Loosen the Reins: Trust Your Reader’s Imagination for Better Content Results

Recently I was reading Robert Greene’s book The Laws of Human Nature, and I was struck by the author’s thoughts on mystery being a fundamental part of human nature. 

In a society that constantly overshares, mystery has been all but rendered extinct today. Where we used to keep our private lives just that — private — now, as a society, we’ve swung wildly in the opposite direction. 

According to Greene:

“This means revealing as much as they can about themselves, exposing all of their likes and dislikes, and making themselves as familiar as possible. They leave no room for imagination or fantasy. … Increasingly self-absorbed, we find it harder than ever to get into the psychology of the other person to imagine what they want from us instead of what we want from them.”

People are oversharing everywhere, about everything.

On Facebook, that cousin a few states over is posting on Facebook every five minutes — and you know so much more about her relationships than you want to.

Your friend from the office posts way too much about himself through his Instagram Stories, too, and when you catch up around the coffee machine, he tells you stories you’ve already seen online.

I agree with Greene that people are putting themselves out there too much. There’s no mystery or need for imagination anymore.

And we’re getting sick of it.

In a culture of the “personal brand,” where technology is constantly making it easier to share ALL of our thoughts about EVERYTHING, we’re starting to see a not-so-subtle shift.

“Edison Research shows an estimated 15 million fewer [Facebook] users in the United States compared to 2017. The biggest drop is in the very desirable 12- to 34-year-old group,” Kimberly Adams wrote in this Marketplace article

All of this over-sharing may be causing us to disconnect from each other. 

Greene goes on to say in his book,

“People have become more obvious and forthright not out of some deep moral calling, but out of increasing self-absorption and overall laziness. It requires no effort to simply be oneself or to blast one’s message, and the lack of effort simply results in a lack of effect on other people’s psychology. It means that people’s interest in you will be paper-thin, their attention will quickly move on and you will not see the reason for this.”

I see this playing out in our personal lives, but I also see it playing out in business.

The Death of Mystery Is Now Infecting Business Culture

Other than your cousin the oversharer, you know who else blasts their message with no thought to other people’s psychology? 

Businesses.

Businesses that are focused on detailing every feature of their product without considering how they can affect the psychology of their customers. 

These businesses plaster websites with product info and content about themselves — internally-focused and oversharing to the point of having no intrigue for the reader.

You can’t expect your customers to buy a solution based on features alone, or to even pay attention to you when all you’re doing is talking about yourself.

Help customers put your solution in the context of their own lives, and let their imaginations do the rest.

Your customers don’t want to know about you. What they’re interested in is themselves, and how what you’re suggesting might benefit them.

Leave Some Things to the Imagination

Remember back to the last really great novel you read. Did the author spend page after page detailing every speck of dust in each scene? No. They suggested what the world looked like and painted the scenes loosely with language that ignited your own imagination. Some authors these days don’t even tell you what the characters look like! The hero you imagine in your head is conjured by your imagination — and it makes the story that much more vivid and deep for you.

The author invites you to become a part of the story.

To start to help your customers put your product into the context of their own lives, dial back on the features and benefits, and dial up on the experience.

Allow customers to envision more for themselves. How does this apply to THEM? 

In a B2B context, that might be shifting away from creating marketing content that tells your customers that your email marketing software has advanced tagging features, to creating content that helps them imagine how tagging features can make their lives better. An e-book on “5 ways you can use tags to gather more customer insight from your email subscriber list” could go a long way to helping your customers picture how the tool could work in their own lives … without beating them over the head with “we’ve got tagging!” “check out our tagging!” “you can tag email subscribers with our software!”

Stir your reader’s imagination rather than focusing your content around product details. Give customers more credit for their own creativity.

Want to chat more about how to add mystery back into your business content? Let’s chat about it on Twitter!

 

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