We spend a lot of time strategizing how we are going to get people to find our stuff. Less time is spent on what the stuff actually is. Don’t write to be found. Write to be read.
For too long, digital content has tried its best to disassociate itself with it’s basic form – the written word. Admitting that we – content creators – write would be admitting that people would need to read what we write, not just “view” it. That would also means that people could choose not to read what we write. Someone could come across our words, determined that they are not good, and go on their way leaving us with sad puppy dog face. Writing is vulnerability. If you are not allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you’re not writing, you’re just organizing words.
It’s a tricky role to be in, that of the digital marketer. Many of us cut our teeth as creative writers. However as we started getting deeper into the world of marketing, we were told creative writing is for novels, not the web. The web is for action, not reading. Well, yes and no. There are different levels of digital relationships, and different levels of engagement necessary for action. If someone knows what they want, then, yes, swift informational copy is key. However, there is more content than ever on the web. There are more options than energy for choosing. Most people are going on the web without a specific purpose. Content has become an end, not the means. Therefore it has to be more than just directional cues. It needs to be a destination in and of itself.
This might require a shift in the language we use, even if just for ourselves. We created a lot a terminology to get away from the fundamentals of writing and reading. We track impressions. We say people engaged with our content. We looks at time on site, page depth and search tendencies. Does any of that mean they read our stuff? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s measurable. We have started to write for metrics not meaning – search engines not people. Therefore our brand stories are only being validated by machines and bots. They are reduced to ones and zeros. Not ideas, inspiration and emotions. “Digital” describes our marketing, but it doesn’t define it.
Our metrics are meaning less and less each day and our audiences are getting more and more underwhelmed. It’s time to take back the written word and own the relationship between writer and reader.
This relationship puts a lot of pressure on the writer. That’s why it’s much easier to create content. Content is of a committee. Everyone is responsible and no one is responsible. We live and die together. Except that is not how real life works. That is not how interactions take place in the offline world. When we tell someone something on the street, we don’t say: “Hey, these are a few of my closest friends and they are going to be qualifying, redacting and improving what I say to you as I say it. Trust me, it is going to be much more accurate when we’re done.” That may be true – accuracy may be achieved but meaning will be lost. Meaning is the transference of ideas between two people, or an individual and the masses. Ideas need to be, or at least feel, tied to someone.
Someone, the individual, the person is key to meaning. There is a certain level of engagement we achieve in one-on-one conversations. People are not just drawn into what we are saying, but how we are saying it, and even who we are as a person. There are various dimensions at play. That’s what makes it so engaging. When we treat our content as just something to be found, we lose the edges of well-crafted ideas that make meaning so sticky.
Allow Me to Lose Myself
I was distracted before I met you and I’ll be distracted when we part, but for a moment – a brief moment – help me lose myself. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, as content consumers, web surfers, Netflix browsers, we want someone to give us permission to immerse ourselves in something meaningful.
As a reader of your blog, web page, about section, Instagram post, PPC ads, I am distracted. I met you in the middle of a distraction, and then you distracted me from that distraction. And I have every intention of being distracted again. Your job now is to get me to stop circling the pool. Get me to dip my toe in. Entice me to walk to the deep end. And then by all means, let me jump in.
Each word. Each crafted phrase needs to draw me deeper into your story. It needs to build, fall, swoop, speed up and pause. I need to be drawn in deep enough to see each detail, and appreciate them. Each detail allows me to drop another piece of the distracted baggage that I came to you with.
Reading a good piece of content is a cleansing experience. People should leave refreshed, not bogged down. You are giving the gift of permission – the permission to think about only one thing for period of time.