decided that I would only write about things that I had first-hand knowledge about and I think this has produced a completely different outcome.
Why I Was and Why Many are Afraid To Use the Word “I”
Writing about our own experiences and perspective requires accountability. There are good reasons why I was and why many people and businesses are hesitant to be held accountable for their words:
- Afraid of being wrong
- Worried of not being perceived as authoritative
- Afraid that their opinion is not valuable enough
- Afraid of turning readers off by sharing a story or opinion
- Afraid to admit mistakes
- Afraid of appearing too small
- It feels uncomfortable
- Our English teachers told us not to
- Afraid that one person’s views will reflect those of the entire company
Anyone who has done anything personally has the authority to write on that topic. Even if you tried something and failed at it, you have the authority to write on that topic. There is a lot that can be learned from a failed attempt. A post titled “10 Marketing Ideas I Tried That Got Absolutely No Results,” would definitely capture my attention and could be incredibly useful.
Furthermore, speaking from a personal perspective makes your content more linkable. Bloggers, news sources, and other content publishers are more likely to link to the source of the information.
According to Blog Herald, there are more than 50 million blogs online, but luckily there is only one of you. One person with your experiences. One person with your personal failures and successes. One person with your unique perception of the world.
Injecting First Person Perspective to Your Writing
There are numerous ways to bring a first-person perspective to your writing:
- Do Your Own Experiments: Constantly try new ideas and document how they worked or didn’t work. If you tried something new to get a client and it worked really well, write about it! If you tried 5 new internet marketing ideas for your clients and 1 of them worked and 4 of them failed – that makes for very informative reading. Combine your list of experiences into a list format with your personal commentary and the results can be amazing! This popular post by Kim Roach at Zany Pixel of 100 Link Building Strategies she has tried, woven together by personal commentary, is one that I’ve Stumbled, Dugg, Sphunn, linked to, bookmarked and passed along to colleagues.
- Conduct Interviews: One of the best ways to create authoritative content on topics that you may not be an authority on, are to conduct interviews with people who have been successful in the area you want to write about. Be sure to ask questions that you are burning to know the answers to – readers are probably wondering the same thing.
- Collect Data: Marketing Sherpa is a great example of a site that collects their own data for others to use. This site has become practically invaluable to those that do internet marketing.
- Analyze Your Own Thought Process: Conrad Hees did a great job of this with his post The 7 Questions Each New Visitor Asks Themselves When Deciding Whether or Not to Subscribe. Conrad realized that he had his own thought process when deciding whether or not to subscribe to a blog, analyzed and deconstructed that process, and wrote about it.
Writing Attention Grabbing Headlines By Leveraging the “I” Effect
Presented with each of the following sets of post titles, which are you more likely to click?
How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing
How I Made $4,000 in 14 Days With Affiliate Marketing
How to Use Press Releases to Grow Your Business
How I Landed a $75,000 Contract with 1 Press Release
How to Write More Diggable Posts
How I Got On the Digg Homepage 7 Times
All of these are good post titles, but the second in each set implies that the author has walked the walk. That the author is writing from a point of authority verses perhaps rehashing existing information that is already available somewhere else.
I don’t think the title needs to have the word “I” in it, but I tend to click on titles that imply that the author has a personal experience with the topic.
The Impact of Storytelling
Storytelling is a powerful way to really pack a punch with the above suggestions.
When you hear a powerful story, you internalize it. Your imagination makes it your story, and that’s something that will stick with you.
Many of the greatest authors, speakers, and bloggers use storytelling as a way to draw readers in and really get them to internalize the message. Authors like Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, and Robert Kiyosaki share their personal stories as a way to teach others how to achieve what they’ve achieved.
Story telling makes for powerful copy whether you are trying to gain blog subscribers or trying to sell products or services. Andrew Goodman, author of Storytelling as Best Practice says: “Whether you work at a small nonprofit, large foundation, or any public interest organization in between, storytelling remains your single most powerful communications tool.”
From watching my stats and from the feedback I’ve received about this blog, I believe that storytelling is the single biggest reason that the subscriber count has grown so quickly.
I also tend to gravitate toward books and blogs where the author their personal perspectives and stories on the topic.
Some blogs that do a great job of storytelling are:
- Shane and Peter
- Freelance Folder
- Itty Biz
- Dosh Dosh
- Steve Pavlina
- Lynn Terry
- Conrad Hees
The Elements of a Compelling Story
Every good storyline has 3 critical elements:
- A Problem
- A Conflict
- A Resolution
Until you explain the problem, the resolution doesn’t have nearly the same impact. The conflict is what makes it exciting, but can also be the most difficult thing to write about. It can feel uncomfortable – especially when you are the subject!
It was a bit uncomfortable to talk about my own fears in the post How I Made $100,000 with $0 and 25 Minutes… but it I felt it was essential to tell the full story. It wasn’t particularly comfortable to write about being so broke that I didn’t have enough money to do laundry and one night sat on the mountain of dirty clothes and cried in the post What’s It Really Like to Take the Plunge Into Entrepreneurship – but it was a necessary part of the conflict that exists in any good story.
Even writing this is uncomfortable because I feel like I’m tooting my own horn and we’ve kind of been taught not to do that. But that is not the intent. The intent is to give real examples that I have personally seen of posts that have been successful and why I believe they have been.
Though there are certainly exceptions, after writing for blogs that have either failed or exceeded my expectations, and comparing the most successful blogs against those that are struggling, I’ve discovered what I believe to be the most magnetic word in blogging.