What does a good answer on Quora look like? What does it mean to "be helpful"? by @chimbrew
Answer by Andrei Cimbru:
At the beginning of 2016 I had decided that if there’s one thing that I’m going to stick with from my News Year’s resolution that’s going to be to write great and valuable content.
The first time I ever wrote anything online was May 2015. It was an article about comparing running with entrepreneurship. It got maybe 1000 views and 10 comments in 5 months. But those comments were so encouraging that they propelled me in a journey of reverse engineering and creating content that people value.
Through a process I constantly tweak and improve I managed to get almost 3 million readers in 7 months this year. Got published on different news outlets such as AskMen, Thought Catalog, Huffington Post and also build a newsletter of almost 3000 people. This later encouraged me to create my own blog.
So let’s see the process of writing valuable content that your readers can connect with.
People always fear they don’t have anything interesting to say. If you are alive, you are all set. You can turn anything into a story, a lesson or a valuable piece of advice for someone. There’s 7 billion people out there. Someone is going through something you already did and you could help them. The fun part in this process is that you don’t need to stress about a “niche” yet. Write about what you care and polish it until it’s the most valuable piece of content related to that topic.
To achieve this you go through the following steps.
You might want to write about your favourite barbecue sauce and how that goes amazingly with vanilla ice-cream (give me a second to recover from that picture in my head).
I’m sure there are at least 100 people in the world who would want to read about that but if you also have the talent to write about social skills that can help people make friends easier you might find 10x times more people who want to read about that.
Set your priorities to help as many people as possible.
Let’s take the example from above: friends and relationships. This is an important aspect in every person’s life. But you know what’s a bigger priority? Having a roof over your head, not starving of hunger, feeling safe from attacks and violence.
Someone who doesn’t know if they will be able to pay rent tomorrow doesn’t really care about “10 yoga stands that make you feel more energetic”. They would be more attracted to something like “How to stand out at your next interview”.
The higher up the pyramid of needs you go the less people you will find.
The Hook: How does your content stand out in the first few lines?
The Reason: Why should I continue reading? Why should I care?
The Shift: How are things now vs how they could be in the future. (this is where you include tips, strategies, tactics, the events of the story, analogies, supporting data)
The Personal Touch: What’s the unexpected element you can bring to this topic?
The High Note: What’s the main take-away for the reader or the “Aha” moment?
The Closure: Wrap up the journey and key learning points.
The Call to Action: Where do we go from here? What’s next?
Checking if your content has these 6 elements gives it a higher chance to spread.
Interesting: “I’m reading more information about something that’s trending today”
Needed: “Is it something I need in my life or something that’s just good to know?”
Actionable: “Nice to know but can I also implement this somehow?”
Has a Twist: “Wow! I read 10 more posts about this topic but this was unexpected!”
Self Interest: “How does it serve me or rise my own value in the world?”
Relatable: “I totally connect with your initial situation and how you overcame it”
It’s easy to start writing a 1000 word story about “How does a productive day in your life look like” where you talk about habits and useful time management hacks.
But if 80% of your article is about how you walk your cat every morning so it can do its cat rituals and 20% actual useful information that you reader can implement, they will not come back a second time when they see your name pop up. (Or maybe they will if your cat walking stories are spectacular and intriguing)
I started a blog only after writing on online platforms months before. If you ever want to start a blog what should your focus be? It can be one category, maybe two but make sure you don’t stretch too much because nobody will have any idea what’s your expertise.
As a conclusion remember these sentences to keep you going.
- You might follow these rules to the letter. You might put in a lot of work and nobody will care. Answers that took me 10 hours to create barely made 1000 views and articles that I wrote on the commute from my phone got 600k views. There is nothing more crushing that putting so much work in a post and see it gather spiderweb. Focus on the process not the results. Create. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
- Don’t be afraid to write authentically in your own voice as if you would be talking to your closest friend. When creating anything online people will always judge you. Might as well judge you for who you truly are.
- Many times you will feel like an imposter. You will be overwhelmed by the attention you get. You will also be overwhelmed by the failed posts and ask yourself if you have any idea what you’re doing. Find your own true fan and focus on writing the best quality piece you can for him.
- You will face a lot of resistance. You will try to keep yourself “busy” with things that don’t really matter that much for the overall result just so you feel like you’re doing something. This is just delaying the hard work. The hardest thing for a writer is to stare at a blank page and conquer it.
- You can copy your idol all you want and study his or hers methods to reverse engineer them. To truly stand out you must eventually find the courage to write in your own original way even if it means losing some initial traction. You have a unique mind. Make your writing match it.
I troubleshoot through life and deconstruct the science behind confidence, positive influence and how to create remarkable work.
Grab the PDF version of the full infographic from above on.