As PR professionals, we are more than just communicators, we are content creators. Our trade is based on providing relevant messaging to our audience when and where it can add value. The idea of value is rapidly changing. To provide value has an added depth to our readers: to establish our readers as curators for their peers.
A new benchmark for success in communications is to provide content of such high value that it must be consumed and then shared with their extended social networks. The digital word-of-mouth is both an endorsement and a new platform to enhance a message.
Content strategists have taken note of this new form of public confirmation and begun to adapt the structure of articles, posts, and press releases so they are optimized for social networks. This new "snackable" format is part design, part writing structure and completely influenced by the mechanic of how information is transferred from webpage to social network post.
Many adults have an attention span for content that is less than three seconds. To capture attention, your content needs to be direct and deliver its value right up-front. Details can be filled in once you have a reader's attention, but the ability to provide relevance needs to be seen within just a few lines. This approach also lends itself well to the small space you have to deliver content in many social networks. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – they all provide a platform for sharing content with a little more space than a few sentences can fill.
The motivation behind what a reader will share is as varied as there are subjects to share. What many users hope to gain is a sense of expertise on a subject or the idea of exclusivity in posting a particular piece of information first in their social circle. This is a motivation that can be answered by delivering insights in those precious first few lines. Provide unique points of differentiation and what you expect your reader to do. This not only increases the chances that many more people will see your call to action; it also seizes sharing as way to disseminate your idea.
As mobile takes on a more important role in many of our lives, the lessons in optimizing content into small chunks is more critical. Trends in interface design as well as a shortening attention span are necessitating a new lens for content authors to view their efforts.
When writing your next piece, be sure to ask yourself if your content is going to satiate your hungry reader.
Chris Cullmann is director of digital strategy at Coyne PR.