Your target audience may be college educated, intellectually curious, and capable of understanding complex information. Even so, you probably shouldn’t treat them that way. The organizations that are able to gain the most marketing influence don’t. This is because successful marketers have to think about literacy differently than those in other circles, like academics.
In academics, the goal is to challenge people. It’s often to write to the highest level of their understanding. In marketing, there are different goals. These include:
- Creating an emotional appeal
- Ensuring clarity and understanding
- Appealing to people with varying levels of education and intelligence
- Keeping things simple
- Making things actionable
- Entertaining as well as informing
So, it’s clear that marketers need to consider literacy when trying to influence audiences. The question is, “how do you do that?”
The Seventh-Grade Standard
Most marketers aim to write content at a middle school reading level. That’s grades 6 thru 8. Many use the Flesch-Kincaid score to gauge the readability of their writing. The reading ease formula is a bit complex. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools that will analyze your content and return your Flesch-Kincaid score to you.
A Flesch-Kincaid score of 90 to 100 is generally aimed at 11 year olds. 60 to 70 is readable to people age 13 to 15. To get a score in the desired range, try some of the following:
- Use shorter sentences
- Choose simpler words when one is available
- Avoid jargon
- Use a tool like Hemingway to identify issues that make writing needlessly complicated
Know your audience and the content they embrace
Of course, none of this is an exact science. The kind of content you produce, its grade level, and a variety of other factors depends on the needs and preferences of your target audience. It’s important to understand the content that is already getting their attention.
As you create and evolve your target personas, it’s important to include information about the social media platforms, magazines, websites, and newspapers your audience reads and follows.
Add visuals to boost engagement
When considering literacy and readability, it’s important to think beyond text. Content is also video, photographs, infographics, and more. By incorporating ‘snackable’ visuals into their content, creators can increase readability, and ensure that their content is relatable to their audience.
Not only that, visuals lead to faster processing, and improved recall. Visuals stay in long-term memory longer. They can evoke emotion. They also improve overall comprehension. Most importantly, when you have a complex concept to present, you can use visuals to simplify it for your audience.
Jeff Miller of EssaysDeluxe.com brings up the point of literacy and different learning styles. He says, “People have a variety of ways in which they prefer to consume content. By using infographics, videos, and other visual content, you make what you have to sale accessible to a wider audience. This also sends a clear message to visual learners that you care about them, and want them to benefit from your content as well.
Readability and engagement
Michael Walters an editor at BuyProfEssays.com says, “It would be nearly impossible to overstate the importance of accessibility when it comes to gaining influence. Successful marketers know who is reading their content, and they care about making it easily readable for them.”
Consuming your content shouldn’t take a sustained effort. Lack of readability turns off readers. If it’s too heady, if they feel like they must include a tl;dr warning, they aren’t going to share or comment. They certainly aren’t go to convert.
Readability and SEO
Google notices this lack of engagement as well. Not only will you not get the SEO benefits of readable content that earns links and shares, you’ll also see increased bounce rates. Google’s takeaway is going to be that your content simply isn’t that interesting to people, and you’ll be penalized accordingly.
One thing that can complicate things is your own level of expertise. Sometimes, the people who make the product aren’t the most successful at communicating the benefits of it.
Conclusion: Don’t dumb things down
To be clear, none of this is about underestimating the intelligence of your audience. It isn’t about talking down to them either. It’s about relatability. It’s also about communicating in a way that’s easy to consume. Think about the marketing content you encounter on your phone, and how much you encounter while engaged in other activities. The bottom line is that people don’t want to engage in deep and critical while you’re trying to sell them on your brand. Instead, write to the optimal literacy level. You’ll create the kind of content that connects with your target audience.