(photo credit by heydrienne)
If you are keeping up on your website's analytics, you know that bounce rate is one key metric. You don't have a lot of time to hook a visitor's interest, and that is just one indicator of how interested someone is in you or your organization. People sweat the bounce rate. Logically you know that your product or service isn't the end-all-be-all for everyone, so it's natural that some people are going to scan the first page of the site and then leave. But emotionally, we want to appeal to everyone. It's human nature to want everyone to like us. (For a great read on why we can't try to be everything to everyone, check out this recent post by Jonathan Fields The Moment You Speak to the World, You Speak to No One)
But what we can do is make sure we are appealing to our niche audience. And to do that, you have to spice things up a bit with some flavor.
Originality is Fresh
I have noticed lately that I have the attention span of a small child. I have a to-do list a million items long, and one of those things is checking out the latest and greatest on all of the different blogs that I frequent. But just reading those blogs day in and day out gets dull. So I'm always on the lookout for new blogs to read. I can't tell you the number of blogs that I've happened upon that were just plain boring. I'm not interested in being preached to, or hearing the same message regurgitated using different words. I know that on any given topic at any given time, I can find useful content in many different places- what hooks me is the person telling the story. And if you are going to be original, you have to be willing to push some boundaries.
Originality isn't Filtered
Somewhere between birth and becoming an adult, we develop a myriad of filters that we use to frame how we talk to the people outside of our own heads. (This is why we'd all love to be mind readers right?) We develop a filter for each interaction: our family, our friends, where we work, etc. We switch between these filters unconsciously, and they become insidiously ingrained in our communication styles. Trying to do anything outside of these filters feels wrong and we usually just won't do it.
An example? Swearing. I don't know how many times I've heard something along the lines of "Jane swears like a sailor" and I've known Jane for years and never heard anything even close to resembling a curse word. It doesn't fit with my picture of Jane, and my guess is that Jane would never dream of swearing in the forum where she and I interact. But she does (and I do) and what that tells me is that I don't know the "real" Jane yet. That's okay, but I also know that's a filter I need to be aware of.
So what happens if you bust out of one of those predetermined filters and just let it all hang out for once? My guess is that you will offend some people, and turn them off. On the other hand, you are going to deepen other relationships because suddenly you become more REAL, more human, and more like them.
I'm not saying go out and drop the F-bomb in your next client meeting, but observing someone else who doesn't have that same filter is pretty fascinating (see any post from Naomi Dunford and tell me that her vocabulary choice doesn't fit just beautifully with who she is- and she constantly provides solid, valuable content).
Originality is Fun
Traditionally, business reading is bedtime reading because it will put me to sleep. Dry theories held up by cardboard examples of some process that is supposed to make my business better? (There's a reason no one tries to implement this stuff.) When you choose to approach a topic from a completely different perspective, you make it interesting and fun.
Freakonomics(affiliate link) is a classic example. I do not like economic-talk. I pay attention because I know that I'm supposed to, but my knowledge is limited to the 50,000 foot view. What Freakonomics did was use some seemingly off the wall examples to explain macroeconomic trends in a way that not only did I understand, but made me want to know more. These guys made economics fun and got people talking.
Originality Means Doing It Better
In the end, the only person who can be you is you. The only brand that can be yours is yours. How you frame your message and what you have to say is completely up to you. I love to see active engagement between a company and its audience, whether it's on Twitter, through a Facebook page, or just in the blog comments. I get a feel for what the business is all about, and how I'll be treated if I become one of their customers. I can see if the business walks the walk about the core values that they say are important to them. ("Excellent" customer service but a 20-min wait time to talk to a customer service rep? I don't think so.) Pick the one thing that defines you above all others, shout it from the rooftops, and make sure you deliver.
Net net of all of this is don't water down what makes you different, because that's going to be the thing that hooks people into hanging around.