If you’re reading this, you’re most likely already familiar with the listicle. In brief, listicles are short-form articles that are structured as numbered lists with snappy subheadings. With the rise of list-heavy sites such as BuzzFeed, listicles have exploded in popularity over the past few years. Nevertheless, few content managers, bloggers and marketers have truly mastered the art of creating the perfect listicle. A good listicle has to be easy to read but is never easy to write. Granted, the aspiring listicle writer won’t spend hours crafting an in-depth narrative. But it’s precisely because listicles appear easy to write that there’s an abundance of bad ones out there. If you’ve been trying to wrap your mind around the listicle, here’s everything you need to know to become a listicle pro.
Embrace the listicle and don’t take yourself too seriously
It’s true – listicles are fun, they’re seldom hard-hitting, and most don’t require days and days of research. That doesn’t mean that no self-respecting writer would ever touch the listicle, though – quite the opposite. You might feel like a five-page investigative essay stretches your craft more than a listicle does, but a versatile writer is a good writer. Embrace the listicle as a very effective content technique, and learn to value listicles for their viral potential, their ability to entertain through a mixed-media approach, and their relaxed tone. Writing listicles won’t make you a bad writer. Instead, the ability to produce entertaining and shareable lists will turn you into a great writer with a flexible craft. Great writers get read, and nothing gets your work read like an original and funny listicle.
Plan your work
A common misconception about listicles is that they require little to no planning ahead of the writing process. That’s not true. The best listicles are thought through. They are the listicles that actually give the reader valuable information because the writer has thought about what they need to say, how to best lead the reader through the article, and what research needs to be done. A listicle isn’t an open invitation to turn a lack of ideas and inspiration into a full-blown article. A listicle is rather a fun way to present great content to a huge potential audience. Mind maps are great tools to collect ideas and jot down thoughts while planning a listicle, but a simple list – who would have thought – does the job just as well. Don’t try to make a listicle out of thin air. You will struggle to find readers, and you will be lucky if people engage with your piece at all. Treat listicle readers with the same respect that you would accord to the readers of your favourite print magazine, and produce some seriously great content for them.
Find your listicle voice
Humor is always a plus. If you can make the reader laugh, you’ve already won. But finding the perfect voice for your listicle is difficult, especially if you’re used to writing more serious content. It might take you some time to master the light-hearted listicle approach to writing, but the key is not to give up. You don’t need to come up with one joke after the other. Instead, try to go for a fun, conversational tone – just as if you were talking to a friend, telling them a funny story. Once you feel comfortable with this informal writing style, you can try and push it a little further. This is where it comes in handy to have a friend or colleague read your work and give you honest feedback. If they think your listicle voice doesn’t sound sincere, or your jokes are lame, give it another try. If they think your sentences are too long and complicated, they’re most definitely right. It’s all about trial and error, and feedback can help you figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how to have your tone match the type of content you are producing.
Compose the perfect title & subheadings
Your title is what will make readers click a link – or choose to ignore it. It’s crucial if you want your listicle to succeed, and even though there are impressive amounts of generically titled listicles floating around the world wide web, creating a good title is in fact not that hard. Of course, you know that numbers are important (23 Ways To Do X), and you want your title to accurately reflect your content. But it’s also important for a title to reflect your voice – there are plenty of reasons why readers might choose to click on a link. One of them is that they are convinced the content will be interesting or relevant to them. Another reason is that they think they are in for an amazing read, and maybe even some laughter. Let your writing personality shine through the title to get not only clicks but devoted readers. The same goes for subheadings. In today’s busy world with thousands of distractions waiting just around the corner, most readers will – as sobering as this is – probably merely skim your content. That’s where subheadings come in. Write every subheading for someone who won’t have time to read the whole listicle, but still wants to get an idea of what you’re writing about. Make it as funny, snappy and informative as the rest of your listicle.
Frame your content
Like every great piece of art, your listicle deserves a beautiful frame. So, what does this mean exactly? It’s essential to ease the reader into your list – and gently ease them out of it once they are done. Don’t simply start by listing your points. Take the time to provide a quick introduction so the reader knows exactly what to expect from the next few minutes of their life. This is your chance to convince them that your listicle will be exactly what they were looking for, whether that’s a giggle or some helpful advice. Is your listicle funny? Be funny in your introduction, and make them keep reading. Is your listicle a how-to guide? Prove to the reader that you understand the problem and can help them out with a solution. Likewise, after you’re done with the list, don’t just leave your reader in the dark. Wrap up the article neatly with a brief summary, include a call-to-action or point them to more helpful resources. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily apply if your listicle consists of a few funny cat GIFs only. But if you put some time and effort into composing your listicle, give it the credit it deserves by treating it like you would treat any other piece of written content.
Get visual aid
It’s never a mistake to complement your listicle with some great visual material – if it works to help subpar lists get those clicks, imagine what it could do for a fun, informative listicle! This works for any kind of listicle and will engage the reader in an instant, making it more likely that they will keep reading rather than clicking onto the next one. You don’t need to have the perfect photo ready. Of course, it’s great to have a picture, but if you lack access to a good camera or a suitable motive, there are many tools that can help you create quick and easy graphics with minimal know-how, such as the popular online editor Canva. Are you not a visual person? That’s no excuse anymore. With an abundance of great quality original stock photos available online for free and easy access to editing tools, everyone can make their listicle visual. You could even consider collaborating with an illustrator, photographer or graphic designer for more extensive listicle projects. Great visuals are good, great content is better – but mix those two and you’ve got a winner on your hands.
Now that you know what it takes to write an awesome listicle, it’s time for you to put this toolkit into action. Writing a great listicle is not only a great exercise for any content creator, but it’s a handy way to present information in a fun, engaging, and shareable way. If you’re looking to engage a broad audience, mastering the listicle is the way to go.