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. 

7 Days a Play: As You Like It and Learning

My only rule for writing these daily blogs is that I don’t do any research at the time of writing. I want to write strictly from what I have retained from listening to the plays and the lectures. This means that I’m going to get some things wrong in the earliest blogs. During the first two or three blogs I may still be trying to sort out the characters. For example, I made the mistake of thinking that Rosalind’s father was recently deceased, but he was just kicked out of the court, banished to the countryside. 

I’m listening to the play each day and then writing a new blog each morning and I plan to do this for seven days for each play. So, as I listen to the play on day three, I might catch something that I had wrong about a character or the plot in an earlier draft. I will likely go back later and edit those posts to accurately reflect the plays’ content, but I think it is interesting to show the process of getting there, too. This is one of the great tricks of literature or any difficult writing. You must make your way through a process of misunderstanding it and by continuing to study and think about the subject you form a clearer and more accurate depiction of the text.

There is a value in leaving a paper trail that shows your growth. Earlier cringy versions of your attempts to express ideas only make the eventual success that much more impactful. There is an innocence expressed in bad writing. Take Orlando in the forest of Arden pining away after his love for Rosalind. Shakespeare uses the scene to make fun of bad poetry, but he is also highlighting his own skill and showing the audience through caricature something about the nature of a certain kind of poetic inspiration. 

Orlando’s buffoonery is also his authenticity. His passion for Rosalind is literally littering the forest with failed attempts to get it right.  Mad with love, he wills himself through the process any artist must undergo. He must learn his craft. His bad writing is only matched by his bad reading as Rosalind convinces him that she is someone else, a man even. He is so consumed with his feelings of unrequited love that he fails to recognize she is right there behind that fake beard talking to him about said love.

In As You Like It, Orlando is transformed from a valiant fighter to an unskilled lover and it is highly entertaining to Rosalind and the audience to watch him stumble with his attempts to understand his feelings. Through staging the scene, she gives the audience view to her own pleasure. Rosalind is a masterful writer. She understands skillful deception and uses it to create a context for comedy. Orlando’s uncontrollable enthusiasm makes him vulnerable to being deceived. Rosalind is a benevolent opportunist, taking full advantage of his impaired state to make fun of him.

The transformation of Orlando shows how important context is. He asserts himself in the court, first through a legal appeal to his inheritance and then through a physical wrestling match. He is actively fighting against the limitations imposed upon him. What he doesn’t expect, though, is to fall in love with an admirer. She got into his consciousness and absolutely destroyed his mind.

He begins a second childhood in the forest stumbling through understanding his feelings hampered by a difficulty with words. Orlando abandons his desire to pursue his rightful portion of family power and instead focuses all his attention on understanding his feelings of love for Rosalind. As a bad writer, a naïve poet, Orlando’s portrait of transformation through romantic attraction shows us how dynamic Shakespeare found humans to be. 

There is also in this interaction a portrait of the positive influence of affinity. As You Like It could refer to the process of growth that occurs as a natural consequence of rooting for something. Being a fan of something or someone is the force that leads to a greater understanding of it. As you like it, you grow to know it and eventually to interact with style, flow, and grace. It shows the strength of the desire to live, the will to love.