Get writing – people prefer articles

Businesses say articles are the most helpful form of content

If you want to engage business owners and executives you had better get writing. New research shows that the most “helpful” kind of web content is the written article. Indeed, it is deemed ten times better than social media and 14 times more helpful than video. Yet, everywhere you go these days people are telling you to record video, produce podcasts or to Tweet like crazy. After all, if Robbie Williams Tweeted and video blogged his way through his new son’s birth, it must be something people want. Right? Well, not according to this study.

Chart showing various types of content and their perceived usefulness

The study shows where you should be putting your business priorities in terms of content production. Articles, reports, white papers and newsletters are the top of the tree. Notice too that people distinguish between blog posts and articles. It seems that  blog posts are perceived as short updates, whereas articles are obviously longer. This ties in with another recent study which showed that the most valuable length of content is around 1,600 words – much longer than the typical blog post. Google is also now highlighting “in depth” articles on search results pages because its own research has shown that such items get more clicks.

What all of this data tells us is one thing – people want in-depth material. They perceive social media and video as more superficial. Furthermore, the vast majority of online video is entertainment and is not generally useful to business.

There is another reason why people want long written content and that is involved with the psychology of risk reduction. We are constantly seeking to reduce our risks; it is a natural survival mechanism. When it comes to business, though, we still are risk averse and so we seek as much information as possible before making a decision. Furthermore, people want documentation to support their decision, so that should someone criticise them they can weigh in with all the “evidence”. If all they had was a Tweet or two and a couple of videos they fear they would get laughed out of the job.

Long articles, white papers, reports and so on help with this risk aversion. They provide evidence to support the decisions made and they also help inform those decisions because of all the detail they convey, thereby lessening the perceived risk.

If you want to engage with more business people, then more time spent writing will pay off.

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