Following last week’s post on reasons why you shouldn’t follow Top Lists, I’m going to advocate for the other side, or present the ying to the yang, or otherwise just be contrary!
It used to be that information was power. With the easy access of information of information on the internet, now creativity and innovation lead to power. Give us the data and see what dazzling solutions we can provide to the problem.
This has created a different method of digesting data. A study on how we use the web, by Jakob Nielsen in 1997, shows that people no longer read pages like they used to read printed material. Instead they scan, picking out relevant words and sentences. How did I find this information nugget? In a Top List post entitled: “8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get People to Read Your Content” by Copyblogger.
Copyblogger is a successful case study in posts that use Top Lists. Why? According to their own posts, the lists give readers a measurable ROI for investing their time. How often have you clicked on a link only to be taken to content that is irrelevant or never gets to the point? Numbered lists give you something concrete in a short format.
Here are my thoughts in favor of Top Lists:
1. Attention Spans are Short Yes, David Ogilvy proved that long-copy ads draw the most readers. But in his era, consumers didn’t have 3,000 advertising messages a day to contend with in addition to their real jobs! Information overload is a reality. As the Copyblogger article states, “make it snappy,” and you’ll grab–and keep–people’s attention.
2. Short is Sweet It’s easy to ramble on and on, but having to summarize a topic crystallizes my thinking, just as teaching tests a person’s grasp of a subject. One of the reasons that I focus my social media effort on twitter is for the discipline of keeping messages to 140 characters. If you can’t be succinct, you probably don’t know the material.
3. Numbered lists force prioritization I worked for a boss who wanted every feature and benefit of our product listed on the packaging. As a result, it was unclear what the product’s point-of-difference (value proposition) was versus competitors, and it was a visual mis-mash to the eye. By developing a hierarchy of a few top priorities, you can stay focused on the important points.
Sometimes the simplest answers presented in the clearest fomat (like a list) are often the best for cutting through clutter and grabbing attention. I’ll go back to my previous post of Top 3 Reasons Not to Follow Lists and reiterate that I think it’s best to think through the issue, develop a hypothesis, probe all areas, analyze the facts and the subjective information and develop your own list.
What Top Lists would absolutely compel you to click on their link?