In digital marketing, the quality of any piece of content is measured largely by its virulence. The more your content gets shared, the larger your stockpile of Brownie points. So, any writer in the biz of helping businesses vie for web attention must constantly consider what it is that makes content share-able.
Digital marketers have been regurgitating the same mantra for years now: Content is king. But it’s not that simple. We’re working with a rapidly moving target, not only in terms of the things people dig but also in terms of the evolving rules of engagement on all social media.
So, what would Aristotle do?
Aristotle is the granddaddy of quality content, among the first to nail down what makes an idea worthy of passing around. (He also rocked a sweet lumbersexual beard, for those readers who need further reason to find him relevant more than 2,000 years after his death.) He argued that when a message strikes a chord with someone on an ethical, emotional, and/or logical level, that person is more likely to actively engage with it. Here’s a look at content marketing, Aristotelian style:
Use perfect grammar and syntax. Be fair. Show off your pedigree, education, certification—any evidence of your clout. Write at the proper readability level for your audience. Tools like the Flesh-Kincaid offer a quick-and-dirty means to this end, but don’t be a slave to them. They may penalize for things like proper nouns, higher-syllable counts, passive language, and compound sentences, so they can artificially inflate scores. (I don’t care how many syllables are in Mississippi. Even a third-grader can read it.)
Lay out your idea like a boss: Offer concrete evidence that can be corroborated. Cite facts, statistics, and studies. For example, I’d want you to know as you’re reading this blog that Aristotle is oft listed as one of the smartest people of all times, and particularly famous for making sound arguments. (FYI, hyperlinks to credible sources are good for logos and for SEO.)
If you don’t connect with people, it doesn’t matter how solid your argument or your expertise are: Audiences will bolt. Pathos offers protection against this problem. So, go ahead: pull heart strings, tickle funny bones, and jerk tears. You can do this by using things like true stories, quotes, fun or breathtaking graphics, and pictures of kittens—especially ones being nursed by another species of animal, preferably a panda. (Sadly, I’m only half-kidding.)
I expect a year where pathos will be my most important tool from Aristotle’s toolbox. That’s because people are getting numb to the endless onslaught of content, and craving ever-deeper connections. Pulling on people’s emotions is the surest way to create those connections and get them to engage. Find yourself a sloth that will nurse an orphaned puppy, and you’ll be golden.