When it comes to writing blogs, there is an eternal battle between presenting information as fact and information as opinion. Whilst each have their merits, it is important to understand the differences between the two in order to present a balanced viewpoint for your readers.
Some pieces of writing that you do will be a straight presentation of facts. These will be your infographics, tables, graphs, case studies, and other objective data. However, on the other side of the table, opinion pieces give you an opportunity to present your own subjective viewpoint on a particular topic or issue.
One is not necessarily better than the other, but striking the right balance between the two can be important. You can, if you wish, market yourself as a pure opinion or factual blogger, but most people try to find a middle ground between the two.
I want to consider the factual blog and opinion blog one at a time. As I say, they are both important for the content marketer, and I think it’s sensible that bloggers get to grips with each one separately, just so we know what we’re writing.
However, where I think the real power lies is in those blog posts that skilfully combine the two disciplines – from these collisions, true thought leadership can be engendered, and ultimately, that is what I’d like to encourage all my fellow marketers to concentrate on in 2016.
Understanding Opinion Pieces
When writing an opinion piece, you are taking a side on a particular issue and trying to communicate to your audience why you believe your chosen side to be the correct one.
These kinds of blogs are great for promoting discussion on a topic and encouraging people to comment, like and share your work. If people feel strongly about a subject then they are often very quick and willing to let you know – especially if they disagree with it.
The benefits to you can work in a couple of different ways. Either a conversation will take off in your comments section, which is great for when Google is deciding how important your site is in terms of search engine rankings. On the other hand, people may write their own blogs offering a different perspective on what you have written, and may link to your article as a reference, which is again good for when you are trying to butter up Google.
When constructing an opinion piece, it is best to present your viewpoint in a polite, professional and non-confrontational way. The last thing you want is to gain a reputation for being a troll, however intellectual you may consider yourself to be.
Factual blogs seek to promote online activity in a different way to opinion blogs. Whereas opinion pieces seek to spark off discussion by taking a stance on a subject and seeing if people agree or disagree with you, factual blogs are different.
Factual blogs will usually present fact-based information as it is. They will involve graphs, tables, bullet points and infographics, and the text of the article will do little more than annotate the presented data. They are usually simple statements of what is happening in the numbers, and the author will usually refrain from offering any of their own insight or opinion on the matter.
The idea is that the presented data sparks discussion as the audience picks through it, and then offer their opinions on the topic. This way, factual piece writers can often promote discussion without having to worry about causing offence or alienating anybody. People are usually happy to give their opinion on some revealing facts if you ask for it (or even if you don’t), and this can be a great and low-stress way of fostering discussion.
Striking The Balance In Your Content Strategy
Opinion pieces can be inflammatory, and thus have an easier time prompting discussion. However, it’s not necessarily wise to play the precarious game of getting famous on the internet for all the wrong reasons. And by this I mean, having an opinion is fine, but being deliberately controversial is not if you want to seriously contend for more business. Whilst some people seem to be able to make a living out of being obnoxious on the web, most of us are trying to market our wares sensibly, and being inflammatory is rarely the way to go about this.
Factual blogs on the other hand may take a bit more work to gain traction, but you are less likely to attract aggressive comments (at least ones that are aimed at you, that is) and generally have a more relaxing time of it – which is why sticking only to the facts can be a rather laborious and drawn-out strategy for the content marketer.
Even so, most bloggers on the internet tend to take more of a neutral stance and concentrate on discussion pieces – but opinion bloggers, it has to be said, are usually the celebrities of the blogging world. Indeed, thought leaders are invariably opinion bloggers – just like the 3 giants in the tech space: Jeff Bullas, Guy Kawasaki and Mari Smith.
In fact, what these 3 pros get absolutely bang on is the way that they blend facts and opinions within their blogs. Indeed, none of these three ever make what you might consider to be outlandish claims, even in their most heated of opinion pieces. Rather, they look at the research, chew over the facts, and offer intelligent opinions based on the findings. It is in this regard that they have become thought leaders – and content marketers will do well to take heed of this technique.
Indeed, you’ll never be a thought leader if you don’t know the facts – and you’ll never form any proper opinions, either. No matter how charismatic and convincing you can write a piece of prose – a good blogger (and a good writer, for that matter) is a good researcher. So, do your homework, think about how what you have learned will impact your industry, and then present your opinions based on the facts.
This, in my opinion, is how you will win an engaged, loyal, trusted and large following.
Do you rely on opinions or facts when writing your blogs? Which works best for you? Let us know in the comments below.