Have you ever found yourself attracted to a particular blogger’s writing style? Have you ever thought what is it about this blogger’s style that attracts you? For example, I LOVE reading Ruth Soukup’s weekly posts on the Elite Blog Academy blog and the related newsletter that comes with each post. It took me a while to figure out why her writing was so effective. Most of her posts:
- Have an attention-grabbing or action-oriented headline
- Illustrate a personal but relatable struggle of hers in the introduction
- Pose a thought-provoking question
- End with a strong dose of motivation
- Use simple and familiar language
These are all tenets of great writing, especially when it comes to instructional or motivational articles. Besides the obvious element of great “writing,” the effectiveness of such posts also depends on several other elements.
The Secret to Creating Fantastic Instructional Content
In my professional life, we use a learning model called the ARCS model to deliver effective learning experiences to adults. ARCS is an acronym for Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction—the four elements that, when woven into your learning products, ensure your learners benefit from it as they should.
ARCS is a great checklist to ensure you can gain and sustain the interest and motivation of your readers/students. While the acronym specifically applies to adult learning experiences (think about your upcoming eBooks or eCourses!), you can easily adapt it to your writing for the blog. Here’s how:
There are no two ways about the fact that grabbing your readers’ attention is the first and most important element for gaining loyal subscribers. Without grabbing their attention, how will your writing stand out amongst 10,000 other blogs? What is it that will make people sit up and take notice of your writing?
Remember, according to research, you have no more than 20 seconds before readers will decide whether they will continue reading your post or bounce to the next shiny pasture. So, GRAB.THEIR.ATTENTION!
And here’s what you need to do:
First, spend a little more time thinking about a solid headline that uses power words and is unambiguous about the intent of the post. That said, stay far away from click bait headlines because you may attract traffic purely based on such titles but when your headline and article do not match, your readers would be suspicious of you in future.
Second, write a solid introduction for your actual post. You want to sustain your reader’s/student’s attention even past the headline because that’s where your message lies.
You can do this by using either of the following two strategies:
- Perceptual arousal: This strategy uses an element of surprise or uncertainty to gain interest. This could be a startling fact or a statistic. Or, it could even be a “non-example” that will go against the reader’s expectations. Try giving humor a chance to introduce an information-heavy post. Basically, include elements that will shake up the foundation of an ideal situation and make your readers sit up and pay attention.
- Inquiry arousal: This strategy stimulates curiosity by presenting challenges and questions upfront. You can present these challenges or question on a first-person or second-person basis; the idea is to make the premise believable and relatable.
It’s up to you what media you choose to use—it could be a short video clip, an audio clip, a cartoon, or plain old plan. Make it engaging, make it intriguing, make it useful.
Whatever you do, keep your readers/students hooked.
Once you have your audience’s attention, you need to make it abundantly clear why they should keep reading your post—what do they stand to gain out of your post? Which real-life problem of theirs does your post address? In other words, what is the outcome or end result of reading your post? Hint: employ SMART goal setting to determine the outcomes.
But how should you present this information? One way to do this is to simply list the outcomes before diving into the main content. But that is as boring as it gets. Instead, consider using model behavior examples, or better still, present yourself in your readers’ shoes. Remember Ruth Soukup’s example above? “Show” the readers how your post will help them in the short and/or long term. Show them by telling how it has helped you, or include testimonials.
By nature, humans put energy into tasks that they feel will bring them success/reward/award. Plain, simple return on investment. Does your style of writing make your readers feel they will stand to gain something? The gain could be a new skill, better lifestyle, or even just momentary feel-good headspace.
Use positive and encouraging language when imparting knowledge. Tell your readers/students up front what they will learn from your post and the amount of effort needed from them. Organize your content in a manner that goes from general to specific, and draws from real-life examples.
If your post is building on a concept that you have discussed previously, direct the reader to that resource to level the field for everyone. Provide related and useful content upgrades, worksheets, cheat sheets wherever you can. Essentially, set your reader up for success every step of the way.
Another important thing to build your reader’s confidence is to talk to them, not talk down to them. Even if you are writing an “XYZ post for dummies,” do not think of your readers as “dummies”.
Now, this element is more in tune with a formal learning program. In going through a course and/or at the end of a course, learners are typically see awarded a digital completion certificate or access to an expert to address doubts. The objective is to do what you can to ensure that the learner is rewarded for their effort upon successfully completing your intervention.
For blog posts, this element can be difficult to implement. But what you can do instead is do it anyway. Perhaps you can invite comments and respond to each comment—this could be their access to an expert (you!).
In my next post, I will share a few more tips to create better instructional posts. I would love it if you could leave your feedback in the comments below and share the post with others.