Although it might seem somewhat counterintuitive, the power of the written word has become all the more notable in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). While much of the talk about the rise of AI and the threat it holds for the future of work can take on a notably downbeat tone, if anything the current state of AI technology has only affirmed the power of the written word.
Despite the fact that automated text generation was one of the earliest applications of AI – stretching all the way back to the first time the famous words ‘Hello, World’ were printed by a computer program – written content is something that AI has always struggled with.
Perhaps the best example of this came in 2019, when a famous New York magazine conducted an experiment to see if Open AI’s natural language generator, GPT-2, could produce an article in the New Yorker’s distinct editorial and linguistic style. A similar experiment was conducted in 2020 using an updated version of Open AI’s program. This time, the GPT-3 program created an article for the Guardian titled: ‘A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?’
Although in both instances, Open AI’s software was able to produce something that was remarkably coherent, perhaps what is most interesting about these experiments was that in both cases there was some giveaway that made it clear that it was written by a computer, rather than a human. Some have referred to this as the presence of the ‘writer’s soul’, which is that ineffable quality, inherent to all writing, that signals the presence of a human in its production.
While undoubtedly grammatically correct and perfectly informative, as we might expect from such articles, there was a special kind of self-reflection and intention that inevitably bleeds into the words chosen by the writer that was notably absent in both articles.
It seems, then, that when it comes to the written word, the ‘Turing test’ is much harder to pass.
In light of all this, we begin to get a sense that even in a digital age when automation and content generation powered by algorithms are an increasingly pervasive feature of our daily lives, the power of the written word has not gone away.
Harnessing the power of the written word
In addition to being difficult to automate using software, written content has also managed to hold its own in an increasingly audio-visual age.
In fact, despite the rise of various forms of social media that rely on videos and visual images, written content still manages to come out on top when it comes to driving customers towards your website.
This is partially down to the kind of user engagement that written content encourages. While social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram deliver media in easily digestible chunks that deliver a quick fix of dopamine, the power of written content lies in its ability to slow down user engagement.
On audio-visual–heavy social media platforms, the battle for user attention most often focuses on trying to be as flashy as possible in order to stop the user simply scrolling to the next clip. With written articles, however, the end goal is the opposite. Here, the aim is to get the user to slow down and to fully engage with what is written.
This is something that reading naturally forces users to do, which has the benefit of giving you the opportunity to really connect with the reader. From the perspective of trying to drive customers to a particular platform, service or product, this also has the benefit of giving you more time to build up a relationship with the user. This is something that written content is uniquely able to deliver on.
It seems, then, that in the battle for attention that we all find ourselves fighting in the digital age, the written word holds a unique power over other available forms.
The benefits of written content
However, user engagement isn’t the only benefit that written content has over other forms of digital marketing content.
From a business perspective, written content such as editorials, blog posts and articles is one of the most flexible and cost-effective tools in a digital marketer’s toolbox.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the benefits that written content has over other forms of digital media:
- Less editing time: Video and audio editing is time–consuming, costly, and often requires a lot of expertise. Written content, on the other hand, is relatively easy to put together once you have a competent digital media team at your disposal. Text files are easy to edit and can be put together using a simple word processor.
- Searchable content: As anyone in the industry knows all too well, when it comes to creating effective digital marketing content, keywords are king. Unlike written content, however, audio and video aren’t searchable in the same way that articles and blog posts are. This has a massive impact on how search engines will list and categorise your work, which in turn will affect how easily users will find your content. With good SEO practice, you can craft a piece of written content that drives customers directly to whatever service or product you are advertising.
- Low start-up cost: With video and audio content, the barriers to entry for someone looking to get started creating content can be quite high. Producing high–quality video and audio content will typically require expensive recording equipment, as well as professional editing software. In contrast, written content can be produced, edited and distributed using basic word-processing software.
- Customisability: Another benefit that written content has is its customisability. With just a few editorial changes, you can transform the same mass of information into a variety of written forms, such as how-to articles, user guides, reviews, editorials and blog posts. Written content can be easily tailored to your audience and the type of content they respond well to.
Creating captivating content: putting it all together
Clearly, the written word is still an incredibly powerful tool in the current digital age. But what are some steps that we can take to create written content that not only captures our target user’s attention, but can also ultimately convert this into user engagement?
- Know your audience: The foundation of any successful digital marketing strategy is knowing your audience, and this is equally true when it comes to using written content. Knowing your audience means not only knowing what their interests and tastes are, but also having a sense of what kind of content they respond to. There is no point investing resources into a series of finely crafted long-form editorial posts if your target audience tend to respond well to video or audio content. Do your research and get to know your target user before committing resources to a digital marketing strategy.
- Know your content: Following on from knowing your audience, it is also important to know the different types of written content you can produce, and when each type is appropriately used. There is little point trying to entice users with a long-form article if a short blog post would have been better used. The benefit of written content is that it can be tailored both to your client and the end user, which you should use to your advantage.
- Know your voice: Another important thing to be aware of when creating engaging written content is to know your voice. Every brand has a unique ‘voice’ that reflects the ethos and personality of the brand. This is something that you should try to get across in any marketing content you produce, and which is especially important when it comes to written content. Try to keep your unique brand ‘voice’ in mind when writing to create engaging and captivating content.
If you have read all this and are now convinced of the power of the written word in the digital age, please feel free to reach out to a member of our content creation team. By booking a consultation with one of our content creation experts, we can begin the work of crafting a tailor–made digital marketing strategy that will help you achieve your goals.