7 Ways To Talk With Your Audience
Speak well & it will be good.
Effective communication uses the same, age-old, communication techniques, like those that we might find in the classic, How To Win Friends & Influence People. It’s simply considering your audience with plenty of effort.
- Be sincere, even if you’re not honest. Sincerity, or its absence, comes across. Write genuinely, from the heart, as if you’re speaking to a friend, while not being too familiar that it’s awkward. Out of place formal language, pseudo formal language in customer service buzzwords, and hard-sell “me-me-me” communications are phony and insincere.Keep in mind, sincerity is about the attitude, not the truth. It’s honest to say that someone looks terrible in a particular outfit. It’s sincere to compliment nice outfits, when one genuinely likes them. Take a look at the language used on the Dollar Shave Club site and the funny videos, which went viral. Google also uses more casual, approachable language. When something breaks on a Google page, a funny graphic is accompanied by the title “Aw snap!” MailChimp and WordPress often use the exclamation “huzzah!” after the successful completion of an update.Ask yourself, “what would Hemingway and Holden Caulfield say about it?”
- Speak to your audience about your audience. Your audience wants to hear about themselves, or something interesting, not about you talking about yourself. The loud, boastful, advertising we’ve come to expect from companies isn’t what audiences like, at least not anymore. Loud techniques have worked in the past, but both desensitization to hype and the decentralization of communication have made interruptions archaic–even though these techniques are still being used.
- Pronouns! You’ll use the words “I,” “me,” “we,” and “us” in your communications, because you’re a participant in the conversation. It’s hard to avoid. There are many occasions, however, where the conversation could be more about the audience and less about you, when you write with the simple question in mind, “how could I phrase this, to take out the pronouns about me?” This changes the way you speak, the tone of the communication, and the effectiveness with your audience. Using “you” far more than “I” is ideal.
- Be remarkable, don’t talk about it. You wouldn’t tell your friends how cool you are every time you saw them. Actually, boasting is generally frowned upon. It is a bit different for businesses, which are expected to boast, but it’s not great. Keep the majority of your brand’s communications about interesting things, which are good for buzz-marketing;
- sentimental/relatable/cute (this one is a fine line),
- or controversial/taboo (this one, too).
Much of your social media communications should have little to do with your products, but should focus on content that your audience would want to share. If you have mindshare, if your customers are thinking about you or telling their friends, they’ll buy from you. If you barrage them with all the things that make you great and that you could sell to them, they will be bored and tune out.
When speaking about your products and services, tell them what problems they can solve or what benefits they can gain, not focusing on the product or features. Speak to the experience, the emotions; not with the encyclopedic “just the facts, ma’am.” People buy emotions, not products. They’re buying your brand. They’re buying into an experience, an identity, a feeling. Think of athletes who visibly wear the Nike logo, or hipsters who make a point to show off their Apple products.
- Target your audience narrowly, where they are, focusing on those who really care. Your fans will be your advocates, if you focus on them. They will tell others. The majority in the middle barely care and won’t share. It’s clear, in this TED talk by Seth Godin, How to Get Your Ideas to Spread.
- Listen & repeat. It’s the feedback on feedback loop. Listen to your audience and show that you’re listening by re-phrasing what they said back to them in your own words. This feedback on feedback can come in the form of actions, it may be to a different audience than the exact person that gave the input, but the responsiveness is what counts.
- Format & structure for attention & action.
- Constraints and expected formats. Newspapers have bold, large headers and small body text to fit lots of information and to immediately draw attention to the title. Headlines are short and made for attention. Paragraphs are broken up with lists, graphics, and other things to make the information easy to read, find, and evaluate.Each medium has formatting that works for it. Modern websites have larger body text, more icons & graphics, and fewer words. Twitter is restricted to 140 characters. Craig’s List does not allow text formatting in titles. Work with the constraints and expectations of the medium, have them work with you. How to format for successful communication.
- Attention, Interest, Decision, Action. Catch the attention of the audience and answer “what is this?” inside of 3 seconds. Newspaper headlines grab attention (with the word choice and bold formatting) and immediately answer the what, while inviting the reader to read more. Cliff-hangers, questions, lists, best-of’s, and numbers work best. “I couldn’t believe what happened next,” “101 techniques,” “3 tips,” “top ten whatevers,” “did you know this thing?” “are you doing this thing?”
Keep body content interesting and appropriate for the medium. Answer “why do I care about this?” Break up content by concept and make it easy to scan. In Twitter, for example, one may use the opening few words of a sentence that are the bait, then draw attention to them with negative space, by ending the sentence a few lines down. The 5 Most Persuasive Words in the English Language.Always close with a Call To Action, or a CTA. If you are communicating, you want them to do something or know something. That is the point of communication. Make the CTA compelling and for the content. “Read more” is ok. “Wanna see?” is better. “Subscribe now” is ok. “Awesome!” is better. On that note, “add to cart” has better conversion rates than “buy now.” The CTA should be visible! Use color, animation, size, position, and word choice to draw attention to the CTA.
- Choice psychology. Help your readers have a more enjoyable, easy experience, by appreciating choice psychology. Having too many choices leads to lower quality choices, an unpleasant experience, lack of confidence in choices made, regret about choices made, and choice paralysis. Having 3 choices allows for easy decision-making and the best user experience. When one must offer more than three, keep it under eight, because 7 is the maximum number one can keep in one’s head at once.