I’m often asked what make a great list. Lists are in simply social content. What works for blogs in many ways works for social lists.
There are some extra dimension to Listly lists because they are living/ collaborative content, i.e. content that evolves over time and is based on contributions from many people.
Listly is a social platform that lets your create UGC,but with a twist. With Listly the content is socially collaborative. People contribute to something bigger than their contribution.
Social lists are a team effort and so there are some psychological components that determine if your lists will transform from good to great.
I’ve written a couple of earlier posts on what makes a great list.
Today I take a fresh / broader look at the answer.
Lists are ubiquitous metaphor for collecting, organizing and tracking all forms of life..
We use lists just about every day of our lives. Lists exist in just about every app you ever use, Twitter Lists, for example.
When it comes to blog posts and specifically a numbered list post there a multiple factors in what make a list post a great list post. The factors also multiply, so the more of these tips you apply the more successful your content will be – not just now, but in the future.
Unlike static blog posts, posts with living lists keep evolving over time.
It’s worth labouring that point. Lists are alive. They keep evolving over time.
13 Content Lifecycle Transformers - Good to Great
You List title is the hook so make sure it’s well worded and include 5-6 words or more. Too many lists don’t have titles that are long enough or descriptive enough. 60% of listly traffic is from organic search. 50% of our traffic is from lists embedded on blogs. You title needs to be findable based on the questions people are seeking to answer when they hit google.
I’d recommend checking our Jon Morrow’s headline hacks
Make sure your list title includes a number. It doesn’t matter if you have more of less items than the number, but the number is part of the hook. You could be looking for the top 20 realtors in and only have 3.
Odd numbers have a 20% higher click-through rate than headlines with even numbers.
I’d also recommend writing 10 list titles before deciding. Also be willing to test different titles.
80% of your content is the title. Your title determines if people click, so if your title is unappealing your results will be too.
You need a topic that people care about and that’s probably not your brand or your product per se. Think about how your product is used. Think about the problems that you are solving for people.
Make it about your customer or your readers. Give them a chance to shine and you will be creating a great list.
Here's a few suggestions:
- Pop Culture (we have a curiosity for vicarious living)
- Location (we can’t resist knowing what’s going on in our neighbourhood)
- How To (People like Solutions to problems)
- Problems/Mistakes (oddly people like to discover the problems or miss they are making or avoiding
- Alternative to - we have a need to replace things that fail or fall from grace
Emotional Connection (Serve others)
Great lists require people to participate. This may not be the classic view, but it’s certainly the Listly experience. People and contribution can turn a good list into a great list.
This is never simple, especially getting the first few people to participate. So make your list emotionally compelling. Add intrigue and curiosity.
Don’t Start from Zero
The worst type of lists we see on Listly are empty lists. This makes no sense.
Not too much and not too little. Sounds like Goldilocks. People need 2-3 examples to see what you are looking for. That's just right.
People are great at completing a series of items or event if they have a few examples.
People don’t want to look stupid and make a mistake or to have their suggestion rejected.
So be respectful and lay out what you need. “Were look for X, but not Y”. Clarity helps everyone. Keep it simple. Ask for one thing at once.
If you make great content people will want to embed it.
Think about utility to other and about blogger outreach.
Ask people by name for their input - ask them to contribute directly. Asking “Can anyone help” leaves everyone thinking you first. Ask “Hey Fred …”, "Hey Mary… “
You need to plan for the long haul. Be persistent in asking for help and in seeking to add new content and to remove content that is perhaps no longer valid.
This approach will make your content evergreen. Don’t think of it as your content. Think of yourself simply as the curator. You are throwing the party and inviting your friends to come alone.
When new people you don’t know discover your content and it solves their immediate need it’s likely they will vote or contribute. Think and promote that idea that this is the tip jar.
Was this content useful? Why not contribute. Vote for what you found useful.
Create something unique. That could mean being more niche, more specialized, more focussed. Don’t be afraid to shock or surprise or intrigue people. Don’t follow the expect path. Search for what other content exists before you begin. Find out what “expected” means.
If you build unique content to begin with you can perhaps return to create a list later that are already created by others. Once you have an established community it’s easier to ask people to help on basic content.
Your unique content will always be the hook as this is the content that people will find first. For non-unique content will likely have a lower page ranking.
When it comes to unique, think about your content through the eyes of your audience. Think about the questions they are asking. Use their words. That’s why it’s best when people add content - they will by definition use their own word. Don’t change their language. Real people and real words are the building blocks of unique content.
Influence is a reflection of your fame (real or otherwise). Will people act when you post? For most people the answer is no. For us mere mortals we have to work a little harder.
If you have influence or just an active community you have to work less hard, you’ve likely already done the work.
Your work to create more content are more a mechanism to keep your content and your community alive. To keep people involved and participating.
Regardless of how famous you, if you follow the other steps your content creation efforts will be more effective.
Helpers (Your Community)
You have to ask for help to make great content. Don’t think you know it all because that is irrelevant. This is not about you. Great content is about letting other people shine
You can build up an army of helpers over time. This makes each future list you create easier to assemble.
If you want people to help you it’s also strongly advised that you help other people.
Marathon Thinking (Long, Slow & Steady) - Tortoise not Hare
You need to plan for the long haul if you want to create great lists. You need to think about continually feeding and watering your lists. There are always more things to add - the trick is not adding them all at once.
Also there are always items to remove - things become invalid, places close, links break. So we strongly advise you take out the trash.
Ability to Contribute (Leave Gaps)
Depending on your topic and the stance you take on your content, you need to be mindful of how many people can potentially contribute.
Our biggest advice is leave gaps and don’t try to prove how smart you are by sharing all you know. Just add a few items to seed your list. Let people fill in the gaps as this add more value in the long run.
Starting low and basic is great idea. Let people join you and build out your list together. There will always more people who can contribute at a basic level.
As your community grows and people get smarter and more appreciate of your topic you can think about advancing things to the next level.
Asking for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t just ask once. This works much better when you leave gaps and give examples. It also works when people can see other’s have already helped.
So when you first ask for help perhaps reach to some of your close connections. The first 5 contributions are the hardest.
Be mindful if you want people to add suggestions or vote on existing ideas. It’s best to focus on one thing at once. Giving people too many choices will simply cause them to do nothing.
Reach comes from having a following, having a body of work, having an existing community.
Your reach comes from people sharing, but remember shares have short term value. The half-life of a share is measured in minutes or hours.
Always look for and ask for people to embed your content on their blogs. Embeds are long term shares. Embeds are the gift that keeps on giving. Embeds cannot be forgotten. Embeds as the beginnings of new conversations. Embeds put your ideas in-front of new audience.
Always look to build your reach by creating more content, a bigger audience and more embeds on more blogs.
Which factors were new to you? Am I missing anything?
Image Credit: mac_filko via Flickr and Creative Commons.