Context – Don’t Snooze, or You’ll Lose

If you neglect context when posting online, you may bore your readers and push them away from your content. Don’t become complacent!

After that long day at work, scrolling through social media sounds like the perfect way to wind down.  You open up your Instagram feed, begin scrolling, then pause: what is with all this text?  Where are the photos of home-cooked meals and cats? You close your phone, not wanting to exhaust any more brain cells today.

So why does this matter?  When writing for any audience, sometimes context is better than content.  Just because your post looks or sounds good does not mean it works for all platforms.  Gary Vaynerchuk writes about how to tell stories on digital platforms, describing how critical context is to social media. He states that while good content is key to your brand, “if it ignores the context of the platform on which it appears, it can still fall flat” (2013, p. 17).  Say you are trying to promote a product on Twitter.  A post with text and no images will be wasted, as people use Twitter for quick quips and 280-character content.  A multi-media element and little copy will make your post feel native and appeal to your intended audience.  

In marketing, context drives better engagement rates.  Klarna develops social posts that are quirky, but also feel natural in your feed. One of their better posts in the one pictured below. This post received 16,000 likes on Instagram due to its lifestyle feel. People visit Instagram for photo-based content, so the post blended in easily.

This Klarna post feels like it belongs in someone’s social feed.

On the other hand, this post from Klarna only received 75 likes.  The text overlapping the background made the post feel out of place, and people would rather interact with lifestyle imagery instead of stopping to read the content within a photo. Klarna has also posted several photos like this recently, making any new versions seem “boring” when in a feed.

You wouldn’t want to stop and read something on Instagram, right?

In non-fiction writing, context is equally as important.  An article from MasterClass explains that “context creates a relationship between the writer and the reader,” and this is what compels people to read your work (2020).  You have the background to the story; now you need to get others to listen to your tale. 

Blogs, typically non-fiction, need to have context.  You must catch readers’ attention within the first few sentences. Don’t just give them the basics – develop your story. Tell them why you ended up in that position. Ask a rhetorical question that the reader can relate to. Write your piece as if you were speaking to a friend. Blogger Liz Longacre wrote a piece suggesting you “show readers that you ‘get it’,” which can help develop a personal connection (2020).  Use context to your advantage and build your piece with your audience in mind.

To me, context is important in online platforms.  If you do not give me compelling posts that feel natural in my feed, I will keep scrolling. As Vaynerchuk says, “they should still look and feel like something a real person would write” (2013, p. 19).  The same goes for blogs – I want to feel involved in your story, not just read a bland re-telling of the events.  Give me the context clues and the enticing headline that make me want to read more. I promise you I will give your piece a chance if you present it properly on your chosen platform. 

References:

Longacre, L. (2020, October 29). How to Write a Blog Post in 2020: The Ultimate Guide. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://smartblogger.com/how-to-write-a-blog-post/

M. (2020, January 27). Why Is Context Important in Writing? 4 Types of Context, Explained – 2020. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://www.masterclass.com/articles/why-is-context-important-in-writing

Vaynerchuk, G. (2013). Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. New York, NY: HarperBusiness.

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