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Online Ministries Community Blog

Apr 04

Using Content to Drive Online Dialogs

Posted by Bill Anderton

I blogged last week about “Online Ministries Begin As ‘Ministries of Listening’” and about starting dialogs with the visitors to websites and other online assets. If you buy into this premise (and I hope you do), the next logical question is naturally, “How do I accomplish this and start dialogs with my visitors?”

dialogs_400w.jpgYes dialogs begin with creating opportunities for listening. But causing a visitor to speak up does require some work on your part. You have to create content that entices a visitor to speak; to say something to you. You have to figure out how to get the dialog started; how to write your content to get the conversation going, which is the toughest step in the process.

You can put web pages or social media postings out there but your visitors will have to respond and you will need to entice them to do so.

Beginning dialogs with your users, and driving them, begins with your content.

Here is a list of tips about creating content that drive conversations.

  • Be engaging. Demonstrate that you are open and willing to listen. Be human! Be friendly.
  • Be responsive. When people do begin to speak, honor the “risk” they take by taking the first step; respond to whatever they post very quickly. Minutes count; hours may still work. But days will cost you the relationship. Also, EVERY user-submitted comment should be responded to; it is basic courtesy.
  • Have something to say. I hope this tip is obvious but it is worth mentioning. If you don’t have something to say, you will have short-lived conversations, if at all.
  • Ask for the next date before you finish the first one. Write your first responses to a user (and others after that) in way to encourage additional responses from the user. Don’t write a response that ends the dialog, you want it to continue.
  • Be authoritative. The goal is to become an authoritative resource for your visitors, to encourage them to become interested in you site and its content as a prime source on your subject matter.
  • Be relevant. You want to create content that’s relevant to your niche and its targeted audience. By producing relevant content for your subject, you can begin to build a reputation that correlates with your overall brand and messaging strategy.
  • Be obvious. Don’t hide your message or be too subtle with its presentation. Be as predictable as possible for your visitors. Don’t expect people to dig too deeply (or at all) trying to figure out what you are saying.
  • Be declarative. Most people don’t want to read anything they don’t think will help them or answer their questions. When a user starts reading your content, you only have a few seconds to hook them so they are willing to read more.
  • Start out strong. Visitors will not be naturally inclined to read an entire page of text unless to engage them quickly in the first few seconds and very high up in the text. The goal is for visitors to see what’s most important first, near the top of the page. Carefully write your headlines and the first part of your body text called the lead. Write in the newspaper style called the inverted pyramid. Picture an inverted pyramid where the width of each section of the pyramid is proportional to its importance. All important things go near the top of the story. The deeper you get into the story, the less important the details become. This is very different from traditional writing because it requires pitting the conclusion first, as readers can see the most important information at the top of the story. This helps readers decide if they want to keep reading, or if they need to click out to find a new resource.
  • Be topical. Topical events happening in the country or locally will naturally offer opportunities for content that can start conversations. Be connected to your parish so you know what is happening.
  • Be aware. Find out what people in your target group are already talking about. The more something is already being talked about, the more people there will be who will be willing to share.
  • Be social. Put links to your web content into social media. Social media cast broad nets; harness them. Use social media as a step in the chain but not an end game. If you integrate social media into your whole Internet strategy, you will get the best of all positions.
  • Ask for the share. People must be willing to share your content, but don’t hesitate to ask them to do so. If your content has life and encourages discussion, more people will be willing to share it. It will spread around the internet faster and perhaps become viral.
  • Use both sides of the street. Yes, you can use social media to drive people to your website but it works the other way too; social is a two-way street. People who land first in your website should be able to share your content with their friends/followers. Make it easy to share your content. Put Twitter, Facebook buttons and those of any other social media you use, on your site and make them easy for users to find.
  • Use creative visuals. Visuals draw the eyes of people. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words because most people like to visualize concepts rather than read them; both text and visuals engage more parts of the brains. Creative visuals actually improve viewer engagement. Provide value to your content with creative videos, photos or graphics. This can add a lot of value to traditionally text-heavy pages like blog posts.

Once you have created content that drive dialogs, you are almost done but there is one more important step to take.

Make sure than the search engines can find your content. It is simply a statistical reality, the more people who see your content, the greater the likelihood someone will begin talking to you or passing your content to other who will.

Here are some basic tips about this phase.

  • Page titles matter. The page title you assign to each page in the <title> tag in the page <head> section of the page is important to how search engine index your content. Page titles matter a great deal and every page shuld have a good one. Page titles should be short and sweet and should be less than 65 characters. Longer titles will be truncated on search results pages presented by the search engines.
  • Use metadata. Web pages allow you to suggest important keywords to the search engines. Search engine don’t necessarily follow these suggestions unless they also find support for the keywords in the full text of the page itself. However, they can help a lot if you do them correctly.
  • Put targeted keywords in both your page titles and the page text. Search engine index pages based on their proprietary algorithms. They will index each page they crawl by analyzing the words used in the text and the page title. In other words, if your text uses terms like “fried green tomatoes” it will index the page with these terms. However, you can intentionally and proactively target certain favorable keywords by making sure that you integrate your targeted keyword into both page titles and page text.
  • Front-load your keywords. Include your keywords in our lead. It not only improves the keyword importance for the search algorithms, it gives readers the opportunity to get an overview of the article quickly.
  • Headlines matter. Search engines give additional weight to the text and keywords in your heads (h1, h2, etc.) If you want to target keywords to help get your page found, use your keyword targets in headlines.

Category: (04-13) April 2013   Tag:

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