Four Ways to Be More Interesting

image of interesting man

I’d like you to stop and think about something for a second.

Try to remember the last time you visited a site that had good, solid content but read like a technical manual. I’m talking factual and helpful, but not terribly compelling.

Maybe you wanted to know how to gap your spark plugs. You searched, you followed links, and you found an on-target blog that told you how to do exactly what you wanted to do. The instructions and site as a whole were dry, but very informative. You read, you took notes, and then you went out and used what you had learned.

What next? Well, assuming you’re not a true car devotee, your problem was solved once you were done gapping those spark plugs. You didn’t really need any more car tips, so you moved on.

Sites that capture our interest

Now instead, think about the last time something on a site really caught your interest — regardless of the topic.

Maybe a blogger wrote an emotional piece about how she never sees her kids due to her job, and determined to find a way to work at home so that she could see them more. Maybe a writer was an insightful oddball, saying all kinds of peculiar things that made you think. Or maybe what you read made you laugh out loud.

Did you return to that site? Well, assuming the subject matter was remotely relevant to you, there’s a good chance you did.

You were curious whether or not the blogger would leave her job. You wondered if you would read more oddball thinkers. You hoped you would find more to laugh about.

You came back because you were intrigued and emotionally engaged.

You came back because the site was interesting.

If you want your blog to have a regular, devoted readership, remember this:

People come because of the information you provide, but will usually only stay if you provide it in a way that interests them.

Here are four things I’ve found that will keep those people coming back.

1. Teach through personal experience

Consider inserting yourself into what might otherwise be a purely factual lesson or set of step-by-step instructions. Simply adding the personal touch can be enough to create a sense of connection between you and the reader.

One person who does this really well is customer service expert Steve Curtain. In my opinion, customer service is just about as uninteresting as it gets, but Steve’s posts are far from dry.

Instead of giving bullet points on why a given company’s customer service is good or bad, he writes about his family’s everyday encounters with various businesses.

The result is an often-funny tale of an ordinary guy haplessly navigating a world of service superstars and bumbling idiots.

Customer service? Interesting? Yes, Steve actually manages to do the impossible.

2. Stray from what’s relevant

The conventional advice is that our readers will abandon us if every word and thought isn’t about our blog’s central topic.

But that’s not always true. A bit of off-topic rambling now and then shows that your site is human, rather than a how-to manual, and will make readers more likely to be intrigued by you and what you do.

Consider marketing blogger Naomi Dunford’s post about getting a wine box stuck on her hand.

Did she abandon her topic in writing that post? No, it actually contains a marketing lesson.

But was she human, going off on tangents about enjoying wine a little too much, among other things? Yep. And was it engaging? In fact, was it easily one of her most popular posts to date? Yes again.

3. Create recurring themes and features

The internet is big. Very big.

Because of this, it’s easy for your blog to feel anonymous to your readers. You write something, they read it; you’re two ships passing in the night.

Anything you can do to create a sense of “inside” versus the faceless internet “outside” will make your site feel more intimate to readers.

A great way to do this is to have regular, recurring events, such as the caption contests on Mattress Police.

On a regular basis, author Diesel will take a pop culture photo, add his face to it, and ask readers to caption it. He then declares a winner . . . but more importantly, tracks winners over time.

People keep coming back to submit a caption in an attempt to get ahead of the next person in the rankings.

4. Borrow other interesting people

I love this tactic.

By myself, I’m one type of interesting. But my new friend Charlie Gilkey is a different kind of interesting.

So in an attempt to create some synergy, we recorded a “jam session” and posted it on our blogs.

Our readers (and listeners) loved it. In fact, we’re working on creating a whole series of joint calls, with a third person occasionally thrown in for added interest.

If you know people in your topic area who are interesting, consider doing mini joint-ventures. You can do calls like Charlie and I did, or you can trade guest posts, create a co-branded product, or run duo Q&A sessions. Some of the other person’s interestingness will rub off on you, and yours on them.

Remember, facts are a commodity. Even solid blogs with solid information will attract only one-off readers if they’re not compelling. People will come, read, learn, solve their immediate need . . . and likely never come again.

If you want those readers to stick, you’re going to need more than facts and lessons. Try infusing your topic with some human interest and you just might find those folks coming back for more.

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant is interesting chiefly because he’s exactly like Morpheus. You can connect with him on Twitter, but maybe shouldn’t if you’re totally dull and boring.

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Reader Comments (40)

  1. says

    Your first example is me, pretty much.

    I get the idea, and I’ve been trying to inject a lot more human interest into technical material.

    But I wonder sometimes.

    Our society seems to have less and less regard for stuff that actually matters, and more and more emphasis on “I wanna feel good right now.!”

    Technical material is *hard*. It’s hard to learn, hard to read about, and hard to write about. Without someone taking the time to learn it and write about it, technical society eventually grinds to a halt. Without at least a few people understanding how it all work, it must grind to a halt.

    Here’s the thing: there’s no amount of human interest that will make any technical material *easier* to learn. It might make it more fun to learn… and that’s a worthy goal.

    And a daily struggle for me.

  2. says

    Solid post Johnny.

    Teaching through personal experience is a great one. Not only do you get to demonstrate your knowledge but you also get to tell a story – something everybody loves.

  3. says

    there’s no amount of human interest that will make any technical material *easier* to learn

    Actually, learning psychology and cutting-edge instructional design show that the higher the engagement level, the better the comprehension. So, in that regard, it is “easier” to learn if the content is engaging (interesting).

    I agree with you though. The idea is not to dumb down complex topics. The idea is to work a bit harder to make complex topics digestible and engaging. It’s harder work for the technical writer to come up with analogies, metaphors, etc. to aid the reader in easier comprehension due to higher engagement, but there’s no doubt the effort can be highly effective.

  4. says

    I like the idea of a “jam” session. Although, I cannot say that me and a guest blogger would jam, we just may share some sultry parlor talk about art, craft and building a better blog.

    Oh la la, so captivating!;-)

    Thanks for the great article – truly.

  5. says

    I enjoyed reading this article – great tips here!

    One of the things on how to write more interesting blog articles is help is to provide examples, and I like how you pointed that out through using one’s own personal experience.

    It shows that there is a human being that one can relate to behind the other side of the computer screen, rather than reading something that came out of a technical manual.

  6. says

    Great tips. Sometimes I wonder if I’m boring…but merely the fact of wondering is a fair indication that it is so! Maybe implementing your tips will help.

  7. says

    Some of my favorite compliments are when readers say oh my gosh, that’s something that I would do/say/think. It means that we’re relating on a very real level.

  8. says

    That’s right Brian. Human will always be human. It is hard for a human to read posts like reading a electronic manual when he doesn’t have any knowledge about it. Applying some human touch on it will make it easier and digestible for the reader.

  9. says

    Interesting post, it can be extremely hard to make a dry subject interesting – particularly when you stray away from the blogging world and into business copywriting.

    Even the best writers would struggle to make a page of copy about buying metal bedsteads emotionally engaging!

    I wrote a similar post today, more geared towards SEO Copywriting (as opposed to blogging): – though I did five not four 😀

  10. says

    Being interesting is come so naturally for some and seems impossible for others. Teaching through personal experience is probably the most common way I see people try to spice things up.

    Straying off topic is tricky, but can be so rewarding. How do you know the right balance of interesting vs. completely off topic rambling? There are so many people that preach stay on topic all the time..

    That recurring theme idea is great.. The caption idea is brilliant!

  11. says

    Very cool article and great information for keeping my blog interesting. I’m just getting started in this whole arena and it is fun. I’m loving all the great content that’s posted here and I know it will make me a better blogger.


  12. says

    Thanks for the tips Johnny. I’ve always been pretty strict about keeping on topic, but I see how straying just a bit could add the extra “interestingness” I need. I’ll be giving this one a try.

  13. says

    I’m also a fan of running gags, but that only works if you’re good at humor. (Hey, everyone check out how modest I am!) It falls under #3.

    Like, I used to do a newsletter (which will probably reappear after some modification). At some point, I ran across this ridiculous photo of the cover of an album for “Devastatin’ Dave, the Turntable Slave” and his album “Zip Zap Rap.” So I started inserting Dave all over my newsletter. The running element was something people really got to like.

    Same with any odd references, actually – builds that sense of being “inside.”

    I love it when I see something on TV that references something very obscure. It makes me feel like I’m part of an exclusive club, noticing something that others won’t.

    Obviously, you have to walk a fine line because if you’re always doing very obscure things, you lose mass appeal.

  14. says

    Thanks for the post, Johnny. And @Brian Clark, great point about making even technical material more engaging. If something is enjoyable it just goes deeper.

    I had two music theory teachers in college, one who just taught the theory and the other who made it really damn fun. For instance, in a Beethoven piano sonata there was a particularly interesting chord that we were studying. He said, “Do you know the name of that one? It’s called the ‘juiceified chord.'” Irreverent but authentic, and definitely a breath of fresh air in a sometimes stuffy topic.

    Guess which teacher I learned more from?

  15. says

    Standing out is essential in any business. Blogging forces you to confront these things about yourself…why am I interesting? What a great question to ask yourself! I dig it :)

  16. says

    My “creative writing lesson” came back in the 1960s when I owned a Lambretta motor scooter. The manual included a section on “what to do when it won’t start”. I expected complex instructions.

    Their advice was to do a running start and included instructions on how to do it. It warned that letting go of your clutch while you were in mid-air would guarantee “that you wouldn’t have any offspring”. Also, if this process didn’t work, at least you would “eventually get to where you were going and you would be in better shape when you got there and, hopefully, someone there would know what to do”.

    In the middle of this technical manual (written in England) was this little gem which I remember today and attempt to include “starting instructions” in every technical thing I write. It helps relieve a reader’s tension.

  17. says

    As someone who’s just now getting into blogging, this post is enormously helpful. This post is a great reminder that connecting with people is critical in our face-to-face and online worlds. Thinking of the sites I live to frequent (online and offline), it’s that human connection that keeps me coming back. If I can relate to you or you can otherwise engage my curiosity or thirst for knowledge, then you have me at “hello.”

  18. says

    Took me way too long to get around to learning point number two. Might have been all the stuff I read exhorting me to STAY ON TOPIC DAMMIT.

    Not that staying on topic is bad. But branching out makes you interesting. Interesting is better than plain old relevance any day. It’s more fun to write too.

  19. says

    You know, I actually can’t help but write from my own experience, and I don’t know what the hell on-topic is.

    Today’s post was a semi-inspirational book review, and the post before that was about how I like to play with Transformers and do gymnastics. I usually write about online biz, technology, and wild turkeys in my barn.

  20. says

    I’m with you on the recurring themes. That’s a good way to frame your content, kind of like a feature column.

    As for the personal experience…trying to do more of that, but it’s hard to say sometimes which stories they’ll enjoy.

  21. says

    “I have a theory that the best ads come from personal experience. Some of the good ones I have done have really come out of the real experience of my life, and somehow this has come over as true and valid and persuasive.” -David Ogilvy

    Hey Johnny,

    Personal experience is the most true and persuasive way of teaching. You’re not just giving people ideas and thoughts that are abstract and maybe only good in theory – you back up your content with hard facts and experience.

    If it worked for you, it just might work for the reader.

    In fact, your point #1 (Teach through personal experience) is the easiest way to be more interesting. You don’t have to come up with anything extra; you’ve done all the work by getting experience. You simply tell people about it. Teaching through personal experience also makes your content unique, since no one else had the same experience you did.


  22. says

    Great post Johnny.
    Authenticity is so much easier when it comes out of personal experience. Our western world is so full of theory and we have valued knowledge over experience for so long.
    May be authentic blogging will swing the balance the other way so that both knowledge and experience are valued similarly in the future.

  23. says

    Thanks Johnny. I try to be conversational with my blog. I have a habit of doing being too technical. I’m learning and growing. I definitely want to engage readers and have them visit my blog regularly.

  24. says

    Great post. I myself am a blogger for a marketing company and it can be repetitive sometimes when trying to get other people to care about what you are writing about. Personal stories, i find, are the most effective way to reach people on a deeper level. It also gets people to remember what you say when there is an interesting story to go along with it.
    Keep up the good work. Remind people that just because you do it- doesn’t mean you do it right.
    Goodluck and I will follow you and your personal stories to learn more :) (great voice by the way)

  25. says

    Helpful Article. Especially for me, one who just start blogging. I am a newbie blogger. Yes. But I’ll try my best be a better blogger. Share everything to this wholeworld.

  26. says

    I can tell you the very site that I last visited that did this to me: Wine Library TV. Gary’s passion has got me watching videos about wine even though I could care less about wine. How awesome is that?

  27. says

    Great post. I think that’s why I always find myself returning to Copyblogger. I think you raise some really valid points and I suppose some of what you raise has a lot to do with human nature and our urge to be a little nosy.
    When things are to be continued…,we go back because we want to know the turn out. How it is written , I agree has a lot to do with it but it’s an exceptional tactic to get right and draw you’re readers in. Thanks for the interesting, yet informative read Johnny.

  28. says

    If you add the personal touch than you will be able to reach at their heart and mind. So this will not be professional any more.

    Remember those soaps and serials, all females member of our family talking about them is like they are our family member.

    So this one really works … you just have to draft perfectly.

  29. says

    Excellent tips. Going unique in writing — whether it’s Twitter, a blog or Web site — is critical to capturing (and keeping) your audience. The personal touch, as you note, is important too. Good insight.

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