This isn’t going to be what you think.
Now, we’ve all seen ‘Up’, right? It’s the Disney/Pixar movie about the old man who loses his wife, then looks set to lose his house, till he launches a million balloons and floats of in that very house on a mission to go on the grand voyage that he and his beloved never got to go on. It’s a great film, everyone likes Up – it’s got an 8.2/10 score on IMDB, putting it at number 113 on the top films of all-time. Up is a story to which most viewers have some level of emotional attachment – that first fifteen minutes is possibly one of the best examples of effective, human, storytelling ever captured on film, and it’s all done with zero dialogue, you just see the events play out. It’s classic cinema, but it’s also the ultimate example of how when we have an emotional anchor tying us to the heart of a story, that all the other details start to matter a lot less.
So, (and stop reading if you’ve never seen Up and don’t want to me to ruin it for you) after that first 15-20 minutes, we’re emotionally tied to the outcome of Up. We want Mr Fredricksen to come out of this okay, because his life story is so relatable and true to life. He’s had to deal with losing the only person he ever loved, the one person he needed, and now he’s tied to the house they had together, the memories he keeps. We, as the audience, want more than anything for Mr. Fredricksen to win after that montage sequence, because that’s what we want for ourselves – it’d be terrible to think there’s no light at the end of the tunnel for him, for us. But then Up takes a turn for the less logical.
Mr. Fredricksen ties about a million balloons to his house and floats it. I can go with that, it links back to his former life selling balloons to kids and his only motivation now is to take his wife on one last adventure in the home they made. But then he finds Russell on his porch. How did Russell end up on his porch? For one, Russell was at his house the previous day, so he must’ve come back the next morning to continue his search for the Snipe – okay, I can go with that. But then he also must’ve seen the guys from the home come to the front door and that didn’t deter him at all. Okay, stretching. Russell then, when the house starts lifting off the ground, must have either jumped onto the porch, or not got off the porch, depending on where he was at, and held on for dear life as it took off. There’s no logical reason for this. But we forgive this element because, well, who cares? The dude’s flying a house levitated by balloons, logic’s already largely been thrown out the window.
But more than that, we don’t care because we’re already emotionally invested in the outcome. We’ve bought into Mr. Fredricksen’s story, and it’ll take a hell of a lot to get us to stop caring about him now – details be damned.
In this sense, Up gets away with a heap of stroyline quirks and plot holes that other films wouldn’t have a chance of overcoming. How is it possible that the adventurer, Charles Muntz, is still alive and still chasing that bird when he was already an old man when Mr. Fredricksen was a boy. This is somewhat explained at the beginning, when they say Paradise Falls is ‘a land lost in time’, but is it, in fact, lost in time? Have they somehow travelled back in time? How was Muntz able to develop technology to translate dogs in an isolated forest? Why isn’t Mr. Fredricksen more amazed about this? Why isn’t Muntz happy to see another human, why isn’t he asking how the hell he gets back – he must have family or something? Why isn’t Muntz more surprised that some old man has flown a house to the falls? Does anyone care about any of this?
No. And that’s the triumph of Up. Up highlights the absolute power of human connection, of finding the human heart of a story, as an effective storytelling practise. If you can find the human heart to a story, you can make it about anything – wars happening in a galaxy far, far away, love stories happening on a doomed cruise liner in the time before it crashes. Human connection, linking with your audience and making your story relatable to them, is more important than virtually any other element. Because we connect through stories, we relate. It’s stories that bind us together and make us feel less alone in the world.
Up is the ultimate example of this. Don’t believe me? Imagine Up without that opening montage, with no context for his relationship, other than him talking to his now absent partner every now and then. And while gaps in logic are always less of an issue in kids films, they’re almost totally irrelevant in Up. Because all we want is for Mr. Fredricksen to get that house onto that clifftop, just like his wife always wanted. That emotional drive is powerful, the heart of the story is what everything else refers back to. If you can find your story’s heart, you’re on the path to building an emotionally resonant, and connective, piece.
After much speculation, Facebook’s Instant Articles are here. Instant Articles gives publishers the opportunity to post their content direct to Facebook, in a move that some are proclaiming as ‘selling their soul’ to the social giant. The concern, given Facebook’s history of changing the ground rules, is that while the initial offering from Facebook on Instant Articles is good, the other shoe will eventually drop once the process has become embedded and publishers are reliant on the new practice. Like Darth Vader, the expectation is that Facebook will alter the deal, and once it’s become a key part of publishers’ overall strategy, they’ll be left with no choice but to simply pray that Facebook doesn’t alter it any further.
How does it work?
Instant Articles translates publisher content via HTML and RSS into good looking, easy to consume content, available direct on Facebook. There’s also a range of additional publishing options exclusive to the new platform to boost the presentation of content in the News Feed, things like auto-play video and interactive maps, all of which will function smoothly within Facebook’s mobile news feed. It’s worth noting that Instant Articles are only available via the mobile app right now – trying to access the same content on your desktop PC will take you to the normal, mobile web version of the article (though Facebook specifically notes ‘for the moment’ as a qualifier on this).
Instant Article posts load much faster than normal links, which is one of the major pain points Facebook is seeking to resolve with this option. The average mobile load time for an external link from Facebook is around eight seconds. Now, that seems like nothing, right? Eight seconds isn’t long to wait for an article to come up, but on a wider scale, when you consider how many people are using Facebook each day, that time is significant. Facebook has 936 million daily active users, if each of those users opens just one link per session, that eight seconds load time equates to more than two million total hours that people around the world are waiting, each day, for posts to load – time those people could be spending doing other things. Like reading more content on Facebook. From that perspective alone, Facebook’s move has a significant pay-off, even if they maintain the current ad revenue split, which, at present, looks pretty appealing for publishers.
How do publishers make money?
One of the biggest concerns about publishers posting first-run content direct to Facebook was that they’d be surrendering their own audience in favour of Facebook’s. If people no longer need to visit your site to view content, that’s going to result in less traffic, and by extension, less opportunity to monetize your audience. Facebook’s worked to alleviate this by offering publishers the ability to display their own ads within their Instant Articles, with all revenues from any such ads going back to the publishers. Facebook will then fill any unsold ad spots, and will take a 30 per cent cut from any revenues generated by those ads, with the rest going back to the publishers.
Facebook has also worked with comScore to ensure Instant Article views within Facebook’s app will count as traffic for the original publisher, not Facebook. So while publishers are ceding control to The Social Network, they’re getting a pretty good deal on advertising and losing nothing in audience stats. Facebook will also provide performance data on Instant Articles, better enabling publishers to work out what’s resonating best with their Facebook audience and make improvements.
Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? And considering many publishers are already significantly reliant on Facebook referral traffic anyway, partnering with the network via Instant Articles makes sense, as it’s likely (despite Facebook saying this is not the case) that Facebook’s algorithm will give preferential treatment to Instant Articles over other posting options. Though that, too, is where publishers hesitate in shaking Facebook’s outstretched hand and look down at the feet to see if their standing on the trap door.
What’s The Issue with Instant Articles?
The problem with Facebook’s new option is not what Instant Articles are now, but what they may become. Major players posting direct to Facebook is a fundamental shift in the publishing process. While, right now, the deal looks good, and it seems as though Facebook has done a lot of negotiating with their launch partners to ensure the deal beneficial for all, as with the many changes to the News Feed algorithm, Facebook has the right to change the game whenever it sees fit.
If publishers don’t sign up to Instant Articles, will that see eventually their content de-emphasised by the algorithm, making it harder to reach potential audience on the platform? If Instant Articles are given preferential placement in the News Feed, will that further reduce the reach of all other content as there’ll be less News Feed real estate remaining as a result? If Instant Articles are a big hit, and publishers become reliant on that as a new source of revenue, will Facebook re-configure the advertising split, leaving publishers with no choice but to take the hit and give over more money to the social giant?
Obviously, there’s no way of knowing how it will play out, but it’s generally agreed that building a reliance on ‘rented land’, in social networks or any other platform of which you don’t control the back-end, isn’t sustainable practice in the long-term. But maybe Facebook is, as they say, only seeking to improve user experience. Maybe eliminating that load time results in more people spending more time visiting other areas of Facebook or direct posted articles further enhance Facebook’s status as a key source of information, increasing time spent on platform, and thus, opportunities for Facebook to serve ads, and that, in itself, is enough reason for Facebook to maintain the system as is. It seems unlikely, in the long term. The initial deal being offered seems a little too good to be what it will in its final configuration. But it sure is appealing. You can imagine many publishers would be willing to sign-up to get better reach to Facebook’s 1.4 billion users.
Instant Articles is definitely an interesting development, and one everyone in the content, media and publishing space will want to keep a close eye on.
Back in early 2014, I came across a content discovery tool called BuzzSumo. Steve Rayson, who regularly writes for Social Media Today, had referenced BuzzSumo data in one of his posts, so I clicked through, checked it out – and honestly, I was awed by the many varied applications I could immediately use this data for.
In basic form, BuzzSumo shows you the social share stats for any URL, website or topic. In itself, this is pretty helpful, but one of the more impressive elements of BuzzSumo is the developers’ awareness of how this data will be used, and what data will be useful. As such, over time they’ve added a range of additional features: you can filter the results by language or region; you can narrow the listing down to content type – infographics, videos, interviews; they added the ability to search for influencers on any given topic, reports to compare domains or examine backlinks, by URL or domain. As more new functions have been added, I’ve found myself using and recommending the app ever more frequently.
If you’ve not taken the time to check out BuzzSumo, you should, it really is a great app. And now they’ve got another addition – Steve recently got in touch to give me a look at their latest feature.
BuzzSumo’s latest trick is monitoring trending content. The new feature enables you to set up a dashboard of trending or most shared content based on whatever keywords and topics you’d like to keep tabs on.
In this example, the dashboard is set to show the most shared content under the topic of ‘social media’ over the last 24 hours. You can see the keywords I’ve used to track this in the listing just above the posts:
The dashboard is tracking the terms ‘social media’, ‘LinkedIn’, ‘Facebook’, etc. Any topic that mentions those terms is included in this dashboard, which is sorted by most shared to least. There’s a range of additional filters you can apply to the results – you can include results from the last 24 hours, or the last 2 hours, and anything in between. You can also narrow the listing down by country and by either ‘Most Shared’ or ‘Trending Now’.
If you choose ‘Trending Now’, the results will be listed based on each item’s trending score, which measures the velocity of shares within a specified time period. This is a great way to stay on top of the content attracting the most interest in specific niches or based on your target keywords – you can also include hashtags in your search terms to capture all relevant discussion.
What’s more, you can share your dashboards with anyone – logged out users can view the content, so you could make a dashboard capturing all mentions of, say, an event and the BuzzSumo trending log will form a comprehensive overview of the most discussed and trending content related to it – this one, for example, is looking at the UK General Election campaign:
Now, if you’re mind’s not already floating off with the various possibilities of this new function, here are a few ways in which the feature could be useful:
- Content curation – The most obvious benefit of this new functionality is for content curation. Being able to identify the most popular and trending content, based on your specified keywords – in your specific region – is great insight into what’s resonating, and what’s likely to be of relevance to your audience. Not only does this enable you to stay on top of developing discussion points and issues in your niche, it can also act as a guide when considering what to share with your community to keep them up to date
- Content creation – So, if you have a trending dashboard set up and you can see that a certain issue is running hot, and you have your own perspective to add to the discussion, that’s probably a good cue for you to get writing. Adding your personal insight to a trending issue can go a long way towards reinforcing your position as a leader in your field – having the list of trending topics, right there in front of you, could save you a heap of time in searching and locating relevant content by other methods
- Insight – Not only are you getting valuable insight into what content is trending, BuzzSumo’s listings also show you where that content is reaching an audience. You can see below the preview images for each post that there’s also a listing of how many shares each story has generated on the five major social platforms. This effectively highlights the platforms you need to be active on in order to reach the audience discussing those topics – locating and tapping into those conversations could prove extremely valuable, as, targeted with your specific keywords, it’s leading you directly to your where your target audience is at. There’s obviously a bit more to it than just logging on and jumping into a trending conversation, but it’s a guide, an indicator of where to look. And maybe it’ll show you opportunities you’d not have previously considered
These are the three main uses for the trending dashboard from a straight marketing and research perspective. But as noted in the event example above, there are a heap more ways you could consider using this. There’s also an RSS feature that you can use to stay informed with the most up-to-date info on trending topics in your industry – and the terms you use to create the board are defined by you, so you can make it as specific or broad-matched as you like.
As noted previously, I’ve been pretty impressed by BuzzSumo’s progression – their features always add a new level of depth, and they’ve really thought through the functionality and user-friendliness of the process when putting together these features. Trending topics again adds another level, and there’s a wide range of possible applications and uses for this option. No doubt you’re already considering using it for your own purposes, beyond what I’ve noted here. If you aren’t using BuzzSumo, you definitely check it out, and if you are, you’ll no doubt love the new feature – another solid addition from the BuzzSumo team.
I read an interview with author Arnold Zable recently in which he discussed his work in championing causes through his writing, notably asylum seekers. Zable talked about the power of storytelling in such efforts, saying that ‘story is a very beautiful way to lead people somewhere else’. Zable noted that more than statistics and facts, telling the real story, revealing the true, human experience behind issues is the only real way to cut through and make people take notice.
Zable’s words definitely rang true to me – we’re constantly berated by numbers and figures behind issues like asylum seekers or climate change, to the point where their effectiveness is diminished. But a real story, of how a mother fled a war-torn land to save her children, that brings the issue home in a far more visceral and powerful way. You feel it, you respond to it. While data and figures are important, logical cues, the power of storytelling should not – and cannot – be underestimated.
The Rise of the Brand Journalist
This got me to thinking about how we’re discussing storytelling in content marketing. There’s a big focus on story at the moment, because emotional triggers are what drive social sharing. The ever increasing amount of people using social media leads to an equally increasing amount of brands looking to utilise social channels to reach their audience, and the best way to do that, to compel people to like and share your brand message, is through content. Storytelling has always been the strongest way to deliver a resonant message, but now, with the audience having more control than ever over their media inputs, compelling content is crucial. Shareable content. You need to give people a reason to like your brand, a reason to want to talk about your business or business message. People aren’t on social to be advertised to, they want to be part of something bigger than themselves, they want to join in on the wider conversation. The more your content can form a part of that discussion, the more successful your brand will be at maximising social channels.
One thing I have noted, in seeing the growing emphasis on content and storytelling in marketing, is that the term ‘brand journalism’ has also grown in step. The pervading view is that all brands are now publishers in the modern digital landscape – the audience needs a reason to align with you, so you need to tell stories, and online platforms provide you with the means to do just that. This has seen an increasing number of businesses look to producing their own stories, their own angles on relevant discussions, and that, effectively, is brand journalism. But every time I see this term I question whether a brand journalist is what you really want.
The Power of Story
Definitely, journalists are accomplished writers who are able to communicate the facts of the story, and many of them are, at heart, storytellers who are passionate about finding the core of a piece and building an experience for the reader. But a lot of journalism, too, is facts and figures.
For instance, this was a piece in an Australian newspaper recently, looking at the tragic disappearance of Dane Kowalski:
This is solid news journalism, all the facts are there, all the detail. But compare that to this single post from a friend of Dane’s, who’d been doing all he could to locate him:
In two sentences, this post has captured far more emotion, delivered far more resonance, because this is something this person is living. The pain is raw, real – the story is more than a piece in the news section. Every story is – there’s more to a news item than the who, what, when and where – the why is the real story. The people living it are the real connectors. You can read over a set of facts like:
Yet none of those figures are as compelling as an actual story:
Nothing comes from no where. In every story, in everyone’s life, in every event, there’s a passion, a human heart at it’s core. That story is what people relate to, what people identify with, and ultimately, what people respond to. Given that, in many cases it may not be ‘brand journalists’ that you need, but ‘brand storytellers’, people who can uncover the true purpose and passion behind what you do.
A Human Story
Of course, many, if not most, journalists are driven by a passion to tell human stories, to share that core truth of a story in order to let the audience develop an informed opinion on the subject. But it always stands out to me when I see the term used. And a lot of the content that does get shared via social networks is facts and figures based, so it’s not to say that a news-style approach doesn’t work either, but I guess the point here is in understanding what gets shared, why people share content – it’s in understanding what stories resonate with audiences. Those are the real stories, the human side. A news story might be about a man’s company going bust, but that didn’t just happen. There’s a long trail of events that lead to that business collapsing, a story behind those details that would allow the reader to build a better understanding and emotional connection with the material – and this type of investigative journalism, based in true storytelling, is what’s most beneficial to building better discussion and understanding. Because people make judgements based on what they read. If they only have the basic details, their opinions will be established on those. But if they have all the information, then they can absorb it and make a judgement based on the whole picture.
The TV show Catfish is a great example – someone will be scamming someone else online by pretending to be someone they’re not – and it’s easy for us, as the viewers, to side with the victim, because they are the ones being lied to. But more often than not, the perpetrators themselves are just sad, or lonely, or lost and when you hear their side of the story, the right and wrong of the situation isn’t so clear. They’re all people, they all do things for their own reasons. Those reasons are powerful and add real insight. Those are the stories we need to share.
Not everyone wants to read the detail, not everyone will appreciate the story, but it’s important to understand what resonates, what style of storytelling works to reach people’s emotional triggers and subsequently generates discussion and community. Facts and figures and important, but why are they important? What do those numbers actually mean for the real people involved? Great storytelling reveals this, great journalism reveals this, but you need to recognise what you’re actually aiming for when establishing a content plan and working with writers and writing staff.
Thriller writer James Patterson recently released the world’s first self-destructing book. It was a gimmick – you could buy the ‘self-destructing’ version of his latest novel, which erased itself after 24 hours, or you could wait another few days and buy it in traditional book form. Patterson’s a former ad guy, so it’s not surprising that he’d come up with something like this, a stunt closely aligned to the next generation’s affections with self-destructing and disappearing content. And while we won’t have a true gauge on how effective this promotion was for some time, it’s definitely gained Patterson a lot of attention which he’d otherwise not have received – so should other writers be considering new publishing options like this?
A Changing Conversation
We’re living in extremely interesting times, from a communications perspective. The advent of social media has changed the way we interact – people are more connected, in terms of both reach and access, than ever before. This connectivity is unprecedented – we don’t know the full effects and implications of this new world, because we’re all in the midst of living in and exploring it. But what we do know is it’s different. People’s habits are changing, audience expectations and evolving, and in this, the whole structure of arts and entertainment is shifting. What we’ve long known to be the way of things is mutating before us.
This is most obvious in publishing, newspapers being the easiest example, with print publications declining as more and more people get their daily news and information online. Books, too, are changing, with Kindles and eReaders becoming more commonplace. The flow-on effect of this is that the traditional publishing model is no longer as profitable – getting a book accepted by a major publisher has always been hard, but with an increasing amount of pressure on the bottom line, the money available for new writers is rapidly drying up. Some of those publishing losses are balanced out by lower costs – an eBook costs nowhere near as much to produce as a physical book, but the return is also diminished, because they can’t charge the same amount for a digital copy. Mostly, the result is flat, there’s really not a heap for publishers to gain from the shift to more electronic readers, but as with newspapers, where traditional outlets are getting beaten is by smaller, more agile competitors who don’t have the overheads and revenue requirements that are strangling the giants. The opportunities for new players – like self-publishers – are greater than ever – though it’s a hard path to reach any sort of significant audience.
The film industry’s facing similar challenges – with more and more films available via illegitimate means so quickly online, we’re seeing fewer arthouse films get picked up by big cinema chains. This is why you’re seeing so many big-budget Hollywood films – remakes of sequels of remakes – over and over, at the movies. Because people can’t replicate the experience of seeing those epic movies at home – advances in home cinema and larger TV screens mean we can get pretty much replicate an arthouse cinema experience in our lounge room. But we can’t do massive sound, we can’t do 3D. As such, Hollywood is taking fewer risks on smaller projects, which means less opportunity for young filmmakers coming through – in the late nineties we had low-budget debuts from Darren Aronofsky (‘Pi’) and Chris Nolan (‘Memento’) that may not have even been released in the modern cinema marketplace. Yet, those are the films that got those guys to where they are now – Aronofsky’s ‘Black Swan’ was a cinematic masterpiece, and Nolan’s now one of the biggest names in movies, fuelled by the success of his Batman trilogy. With Hollywood taking fewer risks in smaller films, we may be missing out on the next generation of great film directors, and with fewer opportunities for up and coming artists, we could, effectively, see a decline in the quality of cinema for years to come. Unless we start looking elsewhere.
The Diversification of Creation
What we have seen in the film industry is that more young artists are branching into new mediums. Where they may not have opportunities in film, more innovative and creative work is coming from platforms like YouTube, Vine and Instagram. Some of these artists have progressed from their online work to cinematic opportunities – Neill Blomkamp, the director of ‘District 9’, got his first big Hollywood break because Peter Jackson saw some of the short films he’d made in his spare time on YouTube. Josh Trank, who directed the excellent ‘Chronicle’ gained recognition through his short films posted online (including this Star Wars ‘found footage’ short). Trank is now slated to direct a new, standalone, Star Wars film, as well as the Fantastic Four reboot. The next wave of film-making talent is more diversified, spread across various mediums, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in new forms – and as these two examples highlight, there can be significant benefits to just being present and proactive, posting content to build your profile and build recognition. While what we know as the traditional progression of film creative is changing, we’re seeing greater opportunities through access to cameras and editing/creation apps – if you’re looking for the directors of tomorrow, you might be better off checking out ‘Best of Vine’ than Sundance (note: one of the films that generated the most buzz at the most recent Sundance was ‘Tangerine’, which was shot almost entirely on an iPhone).
Opportunities in Innovation
So what does this mean for publishing? Really, it means that we need to consider ways to be more innovative with what we do. Patterson’s exploding novel may seem like a pretty gimmicky gimmick, but this is where we need to be looking as the next iteration of book publishing and connecting with our audiences. People these days are seeking more immersive experiences, with websites tied into content and apps tied into social media discussions. As more movie studios tap into this and get better at a 360 degree approach to their content, that immersion will become the expectation, and that expectation will extend to other forms of entertainment media. Exploding books are one thing, as a concept that might get you a bit more attention for your next book launch, but it’s not so much the idea itself that’s interesting about Patterson’s promotion. It’s the fact that an author like Patterson is innovating that’s interesting, and it highlights the need for all authors to consider new platforms, new processes, new ways to engage readers. The opportunities are there, the mediums are available – it may be worth taking the time to consider how to best use them to communicate and connect with your audience.
After months of speculation, Twitter video has arrived. Users of Twitter’s mobile app can now quickly and easily shoot-and-share video clips to be sent along with their tweets. And it’s pretty great – the functionality’s very similar to that of Vine (also owned by Twitter), though the maximum clip length has been extended to 30 seconds. You just compose your tweet, click on the camera option and switch it to video, hold down the video icon to film, then you’re done. It’s easy, seamless and will be a massive boost for brands and regular users alike. But, of course, that functionality isn’t startlingly new – you’ve always been able to record video in another app, like Vine, and share that video via tweet, right? While that is true, the immediacy and ease of use of having video functionality in-built takes video on Twitter to another level – here are three reasons why Twitter video will go big time.
1. Video infinitely enhances personal connection. Gary Vaynerchuck touched upon this in a recent post – as we’ve all seen from the massive growth of video on Facebook, video content is powerful. We also know that people are on social media to be social – social platforms are personal platforms, places from which people can voice their opinions and share their thoughts on everything from global issues to their favourite biscuits. Sharing your voice enables you to be heard, and that capability is extremely powerful, particularly when it comes to how that voice is acknowledged. Listening and responding to those voices is a key element in building brand loyalty and advocates – if people are using social to be heard, the brands that win are those that are hearing them and responding to those signals.
While it’s best practice, and common courtesy, to acknowledge users who’ve shared your content or commented on your tweets, sometimes those acknowledgements can come across as robotic or non-genuine. Sometimes, even if they’re totally genuine, it’s unavoidable that your message will seem cut-and-pasted – I’ll often respond to people who’ve shared my posts with ‘Thanks for sharing my post, Ben, much appreciated’ – and that’s a genuine sentiment, and I always try to include the users’ actual name to show that this isn’t just a repeated tweet, but there’s only so many variations you can do on that message. But now I have Twitter video – what if I made an individual video personally acknowledging that person for sharing my content. And maybe my doing it is no big deal, I’m not a big name celebrity, but what if Jay Baer did it? Your CEO, maybe? What about Beyonce?
The power of an individual video message is significant – that sort of interaction can turn a person into a fan for life. And now, with that video capability in-built and readily accessible, it takes literally only a few more seconds of effort to make a stronger connection through video recognition. Click reply, press the video camera, create a message, send. Simple, fast, powerful.
2. Immediate and fast access to video will make it easier to contextualize with ‘how-to’ and ‘walk-through’s. Have you ever seen the Lowe’s ‘Fix in Six’ videos posted to Vine? In short, quick clips, people were able to produce amazingly helpful – and popular – ‘how-to’ content – and now you can do the same, but with longer clip duration. This aspect will reinforce Twitter’s capacity as THE customer service platform. Brands and helpdesk assistants no longer need to restrict their advice to 140 characters – a challenge at the best of times. Now you can take a quick clip, right there, in-app, and show the person on the other end of the line how to do something.
Even better, it’s often equally, if not more, difficult for users to explain their issues within Twitter’s character limit. Now you can just get them to film the issue and tweet the video through. This will avoid confusion over what’s being discussed, where the actual issue lies. Again, the immediacy of being able to press one button and create a video of the problem is significantly different to taking a video in another app and sharing that way. Having the functionality right there, within the platform that people are already using, will change how video is used in this application. Problems will be resolved faster, responses will be more in-depth and helpful. The change will be significant for the brands that utilise this functionality to best effect.
3. Twitter video will bring more users to Twitter and keep them there longer. Tech investor Jason Calacanis wrote a piece about Twitter video in early January which looked at the platform’s capacity to capitalise on the rising popularity of video content. In Calacanis’ post, he made a very relevant point about how celebrities use Twitter – he noted that many celebrities and influencers are highly active on Twitter, but not many have their own YouTube or Vine channels, so they’re not actively posting a high amount of video content. He also noted that Facebook has been trying for years to get celebrities and influencers more active on their platform, as evidenced by the creation of Facebook Mentions, an app targeted specifically at celebrities (which, co-incidentally, just got an upgrade). Twitter already has those big names on-board – providing them with the ability to easily share videos with their huge follower bases (and once they see how their fans respond to that video content) will lead to more of them posting more video content, which, in-turn, will lead to more people coming to Twitter to view it.
What’s more, Twitter video’s can only be shared through embedding or posting links back to the original tweet, there’s no easy way to extract the video and re-post it on YouTube or direct to Facebook. When those celebrities do post clips, that content will, of course, be shared across other platforms, and the way that content is accessed through other channels is by providing, or linking back to, the original tweet, which, again, generates greater exposure for Twitter. This is in-line with Twitter’s view that it reaches a significantly larger audience than it’s actual user-base through ‘logged-out’ users, people who are exposed to Twitter content but are not on the platform. As it moves to better monetize this element, growing that exposure can only be a good thing. It may also prove to be a huge thing in the long run.
Overall, Twitter video is not a massive shift – the ability to post and share video via tweet is, essentially, nothing new. But the integration of video into your Twitter stream, having the option right there, a click away as you compose your message, changes the equation significantly. There are so many opportunities, so many simple and effective ways to use this new process. If you’re not thinking about using Twitter videos, you should be. Because have no doubt, other brands are thinking on it. Even minor innovations can be the difference between a 7/10 and a 10/10 customer experience.
Reading through a heap of blogs each morning, one thing that stands out is the quality of the writing. Don’t get me wrong, many of them are excellent, but there are some that are well-researched and written by a professional who clearly knows his/her field, yet their writing is flat. It’s like reading an academic paper – very informative and valuable, but a slog, and most of the time I just move on, there’s other content to get through. Some of these posts would be significantly improved if the author noted a few simple changes, language economics, if you will, that can greatly improve the fluidity of your content.
Next time you write a blog post, try applying some of these to your work, test whether they might improve the flow of your piece. These are minor, simple changes that can make a significant difference to your content, and, by extension, it’s reach.
1. Remove all mentions of the word ‘just’. There are, of course, some places where ‘just’ is still necessary, but more often than not, ‘just’ just holds up the sentence flow. When writing a blog post you want to be authoritative, state what you believe. ‘It just won’t work’. ‘It just doesn’t add up’. Anytime you write the word ‘just’, go back and review the sentence and see if it might read better, stronger, without it. If you can say the same thing in fewer words, you should, always. And quite often ‘just’ ends up being just unnecessary.
2. Remove weakening ‘I’ statements. ‘I think…’, ‘I doubt…’ You’re the author of the piece, anything you say is your opinion. There’s really no need to state this again in your article.
‘I think a better way to do things is…’
You have to stand by your words and state them as fact. If you don’t believe they are fact, don’t say them, but if you’ve done your research and you’re making a point, that statement will be more powerful if you take out the self attribution.
‘A better way to do things is…’
Much stronger, that’s a voice readers will pay attention to. ‘I’ statements can be very strong in some contexts, so you shouldn’t remove them wholesale, but it is worth reviewing each to test if the sentence reads stronger without it.
3. Use definitive language. This somewhat reinforces the first two points, but it’s crucial that your statements be definitive when necessary. In my previous job, I remember seeing an e-mail where a salesperson had asked someone from my team whether a job could be done by a certain time. The response the salesperson got was ‘Should be fine.’ ‘Should be fine’ is not good enough – the sales team are dealing with clients, they need to know whether this will or won’t happen, and they shouldn’t have to waste time sending a clarifying e-mail because of this person’s weak response. ‘I think that’s right’ bears significantly different meaning to ‘That’s right’ – the second one gives you the answer, that’s how it is. That person knows what they’re talking about and you can have faith in what they say (so long as they are, in fact, right). You need to be definitive in your language and give clear, authoritative answers. If you’re reviewing your work and you find uncertain statements, clarify them or cut them out.
4. Be mindful of the over-use of adverbs like quickly, rapidly, slowly, etc. Sometimes these are already implied by the surrounding context and only serve to slow up your sentences. ‘He ran quickly’ – well, yeah, he ran, I’d assume he’d do so ‘quickly’. ‘It fell rapidly’. Yeah, gravity’ll do that. Sometimes that secondary adverb is not adding anything to the sentence and can be taken out to better suit the flow of the piece.
5. Try to frame things in the form of questions. This is one that will become more relevant in future, but worth considering now to try and get your head around how it’s going to work. In their most recent algorithm changes, Google made note of the move towards ‘conversational search’ – people speaking their search terms instead of typing them, then using follow-on questions based on the preceding search. When people do this, they won’t phrase things as formally as they would when writing. The functionality of speech based search relies on the text being conversational, how you would speak normally. You should be able to say ‘Where are the best beaches near me?’ and Google should come back with the relevant listings. In future, you’re going to get better search results for your content if you ensure questions like this are built into your blog posts. If you can match likely user questions, you improve your chances of showing up as a relevant item. It can be difficult to do, putting questions in doesn’t always gel with story flow (and the quality of the content should always come first), but keep it in mind. Can you build relevant questions into the piece that will work for both the flow of the content and for future search requirements?
And one other last note – where possible, always let your posts sit for at least twenty-four hours before publishing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written something that I thought was brilliant, only to re-read it the next day and be totally deflated. You’ll always find errors and things you want to change if you give yourself some distance from it and clear your head.
These rules are not prescriptive, there are, of course, places where they won’t apply, but it’s worth keeping them in mind as you go, testing your sentence structures and statements and looking for ways to make your work stronger, more bold. Using definitive language will help establish your authority on a topic and make it a more compelling reader experience, improving your content quality and performance overall.
Now read this alternate last sentence and see if you agree:
These rules are not prescriptive, there are, of course, places where they don’t apply, but I think it’s worth keeping them in mind as you go, testing your sentence structures and statements and looking for ways to make your work stronger, more bold. I believe using definitive language can help establish your authority on a topic and make it a more compelling reader experience, improving your content quality and performance overall.
Makes a difference, right?