Digital communications: Is less really more when it comes to online content?

Fast-Company-logoI read an interesting article on the Fast Company website the other day called: ‘Less is more: why you’re saying too much and getting ignored’. It was all about how, in the age of information overload, not getting to the point quickly enough means we get overlooked. Concisely getting your message across is something that all businesses struggle with – and even we as professional communicators are often guilty of not being able to do. The fact is, some things in business just aren’t that simple and there is a danger that we lose the message all together if we ‘dumb down’ or ‘water down’ what we want to say.

Is bite-size best?

When it comes to ‘shareable’ social media content such as blogs and status updates, there’s a generally held belief that bite size is best and that our target audiences are now so easily bored that they don’t want to read anything in depth. But there’s another school of thought that says the digital age has made us more knowledge-hungry and that the wealth of information and opinions out there on every subject makes people more likely to thoroughly research something before making a buying decision.

Can ‘long form’ content still be shareable?

The subject of the optimum length of online content is endlessly debated on blogs, with many quoting figures supposedly showing that long form content doesn’t work but a blogger recently asked the owners of amazing new content curation site Buzz Sumo for the data they have on 100 million online articles and the results were surprising. Their analysis of the top 10 most shared articles showed that ‘long form’ content gets more shares than ‘short form’ content. In fact, it clearly showed that the longer the content, the more shares it gets.

Other recent research by blog publishing platform Medium (which my colleague Erin came across on this useful Marketing Land blog) shows that an ideal blog posts takes seven minutes to read, which at the average reading rate, works out as 1,400-1,750 words – much longer than the few hundreds words max that many insist blog posts should be limited to. However, the author of the blog rightly pointed out that lengthy online content can be difficult to read/concentrate on so other factors such as the use of images, headings and white space are important to make it ‘scannable’.

7 minute content graph

So, are tweets too short to really mean anything?

On social media platforms where we are restricted by the number of characters we can post, in particular Twitter, does what we say really have any meaning? When it comes to the optimum length of content, there is extensive research showing that shorter posts are much more effective on social media platforms, with some even showing that taking up all 140 characters of a tweet will make your content less visible and shareable. However, just because people don’t want to read a rambling Facebook status doesn’t mean that they can’t be enticed to click through to further information from a tweet or status update that captures their attention through a punchy statement.

The Fast Company article I referred to at the beginning of this post says that: “brevity is the skill we need to be heard and be successful,” and that is certainly the case when it comes to being visible online and encouraging your audiences to want to find out more. We often do an exercise with our clients where we try and get them to articulate who they are and what they do as a business or organisation in 140 characters (the length of a tweet) because it forces them to strip out all the technical jargon and explanation and just state their offer in simple terms that their audiences can understand and relate to.

Because of the kind of sectors that we work in, we are often tasked with positioning our clients as thought leaders for long term reputational value so we’re massive advocates of in-depth content that tells a story and builds a relationship with the customer/client/stakeholder. However, being able to distil this down into simple key messages that make them stand out from the crowd and get the attention of the people they want to talk to is still important.

fish tank thought leader

Our conclusion from all of this is that a self-publishing blog platform where you can share in-depth but ‘scannable’ content should be at the heart of your digital communications strategy but that this content then needs to be expertly distilled into bite-size chunks that can be shared and linked to from social media platforms where your audiences and networks will see them.

But that’s easier said than done. Turning their expertise into engaging content is where we can add most value to our clients because we know how to get inside the heads of their audiences to pick out what are really the most interesting insights. Get in touch if you need help with content development for your website, blog or other online channels.

 

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