A Guest Post by The Blog Tyrant
photo credit: andronicusmax
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.
Some good ideas. I don’t know if I want my blog to become as addictive as WOW, especially if people start suing me.
Hey guys. I have tried to answer all the questions here. Let me know if I miss anyone.
@Zack Dexter – I didn’t really mean that one should fake popularity. I just think we should accentuate what popularity we already have.
@Gunther – I think rewards and new features actually work really well for new blogs because all the new visitors you get will become interested in what’s going on and stay around longer.
@Jason – I think you can choose not to have most of those things. But yeah, probably isn’t right for every blog.
@Stacy – I just posted a whole list of 54 plugins and apps that bloggers might find useful – http://www.blogtyrant.com/blog-arsenal-54-tools-apps-plugins-websites-every-blogger-must-know/
@Find a Language Teacher – Interesting point. Perhaps you need to become addictive to the language teachers – they can’t find work without you.
@Chris – You’ll get there mate. Start by getting your own domain!
@Dale Cruse – You got me… I’m an idiot.
@Felix Albutra – We don’t post there, they steal the content.
@Dean Saliba – Don’t worry, we won’t!
Thank you for all the valuable information. Sensible sounding tips I’m going to try to follow. I’ve just subcribed to your blog.
Was interesting to read the comments. Especially about Wibiyah.
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.very good post…
Awesome post. Frickin’ A! I can personally attest to and validate a bunch of these strategies and tactics. Interesting tip as well – add pictures and images as well. Easy to do and brings a visual element people seem to appreciate. Podcasting is also very popular. Thanks a MILLION for the post.
Excellent concepts! As the girlfriend of a guy who is totally addicted to WOW, I can attest to it’s popularity and “mental control” it has over it’s players. lol My guy probably invests 75% of his free time to WOW.
However, I was recently told by one of my readers that BGB is addictive, in a good way, so maybe I’m on the right track. LOL Maybe I’ve picked up some mental “game” from being exposed to WOW so much. Hmnn… thought to ponder..
Anyway, great thought provoking post, I loved it and agree… if you can implement even half of the allure WOW throws out, your blog will be in darn good stead!
This post has already given me tons of new ways to improve my blog. I truly appreciate the ideas! THAAAAANKS!
Always a skill in taking something from one area and applying the take homes in another.
Good job, and great to read.
Hats off to you and a pat on the back for a job well done Blog Tyrant! I learned so many things from this post!
I am fairly new and a novice when it comes to blogging, and would appreciate if you can somehow elucidate more on this blog post. Are there certain specific techniques that maybe you can share so that we (beginners) can actually start somewhere and attract and make our readers “addicted” to our blogs?
This could take some work, but thank you for the tips. I’m amazed that what I consider a waste of time like WOW could actually be a source of lessons in blogging.
Tried Wibiya — within 48 hours, had four people complaining about it and had to take it down. >_>
Very disappointing — honestly, it added very little new functionality for all the drama it caused.
Excellent post. Despite never having played WoW I loved the analogy. Tapping into human patterns of addiction, on a less intense platform, seems like a potentially powerful path for bloggers to take.
I don’t necessarily know that repeating the high school experience for someone is necessarily a good thing, however, your other points are valid….
Part of what makes WoW (or any mmorpg)addictive is the way that the rewards structure is setup. When players participate in events/raids or whatever they aren’t always rewarded. This is because blizzard being the good behaviorist that they are, they know that the most enduring behavior is established by a reward schedule that occurs randomly over time and situation. If the player knows that they will always get reward A when they participate in Event B they will get bored fast and not be motivated. Also if the reward occurs regularly they are more likely to quit or give up after succeeding. This is very similar to the slot machines of Las Vegas, in this case WoW is the slot machine but you also put in time as well as money.
Applying this to a blog: Competition and contests are great for this. You already mentioned these two types of “rewards” but you can also add a caveat (if that is the right word) randomly award a prize that isnt listed ahead of time. Let’s say you have 1st, 2nd, 3rd, surprise people by giving an honorable mention and a prize to go with that. This can add a level of randomness that will keep your readers guessing. You could also have a contest but dont reveal all the details of the prizes. Your readers usually tend to have an idea of the types of prizes you give people and if you over deliver you will only enhance your relationship with them.
Some ideas for contest could be:
The Best Video Response, tweet of the week, A poll contest (these are great for tapping into your readers), Avatar design, funny photos, basically anything that adds interactivity to your blog will work. It doesn’t have to be some elaborate American Idol style fiasco. Im sure everyone has an imagination when it comes to their blog. Well thats my two cents lol.
I started out in 2004 and am a super legend now! It takes time to make gold but its worth it. Greatpos be the way!
As a WoW addict, I had to read the article just for the title. But I have to say I was really impressed. You’ve done a great job of drawing comparisons and providing excellent tips on improving the world of your blog to make it somewhere people want to be.
And thanks for the mention of Wibiya. I’ve been trying to find a good way to incorporate social bookmarking into my site and this looks like it might do it.
Great advice here. I’ll have to start trying to apply these tips to my own blog.
I’m having trouble thinking of a good “clan” name for my people. Any advice there? My ideas seem hokey.
I saw a kid with a tee shirt the other day that said:
Just one more level…
Just one more level…
Just one more level…
Just one more level…
Just one more level…
The way I see it is that we need to get people talking about our blogs by providing something new or different that hasn’t been seen or done in a certain way before or even offer a new take on a particular subject in our niches,
We should also create content that would be worth paying for and that you won’t find anywhere else. Not only that but WOW gives you the option to end your subscription but the thing is, nobody wants to. If we can consistently create great content no one will ever want to unsubscribe from our blogs.
This is a well thought out, well written post. It has definitely convinced me that I need to check out World of Warcraft myself!
The WoW Group Mentality angle reminds me of blackjack. I love to spend HOURS watching blackjack games at the local casino. I’ve been known to stay awake for 41 hours at a time just watching the blackjack.
In blackjack, it’s the players ganging up on the lone dealer. I have seen blackjack games where the shoe was so good that players were just winning and winning, getting blackjacks like crazy and the dealer was breaking again and again. I have watched players willingly busting by hitting again and again, losing chips just so they could get rid of the small cards. This leaves more ten value cards in the shoe, ‘monkeys’ or ‘pictures’ that fellow players can capitalize on. Having a lot of tens in the shoe causes the dealer to break more often and also helps players capitalize on doubling down when they get dealt fours and sevens, and they double down and get dealt a monkey (ten value card) and thus obtain a 21 value which wins the bet and they make money. The point of blackjack is to beat the hell out of the dealer.
Playing the blackjack fulfills the deep human need for belonging in a group. When the players on a blackjack table get together and decided that they will take hits, they increase their chances of bankrupting the dealer. This is a great thing. I have been bankrupted by dealers because the shoe was so poor, the dealer was hardly ever breaking and she had a 19, 20, or 21 every doggone time, and I was running out of chips and cash. If I had an 18 the dealer had a 19. If I had a 19 the dealer had a 20. If I had a 20 the dealer came up 21. If I had a 21 the dealer had 21 and I got ‘pushed’ then the next hand I got a lower value and the dealer had 20 and I lost the bet.
In blackjack it is all about beating the dealer. It offers a satisfying group mentality opportunity to gang up on the dealer, strategically taking hits and busting to get rid of low cards from the shoe and losing bets in order to help your fellow players to advance. I have seen dealers bankrupted out of $25 green chips and $100 black chips to the extent that the dealer was forced to cry ‘floor’ and reduced to begging for a ‘fill’ of new chips. This happened because of the combination of players who understood Basic Strategy, a halfway decent shoe, and players on the table who decided right from the outset that they would stick together, and went on to successfully bankrupt the dealer. The camaraderie was at an all-time high as players high fived each other while the pit bosses looked on in alarm at what damage we had wreaked.
What blackjack players need to do is adopt ‘guilds’ like in WoW and start hitting the blackjack tables in packs, knowing that one way or the other they are gonna make the dealer pay while they win lots of chips and then cash out BIG.
Someone really needs to blog about this. Brian Clark of @copyblogger TeachingSells fame should do the honors.
You could add games to your blog, where when people won the game, they will get a backlink, sounds great huh?
Another list of extremely good advice, I am going to try and put some of these suggestions into practice on my blog
Thank you! Traffic has been growing in the past few weeks. I want it to grow more through the Christmas season. That way I will have a good start into next year.
How do you get free stuff for competitions? I have emailed a few places that I see do comps on other websites and none of them have ever replied. I have over 300 fans and in Ireland that is quite a large fan base.
I am just starting up my blog and wanted to say Thanks for your articles. They are great and give me a lot to think about in terms of getting my blog off the ground and running. Very well written articles. Thanks for them.