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While it might not be nice to exclude people, it can sure be handy in content marketing.
Exclusive content is a strange beast. It goes against our natural inclination to make as much available to as many people all the time. Yet, if done right, exclusive content can be incredibly effective at getting your audience to take action.
How do you make people want something?
Exclusivity works because, frankly, people like to be in on the secret. Exclusivity makes people want something. If they can’t have it, they want it all the more.
Some of us take a bit of pleasure when others are excluded (though we’d rather not admit that). We’d rather be in the group than out of it, and if it’s a small group that not everyone can join even though they want to, we feel pretty good about ourselves when we get in. We feel special.
Exclusivity also works for companies who offer their product to any customer who wants it, but on very specific terms. In this realm (think of Netflix and their show “House of Cards”, which they distribute exclusively), the product has to be excellent, people have to be able to find it, and you have to be able to keep people from spreading it beyond what you control (keep it exclusive).
Exclusivity makes people want something, and it works in two ways:
Exclusivity doesn’t work if you “only” make 50 available and only one person wants it, anyway. There has be be demand for your product, whether it’s a real demand or one you conjure up through clever marketing and pushing the psychological buttons of your audience.
The language you use in your copy can be exclusive, even if the item itself actually isn’t exclusive.
QuickSprout does an excellent job describing how exclusive language is a powerful way to convince people to do something in their (fantastic) “Definitive Guide To Copywriting.” Some of the phrases that motivate people to sign up are:
You get the idea.
The words you use can instigate a little bit of panic, greed, or curiosity in a person so that they feel compelled to sign up. Though you’re not actually limiting access (everyone who signs up gets it), the language you use to prompt people to sign up hints at feelings of exclusivity.
But what about taking exclusivity beyond just the language we use in our copy? Could we create actual exclusive content? Should we try something like that?
While your blog and social media are your content foundations, exclusivity is like a window that lets your audience feel like they got a peek at something special.
Exclusivity often has a partner in crime, and that’s scarcity. Scarcity uses words such as:
When there are fewer opportunities available, it necessarily creates exclusivity: the group that got a rare item are an exclusive group indeed. Buy it while you still can. Get it before it’s gone.
Creating scarcity is a terrifying gamble.
Content marketers are programmed to think that we need to get our content out as much as possible to as many as possible. Bigger audience! More traffic! More shares! Making our content scarce doesn’t seem to fit that playbook. Can we make scarce content work? If we limit the amount available, won’t we be shooting ourselves in the foot?
Scarcity will work if:
True exclusivity is difficult with digital goods; you might only email out 100 newsletters, but anyone can forward them. Tying them to something tangible (everyone who signs up gets a free pony) has a certain appeal (I’d skip the pony). But is the point that you’re trying to limit who has access, or to make access seem special?
It should be the latter. It’s about creating exclusivity in that moment when someone is deciding on whether or not to sign up for your email list. What might that look like?
The bonus in all of this?
Scarcity and exclusivity allow you to create events around availability. You can promote them on your blog, social media, the whole nine yards. Instead of “sign up for our email list” all the time, it’s “for a limited time, we’re opening the doors for new subscribers!” Promote it, hype it. Because it’s a bona fide event.
Exclusivity can be like a club with membership restrictions. Either everyone can’t join, or everyone can join but there are requirements that necessarily weed some people out (paid membership, for example). When the entrance is guarded, you’ll see language like this:
It’s like having a bouncer for your content. You only allow some in to see it.
Why would you restrict who can access your content? There are a few reasons that come to mind.
Social networks make it easy to set up “guarded” groups. Google+ does a great job at this (though you can create groups in Facebook, too). There are a few ways you can set up a guarded environment and control access to the content in Google+.
You can do the same on your own WordPress site, too, by limiting who can see what.
Exclusive content doesn’t need to have any actual boundaries, scarcity, or restrictions on it. If it is merely less obvious or not heavily promoted, it can almost seem exclusive. Think of it as being quietly or subversively exclusive.
Please Don’t Tell is a New York City bar that has no front door. Really. The entrance to the club is through a “phone booth” located inside of a hot dog restaurant called Crif Dogs.
You have to know about it being there, you have to call and get a reservation to be allowed in, and you may still have to wait (it’s a small space). Like that hidden bar, you can create exclusivity through friction with your content by not making the access easy and obvious.
You can make content exclusive not based on price or on availability, but purely on the basis of not publicizing it much. This exclusivity works on the human desire to be in the know or having the right connections to find out about it.
One way I decided to try my hand at this on my own blog was to rethink exclusivity for my email list.
I wasn’t happy with my regular weekly email that went out that listed the latest blog posts and had some graphics. It felt impersonal and forgettable. I wanted to change it in a way that made me more comfortable with my blog writing while being more personal with those who had signed up. I felt that those on the list who bothered to give me their email should get something special.
I switched from MailChimp to TinyLetter. It has a more simple interface that feels more like you are sending out a simple text email to friends. It encourages direct replies from people. I can’t automate the email with an RSS feed; I write it as if sending a message to my friends.
But then I started to see it as more than just an email. The way that TinyLetter lets you set up your subscription page and include a link to the archives almost makes it feel as if each email were a simple blog post. Once I started thinking of it in those terms, I began to see that my exclusive content for my readers would be personal emails and short essay-type posts that get sent to them and are not found on my main blog.
The content is available for anyone to see. It’s right there, through my TinyLetter archives. But I’m not actively publicizing it beyond the usual “be a member of my email list.” It’s sort of a secret benefit.
If not through TinyLetter, think of the notes apps you are using. Many of them publish so that anyone with the link has access to the document.
Why would you create content that was “hidden”?
Before you go nuts for exclusive content, understand why you’re doing it.
On my personal blog, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of vast swaths of humanity reading it. Smaller, quieter, fewer–that was attractive. In that case, exclusivity wasn’t to entice larger numbers, but to keep the writer-reader exchange more personal.
You, however, may want to create a clamoring audience dying to get in.
Exclusivity is like a word-of-mouth matchstick that lights the buzz around your content. You want to fan the flames and keep the energy high, pressed up against the gates to get in. You don’t want to open it up all the way and lose that pressure, that force, but you need to keep a steady trickle going to keep the fire from dying out. You have to give them hope that they’ll get in at some point, or they’ll give up and walk away.
Keep your WordPress blog chugging along. Stay on track with your content marketing. Share on social media. But consider some of the ways you might create exclusive content if you want to try a new method of attracting readers.
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