In my time as a blogger I’ve been lucky enough to have two posts I’ve written hit the front page of Digg. The first one was a resource list of 110+ resources for creative minds. The most amazing thing about the experience was that the post itself required only one ingredient to create: time.
Any one of us can create a fantastic resource list — it’s just a matter of taking the time required to do so. And it’s worth it. While a Digg or del.icio.us-worthy resource list might take several hours to create, it has the potential to grow your blog more quickly and powerfully than a dozen of your ordinary blog posts.
If you’re a regular user of social media, you’ll notice that big lists of resources, tools and articles are consistently popular. In fact, they seem to be social media’s favorite type of blog post.
In this Keeping You Posted column, I want to share the most important lessons I’ve learned on creating a list of resources social media will love.
1. Work out what your readers want
A fantastic list of 50 home-improvement ideas won’t benefit you much if your readership is interested in vegetable gardening. For your post to gain the momentum required to become popular on social media, it needs an initial ground-swell of support. You can create that groundswell by providing your readers with a resource list they can actually see themselves using.
2. Pick great resources
There are two potential stumbling blocks that will cripple the potential of your resource list: 1) low-quality resources and 2) uninteresting resources. It can be easy to make the first mistake, particularly when you don’t have time to thoroughly check every item on the list. The problem becomes even easier to encounter if you’ve committed yourself to a very long list and you’re having trouble filling it out.
Here are some important tips to remember:
- Don’t sacrifice quality for a big headline. You could probably find a hundred or more resources for your list, but how many of them will waste your reader’s time? Include only as many quality resources as you find.
- Don’t recommend anything you haven’t read/tried/explored yourself. If the resource turns out to be harmful, misleading or otherwise poor quality, you could get the blame.
Your resource list must also be interesting. If it contains links and resources your readers are already very familiar with, it won’t have any value to them. The best resource lists highlight fresh and interesting information and tools your readers may never have heard of.
Photo by foxypar4
A great place to find resources is by searching del.icio.us. Results will be returned based on the most popular bookmarks for that keyword. If you’re looking for articles about web design, for example, searching ‘web design’ will return hundreds of popular web design bookmarks. I’ve found dozens of wonderful resources using this method.
3. Perfect your headline
The headline is probably the most important part of your resource list. Headlines for these types of posts tend to be most effective when they include a number. When it comes to numbers, bigger numbers are not always better. Certain formulas (like 100, 101, and so on) can seem gimmicky to web users who see them often. If your target audience is tech-savvy they are likely to be quite jaded by over-used headline formulas.
Another useful tip is to do one of two things with your headline: either make a direct call to your target audience or focus on ends.
Call upon your target audience
If you address your list as ‘for’ a certain type of person it makes the list a lot harder for your target audience to ignore. I could have called my list post ‘110+ Creative Resources’ but that simply describes the contents of the list — it doesn’t draw people in. By describing the list as ‘110+ Resources for Creative Minds’, it forces the reader to think: “Am I a creative mind? I like to think so… so I guess I should read the post!”
Focus on ends
Readers are not interested in the list itself, but in what it has the potential to do for them. A list of “20 Firefox Extensions” is not as interesting as a list of “20 Firefox Extensions that *Will* Make You More Productive”. That’s not a great example, but I hope you can see what I mean. Use your headline to explain what your list has the potential to do.
Points to review
- The best resource lists give readers what they want.
- Make sure your resources and links are interesting and (hopefully) undiscovered.
- Don’t link to anything you wouldn’t use yourself.
- Craft the perfect headline for your resource list.
Have you had any social media success with a list of resources?