I passed up the Biggest Loser and watched the Iowa Caucus last night. The Poli Sci major in me couldn’t resist playing armchair campaign manager for the Republican candidates. The thing is, I didn’t expect a lesson on blogging.
Here’s the situation… (cue the mic and roll the cameras)
The republicans are trapped on the horns of a dilemma. Ron Paul is a fiscal conservative. Rick Santorum is a social conservative. Mitt Romney is everything in between. Every candidate has baggage. No one is perfect. All are trying to distinguish themselves.
The Caucus runner-up candidates, Bachmann, Gingrich and Perry are only slightly different than the lead Caucus contenders. (That’s why they are runner-up candidates.)
Take a step back and you’ll see why the Republican faithful are wringing their hands. It looks like their candidates, with all of their smarts and cash, can’t find a way to separate themselves from the pack.
Believe it or not you have a similar problem.
Marketing is the art and science of “standing out”.
Marketing would be fairly easy if everyone weren’t competing for the same eyeballs. Remember, you are not just competing with other Paleo diets blogs. You are competing with CNN, The New York Times, Facebook, and thousands of others minor distractions.
Our brains have adapted to this onslaught of information by erecting sophisticated screens. Nothing gets through the screen unless it is novel and changing.
Think about how you scan news headlines. 99% of them are poorly written, me-too, headlines. The 1% that get closer study are novel and signal that something has changed.
Standing out means that you concretely demonstrate that you shouldn’t be ignored. The penalty for skipping you by is: 1) Denial of Pleasure or 2) Pain (emotional and/or intellectual).
The reason why most blogs get ignored is that their writers are too afraid of standing out. They falsely believe that being an intellectual safe harbor that appeals to the masses will gain them friends.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. But don’t misunderstand me…
Standing Out Doesn’t Mean You Become a Jackass
Some have taken the marketing shortcut of being a royal pain in the butt. They contradict every point of view. They challenge every sentence. They kick sand in the eyes of every pundit. They’ve made a business out of getting attention.
For some, this works. For 99.9% it doesn’t and just labels you as someone to avoid.
You can stand out without making your audience cringe. In fact, it’s easier than you may think.
4 Ways to Stand Out
1. Pick a Specific Audience
Broad audiences kill blogs. Appealing to all men is a recipe for disaster. Targeting topics at dieters will gradually choke your blog to death. This isn’t 2005. Blogs aren’t novel. There’s one for all of the broad subjects. To stand out, you need to select a specific “goldilocks” audience, one that isn’t too big or too small.
For example, Thrillist focuses on urban, men, age 20 − 35 that frequent nightclubs. Their laser focus helps them sidestep GQ and be more hip than a general interest newspaper or website.
2. Pick Emotional Topics
Facts and figures make you sound smart but rarely make an impression on your audience. We are emotional beings and we pay attention to topics that prompt an emotional response. This response marks your content as “memorable” and elevates it’s importance.
Think about what makes your audience happy, annoyed, content, and curious. Look for ways to attach your topic to these emotions.
3. Discover and Train your Voice
Your audience should be able to pick you out of a crowd by only hearing you speak. On a blog, your voice is the secret sauce for repeat visits. This is the reason why I discourage new blogs from accepting guest posts. Your audience wants to know who YOU are and will become accustomed to your style.
4. Find, Name, and Fight an Enemy
Great brands know how to position themselves competitors or competitive concepts. Salesforce.com fought against bloated software solutions. Apple demonized beige boxes. Google railed against anyone who restricted access to the world’s information. Here, we hate social media rule-makers.
Naming and fighting your enemy is a proven way of getting your audience to fall in lock-step behind you. You will also make enemies of your own but it doesn’t matter. Your enemies will only solidify your support and attract more readers to your cause.
By the way, Your enemy shouldn’t be a person. The best enemies are faceless concepts or “rules of thumb”.
How Do You Stand Out?
Here’s the question, how does your blog stand out from the crowd?