This is how Data-Driven Digital Writers write more of “what works.”
What separates a mediocre writer from a great one?
It’s not talent or education, but the willingness to test, analyze, and adapt.
And in Ship 30 for 30, we teach you how to treat your writing like an experiment.
We help you keep tabs on what works and what doesn’t work.
- Are the results of your post what you expected?
- Are your clicks at a constant or increasing level?
- Are there certain phrases that provoke more interest than others?
- What if anything could be done to better draw in the audience and create a better experience for them?
This is not your run-of-the-mill, boring science experiment.
This is a fun experience that can be done by anyone with a pen, paper, and a sense of adventure.
We believe that adventure and growth as an online writer is all about looking for the things that work well and don’t work well, then getting rid of the things that don’t work and doubling down on the things that do.
In this post we are going to look at the four steps we recommend you do at least once a week as an online writer:
- Review: Take note of how your tweets are performing.
- Reflect: Consider what changes influenced your performance
- Plan: Choose what actions you want to take next.
- Act: Test your hypotheses and repeat the process.
Let’s get started.
1. Review your numbers from the prior week
Once you publish a piece of content, it’s important to see how well it’s performing.
Regardless of where you are publishing you need to find a way to view the analytics and performance of your content. This will help you determine the most effective ways to produce future pieces.
We use Twitter inside Ship 30 for 30 as the main platform for publishing Atomic Essays. For the sake of this article, we will focus on Twitter as the main tool for gathering and reviewing analytics. If you aren’t using Twitter, just can still apply the same principles for platforms like Medium, Quora, etc.
One of the first things we recommend doing is reviewing your last week’s tweets. You can use Twitter Analytics or a tool like ilo.so. While the native Twitter analytics will give you some insight, it will benefit you to be able to see individual tweet performance in relation to all your tweets.
We recommended Typeshare.
This is a software product designed specifically for Ship 30 for 30 members. Whether you participate in Ship 30 for 30 or not, we encourage you to give Typeshare a try.
Typeshare is the hub for online writing, allowing writers to create a Social Blog, connect their social accounts, track their performance and engagement, and learn what works and what doesn’t about their writing. We also provide writers with dozens of online writing templates to get started on Twitter, Medium, etc.
Navigate to your analytics tool of choice and review what you posted.
At this point, you should be observing. Take note of the impressions, likes, shares, and engagement on each piece of content.
Are there any pieces that stand out? Perhaps 1 or 2 received significantly more impressions or engagement than other pieces from the week. Make note of the differences and move to the next.
Here is what that looks like inside of Typeshare:
As an aside, these numbers do not need to be huge. Treat differences in your content as a signal or sentiment of interest.
The more you write the stronger this signal will become and the more you will understand what is resonating (or not) with your readers.
2. Reflect on what happened that might have impacted your performance
Once you have your analytics platform in front of you and you’ve spent a few minutes absorbing it, it’s time to start the reflection process. By taking time to reflect on how you can improve, you can make your writing more effective.
We’ve included some downloadable worksheets at the end of this post to help guide you through the thought process.
There are two reasons why weekly reflection is so powerful:
- It gives you time to identify what’s working and what’s not. The more you do this, the easier it will be for you to pinpoint trends in content that connects with your readers.
- It helps eliminate the guesswork in your strategy. By looking back at what worked well in the past, you can continue to produce similar results in the future.
Begin reflecting on what kind of tweets got the most engagement.
Recall the things you tried with your writing in the last week. Maybe you focused on writing better headlines or following the 1-3-1 rhythm structure, whatever your strategy was, write that down.
Look for the topics that come up most frequently. This will give you some insight into the types of content that are most relevant and interesting to your audience. You can also look at which links or photos received the most attention, which may give you insights into what people enjoy seeing from you most often. What sense do you now have about your posts?
These insights can help you plan more effective tweeting in the future. For example, if any of your past tweets were about business productivity, then it might be worthwhile for you to tweet more articles about productivity in the future, just as an example.
Think about a favorite writer who has a style that resonates with you. What is it about her prose that draws you in? Does it have something to do with word choice? Or pacing? Maybe it’s how she pauses before delivering a punch line.
Whatever it is, she likely tested those techniques on her audience before refining them into her signature style. You can do the same by analyzing the elements that make up your work and making sure each one hits its mark.
3. Choose a few strategies of what you want to try next week.
This is my favorite part of the process.
You’ve identified the trends and patterns in the type of content that performs best with your readers. Now, it’s time to choose a small action to take.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world of social media, and a lot of room for guessing what works and what doesn’t. But social media is a science experiment. It’s a matter of tweaking your approach and seeing how people respond.
Form a hypothesis and use your knowledge of your audience to create two or three potential new ideas for subjects to write about or changes to your post formatting. Write these hypotheses down.
For example, maybe you noticed that @TwitterJohn liked and commented on your post about business productivity. You took a look at his profile and saw that he is a small business owner that just launched a new software product.
You form a hypothesis that small business owners are strapped for time and are looking for strategies to get more out of their day, so you decide to focus all your posts in the upcoming week on productivity for small business owners.
This is all your chance to reach out directly to the people you see that engage with your content. DM them on Twitter and start a conversation. Use that conversation as input into your list of ideas for writing.
Finally, after you have reflected on your writing, you can crystalize your learning into action by optimizing and sharing your lessons.
This is a highly under-leveraged part of the writing process. Other people struggle with the same things you do and this is your opportunity to give back what you have learned. You just might find that these types of posts garner lots of engagement too.
4. Test, analyze, and adapt your strategy until you find what works for your audience.
It’s too easy to think you know what your audience wants, but you can’t know unless you test your hypothesis.
Test different titles, subtitles, and paragraphs to find out which ones work best for your audience. Don’t be afraid to delete the parts of your article that don’t work and replace them with something better or more engaging.
It’s also worth remembering that not every article that gets a lot of views is necessarily high quality. Some are simply more popular than others.
In our busy world, it’s easy to take shortcuts when we’re posting on social media sites like Twitter. And it takes time to develop a thoughtful approach, but if you can do that, you’ll be rewarded.
All writers write. And all writers edit. But a writer who learns from what he or she writes and actively makes changes based on what they learn from their writing is a scientist, not a hack.
All writers want to write like pros, but few take the time to analyze what they’re doing and why it works. They get stuck in a rut of writing the same way every time, not realizing that their words are hitting or missing with the audience because of the way they’re presented.
When you approach your writing like a scientist testing a hypothesis, you can quickly determine what’s working for you and what isn’t. Once you have a clear picture of what your readers want from your writing, you can write with confidence knowing that you’re giving them what they need.
Measure your performance and adapt regularly. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Write with an eye on being wrong. If there’s a better way to write, you’ll improve your work and learn from it. In the end, that’s a success.
Repeat the steps of Review, Reflect, Plan, and Act and you will be well on your way to being a prolific & popular online writer.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.