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Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content (Voices That Matter)

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The web is all about action verbs. We click. We search. We navigate. We make choices. Alone among other forms of media, we’re the ones who control our experience.

When organizations try to connect with their customers online, one of the first things they always want to know is “how can we get our users to do what we want them to?”

There’s an answer to this question, but it requires a change in mindset. Marketers typically want to build awareness for their products, and they try to replicate this broadcast approach on the web. They create static designs that recall print ads, flashy microsites that replicate TV commercials, and email blasts that resemble nothing so much as a street-corner barker, yelling loudly while he tries to press a flyer into your hand.

And then they wonder why users don’t do what they want them to.

Organizations that want to connect with users online need to shift their approach from gaining awareness to building influence. Persuading people to behave differently means understanding how to inspire people, motivate them, and gain their trust.

The user experience field might rightfully say: “Influencing user behavior? Why, that’s what we do!” And it’s true—if you’re looking for techniques to prod people into behaving a certain way, your friendly user experience designer can help you. They’ll tell you that the way to get users to do what you want them to is to design a sexier landing page, chunk pages so they flow better, and create an eye-catching call to action. Not working well enough? Just A/B test different options until you find the optimal design.

We’ve lost our influence with users because our obsession with the medium means we’ve lost our focus on what really matters — the message. We’re so focused on form that we’ve forgotten about substance. It’s time to bring attention back to what we want to say, not just how and where we want to say it.

Well, guess what? Long before there even was a web, we knew how to communicate our messages by tailoring them to the needs and expectations of an audience. We knew how to persuade people by appealing to logic or emotion. We knew the art of rhetoric.

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