Write Great Controversial Content – to Debate or Not to Debate

cartoons debatingGetting people to hate your content is just as important as getting people to like it right? I think so, and I recently learned the value of writing content that caused a debate when I wrote an article titled, “She Wrote an Article About These SEO Tips and You Won’t Believe What Matt Cutts Did Next. Especially After He Saw Tip #5,” and quite a few people were upset, but boy did it get a lot of attention.

Why was this good? Because it got people talking. And that’s the point, right? To get people talking?

I for one love getting into discussions about content I find all over the web. But I make sure to respect the people offering their opinions and engage them in a way that is civil. I find it such a shame when people debate and it turns into an ugly match, where readers sink to the level of attacking one another personally.

That being said, there’s a fine line to walk when writing controversial content to foster engagement. Even though your brand stands for something (and if it doesn’t, why not?), you don’t want to risk taking it too far and alienating your readers. The point isn’t to necessarily provoke people, but to get them to notice the content being discussed. In other words, you want your audience to get into a debate about your content, not to produce something that can hurt someone’s feelings.

Does that mean if you create controversial content you run the risk of these types of detrimental comments? Certainly. Does that mean you shouldn’t write them? Absolutely not. What do I mean by that? Well, for one, you want content that will motivate people to share their opinions, and one that doesn’t provoke emotions where they will get generally upset. Basically, don’t take things too far, but just far enough.

Oh, fear not! I’ve got other suggestions for you.

Make a Point

It’s a no brainer. If you’re just writing controversial content for the sole purpose of stirring up controversy, people are going to go away. They’ll most likely get so annoyed with you that next time they see your name, they won’t even want to see your content. So make a point, whether it’s offering your point of view (with logical reasons of course) or giving advice. On that note, make sure you back up your arguments with statistics or relevant sources. You’re trying to make a point, so the more authoritative you look, the better your content. You should aim for that every time you publish something on the web (or anywhere for that matter).

Give the reader a takeaway message, and let them debate it out in the comments, social media channels, whatever.

Pick Relevant Topics

Publishing content, whether or not it is controversial, should always be relevant to your industry or niche. That includes your company values and mission. So if you’re in the mobile app business, it doesn’t make sense that you’re talking about controversy over the latest type of GMO produce. Unless, it’s an app or something.

But you get my point. You want your controversial article to target the right types of people and to get them talking. So out there and get at ‘em, tiger.

Use Some Tried and True Templates

Yeah, I get it. You want to be original. Using “templates” doesn’t mean you’re copying somebody else’s content, rather, you’re using using the bones of techniques that work to elevate your content. It’s not a bad thing, right?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1)    The Messenger

This type of article is one where you’re not necessarily presenting your own opinion, but letting statistics and research do the talking. For example, “New Research From Conductor Concludes Google Has 85% of Search Traffic, Not 67% as comScore Reports” is allowing different research papers on conflicting data do all the talking. The author is merely just presenting the information.

2)    Popularity Wins

Angle your content to a popular topic, and it’ll stir up debates time after time. For example, Social Trigger’s “The ‘Content is King’ Myth Debunked” article is a great example of taking a popular topic and creating debate around the topic. In it, he argues that design is more important when people first visit the website. And Derek Halpern certainly got quite a few people talking.

Center your content around something really popular, and watch your engagement soar.

3)    Head to Head

Pick two topics, and discuss which one you want to side with and why.

For example, Kissmetrics’ article Coding vs. Relationship Building: Which is More Important for You to Focus On?” discusses whether or not we need non-technical people in online businesses.

Be Prepared

Be very prepared. You obviously wrote what you wrote to stir up debate, so you need to expect it. That means you’ll get the good and the bad. Some people will expect you to respond to what they have to say. Something to keep in mind is be prepared to come up with a few ways to defend your stance when people are going to fight against it. Now if someone is being downright hurtful (e.g. personally attacking you), do not engage with them at all. After all, you are a professional and totally above that. Engage with people who are civil and want a healthy debate. You want to elevate your brand, not to have people remember you as feeding into negativity. You got it?

OK, go off and create your next controversial post. Let me know how it goes!

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