Back to School: World Wide Web Edition

By Véronique Beaulieu-Fowler

The following is meant to be a generalized representation of the world wide web. Any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.

I spend a lot of time online. I work, socialize and commute online. Like many others, I interact online mostly with friends and with strangers who share my interests and common experiences.

What I’ve come to realize is the World Wide Web is similar to a huge high school cafeteria. You have the fashion bloggers at one end, Imgur cat lover at the other, and in the middle industry professionals posting on LinkedIn, mommies blogging on WordPress, artists sharing on Tumblr, and models posing on Instagram. The room goes on and on.
Today is your first day at WWW High. Who will you sit with at lunch? How will you communicate with these potential new friends?

You can’t sit with us.

  1. Know Thyself

Once you’ve decided to write content for the web, as a brand or person, you need to know what you are about and what you’d like the reader to take away from the visit Ask yourself what is your main value proposition and what can you bring to the table that is different?

  1. Pick a table

Don’t be too stressed out about it BUT you have to pick a table. You could split your week’s lunches between tables but that may not result in very strong affiliations with each group. Many people don’t think about it but gaining an online audience requires brands to understand and cater to the interests and needs of a specific group of individuals. Start analyzing: who are the people sitting at the table you want to join? Does your value proposition align well with their interests and goals?

In the past couple of years, Barbie has received a lot of criticism for being an unhealthy role model for young girls. The empowering ad movement caught up to them and they decided to target young millennial mothers who grew up playing Barbie with a feel good, empowering message: Imagine the Possibilities. This campaign successfully conveyed the message that Barbie fuels young girls’ imagination and that their daughters can achieve ANYTHING they can possibly dream of.

Rollin’ with the homies.

You’ve decided what table you’d like to sit at. Now comes the most stressful moment: you have to talk to them! You’ve determined who you are and who you would like to be friends with, now you have to introduce yourself in the most effective way.

1) Respect current customs

Using advanced investment terms in a mommy blog post about basic household finances does not offer the simple financial fix this target group is looking for. First step is to understand the audience’s current “customs”: commonly used expressions and terms, vocabulary level, etc. Adapt your tone to these current practices.

2) Establish a style

Buzzfeed is a content creator, which adapts it’s content to audience preferences. Catering to students and young adults, small amounts of text interlaced with memes and images convey the story quickly and dynamically. You must establish a style that suits your content, audience and writing style.

I can’t help it that I’m so popular.

Once you get a seat at the table and start talking to your new peers, more people from the table will interact with your content. Tracking clicks and engagement among many other metrics will offer a measure of your success with that specific group. If this table does not yield expected results, you might have to tweak the style a bit or move to the adjacent table.

High school is only a distant memory by now and maybe it should stay that way. Next time you start a new blog post, think of whom you are writing for and how you are conveying the message. There are more questions to consider afterwards but starting off with a solid foundation can only help answer them faster.

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5 thoughts on “Back to School: World Wide Web Edition

  1. Phil A.

    I found that the metaphor you use to explain your points really helps to paint a picture in my mind as to the importance of the “Who” and “How” of our digital content. Plus, it also resonates with me since I moved a few times when I was younger so I was often the “new kid in school”, so I can definitely relate (particularly picking at which table to sit on the first day)!

    Also, the way that your content is laid out through your use of headers and sub-headers makes it very easy to follow along, and keeps the reader engaged throughout. Great post, Véronique!

    Like

  2. I like your introduction, thought it was original and funny – it convinced me to read your article! Also, very interesting analogy with the World Wide Web and high school – agreed it’s a free-for-all!

    Like

  3. The Mean Girls analogy totally made my day and was a really insightful way to explain why the who and the how matter so much. Taking the time to research how your target audience communicates with each other and the customs they practice (e.g. on Wednesdays we wear pink) is a great point.

    Like

  4. So good!
    It reminded me of why I didn’t like high school that much…but I could totally relate to the analogy! Also… I had never seen Barbie the way they’re portraying it in the video you posted. Thank you for giving me a different perspective!

    Like

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