So two friends are walking out of a movie theater having just seen the latest installment in the Avengers franchise. One friend turns to the other and says “Wow, I can’t believe how great that content was”. The other friend laughs excitedly and replies “Yeah that content blew my mind!”. Do you see what’s wrong with this picture? Humans aren’t inspired by content, they’re inspired by emotion and trust me they can tell the difference.
Marketers have been searching for the holy grail of content for decades now. They’ve used google analytics and heatmaps to sneakily watch readers ‘engage’ with their ‘content’ like a cold war era intelligence agency. They track clicks, record live user sessions and embed cookies doing whatever it takes to understand what the hell can keep the view count growing. But perhaps the answer is a bit more simple than we think.
For generations storytellers have used the art of emotion and tension to capture audiences. They’ve understood that humans crave escape; a momentary bliss from the chaos of daily life. Content is no different, and unless you’re answering a direct question, your words better find a way to earn your audience’s emotions. It comes in the form of humor, stunning original visuals, in laughter and in honesty. Each soul devoting time to your words deserves your unwavering commitment to them.
When you’re writing for a wide audience this can become daunting. How can you structure your words to appeal to the world at large? Pixar has some outstanding insights into storytelling and I challenge you to apply them to your own efforts. Now, granted most of their advice is catered towards writing a novel or character driven story but I believe many of the fundamentals of storytelling can be applied to what we do as marketers. Take Rule #22 for example:
“What is the essence of your story?”
If you’re not asking yourself that question before you put pen to paper, you’re simply wasting my time. When a reader gives you their attention you become their eyes ears and soul. Whether it be in the form of a novel or even a social media blog post, the reader trusts you to fully understand your intentions behind your work. Don’t waste their precious attention. Then we see in Rule #5:
“Simplify. Focus. Combine Characters”
Noticing your article growing to a dangerous +1000 words? Stop yourself and start editing even before you finish. Ask yourself what really needs to be there. Are you staying within your essence? Are you remaining true to the reason for writing in the first place?
I’ll stop here for now, but I encourage you to watch the below video series for some stellar insights into the why behind producing:
Now, if you are answering a specific question (as we often do here at SME) it’s fine to forgo emotion for knowledge. But I want you to take things one step further. When someone comes to you for an answer, give them the answer and then another question. Keep them engaged by expanding their scope of what can be asked. A viewer wants to learn about setting up sponsored updates on Facebook? Great tell them how and then tell them about Lead Ads and the potential therein. Use this learning opportunity to its fullest potential, and they’ll remember you forever.
“Each soul devoting time to your words deserves your unwavering commitment to them.”
Guess what you are a teacher, so start acting like it. Prioritize education over analytics. Just imagine if you refocused all that time spent on Google Analytics and put it into making the best educational articles you possibly could. Do you really think things like restructuring your word count is actually going to do anything to keep people engaged? Think of why they’re there in the first place and give them more than they’re expecting. No Harvard professor ever spent half their work day studying which powerpoints gave them the best ROI.
Using the phrase ‘Content’ is regressive for the marketing industry at large. I believe we should use the word specific to our end goal. Are you creating a blog post to teach people about Twitter Ads? Then call it a lesson. Are you publishing a video interview with Jason Falls? Then call it a conversation. It may seem simple but I challenge you to eliminate the word ‘content’ from your vocabulary entirely.