The Case For Adding ‘Easter Eggs’ to Your Blog Posts

by Mack Collier

Yesterday C.C. Chapman wrote a fabulous post on why we need ‘next level’ conferences.  Please check it out, and there are a TON of amazing comments, I am still going through them all.  I did want to take a slightly different take on this issue because as I’ve seen in the past, when someone raises a ‘someone needs to do this’ post like this, typically most people read that as ‘someone else‘.  Not knocking C.C.’s post at all, it’s a great discussion starter, but human nature being what it is, most people will wait for someone else to make that move.

So instead of making it about ‘someone else’, I started thinking about how individuals as content creators and speakers can take our content to the ‘next level’.  I think the best speakers and content creators like C.C. are already doing this.  Most of the audiences we write and speak for are interested in more 101-level content.  But not everyone, some people are wanting more, and some of those people started out at the 101-level, but thanks to our content, they are now at a more advanced stage.

Which brings me to the topic of adding ‘easter eggs’ to our blog posts.  If you are a gamer, you are familiar with the concept of an easter egg.  It’s a small addition to a game that really isn’t required to complete the game, and will typically go un-noticed by the ‘casual’ gamer.  It’s typically hidden, so it’s a type of reward for the gamers that are willing to do more exploring and to look everywhere.

Here’s an example.  In the game Batman: Arkham City, if you go to a certain place in the game at a certain time and do a certain thing, you are rewarded with a cameo appearance from Killer Croc:

Now I am going to corrupt the gamer’s definition of an ‘easter egg’ here a bit when I talk about adding them to your blog posts.  To a gamer, an easter egg is a reward in the sense that it’s cool and fun, but it doesn’t typically make them a better gamer or better at the game they are playing.  What I’m suggesting is what if you add ‘easter eggs’ to your blog posts that did make your more advanced readers better?

For example, my audience here is like most social media blogs, typically made up of people looking for 101-level social media help.  So while I want to cater to that audience, an example of adding an easter egg might be to add a tip to the post that the 101-level reader isn’t ready for, but that the 201-level reader is looking for.  How many times have you read a blog post and seen the author add a ‘Pro Tip’?  This is the same basic idea, add more advanced content or tips to ‘reward’ the more advanced readers.

To be honest, this is something I probably don’t do a very good job with.  I tend to forget about what happens to the readers that are ready for more advanced content because of my posts.  Recently on #Blogchat we talked about the idea of creating Topic Buckets to help blog more often and to give structure to the content you create.

Maybe to add another layer to that, we should consider adding 201 level content as well?

For example, the idea with Topic Buckets was that if you could come up with say 4 main subjects you wanted to cover on your blog, then if you could write one post a week for each bucket, then you’ve written 4 posts a week!  But what if you also added a learning context to those buckets, and said that 3 of your weekly posts would be 101-level, and one would be 201 level?

I will have to noodle on this for a while, in the meanwhile, what do you think about this idea of adding ‘easter eggs’ to blog posts, or even writing more advanced posts on occasion?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Martin January 11, 2013 at 9:39 am

Interesting thought Mack…. I was just listening to one of Chris Brogan’s podcasts last night and he does this — easter eggs.

After the closing music credits he comes back on with a “if you’re still here then I have a little something for you” and drops the “easter egg”

It was pretty slick and smart as most folks probably do click “end” as soon as the closing credits run just like folks leave movies…but smart movies have outtakes or gag material after the credits as a little reward for loyalty…

Obviously easier done on a Podcast…. have to think a bit about how to really stay true to the Easter Egg concept (gamer version) …

Happy Birthday BTW — cheers for a great post that has me thinking.

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Mack Collier January 11, 2013 at 9:50 am

Tom the funny thing is, you picked up on the idea of the easter egg that *I* should have noticed; The idea of using the easter egg to reward your loyal fans! Oops! I have subscribed to Chris’ podcast on my iPhone but haven’t caught up on his episodes yet, this is a good reminder to do that.

And thanks for the birthday wishes!

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Kelly January 11, 2013 at 10:11 am

Great post Mack. I need to make that a part of my content check list.
Another excellent example of a writer who effortlessly does this is Andy Crestodina over at Orbit Media. He’s great at sneaking in 201 content into each post.

One of the things I love about your upcoming book is that you very effectively write for two audiences at the same time without making either audience feel bored or over their heads. That’s talent!

Happy Birthday, Mack!

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Mack Collier January 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Thanks Kelly, it’s interesting you mentioned the book because I really THOUGHT about how to do that when writing it. I was really trying to write for 3 audiences at once:

1 – A brand that hasn’t started connecting with its fans but wants to start

2 – A brand that has started loosely connecting with their fans and wants to create an organized program to better do so

3 – The brand from point #1 that has read the book, has started connecting with their fans, and are now ready to take it to the next level.

So really I was trying to create a book that would have value and be a reference source for years to come. Maybe I need to worry about that more with the posts I write here as well…hmmmm…..thanks for giving me something to think about! And thanks for the birthday wishes ;)

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Steve Woodruff January 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Mack,

I’ve been noodling a similar idea re: blog posts – how to “layer” content for different strata of readers. My first step is trying condense the main message into a quick-hit format up-front. That in itself is a real challenge, and I’m not quite sure how to do the 201 layer. Let’s all experiment together this year and see what we learn!

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Kathy Sierra January 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm

The challenge to write for more than one “level” is worth the effort :)

The risk, though, is that nobody — no level — is satisfied. But you don’t have to “sneak” the upper level things in, just put them in. Be explicit about your assumptions on what they already know / have done and you’ve reduced the chance they’ll be confused. Unless you are discussing something that’s extremely complex, writing just a little *above* the level you think you’re writing for is almost always a more motivating and effective approach for readers. And, the further up the curve you go, the fewer resources there are for readers.

We tell our authors (of tech topics) that where they can REALLY shine and differentiate themselves is at the point where it starts to get challenging for the reader/learner/user. That’s the point where the competition starts to drop off sharply. At the absolute beginner level, there are a TON of resources and competitors (including a ton of awful ones), and once people have taken that first step, the early stages appear simple (emphasis on “appear”). And all the way at the other end, once people have reached a highly advanced, expert stage, they can make use of ANY resource, including poorly-translated, obscure ones. But at the novice-to-intermediate stage — in almost any domain — this is where it all starts to matter.

You can write for the novice AND include explicitly called-out side bars, extra content, examples, etc. and it helps EVERYONE, including those still not far enough along to make ful sense of it. It helps move them forward more quickly.

As for Easter eggs, they can come in many forms, including just “insider” references, jokes, nods, etc. that in no way inhibit the use for people who don’t get it, but enhance the experience for those who do. The “unlock extra content” or even the bloopers at the end are only one type, and not my favorite (though as a former game dev, I used to put them in, but that was mainly as a reward for US — the developers — to do something fun at the end of a long effort).

The experience of suddenly “getting” a reference that perhaps most others didn’t see or understand is a powerful delight, and mentally stimulating and rewarding. As long as it is never a requirement that readers get it before truly understanding the content. I still hear from readers today, all these years later, who have just suddenly noticed something in one of my books that they think is an Easter egg. Sometimes it isn’t, but doesn’t matter… The fact that they “read” something more clever and nuanced than I intended is usually a good thing :)

Don’t know if there are any SciFi fans here, but I reckon YES, and to those of us still mourning the loss of Firefly, the Castle show is overflowing with references to it, but in no way necessary for non-Firefly fans (pour souls that they are) to watch and enjoy Castle (for those who like that sort of show… I mostly watch it FOR the Firefly Easter eggs, and I probably “see” more than are actually there).

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Penina January 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Oh! Lots of gold here, Kathy! Thanks for the added input.

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Mack Collier January 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Annnnnnnnnddd…..the comments section shuts down as everyone takes a few hours to attempt to process Kathy’s comment ;)

The funny thing is as I was reading Steve’s comment I was thinking that you had left an earlier comment about organizing blog posts not by categories but by 101 level, 201 level, etc. I will see if I can find that comment and post here.

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Penina January 11, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Thanks for taking those ideas up a notch, Mack!

I very much like the idea of adding a “Pro Tip”. I’m often torn about where to draw the line in many of my posts. Most search terms that drive users to me imply that they’re beginners, but I don’t like the idea of ignoring more knowledgable readers.

I also wonder how adding this kind of info might cause those search terms to shift…

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