Word counts do not matter (or count), messages do.
This article is about the importance and need for long form thinking, not believing that the answer is always more (and becoming everything to everybody) .
The question of how much should you write or just how long something should be, should not be determined by what you can get away with but providing someone else with a perspective that they can attach to.
The Scrounge To Own A Conversation
Companies are now looking to house the conversation, but they are starting to stop becoming meaningful.
Speed, mobility and urgency rule, I am all for that, but at the same time providing value has to be a mammoth objective.
A case in point, what was once the Andrex mantra of ‘soft, strong and very, very, long’ became an attempt to host a conversation by asking if you #ScrunchOrFold.
Meaning takes a backseat for the blind belief that everything communicates.
Still…it can’t be as bad as looking to own the conversation with #RIMjobs
The Exchanges We Create
This is where many businesses are. There is a mix of calm and choppy waters that is driven by a belief of engagement ie. how do you wipe, or to create meaningful exchanges.
It is better to create something that you want someone else to consider rather than the pursuit for everybody to see.
There is a growing need for depth and substance.
People are ready and waiting to come back to longer form content. If what you have to say is interesting, it doesn’t matter what device is in front of someone else to read. If a phone was once thought of as a device to tap and scroll, it is now something to spend time with. Longer form thinking has a place, whatever the size.
A recent report (May 2016) from The Pew Research Centre (a think tank on social issues, public opinion and demographic trends) suggests that people will read longer form content on their phones.
Proof that size doesn’t matter, it is what you do with it that counts.
Whilst ads on mobiles still leave us in a state of blind rage looking for the x like a game of Tin Can Alley, small screens do not deter reading.
The report highlights that an average of 123 seconds of interaction time for articles longer than 1000 words, compared to 57 seconds for pieces less than 1,000 words. Proof being that people are committed to reading longer pieces of work.
More Is Not The Answer
If we are being told that our attention spans are crashing to the sea (12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015), that is because the majority of content that is out there just isn’t for us, we still want to delve into what means something to us (from a book on the train to being locked into season six of Game of Thrones).
It is not a case that we have become immersed in a society driven by the shortest routes possible, if something earns our attention, we give time.
This is the proof that you need to draw a sigh of relief.
It is not about creating more content, it’s about creating relevant content for the audience that you are building a dialogue with, on a consistent basis.
Hubspot state that the more you produce, the more traffic you will gain. Those who produce 16+ blog posts per month will get almost 3.5 times more traffic that those that publish 0-4 articles per month.
Most of us will never be a Hubspot or ever want to be a Hubspot. This is a model driven by volume, you don’t want to be driven by volume. Why not stand out to be driven by creating understanding for someone else.
This is what I believe puts people off creating based on others dictating to push for more without a clear understanding of the role and responsibility others play. Coming back to the example earlier, it is about Andrex opening up an Aladdin’s cave of content and standing for one word that is ‘cleanliness’ that opens up a two car lane to five, not looking for advocates in every channel to voyeuristically find out how we wipe.
To read about the importance for having one word to stand for, read this article.
Finding The Difference
If you can find a responsibility for what you do and deliver it to an audience who believe, that is far stronger than thinking you have to have an opinion about everything.
The length of article does not matter, what matters is to be different in the eyes (and ears) of someone else and provide a view for how the world looks within your space and deliver value beyond what you sell.
People will spend time with what you create, on whatever device, if you can come up with a new answer to an old problem.
The important thing to remember is that to produce a valid argument you need to commit time and energy to create something that doesn’t sound like everyone else. You get better slowly by exposing yourself to things where you take an interest and pursue (mine happens to be the democratisation of media and the opportunity to own the channels that are ours with an owned media approach).
Sharing How Long Form Thinking Works
When not driven by the word count, longer form thinking can become a strong tool. This is how I have structured my thinking. Let me share these with you, hope you find them useful for your side:
length is determined by the message trying to convey
This article is over 1,500 words. What I do beforehand is structure the beginning (with facts to give substance), middle and end. This gives a basis to help format the areas I need to address and then build my own angle.
If the topic was pretty vague ie. ‘content marketing can provide new direction’ there doesn’t provide much to cling to. If you can add focus from the outset ie. ‘content marketing is a mix of understanding, belief and consistency’, then is provides direction from the outset.
provide a reason to read
The fact you made it this far is proof that there was a reason to read. Every article that I create has to provide a reason to read. It can’t just be wholly opinion based as many are all walking into a subway at the moment and shouting.
To have a reason to read is broken down into three areas, fact (I used some statistical evidence in this article), experience (seeing the Andrex angle of approach) and opinion (we have to consider long form thinking).
When you have these as part of your armoury, you can create more considered efforts. You can read more about the fact, experience, and opinion approach here.
A meaningful, precise message for someone to pick up and do
There needs to be aspects for someone else to consider and take on board and apply.
Whilst we want others to interact with a call to action ie. sign up, join or subscribe, it has to mean something to someone else. If you are talking to a small business owner about the need to allocate budget to sponsor events, a heavy focus of £10k per month on paid media and invest heavily in print that involves foiling and embossing, then they are not going to relate and come back again.
You have to empathise and put yourself in someone else’s shoes, not dictate without knowing whom your audience is.
Tone of voice
This was something that took time for me, but once I found a rhythm it becomes one of the areas that differentiate me from others (or at least I like to think). I originally thought that you had to sound more knowledgeable than everyone else and if it means representing a business, then people want to hear total assurance and any sign of vulnerability is a weakness.
Over time, I have found that honesty, becoming confident with who you are, what you know and the gaps that you need to fill become a whole part of a learning curve, not just for you, but for your audience.
Teaching and entertaining your audience
You can’t just fill up space with a monotone, soulless, ‘this is just a job and something I have to do’ approach.
When you accept that you have a role to play for others to share what you know and the experiences that you have encountered. These are things that no one else may have taken on board, apart from you. I faced the prospect of nearly losing my business in 2011/12 and took this as something to share with others the reason why things went completely south. These badges and scars that we wear, become a reason to share and highlight our existence.
What are the goals?
Everything that we create has to come back to a goal that we have. The reason to blog because others are doing it, is every reason not to write. I shared my content goals in a previous article, with happy abandon, you can read why you need a content goal.
Consume and just be relentlessly curious
My thinking has always been helped by an appetite to consume information and what others believe (and connect with them) and to help form my own ecosystem.
I think with the tools that we all have available, the answers are expected promptly and with no inner inquisitiveness to finding out how things work, but to go straight for the jugular with an answer. If businesses became more curious about the world around them and the role that they serve within it, can create a much richer experience for others.
We are not supposed to know all the answers, but if we can have a thirst to ask questions, can help us in the longer term (this was a reason for starting the Talking Content Marketing project in 2013).
This idea based around long form thinking comes back to the heart of a strategy with the challenge to deliver the right value to the right audience.
You can’t be dictated by the word count, but ensure that you move from capturing (and distracting) peoples time and fixated on bounce rates but to make sure that someone takes something away that is useful/entertaining/compelling.
If you can become the source of value and provide the ability for others to connect and take further, the messages you create and the cause that you believe in can help create better experiences in a world that is driven by pace. You can champion the need for depth and substance in what you do by getting better at understanding the role you play for others.