This is Part 3 of the “How to Blog Like Shakespeare” series. Check out the other parts:
- How to Write for New Readers (at Ittybiz)
- How to Write for Regular Readers (at Remarkable Communication)
- How to Write for Expert Readers
- How to Write for Three Audiences At The Same Time (at Copyblogger)
I’ll be straight with you here: too many people shoot for writing for experts too early in their blogging career, and, in many ways, it’s not worth it. Experts make up a very small part of any population, and this is made worse online because experts often don’t have the time or interest in reading your blog anyway.
That said, it is the nod that bloggers get from experts that help propel a blog’s growth. For instance, the Chris‘s and Seths of the blogging world have the ability to take you from obscure to popular overnight with nothing but a link and a “go read this.”
The other thing I’d like to point out here is that experts aren’t likely to buy anything from you or support you financially, so writing to persuade them to buy something is almost always not worth the time. Sure, if they recommend you to others, you’ll get more sales, but they’re not likely to recommend you based upon stuff you’ve written for them.
Are you still up for the challenge of writing for experts? Here are some ways to do it:
Say Something Novel
Experts pay attention to other experts, and one of the ways to show that you’re an expert is to say something novel. “Novel” here doesn’t mean something earth-shattering – it can be a novel approach to a problem or a new way of explaining something that’s more clear and understandable.
The more you write to regular readers and do some of things I recommended in the last post of this series, the easier it’ll be to write for experts because you’ll already be in the habit of expressing things in a new way and you’ll also be keeping up with what’s going on in your area of expertise. If you keep at it, you will come up with something novel, and you’ll also have the background to know that it’s novel.
Reference The Field
Experts usually have deep domain knowledge in their area of expertise. They know their field and the people who have made significant contributions to it. If you’re writing for experts, you want to share that you know that field, too.
For instance, most people who write productivity blogs have read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Talking about Getting Things Done might be helpful for new readers and regular readers since they may not have read it, but you won’t do much to build your credibility as an expert if you stick with covering the popular stuff.
If you were to talk about ideas from Peter Drucker’s Effective Executive, though, you show that you’re not some productivity junkie who’s picked up the latest fad. Compare Allen’s approach to delegation to Drucker’s in the context of the organizational changes that makes one more effective than the other and it’s clear that you’ve done your homework and you’re not playing around.
Disagree With An Expert
Disagreeing with an expert has a similar effect as referencing the field, as it shows that you’re not asleep at the wheel. It’s important that you don’t disagree for the sake of disagreeing, and your disagreement needs to be reasoned and sound. It’s all the better if you have a better alternative to whatever you’re disagreeing about.
If you just disagree with an expert and don’t have good grounds for disagreement, you look like an ass and ruin your own credibility. If you disagree with an expert while referencing the field and coming up with a novel, defensible solution, you set yourself up to be received well by experts. As much as experts hate to be wrong, most want to have the best information available – even if they didn’t come up with it. Teaching an expert is challenging, but all it takes is one Aha! and you’ve gained a reader who won’t soon forget you.
Do What They Can’t Do
Experts are usually very busy, and they simply can’t be everywhere they’d like to be, physically or mentally. They have to set some serious limits about what information they can learn and who they can interact with in order to balance everything else they’re doing.
If there’s some emerging trend, topic, or pain point, you have a leg up because the known experts may not be able to respond as quickly as you can. This is especially critical for people who provide services to people, since new problems may not have a high enough demand for experts to the divert their attention, yet there may still be a lot of people who are underserved and need help.
For example, look at the rise of Social Media experts. Social Media is evolving so quickly that it’s difficult for the experts of last year’s platform to keep up with the platforms that were developed three months ago. They developed their expertise in the early adopter phase of the platform and are riding it out, but the same conditions are present for the newer platforms. So, you could compete with all the other Twitter experts, for example, or you can become an expert in another platform. Or you can hit a niche that the experts can’t serve.
As you write content that shares borders with an expert’s domain, you have the opportunity to teach her about those areas that she can’t get to. If your content is solid and you’re genuinely out to help people, instead of competing with you, she’s more likely to team up with you or at least recommend your stuff to people that need help in whatever you’re specializing in.
A few years ago, one of my graduate advisors told me that the easiest way to get known in philosophy is to find a poorly covered logical hole, jump in it, and write prolifically about it. I didn’t quite get it at the time, but it was really just another way of expressing “do what the experts can’t do.”
Make Writing For Experts A Part of Your Blogging Efforts
The key word here is part. If you try to write for experts too much, you’re likely to alienate, frustrate, or bore your new and regular readers – unless you’re a very good writer. However, writing for experts does two important things for you: 1) it pushes you as a writer, so you become better and 2) it establishes your expertise and credibility in the eyes of your readers, other experts, and, importantly, yourself.
The experts of Shakespeare day were actors, playwrights, and authors. To write for them, he used a lot of subtlety, satire, irony, and multi-layer plots to keep them interested and entertained. Artists appreciate the absence of elements almost as much as they do the presence of elements – but they also appreciate another artist who can keep multiple audiences interested at the same time.
Writing for experts is challenging enough, but writing for experts at the same time you’re writing for everybody else is especially challenging. In the next and final part of this series, I’ll give some techniques for pulling this feat off. Stay tuned!
- Have you uncovered an overlooked idea or problem in your area? Write about it and provide a new solution or way to express the idea.
- Do your homework and write about a more complex topic on your blog. Make sure to reference the work of other experts.
- Did an expert say something you disagree with? Show how the emperor is naked.
- Find an emerging or overlooked area and become an expert in it. Find experts in border areas and discuss your ideas with them.
Archan Mehta says
Nice work–an interesting, insightful post.
However, referencing the field to catch the eye of experts and readers may not always be feasible. Think about it.
A few decades ago, for example, conventional medicine and the manual (mechanical?) typewriter were all the rage.
Going strictly by logic, therefore, if you had believed the experts and had known only what they knew back then, well, you would have been stuck in the same rut.
Sometimes, it takes a magician to pull a rabbit out of a hat. For example, it took a so-called “freak” like Steve Jobbs to invent the personal computer in a garage in Palo Alto, CA and a disenchanted Boston doctor (Deepak Chopra) to add the benefits of “alternative medicine” to the public discourse.
Just like you said, these luminaries disagreed with the “experts” and the rest, as they say, is history. Thus, a paradigm shift requires a leap of faith and a trust in vision.