We pulled the excerpt below from an article on YoungEntrepreneur.com where the author is sharing her tips on how to write content for the Internet. And while in no way would we ever disparage her writing skills, we definitely have a different take on what it takes to write great content for readers. Here’s our take…
Rule #1 – Our first rule for any would-be content writer whose aim is to reach out and connect with people through well-written articles and blogs is this – there are no rules.
Perez Hilton writes salacious tid-bits about celebrities and their not-so glamorous moments. His writing skills suck – awesome! We own a blog that gets about 4,000 hits a day and we’ve found the more controversial we get the more our readers love it. Controversy drives commentary – some of our threads go over 100 comments – and they’re all arguing and calling each other funny names. The point – forget the rules, even ours.
Rule #2 – Write for yourself, not your audience. Your audience grows because they want to hear what you have to say – not what you have to say as you think your audience would want to hear it. So point number 3 in the Young Entrepreneur piece below where she begins with “Be Yourself” but then switches gears and says “consider your target audience and then pick what would best appeal to them” – is about as contradictory as you can get. The point – write for yourself, not your audience.
Rule #3 – Write well. Pick up a copy of Strunk White’s Elements of Style and never look back. Omit needless words. End every sentence emphatically. And don’t use words like ‘proclivities’, as does the writer below. Big words make you sound like a tool. Write in nouns and verbs. Enough said.
Rule #4 – Know you’re subject matter, be consistent, and don’t write something just for the sake of writing – say something. You don’t want to lose readers because they think you’re lame. So think about what you want to say and say it – quickly.
We do agree with the Young Entrepreneur writer with respect to scheduling. Spread your posts, tweets, and updates evenly throughout a 24 hour period and pay attention to the time-zones of your readership.
That’s all. Forget what we just said. We’re no better at what you have to say than you are. Start writing…
1. Know your audience.
The most crucial ingredient to creating engaging content is to first know who you’re talking to. Where is your audience located? Are they primarily male or female? Older or younger? Younger and older generations engage with content in very different ways. While a young person may tweet about it, older people may use email primarily. And depending on your audience’s location, news about certain areas may be more attractive.
2. Determine the right content.
Consider topics that your audience wants to know about — even if they don’t know it yet. Interior-design enthusiasts, for instance, would likely also care about architecture if it’s local enough. Budget fashionistas will want to keep an eye on the Oscars and other red-carpet events, in addition to sales and retail news. To better pinpoint your audience’s proclivities, check out their influencers by seeing who else they follow and “like” on Twitter and Facebook.
And as far as actual types of content go, stick to the following three principles:
- Timeliness: Nobody wants to see outdated content. You’re more likely to get comments, likes and retweets if your content is relevant to something that is currently happening in the world.
- Controversy: Will you discuss controversial topics? While this can turn some readers off, it can also spark a lot of engaging conversation and debate.
- Format: Pick the right content format for the right outlet. Obviously, a concise, pithy thought is best for Twitter. But offering up tantalizing product images is appropriate for Pinterest.
3. Be yourself.
Authenticity can’t be overstated. If you’re sassy and clever, your voice should reflect that. As far as your brand goes, spend some time thinking about how your company’s tone and “voice” should sound. Should it be authoritative or serious? Or comical and lighthearted? To help you decide, consider your target audience and then pick what would best appeal to them.
4. Create a distribution schedule.
We’ve all “unliked” or “unfollowed” people and companies on social media and “unsubscribed” from email newsletters simply because they post too much too often and clog our feeds and inboxes. You don’t want your fans and followers to feel overwhelmed, so plan your distribution calendar to balance the level of engagement and size of your community.