blog posts

By Girish Shenoy

Small business marketers always hear that content is the key to building an audience. But sometimes the most relevant and witty content simply doesn’t get traction. You could write the most insightful blog post, but it does not spark debate (negative or positive) within the intended community. When blog posts are ignored, what went wrong?

For some insight into why this occurs, let’s look into a hypothesis called “Warnock’s Dilemma,” a proposal by a man named Bryan Warnock that offers five scenarios for why blog posts might not gain traction.

  1. Nothing needs to be said – In some cases you might have a well-written post that offers correct and reasonable information. There isn’t controversy in the content, so readers aren’t compelled to comment with “nice job” or “I concur.” Consider announcements about new features. These are typically short and dry posts about bug fixes or enhancements, with mention of the new version number and what it means for the company. In order to strike up conversation these posts should be more customer-centric. What are the customer problems fixed by the new version? Use simple language to plainly state what was changed, why, and the implications. Users want information that relates to their needs, not technical data. They might not love the changes, but at least they are more likely to open a dialogue.
  2. No one speaks up – In some cases, none of the readers really understood your post, but they don’t engage you for clarification. Review your content to see if it’s overloaded with company or industry buzzwords. After all, with plenty of “True Detective” memes and cute puppy videos to look at online, the average reader doesn’t have the attention span to decipher your post. Unless you’re posting on a highly technical and narrowly focused blog, you need to avoid detailed topics that are littered with jargon. Readers want a story they can listen and relate to, one that causes them to think about an issue or engage in a conversation. This doesn’t mean you need to be vague or long-winded, just that your core content should tell a story.
  3. Nonsense, nonsense everywhere – Warnock’s third dilemma occurs when a post is such nonsense that people won’t waste the time to even bring it up. This is one dilemma that is a little out of date. You find vitriolic comments about the most innocuous posts, as trolls seem to lurk on every message board and blog comment section. Once you accept the trolls, it’s important to focus on writing attention-grabbing content. The most polarizing posts are the ones that get people divided on two sides. This means they will form an opinion. Think Ford vs. Chevy, Google vs. Facebook, or Miller Lite vs. Bud Light. To spur heated debate you need to take a stance and then pursue it with vigor. Don’t be afraid to take chances with your content (short of being offensive, of course).
  4. No one read it – If you receive very little readership on a certain post, then consider the location of your typical audience members. Use Google Analytics to view visitor traffic from Facebook and Twitter, taking note of the time they usually engage. Set up tweets and status updates at scheduled intervals using an app such as Buffer so you can cover a wide range of people. Also consider holidays to see if the audience’s attention is pulled in a different direction. Track when and where your customers are able to listen to your content, and tailor communications to their schedule.
  5. No one cares, and for no specific reason – If your website has a community forum, take a look at the posts about feature requests. Chances are you see some heated discussion and passionate brand advocates. Then click on your company announcements page and view the barren wasteland. What’s going on? Talking about your new initiatives is fine, but saying how awesome you are is not going to spark much reaction. Engage readers with thoughts on how you can improve your services, or simply ask them for suggestions. This is free market research right from the best sources and a great way to get people involved with your brand for the long term.

The key to avoiding being “Warnocked” is produce content that is not only well written but also takes a strong stance. Think about your industry in broader terms and how your company can disrupt it, and then make your case. In a crowded online environment, the attention goes to the bold.

Girish Shenoy is Marketing Analyst at Freshdesk, which provides customer support software for businesses.