WHO am I writing for?
As far as I’m concerned, I’ll keep building my community, with the best tools I can find.
Like any writer, I write to entertain an audience. As a copywriter, I do it to raise awareness to my client’s business, service, or brand. On social media, in both my work and with my own personal accounts, I don’t do that.
I build communities.
Communities are formed through equality. You can’t create a community by speaking to people, only by speaking with them. There has to be interactivity, a way for them to reply and have a discussion.
Then again, why don’t I write the same way? Why don’t we all? Of course the writer-reader relationship is much more passive — although the internet has given us great tools to change that, tools that have been abused and, instead of further refined, consequently abandoned — than a chat on social media. But that doesn’t mean the spirit or intent of writing would be fundamentally different.
I’ve circled back to this thought a couple of times during my career, but never could fully articulate it until I’ve started to approach why I’m fascinated by Snapchat so much.
I may be completely wrong about it, but I’ll put in the work anyway.medium.com
Snapchat to me is interesting because it’s designed to host communities, not connect performers and audiences. There’s much of that of course in the copies of Instagram and others — notably missing from Medium’s own ‘Series’ feature, but that’s a different animal altogether I think — but Snapchat is somehow built to cater to this shifted status quo.
But I’ve been talking about writing. I asked the question once: “Are we perpetuating the dumbing down of the world by assuming our audience is stupid?”
Today was mostly a wasted day in terms of productivity, thanks to a nasty cold that kept me from being able to focus on most creative projects, but it did help me — by way of forcing me to catch up on some podcasts, for lack of a more productive way of spending my time — arrive to this post.
The way I write these blog posts, and indeed it’ll increase in the future as I’m letting go of old habits, is a type of thought-streams. Some less so than others, but there’s generally little in way of editing or outlining involved. I form a thought, sit in a chair, and write it down. I scan it a few times to catch typos (not all) and find holes in the logic but not trying to make them flawless.
It’s a convenient way of doing it, sure. At the same time I think — I hope — it’s also a signal of respect toward You, the reader.
When I’ve decided to build my own “personal brand” or “public image” through primarily writing, I knew what I was meant to do: build a community. And to do that, I have to assume that my readers are capable of following my train of thought (and if not, calling me out on it) and understanding that complex ideas require complex thought processes.
Complex ideas require complex thought processes.
I think the quote “If you can’t describe it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” is true; but then again I’m documenting here, not creating. Sharing the way I approach these ideas with you to follow along, and agree or disagree at any point.
Which leads me back to my original beef with current copywriting practices: we’re taught to treat our audiences as stupid. I’ve just listened to a two-part podcast interview with Brian Clark — of CopyBlogger.com fame — on The Writer Files, and it finally hit me when he said something along the lines of “people shouldn’t use five-line paragraphs online”, because “the internet is a different medium”.
I disagree with that. And I may very well be wrong about this. After all, he’s the guy pulling eight-figures, and I’m not.
At the same time, I feel a shift coming. Copywriting still feels like a relic of an old age, like banner advertising in the age of influencer marketing. A shift where aiming for the lowest common denominator in order to gather the widest audience stops working.
I think “community marketing” is the next step, after content marketing has been thoroughly beaten to death. Where depth is much more important than width. Where we can finally dispose of vanity metrics.
I’d like to think that if I’m to write a blog post addressing startup entrepreneurs, I can forget checking if the language is below a 10th grade reading level. I’d like to work in an industry that assumes the audience is either on the same level as the speaker, or the very least motivated enough to rise up and meet them.
That’s when, I think, we’ll be building communities instead of audiences. When we invite opposing thoughts into our own sphere and have conversations. And I think it’ll be a shift that reverberates throughout our society, because it’ll make thinking the default position and debating the default action.
In a world like that we wouldn’t need to blame Facebook or Google for fake news, because people would recognize them.
Then again, I’m an optimist in many ways. 🙂 But one thing’s for sure: as far as I’m concerned, I’ll keep building my community, with the best tools I can find.