If you’ve searched for the secret to creating engaging content, if you’ve googled “how to increase followers” or ever asked the pros how to make great content marketing, then chances are you’ve come across a whole corral of click-worthy advice.
Usual suspects are headlines about post time, a hook, putting the right content in the right place and in front of the right people. Of course, posting a boring read with a jargon headline at 2 a.m. for your age 45+ audience is going to bomb. But is it just because you posted it in the wee hours while your audience is asleep?
You could’ve posted it at 10 a.m., when Kathy’s had her second cup and is dying to find the right Facebook article to forward off to her dedicated crew of colleagues who rely on Kathy for the perfect morning meme or share-worthy article. But you still have a jargon headline and a boring read. And if the writing sucks, who cares?
Certainly not Kathy.
You want bang BOOM, gasp and *sigh*. Inciting incident, hero’s journey, that utterly captivating climax and just when the audience is sitting on the edge of their seats… breathe in, breathe out, the conclusion that ties everything together.
Feels good, doesn't it?
Okay so not every piece of content marketing, blog post (cough) or video can be a Tarantino-esque passion-laden thrill ride. Sometimes you just have something your audience needs to hear, a product people should know about, or an event that needs promoting. You won’t always need characters, story arcs and symbolism that would make Fincher blush. But you always, always, always need darn good writing.
Take the original Old Spice campaign, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” That’s what we folks in the industry call, “creative.” In 32 seconds, some writers at a desk created a character that people still imitate 12 years later. The second you say “Old Spice” everyone in the room thinks of that handsome jacked guy and how good he must smell.
Need more of an explainer-type feel? This is a great example of what we call a microlearning video. Microlearning videos are designed to promote your brand, product, event or anything you like to your audience, while helping them understand why they’re going to love it. Here, “Unroll.Me” has a wonderful microlearning video that quickly demonstrates its ability to turn your headache of an inbox into one of those little zen garden sand rake things.
This is a killer example of knowing your audience. Can you believe they swear? Make jokes? Act absurd? And swear? Yes! Because their target audience of 18- to 35-year-old men do too. And if you want to convey a message to your audience, you better speak their language.
Dollar Shave Club starts and ends their explainer by telling you they ship high-quality razors to your door for just a dollar a month. In between that, is 60 seconds of pure entertainment that helps you feel good about watching an ad, about the brand, about yourself.
There’s a time and place. Financial institutions have a responsibility to instill trust in their audience of 35- to 75-year-olds. That explainer won’t take a strobe light, a middle finger and a dancing bear. But next time you start writing, ask yourself if you like what you’re writing. If you’re engaged, intrigued or even listening.
Remember, you don’t always have to be risky, but you should never be boring.
See? Even great editors need a great editor.
Write what you need, then worry about what you want. If you’re putting out a video to promote your event, does the viewer need to know every last speaker on your docket? Do they need to know how fun the Thursday night social is going to be, do they need to know the hotel is across the street from a great breakfast place? Maybe. But let's start with the what, where, when and why your audience will care. Reread every sentence and make sure it adds something new.
Avoid cliche, jargon and flowery language: are you deploying effective verbal communication strategies with your exemplary and trusted colleague? Or are you chatting with a coworker?
These are the basics, a robot can (we assume?) do that.
But it takes a Writer™ to create something people want to read – the “sweet” part. That rare post, product label or video in which every word feels like a soft whisper from an old friend. The words that, yes, advertise your product or communicate your message, but go beyond that.
It’s your favorite song. It’s the movie you want to show your partner. The piece that taps into your deepest self, carries your curiosity, offers a soft laugh and a hard realization that, darn, you do agree with whatever’s being said.
The opener of your video should echo the same message or sentiment as the closer of your video.
Opener: “For a dollar a month we send high quality razors right to your door.”
Closer: “Stop forgetting to pick up blades and start deciding where you’re going to stack all those dollar bills I’m saving you.”
There’s color on either side, but the opener and the closer are made of the same material. The opening line offers a helping hand saying, “Look, here’s what you need to know, now let’s explore!” and carries you through the twists and turns before leading you into the comforting end.
But wait a minute, weren't there a couple different golden threads in there? He said his name was Mike, there were some jokes, he bragged about employing a guy and there was a dancing bear at one point?
These are threads, yes, but they merely connect you to emotions, agreements and understandings and never stray too far from the point. Ah, this guy is funny, ah this is a startup that appears to not be evil, ah they like to have fun, I like to have fun! Gosh, I like them, what do they want me to do again? Save money, support something I like and get what I need?
Sounds pretty golden to me.
I’m not going to post the video of my college first-year presentation on the many benefits of the Oxford comma, let’s just imagine I went on a 20-minute rant that the audience tuned out of when they first heard “Oxford comma.”
What I should have asked myself before I wrote my first word is: Who cares, and why? Do I have something new to share? Is what I’m about to say valuable to my audience and, if it is, am I saying it in a way they’ll understand and want to engage with?
Think about it from a feature vs. benefit perspective.
A feature is your car’s new engine sprockets that are made with lithium ion and have a .42 Newton ratio. (Can you tell I know cars?)
But a benefit is the roar of your engine as you fly past everyone else on the highway, top down, breeze blowing through your hair.
Which one makes you want the sprockets?
Same deal with Unroll.Me. Remember, the zen garden of inboxes? They could have opened up by talking all about their proprietary API that uses the latest SQL technology to make algorithmic choices based on email addresses you like or don’t like (I’m making this up, please don’t sue us). But they didn’t. They showed you, or me, sitting and talking about our universal headache of dealing with email subscription lists that were a giant pain to get rid of. Until now.
Now, it’s smiling faces and smooth sailing through a clutter-free inbox.
That’s good writing that talks to your audience. Not at them.
But if you want to learn how video can help your organization, hit the button below to check out our Video Best Practices. You'll learn we help you create content, use it to transform your marketing strategy and make more money -- we call that a win-win. Check it out!
Now go forth, and write some awesome content!