How do you communicate when you meet your best friends for dinner or libations?
The evening is probably full of inside jokes, your own vernacular, and a unique language that evolved over years of hanging out and busting chops. If someone new joins you now night, that person probably feels left out and a little awkward.
I have had the good fortune (or misfortune depending on how you look at it) of being dubbed a “social media guru.” Therefore, I have the opportunity to read and analyze a lot of content. One of the most common mistakes I see is that writers often make assumptions about an audience’s pre-existing knowledge.
I’m guilty of it as well. I’ve probably even done it right here on “Maximize Social Business.” When we speak or create content (infographics, blog posts, videos, etc.), we often do it with the assumption that the audience has the same frame of reference we do.
But just like the poor new guy who doesn’t get all the inside jokes at happy hour – our audience will feel alienated if we don’t give them some context and background.
- Here are a few of the things that we often assume our readers or viewers already know:
- History of the company, service or brand.
- Name and background of members of the leadership team.
- Your products and services. Furthermore, if you have multiple products or subsets and speak to only one, then you are doing the others a disservice.
- The state of the industry as a whole and your position in it. I frequently see content that leaves out pertinent facts or perceptions about a company. You could argue that they are just trying to position their company in the best light. If you’re trying to establish authenticity, however, you must face both the pros and cons of any given situation. Remember, challenges are just opportunities lying in wait. Yes, I’m aware that sounds like a motivational poster.
- Your company, service or brand usually has its own “brand speak,” or perhaps a lexicon or set of acronyms. That unique language is often the Achilles’ heel of most companies. Nothing makes a new customer or prospect feel more inferior than if they have to take the time to look up the acronyms in your blog post.
- Never skip your key differentiators and assume a new or old customer is already aware of them. Whatever makes you special is buried in those pieces of intellectual property and great thinking. Be sure to share it all.
- For digital services launching new products or versions, ensure that your customers understand why the new product is better than the previous version. Only a few brands have such a strong reputation that people automatically download new versions by default. Therefore, take your moment in the sunshine, stand on a pedestal, and show off your innovation. It may seem like “version control” to you, but these moments can be exciting to your customer base that has been anticipating updates and innovation.
- The company’s culture, charitable interests, and corporate social responsibility initiatives. You can say the same for awards, but often I feel that simply harping on certifications and high ratings can create a false positive.
- ANY previously perceived benefits from a product, education or service. “Well, you know how great we are?” Actually no, there may very well be a large percentage of new consumers who do not.
- One way to avoid these pitfalls is by taking some cues from the world of instructional design. Instructional design is about creating content that is not only educational but uses the proper context of the material to ensure success.
Instructional design students usually face a simple challenge in which they have to explain how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I won’t go into it, but you can learn more here.
The takeaway is that even if you create a multistep process that YOU think is self-explanatory, it may not be to your audience.
So let’s use a checklist:
Create a matrix of content complexity. The more complex, the more you may need to construct written or visual definition to properly convey the benefits.
Are you speaking to new customers? If so, revise your content to speak at a very foundational level. Details can come later. First get them past the starting line.
Have you outlined consumer challenges or pain points within your content? Simply talking about how great you are will fall short of the mark if they do not make a connection to the benefits of your product and how it will make their life better.
Is the tone of your content educational or assumptive? Even very complex ideas can be spoon-fed – and in so doing, be seen as brilliant.
Ask yourself how much you know about branding, tone, and voice. What’s your familiarity with content marketing? And so on. If you can’t be all things to all people, then it’s best if you’re pragmatic when it comes to your content and audience. Finding the right balance of clarity, bundled with uniqueness is a surefire win.