I write a post. I click ‘publish’ and immediately, the first few words of my latest story appear in your feed. Are you intrigued? Do you click onto the link and read the whole post? Or maybe you scroll past my notification, in search of something more interesting.
“Read me! Read me!” shout dozens of post notifications. They are all vying for our attention. Which ones should we read in full? Do we read them all? I wonder if anyone reads every post of every blog they are subscribed to. I’m sure that would be quite a feat.
I think there’s three features of a post notification that can capture our attention, encouraging us to follow the link to the full story.
The first is subject matter. I have discovered that posts about blogging are popular.
Then there’s the post title. My story Andy Elvis Presley got quite a bit of attention. I wonder why. And how about Those Weird Unschoolers? Would that title lure you in, if you're a homeschooler? Or maybe Life after Babies might appeal if you are in the same stage of life as me.
Finally, there's the first few words of the post. I guess these words are a bit like the first paragraphs of a novel. If the beginning of the story doesn't grab our attention, the book gets shoved back on the shelf and will never be read. Maybe the first few words are the most important words in the whole post. If we get them wrong, they may be the only words of the post some people will read.
So I’ve been thinking about the first paragraphs of my blog stories. I had a look at some of my more popular posts to see how they began. Here’s a few samples…
When I regained consciousness, I discovered I was lying in a pool of blood.
Yesterday I found these key search words in my stats: “I am too sad to live”.
Yesterday, we buried our baby. Today, I am kneeling on the ground beside my son’s grave, tears streaming down my face. I thrust aside the mountain of funeral flowers, and then I start to dig into the loose damp earth with my fingers.
Shortly before Andy and I were due to be married, my future mother-in-law took me aside and said, “You don’t really want to marry my son, do you?”
I am a skirt girl.
Would you have been tempted to read those posts in full? Would you have wanted to know what happened next?
I’d like to think that everyone who subscribes to my blog wants to read every story I write. But I know that doesn’t happen. I'm not one of those big bloggers who has readers hanging onto her every word. Each time I write something, I have to provide some evidence my post is worth reading. And sometimes I fail. Many times, I am sure, readers just scroll right past my notification.
And so I have been thinking...Maybe I need to choose those first few words of a post much more carefully.
Has anyone else ever thought about the best way to begin a post? What captures your interest when you see posts in your feed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Image: Random Words by Chris Halderman, CC BY-ND 2.0