For good reason, they are easy to research. All you need is a quick Google search and you’re off to the races. List posts are simple to write as long as you can count from 1 to 10. They also are popular often registering triple digit retweets.
But, they have one problem, a big one too.
While readers enjoy lists, they have dubious long-term benefit for you as a thought leader. Heresy you say?
The One Night Stand
When I started Pushing Social I used list posts religiously. All of them did well earning their fair share of retweets and mentions on other blogs. The problem was that many of the people who read the posts didn’t return. I also saw the time spent with each new list post declining steadily throughout the year.
Digging further I saw that many people commented (or tweeted) that they appreciated the list and bookmarked it. Oops. A bookmark is about as attractive as getting a fake number at the end of a date.
I didn’t want a bookmark. I wanted the reader to spend time on the blog, reading other posts, and signing up for email updates.
It was like my readers were saying “thanks for the evening”, I’ll call you – I promise. Right.
I suspected that while my readers appreciated my research skills, they weren’t convinced that I had anything more to offer.
Content versus Process Experts
Alan Weiss, a celebrated and renowned business consultant makes a distinction between content experts and process experts. The content experts has a well pruned list of relevant information for a specific type of business or situation. The process expert has an approach that delivers results regardless of the business type.
Weiss strongly advocates that thought leaders position themselves as process experts. In this case, clients call because they know the process leader can devise a flexible approach that will yield the right outcome.
You have a similar choice to make. While list posts are easy to write and capture attention, they also pigeonhole you as a “content expert”. Readers will reference your list and forget about you.
Quick test to prove my point. How often do you try to find the creator of an infographic? Not often right? You read the information, cut and paste it into a powerpoint, and move on. The same dynamic happens when a person reads a simple list of items. They appreciate the information but tend to ignore the creator.
Your goal should be to position yourself as a process expert that has a variety of tools to address your reader’s problems.
The good news is that in this particular case you can have your cake and eat it too.
The List Hybrid
Instead of writing simple laundry list of information, create posts that share an unique approach to a problem. Instead of a list, offer a multi-step process for getting results. Of course, this is hard to pull off with 101-type posts but you should leave that stuff for Mashable or CNN.
Your list hybrid should be meaty with each list item delivering real information. Your list hybrid should work as a unit, every item building on each other. The reader should get maximum benefit by reading and implementing the entire list.
Most of all, the reader should finish the post hungry for more information.
The good news is that the post is still easy to digest. You can still use the proven list post headline template (i.e. 7 Annoying Social Media Disorders).
The difference is that the reader gets a firm idea of how you think and approach the world. When they think about their problem, they’ll remember each of your steps to solving it. You become more than a librarian you establish yourself (post by post) as a Thought Leader.