One sure-fire way to get attention from socially driven sites is to write a really good list. If you look at the current popular articles on CopyBlogger you’ll note the following:
- Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb
- 304 Comments
- The 5 Immutable Laws of Persuasive Blogging
- 89 Comments
- 10 Effective Ways to Get More Blog Subscribers
- 95 Comments
- 7 More Sure-Fire Headline Templates That Work
- 110 Comments
- Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well
- 65 Comments
- 5 Simple Ways to Open Your Blog Post With a Bang
- 131 Comments
And this recent extremely simple list scored 109 comments and counting. People love lists.
In Brian’s post on laws for persuasive blogging, he outlined the importance of creating lists and hinted at why they work:
4. The Law of the List
Love them or hate them, informational posts presented in list format are easily digestible, and allow for an efficient transfer of your value proposition to the reader.
Left Brain Versus Right Brain
Simply put, lists work because they conform to the idea of “Left-Brain Marketing”. Everyone has two sides of the brain, and each part controls a specific way of thinking. The left brain is analytical, and prefers a step-by-step approach (i.e. lists) while the right brain prefers to see the big picture first and then deal with the details later.
Television commercials take the right brain approach with highly-produced images and expensive repetition. On the other hand, the left brain list format has been a successful approach for many decades with direct marketers, magazine publishers, late-night comedians and more recently with Internet content producers and social media marketers.
Many social media users want to know exactly what they’re in for, and the list format caters specifically to that need. It lets them know up front in the headline what to expect and what the time commitment will be.
Let’s Get to the List Already
Here are 7 things you should know about making lists.
- Do I have to make a list to be successful?
Making a list helps your content succeed because it is more palatable for social media, but of course other approaches work, too. The key is writing good content, and creating an excellent list gives you an extra boost in terms of presentation and connecting with your readers.
- Why does making lists work?
Creating lists works due to the specific nature of the headline and the content itself. There is a very clear communication of what the reader is in for, and the structure itself reinforces the perceived value of the return on attention invested.
- Does writing a list ensure social media success?
Not necessarily. While making lists increases your chances of social media success, there are no guarantees. Ultimately it comes down to your content.
- What kind of list should I make?
In order for a list to be truly successful it shouldn’t deviate from the kind of content you usually write. The piece must be relevant to your subject matter, but presented in a different way. A great list has sufficient elaboration on each item to properly flesh out the content.
- How long should my list be?
There is evidence to suggest that top 10 lists may be viewed as somewhat contrived, while lists shorter than 5 may be seen as not containing enough information. The number 7, which humans have been fascinated with throughout history, may in fact be the magic number, with close to a 60% success ratio in one test.
- I shouldn’t start a sentence with a numeral, right?
It’s technically true that you shouldn’t begin a sentence with a numeral lower than 10. You’re supposed to spell it out, such as seven instead of 7. But when it comes to headlines, good copywriters know to break this rule. The numeral catches the eye immediately, while a spelled-out number takes more work for the reader to realize it’s a list.
- How often can I (should I) write a list?
Too much of a good thing is usually a bad thing, and if you keep writing lists you will soon reach a point where you annoy your readers. It’s a great idea to throw in a list once in a while but don’t overdo it.