Content is King, but Context Rules the Experience
Have you ever listened to someone speak and thought, this guy or girl gets me? Or seen an ad that resonated with you on a gut level?
It’s not magic, ladies and gentleman. It’s most likely about context, which is basically “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement or idea, and in terms by which it can be fully understood.” In other words, it’s not just about the message, it’s also about everything happening around the message. Chew on that for a bit.
It’s likely that context—or lack of understanding about context—is the number one thing holding you back from building the kind of influence that you or your brand wants to achieve. If you’ve ever sat through a TV commercial and left wondering what product or brand was being promoted, then you know what I’m talking about. From objective to creative to output, they missed the context boat entirely.
In social media, context is huge. Content is important, of course. But if your content is not in the right context for both your specific social media platform and for the audience you want to engage, then you’re just throwing a bunch of words in the air and hoping that, somehow, somewhere, they land on a few people in a way that makes sense and captures their attention.
Think of social media as an art form, in a way. The words that you tweet, post or write are not the experience, per se. When your audience takes your message and relates it to their life, that’s when the experience is created. This is true even more now people as people digest content in all types of circumstances and situations with the rise of mobile and tablets.
Social media is a place where we present our thoughts and ideas to the world, but here’s the challenge—making those thoughts and ideas connect with my audience, which happens to be scattered all over creation. What do I share and how do I share it? What will resonate? Will I lose likes or followers?
It’s tough, right? I do believe this—the more authentic you are, the more you will get out of anything you choose to create or share. But you have to be mindful of context, always. Here are five ways I try to do that.
1) Think it through. You have to manage how everything is going to play out and whether it meets your original objectives, whether it’s a blog, a commercial or a tweet. The story you tell, short or long, has to support your original goal, otherwise it’s just storytelling. Great for entertainment purposes, I suppose, but we’re not talking about show biz here. Everything you share should be true to your brand, support your goals and have a purpose.
2) Read the back of the book first. In other words, know the end as well as the beginning. It’s about strategy. You don’t want to lead your audience down a path that just starts meandering aimlessly—they’ll likely not stick with you. You have to know what direction you’re heading in your messaging. Always. P.S. Don’t deviate. And if you do, redefine the end.
3) Slow down. How many times have you tweeted, posted, blogged, written, updated—just gotten a message out there so you can check it off your list? We live in a fast-paced world where if you move too quickly, you forget to put effort into the moment that makes things as creative and thoughtful as possible. Our Chief Creative Officer, Courtney Smith, always says that when she gets behind a computer, somehow time tends to slow down and she enters a time warp. I don’t know how she does it, but she always comes out with the most incredible creative and has learned to harness time and not rush the creative process. When you give yourself time to reflect on what you’re creating, you’ll enter your audience’s world—and then you’ll deliver a message that will resonate.
4) Get out of your head. There’s only one person in there. (Hopefully.) It’s time to break out of that old habit of thinking everyone knows what’s rattling around in your brain and look at what you’re sharing from an outsider’s point of view. Even ask someone on your staff, a friend, a colleague, “does this make sense to you?” before you post something. Get objective opinions. Be you, yes—be true to your thoughts and opinions. But express them in a way that people “get” you. Sometimes that means sharing your own context along with your message.
5) Listen. Social media allows us to hear the context around what others are saying. If you don’t know what your audience is talking about, or the context in which they’re sharing, how will you know what’s going to resonate with them? It’s vital that you figure out what your audience wants before you start giving them answers.
Key takeaway: It’s not just about what you share, it’s about how you share it and how people receive it. Content provides a message, but context creates the experience and the connection that you’re trying to achieve. Social media is challenging that way because context varies, but if you share authentically and know your audience, you’re on the right path to understanding context.