Shifting Gears

Everybody is obsessed with short, snappy content. We somehow got the sense that our collective attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish, and writing anything longer than what you can see on a mobile screen without scrolling is futile and something to avoid at all costs. 

We all know our content should have value, and the easiest, and therefore most popular, way to achieve a positive Return on Investment is to keep the investment as low as possible. If your audience is required to invest only 30 seconds in reading a post, the value you provide can be minimal and still result in a positive ROI. Many people understand, even unconsciously, that if they write longer content, they’d better provide much more value than the typical 50-word post. But as you might expect, this requires more effort. So, if shorter content is easier to write and consume while still resulting in a positive ROI, why not stick to the motto that shorter is better? Say it briefly and allow your audience to continue to scroll infinitely. 

And since social media is so dominant, the idea that shorter is always better crept into other communication arenas. We are encouraged to write short emails. Forget emails; we are encouraged to use short Slack messages. Even in meetings and face-to-face discussions, we are expected to be brief. Being brief is the new gold standard of presenting, discussing, asking, and sharing. 

But brief messages are like driving in first gear. For some purposes, the first gear is the most effective. In some cases, it is essential. But driving in first gear will take you only so far. At some point (fairly soon), you’d have to switch gears to run smoothly and get to your destination in the most efficient way. 

Short, catchy messages are great for capturing attention. They are great hooks that can make your audience stop whatever they’re doing for a few seconds. But at some point, your audience (or your colleagues in a professional interaction) will need more than that. They will seek more depth — more value they can apply or interact with. 

Real value can seldom be captured in an ultra-short text because most real-world challenges are more nuanced. A brief message is a great place to start, but it will rarely help your audience or your associates address real-world problems. When you are brief, your content doesn’t invite a conversation, let alone a relationship. It creates the notion of “fire and forget,” so even if its ROI is positive, its impact does not last. 

Longer content, when done right, can provide deeper and broader value. It can address more real-world nuances; therefore, it is more applicable and has a more significant impact. Deeper content can be thought-provoking. It invites the audience to continue processing, adapting, and applying it. It might have a smaller reach, but the reach it has is more substantial and more profound.

We must know how to utilize short, compelling messages and longer form, deeper content. We should master both and apply them in different contexts and for various purposes. If you are always driving in the same gear, you will not get far. 

Being fluent does not mean being brief. To be an eloquent and effective communicator, you must learn to shift gears seamlessly.

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