Recently someone apologised for not understanding part of the content I created. I was horrified, not because I thought the person viewing the content was stupid, but by my error in communication.
If the viewer does not understand what you are trying to communicate it is always the fault of the communicator. In other words it was completely my fault that this person, whom the content was for, did not understand what the content was about.
The viewer does not chose to not understand, they are subject to what they know, their current state of mind and their environmental situation. Our job as content creators is to create content that works, content that works is defined as the viewer being able to understand the basic thing you are trying to communicate. Indeed it helps to understand that we are not in the content creation business, or the SEO business, but we are in the communication business.
We are publishers and we must think like publishers.
It is the art of communication that must be studied and understood, rather than some abstract algorithm.
When your content fails, it is because the communication fails. Usually the idea behind the content is a good one and people tend to scratch their head and wonder why it did not work. It is simply because the content was not structured in an ideal way to communicate what the creator wanted.
Online content is not read or viewed, it is interpreted. The viewer/reader/user (it’s annoying as there is not one agreed term for the person who is interpreting your content) views the content through their own mindset and how they feel about the content is determined by a huge number of factors. The sub conscious, the primal brain are crucial factors in this, as are environmental factors, what the person ate that morning, their current state of mind, if they have the TV on at the same time and other distracting factors like Facebook and Twitter and so on.
Of course, when you create the content you are in the zone. You control your environment for the optimal content creation situation. or you should do. You even perform rituals, wear a special hat, play certain music, etc. The viewer of your content will not be in the same environment. They will not think, “I must read this web page in the most optimal, rational way possible so I can get as much from it as possible”. They will simply consume the content wherever they are and in whatever state of mind they are in
However, when reading a book, or a novel, or an iPad Magazine it tends to be a different thing. This could be described as lean forward content or lean back content. When reading a novel, or magazine you tend to lean back, when at a computer monitor you tend to lean forward. I don’t know if body position changes the way you think but it is certainly an indicator of your frame of mind.
Therefore, when creating your content you need to factor in the situation your viewers will be in and what state of mind they have. It will be different for every blog or publication. For example a blog post on Moz will be eagerly gobbled up by the Mozlets and pored over for every detail, with a desperation to make a comment. This is because Moz has a rabid fan base, and it’s something which Rand Fishkin has deliberately built. Which is something every brand should try. Yesterday we had the Apple iWatch presentation and it’s always to watch their fanbase react in an irrational, emotional manner.
Creators of website content should know who their fan base are and create content for them, a fan base perversely may not mean paying customers or people who are ever going to buy.
You may have retweeted Zappos but never bought shoes from them, or given a thumbs up to Scottish Widows for their content marketing without buying car insurance from them, does everyone who tweets loveknitting.com love knitting, has Enviroskiphire rented a skip to everyone who likes them on Facebook, has everyone who watched a Red Bull Youtube clip bought a can? You get the idea.
There is an idea that content should be for two groups, those seeking information and those seeking to make a purchase. Content can of course help both, and clever content does just that, however that requires intense investment. Better to have a mix of content that is more focused on its intended target and that is part of an over all content strategy, with individual content specifically reaching out to a targeted group and thus increasing the ROI of the content.
So, a piece of content that is specifically to appeal to Twitter users to retweet may cause increased brand recognition and a change of attitude towards the brand. It can also lead to the possibility that a potential sale is generated because of the social signals, even though they have no intention of generating the retweet.
Content designed to be past along is very different to content that is intended to encourage you to get out your credit card. Content which is more specifically targeted can mean an increase in its ability to achieve its objective and content which does not have a clear objective is destined to become filler.