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. 

It’s Not Them, It’s You: Confidence and Craft in Photography

In photography, you are either going to be great from the beginning, over time or never at all. No matter what happens, you should treat people nicely, because whether your work is great or mediocre you are building your reputation. In reality, great work is going to happen if you spend enough time and energy thinking and practicing your art.

What is greatness in photography? It is subjective, obviously, but it is a goal. It is a standard that you set for yourself about what can count as a photograph. It is your evolving sense of value in photography and what you consider a keeper. All these things are dynamic and subject to change. One thing is not. How you treat people matters a lot. 

Photography is creating a public record of a person’s image. During any given portraiture session, you might take anywhere from 100 to 1000 photos. Some people will take more. Some people take fewer, but generally with digital photography there are potentially hundreds of photographs that don’t make the cut for every one that does. It’s the same person in the same lighting with the same camera and photographer but only one photograph out of a dozen stands out enough to really count. 

What does it take to get good photographs of a person? There are lots of answers to this question. The main one is practice. You must get good at working with your camera so that you feel confident in your ability to get the shot when the time comes with a model in front of your camera. This will also help with being good to the people you photograph. The more confident you are in your craft, the more you can focus on the subject and their concerns. 

The second key to getting great results with portraiture is to choose good lighting situations. If you don’t have a studio space, overcast days are great for soft light. If it is mid-day during the middle of the summer you are going to have some challenges finding soft light outside. There are many ways to deal with a challenge like this, but the important thing is to figure them out ahead of time, before you are working with a model. There’s always going to be a certain amount of experimentation, but the more you understand how to get the photos you want, the clearer your path to getting great photos.

Portraiture of Character

Erin by the water

Portraits are powerful because they show us a glimpse into the character of a person.

There is something magical about the simplicity of an image of a person’s face.

The goal of portraits is to show something true about a person. It is a way of adding to the human story.