There’s an anecdote that I can’t stop thinking about as I read content in all corners of the Web. At the risk of making my mother cringe at my lack of social graces, here goes:
At a party, I found myself in a conversation with a few people I didn’t know very well. We had been talking about a variety of things when one guy started monopolizing the conversation.
He was pontificating and rattling off factoids, all related to his work and himself, and the size of the conversation circle kept shrinking. Eventually, I was the last person standing with him and he was still droning on, without pausing or showing any indication that he wanted me to participate in his oratory. The quarters were close enough that I could hear interesting conversations nearby that I wanted to join. So, I stopped him dead in his tracks.
“I’m sorry,” I said loudly enough to be heard over him. “I am just not interested.” And I walked away to join some other people who were clearly having more fun interacting.
Not a high point in my manners, to be sure. But every time I see content that is dry, dull and completely lacking in reader engagement, I think of that guy. It’s not that he couldn’t have been interesting – if he had shown interest in anyone else, or tried to make what he was talking about relevant to the rest of the group, we might not have given up on him.
So what can you do to make sure that you’re not boring readers to the point where they walk away in exasperation?
Be a conversation starter
Look for new ways to talk about what you do, and use them to start conversations that can help people see your company or product in a different light. It’s very easy to get too “close” to your messaging and products, so take a studied approach to finding new perspectives.
Make it a discussion, not a lecture
It’s important for people to know what your company or product can do for them, but simply listing its functions or positive attributes in your content is the equivalent of reading from a lectern to a bored audience. Instead, develop content that makes people want to have their say and weigh in on what you’re talking about – and then give them a way to do so, via comments or sharing functions.
Look outside yourself
Be interested not just in how you think your customers should or would interact with your product – find out how they actually use it and think about it, from their perspective. Use that information to think about creating new content centered around real experiences that can feel more authentic than straightforward corporate messaging.
Remember that being interested in other people is often the key to them being interested in you. If you feel like the content you’re producing is leaving you left out, it might help to invite other writers in – they can be an essential in giving you the different perspective you need to be a conversation starter.