World of Warcraft has over 11 million subscribers paying monthly fees. It is one of the most addictive video games of all time. In fact, there are several websites devoted to just helping people quit the game. There is even a “detox center” in China that addicted kids are sent to. It is that bad. And while I don’t think these addictions are particularly funny, I do think we can learn a lot of valuable lessons from WoW that we can apply to our blogs. In this post I am going to show you how you can make your blog addictive just like World of Warcraft.
Unethical? Did they made it addictive on purpose?
A few months ago there was a TV show where a video game company was being sued over the death of a teenager who died as a result of being addicted to their game. During the case it was exposed that the company had hired psychiatrists to make the game play as addictive as possible and this addiction was the cause of the death. While the show never made any mention of names, a lot of people assumed it was based on WoW because there was a real life law suit on a similar matter. There had also been a lot of reports where medical experts said that the game was more addictive than cocaine. As to whether it was talking about WoW we don’t know and saying so would just be speculation.
As I have already said, I don’t think these addictions are funny. And if a company knows that their product is doing harm to kids and then continue to make it more and more enticing then I think some ethical questions have to be raised. The downside to any capitalist system is that the desire for profit often outweighs the side effects. And this is a shame.
I do not wish to celebrate the fact that some people are addicted to WoW, but I do think we can learn some valuable blogging lessons from their example. The reason I think it is okay to delve into these “tricks” is because I don’t think anyone will ever become addicted to a blog. And if you can grow your blog with these methods and then use it as a platform to help people I think that is a very good thing.
How to make your blog addictive like World of Warcraft
Now that I have ranted about my ethical concerns we can get into the bulk of the post. I am going to go through a bunch of WoW features and then show you why they are so addictive and how you can apply that to your blog. As always, if you have any other ideas or thoughts please leave a comment and let us all know.
1. Appear popular
The first reason that WoW is so addictive actually starts before you even play the game. Before you even buy the CD. Every gamer you know has played Wow, all your friends are talking about it and you constantly hear about it in the media. This sets up the game in a very positive way because it makes you feel like you are missing out. When I heard that 11 million people were subscribed to the game I just had to take a look at what all the fuss was about.
This phenomena is called social proof and it is anything that shows someone that they aren’t the first to try out your service. People do not like to miss out on popular things but they also don’t want to be the first to try it. If you can appear popular you take away their concerns and set yourself up for success.
How you can apply it to your blog
There are quite a few ways you can apply these social proofs to your blog. Remember, you want to make people feel curious about all the other people involved but you also want to address their fears about being the first to try something. In order to do this you can try:
- Showing recent comments
Show your recent comments in your sidebar. This instantly tells people that there are other people interacting on your blog and that you have some level of popularity. Showing your recent comments is a wonderful idea as it also gets people involved in any discussions that you might be having.
- Use Wibiya
Wibya is a new toolbar that I am starting to see on a lot of the big blogs and websites, including Darren’s Digital Photography School. And yes, it is free. All you do is sign up for an account and then add some code to your site and you have this nifty new footer that shows everyone the number of people on your site, how to connect with social media, etc. It is a very useful way to make your blog appear less static and more dynamic.
- Reference readers in posts
When you are writing a post it is a good idea to give shout outs to people who visit your blog. For example, if some guy called Ben left a really good comment about something relevant to your latest post, why not give people a link to the discussion and mention his name in the article? This has the dual effect of showing that you get comments as well as increasing loyalty by being very personal and in touch with your readership.
- Use subtle testimonials
Everyone knows about testimonials on product websites but for some reason people don’t use them on blogs. A subtle and well placed testimonial can do wonders for making your blog more sticky. For example, in your About page you might want to have some dot points about your traffic, subscriber numbers or comment count. This has the effect of showing people that others are using your blog without plastering it all over your sidebar.
Appearing popular is important if you want people to feel like they need to be a part of the action. It is terrible when you arrive on a blog that looks lifeless and dead. On the other hand, when you arrive on a site that is awash with conversation and energy you just have to get into it. Be creative with your social proof.
2. Leverage people’s need to be in a group
Something very similar to point number one, and one of the most addictive things about World of Warcraft, is the fact that it leverages people’s need to feel a part of a group. This is a very primal and subtle psychological phenomena that all humans possess. We find partners, get married and have kids. We play team sports, join clubs and hang out in packs at school time. Humans need to feel part of a group.
When you play WoW you don’t play by yourself, you join groups of players from around the world and form guilds. Sometimes these guilds become very close and chat by email and IM and often log on at the same time each day to play together. This is an extremely powerful tool for making the game addictive, especially if the people have trouble making friends on the outside world. If you want to make your blog more addictive you have to leverage people’s need to be in a group.
How you can apply it to your blog
So how do you apply this to your own blog? How do you make people feel like they are special and a part of a group that wouldn’t function properly without them? Here are a few ideas:
- Send emails
When someone leaves a comment on your blog they usually leave their correct email which allows you to shoot them a message to thank them for commenting and let them know that you appreciate their input on your site. Now, there are plug ins that do this automatically but that is not what I am necessarily talking about. If someone leaves a great comment you might want to send a personal message thanking them for their expertise. Or if someone constantly leaves comments whenever you write you should thank them for the frequency. Make sure you reward the aspect of their behavior that you want them to continue.
Refer comments to other readers
One of the first websites I ever sold was a fitness site that was mostly used by women. Over time I built up some very loyal readers and a lot of them were fitness experts, personal trainers and dietitians. If someone posted a question in the comments about a workout or diet plan I would occasionally send emails to the experts asking them to help them out. These experts then become frequent users of the comment section and always seemed willing to be a part of the action.
- Name your team
Something extremely subtle but extremely addicting is a team name. In the gaming world it is called a clan. Some clans are extremely hard to get in to and involve several “try out” phases. For example, in WoW you need to be at a certain level before even being eligible to join. Once you are in though you have brothers who look out for you in battle, give you hints, etc. It is just like high school! Giving your loyal readers, subscribers and commenters a clan name is an easy way to maximize the team spirit.
Make people feel like they are part of an exclusive group and you will have fans for life. Everyone needs to feel as if they have some sort of ownership in the blog, as if it might not be as good if they stopped visiting. This group mentality is an extremely strong tool for all online marketing.
3. Lure with the promise of rewards and new features
Why do people spend their entire lives playing Wow? Partly because the game is incredible, partly because the pollen outside gives me hay fever and partly because there is the ever enticing possibility of leveling up. Why is reaching the next level so amazing? Because you get to access new powers and weapons and challenge new bosses. You also get the bragging rights associated with being a level 80 as opposed to a pitiful 79.
Blizzard (the makers of WoW) constantly add new things to the game. They tweak the maps to make sure they are perfect, they change the damage of certain spells by minor margins to make the battles more interesting and they periodically release new updates that allow you to access new bosses, maps and, of course, levels. All of this keeps the game fresh and new and stops boredom setting in.
How to apply this to your blog
To make your blog feel super addictive you need to have a reason for people to come back. It has to be something that compels them to check back again and again and they have to feel like they might win or gain something new by doing so. Here are some ideas:
- Have regular competitions
Your blog should have regular (but not too regular) competitions that give away something useful. The prize could be won by leaving a certain amount of comments, subscribing to a feed or mentioning your blog on Twitter. Whatever your competition is it should be interesting. Something that gets people talking. Shoemoney and Overnight Prints did this extremely well once with his business card competition.
- Have a long term but secret release
One of the coolest thing Darren ever did on Problogger was build up a new feature that he was adding to the site. This created a lot of buzz as it wasn’t really something done before. Now the great thing about this was the way he did it; very subtly. First he acquired the domain name www.problogger.com which he previously didn’t own. We knew something was up. Then he dropped a few hints over the months. Finally he launched a new community on the address once everyone was seething with curiosity. Perfectly done. Try and have a long term reason for people to keep checking back on your site.
- Plan your content and reveal it carefully
We all know that you need compelling content to succeed but what a lot of people fail to do is release that content in a way that is interesting and alluring. WoW doesn’t just let you access all the maps and features at once. You’d be bored of it in a day. Rather, they slowly let you at it after you have earned it with interaction and game time (and subscription fees!). Try and think of your content in a similar way. An example we all know of is Darren’s 31 Days to Building a Better Blog.
Your content alone should be enough to get people to come back to your blog. But, if you add an extra incentive, some kind of nifty reward or new level, you are going to generate a lot of interest amongst those regulars out there. Without new levels, weapons and magic spells WoW would be dead and gone by now. So what are you adding to your blog in order to keep it exciting and new?
4. Create an alternative world for your readers
The real fans of WoW don’t see it as a game, they see it as an alternative world. A world in which they can perform magic, make friends, conquer towns and change. When playing World of Warcraft you get an almost identical physiological response to events that take place as if they had actually happened in real life. When you run into battle you get an adrenalin rush that makes your vision fuzzy and when you can’t solve a puzzle you get flooded with stress and frustration.
How to apply this to your blog – The ultimate way to make your blog addictive is to create an alternative world for your readers. A place where they can go and get away from the problems of their daily life and absorb themselves in a community of like-minded people. A place where they learn new things, feel more powerful than they really are and discover their inner potential.
- Make it as interactive as possible – A blog should not just be a place where you read/write about something. That might have been the original intention behind their popularity but now they are so much more. If you want people to become addicted they need to be involved on every level. Let them suggest topics, ask questions in the comments and chat to you on Twitter and Facebook. Ask your readers for help and give them tasks to solve. The more interactive your blog is the more time people will want to spend there.
- Make it beautiful and easy to use – Your blog’s design is so important because it has to sell your content. Read that carefully because I think a lot of people fail to grasp the idea. Your design sells your content. How many times have you left a blog because it was ugly or the font size was too small or the colors hurt your eyes? That could have been Shakespeare himself writing that blog and you wouldn’t have cared. Make sure your design is beautiful and your navigation is as simple as possible. The look and feel of your website should become like a second home to your readers.
- Solve real world problems on your blog – One reason that people find it hard to leave WoW is because it solves some of their real world problems. The classic example is the kid who struggles to make friends in school but in Azeroth he commands an army. Your blog should always try to make people’s lives better. Your content should address issues in their life, even if only indirectly. But what if you run a product blog that only talks about antique cans or something equally as boring? Well make sure that you address concerns, give amazingly detailed responses and help people find the answers they seek. What do your readers want to feel and discover? What makes them happy? These are essential questions to know if you want to create an alternative world for your fans.
What do your readers want to feel and discover? What makes them happy? These are essential questions to know if you want to create an alternative world for your fans. And creating an alternative world is the best way to make your blog sticky.
This post could go on forever because World of Warcraft gets so many things right. In fact, it might have been quicker to just write about what they do wrong! In any event, if you give people rewards, help solve their real life problems and make them feel part of a group you are part of the way there. Perhaps most importantly, however, you should do as Blizzard does and constantly add new features, content and always be testing for ways to improve and grow. Now go outside for a while.
About the Author
The Blog Tyrant has sold several blogs for large sums of money and earns a living by relying soley on the internet. His Blog is all about helping you dominate your blog and your blog’s niche and only includes strategies that he has tried on his own websites. Follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his feed for all the juice.