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How to make content that breaks through

We’re almost a decade into the mobile-first era, with over 85 percent of Americans owning a smartphone. With phones everywhere, just about everyone considers themselves a content creator ‒ from that coworker who overshares on LinkedIn to your 12-year old nephew who’s almost alarmingly popular on TikTok. 

It’s hard standing out in a world where 500 million tweets are sent each day. While the internet of the 2000s was quaintly referred to as the “information superhighway,” what we have today might be more of an information traffic jam. For an intrepid B2B content marketer like yourself, you may be starting to get some road rage. 

Thankfully, we have some tips to help your writing stand out on the crowded 2020s internet. Because we get it. There’s a lot of content out there. (And the irony isn’t lost on us that we’re contributing to that avalanche of content by creating…yet another blog post.) But with a bit of originality and some old-school writerly craft, you can turn heads and find readers.

Subvert expectations

Let’s be honest. People don’t read like they used to. That’s not to say they don’t read at all or don’t like reading. They just do it in bits and pieces. For instance, most people today aren’t reading War and Peace. But what they are reading is a neat Twitter thread about Tolstoy, then going down a whole Tolstoy Wikipedia rabbit hole, then making a quick note to read War and Peace when they have…a nice 40 hours to spare. 

So when it comes to good B2B content, people want to read…they just have a lot of choice. And the average reader’s attention span might not be what it used to be. So one of the best ways to stand out  and capture their attention is by being a bit left of center. Being original. Having opinions that subvert the conventional wisdom, take down some sacred cows and even ruffle some feathers. 

In short, you want to create something that people want to talk about and maybe even share. And it’s fine if you want to provoke a reaction that isn’t immediate 100% alignment from all your readers. It’s okay to generate disagreement and discussion. Just remember to keep it professional and focused. After all, this is marketing. You don’t want to court controversy or touch on some hot-button political issue that upsets your audience. Save that for your burner account.

Teamwork makes the…content work

Two heads are better than one. Sure, we just advised you to make subversive, interesting claims that turn heads and grab readers’ attention. But sometimes the most boring advice is the best advice: there’s strength in numbers.

Your content will be immediately elevated if you interview other experts and solicit input from others in your field. It not only lends your piece more credibility, but also makes it more dynamic. There’s a back-and-forth, which is immediately more readable and engaging. Think of podcasts. People rarely want to listen to one person just rant for an hour. Instead they want to hear a conversation. Try to capture this conversational back and forth in your content. 

Plus, this team-based approach has the added benefit of growing your audience. After all, your interview subjects will share your content within their network, helping you find more readers.

Be human, be humorous

People can tell when something feels like it was written by an AI. It might sound like a bunch of Google search results pasted together. It lacks humor, it lacks flair, it lacks color. It hits the word count but does little more. You immediately forget you ever read it.

Stand apart from your AI overlords by creating content that is warm, approachable, and human. Keep the language simple and conversational. Remember that short, simple sentences can still be beautiful and interesting and carry the reader along.

Can’t tell if what you wrote is funny? Read it out loud. Oftentimes we aren’t the best judges of our own work, so don’t be afraid to read a couple lines to a coworker, a friend, or the guy sitting next to you on the subway. (And to be clear, that last suggestion was a joke.) And if comedy isn’t your thing, don’t worry about it. There’s nothing less funny than a post that’s trying to be funny and failing. You can still keep your post conversational and engaging.

Play with language and imagery

A lot of writers assume their writing has to be plain and boring if they’re writing content online. We’ve tricked ourselves into thinking the simplest sentences are automatically the best. Sure, simplicity is good. But dooming ourselves to the most dull, robotic language underestimates the power of the written word. 

As English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton once said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Now obviously that isn’t literally true. You aren’t going to bring a pen to a knife fight. But he was being metaphorical! What he said sounded nice and contained a kernel of (at least poetic) truth. And so we still use that saying to this day.

Don’t be afraid to work some poetic language into your next piece. Why not open your piece with a bit of descriptive imagery to hook the reader? Or sprinkle in a couple well-timed puns to keep the reader engaged? You could even frame your entire piece around some larger metaphor. 

And don’t worry, you don’t have to write Ulysses. That might alienate your reader or give them high school English class PTSD. But adding just a touch of linguistic flourish can set your content apart from 99% of the competition.

Work in current, relatable references

Let’s be honest: you probably aren’t going to click on a post called “5 marketing channels every CMO should use” because it’s vague and doesn’t sound particularly exciting and I yawned just thinking about it. But I certainly will click on “Popular Marketing Channels as Succession Characters” because I watch the show and I need to see if Roman is affiliate marketing (because he’s a bit shady and not always that effective). 

You increase the chances of someone clicking on your post if it plays on recognizable references. Pick something popular and mainstream, and be sure it will resonate with your audience. And of course, work with references that you yourself understand. You don’t want to risk sounding like the “How do you do, fellow kids?” meme. 

A little goes a long way. So as you sit down to outline your next piece of content, spend an extra five minutes thinking of some x-factor that can set it apart. Some imagery, some subversion, maybe even a bit of humor. The tips above can hopefully get you thinking. After all, putting just a bit of thought into how you present your ideas will already set you apart from most of the content on the information super-mega-ultra-kinda-terrifying-highway-thing.