In the digital age the focus is shifting from longer prose in the form of articles and handwritten letters, to short, snappy sentences on social media. That’s if there’s any copy used at all with attention turning increasingly towards images and videos online. While the faster means of communicating via social media has its benefits and is an excellent way to reach more people, more quickly than ever before, it is taking something important away too.
The written word is a wholly powerful thing. Here’s an example to demonstrate its importance. Think about how it feels to receive a text from a friend. As much as you care about the person texting, it probably isn’t much of an event anymore. It’s probably short for starters, and it’s more likely to be about something practical or light-hearted than it is to be about something deep and emotional. Of course, that’s fine for day-to-day interactions, but now think about how you would feel if you received a handwritten letter through the post. Perhaps from a friend or family member telling you how important you are to them, or how grateful they are for something you have done, or how proud they are of what you have achieved. Because we know a letter has taken more time, effort and thought, it means more. It is also something you can hold on to forever.
Prioritise a personal touch
The same thing applies in the business world too. Social media is a fantastic way to promote your wares as a business and reach more people. But used alone, it isn’t very personal. It can’t be when you’re using so few words to talk to so many people. And with the rise of shorter, faster, more convenient ways to communicate, has come an increasing lack of attention to detail. It’s as though speed and quantity are more important than quality. Unfortunately, it probably is in terms of social media or SEO algorithms, but what does it say about you or your business when your written word is full of typos, grammatical errors, and spelling mistakes? Don’t get me wrong, we’re all human, we all make mistakes. A few errors here and there can be forgiven, but a consistently problematic read is jarring and affects our perception of the author, whether we realise it or not.
The power of persuasion
When done well, the written word can harness the powers of persuasion in a way short text and images cannot do. People believe what they read in magazines, newspapers and trusted online sources, so when they read about best practice or advice on particular product options at length, they are likely to believe the content. Many of these pieces are ghost written by a copywriter or PR agency and serve to position businesses in the way they want to be seen, whether market leading, ethical, customer focused, or all of the above!
Future generation of writers
Warning! This is a bit of a tangent, but bear with me.. I have been lucky/unlucky enough to be in the mass of home schooling parents during the Covid lockdown periods. This allowed me to see very closely the process of my reception child learning to write his first words, sentences, even stories. The pleasure to see him gradually grasp the different sounds and put them together on the page is immense and we will keep a lot of his writing to show him when he’s older. He may even decide to keep it and show his children one day. But what is the future of this creative outlet for him? Will there still be a requirement for any longer prose when he’s an adult, or will he gradually unlearn these skills and techniques and freedom to express himself, in exchange for quicker, easier ways to communicate?
I hope this isn’t the case because the impact of the written word on someone else whether in your personal life or in the business world, is something special and powerful and future generations should have the opportunity to give and receive this gift. The power of the written word should not be left behind in the digital age.
Pay your audience the attention they deserve
Whether you are talking to prospective customers or new or well-established customers, pay them the attention they deserve by spending more time on your communications. Quick and consistent social media messaging is great, but giving more thought to longer advice blog posts, a thank you note for their custom, or feature length articles in their industry magazines, offer a different level of connection between you and them. Aside from anything else it offers far more potential in terms of word count, to get your message across to them.
If the idea of this sounds appealing to you, but you simply don’t have the time, don’t forget you can delegate (read more about when and how you should delegate here) to ensure you don’t miss out.