In the face of ovewhelming growth in web participation flies a recent statistic from Forrester Research showing a decline in the number of content creation / creators on the web. The report (link here), entitled Global Social Technographics (whatever that means), encapsulates two years of data collection on how consumers world wide are engaging with social technologies. Users were slotted into a “ladder” of use categories: inactives; spectators; joiners; collectors; critics; conversationalists; and, creators. The report confirms suspicions that the numbers of people joining the social media circus (via Facebook, primarily) is building at a rapid rate. However, the report also notes that the content creator group, in the U.S. and in many other countries, dropped a percentage point or more.
At a time when more people are online than ever before, the source of the content drawing this attention is dwindling. What to do?
My obvious answer, as a fairly prolific content creator, is of course to create more content. But the message is even more significant for on-line professionals who may have taken the first step as spectators, joiners or even collectors to jump up the ladder into content creation. The audience for your work is growing – the furnace of interest is looking for kindling to consume. If you thought your voice might not be heard amidst the roar, think again.
Some have posited that fewer content creators means fewer ideas. In front of a thirsty, expanding audience, your ideas and your content may shine even brighter.
At any rate, Forrester’s blog post on the subject of the report concludes with this valuable insight:
The story behind the data is pretty clear. The initial wave of consumers using social technologies in the US has halted. Companies will now need to devise strategies to extend social applications past the early adopters. This means that you need to understand how your consumers use social media. Do you know the Social Technographics Profiles of your customers? Is your company preparing for this next phase of social media strategy?
You want readers for your on-line content. And you want them to stick around for more. But, do you read the Internet the same way you read the latest New York Times bestseller? Of course not! Unlike the book, which forces your attention toward a single story line, the Web is a crazy-quilt cornucopia of news, varying widely in content, quality and length. As a content creator, how do you frame your offerings so that they pull the attention of the reader your way?
Web readers read on-line material differently. Judging from my own experience, I tend to scan headlines and the first few sentences (or blurb) to see if the content catches my eye. Sometimes, I am pulled by an interesting picture. More often than not, my attention is directed toward an interesting hook.
While qualitative style and substance rule the offline reading world (and do play a part in online world as well), readability might be the most important attribute of online content. How easy is it for your reader to scan and latch onto your material? What do you find easiest to read? Here are some tips to consider:
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short and to the point. Wolfing down huge bites of your lunch leaves your stomach feeling cramped. Wolfing down smaller bites is far more comfortable. Like food, small bits of information are easier to digest than larger ones. Craft smaller sentences and smaller paragraphs. Don’t try to cram too many ideas into one unit of writing / reading measure.
- Use organizers to structure the information. Use headings in an outline-like structure to reinforce the stream of your argument. If your post is long, you can use links to various sections at the top of your post so your reader is not left to hunt and peck for the valuable nuggets.
- Bullet points get points. There is a reason that posts titled or structured “Seven Best …” or “Fifteen Pitfalls to Avoid …” get more love – bullet points hit us with the organization our minds crave. Make sure your lists make sense – include an introductory phrase to explain in a few words what follows. And keep it simple.
- Open up with your best hook. Write your posts like you would write an argument to the Court. Put the best argument up front, phrased in as simple and compelling a manner possible. Reinforce that argument throughout the writing. End with the argument, highlighting the best information introduced in your article that supports the point.
- A picture is worth a thousand words. Don’t overlook media, but don’t let the media overwhelm your post. Use images, videos, audio when they enhance and not simply because “they are cool.” I like to use a uniform-sized image at the start of all my posts to help the entire blog layout look organized. You can also use images throughout to underline points – screen shots are particularly helpful on this blog, which highlights technology and web tools.
- Pay attention to physical layout of the piece. Keep typography in mind. Proper font size, line height, letter and paragraph spacing, white space, a simple color scheme, consistent layout, italics, bold and graphic elements like boxes for important concepts are great aids. When using these devices, always keep the overall look and readability in mind.
If your goal is to gain readers and increase their attention to your Web writing, consider these tips to help attract and retain. A little extra Web-friendly attention to detail goes a long way in increasing your content’s traction.