In Defense of Personality

In another lifetime, my manager told me to delete a joke from a piece because business people “don’t believe in comedy.” Nevermind that we live in a world with two whole continents worth of “The Office,” or that I didn’t even think I was being funny. The stony-faced bosses shaved that piece of writing down until it was just a husk of jargon-y catchphrases. Like something a machine would make. But our audiences are human — fatigued, content overloaded humans. That’s why it’s important that content marketers protect personality.

In the midst of the Golden Age of Television, when cars connect to smartphones, and even babies have their own Instagram businesses, our attention is stretched. In the United States, adults spend 12 hours and seven minutes a day consuming media. Even that figure itself is multi-tasking, measuring the Netflix binge that comes paired with endless Twitter scrolling.

Hang Onto Your Humanity. It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Ride.

How are we going to break through? Is a click really enough? This muddled environment is partly why my old jargon-fest of a piece was doomed to ineffectiveness. Sure, it got some clicks, but it didn’t stick. It succeeded in the machine-driven SEO sense, with the right words used the right amount of times. It was found, but it was too dry to be meaningful. Our audience isn’t reading along with a red pen, ticking off vocabulary words.

We need content with sticking power. We need attention that turns into action. That’s hard to fake with good SEO strategy alone. That’s why we need our personalities.

We need attention that turns into action. #GrowthHacking Click To Tweet

The Benefit of Actually Being Human

We connect as people. Sometimes we’re funny and too obsessed with cats. Sometimes we daydream about how good lunch will be, or the perfect drink from our last vacation. Sometimes we just wonder how we’re going to make do.

That’s true for our audiences too. They don’t turn into completely different people with totally different standards for engagement when they’re at work. We need them to choose to stay with us.

Give them more than a scan’s worth of content. Give them something of yourselves, what’s interesting, what’s compelling — along with your insight. Ultimately, that’s going to get you traction on a better metric than page views alone.

It’s going to help increase your content consumption rate, or the percentage of visitors sticking with a piece of content longer than 40 seconds.

What’s Different After 40 Seconds?

When someone gives you more than 40 seconds, you have a cascade of new opportunities. First, they’re interested. Yay! That’s good news for you and your product. More meaningful engagements are tied to better sales rates.

Longer lingers also mean more data. What parts of the content are most effective? What’s the bounce rate? After they invest time in this piece of content do they want more? Where do they go next?

Investing personality into content also gives you another test point. Does the same information perform better presented differently? Give yourself the freedom of experimentation in a new way. Let yourself relish the next A-B test.

Delicious, Delicious Content

Here’s the best, selfish truth about hanging onto humanity in work. The work is not only better, but it feels better making it. It’s fulfilling! It’s creatively engaging!

Bask in that usefulness. Allow a small sense of smug superiority to sneak in. Feel vindication. Maybe even tell a joke.

Who was the biggest chicken killer in all of Shakespeare? Macbeth, because he did murder most foul.

…and I’ll see myself out.