How to start a blog post – 5 examples that really work!

How to start a blog post - 5 examples

“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” ~Stephen King

There’s not much point having a blog if nobody reads it.

Right?

The trick is how you start a blog—it comes down to the opening.

Yes, you must have a dynamite headline that pulls readers in. And, sure, you might have 5, 7 or 51(!)  brilliant suggestions with dazzling arguments, but if nobody reads past the first sentence, well…

Before we jump into how to write the perfect opening, let’s revisit why more readers is so important.

Why you blog is so damn important

Every web site we look at has the same off-balance characteristic: people spend 5-10 times more time on your blog than on any other page on your site.

People spend 5-10 times more time on your blog than on any other page on your site. Click To Tweet

In other words, your blog is where you get people’s attention and get them interested in buying. Your blog is where the conversation starts.

It’s no different than striking up a conversation with a vendor at a farmer’s market or salesperson at a conference. The more time you spend with them the more likely you are to buy.

But, first we have to get them reading. And that’s gotten harder.

If your prospect searches for your solutions but don’t see a match right away…they’re gone. If they get your email, open the blog, but aren’t curious to read more, they’re gone.

And once people click away…they aren’t coming back.

So, we have to start our blog by snagging the reader by their synapses. And that starts with the first sentence.

Before we get to that, let’s look at what kills the start of your blog…

How to kill the start of your blog

It’s easy to kill the opening and send readers away screaming. Here’s how.

  • Run-on sentences that go nowhere: “If you want to be a great leader you need to understand the needs of your team while simultaneously keeping an eye on the future and coaching for performance”…WHAT?!?!?!
  • Starting with a negative: “Bad leaders bring their team down.”…bummer.
  • Stating the obvious: “Every team needs a leader”, or “Technology has changed how we work.”….Duh!
  • Boring your readers: “This article will help you understand excellence in customer service”…Zzzzzzzz.

A good opening sentence is sticky – like Spiderman. And a great opening sentence is both sticky and does one more thing:

It makes you want to read the second sentence.

As William Zinsser wrote in the classic, On Writing Well “The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead.”

Now that you’re (hopefully) convinced your blog is essential for attracting and starting meaningful sales conversations, let’s jump into how to start a blog.

5 ways to start a blog post and hook your reader

  1. Ask a question

In his now famous blog post How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World, uber blogger, Jon Morrow doesn’t waste any time. With a 71 character headline that he assumes you will read, he goes straight to this opening question:

“After all, that’s the dream, right?”

Mike Stelzner’s massively successful Social Media Examiner blog has adopted a two-question opener that seems to be working. Like in this post:

“Are you trying to get more local customers? Have you tried Facebook video ads targeted to your local market?”

The technique is simple: work backwards from your topic to the question your prospects would be asking and start with that.

  1. Make a bold claim

What’s the most common (and useful) advice for creating viral videos on YouTube? Make a big claim in the first 7 seconds.

One way to do that with your blog is to start with a blog claim.

I like this style for two reasons: I think it grabs the reader by their curiosity and it challenges me to write a post that has some punch!

Here are some examples from our site at BlogWorks:

  • About making money: “You want your blog to make money. Right?”
  • About adding videos to your blog: Video is a great way to attract more readers to your blog and having them stay longer. If you know how to do it.
  • About measuring the performance of your blog: Let me ask you a question: Would you drive a car without a dashboard or put your money in a bank if you couldn’t see your balance?
  1. Be a contrarian

Another way to get your readers’ attention is to start a blog with an uncommon thought. Chances are you have some beliefs and theories that would work perfectly for this style of opening.

Best-selling author, Ryan Holiday used this approach in his post: “Dear Entrepreneurs: Please Don’t Write a Book—We’re Begging You” to attack first time authors who take writing short-cuts (like hiring book-in-a-box companies).

“There has been no worse piece of advice out there recently than: If you’re an entrepreneur, write a book.”

I like the surprising opening to the post: “A Public-Private Partnership Could Be Key to Your Startup’s Survival” from Entrepreneur.com:

“Despite what many of us might think, there are a lot fewer startups than there used to be.”

  1. Use a statistic (or two)

There is something about including a statistic that adds instant credibility to your post. If fact, 98% of bloggers (ha ha) agree with me on this.

Futurist, entrepreneur and author Peter Diamandis is a big fan of this style of writing. Here’s how he opens his post about the future of cities:

“By 2050, two-thirds of the population, more than 6 billion people, are expected to live in urbanized areas. Exponential technologies will radically change the way we build and organize our cities in the future.”

Or this article about cell phones and homicide rates from the NY Times.

“The increased use of cellphones reduced US homicide rates in the 1990s, according to new research distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research.”

  1. Create a hook

We all love a mystery. It’s like a friend leaning in and saying “You know there’s something I’ve always wanted to tell you…”—you have to know what comes next.

When you start with entrigue you open a scene, but just enough for a movie to start playing in your reader’s mind. Now they want to know what comes next.

Here’s how uber-blogger Tim Urban of the massively successful Wait but Why blog opened his post about what would otherwise be a highly technical subject called Neuralink.

“Last month, I got a phone call.

Okay maybe that’s not exactly how it happened, and maybe those weren’t his exact words. But after learning about the new company Elon Musk was starting, I’ve come to realize that that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.”

And this is how artist, blogger Henneke Duistermaat of Enchanting Marketing breaks the ice in her post about mindfulness:

“At 3 AM, I was tossing and turning.”

And from one of my favourite authors, Ann Handley:

“Here’s the best writing I read all week. It’s 170 words tucked into a belly of a 7,000-word article.

And yes… it’s about stink bugs.”

Ready to start your next blog?

At the end of the day, your blog has to deliver value if you want it to be read, shared and bring you more followers. Kicking it off with a well thought-out opening sentence is a great place to start.

 

Enjoyed this post? Still not ready to go back to work? Here’s more great stuff:

5 brilliant ways to start your blog post with a bang
9 blog post ideas your audience will love
90 seconds to becoming a better writer

Excuse me, but your blog is BORING!

boring blog

Let’s face it, you won’t watch a movie to the end, finish a book or read a magazine article if it’s boring. Your blog is no different.

You might have the best tips, strategies, insights or even keys to the kingdom, but if you have a boring blog, people won’t read it.

In this post, I’m sharing 7 ways to turn any blog from boring to brilliant, get more readers and have readers become loyal fans.

Ready?

1) Start with a problem (I just did it)

I started this post by describing a problem (your blog might not be working, possibly because it’s boring) to get your attention. That’s very different from starting with a bland statement about why blogs are important or why you need more readers.

If you want to get your reader’s attention, design your blog post to “answer the question going on in your customer’s mind.” In other words, get clear about the problem you are going to solve, make that clear in your headline and then deliver the goods!

If you want to get your reader’s attention, design your blog post to “answer the question going on in your customer’s mind.” Click To Tweet

2) Tell a story

Stories are often the most indelible parts in a blog post—remembered long after statistics, facts and advice are forgotten.

We love stories. In a keynote (think of your favourite TED talks), stories are often the most indelible parts in a blog post—remembered long after statistics, facts and advice are forgotten.

The story could be from your life (in this post I wrote about making money by drinking tea), your work (here I talked about creating the world’s first airline in Antarctica), or retelling a story (like this post about experimental economist John List.)

Sometimes the story could be a simple observation. Like this morning you noticed that everyone standing in line at Starbucks were checking their phones.

When you invite your reader into a story you capture their imagination – a picture develops in their mind – and you have their attention.

When you invite your reader into a story you capture their imagination - a picture develops in their mind - and you have their attention. Click To Tweet

3) Keep the reader moving

Nothing is more boring than run-on sentences with too much detail about points nobody cares about that never reach a meaningful conclusion. Like this one:

“It used to be that work-life balance was the holy grail of work-life. Work hard, but also have equal, or more, time for family, friends and personal time. In our new world of 24/7 communications and flat organizations it’s harder to turn work off and even harder to stop thinking about work after hours.”

You can add punch and get to your point faster with short sentences and short paragraphs, like this:

“Work-life balance is dead.

In our new world of 24/7 connections and flat organizations, it’s hard to end work at 5PM – even harder to turn work off.”

(see #7 about retrofitting your old blog posts.)

4) Remove unnecessary words

“Kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

In his classic On Writing-A memoir of the craft, Stephen King pulls no punches when it comes to culling unnecessary words: “Kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • Then. You don’t need to have ‘then’ to tell us something is coming next. Book marketing expert and author, Diana Urban, goes one further: “Using “then” frequently sounds repetitive and even juvenile.”
  • All, every, totally, completely, absolutely, literally. If I’m writing “I packed my clothes and left the room.” It doesn’t help to say I packed all my clothes (it’s assumed I have them all). A quick test is to remove the suspect word and see if your meaning is intact.
  • That. I’m still surprised by the number of times I find a useless ‘that’ lurking in my writing – shoot on sight! Diana Urban suggests, “If a sentence still makes sense after removing ‘that’, delete it.”

Chopping out unnecessary words helps to move the reader along, cuts word count and make your work appear more professional.

5) Break it up with a dash

A dash often replaces the word ‘to’, as in “Breaking sentences with a dash moves readers forward – get the results you want with fewer words.”

An em dash marks an abrupt change of thought in a sentence—often replacing a colon or semicolon. It’s popular use has made it, as Kimberly Joki writes in Grammarly, “the Swiss army knife of punctuation.”

Here’s an example from the post Why you are so damn distracted and how to finally get stuff done on my site: .

I took this original writing:

You can think of your brain as a sentry on speed. It’s job (all 3 pounds of it) is to keep you safe from harm. So anything that appears to need attention, your brain’s attention gets it.

With dashes, I cropped 8 unnecessary words and gave the writing some punch:

Think of your brain as a sentry on speed. It’s job – all 3 pounds of it – is to keep you safe—anything that needs attention gets it.

6) Ask a question

Let me ask you a question…

Are you using questions in your blog?

When we read a question a light goes on in our brain (this is probably not scientifically accurate) that says “Huh, I wonder what the answer is?”

That’s a good thing because now your reader is engaged and wants to read on.

You can use a question to segue into your next topic or just to get reader’s attention. You can even use them as orphan sentences, like this:

What’s a question that would get your readers’ attention?

7) Have something to say

The world has too many blog posts about leadership, relationships and dog grooming.  To be more accurate; the world has too many boring blog posts about leadership, relationships and dog grooming.

The world has too many boring blog posts about leadership, relationship and dog grooming. Click To Tweet
The world has too many boring blogs about leadership, relationship and dog grooming.

What reader’s crave are unique reflections and insights – that hard-won wisdom only you possess. When you write original, relevant and valuable content, people will flock to your site. And you will build loyalty – not with everyone, but with those who matter.

Ultimately, a reader will hire you or buy your product or come to your restaurant (or get their dog groomed by you) because they like and trust you. Bland, generic, boring writing won’t get you there.

Before you start writing, ask if this is interesting – will it stand out in a crowded blogging world. Your blog doesn’t have to unlock secrets to the universe or explain how to split an atom (although that would be cool), but it does need to keep your reader’s attention.

 

Here’s the good news:

Any blog post (I look at dozens every day) can be greatly improved with a 5-minute retrofit. Break up sentences, delete dead words, pose questions and make your reader think.

Do that and you will quickly build a loyal audience and – best of all – they will keep coming back for more.

 

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How to Use Your Social Media Analytics

How to Use Your Social Media Analytics

With the release of Facebook’s powerful new analytics update, we’re inspired to share some social media analytics advice.

Social media analytics and insights are the keys to understanding your audience, receiving more engagement, and driving more traffic to your site.

If you don’t yet have a grasp on analytics, don’t worry – that’s what this guide is for. We’ll go over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as some key things to look for that you can check on any social media channel.

Let’s get started.

Social Media Analytics Terms & Meanings

Before I dive into the individual analytics platforms, I want to cover the common terms you’ll see and what they mean:

  • Reach: the number of people who see your content.
  • Impressions: the number of times your content is displayed.
  • Engagement: the number of interactions people have with your content (i.e.: likes, comments, shares, retweets, etc.)

You’ll see these three terms across every analytics dashboard for every social platform. Now, let’s start with Facebook.

Facebook Analytics: What You Need to Know

First things first – to get the most out of your Facebook analytics, you need to install the Facebook pixel on your site. While you can see some data without it, it’s very limited.

Assuming you’ve already installed the pixel and have data to use, head over to your Facebook Analytics dashboard.

Facebook Analytics Dashboard

This is where you’ll navigate to the various reports to view your data. While I recommend playing around with all the reports to develop a deeper understanding of them, there is one that’s important to know about:

Funnels.

Funnels are the best way to understand the steps your audience takes in going from a Facebook fan to interacting with your content, and finally to visiting your site and even converting into a lead or a sale.

You can create those funnels by going to the “Funnels” tab under “Activities”, then clicking “Create Funnels” in the upper right corner.

Facebook Funnels

Some types of funnels you can create:

  • Users who messaged your Facebook page then made a purchase on your website or became a subscriber
  • Users who installed an app then made a purchase on your website or became a subscriber
  • Users who reacted a certain way (such as “Love”, “Wow!” or “Haha”) then made a purchase or became a subscriber
  • Users who commented on a certain Facebook post then made a purchase or became a subscriber

Pretty cool, right?

Once you run these funnels and see which actions cause users to convert – such as commenting, messaging your page, or putting a “Haha” on a post – you can prioritize getting more of those actions from your users!

For more details on how to use your Facebook analytics, check out this guide.

Now let’s take a quick look at Twitter.

Twitter Analytics: What You Need to Know

Unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn’t have a fancy pixel. Their analytics are also far less advanced. But, it’s still important to understand how to derive actionable insights from Twitter’s data.

First, log into Twitter and then navigate to your Twitter analytics dashboard.

Twitter Analytics

Here you’ll see the growth (or decline) of your page. Nothing too crazy yet.

However, if you scroll down, you’ll see your tweet highlights. This is where most of your insights will be derived.

Tweet highlights

Month after month, you’ll see your most engaging tweets. You can also click “View Tweet activity” to see more insights.

Tweet activity

There are those terms again – impressions and engagements. My tweet was seen 3,551 times and got 17 engagements.

This tells me that mentioning Larry Kim is a great way to get more engagements, so I should tag him more. You’re sure to see similar insights of your own.

When looking at your Twitter analytics, pay specific attention to:

  • Anyone you tagged
  • Anyone who tagged you
  • Certain images that get higher engagement
  • Certain topics that perform well

Just try to figure out why something performed well, then replicate that in future tweets to test your hypothesis. That’s how you use social media analytics! Testing.

For more details on how to use your Twitter analytics, check out this guide.

Now, let’s quickly discuss Instagram before we wrap things up.

Instagram Analytics: What You Need to Know

Unlike the other channels, Instagram analytics is only available in the app. You can’t access it from a desktop.

To get to it, just hit the graph icon in the upper right:

instagram insights

From here you can see your top posts performance by impressions, engagement, and time posted. You can also see insights on your Instagram stories, if you posted any, as well as for your promotions.

Like other insights, use these to determine the kind of content that best resonates with your audience. Additionally, post that content during your peak engagement times to get the most from it.

For more details on how to use Instagram insights, check out Buffer’s full guide.

Conclusion

Social media analytics help unveil the key metrics that are driving the 20% of posts responsible for 80% of your growth. It’s the classic Pareto’s principle.

Check these insights often, and use them to determine:

  • Who to tag and target with your posts
  • What to post (images, text, questions, etc.)
  • Where to spend your time (which channels)
  • When to post to get the most engagement

But there’s one thing analytics can’t do – tell you why. Why did something perform well?

Only you can answer that question through the lens of a human eye. But you can use stats and data to determine it.

Will you start using analytics in your daily routine? Do you have any questions we didn’t answer? Let us know in the comments below!

Read Next: 3 Social Media Activities Actually Worth Your Time

5 Tips to Increase Engagement With Your Social Followers

5 Tips to Increase Engagement with Your Social Followers

You know what sucks?

Spending hours on social media trying to get people to engage with you… only to hear crickets.

Social media is easily one of the best distribution channels for your site. But if you treat it as nothing more than a distribution channel, you’ll be left wanting more.

But it’s possible to increase engagement! We’ve seen posts go viral – and have figured out a few of the common denominators causing that virality.

The common denominators causing increased social media engagement are the following 5 tips we’re about to share with you!

5 Tips to Increase Engagement on Social Media

I’ll quickly outline the tips to increase engagement, then we’ll dive into explaining them. The 5 tips are:

  1. Tag influencers and followers in your posts.
  2. Share other people’s stuff (and tag them).
  3. Build relationships with social media communities.
  4. Show a little personality.
  5. Stand for a cause bigger than yourself.

Let’s dive right in!

1. Tag influencers and followers in your posts

Increase social engagement using tags

The ability to tag others in your updates is a God-send in social media marketing. Any time you tag someone, it sends them a notification letting them know they were tagged – which increases the chances they’ll see it (obviously).

If they see it, chances are pretty good they’ll like it. And they may even share it, further increasing its reach. They may also comment. And make no mistake – likes and comments matter just as shares do.

That’s because Facebook’s algorithm is set up to show your posts to more people based on the engagement it gets. So the more likes it gets, the more people will see it, the more likes and shares it gets – and thus, virality.

If you need help finding influencers, use a tool like influence.co, BuzzSumo, or FollowerWonk. (We also offer assistance with your social media scheduling, so feel free to get in touch with us!)

2. Share other people’s stuff (and tag them)

Just because you want traffic to your website, doesn’t mean you should only be sharing things that benefit you.

In fact, many of your posts should send traffic to other people. This is an excellent way to build relationships with key industry influencers and authorities.

For example, on my travel blog’s Facebook page, I built a relationship with other travel bloggers by sharing their posts and tagging them whenever I shared it. I’ve used this tactic to become friends with them, and we collaborate on projects together now, resulting in more traffic for both of us.

Tagging influencers to boost engagement

Some ideas of things you can share include:

  • Other blogger’s posts
  • News articles around your industry
  • Other people’s courses, services, or products

3. Build relationships with social media communities

Social media communities – like Facebook or LinkedIn groups – are one of the best ways to drive traffic and increase engagement to your own accounts.

However, you also have to be tactful when doing it! Simply jumping into someone else’s group and dropping your links as soon as you get in is a surefire way to be kicked out. And you should be careful with that since there are only so many contacts in any niche.

If you need help finding groups to join, check out Seth Price’s guide to private social media groups for personal branding.

4. Show a little personality

Social media isn’t a corporate board room or a place for all serious, all-the-time interaction. It’s a place people go to be social! To chat with their friends, have fun, and see what cool and interesting things are happening.

It sounds so simple, but so few businesses get this right. They continually push out update after update about their products or offerings. People want more than that – they care about connecting. So connect!

How do you connect on social media in order to increase engagement? Here are some ideas:

  • Share pictures of your office, behind the scenes. Or a night out with the employees on a “team building exercise”. Then share the post and tag them in it.
  • If you don’t have an office or employees, share a picture of you at the coffee shop on your laptop cranking away, or on your couch in your pajamas being a true solopreneur. Tag some of your favorite followers and ask what they’re doing on this fine Saturday.
  • Ask your community more questions that you care about. See what their favorite movie or past time is. Use that information to build a connection by sharing a funny or helpful video with them about their favorite topic.
  • Get on the phone with some of your followers and ask them what their interests are. Everyone is afraid to get on the phone, yet it’s one of the best ways to learn about your ideal customers and see what they care about.

Of course, not all of your posts should be super personal or fun. But maybe one in five can be that way. Experiment with it and see what works. In the end, people just want some human connection.

5. Stand for a cause bigger than yourself

I saved the best tip for last here. By far one of the best and quickest ways to increase engagement with your social followers is by connecting with them on a shared cause.

I’ll give you an example. Going back to my travel blog, I’ve taken up a cause: Helping people to embrace full-time travel, make an income for the road, and live life to the fullest. By connecting with other full-time travelers and sharing that cause with them, I was able to get TONS of social engagement. As you saw, one of my posts got over 66 shares, 40 likes, and 10 comments. It reached over 13,000 people.

So what cause can you stand for? It can be a charity or something you make up entirely on your own.

Some examples:

  • ConvertKit‘s cause is to teach everything they know and make it easier for people to build an engaged audience using email.
  • Love Your Melon is a hat store that gives 50% of their profit to improve the lives of kids with pediatric cancer.
  • tentree is a clothing store named after their cause – they plant 10 trees on every purchase to help the Earth.

Sharing your mission to increase engagement

It doesn’t have to be some massive goal to save the Earth. It just has to be a good cause people can stand behind. With that, engagement will come naturally.

Some parting words

Increasing engagement isn’t rocket science. It’s just a matter of caring about your audience, being more social by sharing a cause and tagging others, and by being engaged yourself.

The five tips in this article stand as a base for every social interaction you do. There are a million and one tactics to get better at social – posting X times per day about Y topic, following X people every day, etc. – but at the core, what really matters is the person behind the tactics.

Show a little personality, engage with your industry’s community, and become a valuable (and transparent) member of the groups around your topic.

If you found this post, please share it so we can help social media become a better place for everyone – that’s our shared cause! And as always, feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or tips of your own.