Adam Fisher
26th November 2018 - 5 mins read
W

e can probably all recall investing time to read something that grabbed our attention with an enticing headline, only to find it was convoluted and tricky to follow.

Perhaps it is the quest to create something original and valuable that drives organisations to inadvertently opt for content which creates barriers to comprehension and distractions from the main message.

Maybe it is a fear that they will not be seen as an expert in their field that leads them on a path to complicated language and clunky phrasing.

Whatever the reason, it is hugely frustrating for both the reader and the author. Ultimately, if people can’t understand what you are trying to say they also won’t know how you expect them to act.

But this situation is solvable.

Simplicity is the key to understanding and therefore should be the foundation of all written content.

Newspapers and journalists know this.

The average reading age of the UK population is generally considered to be around nine years.

The Sun has a reading age of eight, while the more highbrow Guardian has a reading age of 14. That doesn’t mean they think their readers lack intelligence, it means they know where to set their writing so that the vast majority of readers can understand it.

But how do you make your content simple to understand while still producing something valuable?


Lose the big words

The important thing to remember about your content is that you are not producing it to impress your colleagues with your vocabulary.

And very few of us have time to reach for the dictionary when we’re reading. Invariably if we can’t follow what is being said we quickly give up and disregard that content altogether.

This means that when producing content we should always think twice about the more decorative words we could use and consider if there are simpler alternatives. For example, use ‘start’ instead of ‘commence’ and ‘near’ instead of ‘close proximity’.


Short sentences and paragraphs

One of the first lessons drilled into any young journalist is the importance of using short sentences.

At the start of my career I was told to keep mine between 20 and 30 words long and it is something I try to stick to now, 20 years later.

The reason is that long sentences and those with multiple clauses invite unnecessary complexity.

Similarly, long paragraphs can be daunting for readers and cause them to switch-off and lose interest.

Again if you look at a newspaper or magazine, very rarely will you find paragraphs consisting of more than one sentence.


Avoid the jargon

A regular frustration with much written content is that organisations often fall back on jargon to explain what they do and the messages they are trying to get across.

The problem is that often these words and phrases mean little to people outside that industry or particular company – instantly turning off readers.

But use of jargon in content also suggests that you don’t know the subject perhaps as well as you should or think you do. Remember the famous Albert Einstein quote - “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

It also implies that you have nothing new to say to the reader (in which case why should they read on?).


Stick to everyday language

The key with written content, even with the more formal style used in whitepapers, is to use the language that you and your readers would use in everyday conversation.

When I’m writing content I try to use the language I would use if I was explaining the point to a friend or family member in a pub or café – just without the swearing.


Reading out loud

One of the tricks I use to test the simplicity of my own content is to read it aloud. Sure, it generates some funny looks in the office, but it’s a good way of identifying words, phrases and sentences which may be confusing.

If I stumble over parts of it, or find myself having to reread certain paragraphs, then it is fair to assume my content isn’t as straightforward as I intended.


Test the readability of your content

There are easy to use tools you can use to test the simplicity and readability of your content. Word offers two useful measurements.

The Flesch Reading Ease score uses the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables in each word to calculate how easy it is to read a document. The lower the score, the more difficult the text is to read and ideally you should aim for a score of between 60 and 70.

The second check, known as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, is an equation which tells you how many years of education someone needs to understand your content.

The grade score is based on the American grade system and essentially you need to add five to your grade to find the reading age of your content.



As you can see, in the above image my reading ease is 60.3 and my grade level is 9.7, meaning a 14-15 year old should be able to understand it. It’s also worth highlighting that the average length of a sentence in this post is under 20 words.

To find your score, simply go to the ‘file’ menu, then ‘options’ and then on to the ‘proofing’ tab.

Under the ‘when correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ heading you need to tick the box which says ‘show readability statistics’.

Then when you run a spelling and grammar check you will find the two readability scores.

Simplicity is a very effective content marketing strategy. It is not about dumbing down or insulting the intelligence of your readers.

It is about ensuring your content is easy to understand for as many people as possible. And that takes skill. But, it is well worth it.

Steve Jobs famously once said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”



At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

Social media trends

Aimee Hudson 3rd October 2017 — 6 mins read
A

nd with constant growth – 30 per cent of all time spent online is now allocated to social media interaction – the pace of that change is going to increase.

The good news is that the Thirty Seven crystal ball has been put to good effect and helped us identify the things you can expect to see much more of.

 

Ephemeral Content

This type of content is intriguing and one that can be quite hard to achieve successfully. It is where your followers see a short clip of content or an image for a matter of seconds before it disappears.

It is the format Snapchat was built upon.

However, more brands are exploring ephemeral content to provide a different side of the business for certain occasions.

For example, ephemeral content is great for giving an audience a sneak peek or a behind the scenes look of a product or event. Burberry used it to wide acclaim in 2015 to create an ad in real time.

Alternatively, it can be used for competitions and giveaways, interviews, holidays or a daily/weekly series.

The key to being successful with this form of content is to be human. It should be unpolished and light-hearted or, in other words, ‘flawed’.

 

Stories

Snapchat has, since pretty much the beginning, had a feature called ‘stories’ where users can publish snippets of what they’re doing out to everyone who follows them.

Within the last year or so Instagram and Facebook have copied this idea and interestingly, Instagram seems to have become the more popular platform for this feature with 100 million daily active viewers in 2016.

Many people and brands share snippets of their day and then add text, stickers, filters or emojis and publish it so anyone who follows their account can view it.

Since Facebook now owns Instagram it has also rolled out the feature to its own platform but with little success.

 

Live Video

There’s no doubt that live video is on the rise with more and more brands tapping into it and in 2018 it is expected to take centre stage. 

While there are many video streaming platforms – and LinkedIn is in the process of rolling out one to its users now - Facebook Live and Periscope appear to be the most popular.

Periscope, in 2016, stated that users watched 110 years of live video every day in the app and on New Year’s Eve Facebook Live reached a record-breaking number of users around the world.

Twitter and Instagram have also launched a live video platform within their apps, in Twitter’s case they now have a button to live stream via Periscope.

This feature is particularly useful to those who want to live stream an event, for example a product launch, to everyone who couldn’t be there. Q&A’s and a live video series are also opportunities to pick up on.

With new capabilities like 360-degree videos, there are new ways to engage an audience.

 

Artificial Intelligence

This is a fairly new feature for most social media brands but Snapchat has paved the way since the beginning with their variety of filters.

Powered by artificial intelligence the filters are known to be engaging and interactive. I mean have you seen how many selfies have dog ears over them now?

Due to its growing popularity, other platforms have adopted the feature in order to entice users.

Many companies are investing in artificial intelligence and creating new interesting ways to engage audiences.

It’s believed that artificial intelligence will drive social media in the coming year with some stating that it is essential for social media success. It is certainly something Apple has placed a lot of emphasis on while launching its new iPhone X.  For businesses, it’s a new way of opening doors to interact with customers, publish adverts and network.

 

Messaging Apps 

With more people spending more time online, social media companies are investing in instant messenger functionalities.

Facebook was the first to initiate this with the Facebook Messenger app. This allows people as well as brands to communicate globally for free.

Those aid customer service processes as they provide a faster and easier way for customers to get the assistance they need, compared to email or phone.

The hotel chain Hyatt utilises Facebook Messenger for 24-hour customer service so guests can make reservations or ask questions.

Many companies that don’t use social media messaging apps use similar technology which can be embedded into their websites.

 

Marketplace

E-commerce is becoming more prominent within social media platforms. With Facebook, Instagram and Twitter offering ways for users to buy products directly within their apps.

With one simple click, a user is taken to the company’s desired URL to either browse products or with the intention to buy.

The marketplace is powerful. In a recent survey, 56 per cent of consumers said they follow brands on social media to know when products are on sale and 31 per cent said they use social media to specifically look for new products to purchase.

Many people go on social media to interact with interesting content and are more likely to engage in posts that provide information to them rather than an advert e.g. gift ideas for your sister. Indirect advertising allows companies to reap more benefits.

Remarketing via adverts on social media is also known to increase sales for businesses and can be a very effective strategy when done well.

 

Mobile Advertising

If you haven’t started investing more into mobile advertising it’s about time you did. It’s wise to advertise across all social media platforms if possible and take advantage of the new features that come out.

In 2016, Facebook brought in $7 billion worth of social media ad revenues. Its algorithm ensures that a user’s friends and family’s content comes first so that the 75 per cent of brands that pay to promote adverts on Facebook will have to create appealing and engaging ads in order to capture the user’s attention first.

Twitter, on the other hand, has paid advertising features including videos, sponsored hashtag icons and stickers to provide users with a variety of ad options.

Interestingly, users said, in a recent survey, adverts on Instagram were more memorable compared to ads on Snapchat. However, Snapchat offers more appealing ad features like sponsored filters that are popular during film releases making them more likeable to users.

Overall, each platform runs a pay-to-play operation to make advertisers pay as much money as they can so they can get the results they want. For example, if you’re looking for conversions and have a budget of £50, Facebook will put this in front of only a select few people. But if your budget is £500 your ad will be placed in front of many more people who are likely to complete your desired conversion action.



Perhaps the biggest trend though, which seems set to continue, is that the four main channels continue to copy each other’s most popular features, as the ‘stories’ functionality shows. 

The social media platforms are becoming standardised with the only difference being which one your audience uses most.

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Iain Wallace
20th February 2018 - 3 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.