Within just one minute, 500 hours of video are uploaded on Youtube, 1,440 WordPress posts are published, and 3,3 million posts hit Facebook alone. Your posts and multimedia only make up a teeny tiny fraction of a flood of content constantly hitting users, so there’s no hope of gaining awareness by focusing on volume. When we add diminishing attention spans into the mix, getting messages in front of our audiences is getting even harder.
One reason our content keeps going belly up is because it’s incredibly bloated. When you skim a Facebook post, as we all do, and within the first 50-75 words you’ve not found a trace of actual information, why would we do anything more than keep scrolling? In today’s blog post, we’re looking at three simple tips that will help you slim down bloated content, driving better engagement and clicks.
Building content up
Much like Lumiere and Cogsworth, content doesn’t start out flabby, fat and lazy; someone keeps stuffing it. So the best way to avoid bloated content, is to not build it in the first place. If you find yourself in front of a blank page with a blinking cursor, trying to put together a copy, instead of trying to create a narrative, jot down the points you want to make for the entire topic.
Most often, content becomes bloated when it’s viewed in isolation. We write a lot more information than we need to in a Facebook post because we’ve not thought about that Facebook post within the context of the entire campaign. As a result, we’re trying to say everything in every copy.
Let’s say you’re putting together a campaign for your latest ice cream flavour. While you will focus on the mix of flavours across all your copies, certain details should only be included on certain channels. Nutritional information, for instance, goes on your website, while drool-worthy teasers like the one above work like a charm on social media. Dedicated pages, like news or blog posts can host long-form content that each tells the story of a product, an initiative or your company. That’s one for each not all at the same time.
If you were to treat a blog post, video script, social media posts and newsletter separately, you would almost certainly end up with a longer copy than you need and, the more you stuff in there, the less likely that users will go through it. Looking at all these content pieces as episodes in a series, however, will help you create a list of 2-3 points you want to make sure the users get. Then, and only then, expand those points in each of the formats you’ll be using.
This way, you’re making sure your main messages stay consistent, you have a clear goal and the content you’re adding to each format supports your message, within that particular format. Simply put, you’re not writing a Facebook post that’s long enough to be my Amazon wishlist.
Trimming content down
Sometimes we have to build content and, other times, content is dropped in our lap and we’re asked to make the most of it. Working with what we have, when what we have isn’t worth the read, is a complete waste of time and resources. Just because someone wrote it and another someone said it was fine, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for what you’re trying to do. When you mix new technologies with changing user behaviour and algorithms, it’s possible that whatever gave you relatively good results last year, will flop today.
Working with existing content always involves evaluating whether it’s still relevant, it still works for the channels you intend to use it on and how you update it to improve your results. As you’re going through this process, you might find your content is a big plump with unnecessary details. Much like you would when building content from scratch, grab a piece of paper or a keyboard and start jotting down a handful of points you want to get through to your audience. Then evaluate which of the extra details help support those points for each channel and voila! you have a much more effective copy.
Let’s look at Gucci’s campaign for their FW 2017 collection, inspired by classic sci-fi cinema from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Working with a number of content pieces, published across multiple channels, the brand embraced the theme very creatively, even incorporating a short video in which influencers like Kendall Jenner fight aliens, robots and the like.
In a spaceship set inspired by sci-fi and @startrek, a checked shirt with crystal embroideries and floral appliqués worn over a technical jersey body and all-over crystal embroidered leggings, the #GucciSylvie maxi bag with animal studs and matching belt accessories appear in the #GucciFW17 campaign. #gucciandbeyond Star Trek elements courtesy of CBS. TM & © 2017 CBS Studios Inc. STAR TREK and related marks are properties owned by CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photographer: @_glen_luchford Creative director: #AlessandroMichele Art director: @christophersimmonds
While the copy in the example above might seem a bit long, it’s very much to the point. It describes what the model is wearing and the setting and that’s pretty much it. Bloated content would go something like this: “As part of this year’s FW campaign, inspired by some of our favourite classic sci-fis, we find this fashion-forward ensign escaping from an enemy ship wearing a checked shirt with crystal embroideries and floral appliqués worn over a technical jersey body and all-over crystal embroidered leggings. Make sure you check our bio and head over to our website to find out more about this exciting new line. Engage!”
Aside from the long-winded description, the issue with the post would be that it’s trying to do too many things at once – introduce a new product line, describe a combination of products in detail, get users to click to the website to get even more detailed information. With so many things competing for our audience’s attention, shorter is always better. Having doubts?
Just check out a product placement from the same campaign, this time on Rihanna’s account.
I see no engagement issues with that post, do you?
Work within preset formats
Whether you’re creating new content or working with existing pieces, trying to stick to preset formats can really help focus your messages. They are particularly helpful for chatterboxes who already have a tendency to formulate long, drawn-out explanations. Before we move on, we need to make a very important distinction between presets and templates. While there are in some ways similar, a preset format implies a set of elements we know we’ll use, with a high-level storyline and a particular level of detail. A template, on the other hand, is a strict framework that outlines which and how many elements you need, their exact order and layout, as well as word count. Personally, I loathe any template in the context of creative work as it’s right up there with giving someone the plan to a random building, a crew, a set number of tools and hope what they’ll end up building is the Taj Mahal. It just doesn’t happen.
In the case of an infographic, working within this preset format means we need a short, snappy title and key messages, images or icons for each point. While there is a great degree of variation in the final product, as is the case with this infographic on The Evolution of the Web, this one on The Sound of Colour, and this Brief Introduction to Typography, you’ll notice that all the elements mentioned before work together to create original layouts that tell a story. Even the most text-heavy of them, the one about typography, still only contains minimal information. This would not be possible if the people who created them had worked with templates – as they would have been forced to create content to fill in the blanks, instead of creating the content and then the design to support it.
Presets can help you trim down your content to its essential messaging, provided, of course, you don’t go messing with them to fit what would normally be a small book, into what you’d like to call a blog post, for instance.
The Bottom Line
Considering the number of distractions poking at our audience’s attention every second, engagement relies just as much on holding a user’s attention as it is does on grabbing it. While you may be able to peak someone’s interest with a witty headline, cool topic or creative visuals within the first 10 seconds of a video, dragging out that video to 2-3 minutes filled with too much information, will most always lead to a loss of interest just as fast.
As marketers, we need to stop thinking about how to cram as much information as possible into each interaction and start thinking about how we can simplify our messages and deliver them incrementally, grabbing, holding and engaging audiences.