Make Every Communication Significant
There is an undercurrent of backlash brewing in our world. Backlash against the quickening pace of disposable content.
Things are concurrently getting louder and faster as we move closer to a true real-time web. And with it, there are those who churn out content because they feel like they must keep pace with every insignificant occurrence at the impossible velocity of real-time. While yes, the real-time web is useful and certainly has a function – what many treat it as is a disposable content environment.
And, while it’s fun to play around in, experiment, and draw subscribers to your own site – you must go counter to this if you want to develop a popular, yet sustainable web destination. Sustainable in the sense of not needing to be on the infinite treadmill to survive.
Your opportunity from the perspective of a content producer is to ignore the ever-quickening pace of the real-time web and resist the urge to sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity. As bite-sized content grows in popularity the demand for deeper content actually goes up since it becomes a more scarce resource. Not everyone needs or wants their content to be reduced to soundbites. Nor should you do that if you want to attract an audience with a deep interest in your subject matter. Those with a true interest want thoughtful material. And do you really want to attract anyone else?
Think about the subject you know most intimately or are most passionate about – it doesn’t matter if it is marketing. It could be something like gardening or music or Russian literature. If you’re truly interested in that subject – the disposable, shallow stuff doesn’t really have much meaning to you and can actually turn you off. But deep, careful thinking on the subject will prove unmissable. I know it’s like that for me with things like marketing and music which I’m passionate about – I skip it if it’s not a carefully written piece. On the other hand, if it is from a writer whose thinking I trust, before I even click, I know I’m going to soak up every word because they’re a proven source.
True influence/authority are not products of speed, but of making each communication significant. They are also key elements for businesses, bloggers and marketers in a world drowning in information. Here’s why: each day, in every niche, there is fierce competition for attention. While there are increasing numbers creating greater amounts of content in various channels and platforms competing for fleeting attention spans, many view the landscape with the philosophy that more is better. If you think like that – you’re wrong.
The coming backlash is against the noise. The shiny new tools are fun, and people subscribe to new content streams and users in a carefree manner as they join new networks, connect with new people and see the excitement surrounding them. Yet attention does not scale – and slowly every user will realize it is not about getting every new thing right now and collecting sheer numbers, it is about finding and connecting with what is meaningful to them.
My observation is that the real-time web, while fast paced, is also self-correcting and long-term will reward the best content, not simply the fastest/newest. And, while the early adopter crowd might have you believe longer-format content is dead/dying, I look at the amount of time people spend on quality, niche-focused sites with high degrees of trust and would say they are wrong. Those who flock to things with short attention spans were probably never going to interact with deeper content anyway.
To sum up, if you are communicating purely for the sake of adding something, but without significance, you are cheapening future messages because you will be viewed as publishing for the sake of publishing not because you actually have something to say. The art of holding back is a difficult skill to learn, but if your goals are to be seen as an ultra-high source of signal, you must. In time, this will pay off as you will be trusted, and when you do have something to say, it will resonate that much stronger.
Some additional thoughts for:
Bloggers: obvious statement of the year: blogs are no longer the shiny new thing. Guess what: this is great news! Why? Blogging has gone mainstream, and the news couldn’t be better for those producing great content on their blogs. The platform is maturing, and with maturity means a fading into the background. We don’t really talk about email and how innovative it is anymore do we? Not really, it has sort of become invisible – but it is still the largest and most important social network on the web (yes, email is a social network). As Clay Shirky sagely notes, “it is only when things become invisible do they become interesting.” With the cheap and fast messages going into Twitter, trusted blogs are being viewed as that much more authoritative. And, a secret of microblogging is that so much of it is made up of linking to longer-format content like blogs.
Marketers: being louder is not the answer, being more significant is. If every communication you put out has significance, you’ll be seen as a source of signal in a world otherwise drowning in noise. Apple has the ear of the tech and business world when they put out news for the simple reason that for so long, they only took the time to communicate significant things. Funny thing about Apple – the media (the blogosphere included) now make a big deal out of everything, even little things, simply because they’ve been trained to for this brand. Apple didn’t get to that point initially by drowning the world in their messages.
Businesses: don’t drink the kool-aid. Think carefully about what you want to draw attention to and attempt to bring center stage. Realize there are essentially infinite channels and infinite choices of where consumers are going to get their information/entertainment, and you just don’t have enough advertising dollars to interrupt everyone with your advertising messages any longer. But, if you are careful and real with what you decide to bring to market and continue to put out the right products/services with the right messages, you can build anticipation for what’s next.
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