Comedian Steve Martin got on Twitter two years ago and now has two and half million followers, and enough tweets for a new book called “The Ten, Make that Nine, Habits of Very Organized People, Make that Ten.: The Tweets of Steve Martin.” Steve says people are actually funnier in their tweets than in person and calls it “a new form of comedy.”
How can we all be this creative online …whether it’s 140 words or 400?
Science writer and blogger Jonah Lehrer in another new book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” says to be creative, “Let go!” He says as we get older, we become too self aware, pay too much attention to details, and hold back.
Certainly, technology can help let out our creative side. We have Pinterest to create virtual scrapbooks and Draw Something to play virtual Pictionary. You draw something on the screen of your mobile phone and your opponent on another phone tries to guess it. It’s the top downloaded free app in the world, and is now owned by Zynga.
So how does creativity work in online videos? YouTube ‘trends manager’ Kevin Aloocca gave three reasons “Why videos go viral” in a TED talk he gave in February.
- ‘Tastemakers’ – people who introduce us to new things and create a larger audience. Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is one of YouTube’s most viral videos ever (200 million views, 10,000+ parodies) but only got noticed when sites Buzzfeed and Reddit – and of course Twitter – made mention of it. By the way, it gets its biggest spikes in views on what days? Fridays of course,
- Creative community participation – When content gives rise to entirely new creative communities. The original Nyan Cat is a VERY simple close-looped video of an animated cat (closing in on 70 million YouTube views) but inspired a whole global remix community to make their own creative versions.
- The unexpected – content that stands out and surprises us. Casey Neistat’s video to protest bicyclist fines in New York City used humor to go viral and get five million views on YouTube. This whole approach holds true for anything we do creatively, including how we write. Focus on getting your audience’s attention.
Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, says in his writing webinars that it’s even more inportant online than in print to be clear upfront what your story is about — in headlines, teasers. That’s because less copy meets our eye online. In print, the reader is able to scan more copy.
Here are Ragan’s other quick tips for creative online writing:
- Write about something you find interesting – don’t bore your readers, or yourself.
- Be conversational and informal.
- Keep it simple and short. No 1,000 words of copy!
- Break up copy into bullets, sidebars, quotes, infographics etc. visual.li is an entire site of infographics.
- Don’t have readers guessing what your blog is about — give them teasers and subheadlines providing detail of what they’ll learn.
- Include lists or numbered items like ragan.com uses on its site (e.g. “5 ways to use Twitter more effectively” and “4 myths about video content – debunked”)
- And personalize content with stories of real people.
An award-winning Cisco blog called the “Connected Life Exchange” features stories about how technology enables positive change in people’s lives around the world. It’s about them and not Cisco.
Lastly, encourage interactivity and allow for online comments. This lets your audience talk back and provides more depth to your piece.
As Steve Martin told NPR, “When people started responding (to my tweets), I found they were really writing well. I was promoting my album “Rare Bird Alert” and I tweeted: ‘Rare Bird Alert number three on Amazon. I’m happy as a clam. Wait — are clams really happy?’ And a responder said, ‘The chilling sound of clam laughter has caused many fisherman to quit the sea.’ I felt like I was looking at kind of a new form of comedy, in a strange way, that was talking and response and talking and response.”
Check back for a video interview with YouTube’s Kevin Allocca next time.
Looking forward to your comments!