Is Content Writing Dead Because No One Reads Anymore?

Nobody reads anymore. Everyone’s staring into their phones, scrolling through Instagram or watching a video. Writing is dead. Or is it? Are content writers finally killed off the script amid all that advertising and marketing clatter and clutter? Are we spoiled leftover meatloaf to be scraped off the sidewalk? I contend not. Ever heard of shapeshifters? 

I’ve posted about them all before. The rise of Facebook, the stumbling blocks faced by Snapchat, the new game-changer for Linkedin, the up-and-coming for Instagram….and very few of them involved the written word. 

In fact, a few years back, everyone predicted the imminent death of Snapchat after it refused to be bought over. And also the fact that after turning away from Facebook’s offer, the latter giant social media gave Snapchat a nasty backhanded slap across the face by releasing its own version of Snapchat on BOTH Facebook and Instagram.

In. Your. Face.

But if you’ve noticed, none of them were about content writing. 

Magazines, newspapers, tabloids
Are Magazines, Newspapers and Tabloids are dead?

It felt like it was useless even when copywriters, scriptwriters, SEO writers, journalists, and editors were willing to put on a lot of elbow grease into our work, we were handed a one-way-ticket into the black hole of the internet

In fact, there are now SO MANY WRITERS ON THIS PLANET, churning out content by the millions every single day, (I don’t know where we all come from) Google punishes you for it. Are content writers kicked off the saddle and never to get back on again?

Almost Everything Requires Writing

It may have looked a little like doomsday out there those of us who rely on writing for a living.

But instead of prematurely mourning the bleak hypothetical predictions, I think writing has, instead, evolved instead of died an early death. The reason is simple: everything related to marketing, promotions, education, business, entertainment; you name it, needs to be written.

A film needs a storyboard and screenplay. Someone needs to sit down to write a social media post. You can’t run away from having a company profile or website… we’re not THAT far into the future yet. And if you speak to someone who produces videos or design graphics for a living, chances are, they’re working with someone who writes

Reaching out to people who are more likely to be interested in your brand is not only more cost-efficient; it’s also more sustainable and less time-consuming. Consumers do not want businesses to gloss over them; they seek legitimate trust and genuine relationships

Entrepreneur.com

To me, there’s so much more to writing. The key is finding a writer who is not using habit-worn ways to ‘produce’ content just to fill in an empty canvas. You need a writer who is a sass factory of ideas and able to read the tea leaves.

A writer who is obsequious to market trends and needs.

What’s changed in the way writing is presented, not the need for. If you’ve sat in a subway, you would have noticed people reading subtitles to the videos they’re watching on their smartphone, in silence. You might have also seen videos with cute captions popping up in the middle of the video that added sound bites to the content. Even on image-based social media platforms, captions are written with surgical precision to touch raw emotions or elicit laughter.

And have you noticed something different about your Instagram feed – IGTV? Well…instead of having to toggle the phone around to watch a video on Instagram horizontally (as we all old farts usually have to do), IGTV allows you to watch a video all the way to the end vertically.

Girl thinking with a laptop on a sofa
A new way of writing. Content writing and marketing has evolved

A Whole New Ball Game for Writers

At the point of writing this article, the algorithms are run by human-led but robot-run artificial intelligence. They’ve yet to completely breach the divide between robot and human and still CAN’T read pictures and videos of those momentous moments people post on social media.

More so with sites that disallow links like Instagram. The fewer words you write about the picture you’ve just posted, the less they can figure the picture out. Much of what the algorithm does at this point is guesswork – a good one but still guesswork.

So, writers, it’s not a lockdown. It’s a time to prove our fidelity to change and evolution.

Content — whether it’s an article on an outlet or a video on social media — opens the door for two-way communication, which is crucial for building trust and letting customers know that you appreciate their business

Entrepreneur.com

Social Media Just Got Personal…and Awkward

And it SHOULD be.

People who have the gift of the gab will have no problems with this algorithm change but for those who don’t, it just got a little awkward.

A friend of mine spent 3 days just thinking about what to write on her Instagram post because she draws for a living and wanted it to come up a little higher on the ladder of hashtag hierarchy.

My advice to her was “Just write it like you’re talking, OK? Just think it and write it, STOP WORRYING, for chrissakes” (No, I did not wrestle her for her phone although it was pretty darn tempting – lol)

More people are turning away from social media influencers as the temple of reference and recommendations. One company, Iceland, snubbed reliance on social media influencers and, instead, held a hand out to partnering with ‘real people’.

If you’re wondering why, ask yourself this simple question – as a consumer, would you rather take advice from a paid social media influencer on what brand of health supplements to take or your friend on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram?

Books on my table - my next reads
The current books on my table, waiting to be read

It’s Now All About Storytelling and Information Sharing

The image or video is important, and yes, it’s what social media cares about right now…BUT, it would not be accurate to predict the death of the written word. Writing content for just about anything remains just as important.

It’s a metamorphosis instead of demise.

What’s different for writers now is that we need to work more closely with the people behind the videos and photos. CREATE a story. The front line is the photo/video because it catches people’s attention and holds them there for a few seconds/minutes.

Ultimately, it’s the story behind it, the words, that provides the anecdote to superficiality.

One good example would be the Instagram sensation, Humans of New York.

Brandon Stanton, the person behind Humans of New York, was out of work when he started doing what he enjoyed doing instead of updating his resume. As it turned out, he has a knack for photography and writing.

Instead of updating my resume and looking for a similar job, I decided to forget about money and have a go at something I truly enjoyed

Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York, Huffpost

In fact, after tenaciously bobbing along the fringes of fame, his passion gained traction when people started relating to the pictures and stories he posted.

He’s gained so much fame that not only is he able to feed himself now, he raised money for passion projects like the one for impoverished schools in Brooklyn, victims of Hurricane Sandy and people from all around the world who were trapped between a rock and a very hard place. The popularity of Humans of New York spawned other similar social media accounts, personalities, efforts, companies, and organizations.

And that says a lot about an out of work, a starving man armed with nothing but a new DSLR camera and a smartphone.

Humans of New York, a prolific story- and human-led instagram account and website
HumansofNewYork.com

Pictures and Words Working Together as a Micro-Blog Storytelling Platform

Just as Stanton realized it, behind every picture, there is a story. Behind every company, there is a tale. Tell it like it is and it will go not just far but long.

Even now, there’s an argument amongst social media and digital marketing experts about the role of writing. Some contend that videos will rule the world, others bicker back that video and image content needs the leg up from content and caption writers.

I hold on to the strong belief that people connect to people. People, especially me, get curious about people’s lives, their stories and the reason behind a picture/video. The video and image need to have the agency to echo on in the minds of viewers and readers and nothing will do a better sidekick job, in this particular situation, than written words.

DOES a picture paint a thousand words? Not really. It conjures up a thousand possibilities and assumptions, maybe, but not a thousand truthful words.

And THAT’s why writing is not dead.

Your position should be not “look how great we are” (as in a traditional brochure) but “look how useful we are – we have the answers to your problems.” This approach is truly customer-centred. Create content that is genuinely useful to your customers. Make yourself indispensable.

MarketingDonut.co.uk

Words Help Give Leg Room for Thoughts and Emotions

Everyone, including companies, brands, and organizations, needs a voice and narrative. The better you tell it, the more people like it. And even then, users of the internet and social media are more perceptive than ever now than before. They KNOW when you’re telling a half-truth or a lie.

Words do matter, even on Instagram, and that has led users to seek the consummate caption for each of their posts. And just as it has for a variety of its other features, Instagram has spawned a cottage industry around this pursuit

TheRinger.com

My boys, who belong to Generation Z, are even more skeptical than me, a Generation Xer. They prefer people who spit out the truth instead of muffled half-truths.

The words provide clarity after the dust has settled. And this is the inertia you need to craft out good customer touchpoints.

Speculations About the Impact of the Written Words on Social Media and the Internet

Everything you read on the internet is mere speculations, observations, reports, and findings. They’re never really facts unless they’re from the horse’s mouth itself. So, if anyone tells you they know a surefire way to win either the game of social media caption writing or content marketing, take it with a tablespoon of salt.

Some experts favor short captions combined with relevant hashtags for Instagram posts, others prefer to write longer content to tell the story. And they’re not wrong.

Studies show that both work and the similarity between the two is not about the quality of the picture or the beauty of the model; it’s almost always about how much the posts resonate with others.

Hypeplanner co-founder and growth strategist, Cassie Jenkins, even said not to believe every blog posts on the internet and nobody knows how Instagram’s algorithms populate a user’s feed.

People who study it, experiment and gather data around it might have an inkling about it but nobody really knows for sure. What we can study is engagement and length of time people spend on a post in their feed. It helps theorize how interested people are with what’s coming up when they’re scrolling, and Instagram is interested in THAT data too.

In recent news, Instagram revealed their intention to police everyone’s feed for sexually suggestive content and curb them. This seemingly despotic move, of course, caused an uproar in the free world of cyber opinions. When asked, Instagram kept mum on their actual plan. The reason for the uproar comes in many forms:

  1. what will happen to ‘body positive social media influencers
  2. brands promoting perfume and body lotion
  3. why aren’t half-naked men punished the same way?
  4. What happens to well-meaning educational content that may contain such content as a form of aid
  5. What happens to ART (to provide context, many artists believe that the naked human body is an art, not sexually suggestive in any way)
  6. What will happen to breastfeeding mothers
  7. What happens to influencers who post pictures of surviving cancer?
  8. Is posing a picture of a tatoo on a human body considered sexually suggestive?
  9. What could companies for undergarments possibly post now?
  10. And once again, the argument about sexism will rise the ranks – why is the male nipple OK and not a woman’s NOT?

Swimming in my brain was this: What if the caption or words made a difference?

Should You Use Apps and Robots to Help You Write Captions for Your Social Media Posts?

I wouldn’t rely 100% on copy-paste methods. That’s my opinion but I won’t deny the obvious perks the apps offer. You can, literally, come up with captions within seconds and it’s genius.

The true worth of these apps is in their ability to encapsulate what’s trending and present it to you in a list format so you can use it as a guide, not copy-paste. With millions of others using the same caption, how do you stand out from both the standpoint of SEO and social media influence?

By now, I am sure you’re already tired of the “Top 10 Best Instagram Captions to Use for Your Next Post”, “Top 24 Most Viral Content on the Internet for 2018”, or “Top 11 Apps for Viral Content on Facebook and Twitter”.

We’re all getting a little weary with the market being so saturated.

If you want to make an impact, capitalize on trending topics and suggestions these apps give you and write your own story. Cut through the chatter in the cloakroom and stand in the light.

This is why nano-influencers – influencers who are real people with followings of anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 -are more prized as information sources for Gen Z purchasing decisions than macro-influencers like Kendall Jenner or Zoe Sugg, who can sometimes get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a sponsored post

SocialMediaToday

Discovering trending topics can be done with or without apps and tools but it is simply easier to collect data via the tools. Most major social media sites have their own ‘discovery tools’ for users to check on the latest trending topics and hashtags.

While it’s perfectly fine to spend $4 on a premium app to help you explore trending hashtags for your Instagram, Twitter or Linkedin campaigns, a bit of legwork will help you fire from the right cylinders as well.

It is my belief that nothing replaces human experiences and creativity. Exclusive insight into what’s REALLY happening helps people tunnel past the faux reality so many present on social media.

Even as we speak, app programmers are teaming up with songwriters or moviemakers to bolster their app’s caption-making process. And it’s a brilliant idea. I mean, who better to team up with than people who regularly come up with songs, lyrics, and scripts?

Browsing the internet on a tablet
Human Writers vs. Robot Writers Clambering for the Attention of Human Attention

Hiring a Human to Write your Content and Captions

Believe it or not, high schoolers are making less than a dollar for each caption they write for their clients on sites like Freelancer.com and Fiverr.com. Most of these fresh-out-of-the-water students may not have the experience but they have what we need – the knowledge of latest trends and the ability to bend words to their liking to suit a business, product, service or industry.

The value of such services is that they’re human and people should really take a stab at that or start looking around for someone who has a whip-like wit.

Sure, you can pay a few dollars a month for an app to come up with a cute, trendy caption for you, but many of those apps are relying on cliche and things that have gone through the wash-rinse-repeat cycle. Within months, competitors who are within spitting distance will be using the obviously recycled captions too. It’s a voraciously competitive world.

The card in your pocket, to stand out in the swarm of competition, is to have a human as the hidden card in your pocket.

The best advice I’ve ever gotten about writing captions for social media is this: “Imagine your friend, mother, or colleague standing next to you, looking at the same picture. If that person was trying to be off-hand, funny or trying to relate, imagine what would he or she say?”

Gen Z is 1.3x likelier to choose a product based on a recommendation by an influencer than a recommendation by a celebrity

SocialMediaToday

Conclusion

In my honest opinion, the written word is NOT dead.

I don’t think it will ever die because it will just contort and reconstruct itself into something new. Right now, it might be in pictures or videos but who knows, some years down the road, it could emerge in another completely alien form.

As long as there is a need for content, there is a need for the written word. The world cannot be devoid of creativity and that’s the upper hand writers have against robots and artificial intelligence. We’re a part of the patchwork.

As a writer, you try to listen to what others aren’t saying…and write about the silence

N.R. Hart