We often hear about the open loop technique to inspire curiosity and spur action. But what is it really? For most of us, open loop content is a mystery or a teaser. It’s what keeps you hanging on the edge of your seat. Open loop content is effective at getting and keeping your audience’s attention because our brains are wired to seek closure or fill in the blanks. This works on the premise that open looping something that the brain can’t fill in will leave you anticipating and excited to find out more. In other words, you stay glued to the page until you get some answers or you’re satisfied. Open looping future as well as past content will have people hanging on to hear what’s next and what’s coming up in the future.
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Open Loop Content
We’re excited to be back for another episode and talk about one of our favorite subjects: Open loop content. It’s future and past open looping. We’re going to tell you what open looping is in a minute. First, we really want to talk about future and past episodes. There you go. We just left you hanging. That’s the open loop. That’s what you want to do because the brain wants to fill it in. Think about this as a circle. If you’ve got a little opening in your circle, it doesn’t matter. Your brain thinks it’s a complete circle when you look at a visual image of that. This is a very classic imagery test or whatever you want to talk about. If you have less than 10% of the circle is open, then your brain will fill it in.
There has been an image of a t-shirt circulating on Facebook. It is of Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is the physicist and scientist, pretty neat guy. He talks about how people’s brains fill in the missing pieces. This t-shirt actually has a message that is saying but it is in very cryptic characters, not the actual proper English letters to say the statement, but you know what it says because your brain fills in the blanks. This is the thing: You want to open loop with something that the brain can’t fill in without you because now I’ve left you anticipating and you’re excited and you want to find out more.
That’s what we are talking about here. We are talking about future open looping and past open looping. It is something that we do really well in our podcast and we do really well in our blog post. You can do it in both places at once. In both places you will be doing it if you are speaking your podcast to a blog post, it automatically happens. You really want to make a concerted effort to do it. We think that through when we are recording an episode and say, “Which episode are we going to refer to?” We don’t always refer to numbers. Sometimes we do when you get way up there in numbers and they are hidden away. We have a podcast that has almost 500 episodes. Sometimes only the last 100 are showing on iTunes, so we really need to make it clear so that they are actually going on to the website and looking for the specific podcast number so that they can find it because it is so old and it is way in the archives.
At the same time in our blog post for the current episode, we are going to have links to the other episodes that we referenced. Most often, we just refer to the title of something or the content of something and we send you to our blog post about it. The reason for that is because we want you to go to our website. We want you to go to our website and we want you to connect to as many of the episodes, as many of the blog posts as possible because you going there means that you are going to get multiple touch points from us. You are also going to get more value from us because we are sending you the things that are relative and relevant, which will help you more at building your business or whatever it is that your podcasts or your blog posts are about.
There is a reason why, in all of our episodes, when we have important links, references, videos, images that we talked about in the episode, we are not going to tell you, “Go to YouTube and search on this.” We are not going to say, “Go to Facebook and search on that.” We’re going to tell you to go one place, back to our blog post on our website. That is the one place where you can get everything that we reference.
While we are open looping what it is that you are going to get from there, we are sending you to one place because we only want you to remember one thing. It’s too much for people to remember more than that. You want to have that positive reinforcement on everything that they need, all of these things that they will want to find, all these things that you have heard, you are going to find them in one place. That’s one of the things what we do. We open loop future as well as past because we want you to hang on to hear what’s next, what’s coming up in the future.
We are going to do that right now. We are going to use an example of how we might do that in conversation and then you will see how that works. We were thinking and we’ve been working through a lot of guest issues, like guest influencers. We had a podcast we just did recently on influencers and how you can find really great influencers for your business and for your particular podcast; what defines an influencer. You’re going to want to go and listen that episode because that episode has a lot of powerful content in the way that we define it because it’s much more defined than someone who would say, “It’s a celebrity.” In our definition, celebrity does not necessarily make influencer, not valuable influencer to growing your business, and that’s what we’re here about. We want to feed your brand, grow your brand. Celebrities may be more recognizable off the bat but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are an influencer.
You would want to go to that episode and hear that. Coming up, in the next couple of weeks, we are going to have a really great interview with Jennifer Spencer who is an expert at placing guests on podcasts. She’s going to have a lot of valuable content as to how you might find just the right person you’re looking for; what criteria you need to put in place especially if you’re going to use a service to find influencers when you don’t already know them and you’re not already networked with them. There you go, we did future and we did past. Now, you’ve got both things going for you.
Jon Levy who is one of our great friends and is also a customer of us at Brandcasters, Inc. He has a podcast called Influencers. We’ve probably mentioned him once before on one of our episodes. He has the best open looping. It’s the ultimate open loop. His format for his show is brilliant. He interviews very high-profile and well-known people for the most part in their industry or in our country in general or maybe even the world. He has an interview with a guest for maybe 90%, 95% of his episode. Then he has a little break and then he ends that interview and has an anonymous interview for five minutes with the guest who is going to be on the show next week. He doesn’t tell you who that guest is. He invites you to guess who it is and write in to him, communicate with him. If you guess who it is, then you actually win an invitation to an event of his, which is very exclusive, which you should totally do if you can. You can’t buy a ticket to this event. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. This is a very exclusive event that he does that is very small and intimate gatherings of very influential people.
He open loops you to come back to the next episode by giving you a taste of that interview, not telling you who it is, asking you to guess who it is. It is brilliant. It is a great open looping process. It’s also a great show-builder. You can’t wait to hear if you are right or you think who it is and you’re not really sure and you maybe don’t even reply to the contest but you still want to listen. He has built this amazing anticipation for his next episode. That is the ultimate value of what you really want to do with open loop. You want to keep them subscribed. You want to keep them involved. You want to keep them coming back for more because they know there’s more value coming up. You want to educate and you want to entertain. Both those factors are right there in natural format.
Here’s the thing of why we open loop backwards. Let’s talk a little bit about that. That was future open looping. We want to open loop the past as well. That’s what we call it because you have so much content that is evergreen. As podcast hosts, as blog writers, we get into this place of, “We wrote that. It’s over with. It was out for a month and it got whatever circulation it got and now it’s done.” That’s so not the case. Companies like BuzzFeed, Dwell, these are amazing businesses that do a tremendous job recycling their existing content into more content, into spinning it into new things sometimes too. Dwell does amazing, like the ten best bedrooms that are ever designed or the ten coolest chairs you’ll ever sit on. They do visual imagery, which ties back to posts that were written all about those items. They’re not only giving you a whole visual new post that gives them something new to push out, but it gives you a way to go back to all of that and dive deeper into something that you see that you like. It’s bringing them back up to the surface.
Like one of our shows, our WTFFF show on 3D printing, it has 500 episodes. That’s a lot of content that’s someone new to it can’t consume if you don’t summarize it for them or make it relevant for them to go back to some episodes. We just recently did an episode on 3D print guns. This is a controversial episode. We were talking about 3D print bump stocks in conjunction with what happened in Las Vegas for the Route 91 shootings. We were talking about that in terms of how referencing many other episodes we had had on safety, on gun parts, on 3D printing. There was even an Inc. article I wrote on the Reno airport finding a 3D printed gun at TSA.
We referenced about six different episodes and podcasts and blog posts and articles within that scope of things because they were relevant and timely. That’s another reason to bring them up and make sure that they rise above so somebody doesn’t have to search so hard or go elsewhere to search and miss out on getting more content from you when you are either an expert in that or have provided valuable content already. What a waste for them to leave your site, leave your podcast and go somewhere else and get that information, when they could have gotten it directly from you. Do not waste your efforts that you’ve made and think that it’s old information because it comes up new again and it’s relevant again.
A little side pro tip here. Old content on your website is just as valuable as new content for keyword ranking. Don’t think that just because it’s content that is six months or a year old that it is not doing much for you anymore. That’s not true at all. That content is still indexed on Google and people are entering in new keyword terms every single day that Google has never seen before, that Google will match up with your post if it is relevant.
Keeping in mind that if you are sending people to those posts, you are sending them back into them and now Google is recognizing that they are valuable, that people are still clicking through them and interacting with them. Now they’re going to give that more weight. It’s had a longer life than they anticipated. You want to think about it like that. That’s where you get into this point of if you are not reusing your content, if you’re not repurposing it, and if you are not referring to it in an open loop situation or in any situation, then you aren’t getting enough maximum value from the time you put in to creating it. That’s another reason why we want you to use this open loop content process.
We talk about that a lot as getting the greatest return for your time invested as possible in this content you are creating, with all the content you created. All the content we create, we put it out in every different way possible that we can think of. This is not just our rules, really good, high-value magazines do this. We were talking about BuzzFeed and Dwell. At Inc.com, where I write, I have a column there. In that column it is our number one rule, in fact there is a reminder as we go to type in their post that they recommend three links to other Inc. articles within the first paragraph or two of their article. They recommend that. There is a little message that you can’t get rid of until you’ve typed that in or until you’ve said, “Okay, I got it.” It’s of utmost importance that they’re sitting there reminding us, columnists, who writes every single month. I write six a month. They are reminding all the time that that linking is so critically important.
We don’t think that most of us would really think to do that unless we were schooled or reminded. It’s really a lost opportunity in too many blogs and too many bloggers and websites out there. It’s an absolute lost opportunity. Because I have gotten really good at thinking about it, I actually writes her senses to make sure that I’m clear about which one I’m going to refer to because I have some articles that are really, really valuable to a lot of people. The more people who see that, the more value they get from that. There’s the same thing here in our podcast and in your podcast or your blog post that you are writing out there. You know the ones that are of utmost value and you want to refer to them as often as possible. I always finds a way to write a sentence knowing that I’m going to link these two words to that particular column or to that particular article. I want to bring it up again and again as many times as possible because there might be someone new who was never read my column before joining for the first time. Wouldn’t it be great if they were able to get additional value by finding that instead of having to search for that?
Another little pro-tip, we talked in an episode about making sure you’re always sending people back to your blog post on your website to get links to go do other things. You want to bring them to one place, giving them only one thing to remember. We do believe that. It’s okay as a podcast host if you know, “If you want to listen to the episode where we talked about this, go to episode number 28,” or whatever it is. It’s okay to mention that for the podcast because it’s on your phone and you want to just skip to the right number and not have to figure out what the title is or whatever. It makes it easy. That is if you know it or if you remember it. We tend to forget after we’ve done so many episodes. It’s so hard to find it. Sometimes before we start recording, we were like, “We know we are going to refer to this, what were those numbers again?” We go look them up and have them written so we can mention them. Still, any of the real links to information, visuals, videos, whatever it is, we still are driving everyone back to that blog post.
One more thing from a technical side so you’ll understand what is going on here. What you’re doing is you’re creating cross-linking between your own content. Backlinking is when somebody else from some other site is linking back to your website. This is cross-linking within your own catalogue of stuff essentially. When you’re cross-linking, you’re also linking whatever the words might be. We might say, “influencers, podcast, podcast on influencer guest.” That word ‘influencer guest’ might not have been the title of that podcast. We have added an extra word on there so when we’re linking back to that we’re now actually giving Google another set of keywords to associate with that URL.
We’re actually creating our own broader keyword terms by doing that. You are just increasing the relevance all the original terms you had in an old post with some new terms now. All of that is the name of the game. The reality is you don’t even have to understand that it’s the name of the game. You don’t have to think about it, be aware of it. Fundamentally, all you’ve got to do is record valuable content; subjects that you are an expert on, that other people may want to learn about or be entertained by. Make that content, and to a large extent the rest of it will take care of itself. As long as you have a system in place to convert that content to written and to put it out there properly. If you do, that’s great. If you don’t, then that’s what we do at Brandcasters.
This open looping is so awesome in conjunction with social as well because this is a really a great way for you to do that idea of referencing back to other articles and older podcasts and older things that you consider old but are really evergreen on your social media feed. You really want to be able to utilize it there as well. By doing those direct references, it gives you a good excuse to say, “This week’s podcast is on open looping,” but it’s also logical for you to bring up the next post in your social feed to be about influencers. It just gives you a commonality of what should you post for this week. It gives you a system. It gives you a whole process of what belongs in your feed for the week that is going to be of most value to your readers or your listeners or your followers.
Open looping, what a fun word, fun term. We hope you find this valuable. We look forward to having your comments and your shares and all of those other things that are so great. You can go to @FeedYourBrand on Facebook. You can also go to FeedYourBrand.co or BrandcastingYou.com to download the app and subscribe.
Thank you so much. We will be back next time with another great subject. This has been Tom and Tracy on the Feed Your Brand Podcast.