A Guilty Pleasure of the Blogosphere and Social Media: Lists

Yes, they’re popular. And yes, you probably secretly like them even if you complain and post negative comments every time one graces page one of Digg. Of course, I’m talking about lists (top 10 lists, top 100 lists, top 9000 lists, you name it).

Lists are a popular way to arrange content on the web for a number of reasons. Wait for it – I’m going to list them.

Lists:

  • Are scan-able
  • Provide easy to read and consume content
  • Have the novelty factor
  • Are many times “must-share” content
  • Engage people
  • Are at times humorous, entertaining or incredible
  • Are a strong social web meme
  • Get strong traffic

There are 58+ pages of top 10 lists that have made page one of Digg. And that’s just for “top 10” lists!

I’ve heard plenty of people on social media sites bemoaning the fact that yet another “top list” is being shared around the web, but hey – people like them and find (at least some of) them useful.

I’ve posted my fair share of lists at The Future Buzz, let’s look at a few:

Hopefully putting the first part of this post in list format has given you some insight into why lists are so popular. They break up posts and articles that otherwise would have far too much content to go through if not broken down into consumable parts.

Yes, some of them are purely novelty factor, but a well put together list can be a fantastic piece of content on the web just like it is in glossy magazines and on David Letterman’s late night show.

Since I have a slew of different kinds of readers here, in the realms of blogging, marketing, freelancing writing, and PR, I’m just going to go through a few quick ways each of you can take advantage of lists.

These are just one way for each niche of reader here to get your thinking started, there are so many ways you can use lists – and the more creative, the better. On to a few quick examples:

If you’re a blogger, create “the ultimate” list

For example, if you’re a health food blogger, create “The Ultimate List of 94 Foods that Boost Memory.” Spend a good amount of time researching an incredible number of something. This type of list can be painstaking, but I’ve seen many bloggers do this successfully time and time again. If you’re a design blogger, you could do something like “50 Absolutely Stunning Designs that will make your Jaw Drop.” You get the idea.

If you’re a PR person, consider pitching a story in list format

The list format is a popular meme around the blogosphere, so if you want bloggers to tell your story, consider putting your pitch into a list format. Even if they don’t use it, they will appreciate you breaking up the content for them into consumable parts. Certainly, it’s not the typical bad pitch they see, especially if you get creative with it.

If you’re an editor, put your site’s content into a “best of” list

This is a great tactic to get new visitors to your site to see some of your best content quickly and easily. With the huge expansion of web publishers, doing this once in awhile to bring new life to old content is a great way to recycle your stuff in a format that will be met favorably with both old and new readers to your site. After all, not all subscribers will ever read everything.

Bonus: here’s a neat idea for a startup involving lists: a “social lists site:” a site that is made up of articles and videos that are in purely list-based format from around the web. You could aggregate links of lists from blogs, magazines and newspapers and put them together with comments, voting, etc. You could invite bloggers to submit all their lists to that site and work to promote their content, driving traffic to both your site and their blog while establishing yourself as the ultimate list aggregator. Now every time someone published a list on their site, they would consider submitting it to your social list site.

You could even do some neat sorting options (sort by topic, sort by number of items in lists, display lists only from newspapers, bloggers, etc). With thousands of bloggers creating lists daily, and even entire blogs dedicated to lists (check out OMG Lists for example) there is no lack of content to try this.