To Engage Users, Stop Writing in First Person

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Have this post read to you in a natural voice:

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." — Benjamin Franklin

It’s been said that writing in first person can make content feel personal and relatable. While that's not untrue, first person isn't always the best option for every piece of content. Sometimes, a shift in perspective can lead to engagement growth.

How a business engages — specifically, the voice they use — can make a world of difference.

Brands that consistently use third-person writing are often perceived as more reliable, which adds value to the customer experience. Customers often return to a brand they view as knowledgeable and trustworthy.

Writing in third person provides an air of objectivity. Over time, this can lead to increased customer loyalty as users begin to see the brand as a trusted resource.

What are Person Points?

Before diving into the nitty-gritty, let's start by understanding what "person points" or "points of view" (POV) mean in writing. There are mainly three types of person points: first person, second person, and third person.

  • First-person pronouns like "I," "we," "us," etc., make the writer or narrator the focal point.
    • Example: "We believe our product will change your life."
  • Second person employs "you," engaging the reader directly.
    • Example: "You won't believe how much easier your tasks will become with our software."
  • Third person provides a more detached viewpoint, using pronouns such as "he," "she," "it," or "they."
    • Example: "The software simplifies tasks, increasing user satisfaction."

Understanding these nuances provides a foundational understanding of how changing viewpoints can influence readability and overall user engagement. Let's take this journey step-by-step.

The Pitfall of First-Person Writing

It's easy to assume that using first-person pronouns can make writing appear more 'human.' After all, sharing feelings and thoughts from a writer's perspective might seem like a quick route to creating a connection. The issue is, that first-person writing can inadvertently make the content about the writer, rather than the customers.

Author Stephen King once said, "The adverb is not your friend." In the same vein, overusing first-person pronouns may not be an ally in business writing. It can cause readers to feel more like spectators than active participants in a dialogue.

The Audience's Starring Role

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Remember, effective messaging is a two-way street. Adopting a third-person point of view is essentially taking a step back to let customers or users become the story's stars. Third-person style lends a sense of objectivity, which can bolster the credibility of one’s content.

For example:
Instead of saying, "We believe our software is revolutionary."
Try, "The software has revolutionized the industry."

This simple switch in viewpoint places the emphasis on the impact of the product, making the statement more user-oriented.

Unleash the Power of Examples

Examples are a writer's best friend when trying to demonstrate a point effectively. The power of examples can be particularly potent in customer engagement and brand loyalty, especially when written in the third person.

Example 1: Boosting Website Engagement
Instead of: "We've seen an uptick in user engagement."
Consider: "The recent redesign has led users to spend 25% more time on the site and click through 15% more often."

Here, focusing on facts and numbers provides a fuller picture, making what a brand offers more appealing to people.

Example 2: Customer Testimonials and Their Impact
Instead of: "Our customers love us."
Consider: "One customer, Sarah, said she's finally able to keep track of her weekly tasks thanks to the new app feature."

This example shifts the focus from what a company may believe to what a customer experienced and adds both credibility and a human touch.

The Impact of Third-Person Writing

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Not only does third-person writing foster an audience-focused approach, but it also helps in establishing authority. Marketing expert Neil Patel said, "When you write in third person, you are distancing yourself from the audience, and this could make your insights more credible."

Example: Trends According to the Experts
Instead of: "We believe this trend will continue."
Consider: "Experts in the industry expect this trend to stay strong through the next quarter."

When showing content through a detached lens, readers are likely to view a business as a knowledgeable authority in the field. This can greatly contribute to user trust and long-term engagement.

Blending Perspectives

While the focus here is on the benefits of third-person writing, it’s not an all-or-nothing deal.

In some instances, blending first and third-person viewpoints can make an engaging and balanced narrative. For example, think of it as making a delicious meal.

Just as a chef combines various ingredients to create a flavorful dish, writers can blend first person and third person. Use first person when sharing a brief anecdote to add a personal touch and connect emotionally, just as a chef might reveal their secret family recipe passed down through generations.

Then, switch to third person for the analytical aspects, like the culinary critic who impartially evaluates the dining experience.

This blend of perspectives can enhance your writing, making it more enjoyable for your readers.

Customer Feedback Matters

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It's crucial to listen to what customers are saying. Tools like surveys or social media platforms can provide valuable insights into how audiences perceive the messaging style. If feedback indicates that the content comes across as too self-focused or not relatable, then that’s a clear sign to reevaluate your approach.

Gathering feedback allows writers to fine-tune content so it resonates with the target audience. This is a continuous process, as changes in customer behavior and preferences require businesses to be agile and adjust their style accordingly.

Tracking Success

When a company decides to use a third-person writing style in its communication, the goal is to sound more relatable and objective. Actively keeping track of numbers like user engagement rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates will determine the effectiveness.

  • User engagement rates reveal the extent to which the audience is engaging with the content, which provides insights into their level of interest.
  • Click-through rates offer insights into whether individuals are taking action after reading the content, essentially indicating their receptiveness to the company's message.
  • Conversion rates shed light on whether the new writing style effectively persuades individuals to take actions such as making purchases or subscribing to newsletters.

By always keeping an eye on these numbers, businesses can determine if the third-person style is effective in connecting with the audience. This, in turn, helps companies engage their audience better, strengthen brand loyalty, and grow their business.

The Road Ahead

"To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence." — Mark Twain

Mark Twain's quote holds significant relevance even in the realm of business writing. Ignorance, in this case, means the willingness to unlearn and relearn. Confidence is about taking the bold step to experiment with something new, like shifting a writing perspective for increased engagement.

The journey to mastering user engagement is a long one, full of twists and turns. But with the right voice and a reader-centric approach, the road becomes a little less bumpy. Remember, in the realm of business, it’s not just what you say but how you say it that counts.