Does your website have a hook?

Does your website have a hookA hook is the thing your website provides that users can’t get anywhere else.
It could be something new, something unique or something that is done better than similar websites.
Get this part right and an audience is almost guaranteed.

Personality
The hook could be something as simple as personality. There are webmasters who exude personality which engages readers. Steve Pavlina is good example of this. His site and blog are ordinary to look at – not looking too much different to the old default WordPress theme (Kubrick) – and his writing flies in the face of conventional wisdom which has it that people on the net won’t read long passages. But people love to read his self-development site – and they keep coming back for more.
His website states that it is “currently the most popular personal development web site in the world, receiving over 1.8 million visitors per month http://www.stevepavlina.com/

Community
Creating a sense of community, a place on the net where people feel they belong is not easy. Sites like Facebook and Myspace allow people to create their own little communities – a formula which works wonderfully well. These sites provide the simplicity of use, robust functionality and more gimmicks than you can throw a sheep at. They also take away the awkwardness of connecting to others online – and that is a huge factor in their favour.

Sites where people share common aspirations are the other type of communities. Whether the shared aspiration is to debate world issues, talk about technology or meet other parents, there are communities to meet those needs.
Some of these sites meet very specific needs.  For example, the photoforum.com captures the interest of photography enthusiasts. These days, to create a successful community or forum, you may need to drill down to a narrow subject area.

Information
Providing people with the information they are seeking is meeting a need.
Uncover a gap – and create a website that fills it. You might notice a gap because you frequently see people online asking about an area you are knowledgeable in.

In Australia in 1998, there was one broadband provider. The provider was perceived as expensive and not always responsive to users, and there was no competition. Australians were searching for alternatives. A website started up in 1998 to meet this need. Named http://whirlpool.net.au, its founder did not realise that what he was starting would snowball into the monster site that it is today. Simon Wright unknowingly plugged into a groundswell of discontent – but he possessed the enthusiasm and ability to lead the site forward as it grew. With over 233,000 members today the site has added job boards and a knowledge base. The site has stayed out of the mainstream and remains a grassroots resource for its members and visitors.

Gimmickery
All of the sites mentioned above could be described as unique. They all have aspects not found anywhere else, but can’t be described as gimmicky. But every so often, a site comes along that simply has a gimmick strong enough to carry it to success.

In the case of the site icanhascheezburger.com – the gimmick is a meme – named “lolspeak”. The site, started by Eric Nakagawa and Kari Unebasami gets over 2 million page views every day, and makes thousands of dollars per week.
People visit the site to view photos of cats and other animals that have funny captions added – the captions being in ‘lolspeak’ which is mix between texting lingo and babytalk. People also upload their own photos, complete with captions.
This kind of concept has the capacity to go viral – which it has. Lolcat pictures are sent via email, and turn up in social networking sites everywhere. Going viral quickly builds momentum and ongoing publicity.

If you don’t have the advertising budgets and the “name” that big companies have – you need a hook for your website. This article has listed a few of the hooks that can gain you the web audience you’re seeking.