How to Choose the Right Topic: Breaking Free of Disinformation
If I see one more "Leadership" post, I'll scream! Sorry, I just can't take them seriously. How can anyone write about leadership when they are following the herd?
Practice what you preach.
A NOTE: This post is about what I do. Take that as you will.
This post describes how I choose topics. It works for me. I'm comfortable with it. It may work for you, it may not.
Maybe it will just give you an idea. The point is not to mimic but to guide. I know that sounds pompous, but, hey, whatever.
Before I started writing online, I did what anybody would do, I Googled "writing on LinkedIn." There’s lots of info there.
Some of it is even useful. Most of it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
That isn't much considering it isn’t printed on paper at all.
How NOT To Do It #1
Many suggest checking the most searched terms to see what is "trending." Others say to look at the most popular hashtags. Selecting a topic is easy. Choose a popular subject and write about that.
That sounds logical. It's a really bad idea.
Why I Think it's a Bad Idea
Trending topics are trending because everybody is writing about it. Nobody has a big enough following to carry a trend or hashtag on their own.
Popular subjects are popular because there are a ton of posts on that subject.
Do you really want to be an also-ran?
The top searches lately have been some variation of "leadership" or "Marketing to Millennials."
Even Millennials hate hearing about themselves. There's even a post on "Leadership for Millenials."
This method of choosing a topic is the reason behind all the gripes about repetitious posting. There are over 1,000,000 publishers on LinkedIn. If even just 0.1% use this method, that's one thousand "Leadership" and/or "Millennial" posts!
That sounds about right.
How NOT To Do It #2
Another common suggestion says follow several Influencers and write about what they write about. There are a couple of issues with that:
- Influencers have massive followings and LinkedIn's active support.
- Most of them don't actually say very much worth repeating.
Let's say Richard Branson posts the lyrics to "Mary Had a Little Lamb." He will still kick your ass in numbers. If anyone knows Sir Richard, ask him to try. It would make for a great social experiment.
If Anne Handley writes a post on how to choose a topic, would you read this one?
Heck, even I wouldn't.
Where I Find My Topics
I read a lot of posts. Often, they give me ideas on posts of my own. Sometimes I add to them or offer a different viewpoint. Sometimes I disagree with them (politely of course).
Comments on Posts
When you read a lot of posts, you end up posting a lot of comments. Often, you can't put all your thoughts into a comment. That leads to a post of your own.
Customers, Co-Workers, etc
This is probably easiest for those who deal directly with customers. It is also, hands down the most powerful.
What questions are they asking? What are their concerns? What answers are they looking for?
Answer in a post.
I wrote about iBeacons because I people often asked for my opinion on them.
I wrote about Eddystone (twice) for the same reason.
I wrote a series describing the technologies in location-based marketing because people kept asking.
I'm writing this post because people ask me how I choose topics.
Things that Bug You
This one is not for everyone. Rants are fun to write, but you have to toe a fine line between being constructive and being offensive.
TED talks and Documentaries
I get a lot of ideas just watching TED talks. These are short talks about a wide variety of subjects. Do you know what those two-word Captchas are really about?
I do. Every time you complete one, you help fix unrecognized words in digitized books. Crowd-sourcing is a powerful concept.
As I’m writing this, I’m watching a documentary about solar power. I can probably write seven or eight posts just from ideas from there.
Anything that makes you think will bring topic ideas.
Some Side Points to Choosing a Topic
Make sure that you actually have enough to say about the topic so that it's worth reading. Don't make it so long that people give up reading, though.
I don't know how often I start reading a very long post that interested me. Then something came up, so I decided to finish it later.
At some point, I accidently closed the tab. Poof, it's gone.
Later never comes.
I often see data that says the most popular posts are 2000-2500 words long. Google seems to prefer posts over 1500 words.
I'm not arguing the data, but I think 1000, more or less, is plenty.
On the other end of the spectrum, I've seen good posts as short as 350 words.
The trick is to write enough to answer the question, but not a word more.
Write a series
If the answer needs to be long. consider breaking it up into a series of shorter posts
I do this often. I pick a big subject and break it up over several posts. This gives me two things. One, I have a few topics to write about. Two, I can combine them into longer form articles or index posts.
I started doing this for clients ages ago. Combine a bunch of related blog posts. Poof, you now have a white paper. Sometimes, we repurpose them into a case study.
It’s a great way to get your money’s worth if you’re a client.
It’s a great way to always have a topic ready to go if you write for yourself.
I have also heard that you should never pick a topic that you can’t find 8 images to support. I'm seeing more posts with video, inline pictures, etc. I'm not sure how I feel about them.
I am sure that 8 images are too much.
If an image or video enhances your post, by all means, use it.
You need an image to support the text AND you can't edit that need away? Use the image.
Popping in images just because someone said you should have 8 of them is silly. Anything that isn’t necessary, anything that doesn’t advance the subject, has to go.
Images for the sake of having them seems counterproductive to me.
Most people write on their laptops.
Most people read on their phones..
Do you see the problem? You can set up nice images that look great on your laptop. They look like crap on your phone.
Write for the reader, not for you.
. NEXT UP: Title and Image Optimization
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