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. 

Creation and Curation: Value in Content Marketing

If you start with the audience in mind, then every choice you make becomes more focused and purposeful. This is the first step in the right direction. It may seem obvious, but it is not common. Instead, you often see people trying to promote themselves and it comes across as cringe. Genuinely providing a service to the public with your content marketing will earn you respect and trust with a customer base.

You can start this process by imagining which topics are most important to your audience. If you are doing content marketing for a yoga studio you will find different content pillars than if you are working with a shopping center. Each business or organization will have a different audience they are trying to reach. Identify four or five topics you think would be most relevant to your audience as the starting point to organize your content. 

One of the great things about this approach is that it puts you in dialogue with other people creating content in your field. You have the opportunity both to research and to network. By learning about what other people are doing and saying you expand your knowledge of the topics and you identify the interesting people with whom you might want to collaborate.

Say for example you get hired to create content and to do content marketing for a gym. In addition to the original work that you will create by interviewing key figures, photographing equipment, doing videos of exercises, or what have you, you will also provide a valuable service by posting relevant information about: nutrition, fitness competitions, cutting edge gear and technique, inspiration from favorite influencers, etc.

There is so much content created for the internet every day, so organizing the relevant stories in a way that is useful to busy people makes a lot of sense. Content marketing is dual in nature: you both create original content and curate relevant content. This combination of research and production makes for a rich and useful follow.

The Internet is a very chaotic place, so curation can help give people a sense of order. It is important to make original work to promote your brand’s values, products, services, etc., but you can also do something valuable by organizing a timeline of relevant articles as they are published that help to inform and to flesh out the context of your subjects. If people gain an understanding of a topic by following your feed, then they are much more likely to believe that you know what you are talking about when you discuss your own offerings.

Begin by imagining a half dozen of your ideal customers. Who are your services or products designed to help or please? Now imagine what they would want to know about, what would be entertaining to them, what would give them a reason to smile, something new to learn, a talking point, an inspiring quote, something that adds to their understanding and experience of whatever your field is. As content marketers, we have the privileged position of creators and teachers, and when we combine those two elements well, a lot of value is created for the client. 

Why Blogs Matter More Now than Ever

The internet changed the world. When it began to be used widely by the public in the early 90s, the World Wide Web connected us irrevocably. No other invention has had as much of an impact on human culture. A tech revolution has ensued and the collective effect of the advance of technology and its meaning for the human race is staggering to try and comprehend. 

Part of what has changed due to this massive cultural shift is our attitude towards time. How humans change is one of the most interesting topics to study, as it requires a tricky kind of self-reflective sensitivity. As we collectively work to understand how to use the new modes of communication to our advantage, old habits and desires wait to be fulfilled in new ways. Narcissus looking at an iPad.

The word Blog has never struck me as attractive in any way. All of the connotations it brings up for me are negative: a bog, a log, blah, swampy slimy nerd shit. I have never wanted to be a blogger. That always sounds like an insult. This is where technologists have failed miserably: in the poetry of tech. Web log becomes blog, a broadcast you can listen to on your iPod becomes a podcast. Do iPods even exist anymore? It doesn’t matter. Once a name has taken hold, it sticks.

Why are the most profoundly powerful aspects of this new technology so badly named? Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass. The blogosphere should be a place where masterpieces of literature are being created experimentally. Instead, it comes across as lower level than a local editorial column. 

I remember at one point jokingly naming my own blog a bjournal. My thinking was that if we had someone who cared more about words, then it would have been called a web journal or a bjournal. That never really caught on, partly because people don’t understand that blog is web log shortened, so when they see bjournal it doesn’t make sense to them. The inside joke is all there, but nobody catches on or cares.

This is because we are still getting used to the idea that the gatekeepers were wrong a lot of the time. We relied upon a system of cultural production that forced creators to work in a system that perverted their visions. Now that we have the ability for a creator to go directly to the public, we are seeing better and better results.

The people who saw the opportunities provided by the blog space took advantage and have created some amazing media conglomerates. The Huffington Post began as a blog. There was an era when blogs were able to turn into full-fledged media empires. Fifty Cent didn’t give two shits about the name blog, he turned his site into a hub of culture.

Joe Rogan started out on the Internet as a blogger. There is a natural progression from blogger to podcaster, but I think that they both are still incredibly important. Rogan is an advocate of writing, but he doesn’t publish his thoughts anymore. Still, that might be what he could bring back into rotation that would make his program even more compelling. 

When it comes to creating content, there is no replacement for good writing. The writing is fundamental to the form, the content to the design. A blog is just a place to share writing. It is an idea generator, a conversation starter, and a repository of your thoughts and work.

Every brand, every content creator, every organization should be using a blog to publish their ideas. This helps to keep new ideas coming into circulation, and it keeps the public aware of the vitality and originality of the brand. Whether you love or hate the term blog, the function of publishing your ideas on a regular basis is a stimulant to growth and an invitation to positive networking. Not to mention the SEO. 

More important than getting noticed, however, is the work it takes to improve and that can show more clearly than anywhere else in the archives of a blog. Leave your trail of breadcrumbs, create your own routes through this digital forest and inspire others to form their own sense of creative agency. It’s all about the blog, baby.

Content Rules: Copywriting Strategies for Digital Marketing

What is content marketing and why does it work?

 

As many businesses shift to online marketing during a stressful time, there are bound to be lots of mistakes made by those unfamiliar with best practices and marketing strategies. Understandably, people are worried about their businesses and their ability to adapt to this new business landscape. In this blog, I will discuss one approach that has a number of advantages during this time: content marketing.

 

What is content? Content is the stuff that matters, the substance of your business. Who are the people behind the scenes, what are your values? What is the story that has led your business to its current junction? Content is what your business is about, the stuff it is made of and the people who make it all happen.

 

The most important thing about creating a content marketing strategy is the same principle in all marketing: put the consumer first. What benefit does your content offer? How can what you are creating help people with their problems?

 

Two useful resources for getting started with content marketing are the Copyblogger and Storybrandwebsites. For many people, writing can be intimidating, and these websites can help you to approach the task with some guidance. Writing good copy is difficult, however, so it might be something that you need to outsource.

 

Content marketing uses storytelling techniques to share your offer with the public and if you are able to tell your story in a way that resonates with people looking for services that you provide then you are giving yourself every advantage in that decision-making process.

 

Some questions that you should answer for your public:

 

  1. What benefits does your service or good provide to the user?
  2. What problems does your business help to solve?
  3. Why does choosing your brand give your client an advantage?

 

As many brands make the transition to digital marketing, it is going to be of utmost importance to be strategic and find ways to provide value. Even though this is a stressful time for businesses, we need to remember the basics of marketing: put your audience first, help them to see how your business provides solutions, and listen to feedback.

 

Right now, if you want to gain more guidance in your content marketing efforts Coursera is offering a free course created by Copyblogger in partnership with UC Davis Extension. You can sign up for that course, HERE: The Strategy of Content Marketing.