If we want to write posts that are popular and widely shared, we know how to do it.
1) Use a benefit-led headline. "7 Ways To Get The Audience You Crave!"
2) Use bullet points. A lot like these, only more of them and not numbered.
3) Keep it short. Keep the posts to around 150 to 250 words.
The problem with attracting the masses is it rarely benefits you much.
By every standard metric (views, shares, likes, tweets), this post about calculating the ROI of customer service communities was among the least popular I've ever written.
It also gained business from 2 new clients (from 4 that approached us), 4 new members on CommunityGeek, and several interesting discussions via e-mail with people I admire.
By that measure, it's quite possibly the most successful post I've ever written.
This isn't an isolated example. It's happened several times. Long, detailed, posts that cover a very specific topic in depth aren't shared, but attract exactly the sort of people a company like us needs. They are a flag for a specific group of people.
We face this choice when building our communities.
We can round-off the edges in our work to attract the masses. We can make the process of finding, joining, and participating in the community easier and easier. We can churn out ever-generic material using all the latest viral techniques to attract the crowd. We can initiate discussions that appeal to the mass.
This might give you a quick blip in the numbers, but it won't lead to a long-term, sustained, community.
Far better to do the opposite. Initiate discussions, create content, and organize events that go very deep into niche topics. You will attract exactly the sort of people you want.
On October 29th to 30th, the world's top 250 community professionals are going to SPRINT in San Francisco. Will you be one of them?