Things to read and things to think about

March 18, 2022

Listen instead

It's the end of season 1 of Not Quite Content.

Before I give your inbox or ears a 2 week break, I wanted to share a little mixed bag of the things I've been reading, watching, and generally vibing over the last 10 weeks of this series.

Things to read

Content marketing is dying.

With a headline like that, I had to click. As a summary, this article is an argument that individual thought leadership pieces seem to be outperforming hard core SEO strategies. And, in the way of good content marketing, they've created a hero 'solo thought leaders' and an enemy 'content creators'.

The line "Solo thought leaders innovate. Content creators copy Neil Patel." did give me a good chuckle.

But...uh...solo thought leaders are still content creators, and they're still taking that approach as part of a content marketing strategy.

Reading through this faux battle, I read a confirmation of my own thoughts on most (not all) content marketing and SEO strategies. The internet grows exponentially every day, it's harder to cut through the noise, and what worked pre-pandemic is less likely to get the same results today (hi to anyone launching a business on Instagram and expecting 2019 results).

SEO is still not a real monolithic thing (I can go into that another time) and I still don't like being associated with 'content marketing' as a general umbrella, because these approaches have become oversimplified.

Produce content - any content - under a broad pillar, add keywords, and you'll get hits.

The concept of prioritising what this author calls 'thought leadership' (which isn't going to be a thing for many industries) seems to be closely related to what I'd describe as defining your content domain - and sticking to it.

In some cases, your 'domain' can boil down to what you do - and don't - have an opinion about in business.

In practice, creating content within your domain looks like this.

Let's say you help people embed tech systems to make their lives easier. You specialise in ClickUp.

How to do a specific task in ClickUp might be excellent for SEO. But I'd argue it's not in your domain.

That's ClickUp's domain. Let them teach people how to use their product.

In terms of your sales strategy, people looking for that information are trying to do it themselves - how likely are they to pay you for that?

But, how to optimise the ClickUp set up for a specific industry, workflow, or team? That's something that changes based on experience, and the opinions you've formed based on that experience.

That's yours.

You own it.

And the people looking for this kind of information? Yes, they might be interested in DIY. But they're probably slightly more likely to pay for some help than those people just looking for how to do one specific task.

A content strategist's guide to using tone in products.

Spoiler: You don't have to be a content strategist to get value from this.

It shows how tone can be - and is - applied through products, specifically at Facebook.

Facebook uses a framework that include a spectrum of tones. For example, they want to write in a 'human' way, on a spectrum that covers a range from celebratory to informative to sympathetic. When writing for the product, they think about where on the spectrum they need to be for the user in that moment, and make small changes to reflect the right tone. The voice should still sound like Facebook whether you're being invited to wish someone a happy birthday, or creating a legacy page for someone you've lost. But the tone should be wildly different.

This is true for all businesses, and why I no longer talk about 'Tone of Voice Guides' like I might have 5 or so years ago, but 'Verbal Brand Strategy' that can guide someone through the nuances of tone.

In a similar vein, Why UX Writers Have to Learn to Be Less Polite, is an ode to taking the 'please' and 'thank you' out of your action-focused micro copy. While we're at it, let's also ditch the 'just' and 'simply'.

'Simply fill out this form'

'Just give us a call'

It makes these tasks seem small, but they're not small, simple or 'just' a basic action for many people reading your copy.

Things to entertain you

My brain can't stop listening to (and watching) Tick Tick Boom on a loop.

It's a Netflix film, directed by Lin Manuel Miranda and starring Andrew Garfield, about the genius that was Jonathan Larson. It' about the preserving and resilience it takes to make good art. It's not about high flying success, but the failures on the way.

What I've been up to

Small changes for more inclusive design.

In my role as a part time in house content designer, I've been working on some chunky forms and onboarding things. I've done a lot of reading, researching, and thinking about best practices for asking about gender.

(key takeaways: using trans-man and trans-woman as options reinforces the "othering" of the trans community. You can give people a seperate place to indicate whether they are trans or gender non-conforming. An open text box is the most appropriate option, but can be difficult for data analysis).

Designing forms for gender diversity and inclusion from the UX Collective is a good resource.

The work reminded me that, when I built my new site and updated my Acuity forms, I'd left off asking for pronouns. I have a gender diverse client base so this was a big misstep for me. And if you're wondering, no, Acuity doesn't ask for pronouns as part of their standard booking form. I added an optional single line text box to all forms. It took about 15 minutes. You can probably do it too.

Availability and season 2 of Not Quite Content

I have VIP day spots, Content kick-offs and space for 1 (or maybe 2) either Verbal Brand Strategy or Website Blueprint projects over April and May.

While on a newsletter hiatus for the next 2 weeks I will still be doing newsletters. Trying to get ahead for season 2, and at least planning out some topics to talk about. If you can remember why you signed up, and would like to reply and tell me, that would be great (readability, accessibility, copy, website strategy rants - let me know!).

As with all my content, I try to meet audience need by writing in longer form about the DM conversations I'm having, challenges that come up again and again in projects, or good or bad practice I see out in the wild. While it's fun for me, it's mostly for you. So if you ever have feedback, please share it.

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