“Just write engaging content, do that.”
I saw a post from one of my LinkedIn connections about this (yeah, Linkedin, I’m hella cool).
This rather astute (salty AF connection, yes, I’m in love) was bemoaning the overuse of the word ‘engaging’. She went on to say that almost no one defines what it means when it comes to marketing.
If you have been following me for a while now (thank you, can’t believe you stayed, love you) you probably have a fair idea of how to be engaging. However, I sometimes think I’ve failed to express it in the simplest of terms. And not because I think you’re stupid but because you’re fucking lazy.
(I’m sure getting my fucks in early with this post! My apologies but you gotta roll with the punches.)
Let’s look at content.
Do you bristle when you hear that word? Really? Don’t be so bloody sensitive. Content is anything, literally, anything you have strewn/dumped/thrown across your website pages. Documents, podcasts, infographics, videos, animation, and yes words are all that thing.
What’s engaging content?
The dictionary defines the word engaging as “charming and attractive”. When you relate that to content it sounds weird.
To be attractive is to be “pleasing and appealing to the senses”. And then it mentions some bollocks about being sexually alluring… blimey, I’m not sure the word engaging is the right one after all.
It can get complicated because some content can be both unpleasant and engaging (the thing you’re reading right now for example) so it’s always going to be different strokes for different folks.
That’s as clear as whale sperm, right?
Ok, I’m going to settle with the word attractive because in my view this is what your content should be. The things you write and indeed any stuff you produce should be for a certain someone.
(If you disagree, here’s a post for all the generalists out there.)
So, how do you engage your targeted bunch of weirdos?
Wait for it…
Get to know them.
Look, if you’re marketing mini-breaks to the live-action role-play crowd, you would do your very best to know them well. Makes sense, sounds obvious, yeah, it is. If you’re creating events for these oddballs to reenact the Battle of the Boyne, chances are you’ve gone to town on your research.
If you’re selling IT hardware to SMEs in Japan (and that’s probably like selling snow to the Inuits) you’d work damn hard to understand Japanese business culture. You’d sidestep any kind of language that might get you in hot water.
Get to know the front and back bottom of your market, that’s it. There’s no special sauce you’ve just got to do the bloody work.
Engaging content always depends on who’s buying.
When a dickwad copywriter, already versed in the rudiments of content writing, complains after buying my book, that there is no value in it, I respond: the book isn’t for you, love, it’s for people who don’t have a bloody clue about writing for their business.
People are terrible and sometimes they fuck up and make bad choices. Sadly, they don’t always apply personal responsibility to the decisions they make.
Where was I? Oh, yeah…
Don’t believe everything marketing types tell you (and I guess that includes me). If they say something like, always use active voice because it’s more engaging, more human, roll your eyes and move on.
See, sometimes passive voice is appropriate and therefore, more engaging (or just appropriate, yeah, whatever). Lemme elaborate: that tone is often used to relay facts, so think of all the small print on medicine packaging. The purpose of that information is not to get you to buy anything, it doesn’t want you to download an eBook.
Big Pharma is unlikely to hire me to write their copy.
Being hilarious and conversational isn’t always the right choice and that approach could make your content seem less trustworthy, for example, there may be plenty of amusing barristers out there but legal papers and documents, littered with bad language, sarcasm (and explicit sexual references) would really undermine the pertinent points.
Engaging content isn’t about making people laugh, it isn’t about talking to them like your best mate, and it’s not about using simple language that a child will understand. But it might, of course, be some or all of those things. The best people to know are the ones you’re selling your gear to.
Listen, some people find Cliff Richard sexy, go figure, In fact, I met one such woman. Proof that we don’t all want the same thing.
Wasn’t this fun? Need me for some other-worldly content? Find out more here.
I’m a freelance business content writer at The Sarky Type®. My thang is SEO-informed blurb that sets your words on fire (ablaze with LOLs and engagement not to be confused with real fire that destroys everything in sight. Metaphors are better when they don’t require explanation. Note to self).