‘Will written media and content eventually become obsolete?’ asked a concerned Quora user on the Q&A website back in 2012.
Probably not, was the general consensus. However, things move fast in the age of digital. Fast-forward four years to 2016 when Facebook was blithely telling us the days of writing were numbered. According to the company’s head of operations Nicola Mendelsohn, the death knell had began to sound for the written word - and she had the stats to prove it. But is there really a better alternative to writing? According to Mendelsohn, moving images and speech are: ‘Video conveys so much more information in a much quicker period,’ she said. ‘The trend helps us to digest much more information’.
Hold up for a second.
Isn't language the cornerstone of civilization, the vehicle for our rational thought, the thing that distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom? It’s hard to imagine a world without the written word. In the first instance, writing is too well-established, and downright useful, to be axed entirely in favour of audiovisual communication. Your career may be safe for now, content writers, but that doesn’t mean that writing isn’t facing challenges and disruption from evolving technology.
Writing vs. Design
Compared to the volume of gifs, jpgs, emojis and video formats that fill the white space where text might once have been, the humble written word seems to have dropped down the pecking order in the age of the internet.
Web psychologists confirm what we seen to intuitively know: reading a block of text is mind-numbing compared to watching a video. Fast-moving images and quick-paced narratives are processed by the brain at a faster rate than text, and are therefore more stimulating. Since we humans are cognitively quite lazy, our penchant for video is obvious. It’s no real surprise to learn that when it comes to paying attention online people are quickly seduced by the more comprehensible and aesthetically pleasing content formats. In many ways, compared to design and multimedia content, writing is the ugly sister of B2B content marketing; all design has to do is turn up and look pretty to get your neurons firing exponentially.
Writing has to work a lot harder to inspire.
A picture paints a thousand words - but is it telling the same story?
It’s worth unpacking this thought a little from a B2B content marketing perspective. Entertaining is good - it’s great, actually - but if there’s an earnest corner of the internet, you’ll probably find that reserved for a subset of business people and B2B marketers.
Research shows that when website visitors are goal oriented and need assistance to make an important decision - a multi-million Euro business software purchasing decision for instance - they need to feel in control. These visitors are much more willing to use up cognitive resources when they land on a webpage to survey the playing field. In these cases they will prefer a detailed text version of options over a flippant short, sharp blast of video. Could it be that B2B content marketing will be the last vestiges of writing on the internet? After all, B2B marketers and their clients are the sorts of people who read the small print.
B2B marketing is more than writing
Despite Facebook’s eagerness to bop writing over the head and bury it in a shallow grave, ironically the tech giant has made writers of us all. In an age where everyone is a writer, the poor old content writer hasn’t fared too well - after all, can’t anyone do that job?
When companies choose staff they think write well to carry out social media, content writing, and marketing campaigns, they’re forgetting that there’s more to good B2B content marketing than literacy. It takes time to become an expert in using digital platforms and applications, as well as learning about emerging social trends, SEO, and ever-changing Google algorithms. Sure, your finance manager is second-to-none at managing finances - but is it fair to expect him to be a top-notch social marketer and adept in SEO, too?
Writing for your customers also means writing for Google
While SEO and search strategies don’t hit you between the eyes with their bombastic appeals to the emotional brain, we’d be doing a disservice to this shy and retiring component of content marketing by not giving it our full attention. Doing good content marketing requires more than churning out blog after blog, fecund with multimedia elements; it needs to be underpinned by an SEO and search strategy. The truth is if you’re not paying attention to SEO you’re not engaging with Google.
However, if writing is the ugly sister of B2B content marketing, then SEO is surely the toothless cousin who never gets asked up to dance.
The importance of the written word to SEO and search engine success can't be underestimated; search terms and keywords should be incorporated into both the writing and design elements of online content. Text is always crucial. (Even the user-pleasing bells and whistles on your web pages are generated by a text-based computer language and until visual programming becomes a ‘thing’ we will continue to rely on prose to power the internet).
If you’re going to do content marketing right, you can’t just dance with design and flirt with video, you’ll have to dally with writing and SEO, too - whether you’re turned off by text or not.
Squaredot is a Gold Tiered Hubspot Partner based in Dublin, Ireland. We have a fully-stacked content marketing team, ranging from SEO strategists and digital marketers to writers and designers. Have you considered enlisting the help of a digital marketing agency to raise the profile of your business?