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Posted by on Sep 11, 2012 | 2 comments

What blogging clichés taught me about… Mark Schaefer

Using content marketing clichés for click-through may hurt credibility – unless you turn them on their heads

In the brave new world of content marketing, valuable original content is the Holy Grail – yet we insist on copping to convention, following formats and, instead of gaming the system, gaming the reader.  We do it by copycat habits that may provide short-term click-through benefits but undermine our credibility in the long-term as a valuable source of truly original, innovative thinking.

Case in point: The “What _____ taught me about ______”   title cliché

Whether in my Twitter feed, Google Alerts or any number of other “content firehoses” that direct subjects of supposed interest my way, I see a lot of blog titles, as I’m sure you do. As I read them aggregated, it’s easy to follow the trends, and it becomes sort of a “Lack of imagination” barometer for me.  At the moment, this is particularly true for the camp of bloggers that, to pique a reader’s curiosity, uses the “What (some subject) taught me about (something totally unrelated and preferably outrageous)” title format.   I acknowledge that this is a handy way to try and get a reader to think “What the… I better check this out.”  But unless the post strongly pays off the title, using the self-evident truth of a good analogy, the blogger risks alienating the reader.

And even at the level of click bait, I question whether or not any overly popular title format can long sustain its pulling power.  For my part, as a reader, I have hit the stage of “Oh, give me a break, not another one of those” and I pass the post by, assuming that the content is no more original than its lame take on a title.  Here is a quick sampling of posts that, frankly, I haven’t bothered to read for just this reason (even though some may contain information of use to me).

There’s the ever-tiresome sports category:

6 Things Golf Taught Me About Social Media Marketing

The Top 5 Things That Football Taught Me About Social Media

What Little League Taught Me About Inbound Marketing

Family members make many title appearances, too:

What My 91-Year-old Grandma taught me about Social Media

4 Things My Mom Taught Me About Social Media

What My 8 Year Old Son Taught Me About Blogging

Entertainment and celebrities are a popular source of borrowed interest in blog titles:

What South Park Taught Me About Social ROI

What Burlesque Taught Me About Social Listening

What the Cookie Monster taught me about Twitter

Ron Jeremy, Porn Star, Taught Me Four Things About Social Media

And of course, religious figures always add an authoritative sense of non-sequitor:

10 things God taught me about social networking

What The Dalai Lama Taught Me About Small Business Social Media


The execption to the rule:  Playing against expectations

All of which is not to say that this particular cliche is entirely played out.  Just as good advertising has long been made out of taking a well-known saying or situation and applying an unexpected twist, so, too, are the most adept bloggers able to employ clichés to their advantage.  Consider this example:

What the beach taught me about social media

To be honest, I was only willing to click through because it’s the title to a post from one of my favorite bloggers/social media thinkers/educators, Mark Schaefer.  I was cringing a bit as I clicked, fearing that what followed would reveal Mark to be something less than I’d hoped after all.  But I was not disappointed.  Here is his one word summation of what the beach taught him about social media:   nothing.

It was simply a post from his vacation at the beach, a mostly visual and slightly cheeky statement of priorities that only served to add to my positive impression of him. (As he put it “Well the truth is, on my beach vacation I spent time with my family, got some exercise, read books, and didn’t think about business at all. And I am really re-charged!”  Good for you, Mark.)

Are there any blogging cliches that particularly get on your nerves, or that you see as detrimental to a blogger’s purpose?





  1. Nice Post, Chuck.

    Frankly, though, I’d pass on the “What God Taught Me About Facebook” title because I’ve seen God’s Facebook page and he fails on most of the fundamentals of Social Media marketing. He hasn’t updated the page with any regularity and, as far as I can tell, he hasn’t responded to a single comment left on the page. Shameful.

    Here’s the page, by the way…

  2. Thanks. Perhaps God simply feels there is literally forever to get around to his updates. Oh, I suppose there is…

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