Is It Time to Get Mad?
Should I write provocative blog posts? This is a question that we hear a lot from entrepreneurs who are either just starting to blog or searching for a way to rejuvenate their blogging spirit. At first blush, adopting an edgy writing style sounds like an effective way to spice up ordinary business topics. However, there are risks.
I remember hearing Brian Clark talk about this at a SOBCon meeting a few years ago. He said that creating a controversial personal brand was perhaps the best marketing strategy of all … but it wasn’t for him. He admitted he just didn’t have the personality for it.
This struck me as exceedingly sound advice. The worst thing you can do as a blogger is try to be something you’re not. If by nature you are controversial, rude, and/or flamboyant, by all means consider a take-no-prisoners content strategy. However, if you are not that sort of person, a confrontational writing style is bound to come off poorly.
Another necessity for provocative blogging is that you must be passionate about your topic. One of my favorite SEO bloggers is Michael Martinez. He can be a little out there at times, but whether you agree or disagree with him, you can never question his utter dedication to SEO. It makes him worth listening to.
Another critical factor is the nature of your niche. SEO, for instance, has writers of all stripes, from farmers to fanatics. In order to learn anything, you have to be willing to give writers a wide berth. On the other hand, if you’re a company like BluePay, which is a financial services business, the last thing you want is to be perceived as a fanatic.
How to Go Berserk Nicely
If, after all of these cautionary remarks, you still want to push the envelope, here are a few ideas to help you be constructively provocative, as opposed to a mere rabble rouser.
- All caps and multiple exclamation points make you annoying, not provocative.
- Good envelope pushers are pushing most of the time. If your writing has massive mood swings, you’ll make readers uncomfortable.
- Humor is a good way to take the sting out of a sharp point of view. It keeps people from taking your criticism personally.
- Good envelope pushers pick their spots. It’ll be better to flame out about something, as opposed to flaming out about nothing.
- Good envelope pushers have a consistent point of view. You know what Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern are going to say before you even tune in — but this makes them more popular with their fans, not less.
- Good envelope pushers are willing to lose big chunks of the audience. This was another point Brian Clark stressed. Most businesses don’t have the courage do do this … and perhaps, justifiably so.
- Good envelope pushers have thick skin; they not only invite harsh criticism, they seem to thrive on it.
- Good envelope pushers are shrewd business people. If you don’t think there’s method behind Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern’s madness, you are too naive to be a provocative blogger!
Case Study in Progress
Harrison Jones, a Straight North SEO specialist with a sideline Chicago food blog, is in the midst of a test to see what kind of results he can get from in-your-face blogging. He recently wrote a post entitled, Why US Cellular Has Better Food than Wrigley — sure to provoke a bloodbath between fans of the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox, one of the fiercest intra-city sports rivalries in the world. Harrison, a White Sox fan, writes in the following vein:
“Attending a Cubs game is like watching a 3½ hour disaster with nasty beer and shitty food. Unlike the Cubs, the White Sox pride themselves on food at US Cellular Field. Many baseball fans flock to scalpers for tickets to Opening Day just to be reunited with the food.”
What’s interesting is that this post — which is unoptimized — has piled up some impressive statistics:
- Has received far more comments than any other post
- Ranks 12th in visits (even though all the posts ahead of it are fully optimized)
- Has attracted readers from all over North America despite the local theme
Angry Cubs fans are reading the story, reacting strongly, and sharing it with their friends, indicating that a little emotion can generate more traffic than a lot of SEO. It’s working for Harrison, but the question is, can it work for you?
About the Author
Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North. They work primarily with industrial B2B firms such as Magid (an organization that doesn’t mind taking the gloves off.) Brad is a lifelong Chicago White Sox fan.