I’m a professional writer. After a career spent putting ideas and experiences into words, I have come to believe in what Mark Twain called, “compactness, simplicity, and vigor of expression.” Twain might not seem entirely relevant in an age of social media, but you have to admit—that is an excellent formula for a good tweet.
Economy, clarity, accuracy, and immediacy are always high marketing virtues, no matter how many characters you get. Well-made customer evidence should clearly illustrate an organization’s experience with a product or solution and make it relevant to decision makers at other organizations. Like any good story, an effective case study or impact article should be about people that readers can relate to.
In shorter social media formats, the value of economy is obvious, but without a little vigor of expression, compact can turn out to be just short. Benefit metrics and customer quotes give case studies impact, and they can be easily repurposed into shorter formats to good effect. But good stories are usually more than the sum of their highlights, and on its own, a metric or a quote has a lot of work to do. When an IT manager at Acme Energy says, “I reduced my PC costs by $1 million,” it does have a certain je ne sais quoi, but it’s not the whole story. It begs the reader to ask, “How does Acme Energy compare to my business? How do that manager’s challenges relate to mine? It worked for her, but will it fit my needs?” Specific, concrete details about real business experiences provide genuine credibility and applicability to the quotes we use and the success metrics we cite, and credibility and applicability are exactly what makes good customer evidence so powerful in the first place.
People want compactness and simplicity, but they can’t want to make decisions with less information. What they want—and what social media is made to deliver—are fast, simple pathways to the information they need, without having to wade through material they are not interested in. New social media formats have the power to engage readers, spark their interest, and then lead them back to the kind of detailed summaries that help them make business decisions—and that help account teams win deals.
It makes sense to pack case studies with strong benefit metrics and sharp, pertinent quotes that can be easily used to post blog entries, compose customer snapshots, develop infographics, or tweet stand-alone quotes. In fact, it probably couldn’t hurt to start coming up with 140-character quotes. When we upgraded to a high-performance operating system, we extended the life of our PCs and saved $1 million in hardware rental costs. (That’s 135 with spaces, but who’s counting?)
One thing to remember is that fashioning effective communications is not a process of going from a few words to a lot. It is a process of going from a lot of words to a few. In other words, less may sometimes be more, but it is always more work.
Insofar as my imaginary tweet above works, it is likely because it captures several Ws, in the old who/what/why/when/where calculation. To create effective short-format messages, we have to find as much knowledge of as many Ws as we can, and then work hard to fit the best ones in. At the same time, when somebody reads the tweet and clicks the link that comes with it, they will expect to find the kind of specific information the message promised and that they have been trying to save time finding. So now we really have to come through. The case studies that we point readers to with our blogs, tweets, and infographics have to be clear, well-organized, accurate, and complete. Yep, better is harder, as they might say on the Interwebs.
Compactness and simplicity are not new messaging strategies, and it is not surprising that they still work. But there should also be no doubt that complete stories with clear, specific details rooted in actual experience will continue to positively influence business decision makers. By linking compact, simple messages to vigorous stories about real business, we can likely raise the bar in social media marketing while we develop innovative formats that will make customer engagement marketing more valuable.