Want to Create Great Content? Quit Being So Damn “Friendly” All the Time

June 1st, 2016 by Tyler Hakes

ferris-buellerI work with a lot of clients from a lot of industries. I write web copy, blog posts, social media updates, ad copy, and just about anything else that involves the written word.

One of the first things I ask a new client is: What does your brand sound like?

What I’m talking about is the brand’s voice–how it talks, how it communicates with the world.

Guess what the top responses are?

“Nice.”

“Friendly.”

“Approachable.”

That’s like saying they want their brand to be that kid from high school who no one even remembered until he showed up at the class reunion and walked around awkwardly trying to make conversation with a bunch of people who had no clue who he was.

Hell, they might as well say, “boring,” “forgettable,” and “completely irrelevant.”

Being nice sounds great until you consider all of the things that you can’t be if you’re trying too hard to be nice. You can’t be aggressive, assertive, dominant, irreverent, shocking, sarcastic, loud, bold, rebellious, or any one of a million other characteristics.

Ferris Bueller was a lot more memorable than Cameron Frye.

“Friendly” is boring

I get it. People are terrified of being offensive. They’re scared shitless that something they say or type will piss off one of their customers and they’ll walk away.

They might lose money if they have an opinion.

But guess what? If the only reason people buy from you is because you’re boring and neutral, that probably means the only reason they buy from you is because you’re cheap or convenient. And that means they’ll likely jump ship to your competitors just as soon as they offer them a better deal.

You know who won’t jump ship to get a better deal? People who love your brand–people who feel like your values align with theirs. Those people pay a premium. Those people are the reason why I can charge at least 15 cents per word while other writers struggle to make 5.

But to be loved, you have to be willing to be hated. For every opinion and stance you take, you’ll be dividing the world. You’ll be creating a group that likes you and agrees with what you say and one that doesn’t.

Are there some potential clients out there who will read this and be appalled that I said “shit” and “hell”?

You bet your ass.

But I don’t care. I don’t want those clients anyway.

I want the clients that value authenticity and human voice–it says so right on my homepage. I don’t write like a robot. So if your brand sounds like one, then don’t hire me.

Never be afraid to be human

Your brand doesn’t have to swear or be hateful to have a strong voice.

One of the best ways to make your content stand out is to simply have an opinion–take a side in an argument or a debate. Again, you don’t need to spew hate toward the opposing viewpoint, but simply demonstrate your values and make your case in a compelling way. Not everyone will agree with you, but aligning your values with potential customers can help you win them over in the long term.

Buffer is a famous example of that. Their app is pretty simple–it helps you manage social media. But their content is much deeper than that. They often publish transparency reports about the state of their business and even the salary of the CEO and all employees. They’ve taken a stance in promoting transparency within companies and in doing so, they’ve won a lot of support–and gotten a lot of press coverage and mentions from other places (e.g., this article).

Writing an article called “Commit to 100% Transparency” is a lot more interesting that writing an article called “The Pros and Cons of Being Transparent.”

At the end of the day, if you want to create great content, you have to have something great to say. And you have to say it in a great way. You can’t be afraid to be something more than a faceless company with tired and cliche content that’s been written a hundred times over.

Stop being afraid.

Stop being so damn friendly.

Start being human.