Sometimes, less is more.
Today’s digital audiences have instant access to an unprecedented volume of content each day, with countless distractions vying for their attention across several devices at all times. In order for content to successfully break through the noise, it must be succinct, snappy, useful, and attention-grabbing.
Loosely defined as content comprised of fewer than 1,000 words, short-form content rules much of the internet, and must actively earn the time it takes for a reader to peruse it. Let’s take a look at how marketers can make sure every word of their short form content strategy is pulling its weight:
1. Create (and optimize!) consistently great headlines.
Headlines determine whether audiences choose to consume a particular piece of content at all. Great headlines are informative, memorable, and pique a reader’s curiosity. Take the time to determine whether your headlines are working effectively, and find the right testing tool to consistently optimize the final product.
2. Craft a strong introductory paragraph.
Once your headline has successfully pulled the reader in, don’t lose her with a lengthy, overwritten opener. Nothing deters a reader from finishing article like a daunting block of introductory text. Make your point, set the stage for what’s to come, and dive right into the meat of the article.
3. Incorporate interesting visuals.
Long blocks of text not accompanied by visual aids can quickly discourage readers. Use relevant images, videos, infographics, or embedded social posts to enhance the flow of your content and strengthen your narrative or argument.
4. Link to sources for more information.
The hyperlink is a revolutionary tool for digital writers looking to make the most out of short-form content. It provides authors the opportunity to subtly or overtly reference related content — both on their own website and from external sources. Links alleviate the headache of a formal bibliography, encourage on-site traffic, and point readers in the right direction for more detailed information on the topic at hand. When appropriate, they can even serve as a humorous aside or ironic call-back.
5. Edit, edit, and then edit some more.
You know what they say…kill your darlings. You may have agonized over crafting a really pretty sentence held together by a semicolon and an em dash, but does your reader have the time to make sense of it? Get rid of sentences or transitions that don’t add clear, concise information to the piece overall.
6. Have a strong opinion and explain it concisely.
The thesis of your short-form content should be immediately apparent to readers from the headline and standfirst. Don’t waste a reader’s time as you get to the point. Just get to it!
7. Put yourself in a busy reader’s shoes.
If you’ve spent even one minute on the internet, you know how many links, posts, and news items are constantly battling for a reader’s attention. Be respectful of your reader’s time by creating concise content that provides tangible value.
8. Limit your writing time.
Putting yourself on a deadline forces you to get to the point of your argument. That doesn’t excuse poor editing or sloppy grammar, of course — once you’ve gotten your thoughts onto the page, allow ample time to comb through for errors and edit.
9. Answer a very specific question. Then stop.
You’re not writing a term paper. There’s no minimum page count, so don’t waste time with tangents, asides, or sweeping generalizations. Determine what purpose your content is meant to serve, declare and prove your thesis, and then simply step back.
10. Experiment with different topics.
What type of content consistently resonates with your readers? When you find winners, turn those topics into larger series, campaigns, or more robust long-form posts.
Short-form content is a critical component of an effective content marketing mix. From communicative visuals, checklists, and charts, to tweets, blog posts, social updates, and other easily digestible interactions, successful short-form content facilitates positive brand interactions that deliver tangible value to your consumers.