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. 

Why It’s Funny When Comedy Fails

Lots of comics enjoy watching comics bomb. The funniest part of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the audience’s response to the awful play performed at the duke’s wedding. This scene is funny because of the irony. We have watched these passionate but unexperienced actors preparing for this night throughout the play and it is exactly how wrong they were that makes it so funny. 

When we first meet these aspiring thespians, they are gathered in the woods to rehearse and from the very first moment they get it wrong. It is a failure of leadership, due to a lack of experience that summons the fearful critic among them to point the ship in the opposite direction. They start out concerned that the subject matter is too disturbing for the women in the audience, showing a double misunderstanding: they don’t get theater and they have a false idea of women.

This concern over the violence leads them to horrible stylistic decisions that then shape the rest of the play. To avoid offending the ladies, they invent a prologue to explain that the violence is only symbolic and that nobody is going to be hurt during the play and that the lion is not a lion, etc. To work, a play must create the tension needed to get people’s full attention so that it can then reverse their expectations and surprise, delight, or otherwise entertain. Afraid that the ladies in the audience would not understand how to suspend their disbelief, these actors choose to violate the 4th wall and bring the audience into the show.

This device makes it impossible for the audience to take it seriously, though, and so they are left to critique the choices and to laugh at their unintended buffoonery. The players lack of understanding how they are perceived causes them to botch their shot, and this flat-footed clumsiness makes it even funnier when Bottom is turned into an ass by Puck at the service of Oberon to trick Titania, queen of the fairies. They turn bottom into an ass and give Titania a potion so that she falls in love with him.

To take the stage, in order to win the affection of a fairy goddess you have to have some belief in self, and it is Bottom wrestling with his insecurities and his delusions of grandeur that is so similar to what the path of an aspiring comic likely entails. Bottom is a phase, a stage that must be overcome grown through.

The process of finding out just how funny you are, of seeing an audience respond to you in real time makes for some vicious therapy and it is no wonder that actors and comics have a hard time sometimes making sense of where their act begins and ends. You must love anyone who attempts the feat and give thanks to those who succeed, because it makes our world a much more pleasant place to live. Long live the failure of comedy.

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.

Lights, Camera, Influence! Social Media and Social Change Makers

What is digital culture? Culture is one of those all-encompassing concepts that is hazy and hard to see, like Society, and with 5G Internet it is omnipresent. Digital culture is like the smell of air. It’s gotta have one, but we only smell things that are floating in the air, like a puff of weed. Digital culture is both the cannabis we smoke and the air it is blown into. 

Humans project cultural understandings and misreadings onto the world. Through interpreting the signs around us, we recognize the existence of other cultures, subcultures, even microcultures. Culture is the totality of our collective consciousness and its expression. It is an awareness of our differences and an articulation of those difference in form. Learning happens as individuals act, transact, and are acted upon. Digital culture is a massive conversation and collaboration among billions of people.

Culture breaks down into smaller and smaller sub-cultures online. The smaller the niche the more distinct the code. Language is one key part of cultures, and you can see how this local specificity develops in smaller and smaller places with language through slang. This tendency of creating inside jokes, insider codes, is an engine of diversity. If we are constantly addressing the specifics of our spaces and our experiences, then our communications will become narrower and narrower as we adapt to be useful in that specific place. 

Just like breathing, the way we experience culture happens both voluntarily and involuntarily. As long as we are alive and interacting, we are a part of culture, but with conscious effort we can amplify our effect. We can get more out of and give more back to our culture by taking an active role. 

The Internet radically changed the way our culture grows and shifts. In addition to the way language and fashion diversify and differentiate influenced by local conditions, the interactive space of the digital network–the world wide web—creates another layer of cultural exchange. What does a website like OnlyFans do to our idea of what our neighbors may be up to? In a world with millions of podcasts, there are more people actively shaping culture than ever before. In that sense, we are becoming more democratic. 

Because of the broadening of cultural participation through social media, there is a much more chaotic cultural scene. Internet culture is so interesting because it accelerates the broader culture in two distinctly different directions. On the one hand it allows for an alliance between cultural misfits, for better or worse. People who are in the minority culturally in their geographical location can connect to likeminded people through the Internet. This networking supports and sustains their culture. Culture needs attention to grow. 

Content creators have the opportunity to participate in the shaping of culture. There are steps a thoughtful creator can take to be more conscious in designing content to have desired effects. There are parts of the larger cultural contexts we want to change, and by understanding the power of cultural influence we can push the needle in the direction we think will be safe, fun and profitable. 

Every time we do a photo shoot, record a podcast, publish a blog and share a story we are starting a conversation. The more effective we are at getting people to care about the things we are interested in, the greater our influence.

You just have to know that the potential is locked away inside of people and change is possible. Listening to Jane Goodall talk about being plant-based inspired me to give it a try. That is one month of not eating meat that is directly attributable to one podcast. I was in a place where I was all but ready to experiment with a plant-based diet and Goodall’s stoic steadfast point of view added that last nudge of encouragement I needed. I’m back to eating meat because I found it impossible to eat enough protein on a vegetarian diet, but it was a great challenge, and is making me more conscious about what I eat and eating more plants than I was before. 

That is an example of a moment when something changed for me culturally. It is a significant change, and a voluntary one. Being inspired to try plant-based eating creates cultural conflict, too. It means joining a minority group. Changing a habit means potentially offending people who are used to that habit. I don’t judge people for what they eat. When you are the only one who can’t eat a family dinner, however, it might not feel that way to everyone. 

Making anything significant culturally means making some kind of cultural change. It doesn’t have to limit anyone else’s options, but even through expanding a new direction, breaking original ground an idea can be revolutionary. Silicon Valley fell in love with the word disruptive because it minted a lot of new billionaires, but it is more than just disruptive when new ways of sharing and creating culture emerge. Disrupting the culture of gatekeeping has been a good thing for innovation.

This is just the beginning phase of social media, though. I think that the first chapter of social media closed with the storming of the capital. That was a moment when we no longer could deny what had been obvious for a decade: the internet is transforming our culture. Social media is not a cute pastime. It is the new stage. It is a stage of development when subcultures can grow in strength and numbers and have undeniable effects on the real world.

This is a moment when we can participate in the process of cultural change, by exercising our powers of imagination. We are taste makers, conversation starters and innovators of culture. Welcome to the show. Prepare to be influenced.