Trying to engage your readers online is like going on a first date. If you talk about nothing but yourself, there will be no second date. If you want a second date, you should stop talking about yourself and ask your companion some questions.
We have all read this advice 100 times. We all know it’s good advice.
The thing is, it doesn’t seem to make a lick of difference.
The vast majority of posts, articles, Facebook updates, tweets and Google+ posts are the equivalent of the person who never stops talking about himself.
Look at me! Listen to me! Look at what I found! Listen to my 5 killer ways to achieve something amazing!
We know we should be trying to quietly engage with our readers, but instead somehow feel compelled to keep raising our voices more and more.
You might be thinking it makes no sense simply to ask questions all the time. Readers don’t want questions, they want answers.
True. But you can frame your useful, informative content within the context of questions.
Let’s look at an example from one of my own websites, CoffeeDetective.com.
I have a page about whether or not coffee is fattening. I could have written a headline like this:
5 Ways in which coffee can help you lose weight!
The astonishing truth about coffee and weight loss!
Either way, I could have patted myself on the back for being a good “copywriter”.
The actual headline is quite different:
Is coffee fattening?
It’s short. It’s a question. It makes no promises and delivers no answer.
But it does engage the reader. Instead of giving away the answer, explicitly or implicitly, the headline draws the reader in. After all, if the answer isn’t in the headline, it must be in the text below.
That particular page has attracted hundreds of thousands of readers. It has also attracted dozens of comments.
I other words, by asking a question, I have engaged my readers.
You can discover the powerful connection between questions and engagement yourself if you have a Facebook page. Write the first line of one update as a statement, then write the first line of another update as a question. Now sit back and compare the number of comments each update attracts.
When you ask a question you are directly inviting a response. It’s the beginning of a conversation.
That’s why I am so surprised when so many marketers kneel at the altar of engagement marketing, while so few of them walk the talk by asking their readers questions.
How about you? Do you ever ask questions in the headlines to the content you write? Have you noticed any difference to the depth of engagement achieved when you do ask questions?
About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach. Read more…