The Copy Clinic
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“I keep hearing that you shouldn’t write long content anymore, especially for stuff like blogs and social posts, as everyone has such a short attention span these days. Is that true, is shorter always better?”
I have to admit that the word ‘always’ really gets my hackles up, in a marketing context at least. Because I think the success of any tactic or idea is dependent on what you’re trying to achieve and who you’re talking to. Something that works brilliantly in one context might fail spectacularly in another.
So I’ll say straight away that no, shorter isn’t always better – simply because there isn’t really anything that’s always better!
Now of course sharp, succinct copy can definitely pack a punch. (Best proven by the famously emotive six-word story, ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway.) But I think it’s a mistake to assume that only short copy can be powerful. I regularly read long-form blogs, articles, and social posts, because they address an issue I’m really fascinated by, or help me solve a problem I have, or just tell a brilliant story. I don’t really care about the length of things – I care whether they’re interesting or not!
Ultimately when we write about our businesses the goal shouldn’t be to write short copy – the goal should be to write effective copy. Copy that clearly and compellingly shares a message and inspires people to respond. And sometimes that kind of copy might be short, but sometimes it might be long, and sometimes in between.
It depends how many words it takes to get your message across. If you can make your point and connect with your audience in 50 words, then don’t use 500. But if it takes 500 (or even 5000), then go for it.
Because I actually don’t agree that people’s attention spans are shorter now than they have been. I think there’s more competition for our attention than there has been in the past, for sure. I mean there are just so many different ways to communicate now, that our brains are bombarded with messages from multiple platforms hundreds of times a day. So yes, it can be harder work to stick out and grab people’s attention.
But once you’ve got it (a feat that’s much more to do with unusual and intriguing headlines and opening copy than it is to do with length) I think people will pay attention as long as something interests them. So if what you’re saying brings value to someone, they’ll keep reading. (And that value could be about informing them, entertaining them, making them think, etc.)
So I say ignore those ‘always’ voices and don’t focus on keeping your content to a certain word count – just focus on saying what you want to say as brilliantly as you can. The phrase ‘quality not quantity’ cuts both ways!
Bethany Joy works with small businesses to help them find a writing style and voice that reflects their passion and personality, as well as creating gettable and irresistible copy for their marketing materials. You can find out more about her at bethanyjoy.org.
We also partner with Beth to run regular workshops that empower independent businesses to write more clearly and confidently about what they have to offer – our next one is on 18 June 2020. If you’d like to meet Beth before the workshop, and learn more about how brand voice, sign up to our May Meet Up where she will be presenting a short talk on just that subject!