Imagine being 9 again…
And your grammar teacher carries with him a thick splintered stick–worn with the beatings he’d given your classmates just minutes before.
Fear pulses through your veins.
He asks a question.
And every time he turns to your general direction, you fear you’ll be called on to answer. Your instincts tell you that the next brutal whack is going to be painfully cast into your little soft hand.
Such is my recollection of grammar class.
My teacher was from hell.Â He had a raging temper. Often breaking sticks on the backs and hands of children. From those who didn’t do homework, to those who gave the wrong answer when quized on some rule we just learned.
What angered him most was when one of us forgot to pack the grammar textbook into our heavy school bag. With six periods every day, each with its own exercise and textbook, it was often easy to forget.
Every night, my poor mother packed my bag for me to match the next day’s scheduele.
But that didn’t save me from a beating at the hands of this crazed adult.
He became increasingly ingenious at coming up with ways to hurt us. Sometimes he’d beat the back of our hands, on the knuckles, with the sharp edge of a ruler.
Once, when he left the room for a few moments to pee, his class snitch (otherwise known as the class president) wrote the names of other children who spoke while he was away. I happened to sneeze. And my name made the list.
On his return, the teacher called out the names of the “naughty” children. And one by one…
he squeezed a pen with sharp ridges between their fingers, only stopping when they cried.
When my turn came, I walked to the front with a sense of dread. I vowed not to cry. He took my little hand and squeezed my fingers against the pen’s ridges. I bravely held my tears inside me.
He continued to squeeze until my face turned red. But I held on and refused to cry.
Enraged by my obstinance, he thrust my hand into the desk with force. And laughed at me. Then announced to the class that I had gone red and was about to cry. I walked back to my desk ashamed. Though God knows why. I should have been smirking at my defiance.
He was an asshole, no shit. We were all scared of him.
Rarely was I punished by him, and yet I always dreaded his class.
Anyway, you’re probably wondering what my childhood’s grammar teacher had to do with my blog’s traffic.
Surely, after all these years, I am not still haunted by him.
Is that the reason I write correctly in my blog posts?
It couldn’t have been. He was my Arabic grammar teacher, not English.
When I began this very blog, earlier in the year, I knew that building traffic required one key thing. From my experience with video and article marketing, traffic depends heavily on how well I included related, industry-specific phrases in my posts.
It is this language that the search engines can read. It is the words included in your titles, the text of your posts, articles, and video descriptions that would be ranked in the search engines. They are the same (and similar) words people will search when looking for education about network marketing.
And since you couldn’t possibly think of all the language or create it all, it has to be dynamic and user-generated.
It has to be included in the comments and responses people leave behind.
If I could somehow encourage a set of readers to leave responses, I would in turn be able to grow my search rankings, traffic, and readership.
I’d done this successfully already with video and articles.
But what is the secret to getting interaction on a large scale with your content? Any content, be it video, article, or blog.
It was another average school day, at age 9, in my over-priced private school in Saudia Arabia. It was grammar class, again.
And once more, I was sitting at my desk silently and fearfully.
The asshole teacher asked a question of the class.
What the question was, I honestly don’t remember. But it was one of those problems that demanded one response or the other.
“Is this the object or the subject of the verb?” or something like that, he asked.
No volunteers. Not surprising. As if anyone wanted to be wrong with this armed and volatile bomb of a teacher in their proximity.
So he picks a…victim–i mean, a student. Seemingly at random. He asks him to answer.
The poor child, gave what he believed to be the correct answer: “The subject, sir?”
“How about you?” demands the teacher impatiently of another student behind him. “What do you think?”
“Umm….the object?” he responded hesitantly.
says the teacher.
Next, he moved to the child behind him and asked again. “Subject or object?”
This child answered with a little more confidence.
After all, he agreed with our seated classmate ahead of him.
The teacher moved down the class switfly. Each child following their cue. Each being left to sit. Once in a while, someone would break the pattern, but they mostly agreed with the seated child.
As my turn drew nearer, I was torn.
I didn’t agree with the seated children. I guessed if I gave the answer in my head, I’m as likely as the first kid to be asked to stand.
According to my training with my father, who as you know is a linguist, the correct answer should have been the Subject. I knew the full reasoning behind it too and wondered if I would be given a chance to explain my answer should I be punished for an incorrect response.
Should I give what I truly believed in my heart and soul was the correct answer? Should I risk being one of the odd few standing?
I had to make a decision. It was my turn.
“It’s the subject, sir.”
All the while, inside, I hoped against hope that by some weird and twisted luck I would be the exception and get to remain seated with the majority who gave the other answer.
Such was my primal instinct to be included.
No such luck.
“Stand up!” He said angrily.
I was immediately filled with regret. I began to doubt I made the right choice.
Once everyone in the class gave their response, there was a handful of us standing. My legs trembled in fear. As I knew the inevitable punishment was about to be dished to a group of us.
But in that inner struggle of mine was a lesson, about human nature, that burns in my memory.
Now, if you can see where this is going, then good on you, you’re a smart cookie 😉
What does this insight into human nature teach us?
How can it help you increase the interaction people have with your content?
And how does it grow the search engine traffic your videos and articles receive?
Simply put, it’s that humans want to feel included. They don’t want to be outcast by being different or being wrong.
But an opinion voiced first is not necessarily the correct way to feel about something. It’s only a testament to the braveness of the individual who dares to say what they really believe.
A funny thing happens when someone does that…
They immediately acquire a leadership quality. Bravery. And it begs followers.
Most people are afraid to take a stand one way or the other. As soon as they see a brave individual or a large group of people following one, they follow too. Surely, you’ve heard the saying
“strength in numbers”
Leaders are brave. The mob just follow and agree with the mob.
The earliest group of opinion-givers are the ones who steer the rest.
Your article or video are a representation of your opinion. It is an expression of leadership. It is your honest and possibly controversial, possibly wrong opinion.
With your articles, you already know that no one can be FORCED to respond or comment.
Yet, voicing your opinion you are displaying braveness that others envy and admire.
By providing the content, you are the child who dares to answer first. A self-appointed leader, brave, because you voluntarily take a stand without following.
But people will not necessarily follow you.
They have only one source of feedback–your expression. They may not trust you. What about the alternative?
Most people will not follow the leader. They actually follow the herd. So you don’t want to JUST be a leader. You have to create a herd or a following.
Once you get that first comment agreeing with you, the herd will create itself.
As more people arrive on your page to view your opinion, they will also see a number of people who agree with you. So will they.
They will feel reinforced by joining the herd, because we believe that being included is less painful than making a mistake.
Social proof. That’s what it’s called in marketing, when a majority makes one choice against another.
People who are unsure will refuse to say anything out of fear of being outcast. They may wait to see what others say first.
And this is why, often your articles and videos go uncommented for a long time. There are no comments to follow. The act of being first to comment is intimidating in itself.
Even here, in this very post, when you leave a comment (whether in agreement or disagreement), you’re helping steer the herd. In a sense there is a form of bravery and leadership in it. On the other hand, hundreds if not thousands of others will read this post but not respond because they have not yet formed an opinion.
Now there is no shame in this.
As you saw in my story, even I was tempted by my human nature to go against my belief and join the herd. I even observed to see which way I should answer. Everyone does it to an extent. It’s a primal instinct, no matter how we try to deny it.
Speaking with authority and conviction challenges your readers and viewers. They fear being wrong. And only those who strongly oppose you will.
Knowing this about your fellow humans though, is powerful.
You might have guessed by now what the right answer to my teacher’s question was…
Once he was done asking everyone in the class, he announced with a smirk, “All of you sitting got it wrong. Put your hands out and prepare to be beaten!”
I breathed a sigh of relief and saw looks of horror on the faces of those seated. Then I flinched as they were beaten and bursting into tears. He rained down on their hands and arms with his stick.
What a sadistic prick!
Sadistic as he was, he was testing us. He knew that only those completely convinced of their answer will give the correct one. He was separating the fickle from the real.
That day, in my grammar classroom, the herd was slaughtered. And it was a lesson, I never forgot.