Let me state one thing for the record: I have never been a huge comic book fan. While I have an appreciation for the art form, I admittedly offer that my exposure to the medium is largely because of my dad. My mom recounted a story to me that when she and my dad found out they were going to have me (they hadn’t planned on having kids, so I was a surprise), my dad was faced with having to sell his comic book collection in order to get some quick cash; at the time my parents were in their 20s and, like most young people, a bit broke. Now, I wasn’t aware of this until I was an adult and my dad decided to go about buying up his old collection, when he was decidedly in a different financial position. And while it seems like a funny and innocent mid-life crisis, anyone who knows my dad knows that he is passionate about his comics.
What Comics Have Taught Me
Of course, I’ll listen to my dad if he wants to talk about Spiderman (within reason) and my husband is really accommodating when my father comes to visit and wants to go on an outing to our local comic store. However, my dad’s love for comics has also allowed me to consider the art form from a perspective other than that of an annoyed daughter who has an “interesting” father. In fact, as a writer who creates materials for use online, there are myriad lessons that can be learned about content creation and content marketing from comic books. Consider these tips:
- Content should be made for skimming. Unlike a full novel, the story conveyed in a comic is told via sound bites and through a reader skimming the text. There aren’t tons of words used to tell the story, but what is there is short and to-the-point. This is perfect for readers who are excited, who have the capability of being distracted and who are looking for “the meat.” There are catchphrases used by characters, which means creative wordplay is important. Moreover, the length of a comic allows for greater consumption; readers are able to digest book after book quickly. The content also is accompanied by exciting images and graphics, making it easy for attention to be captured. The lesson here is that, as a writer, you need to make content easy, compact and consumable. Internet readers have very short attention spans, especially when on the hunt for information that suits their needs.
- Human drama captures interests. Comic book stories are fast, engaging and dramatic, and while much of the action is somewhat elementary (fighting, etc.), the stories connect with a reader for a reason. Ultimately, a comic’s plot makes you care about what is happening to the characters; you connect to them. For instance, think about Peter Parker. Here was a kid who was bullied and picked on. He suffered the loss of loved ones and had relationship problems. Or, consider Tony Stark outside of the Ironman gadgets and crazy workshop. He had drug and alcohol problems. Yes, he was a playboy gazillionaire, but there were personal issues present that made him seem real and relatable to a reader. The point here? People love to connect with people, they love to see the human faces behind a company or product, and they love to learn the story of how said company or product came to exist. When it comes to the comic lesson learned here it’s this: Consumers connect with people first, a brand second. If your content can be social, inspired, and relatable and come alive through human-interest stories, you will connect on a more personal level with your targeted audience.
- Longevity counts. Think about it, how many writers have the ability to create a story that lasts for decades. Comic writers have nailed consistency and storyline continuance. Spiderman, Superman, Batman, these guys have been around for years, and even generations! However, something else is at play. No matter if the character’s story is delivered via TV, movie or print, the fact of the matter is the tale is always evolving and changing with the times, while also staying true to its core. A brand must be able to do this when offering their message on the Internet too, but what a customer loves and appreciates your company for must stay consistent as well. It’s okay to experiment with new things, testing new products or concepts and changing with the times, as long as the brand doesn’t take for granted consumer loyalty and what brought a person to be a patron initially.
- Excitement and anticipation inspires. Comics are all about the cliffhanger, what super-villain is coming next, what challenge our hero is going to face…the anticipation and excitement presented in visuals and storyline inspire you to want to know what is coming and dammit! They make you want more! If my dad has shown me one thing it’s that he can’t wait to go buy the next issue in whatever comic series he is reading. He cannot wait to go see the new Ironman. HE! CANNOT! WAIT! This is storytelling at its finest, and can be carried over into the world of content marketing. You need to think about what your customers want to see next. Then present the information that excites them but also leaves them on the edge of their seats, checking back in to your Facebook page, clicking on your website, always looking for more. As long as you deliver on the information you have promised and tantalized with, your customers will stay excited, and hence, stay loyal.
- Visuals matter. In today’s Internet-driven world, content might be king, but visual complements help drive traffic—the growing popularity of Pinterest as a social media platform should show that. Comic books illustrate that balance between written content and visual images is the key to user engagement. In the world of content marketing, it is possible to create this balance on your social media pages, your website or your blog. Compelling pictures draw traffic in, and interesting, well-written content keeps a reader’s attention, while also appeasing search engine algorithms. Ultimately, the lesson here is that you cannot rely on visuals or content alone, mixing them both together provides for greater consumption.
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