Do your readers love you? Do they at least like you?
These are serious questions even if they sound like questions you’d ask about your friends in grade school.
People have more choice than ever before.
Within 22 seconds, they can find 2-3 other blogs in your niche to read.
Within just a few searches, they can find a business that sells a similar product to yours.
It puts the reader and the customer in control.
If they fundamentally do not like you, your business, or your writing, they’re not going to stick with you.
Why would they?
And if they’re indifferent to you, that’s just as bad because it means they don’t really think much about you either way.
But even if your customers and readers do like you and your brand, wouldn’t you prefer them to like you and your brand even more?
Of course you would, it’d be silly not to.
The better you look in a visitor’s eyes, the more content they will read, the more action they will take, and the more likely they are to become a customer.
There are many factors that influence whether or not a visitor likes you and your brand.
What I’m going to show you in this post are 7 tactics that you can implement to make either your brand or your content more likable.
If you do use them, expect more traffic and subscribers, a higher email open rate, and more sales.
1. Share your opinions and be firm
When your goal is to be liked, you should never say anything controversial, right?
At first thought, it might make sense, but it’s dead wrong.
Think about people you like the most (that aren’t in your family).
They are the people who share their opinions with you and with whom you happen to agree (for the most part).
Then, think about the people you don’t like.
They also likely share their opinions with you, but you probably don’t agree with them on important issues.
Opinions and thoughts are some of the biggest factors in deciding whether you like or don’t like someone.
If you never share your opinions, no one will likely hate you, but they probably won’t like you either.
If you want to create likable content, you need to share your opinions: Blogging is not journalism. If you want to write unbiased content, head to Wikipedia.
So, what happens when you do share your opinions?
Usually, one of two things:
- they like you a little more if they agree (or like the way you presented it)
- they like you a little less if they disagree
The more important the topic is to them, the bigger the reaction.
If you tell someone who is really into politics in the US that you support the Democrats, most will either hate you or love you, depending on which main party they support.
Here’s an example of Jon Morrow calling his readers dumb:
Okay, he didn’t call them all dumb, but he shared a real opinion he had.
He said that if you’ve been spending years trying to get traffic and you still haven’t, “it’s because you’re dumb.”
The people who have actually been struggling for years are going to be pissed. They aren’t going to like Jon.
Honestly, his comment is a bit rude. But a lot of people are going to agree with him.
And those people will appreciate that he shared such a controversial opinion.
Won’t you eventually lose your entire audience? We all disagree on something.
So, if you share your own opinions in your content, doesn’t that mean that you will scare everyone off at one point or another?
For two reasons.
The first is that even if someone really disagrees with you on something, that alone won’t be enough to make them not like you (for most topics).
The second reason is that even if you don’t agree with an opinion, you can respect how it was presented and the thinking behind it.
For example, Ryan Deiss, a very successful marketer, wrote a post called “Why Blogging is Dumb”:
If you know me, you know that I don’t agree with that statement.
However, he does point out some valid drawbacks of blogging and presents a possible solution.
I don’t think he’s necessarily correct, but I know that his strategies have worked well for him. I’m not going to hate, or even dislike, him at all just because he has a few differing opinions.
In fact, I kind of like him for it because he presents different viewpoints that get me to reconsider my own.
The bottom line:
Don’t hold things back—share your opinions. You’ll scare off some readers and customers, but the ones that share your views will like you much more.
2. Focus on the value, not the conversion
The things that make your content and brand likable aren’t always to do with the content itself. Sometimes, it depends on your approach to marketing and sales.
It shows whether you care more about your audience or your sales.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about both, but most of your attention should be on adding value to your audience’s lives.
If you do that, your audience will like you more and be loyal, and your sales will be better in the long run.
There are a few specific ways in which you can show your audience members what you care about most.
Way #1 – What your emails say: It’s safe to say that your most important audience members are the ones subscribed to your email lists.
They typically have two logical reactions when they get an email from you:
- if it’s a sales email (e.g., “buy my product”), they won’t be happy and will like you a bit less. If you continue with sales emails, they may eventually unsubscribe.
- if it’s an interesting email that contains value, naturally they’ll like you a bit more.
Of course, this only matters if they initially like you enough to open the email.
One email alone rarely makes or breaks an opinion of you, which is a good thing. If you make a few mistakes, don’t worry. Just learn and move on.
If you’re on my email list, I encourage you to take 30 seconds and look at the last 30-50 emails I sent you.
It should look something like this:
None of these emails are in anyway connected to any of my products or services.
I get emails and comments all the time from readers who have been subscribed to my lists for over 6 months who can’t figure out what I’m selling.
They’re genuinely curious as to how I make money since they only get emails with new content that can help them.
And that’s the way I want to keep it.
I blog so much because I love it, and I love helping the type of people who read my posts.
I strongly encourage you to adopt a similar approach if you haven’t already.
It’s fine to send a few sales emails once in awhile, but those providing value should outweigh them at least 10:1.
If you stick to providing nothing but value for a while, readers won’t have any choice but to like you because all you’re trying to do is help them.
Build up that feeling and relationship first before you pitch anything to them.
Way #2 – Is content the focus? Opt-in boxes, and particularly pop-ups, could be called a necessary evil.
They’re the only reasonable way to build your email list.
Understandably, readers don’t like them, especially the hard to close pop-ups (particularly annoying on mobile).
Although I’m not saying you shouldn’t use them at all, you should limit the use as much as possible and try to make them as easy to get past as possible.
As a simple test, ask yourself this:
When someone loads your page, is the content that they came for clearly in front of them?
If there are too many distracting opt-ins, sidebar ads, and pop-ups, readers won’t be happy. Then, they will associate that feeling with you and your brand.
When you come to read a post on Quick Sprout, there are opt-in forms. However, the content is front and center. It’s the first thing you see:
There’s no scrolling needed, and there aren’t any overly distracting things in the sidebar.
A great reading experience is what readers will enjoy and remember you for. Make that your first focus before you worry about your email sign-up rate.
3. People like brands that engage
In the past, brands could hide behind their corporate perception.
But now, consumers want to know about the people they’re buying from and reading from.
It’s much easier for them to find out information about an author or marketer working for a brand.
And what they look for isn’t whether you’re an amazing person who does a lot of charity work; they look to see that you’re a real person.
The want to know that if you tell them something, you stand behind it.
More than anything, they want to connect with people, not companies.
So, how do you do this?
You need to take any opportunity you can to engage with your readers and customers.
One of the best spots is in the comment section of your posts. For example:
There are three aspects of my comments and replies that you should try to emulate on your own posts:
- They’re real comments – When I say real, I mean that there’s no corporate BS, just real words coming from me. It’s a real conversation, with words like “I” and “you”—and not “our brand appreciates your support” (ugh…).
- I post under my name – Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if I posted under “Quick Sprout”? And yet that’s what many bloggers do. No one wants to talk with your brand; they want to talk with you.
- They have detail – Even though I have hundreds of comments to reply to a day, I try to avoid one word responses like “thanks.” Instead, I’ll leave detailed responses like the above whenever possible.
Do not limit yourself to just the comments section of your posts.
That’s a great start, but as your brand grows, there are going to be conversations about your content and products everywhere across the Internet.
Those are opportunities to show that there’s a real person behind your brand who cares. It’s also where many people decide whether or not to give your content or product a shot.
If you show up and leave a great comment, it makes their decision easy.
Social media is a huge source of conversations.
To start with, you always want to respond to comments on your own page. It’s a simple thing to do, but so many businesses don’t:
In addition to engaging with your readers the way I just described, the next thing you should do is set up a Google Alert that lets you know when someone mentions your name or brand.
Click the “show options” link to set the parameters of the alert, e.g., how often you want to get the alerts.
Then, you’ll get emails to your Gmail account at whatever frequency you chose (“how often”) that look like this:
I’m mentioned in both of those links, and they are good places to leave a comment and respond to any other comments that mention my name.
In addition to monitoring my name, I monitor other keywords related to my brands. For example:
- “Quick Sprout”
Always remember to include common misspellings.
4. Acknowledge the negative, but focus on the positive with your content
Everyone knows that one person.
No matter what happens, they always find a way to point out something negative.
Even if you like the person in general, it’s really hard to spend much time with a person like that.
Everyone understands that things aren’t perfect, but it’s most productive and enjoyable to try to focus on positive things while fixing negative things when possible.
But focusing on negative things just brings people down and doesn’t inspire action.
And this relates directly to content creation.
As the content creator, you control the narrative.
You get to choose whether you’re focusing on negative things or positive things.
Some bloggers choose to focus on nothing but negatives in their industry:
- criticizing peers
- criticizing consumers and brands
- ranting about problems in the industry
- focusing on scandals
Sometimes, a bit of that is a good thing. But if you find yourself writing “negative” posts week after week, your readers are going to associate you and your brand with negative feelings.
Why would they continue to come back to your site if all you do is make them feel sad and helpless?
Content marketing is supposed be about educating your readers and improving their lives.
Negative topics can bring certain things into perspective occasionally, but rarely they do much more than that.
Focus on the good: Think about the guy who likes just about everyone in his life. It’s hard not to like him because he always finds the good in people.
Then, think about the guy who criticizes others behind their backs. No one likes this guy for obvious reasons: they don’t want to be next.
Those are two extremes, but you want to be much closer to the first guy than the second.
Your content should be almost all focused on helping readers improve their skills or advancing your industry:
Most of my posts are written to educate my readers, to give them the power to improve their lives.
No, not everyone likes me and my brand, but a lot of people do.
It’s hard not to like someone who dedicates a lot of time and resources to helping you any way they can.
Be that person in your readers’ lives.
How to focus on the good and the bad: I mentioned that sometimes it’s okay to focus on negative things, and sometimes it’s even necessary.
The best example I can think of to illustrate this point are humane societies.
Few have more reason to focus on negative things than humane societies do. It truly is sad when they have a ton of animals just waiting for real homes or when they uncover stories of animal mistreatment.
But they recognize that their audience is already informed about these bad things. They know that these negative topics deeply sadden their audience.
So, while they bring up sad events occasionally, they don’t inundate their audience with them because most people in that audience couldn’t handle that.
For example, the Toronto Humane Society occasionally posts about animals they’ve taken care of for an extended period of time (pretty sad):
But 90% of the posts are happy stories about animals who have been adopted and found great homes:
If there are negative things in your industry, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your audience aware of them—just don’t overdo it.
Instead, focus on positive things as much as possible and on contributing to your community.
5. Understand the changing landscape of media
To me, the perception of content is fascinating.
A post can be the most boring thing in the world that puts you to sleep, or it can be so gripping that you fly through it.
The second type is much more likable. If you enjoy something that someone gives you, you’re going to like them for it.
Of course, most posts fall in-between those two extremes.
There are obviously many factors that affect how entertaining your content is, but a lot of it is due to how well you adapt your content to the changing times.
Ten years ago, you could write about anything in any way, and it would still get read even if it was a giant wall of text with very little value.
Since then, content has come a long way.
People expect value, entertainment, and presentation all in one.
There are three components of modern content that I feel make the biggest difference in how engaging your content is.
Component #1 – Write conversationally: I have an honest question for you: do you feel like I am giving a lecture to you when you read a Quick Sprout post?
I’m going to assume (and hope) you answered “no” because I try really hard not to sound that way.
Your writing should sound similar to the way you would speak to someone in real life.
Even though content is typically a one-way medium, that doesn’t mean that you just have to drone on about whatever you’re writing about.
Instead, ask questions, and use the language you’d use in real life, words such as “I”, “you”, and “your”:
You can pick any part of my content and find at least a few of these words.
This post is about you and me, not about some hypothetical marketer in a textbook.
Make your content personal and conversational.
I highly recommend reading your posts out loud when you’re finished creating them. Pretend that you’re teaching a member of your audience in person.
It will be really obvious where you are not being personal enough.
Component #2 – Use media in content: No one wants to read a wall of text. Images are a great start, but these days you can include even more entertaining types of media.
Videos are a great example of this.
Perhaps even more useful, and more casual looking, are memes and gifs. I don’t want to sound too much like an old guy, but these are the ways to be “hip” right now.
A lot of top blogs, such as Buffer, are incorporating gifs into their content (basically short, silent video clips):
Component #3 – Be transparent: Transparency not only makes your content a lot more gripping, it also makes you more likable (in most cases).
Transparency in content marketing means essentially pulling back the curtain and sharing your personal experiments and thoughts on running your business.
For example, I’ve written quite a few posts in which I share how I accomplished things like building a 7 figure agency:
Even throughout other posts, I share personal stories whenever possible:
Any personal story that a reader can relate to helps you build a bond with them. It makes you more likable because you share things in common.
Any time you get a chance to share a relevant personal detail or experience, do it. Your readers will like you more for it.
Don’t be worried if you think it makes you look dumb. Your readers won’t think of you that way. They’ll just see that you’re human after all.
6. Don’t abuse content upgrades (which comes from a common misunderstanding)
We talked about how tactics that you use to build your email list can annoy readers and make them like you less.
What we didn’t go over was that beyond the annoyance of a pop-up or opt-in itself, the content of those tactics can also make users feel unsatisfied.
One of the most popular and effective email conversion tactics is the content upgrade.
If you’re not familiar with content upgrades, they are simply content-specific lead magnets that you offer your readers. Like this:
Because the lead magnet is so relevant to the post, it can get a great conversion rate.
For example, in a post of 26 tools that improve blog performance, I offered a content upgrade of a cheat sheet of the tools. It’s a useful little download that many readers were interested in.
Where it all goes wrong: The content upgrade is a fantastic tactic; it works great.
However, it could also make your readers like you less if you apply it incorrectly.
The content upgrade bonus is supposed to be exactly that—a bonus.
More than a few times, I’ve seen bloggers offer information in a content upgrade that should have already been part of the content itself.
That’s how you annoy a reader.
If you write a post titled something like:
Stop Writing Boring Headlines: 11 Types of Headlines That Pique Reader Interest
…you’d better have your 11 best types of headlines.
But imagine if you did either of the following:
- included 11 headlines but added a content upgrade that contains “the 2 headlines that are better than all these”
- only included 8 headlines in the content and then asked the reader to opt in to get the final 3
The reader is going to feel cheated.
You made a promise in the headline, and they expect you to deliver it.
When they read a post, and then you tell them they have to opt in to get the really good stuff that should have been in the post, they will rightfully be a bit upset, feeling you pulled a bait-and-switch on them.
Have no doubt, you’ll get a great opt-in rate. However, you’ll get a high percentage of temporary email addresses and instant unsubscribes and be marked as spam.
Readers remember being tricked and will not like you for it.
The simple solution: Ensure that your lead magnets are truly bonuses. They should serve as an addition to a full piece of content, not a small piece hidden behind an opt-in form.
7. Altruism in your community goes a long way
The final way to make your brand more likable is to do something generous for your community.
Your typical content is a nice thing to do for your community. However, I’m talking about next level generosity here.
Throughout my career, I’ve found that the more you give, even without any expectation of getting it back, the more you do in fact get back.
Let me give you a few different examples.
I started by taking my free content to the next level with my advanced guides on Quick Sprout:
These were so in-depth and useful that I had tons of people saying I should be selling them.
But I released them free—with no sales pitches, affiliate links in them, or anything like that.
Another product I briefly sold was Quick Sprout University:
This took a ton of effort and resources to create.
While I sold it for a bit, I decided to release it for free. You can still access it using the top menu on Quick Sprout.
But generosity can go far beyond content and training.
A great example of this is TOMS shoes.
For every pair of shoes they sell, they also donate a pair to a child that needs one.
This is similar to giving a percentage of sales to charity, but it shows that they care even more because they actually make the effort of making and delivering the shoes.
When you see someone do something out of the ordinary, it’s really hard not to like them.
And because of that, you’ll support them. Why wouldn’t you?
Although you give because you want to improve the world or your community, the supporters and likability you gain from that almost always bring much more back to you than you spend.
Wanting to be liked is a human instinct.
But more than that, being likable is necessary for modern marketing.
Readers and consumers have so much choice (for most things) that the part that often makes the difference is how much they like the people and brand behind the product.
It’s up to you to put in the effort to make yourself, your content, and your brand as likable as possible.
I’ve shown you 7 different ways that you can do accomplish that.
If you implement just a few, I’m sure that if you give it a bit of time, you will see increased traffic, engagement, and sales.