Look on any of the main social media channels and you’ll see a constant flow of articles that promise everything from the “top 10 tips for…” to “5 things to watch out for…” or “7 essential tools you must use…”. These, for the uninitiated are known as listicles.

Listicles and list writing

Used sparingly, they can be an effective tool for conveying complex information or summarising a wide range of information in an easy to read manner. They also lend themselves very well to being portrayed visually as infographics or animations.

The problem we’re seeing with listicles is that a) they’re being overused, and b) they’re often being executed poorly. There’s no quality control mechanism or even guidelines for what makes a good listicle or how to avoid creating a poor one. So, at the risk of creating another listicle right now, here’s a simple checklist for what to consider when planning this sort of content.

  1. Think about your audience first. Are they going to be interested in what you’re listing? Is the information going to be useful to them? Will it tell them something they don’t already know?
  2. Is a listicle the right format to use? Can the information be told in a different or better way? What about videos or podcasts?
  3. Are you simply going to list the items, or are you going to write something about them and actually give them something of value?
  4. Don’t simply list a handful of items and then very unsubtly lead into a barely disguised sales pitch. There’s no quicker way to make your reader click away.
  5. Is your listicle really just a way to create a click-bait title? Or does the content you’re creating warrant being in this form.

Whenever we’re asked to create content for a brand, we not only need to understand our client’s requirements for the content, but we need to understand the target audience and what their motivations or interests are. Being aware of this will help us write content that’s meaningful, relevant and interesting to that target audience and present it in a way that’s going to resonate with them.

We also want to ensure that the content we create fits in with the way our clients are currently positioning themselves, so appreciating their tone of voice and style is critically important. Content created by third parties, such as marketing agencies like APEX, need to look and feel identical to original content created by the clients, otherwise it can look disjointed.

So, we think listicles probably still have their place in an integrated marketing strategy, but they need to be more than just a simple list. They need to convey some detailed information in a more digestible format. They also shouldn’t be undertaken in isolation. It’s a point we’ll touch in a later blog post, but this is pretty much the same for any one activity.

Done right, they can be a useful tool in a content marketer’s arsenal, but done wrong, they’re just click-bait content that can cause potential customers to just turn away from your brand.

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