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You've seen the movie where you wake up and everyone has a bland, boring, clone-like personality. Too often digital copy is just like that. And where it's not pod-speak, it's looking around trying to imitate it, because sounding like everyone else seems like the safe move under the circumstances.
Social & Search Optimization
In a post-SEO digital world, you get results not by using the same (key)words over and over, but by competitively differentiating your business. Search engines and social media respond to content marketing; that makes your copy central. Your content is your digital imprint, the textual voice of your company’s brand.
In a sea of duplicated “messages” all offering the same conceptual fluff, you survive not by fitting in, but by standing out. More than survive, you can thrive on your words, deprive bland competitors from spreading in your industry, and take back the conversation for your company's inspiring vision.
Your content strategy is most effective when the quality of your copy is unparalleled. Highly engaging copy gets more social media engagement, which triggers better search engine placement, and creates a cumulative colonization of the web for the good your company represents.
Don't be a pod. If you've awakened to the awkward, toneless quality of robotic writing, perfectly innocuous content, or digitally lifeless text, engage copywriters who put the human back into writing and stop the copy snatchers before they get you, too.
--- Daniel DiGriz is MarketSmiths' Chief Marketing Officer. He lives in New York, is a writer himself, and is President of MadPipe, a digital strategy coaching firm that helps small businesses get more clients through digital marketing.
Garrulous is to taciturn, as nadir is to…?
On Wednesday, the College Board announced a series of radical new changes to the SAT, the popular college admissions test.
The biggest changes? The essay section is now optional, and the test will focus less on arcane and esoteric words like the ones above (those much-reviled analogies were actually removed in 2005).
So, as people who write for a living, what’s our take on the SAT dropping the essay? (Does that just leave the T?)
The Essay Had to Go
As much as we champion good writing, the essay section was a disaster. Colleges rarely consider them, scores spent 2 minutes grading them, and MIT’s Les Perelman has pointed out its many problems: scores are often based on length, don’t factor in factual accuracy, and reward big words, even if they’re used incorrectly.
Real World Words
According to the New York Times, the SAT is cutting back on obscure terms like “membranous” in favor of more practical ones like “synthesis.”
As lovers of words, we can’t help but be enamored by some $10,000 words (e.g., mellifluous is particularly beautiful); fancy words are fun, but they’re not especially useful. That's why you'll almost never see them in our work.
If your audience can’t understand you, you’re not mastering the English language, you’re just being pretentious.
Writing’s Rising Value
While we say good riddance to this ill-conceived essay section, we do hope that the College Board finds better ways to emphasize writing skills.
As more traditional jobs become automated by technology or shipped overseas, skills like creativity, analysis, and innovation are more valuable than ever. Our students should learn how to think critically and express their thoughts clearly, concisely, and eloquently in writing.
The answer to that analogy, by the way, is zenith.
Call it the social media snowball effect. What started as a throwaway thought may send bloggers, journalists, and authors scattershot across the country on free rides, courtesy of Amtrak.
In an interview, an author named trains as his favorite place to write, fancifully remarking “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.” That excerpt found its way into a tweet, which led to writer Jessica Gross playfully calling out @Amtrak to make it happen.
Then, something amazing happened: Amtrak took them seriously. Gross landed the first writers’ residency, a two-way trip from New York to Chicago and back again. Absolutely free.
Come On and Take a Free Ride
I know what you’re thinking, you cynic, you. This is just a one-time publicity stunt, a calculated PR move by Amtrak to get some buzz. Nope. Amtrak’s continuing to offer free trips to writers with plans to expand the program.
Okay, what’s the catch? Well, there are a few. First, Amtrak is focusing on individuals with a strong social media presence. Secondly, you’ll need to tweet @Amtrak a few times during your journey (pretty cheap fare, in our eyes). Finally, you’ll have to be really comfortable doing your business in a moving bathroom. Also, the residencies may not be free forever in the future, though they will be extremely cheap.
How You Can Apply
Things are pretty informal right now—there’s no official application process, with most residencies being kick-started on social media.
To throw your hat in the ring, just tweet @Amtrak, cross your fingers, and see what happens.
The program’s still in its infancy, but we’ll be monitoring this story closely. All aboard!
Photo courtesy of jpmueller99.