Let’s face it, 2020 dealt us all some wild cards. In these times of drastic change, fake news can put down world leaders by losing their voters’ trust, technology giants losing users for withholding privacy information, brands are publicly criticized, and even banned for false advertising. “Fake news” itself as a concept is one the most discussed topics these days, with growing awareness worldwide.

But when the world calls for a change of old perceptions and a real move to transparency and authenticity – in the new reality of social distancing, we find that it isn’t that easy to interact and connect with people in an authentic and "human" manner.

When we wanted to fully understand how readers engage with content, we partnered with neuroscientist Prof. Dino Levy from Tel Aviv University, to uncover the very physical way in which our brain works. The main conclusion from the research is that interactivity is really rooted in the cognitive process. It requires people to make choices, activating a larger range of brain areas like emotional processing, and it involves our motor movements, which strengthen connections between the neurons in our brain. And indeed, we see that keeping users active in the content consumption process, for example with memorable and impactful information, is not just a means to keep them awake – but it rather truly impacts their brain, in a whole different way.

In real life and not lab environment, brands and individuals alike need to meet their audience on the many platforms they consume on a daily basis, create content with real value, remain relevant, drive for engagement and maintain a unique voice. So one of the main takeaways from this mind boggling research is that some of the easiest, actionable means to connecting remotely with people, is to simply spark up a dialogue with the audience through interactive content (asking them a question, for example), keep them actively engaged in the reading process, create content that is personalized to the user journey, and feature stories, videos and Q&A segments to keep the conversation vibrant, open and honest.

But what about the content itself? How do we maintain a good, lasting dialogue with our readers? When it comes to content marketing, and B2B content marketing specifically, it is usually quite the opposite of being vulnerable and authentic. We got so used to talking about success, great results, being a leader. Compare it to supermodels or celebrities showing off their skills and perfect skin, and not to them sharing their most intimate and lesser celebrated moments - in 2021 it doesn’t really work that way. The atmosphere has changed, and with the past year being a collective global mess for everyone - this is not necessarily the time to talk ONLY about our success. In order to have our audience engaged, and even sympathize with us or with what we wish to convey or sell, we would then need to consider sharing also our challenges, our vulnerabilities and our less successful moments. Displaying a weakness does not necessarily mean expressing defeat.

Once we acknowledge that the world has changed, we also understand that our methods need to change with it. Now is a good time, more than ever, to be more innovative and experiment with new forms and formats. Avoid the clichés, the old ways, the things you’ve done and seen a million times. We need to stand out by writing something our audience hasn’t heard before, take a new approach, surprise and delight. Stand out with design by considering how our content looks, how it is consumed and experienced. Experiment, be bold, be the Beta version that actually interacts with its audience, see how people react, and interact with them.

Writing for humans also means that while SEO matters, we have to remember that our primary audience has feelings, and writing for that human audience rather than bots is more crucial than ever before. Therefore, we need to create content that is for people first, that is relevant to them and matches their interests. We should avoid overloading content with keywords just for the sake of adding SEO value. If it doesn't make sense to our audience now, it may even deter them from interacting with us in the future.

Sympathy, and honesty, honestly, is what the world needs now, so we need to make sure we approach our audience with a non-patronizing, intimate, meaningful message, without betraying their trust or invading their privacy – and with a promise to give them real value.

Written by Shachar Orren CMO at EX.CO