Successful marketer and author Mark Hughes says that for your online content get you read as much as you need it to be read in order for you to become well-known and profitable, you need to push people’s buttons. Some people recoil from that, saying that that is “manipulative”. Well, if your writing and communication skills are awesome enough to be authentically artistic, then people won’t take having their buttons pushed as “manipulative”. They will take it as inspirational or motivational. Pushing buttons in this way is what great writers and communications professionals (such as marketers) have done forever.
Let’s look at each button that you’ve got to push one by one and with some detail.
Taboos. Oh, yes! Expressing taboo topics — as defined by your Internet audience as well as wider society — is a way of getting your content noticed. Precisely because they are regarded as improper or even forbidden expressions or subject matter, taboos are utterly fascinating. (Humans are such funny little critters, eh?) Consider if you wrote:
Why do I toot my own horn? Because no-one else knows how to play it.
You’ve just poked a couple of taboos here. First, you’re not supposed to toot your own horn — that’s regarded as rude or arrogant. And, the second sentence implies that you’re elitest — and that’s a taboo’d no-no in a “democratic” society. (Unless you’re a politician, it seems.)
Another common way of poking someone’s taboos is to use filthy language. Swear words. But this is so overdone that you should mix it in with wit or comedy. For instance, you could give this “love” advice:
Write that b**ch a sonnet! B**ches love sonnets!
See what we mean about wit and humor?
The Unusual. Take people into some twilight zone with your writing. Get sci-fi on ‘em. Introduce them to worlds of the unlikely or just plain weird. You certainly don’t have to write fiction to touch upon the unlikely or unusual. Mark Twain once wrote, “The difference between fiction and non-fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” Find strange stories in the news (alleged UFO encounters are good) or unearth some not-commonly-known facts that would grab readers.
Outrageous. Flagrantly violent. Unrestrained by decency or taste. Uber-offensive. Those are the kinds of things that make us feel outraged. Reading political commentary (and reader comments on such commentary) is a great way to begin conjuring up outrageous writing ideas.
Hilarious. Obviously this means you write something which is fully intended to make readers crack up. In our stressed-out and madly busy world, we need all the funny stuff that we can stuff into our days and nights. The important thing for you here is to just be yourself. Never “try” to sound funny, because forced humor is all too easy to sense and it’s poisonous to a writer or marketer. Holding your target reading audience in mind, let your humor flow as it spontaneously comes to you.
Remarkable. This is more like “extraordinary” than “unusual”. Stories of great heroic deeds or miraculous narrow escapes from the grip of death would be “remarkable”.
Secrets. This means that you write as if you are sharing insider knowledge that only you and the very small percentage of others like you know about. Or it could mean sharing something so personal, but nevertheless useful to a reader, that unless you shared it no-one would probably ever know about it. People love to feel as if they are being initiated into “the genius of the few”.
There you have it!