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This month I reached two milestones: one year and 75 posts here at Figuring Out Fulfillment.  It has been fascinating to work with my writing partner Margaret and to watch the site and its readership grow and develop; in many ways it is like running a project or even a business.  Looking back at the data on our “product” (essays), I noticed that I have written six posts that have had significantly outsized “success” (views), with five to ten times more hits than my average post.

I think it’s fair to say that they are all distinctive and enjoyable, but they are not necessarily the six best posts I have written.  As with so many other products — and people — their successes seem due to various combinations of quality and appearance.  Together they form a little catalogue of marketing tips applicable not just to blogging, but also to sales, publicity, and personal marketing:

6) I Have No Job And I Must Scream — Tap the Zeitgeist — Of all my successes this was the most accidental.  I wrote an essay about planning ahead for the increased use of technology to handle work previously done only by humans, and chose a title referring to a classic short story by Harlan Ellison.  Judging by reader responses, though, a lot of unemployed and very frustrated people visited the post because the title resonated with their current states of mind, and they were hoping to commiserate.  I felt a little guilty for accidentally misleading them, but maybe the post served as a distraction.  At least I learned about the effect of touching a collective nerve.

5) A Reason Not To Work For “The Limited” — Spark Conversation — This post was based on a creative little brainstorm I had one morning, a playful idea about how we identify with our work.  A number of readers loved the novelty, came up with ways to use the idea in exercises with classes or clients, and then passed both the post and their embellishments along among groups or listservs.  Some of these messages led to further iterations, and the extended conversations generated a lot of page views.  Give people something useful they haven’t encountered before and they may take the lead in sharing it.

4) Unsuccessful Men With Talent — Generate Ground Support — This was one of my better essays and several of my initial readers — folks who heard about it directly from me via Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. — liked it so much that they immediately reposted and passed it along to wider circles.  So quality does matter, but it matters more when you develop a fertile network ready to recognize and reward that quality.

3) Thanks For Ruining My Life, Alex Trebek — Use Celebrity — My adventures with Alex were great fun and great fun in the telling, and it was an essay with a serious point that I had wanted to share for a long time.  But I have no illusions about the likelihood that a lot of people checked it out simply out of curiosity about possible Trebekian treachery.  Curiosity has a sweet spot — folks don’t tend to be interested in things they know either nothing or everything about — and enlisting the aura of the famous is a good way to take people to that place.

2) Michelangelo vs. Edison — Meet a Need — One of my favorite posts, about different types of work progress, this also turned out to be one of my most popular and enduring.  It still gets several hits a week from folks searching for either the artist or the inventor in Google.  Why?  I didn’t quite get it until I saw the page views drop precipitously during the summer, then spring back come September.  Looks like schoolchildren, asked to write reports on famous people, are visiting Figuring Out Fulfillment to learn more about the epic cage-death-match between Micky and Thomas Alva.  As with “I Have No Job . . .”, some viewers may not have ended up with what they had coming looking for.  But at least they came looking!

1) This Is Only A Test — Reach the Masses — No brainer that this post, which was Freshly Pressed as one of WordPress’s daily picks, would end up being my most popular one ever.  Being recommended to millions of potential readers (or viewers, or users) is an undeniable advantage, and reaching that goal explains a huge chunk of our economy (advertising, morning “news” shows, The American Voice Factor’s Sing Off’s Got Idle Talent).  But, again, this is where marketing and quality intersect — and reverberate.  I put a lot of time and effort into this post, because I knew it could be good, and that work was rewarded by the WordPress recognition.  It was then further rewarded because many of the folks who came to Figuring Out Fulfillment for the first time with this post were impressed enough with what they saw to become followers.  In the end, this post proved both the power of mass marketing and the crucial importance of quality in everything you do.