What Reading Does: Copywriting and Social Media

You want to share a message with the public. Writing a blog seems like a good exercise, but will it really achieve your goals? How will anyone see it? Do people even read anymore? This article will argue that writing is the most powerful tool you can use to convey your message in today’s cluttered social media world.

A Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures

Image and Text are the two key elements to all media. Even with video, where those things are animated by motion, the audio and visual elements are in service of a message. The message is the meaningful part. 

Photographs can be magical, but part of their allure is their elusiveness. When people say that a picture is worth a thousand words, it likely means they lack the ability to explain what is happening. A thousand random words are meaningless.

Photographic Literacy and Video

To be fair, nobody knows how to read a photograph. There is no correct order. The viewer moves freely through the space, so even if it is worth a thousand words it seems highly unlikely that they are ever understood or even considered. A photograph exists better as a physical object that lives on the wall where you can study it at leisure over time.

This partly explains the rise of video on social media. People are uncomfortable with the silence of a photograph. It asks us to think and doesn’t even provide us with any order or organization for how to do so. The moving image leads us on a journey with cues and clues to follow.

Writing also leads a reader through a series of intellectual steps, but it requires some effort to make it go. There is a logic to how it is put together. The writer doesn’t capture an article but must build it up piece by piece. The reader goes through a similar experience, constructing their understanding of the topic as they go and through this effort they fuse their mental energy with the content.

Reading and Mental Fitness

Because there is a clear organizational flow to writing, it is a more straightforward medium than photography. Photographs are among the hardest cultural objects for us to understand, video is the easiest to follow. Writing is right there in the middle. It is not going to automatically start moving for you but if you put in the minimal effort to read, then it takes you on a guided journey. 

Because it requires some effort to read, but not as much originality or intelligence as is required of an intelligent reading of a photograph, writing hits a sweet spot in terms of the impression it makes. When we read something, we internalize it. We use our own inner voice to give shape to the words. This more fully incorporates the message into your consciousness. 

It also provides your public with something useful: intellectual exercise. Mental health is the natural result of mental fitness. Exercising your mind makes your mind more useful and supple. Reading is like walking. It is a low impact activity that has massive therapeutic value. Giving your audience something smart to read will automatically benefit them in meaningful ways. When your content helps someone to become a little bit smarter the association brings a positive connotation. 

Raising the Bar, Eating the Bear

So much media on the Internet aims for the lowest hanging fruit. There is a continual race for the easiest content that has an impact. For businesses trying to figure out how to be efficient in their marketing efforts, this provides an almost irresistible temptation. It also creates an opportunity to resist, a chance to do better.

Instead of rushing to post content that feels like it might go viral, it is infinitely better to take your time and craft meaningful messages. The race to the bottom in social media is obvious and easy to spot. When a brand cares enough about the public’s attention and values them as humans and not just customers they end up doing better marketing.

The harder your content is to copy, the more valuable it is. The worst thing you can do is copy someone else on social media. The very fact that you can reproduce an idea or copy a look means that it is too easy and shouldn’t be your target at all. Instead, your unique value proposition should be built not on ease or convenience but on value. 

In a dog-eat-dog world of social media there’s enough action and interest to hide a lot of fundamental weaknesses. It creates a set of tools that makes it plausible for a brand or individual to fake it until they make it. This is the worst thing you can do because it undermines your credibility and demonstrates a dishonest disposition. Branding is built out of trust in reputation and every message you send either builds or damages your public esteem.

Authenticity is the Secret Sauce

The main reason that writing still matters is because it is hard to produce. The difficulty of good writing is key to its power to evoke an authentic voice, to share a valuable message. When you look at social media today, pay special attention to the writing and see how it either disrespects the viewer or adds value to their experience. 

As we go further into the mediated world of the Internet, it is vitally important to build up our own sense of personal responsibility and integrity. Writing is still the most powerful and inexpensive way to achieve this goal. 

Proof of Concept: Why Evidence Matters

In a world full of deception and lying, it’s only natural that many people would develop a strong sense of skepticism. It’s a defense against the scams and cons that prevail. This creates a cultural ecosystem of disbelief. The question is, how do you communicate an honest message and promote a cause or brand you believe in without being drowned out by naysayers and a tendency to doubt? 

One answer is to prove your concept repeatedly until it is undeniable. If you believe something to be true, then show it. Show how it works. Show what doesn’t work. Explain why. Doing the work of proving a concept is the best way to build credibility. You must earn people’s trust.

Accountability is the key to credibility. If you believe something to be good for you, then showing how it works only makes sense. This is one of the reasons why we value live performances. Without the ability to edit, the live performance creates the appearance of credibility, it is proof of the performer’s abilities.

The most effective way to prove your concept is with consistency. If you can repeatedly come up with the same results, then you have an art. If you achieve your desired goal, but can’t repeat it, then you might have just been lucky. It is through consistent repetition that we gradually grow to believe that someone is honest and that something they are promoting is true. The proof is in the evidence.

Good Headlines Save Lives: The Importance of Powerful Titles

Every day, people publish thoughtful and creative articles, and they dream up some amazingly artful headlines to grab a reader’s attention. Grab is the right word, too. It’s almost an assault. Some of these click bait listicles are so offensively tantalizing they practically give you an unrequested massage. What is a listicle you might ask? It is a title that states: 4 Ways Listicles Will Help You to Win. 

Titles have more importance than ever in a world so noisy with content. We need a way to navigate the chaos, and titles are convenient rafts of easy meaning. If we take the role that titles play in our culture seriously, then we will be able to counter the click bait watering down of journalistic credibility. Making it easy for your readers to recognize that your essay is the kind of writing they want to read is best achieved through creative titling.

The art of writing titles depends upon an ear for tone. How can we make this story pop out in a list of potential search results? How can we entice or excite a reader to engage with an article? The title should match the tone of the essay, but in a distilled and potent manner. It is a shot of espresso, a dab of concentrate.

Without a great title, you are standing naked facing the mighty wind coming off the Pacific Ocean. Unprotected, you expose yourself to becoming chapped and sore at the world. The fog bites at you. Spending time to craft a winning title is putting on your favorite clothes and pair of shoes, of stepping out in the world feeling good about how you look.

Writing is like a boombox without batteries until someone picks it up and reads. It is useless, meaningless inert exhausted energy expired and out of date. The second someone begins to read it; it turns back on. Alive and active in a reader’s mind, the writing blooms into being, has form and substance that morph inside someone’s mind. The words become a copper cable for ideas to follow like electrical current.

For the alchemy of reading to occur, the reader must choose the article. Until this engagement begins, the words are dead and dumb. This simple fact of reading and writing makes the title hold so much weight. The title is the on switch of the reading machine. It is a neon open sign. It is a red lightbulb.

Cringe to Crown: Internet Culture and Clowning

One common factor among many internet successes is the transformation from doing something that is usually considered cringy and elevating it to a level of tremendous popular success. This is almost an essential aspect of internet fame. One reason for this pattern in this early stage of the internet is because we are still conditioned as an audience to see culture as separate from life. The things we cringe at on the internet are things that have been edited out through a style of production in mainstream media. Because they have been so relentlessly scrubbed from existence on cable television, Hollywood movies, popular magazines and newspapers, these quirks and eccentricities of everyday living stand out when we see them and then strangely satisfy some deep desire.

We don’t want to appear as cringy. We are cringy. We want to be ourselves. We learn to embrace our differences. Cringe becomes a prerequisite. No cringe, no personality. An acquired taste, cringe becomes a delicacy, a kink. There are fifty shades of cringe.

What happens when we see someone do something cringy on the Internet? Cringe evolves. People who follow Tik Tok, like Christina Pavitsky, report that there are numerous subcultures that segment into different niches of cringe. Cringe gets love on the Internet like nowhere else because it is so relatable. Yes, it is amazing to watch a polished performer like Beyonce go through hours of choreography and singing without missing a step. There’s also something super repressed and therefore repressive about the worship of stellar performances. There is something totalitarian in the disciplined perfection of form.

When we accept that cringe is part of the package of being human, we learn to love ourselves better and to be ourselves more. Comics know this and Chris D’Elia is proving it in a way that is almost unimaginable. Setting aside the incredibly cringy problems that D’Elia has had in his personal life, he also talks and reflects on the place of cringe in his comedy. He has this running joke about how being disrespectful by doing things like ordering postmates during the podcast is being more respectful because he is being himself and that shows a trust in the relationship.

D’Elia is a connoisseur of cringe and finds incredible moments of video and audio to dissect and to analyze on his podcast. This has become the formula for lots of comedic podcasts. H3 podcast does it. Ethan is the godfather of cringe. Two Bears and Bad Friends rely upon the shocking value of cringe. Bert is a cringe god. Bobby a cringe unicorn. Responding to cringe on the Internet is now an industry. This is the mad generation, and everyone is an influencer and marketer.

One Internet sensation that started out as cringe and has taken an internet crown is the inimitable Chet Hanks. When he first came out with his video taken, I think at the Golden Globes red carpet when he introduced the world to his own aggressive version of patua, speaking like a Jamaican dancehall king. Since then, this has become a periodic occurrence leading to a massive amount of heckling but also finally respect and admiration. 

Being the son of one of the all-time great US American actors can’t be an easy fate, but Chet is making the absolute most of it and for that he has become an icon. Recently, he introduced a ludicrous idea he calls White Boy Summer to the world via Instagram, but then he specifies that there are certain codes of conduct and dress that are necessary for this definition of white boy. He wants to differentiate it from alt-right Trump supporters and to reclaim some notion of whiteboyness as an identity of allyship.

Because what Chet Hanks was doing came across as so ludicrous, so cringy that nobody would do it if it weren’t in some way authentic. Cringe is the new seasoning. It’s not something you can just do without. It gives your content its flavor. Chet Hanks teaches us that the pursuit of expressing your truth is going to have to go through a process of being embarrassingly exposed to ridicule to achieve the strength necessary to transform into a better design. 

When does cringe go too far? This important question is constantly being answered by the actions of people on the internet. D’Elia disappeared from the public for 9 months after allegations of his inappropriate conversations with underage or barely legal girls surfaced. That is not cringe, it is criminal. That is a huge difference. There are things that should be repressed, need to be outlawed, cannot be allowed. There is an ethical line where something that is merely an expression of our basic human nature merges into violations of other people’s rights. The thing about cringe is it must be victimless. The only type of cringe that is acceptable is the cringe that only embarrasses the person in charge of the production.

Because the internet is new and unregulated, we are experiencing an evolution in aesthetics and ethics and the importance of understanding cringe and the ethics of the shocking is critical to improving Internet culture. Logan Paul is a perfect example. His video that showed a dead body in a suicide forest in Japan was cringy, but it was also an ethical violation. It wasn’t just in bad taste, or embarrassing; it was wrong. As we make things for the Internet and consume other people’s creations, we are engaging in a process of becoming more human with all the rewards and risks that entails.