by Baldwin Berges - In this series, I share what I have learned about blogging in the asset management industry. This article is about how to keep your blog posts sharp, valuable and most importantly, how to make sure they get read and shared.
Previously, The Content Gold Rush for Financial Services, was an introduction to how asset managers can generate great content for public distribution that complies with the regulations about financial promotions.
In Fund Manager, Get a blog!, we covered setting up a blog as your main channel to share your content with the world.
So, now that we have the content and the medium, we need to start broadcasting.
The people in your audience are probably very busy. Just like the rest of us, they are swamped by an ever-expanding mass of information. Your content is in fierce competition with all the other stuff out there. Because you only have a split second to get audience's attention, what we need to do is learn how to work with that split second.
A good blogger knows that a great headline is as important as the content itself. What you say in that one line will determine if your message is read or ignored. Writing titles and headlines has become a huge subject in its own right. While we won't get into detail about this now, take a note that headlines are a discipline well worth mastering.
As a general rule, a headline is a promise so it must reveal what the take-away will be from the article. Whatever you do, make sure your headlines are fair because you will be judged upon them by your audience.
After the headline comes the next big challenge: to engage the audience and keep its attention. It's a very noisy world out there, full of distractions. In the next paragraph I am going to share one of the most important lessons I have learned about writing blog posts for investors:
Keep it simple
Most fund managers and investment writers live in the belief that their writing must always be of academic calibre. There is a deep-rooted conviction that readers need to be impressed with writing that sounds intelligent and reads like a brainy research paper.
I also started writing like this. I believed that good value meant cramming as much information and ideas as I possibly could into one post. I remember how self-conscious I felt most of the time. I lived in fear that my work would be seen as too simple.
It didn't help when I realized that not many people actually took the time to read what I wrote. Sure, they opened my posts, but very few people actually read what I wrote, my own colleagues included! Something was wrong.
It wasn't until I started to write shorter and sharper posts, that spoke in a more pedestrian language, that people started to react to my writing. I got a lot more comments. Thankfully the feedback was generally more positive than negative. But even the bad comments meant that people were actually reading what I wrote. I seemed like the simpler I tried to make my writing, the more my posts got shared or referred to by the media. This was an enormous revelation.
At first it all seemed very counter-intuitive, but there is a rationale behind it all:
People are more confident and likely to share the things they have actually read themselves
The entire purpose of writing a blog is to get your audience to absorb your content and to share it with others.
I have learned that a number of rules apply to increase the engagement of your audience with your writing. Following are a few that I have found to produce results:
Take no more than 1 minute of a reader's time - if something looks like it will take longer than a song, it will probably be filed away for a quiet moment that will never come.
However, people will probably give you 1 minute. Most time management courses tell you to deal with the things that will take less that 2 minutes, so the 1 minute rule is a safe way to play it.
More importantly, if you can build a reputation of providing good value in less than 60 seconds, your readers may decide to always make time to read your posts. I can't stress enough how important this is.
One topic at a time - our academic wiring will impose the belief that good value means more information. I have learned that a good investment blog post only aims to make 1 point at a time. If the content is has various topics, then break it up into a number of separate posts. You will be grateful for this insight on days that you run out of ideas or stories to tell.
Short Paragraphs with clear titles - as you can see, I am taking my medicine here. I make sure that my writing has enough titles because people like to scan over a post before they decide to read it. Structure the article so it also looks like an overview.
Use the first 2 lines of the post to say what the article will deliver. End the post with a conclusion that states the key message and try to end on a positive note. Some people just rush to the conclusion so make sure they get it and will consider sharing the post.
Give people something to think about - avoid trying to provide all the answers and solutions. Leave enough blanks so the reader can form an opinion or feel the mystery. Even better, ask the reader for an opinion or a comment. If you make people feel smart, they will enjoy your blog. Simple as that.
Write the same way as you speak - I have touched on this before. I can't say it enough. Don't try to be a literary genius. Write as if you were having a conversation, it will make it easier for people to follow you. Also, keep your sentences short. It conveys better focus.
In conclusion: Blogging and social media is all about building a faithful audience. The big nugget is to get the ongoing attention of the audience who's attention you want.
The way to obtain this kind of attention is by building a good reputation around your blog. If a reader knows that you will only take one minute of their time in return for something valuable, they will happily give you that minute anytime. If they really trust you, they may even be willing to give you much more than that.
This, my friends, is the holy grail of marketing.
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About the author: Baldwin has been active as a business developer in the investment industry for more than 20 years. In 2008, he helped start up Silk Invest, a fund manager dedicated to the frontier markets. He was an early adapter of social media within the investment management industry. His efforts have helped position Silk Invest as one of the leading managers in the frontier space. In collaboration with Perfecta Partners, Baldwin also helps other financial services companies improve their content marketing and social media stra