Why Valedictorians Make Lousy Bloggers (And Class Clowns Rule)

July 13, 2008

Why Valedictorians Make Lousy Bloggers (And Class Clowns Rule)

by Jonathan Morrow

Customer Relationship

Care to play a little game?

Okay, think back to your days in high school for a moment. Try to remember some of the class clowns. You know, the people that never seemed to get any work done, preferring to either tick someone off or make everyone laugh.

Can you remember what they looked like? If I asked you to tell me a story about them, could you do it?

Good. Now, forget about the class clowns. Try to remember your valedictorian, the person with the highest grades in your graduating class. Who was it? Can you even remember?

I sure can’t. I tried this test with several people, and none of them could. You might be able to remember them if you had a super small class, or if they were related to your best friend or something, but for the most part, valedictorians are forgotten the moment they step down from the podium.

But everyone remembers the class clown.

Whether they made you smile or you wanted to punch them in the face is irrelevant — the point is, they provoked a reaction, and that’s what makes you remember. They made you point your finger and say, “Look at what that idiot is doing now.”

Is blogging really so different?

The Secret to Getting Noticed

The secret to getting noticed is doing or saying something that’s worth noticing.

It’s a truth that guys like Brian have been trying to pound into people’s heads, but the response is always the same. The class clowns of the world nod their heads, instinctively knowing it’s true. The valedictorians sit there with puzzled looks on their faces, thinking “That can’t be all it is… What isn’t he telling me?”


Because becoming a valedictorian is all about dissecting things. You dissect books, problems, frogs, your teachers, tests, and anything else that you need to understand in order to get the “perfect” grade. By understanding all of the pieces of the system, you hope to master the whole.

“Certainly,” you think to yourself, “Blogging must be more complicated than getting others to point at you.” You pour over subjects like headlines, social media, and viral content, hoping to fit all of the pieces together into a comprehensive blogging strategy.

Except you can’t seem to make it work.

Your headlines are perfect copies of the classic templates, but no one links to them. Your posts are targeted at Digg, but no one votes for them. You write a post with all the signs of becoming a piece of viral content, but no one talks about it.

Here’s why:

It’s Boring!

In the pursuit of perfection, valedictorians forget that readers aren’t looking for the perfectly constructed post. They’re looking for something interesting.

I could have titled this post “How to Write an Interesting Post That Gets Lots Of Attention,” but I didn’t, not because it’s inaccurate, but because it’s boring. The web is so saturated with headlines like that that we routinely skip over them.

Instead, I had to find an angle worth noticing… like an attack on the deity of high school intellectuals. I had to break your “guessing machine” for a moment, stopping you in your tracks. Then I had to say something so interesting that you couldn’t help but look.

If you’ve read this far, then I guess it worked.

Blogging Clowns are Smart and Courageous

The good news is valedictorians can learn to be clowns. Look at all of the comedians and screenwriters that come from Ivy League schools. Not only can they make you laugh, but they can make you think too. They find a way to express the truth that breaks through distractions and grabs your attention.

That’s the crucial difference.

Unlike high school, being a blogosphere “clown” is less about acting stupid and more about telling the truth in an interesting way. Sometimes they’ll laugh, sometimes they’ll get mad, and sometimes they’ll be thinking about your post two weeks later. Regardless, as long as you’ve captured and maintained their attention, you’ve won.

So stop trying to impress other people with your smarts. Have the courage to write something that forces your readers and other bloggers in your niche to pay attention.

How are you supposed to do that, exactly? Stay tuned for my next post.

About the Author: Jon Morrow is the co-author of Keyword Research for Bloggers, an 8,000 word guide for how you can use keyword research to build a better blog. Learn more about keyword research tools and how they help you succeed.


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