Nick O'Neill

My ramblings on entrepreneurship and online publishing.
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Perspective: The Key To Unlocking A Massive Following

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Why do some articles fail, while others are explosive? While there are countless ways to improve your content, there is one critical prerequisite to performing well: perspective.

Over the past few years I’ve been spending a lot of time analyzing content strategy to see what techniques are most effective at attracting readers. Early on, a friend of mine told me that “people only read those sources that tell them what they already believe”. In other words, people only want one perspective: their own.

As someone who was always in search of a balanced opinion, I figured this was nonsense. On any given day, I’ll check out a variety of publications with differing opinions. I always thought to myself, “Don’t other people care about the truth?” However after deconstructing those posts that have performed best for me I’ve realized that unfortunately for the most part people just care about their perspective.

An example perspective

Let’s take an example. This morning I was reading this article from Reuters about Facebook’s new message to brand advertisers: ignore the click. The article includes the following sentence:

Facebook, whose stock by the end of the third quarter was down 43 percent since its May initial public offering, has unveiled a variety of new advertising capabilities in recent months, including its first ads designed to be viewed on smartpthones.

The perspective? Facebook is struggling to earn the trust of investors and is racing to concoct new advertising strategies that will justify their valuation. There’s no doubt that this is a fair perspective, if you happen to be a shareholder in Facebook since their IPO.

On the other hand, if you bought their stock at $18 back at the beginning of September, you’d be thinking something completely different. If you read Facebook’s S-1 statement, in which Zuckerberg emphasizes their valuing of long-term retention of users over immediate monetization, you would have a different perspective.

A more concrete perspective

Recently I wrote a rebuttal to an article published by Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily. She argued that there were no longer as many failures in Silicon Valley thanks to the rise of acquihires (the acquisition of companies for their talent and nothing else). My perspective? The exact opposite: there are tons of failures!

My article attracted over 20,000 people because there was a void for much needed perspective (the opposite of Sarah’s). There were definitely people who read Sarah’s post and agreed with her. There were many more that read my post as well because they agreed with my stance.

Was the world changed by these posts? Not really. However by picking a perspective that aligns with a large audience, you have a greater likelihood of resonating with them.

What’s your perspective?

The content strategy lesson here: pick a unique perspective. Reuters clearly had the perspective of investors who lost money or those who think Facebook will find it challenging to live up to their expectations. Those who agree will likely share the article. For my article, I had the perspective of someone who had witnessed multiple failed startups.

In order to develop an audience, you need to develop a perspective. Without perspective, you are forced to walk the line of attempting to please everybody, something that will doom you to failure. Whether you are developing content on your personal blog or on your company’s website, you need to add perspective.

The more conviction you have in your perspective, the greater chance you have of attracting an audience.

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