How Can Websites about Boring Topics Succeed on Social Media?

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Bored to Death by Niemster.

Patricia of sourcesouth.com asked a very important question in the comments which many people ask: How can websites about boring topics succeed on social media?

Indeed for many people it’s already an assumption that so called boring topics can’t succeed on social media. Well I don’t agree. Let me explain why: First no topic is really boring, second there are social media for all topics.

What’s boring and what’s not? Who decides? What Patricia and others probably mean is “popular” or rather “not popular”. What’s boring for me is not boring for someone else. I might not care for scanning electron microscopy but some people probably love that topic and spend half of their life dealing with it.

In fact SEO is the most boring topic on earth if you ask me, most people do not even know what SEO is and only recognize it when it went wrong.

  • You can’t see SEO
  • You can’t photograph it
  • You can’t even let some beautiful women dress as SEOs to make the topic more appealing

Nonetheless I made my blog popular beyond the small niche of SEO geeks. I get not only visitors from the SEO industry, the blogosphere, the web developer community but also perfectly average people who do not care for SEO at all.

So you see there are basically two ways of making so called boring topics succeed on social media:

Either you find your niche audience or you appeal to the general audience by broadening your scope and/or making your topic more attractive for the average person.

You do not even have to resort to the beautiful ladies dressed as [insert your boring industry here] specialists. Let me start with the niche finding approach though.

Many people err in that they assume social media is Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon. By now there are niche social sites for every topic. While those are not always popular enough to make them matter there are also blogs or forums for all topics which matter to more than a few people. Also Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers, shopping search engines and test, review and testimonial sites cover every conceivable topic.

Now if you find a topic that’s not covered enough yet or is so tiny that it’s just not covered enough yet to make an impact in the marketing sense you can do two things: Either be the first to create and popularize the niche, like I did with SEO 2.0 (before nobody cared) or you “target” the general public. Now how you do that if your topic is not popular?

To be honest Patricia gave us a very bad example: She called the topic of “outsourcing” a boring one while at the same time it’s a booming industry and one of the currently hugely popular books and blogs “The 4 Hour Work Week” deals with it. So let me take on something that’s not as easy. Something that’s more than boring or unpopular, something that people shy away from, something that’s even ugly but nonetheless very important.

I want to show two examples, plumbing as the easier one, everybody needs a plumber from time to time and plumbers have to deal with dirt sometimes. As the second, the more difficult one, I want to use colon cleansing. Yeah, I see you cringe but it can even save your life.

So now I introduce to you the five most common methods of making a boring topic popular with social media:

  1. Beautify
  2. Harness humor
  3. Scandalize
  4. Employ fear and loathing
  5. Transfer popularity

#1 Is the most commonly used way. Display beautiful people or beautiful things. OK, with plumbers it’s easy. Just take a few guys who do some body building and who happen to be plumbers and make a calendar while at the same time displaying the images on your website as the “12 sexiest plumbers of 2009″. Now what about colon cleansing? Well, there even is a blog about it but I won’t link it as the images there are not good for your appetite. In fact the beautify method doesn’t work here for several reasons, the foremost being that you just do not want to see any of it.

#2 For the plumber this is easy again: The 10 strangest things found in a pipe (a cat, a hand, an old laptop…). Laughter is very good for you health and humor helps very much in dealing with health issues, especially those of the least desired kind, like colon problems. You also want to maintain some integrity here and won’t make a list of “the 10 strangest things found…” Instead you can do something more appealing and it already has been done, something like the strangest things said during a colonoscopy.

#3 Scandals are all around us, you just have to pick one up. Something like “Police offers, plumbers and nurses most underpaid professions in the EU: Do you prefer crime, no running water and people being left to die?” This works very well with the second topic too: “Worse than terrorism: 20.000 deaths could have been prevented” you guess how…

#4 Check out “Help, ome flooded! How to prevent your flat turning into a cess pool”. The same “Worse than terrorism” article as above also could apply here but something more personal would be better: “My trial: The most painful weeks of my life” where a colon cleansing could have saved him.

#5 This is an easy one for both: Just take famous and acclaimed people and connect them with your topic. This can be entirely metaphoric like “The Ernest Hemingway method of fixing your pipes” (note, it’s also humorous) but also something more real like “10 celebrity plumbers speak out”. Also consider this headline: “10 presidents, actors and poets who were saved from cancer by colon cleansing.”

So now don’t tell me your industry is boring or not popular.

You can make everything popular. Unless, of course you don’t want it. Then you can resort to the niche social sites. For colon cleansing you’ll find plenty of forums and questions on Q&A sites. Also people will want to recommend doctors who made it painlessly. For plumbing also local SEO is very important.

 

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