There's some irony in the fact that I'm writing a post about people not liking to read. If you are able to move past that, carry on below ;) I've come to the conclusion that people online don't like to read anymore. If there is any way to gather information without having to arrange words into a complete sentence (or day I say...paragraph!), it spreads like wildfire. A casual glance at online activity tells that story eloquently.
2011 has definitely been the rise of the infographic. When I first started working in social, it was white paper after white paper coming across my Twitter stream. I gathered all my information from various industry white papers. Then came the infographic, giving us a 1000-foot glance at the information that a white paper gave us without the inconvenience of...you know...having to read a lot of words
Seriously, tweet information with the word [INFOGRAPHIC] in brackets and you're almost guaranteed a retweet, if nothing else a click-through. The infographic visually teaches us things in a quick, easy to digest manner.
The best, most spreadable content on the web is short, sweet, to the point and easy to digest. I try to keep these posts on Brain Wads fairly short. Look at the success of Seth Godin. Sure his leadership insight and knowledge is second to none...but I truly believe his success is based upon its delivery. His blog and his books are written in small, short easy to read pieces. Something that is easy to quickly scan and gather the main points out of. He doesn't ramble. Godin gets to the point quickly and effectively.
Posts that aren't long essays but more "content snacks" are the ones that are the easiest and most read once across the board.
Social Network Activity
The most widely "Liked" or "Commented" Facebook posts I've ever written for a client were short and easily able to fit into a tweet. As people scan their Facebook news feed, the posts that didn't take a lot of time to read. Twitter thrives in the fact that posts limit to 140 characters. Pinterest is all visual, providing users the ability to tell stories without writing a sentence.
But Why Do We Hate to Read?
In the book "Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath, I read about a concept called "Decision Paralysis." Our brains have to make hundreds to thousands of decisions a day. The more choices that are presented to us, the less likely we are to act on them because the decision making process is tiresome. For example, restaurants with limited choices on a menu are more successful than ones with thousands of choices. It's why things like the "value meal" are popular...it removes some of the decision making we have to do as a customer instead of mixing and matching individual items.
Online today, we are thrown so much content on a minute-by-minute basis. It's definitely a firehose of information. Content snacks, like the visual bits of information found on Pinterest or in infographics, are easier for our brains to grab hold of and digest. The less work our brains have to do to consume information, the better, whether we consciously realize it or not.
Knowing this, if you're a marketer, make your messages quick and to the point. Make your user experiences online with apps and websites easy and with less work as possible. There's a reason minimalism has been rising. It's less stress on our brains.
In our always-on world, the less stress the better.
What do you think?