11 Ways to Improve Your Blog Posts With Interviews

social media how toIf you’re reading this, you likely understand the importance of good content. You know the formula: valuable content = influence = social reach = traffic = more reach… and so on. But do you know the secret to great content?

As marketers, we often look for the next big tool to differentiate ourselves. But did you know the most powerful content-creative tool was invented long before social media? It doesn’t involve keeping a Kodak Zi8 in your pocket, either. And you don’t need a fancy new Twitter strategy or some snazzy FBML.

The most powerful content tool is also the oldest. It’s the tool that brought us some of the most compelling moments in history—from fallen leaders to pop-culture confessions. It’s the tool that made Oprah arguably one of the most powerful brands on the planet. And the same one that Barbara Walters used to reach the most influential people of our time.

Your Content Advantage: The Interview

Yes, the interview. Powerful interviews create timeless content. Yet when it comes to blogging, we neglect to use our most powerful weapons. Master blog interview tactics and your content will surely make an impactin any situation.

Interview-based content is valuable to your readers and more likely to be shared.

Famous rocker Glenn Danzig once said, “unfortunately, I have to say, one out of every 100 interviews I do, I get a real journalist.” So whether you write for yourself, your boss, a client or an industry analyst, leave the impression of a professional. Blog interviewing is a must-learn tactic.

Interviews can be recrafted into unique blog posts. The trick is asking the right questions.

Here are 11 lines of questioning you can use to extract great material:

#1: Informational Post

Q: What are the three biggest benefits to your target audience and why?

Many writers mistakenly focus on whiz-bang features, measures or accomplishments, but readers often have difficulty relating to these. By focusing on benefits, you push the interview subject to think outside of features and bells and whistles. Benefits are far more persuasive than features, and they are well-received by a larger audience.

#2: The Numbered List

Q: What are the [insert #] top questions asked by your [customers, readers, followers]? What are [#] more?

By using a two-part question, you force the subject to rank the priority of each item—space is limited. The second part of the question allows you to open it up, but you’ll know the items that really matter in your subject’s mind. Prioritized lists are important because many readers judge the value of your post by the first few items.

Numbered list posts often gain broad reach via social media. The two-part approach brings the reader in more effectively.

#3: The Mini Case Study

Q: Tell me about a day in your life—before and after the solution you chose.

By asking the subject to speak about his or her life, in personal rather than business terms, you’ll better extract how quality of life or work was improved. This leads to deeper and more unique follow-up questions and a strong emotional connection to your audience.

Ford continues to deliver a more “human” approach with case studies, making them more compelling blog posts for a larger audience.

#4: Link or Resource Round-Ups

Q: If you had a list of ‘best-kept secrets’ [websites, books, coaches] you’d recommend, which would you include and why?

By asking for resources outside the mainstream, you’re likely to get a round-up that’s far more unique than other round-up blogs that mention the same mainstream thing.

#5: Expert Guide

Q: What tips can you recommend that you’d only share with a close friend (and everyone reading this blog)?

This line of questioning will force the subject to think outside the box. The subject benefits because he or she becomes even more of an expert, while your readers will be all but guaranteed unique content.

#6: Common Pitfalls or Problems

Q: What are three hard-to-spot pitfalls that are critical to avoid?

Even people who have moderate knowledge of a topic know about obvious pitfalls. Focusing on the most difficult hurdles to spot will make you a hero in the eyes of the people you save.

#7: Predictions or Trends

Q: Looking out 3 to 5 years, beyond the obvious trends, what do you think will be the next big change in your industry?

If you focus more than a year or two in the future, you’ll push your subject to stay away from the obvious. Example: If you’re a marketer, you don’t get much value from your subject telling you that social media will be huge next year.

By focusing beyond the near future, blog posts are more likely to offer unique, rather than trending, insights. This means original content, more links and broader reach.

#8: Response to Another Blog or Current Event

Q: When you first read that [article, blog post, comic, etc.], what was your gut reaction

This phrasing gives the subject psychological permission to tell you his or her honest opinion and not necessarily the prepared one.

#9: Inspirational Post or Client Story

Q: What are three things you’ve told yourself that kept you going during your darkest hour?

This question immediately turns the interview subject from an interviewee into a coach and sage. You’ll be surprised at how this single powerful question can literally transform an entire interview.

Building an emotional hook early in the post inspired readers to continue reading and likely share the story with others.

#10: Personal Profile or Biographical Q&A

Q: What are three life memories you recall most frequently and why?

The memories we recall most are often the ones that have had the biggest impact on our lives. You’ll likely learn a lot about your subject by following this line of questioning.

Asking questions that make your subject a storyteller reveals his or her real voice and creates a more compelling storyline.

#11: Product, Service or Book Review

Q: What was the most difficult thing you decided to exclude from this review and what was your reasoning?

This question opens the interview subject up to a discussion about some of the things that may have been important but were not included for a variety of reasons. External factors like time, space, politics or other issues often don’t let reviewers include everything they’d like.

These eleven questions can help you craft great content for your blog. By interviewing, you’ll generate content that gives you tremendous reach.

I’d like to hear from you. What other lines of questioning have you used to enhance your blogging? Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

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About the Author, Ryan Malone

Ryan Malone runs SmartBug Media, a content marketing agency, HubSpot Partner and creator of the new ebook Your Secret Weapon: 76 Blog Interview Questions that Kill the Competition. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.colemanmg.com Antonio Coleman

    Ryan..I do many interviews each month..and the power you get from them when it comes to credibility and as an interviewer..is priceless. Its helps your content and growth of your site traffic.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Antonio – You are dead on! Interviews rock

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    @Black – good to here. Super powerful.

  • http://mytwittertoolbox.com David Perdew

    I have enjoyed the interview posts on this site, so you guys obviously have learned how to do make the most of them. When done well, they can be more interesting and last longer in someone’s mind, because they can put a face and personality to the words being said. It breaks up the monotony of reading paragraphs in posts, something even the most colorful writers can’t “dress up” all the time. I do audio interviews occasionally, and these are some good guidelines for bringing the best out of those you decide to interview.

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    David – you may also consider using interview to gather content that is written in your own voice rather than transcript-oriented interviews. They’ve helped me go from zero to very competent on topics I had little knowledge of before the interview started.

  • http://www.facebook.com/japolloni Jessica Apolloni

    i love that glenn danzig was referenced in this!

  • http://www.jessilicious.com/ Jess Webb

    Wow, this is an awesome guide to doing interviews – I love it! And super timely for me, as well, as I’ve just started doing some interviews on my blog and was wanting to really “juice” them up a bit. Thank you!! This is a lifesaver! ;)

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  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    Jessica – I’m a fan. :)

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    Glad you like Jess, be creative with who you interview and you’ll get some really cool results.

  • AD

    It is not possible for every blogger. But idea is powerful and incredible.

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    Hi Atul, What are the instances you say aren’t possible, maybe I can provide a couple ideas?

  • AD

    Simply take example of me. It is not possible to me take interviews. Like me other bloggers have not yet big business. I can’t tell it is not possible but not for every blogger. if I want to take interview of SME(Socialmediaexaminer). Is it possible for me? I will appreciate your suggestions for me.

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    I can’t comment on SME, but I will tell you that interviews don’t have to be done in the fashion that many people do them — getting a celebrity to answer your questions. You can use them VERY effectively to source unique information from experts about a topic on which you are writing. You don’t need a big business to do that. Many experts are experts of smaller niches and are more than willing to share knowledge with you. Get creative and be unique about whom you interview and the topics and you’ll see some interesting results.

  • http://brite-talk.com Andrea DeBell – britetalk

    I tend to not like to read interview posts that much so I never tried one on my blog. You gave me some great ideas on how interviews can actually be very informative and helpful to my readers. And you are so right, the questions make all the difference between a great interview and an ok one.
    Thanks for this wisdom. Loving blessings!

  • http://socialbizlocalbiz.com/ Kate L Williams

    Ryan, I’m so impressed by the number of ideas you have given us to expand the range of interview types we can use to develop content for our blogs. In my experience, interviewing is a pleasure because it makes the research process interactive and social and it connects people to each other through the interview. It’s also draws out the expertise and wisdom of the subject who usually ends up loving the process of sharing that with others. Thanks for your work!
    Kate Williams, Social Biz Local Biz

  • http://AltaeeBlog.com/ Mohammed Al-Taee

    I am doing “Insight From The Pros” Brand Conversations and will love to interview Micheal and Ryan :)

    http://altaeeblog.com/brand-conversations

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  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    Anytime Andrea – have a great weekend.

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    Kate – you are TOTALLY right on interviews making the research process pleasurable. I personally love the interaction with folks. Side benefit – you do enough of them and you can pretty much hang at ANY cocktail party :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.simmel Bill Simmel

    Ryan, Great information – it should be REQUIRED reading for anyone with a FB Fan Page or thinking of implementing on – They would understand methodology and the goals they should be attempting to achieve. Too many FB fan pages aunfortunately hurt the brand/person more than they help.

  • http://www.lorirtaylor.com/ LoriRTaylor

    These are great ideas – thank you so much. I’ve have a new radio show and it’s so important you have a plan going into it guests like it and gives a person a reason to want to watch. I have learned important to front stuff your show because you can grab a 5 minute clip and share that much easier to get people interested in the interview. Also transcribing it is huge for increasing traffic. Itunes should always be incorporated – it’s free and makes you more accessible. I am active in the DMA – one of the popular formats is 30 ideas in 30 minutes. You could easily interview via skype and record 1 minute answers from 30 people – compile together, share the audio, but write a cool post around it. Adding photos and uploading to http://slideshare.net is helpful as well. Interviews are the best way to re-chunk and reuse the content in multiple ways. Seize the minute – make 1 minute last hours. :)

  • http://www.lorirtaylor.com/ LoriRTaylor

    Andrea – I never listen to them either! I like to read. But having them transcribed and reformatting them as a bullet list can be a great blog post – just link to interview if they want to “listen”.

  • http://mai.do/ Gabriele Maidecchi

    I have posted just one interview on my blog, yet it is the post which had received the most page hits in weeks.
    That’s why I can safely confirm interview posts can be a great asset among your blogging tools.

  • http://www.mobilecubix.com iPhone Application Developer

    I am fully agree with (Atul) because if i created a blog on application how it is possible that announced some mystery news for audience

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    Thanks Bill. Glad you liked.

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    That’s a fantastic approach, Lori. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    Keep is up Gabriele.

  • noblinkmedia

    Really great points, Ryan. I’m in the process of starting my blog which is being constructed now. However, I started doing video interviews in preparation for its launch. In fact, a couple of days ago I had the privilege of interviewing Amy Porterfield. She gave me some really great how-to Facebook content. I just wish I had read this article before I did the her interview. LOL

    Still, this article will help me with future interviews.

    Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/Apposl Apposl

    This really gave me some great ideas as I’m about to launch something I see a lot of potential for in a niche I’m passionate about, that I know I can get a lot of people in the community talking about. So seeing an informative article like this is an early Christmas present – very timely.

    Suggestions for finding an experienced interviewer if you’d like a few ‘done right,’ at least the first few times? While I’m passionate about the topic I tend to err on the side of having a professional do things, at least until I’m up to speed. ;-)

    Thanks!

  • earnerblogs.blogspot.com

    ok dear i will keep mind these things deeply

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  • http://coworkingon15th.com/ eric diaz

    Wish I would have read this a week ago! Good ideas Ryan, your right sometimes the best strategies aren’t necessarily something that is brand new or just invented…

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    Apposl,

    I would argue that you’re more than qualified. Think through some of these questions and and then just have a conversation. The best interview are not the ones with the stages Q&A, they are the ones where two people are talking about a topic with some direction. You will get the best information with out the filters usually associated with traditional Q&A. For the targets? Look for the niche magazines in your space and hunt down some of the people mentioned in the publication.

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    Indeed.

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com/ Ryan Malone – SmartBug Media

    Go back and hit her up with a second interview topic. :)

  • noblinkmedia

    Or how about scheduling you to get a few gems of wisdom? ;)

    Thanks,

    Paul

  • Jillyotz

    Thanks for this post- it really focuses on the important questions to ask. When I compile questions for an interview, I often find myself asking too many questions that seem to dance around the subject; these questions really help.

    Another idea when trying to keep an interview interesting is to sum up the overall experience as a “10 things uncovered about this [cool person]“. Here’s an example:

    http://www.jillyotz.com/2011/01/small-biz-showcase-1-trevor-larkin.html .

    Do you have any suggestions for the presentation of interviews? The content generated by good questions is definitely key, and good questions tend to illicit detailed responses, but I tend to be turned off from reading the interview if it looks like the answers are long and drawn out!

    Thanks again- great article.

  • Jillyotz

    Great suggestion! I’m going to try it!

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  • chriskstreeter

    Do you give the interiewee the questions you will be asking them prior to the interview?

  • Joslyn

    What works on your blog instead of doing interviews? I’m curious. I’m looking for good content myself.







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