The evidence is building that Generations Y and Z really do have no attention span. No, don’t stop reading there; this is important. Video marketers only have a third of a 15 second ad to capture someone’s attention before they skip ahead (assuming you haven’t blocked the ad completely). Millennials are turning away from TV in droves, favouring the curated skippable world of online video. From Twitter to Tinder, instant gratification is the order of the day.
Getting viewers to tune into live TV, rather than watch on demand or skip ahead to the best bits, is an increasingly tricky prospect. There’s little that people have the patience to sit through in its entirety anymore. With that comes potentially massive losses for marketers, who must now battle to become a more intrusive presence, or else find new ways to win attention.
The skyrocketing popularity of livestreaming – often just people broadcasting themselves on webcams – seems baffling in this context. But along with live sports, livestreaming seems to speak to the age of social media, and the need to be the first to react to an event. Live events and streaming sponsorships are fast becoming the most intimate way of connecting with your audience, ditching the traditional news cycle in the process.Continue reading “Consumers Love Livestreaming — And You Should Too”→
Chat. Jargon. Jibber jabber. Even the language we use to describe language is rich and diverse.
Over our species’ history, language has been evolving constantly, and the deep and intricate nature of the way we communicate is arguably the reason we’re the dominant species on Earth; should a Jurassic Park-esque scenario ever become a reality, it’s not velociraptors opening doors we should worry about – it’s T-Rexes writing sonnets.
We’ve come a long way from the cave painting and war dancing of our ancestors, and from the time when written communication was new (some 30,000 years ago); we’ve now crossed the 1,000,000 word threshold in English.
What’s fascinating about this achievement, is the word that tipped us over the edge. The millionth word added to our language, controversially, was ‘web 2.0’ – and this is hugely telling. Technology has always been one of the major driving factors in the evolution of language and communication, but in recent years, with the emergence of digital technology, these things have been turned on their head, possibly forever.
Marketing and the Digital Revolution
The subheading might make it sound like a weird math-rock Prince cover band, but marketing and the language of digital are two things that go hand in hand. For those working in digital or content marketing, language is hugely important. It’s central to everything.
Marketing is all about understanding how to communicate to a target audience, which for the most part is done, in one form or another, through language – written and spoken.
As our modern world increasingly turns digital – and with the internet of things now making big waves in Western society (think A.I speakers) – it’s never been more important to understand how language has been shaped by the digital frontier.
There’s no question that digitisation and the internet have redefined how we communicate. We can talk to each other across huge distances. We can get in touch with people that in the past, we would never have had the opportunity to meet. We can talk with, record, watch, and write to people across the entire globe, in an insurmountable number of ways.
The internet, arguably the biggest evolution in communication, is itself built upon a foundation of language. As Bill Gates famously said, ‘content is king’, and the internet is governed by the written word.
Despite the popularity of video and image content, search engines – the godly entities by which essentially the entire internet is filtered to us – only really understand written content.
This says a lot about the foundations of modern communication, but it potentially could ring some alarm bells; if the internet is able to fluidly understand written communication, could there be justification for fears of technology’s ability to influence people? With the rise of superintelligent A.I, could machines learn to write and communicate by themselves?
It’s not all doom and gloom. By developing technology to the extent we have, we can now communicate in ways that our ancestors would likely have thought impossible.
The concept of being able to live video chat with a friend was once singularly relegated to the realm of science fiction, and it’s now commonplace (we can even do it on the move – *Christopher Walken Impression* “It’s CRAZY”).
As a result of the countless methods we can now use communicate, our language has also diversified in ways we would likely have never predicted.
Simply put – there are lots more words now. The internet, with its layers of interconnectivity and endless sources of inspiration, has led to countless new terms and additions to our vocabulary.
This includes things like now-officially-recognised abbreviations such as ‘lol’ (shudder), which are not relegated purely to the digital realm – many of us will have heard friends say ‘lol’ out loud, without actually laughing (possibly and justifiably prompting a swift removal of said culprit from our friendship circle).
Say what you will about these new ‘internet words’ (we did – check out our article on it), there’s no doubt that digital tech is broadening our vocab GCSE-French-style.
It doesn’t just widen vocabulary in terms of specific words either – but also exposes us to entirely new dialects and grammatical forms. Anyone who’s read ‘Wuthering Heights’ will likely remember the almost nonsensical Yorkshire dialect of the servant, Joseph.
Compare this to popular social media pages like ‘Scottish Banter’, or simply take a look at the number of middle class schoolchildren now referring to each other as ‘blud’ or ‘fam’, it’s easy to see that our ability to comprehend, understand, and utilise dialects we weren’t previously exposed to has improved significantly as a result of digital interconnectivity.
Digital tech has also lead to new forms of communication entirely – enter the meme. By integrating image and language seamlessly, memes have become a globally recognised form of communication – there’s even an argument that understanding the warped grammar of certain memes like ‘doge’ (Much digital marketing. Very content. Wow.) requires a basic knowledge of accurate grammatical forms – to be able to write deliberately incorrectly, you have to be able to write correctly in the first place.
It’s also interesting to think about how ‘pure’ internet language is. Linguistics have always developed due to the way people use and apply language, but there has historically been a divide between the educated and the illiterate.
Essentially, it’s traditionally been accepted that there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way of speaking, but the internet is blurring that line. As the internet becomes the primary way by which huge amounts of people now communicate, there is no longer such a clearly defined, ‘established’ way of speaking.
Sure, grammar still exists, and it’s important, but what constitutes accurate grammar is no longer purely dictated by dusty tomes and ageing professors – think of the number of supermarkets offering customers a ‘ten items or less’ aisle, when it should be ‘ten items or fewer’. It’s a war of attrition – if enough people speak in a certain way – as we can clearly see online now – then should that way not be recognised as ‘correct’?
Inevitably, some of the ways that the digital world has affected language have been less positive.
Language now moves and develops at such a rapid rate, that it can actually divide people. Many of us will have sighed after one of our parents or older relatives has asked ‘what’s a meme’ (possibly pronouncing it ‘mehmeh’, the ultimate sin.), or who have mistaken ‘lol’ to mean ‘lots of love’ and sent a seemingly cruel text to someone who needed some moral support.
It’s a relatively new phenomenon that in the space of a single lifetime (even sometimes a few years), so many words and grammatical forms can come and go that the speech of our juniors actually doesn’t seem to make sense to us – and it would be fair to say that digital technology and interconnectivity play a big part in this.
There’s also the ‘anti-social media’ argument. It’s not uncommon to hear complaints or concerns over the amount of time young people in particular spend on social media.
Fundamentally, these platforms are built to keep us connected – but there’s an argument that due to their screen-based and impersonal nature, they actually do more harm than good, and if they’re the medium through which language – an inherently social thing – is evolving, could this be harmful?
One of the most interesting ways that the digital frontier has shaped language, might not initially seem like it has anything to do with language at all.
The rise of the humble emoji might seem like something cute and quaint, but content marketers and language analysts would be wise to quake in fear at the eminent and expanding power of these little yellow demi-gods.
Emojis have the power to transcend language. Big statement, we know, but it’s true. Spoken and written language are always inhibited in some form or another, by one or more things.
To be able to understand someone speaking to you, you need to be able to speak their language, understand their dialect, register their tone etc.
To read, or write, you need to not only know a language, but how to record and interpret it graphically. Communicating with someone who isn’t able to do one or more of these things is difficult – these integral features of spoken and written communication create barriers (and shouty tourists).
Emojis, on the other hand, aren’t restricted by this. All it takes to understand an emoji is a basic grasp of facial contortion and human emotion/expression, or the ability to recognise simple emblems – while of course this may be difficult for some, it’s far less restrictive and complex than the spoken or written word.
These little graphic devils are also fast becoming a powerful tool in online marketing. It’s now possible to search specifically for an emoji in the same way we search for a hashtag, and more and more symbols are being added to the emoji ‘dictionary’ all the time – it’s even possible for brands to create their own, personalised emoji symbols.
Possibly the most fascinating thing about all of this, is the paradox in the way that emoji use is simultaneously pushing our digital society forward, and harking back to some of the earliest forms of communication. In essence, you could say emojis were hieroglyphs. Had we only listened to wise words of The Bangles, and done as they’d asked… we’re not walking like egyptians – we’re writing like them.
Why is this important for digital marketers?
At its heart, digital marketing is all to do with language. All the data-analysis and tech wizardry aside, the crux of what marketers do is find ways to put a message in front of people, and articulate that message in such a way that said people engage with it. Language is utterly essential to this – and remaining in touch with the way people use language is crucial.
These same principles apply when you’re considering the experience required when recruiting a marketer, hiring a digital agency or developing your own marketing skills. In order to succeed in today’s digital environment, the core skill sets have fundamentally changed as the Google algorithm has got smarter.
With engagement now considered to be an important factor for SEO, Social Media and Paid Media campaigns, it’s not all about how technically proficient you are, but more importantly how engaging your content is – basically, it’s all about how good at words you are.
Marketers need to stay in touch with the way people talk and communicate, and apply this knowledge in alignment with your target market and brand identity.
In an ideal world, there should be an authentic and relevant tone of voice that resonates with your audience. There’s no point using slang and abbreviated forms of communication if this isn’t part of your audience’s every day lexicon – it just comes across as insincere and a bit shit.
Digital marketers and SEOs, in particular, also need to understand how to carefully use the very same language to appeal to people and search engines alike, which can be a tricky balancing act.
The issue of the development of language is a complex but thoroughly compelling one. There’s little doubt digital technology has redefined the world in innumerable ways; the way we communicate and the language we use have been reshaped – possibly forever.
The relevance to those of us who work with language on a daily basis is twofold. 1 – we need to keep up to date with the way people talk online and in person.
We need to know what people say, why they say it, and when it’s a good idea to say it ourselves. 2 – possibly more importantly, we need to remain constantly aware that language is evolving – faster than it ever has before.
In a world where words can appear, disappear, and take on new meaning in such a short space of time, staying tapped into our evolving language has never been more important.
As with almost all facets of society and culture, language will always change. New technology will emerge that will alter the way we speak and communicate, and I’ll have to rewrite this article. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, so it goes. At least we can stay safe in the knowledge that if a talking T-Rex were to become a reality, we could bamboozle him simply by speaking in Tumblr.
It’s Thursday morning; I arrive at the office and ask Alexa to turn on the radio.
“Alexa. BBC radio 6.”
I’m aware this makes me sound like a rude and demanding colleague who was just deservedly sworn at. In my defense, Alexa isn’t a person, she’s an internet-connected artificial intelligence speaker, and she simply hadn’t registered my command.
It’s no longer in debate: in many professions and industries, jobs and tasks previously completed by people are now being performed by artificial intelligence systems. While this might seem inevitable in certain fields, one industry which has always been quietly confident of its security in this regard has been content marketing.
In an industry rooted heavily in intrinsically human qualities – creativity, empathy and the ability to know an audience – it’s understandable that the general position is that A.I systems probably couldn’t replace writers in any real capacity.
If this is your thinking, it might shock you to discover that you’ve quite possibly already read content online which has been written by an A.I program. While this technology isn’t yet able to replicate an authentic piece of writing by a human, it’s not as far off as you might assume.
While many have brushed this issue off as sci-fi hogwash, the basic pillars of content creation can give us some insight into the pressing question: could artificial intelligence actually replace content marketers?
The logical place to start would be to establish which aspects of content marketing are the most ‘human’. First and arguably foremost is creativity. This is often where the buck stops with an argument debating the potential of artificial intelligence to replace human effort. Some would say that a computer program or system could never exhibit true creativity; plain and simple, thank you very much.
Alarmingly, this might not be as clear-cut as most content marketers would likely hope. Advanced computer-based systems and tools already exist which are capable of producing astonishingly ‘creative’ results.
Deep neural networks, computer systems which are designed to replicate the basic synaptic structure of the human brain, are an example of this. Advanced systems like these have already managed to create pieces of music, and ING’s Next Rembrandt project used A.I technology to faithfully generate an eerily accurate, entirely new painting in the style of the master artist.
Creativity has always been one of the most enigmatic aspects of the human mind, but if computer systems are able to ‘decode’ artwork in this way, and use this information to create entirely new content, it might no longer be a uniquely human quality at all.
Even if the definition of creativity is rooted firmly in what is novel or unique, the basic premise of using established knowledge to inform the creation of new material is something that A.I systems are already pretty good at.
Simply put, it might not even matter if a computer is truly ‘creative’. An A.I system could feasibly have enough data and information on how content is created to generate writing that’s indistinguishable from that of talented marketers. Gulp.
I like Siri, but it just doesn’t…get me, y’know?
So possibly, in the near future, we could have computerised musicians, artists, or poets. An A.I might get to a stage where you could feasibly claim it was creative. Fine.
But there is more to content marketing than just creativity. A great writer doesn’t just craft engaging and effective pieces of writing, they do so with a specific audience in mind. Their writing has a purpose, which comes from a deep understanding of what it is people want and need, and how to provide it to them.
Could a computer program really know how to find out what people want, pick a target audience and then craft content around them? Again, the answer: quite possibly.
A.I marketing is already taking place. When we log into Amazon, Facebook, or Netflix, we’re bombarded with suggestions for products and services. Save a few renegade adverts, these are mostly based around what we’ve been searching for and showing an interest in online. It’s all very 1984.
The saving grace for content marketers currently is that these algorithms don’t replace good old-fashioned common sense. The fact that someone searched for something online doesn’t necessarily mean they want to buy that thing, or want to discover similar products.
At this stage, these A.I programs spot trends, but aren’t great at identifying or understanding why these trends are taking place. They receive information, and they use that information to provide other information. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t always end well either (take a look at the story of ‘Tay’ – Microsoft’s tweetbot that became accidentally racist.)
Curtains for Content Marketers?
Looking at how far A.I. has come in recent years, and how quickly, it would be naive to suggest that there will never be an A.I program that can do the job of a content marketer.
Identifying audiences, defining content purposes, creating quality and appropriate content, and assessing results to inform future projects. These are all things that a computer system will most likely be able to do in the future.
But for all you despondent content marketers out there, don’t panic just yet. We’re still a long way off any computer being able to do these things in correlation with one another. The sheer complexity of a good content marketing strategy means that while current-gen tech is smart, it’s not the well-oiled machine it needs to be.
For now, content marketing isn’t going anywhere. A.I.s are clever, and are getting smarter, but at this point they’re limited. They’re built by people, and they only work in the way we tell them to. Computer systems don’t ever have a creative ‘spark’, or a moment of brilliance; there aren’t specific programs that are more talented.
We simply can’t know how things will develop, but if at some point Alexa chirps up with a suggestion about how I might approach some writing, I’ll let you know. Unless, of course… I AM Alexa (Cue Twilight Zone music).
As R.E.M. so nearly sang, everybody blogs. The internet is so saturated with undercooked opinions and overripe prose, it can feel like the proverbial tree falling in the woods. If nobody will read your blog, why put in the effort?
In an age of disposable media, so few people take blogging seriously that the standard has fallen dramatically. A few simple tricks of the trade can elevate you beyond the competition and into internet superstardom (or at least make your business blog a bit tidier). Touch up your Tumblr and wash down your WordPress with these five tips from a trained journalist.
The English language is a beautiful thing. Shakespeare, Dickens and 34 years of Countdown are all proof that wondrous words are wonderful. They can simultaneously create elegant works of literature, while providing comforting afternoon entertainment as you cozily dunk a digestive biscuit into a cup of warmish, sugary tea.
English (or more specifically words in general) have of course been used for both good, and the not so good. On the side of all things positive, Martin Luther King’s famous speech helped to change a nations view on civil rights, and Donald Trump’s recent presidential campaign is a reminder to all of us as to what would happen if a chimp accidentally ate a tube of glue.
And it’s the same with the Internet. Yes language evolves and we should warmly accept the new words that are added to the English Oxford Dictionary (about 4,000 every year); but there are some words and phrases that should arguably be stopped before they have the opportunity to totes mess shit up.
Here, in our very humble opinion, are just a few of them.
A shorter more convenient form of the word: totally.
The word is most commonly used by teenage fans of One Direction, probably from LA. If you used the word 190 times a day, this shorter abbreviation will save you approximately 26.6 seconds. Just enough time to watch Harry, Liam – or one of the other ones – riding a skateboard before jumping into the sea in slow-mo. Totes amazeballs.
Blue sky: To illustrate the freedom to think without preconceptions.
There is a wealth of office related jargonium that is often over-used, and “blue sky thinking” is a fancy and rather irritating alternative for “having a think about stuff”. Rather than making you sound smart and creative, its use conjures up images of having a business meeting on top of a campervan after eating a bag of mushrooms – but maybe that’s the point.
The abbreviated form of the word: obviously.
Mainly used in text messages by the Kardashian’s, people with Chronic Finger Fatigue and stock brokers who are trying to predict the On Balance Volume of stock prices. To avoid any confusion if Kim suddenly decides to enter the world of banking, Obv should be removed from all non finance related conversations.
Arising from the term “Crazy”.
Calling someone “Cray Cray” is an indication that their craziness just got real. This ultimate second power of crazy implies that a person is SO crazy that they’re either too cool for school, or literally bonkers. It’s often difficult to tell where one stops, and the other begins.
A combination of the terms “chill” and “relax”.
Considering most slang related terms are abbreviations created to save time, Chillax is longer than both Chill and Relax. Ironically this causes increased levels of stress and cortisol production.
If you have your own personal pet-hates or peeves, just blue-sky it and let us know.
Every piece of digital marketing advice tells you to do it. Other brands seem to be brilliant at it. And the whole thing is turning out to be much harder than it looks. Writing a business blog for your website that’s readable and interesting has benefits from driving traffic to cementing your reputation as a expert in your field – but where do you start?
Read Other Blogger’s Work.
Whether it’s for inspiration, or for finding out exactly what it is you don’t want to do, dedicating some time to find out what others are doing – from full time bloggers to your competitors – is definitely worth doing. If you really hate a blog or writing style, work out if there’s a reason for this. Is it your personal taste, or is it just bad? Think about how you can avoid being similarly terrible, if this is indeed what it is, and take a little time to work what it is about your own writing that will make you stand apart.
Also, if you make sure you don’t steal any ideas (which is very frowned upon in both internet-land and in real life), there’s a world of creativity out there to draw from. A little time spent looking around what’s already been written should get your brain sparking with inspiration, and let you work out how your voice is going be heard in a noisy market.
Writing content that people will want to read is not something you can do in a spare half hour. You need to set aside time, and then you need to focus, even if your brain is in full rebellion and wants to go watch Corrie or get on with something it thinks is more urgent. You’ll have to be strict with yourself, and let your brain sulk as much as it wants.
Think Around Your Subject.
Now there’s a reason you started your business. It’s your particular area of expertise, something you are passionate about, and something that requires the skills that you excel in. If you find yourself staring at a blank page, bereft of inspiration, with no idea about how to start writing about your brand, think around your business and rely on your enthusiasm for the subject. While “Top Tips” guides and writing about the industry news of the day will always be popular and completely valid choices, there are other ways to engage your audience.
If your industry, craft or service has a long and interesting history, write about this. For example, people working in insurance could explore particularly fascinating cases, those who run a café could talk about the favourite cafés of famous literary figures, and a jeweller may explain the story of the world’s most remarkable precious stones. There’s huge scope whatever your business specialises in, and if you can’t find anything directly to write about then your blog is a brilliant opportunity to showcase your business practises, and let people get to know you and your staff.
Beat Writers Block By Writing.
Write anything. Type out any words that have the vaguest association with your subject. Brainstorm until your brain hurts. You don’t have to publish what you write and you can edit away later, the trick is to get away from a blank page. Even the most ridiculous gibberish can have a glint of a idea in it, and if not, at least it will make you chuckle reading it back.
Reread and Edit. A lot.
Oh, typos, they are nearly inevitable. Everyone does them. And you may think that if you haven’t accidentally replaced the N with a C in “funk” or left out the L in “clock” that it’s fine, and people will be understanding. But unfortunately, they are not. Pedants hide in every corner of the internet and if they aren’t ready to fact-check every inch of your article or pull apart your grammar, even the average reader will find misspellings and typos unprofessional.
While your tone can be conversational, and perfect grammar isn’t always necessary if it’s going to detract from your writing style (lots of people will start a sentence with a “But”, for example) generally you will need to be spot on, or it will reflect badly on your attention to detail. Also, something that you thought was a brilliant idea may, after a bit of contemplation, suddenly seem very ill-advised. Make sure you get at least one other person to look over your work, re-read carefully and edit ruthlessly.
There’s a reason why people blog in their spare time – it’s FUN. This is a chance for you to write about what you care about, connect with others, and express yourself. Take advantage of this opportunity for a creative outlet, and you could find that writing your blog could become one of the pleasures of running a business.
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