It hurts when a post you labored over doesn’t get any comments.
And it stings when no one shares your content on Facebook or Twitter.
But it really feels like a punch to the gut when your ideas don’t go anywhere, doesn’t it?
After all, most of us became bloggers because we had ideas we wanted to spread.
Important ideas. Life-changing ideas. Hell, even world-changing ideas.
But if your ideas aren’t spreading, does that mean you’re failing as a blogger? Is it time to give up?
Before you go off and have a pity party, let’s ask ourselves why your ideas haven’t taken off.
Maybe you haven’t found your voice yet. Maybe your niche is just too crowded. Maybe you’re looking for inspiration in the wrong places.
Or maybe you know how to come up with interesting ideas, but you’re not so good at promoting them. Or you genuinely have a brilliant new take on the world, but you fail when “selling” it to others.
If this describes you, do not despair. You’re not alone. And there is an answer.
But first, let’s pinpoint what’s holding you back.
How Thinking like a Blogger Sabotages the Spread of Your Ideas
As a blogger, you express your ideas in the form of blog posts.
Novelists write novels. Poets write poems. Bloggers write blog posts.
The medium dictates the nature of the message.
So if you want your ideas to spread, you simply need people to read – and share – your blog posts.
But you know most people won’t read a whole blog post right off the bat. Because in the real world, people are busy and bombarded with information every minute of every day.
So you’ve learned to craft the perfect headline. The headline sells the post – the post sells the ideas.
But no matter how great your headline is, most people who see it will not click on it. They can spare the one or two seconds required to read your expertly crafted promise, but that’s all you’re getting without a little more substance.
As a result, the key ideas of your post – the ideas that could change someone’s life, or at least change their day – lose their chance to shine. They don’t even see the light of day.
If only you had a quicker, slicker way to spread your ideas. A way that actually led to more traffic for your blog posts too.
Well my friend, you do. And it’s called the tweetable quote.
Tweetable Quotes – the Crack Cocaine of Social Sharing
What exactly are tweetable quotes?
Tweetable quotes are short, catchy messages embedded in a blog post that can easily be shared on Twitter.
They are ideas yearning to be shared. They are action and inspiration in one tidy package. They are witty or profound quotes which embody much larger concepts or whole new frameworks of thinking.
And when people share your quotes, they spread your ideas and drive traffic back to your blog by the boatload.
Why can tweetable quotes help your ideas spread further than typical “here’s a link to my post” tweets?
Let’s look at the reasons:
- By including one or more quotes in your post, you are giving the reader multiple opportunities, and multiple reasons, to share your content.
- Since tweetable quotes include an explicit call to action (e.g., “tweet this”) in context, they stand out in comparison to the social sharing widgets hovering on the periphery.
- Prompting readers to share a quote (not a post) capitalizes on many readers’ preference for sharing ideas over personalities. They’re not seen as promoting a person, just an idea.
- Because tweetable quotes have self-contained value (they are a piece of wisdom in themselves), readers are more inclined to share them, even if they don’t have time to read the entire post.
Now, bloggers didn’t invent memorable quotes, any more than they invented writing. But bloggers can use quotes to spread their ideas far and wide.
How Big-Name Bloggers Are Using Tweetable Quotes
It’s no wonder big-name bloggers are embracing tweetable quotes. Take, for example, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers. Tweetable quotes are one of the tools that Derek has used to turn his little marketing blog into a powerhouse.
Back in 2011, before Social Triggers had the large following it does today, Derek published a post called “What’s the Best Font For Your Site?”
Ugh … sounds boring, right? That post could have been easily forgotten, except for two things.
First of all, Derek tends to punch boring in the face.
Secondly, Derek inserted two short, tweetable quotes based on his own comments about font size inside the post.
They looked like this:
The result? That one post generated around 9,000 hits in a few weeks. It helped put Social Triggers on the map.
Another popular blogger who has used tweetable quotes successfully is author and blogger Jonathan Fields. The creator of the Good Life Project, Fields used a tweetable quote in his post “Hoping Others Fail is not a Strategy“:
Fields included that single quote in the post when he published it on September 30th, 2013 and it was shared more than 60 times on Twitter.
A tweetable quote “can serve as a catalyst for sharing, but you need to craft a social-currency worthy sound bite,” says Fields. It’s “a short phrase that both resonates on a personal level and inspires sharing with the desire to both create value and get credit for finding something cool.”
Now let’s break down how you can create these quotes.
How to Create Finely-Tuned Sound Bites That Make Your Ideas Go Viral
Why do tweetable quotes help your ideas spread faster?
Well-written quotes both convey meaning and do so in a clever, memorable, or creative way.
Unlike a headline, which needs to capture the essence of an entire post, a quote needs only convey a discrete idea. Readers for whom the idea resonates may be salivating at the chance to share it with others.
But you can’t just pluck quotes from your post and hope for the best. You need to spend time to mold your ideas and refine them, much like we did in creating this post.
A good tweetable quote is much more like a sound bite – a short phrase or sentence that captures the essence of a speaker’s speech, talk, presentation, or other message.
Halpern, for instance, says tweetable quotes that are structured like sound bites are more likely to be shared because they are “easy to recognize, … easy to remember, easy-to-share, and they stand out in the sea of words found online.”
In other words, a quote offers a greater opportunity for creativity and uniqueness than a headline.
And using certain principles or patterns will make these quotes much easier to create, and greatly increase your chances that they will go viral.
In fact, you can use a “bible” that will show you the secrets to articulating ideas that stick – and spread.
The 5 Proven Secrets to Crafting Quotes that Spread Like Crazy
To make your tweetable quotes spread like wildfire, you need to understand what makes ideas spread.
In Made to Stick, the Heath brothers analyze why some ideas thrive while others die. The authors looked at ideas from urban legends, tall tales, speeches, movies, pop culture, and other areas in analyzing what common features led to certain ideas thriving, and other ideas landing with a thud.
Although the book was written to describe the transmission of ideas rather than discrete quotes, the Made to Stick principles apply perfectly to tweetable quotes.
Ready? Let’s do this.
1. Keep It Simple, Stupid
One of the core principles in Made to Stick is to keep your ideas simple. To make an idea resonate with a wide audience, you must strip away all extraneous material, making the idea both simple and profound. As the Heath brothers wrote, finding the core of an idea “means stripping an idea down to its most critical essence.”
One of the most famous sound bites of recent years emerged from the O.J. Simpson trial. In his closing argument, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran used the simple phrase, “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.”
This resonated because it stripped down the ideas of the trial to their bare essence. The message was simple and profound, and it ignored volumes of evidence while focusing on one key piece of evidence – Simpson’s hand did not fit in the alleged murder glove.
Much like a popular tweet embedded in a longer blog post, Cochran’s quip neatly summarized the much more complex content of the larger whole (in that case, a 10-month trial).
2. Be Unexpected
Okay shitheads, listen up.
Got your attention, didn’t it? : )
Surprise jolts us to attention and forces us to think. It sears an unexpected event or statement into our memories, making the idea behind it more powerful and more memorable.
To create something that is unexpected, you must break a pattern.
In Made to Stick, the Heath brothers illustrate this principle by recalling a 2001 TV commercial for the new Enclave minivan. At first glance, the commercial looks like every other minivan commercial, with kids running up from soccer practice, a narrator recounting the vehicle’s features, and a happy family smiling as they drive around town.
Before you read any further, watch it now:
Midway through the commercial, a speeding car comes in and broadsides the minivan. On the screen flash the words, “Didn’t see that one coming? No one ever does.”
It turned out the commercial was a public service reminder to buckle your seatbelt. Because the viewer did not know it was a PSA until after the accident, the sudden car crash was completely unexpected. Thus the message became much more memorable.
3. Be Specific and Concrete
Nearly every writer struggles with the contrast between the abstract and the concrete. Writers who are experts in a particular subject matter tend to focus on abstract concepts, while novices to a particular subject matter tend to crave concrete examples.
Made to Stick used an example of the Nordstroms department store to illustrate the difference between an abstract idea and a concrete sticky idea. Nordstroms prides itself on being known for world-class customer service, which is a rather abstract concept.
However, that concept can be made sticky through concrete stories of its employees (nicknamed Nordies) who have gone above and beyond in delivering incredible customer service to customers.
For example, one Nordie cheerfully gift wrapped products a customer bought at Macy’s. Another Nordie refunded money to a customer for a set of tire chains – even though Nordstom’s doesn’t sell tire chains. These are concrete stories and are far more memorable than the abstract concept of world-class customer service.
You can apply this to your own tweetable quotes by avoiding abstract concepts like happiness, or sadness, or fear, or world-class customer service. Instead of using those concepts, include concrete examples and expressions. Talk in specifics, and share your own or others’ unique experiences, and you will appeal to a broader audience.
4. Use Credibility
Ideas can have greater credibility if an authority such as an expert or a celebrity endorses them.
In his well-revered book on credibility and social proof, Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini outlines six principles of persuasion, including the principle of authority. Cialdini writes that given the incredible influence of authority figures, it is wise to incorporate testimonials from legitimate, recognized authorities whenever you are seeking to influence others.
Another common source of credibility is statistics. However, you need to be careful because people often tune out statistics, especially if the numbers are too large to relate to.
In the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan was running against then-President Jimmy Carter, and arguing that the country’s depressed economic condition at the time was a justification for electing him.
During one of the debates, instead of quoting dry economic statistics, Reagan asked a simple question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
Reagan’s simple statement was powerful because it drew its credibility from the listener. The question invited the audience to substitute its own experience. Of course, people are inclined to trust their own experiences over that of others.
You can also use this principle in your quotes by using testimonials from recognized authorities, by using simple or striking statistics, or by provoking your readers to reach their own conclusions.
5. Embrace Emotion
Charities figured out long ago that a far more effective strategy for inspiring donors to empty their wallets is to focus on the plight of a single child or person, rather than on a large group of people. We are wired to feel emotions toward people, not abstractions or concepts.
Simple quotes also have the capacity to use emotion, in spite of their brevity. A simple, 3-word tweet by Kanye West did so, and it was one of the top-10 most shared tweets of 2010.
“I’m sorry Taylor,” by Kanye West was West’s apology to Taylor Swift for his notorious outburst during the 2010 Video Music Awards. Terse as it was, West’s mea culpa was the triumphant conclusion to a tabloid story in which many observers felt greatly sorry for Swift. It packed emotional punch, which is why it was shared over and over again.
You may not have TMZ chasing you down like they do to Kanye West, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use emotion in your quotes as well. Focus on a single child, a person, or even a sympathetic animal, and you have a greater chance of packing an emotional wallop. So think Free Willy, not The Cove.
How to Prospect Your Post for Your Best (and Most Shareable) Ideas
Now comes the fun part. Let’s take a look at the five principles again and examine a few already-popular blog posts which could have gotten even more traffic by leveraging tweetable quotes.
The goal here is to demonstrate how you can pluck out quotes and ideas that are already present in your own posts. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You just need to carve out ideas and mold them to make them as shareable as possible.
How to Apply the Keep It Simple, Stupid Concept
Demian Farnworth authored a post on Copyblogger late last year called “5 Ways to Write a Damn Good Sentence.” The message of the post stated that sentences can be made remarkable (even if they are short) when writers make good use of emotion, imagery, or logic.
Although he did not include a tweetable quote in that post, the following quote would have captured the post’s simple essence, using words from the post itself:
Sentences don’t have to say much – just the right things. Our imaginations will fill in the blanks. http://bit.ly/LyV8hS via @copyblogger
See how much more instantly shareable that is than the title? If you keep it simple and capture a compelling idea in the tweet, your readers will be salivating to share.
How to Apply the Be Unexpected Concept
If you were reading a blog devoted to healthy eating and fitness, you’d probably expect to be told to eat more grains, right?
Not always. At Mark’s Daily Apple, creator Mark Sisson writes about a return to a primal diet and fitness regimen, and conventional wisdom is thrown out the window.
In the post “Why Grains are Unhealthy,” Mark breaks down conventional beliefs about grains, arguing that no dietary reasons exist to eat them. The post is unexpected because conventional wisdom has long held that grains are good for you.
Even though that post is one of the most popular on his site, he could have created an excellent tweetable quote that embraces the post’s use of unexpectedness. It might have looked something like this:
Want to improve your diet & energy? Stop eating grains! They’re utterly pointless in a healthy diet. http://bit.ly/1hPlL0l via @Mark_Sisson
The more you surprise your readers and jolt them to attention with an idea they aren’t expecting, the greater chance they will share it.
How to Apply the Be Specific and Concrete Concept
Art of Manliness founder Brett McKay recently wrote a post about the abstract concept of ritualism, and the role it plays in men’s lives. In that same post, McKay gives a concrete example of a common ritual which plays an important role in male relationships: shaking hands.
If McKay had chosen to use a quote in that post, using the concrete example of shaking hands rather than the “abstract concept of ritualism” would have made the idea more relatable, and therefore more shareable. It might have looked like this:
When you shake hands, it’s not just a ritual. You deepen bonds & cement relationships. http://bit.ly/MKnG8T via @artofmanliness
How to Apply the Use Credibility Concept
Ramit Sethi, founder of the blog I Will Teach You To Be Rich, frequently asks his readers questions designed to provoke certain emotions and responses.
For example, in a recent post on how to overcome negative self-talk, Ramit asked his readers a simple question:
How freeing would it be to not feel guilty about the things you “should” be doing?
Now ask yourself, how does this question make you feel? I don’t know about you, but I was thinking, “Wow, that would be awesome! Give me that and a beer and a chicken taco, and I am Happy John.”
By contrast, what if Ramit had written this instead:
87.6 percent of Americans would rather not feel guilty about the things they “should” be doing.
Not as persuasive, is it? I probably would have just gone back to watching cat videos on YouTube.
Because Ramit’s statement relied on credibility from the reader’s own wants and desires, it would have made an excellent tweetable quote:
How freeing would it be to not feel guilty about the things you “should” be doing? http://bit.ly/1ojkhN4 via @ramit
How to Apply the Embrace Emotion Concept
Few blog posts in recent years have packed the emotional punch of Jon’s “On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting For Your Ideas.”
If Jon had chosen to include a tweetable quote in that post, he might have started with the following powerful line from the post:
If you want to succeed, you can’t wait for the world to give you attention like a cripple waiting for food stamps. You have to be a warrior.
But that’s a little too long, so we can distill it down while maintaining the sentiment:
Don’t wait for the world to give you attention like a cripple waiting for food stamps. Be a warrior. http://bit.ly/LyV8hS via @JonMorrow
Sometimes even a short quote can be charged with emotion. Take this one which echoes another of Jon’s key ideas:
Your ideas are your children. Fight for them. http://bit.ly/LyV8hS via @JonMorrow
How (and Where) to Embed Tweetable Quotes in Your Blog for Maximum Impact
Put the quote in bold or highlight it in a colored content box for added effect, as Derek Halpern did in his post “How to Get 2,281 Subscribers-and Increase Traffic by 69%-in 27 Days“:
The technique paid off, and that post received hundreds of tweets since it was first published in January of 2012.
Coincidentally, where you place your embedded tweet can influence how far it travels too.
When blogger Matt McWilliams embedded a tweet in the caption under the images in his posts instead of in the body text, he received a 400% increase in the number of tweets per blog post. The reason is simple: studies show that people are twice as likely to read captions under photos as they are to read body text.
To reach beyond Twitter, you could create a highly-shareable image featuring your quote for people to share on Pinterest or Facebook.
Or you could even let your readers choose which content to tweet using a sharing tool like Twilighter from AppSumo.
Your Turn: It’s Time to Mine the Gold in Your Posts
Now it’s your turn.
You don’t have to write for huge sites like Copyblogger, Problogger, or I Will Teach You To Be Rich to use these ideas.
Your blog posts are already gold. You just need to pick out the nuggets.
So before you hit publish on your next blog post, take the extra step of plucking out a few quotes for your readers to share.
Review the five principles above, embed a tweetable quote in your next blog post and see what works. Experiment and have some fun.
But most importantly, share your ideas.
After all, that is why you became a blogger in the first place, right?
About the Author: John Corcoran is a former Clinton White House Writer and creator of SmartBusinessRevolution.com, where he shows entrepreneurs and business owners how to increase revenues and get more clients and customers by leveraging relationships. You can download his free ebook, How to Increase Your Income in 14 Days by Building Relationships with VIPs, Even If you Hate Networking.