How do you write so well on social media? What can I do to speed up my writing skills?
These are two of the most common questions I’ve often been asked as a social media trainer, content marketing specialist, and business blogger.
Much as I would like to attribute my prolific writing to pure genius, the awful truth is that it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where I am today. And I’m still a long way from reaching the dizzying heights of the masters.
Thankfully, there are ways to shortcut your way to online writing nirvana.
In this article, I will cover what you need to do to achieve better outcomes in your content and social media marketing efforts.
First, you need to know who you are writing for.
Unless you are a social media influencer, nobody really cares about your bowel habits, breakfast-of-the-day, or other inane day to day stuff.
Instead, think about your target audiences and ask yourself these questions:
Once that is done, you should develop a customer persona and use that fictitious person as the object of your prose.
Courtesy of L&T
Craft your sentences as if you are speaking them out loud. Like how I’m doing right now.
Being natural and human sounding is a good way to reduce the distance between you and your reader. Move away from obscure industry jargons that nobody understands, and pepper your prose with conversational speech.
Which lead us to our next point.
Your readers are probably using a smartphone or tablet to read your content.
This means that they are likely to skim and scan your copy, rather than religiously plough through each line.
To cater to such reading habits, you need to be succinct. Cut down the fluff. Make your sentences sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel.
Learn from Stephen King’s writing mentor Leonard Elmore, who reportedly said the following:
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings”- Elmore Leonard
Be bold and strident when you write online. Have a strong point of view, and eliminate weak sounding weasel words in your copy.
While doing so, do be mindful not to sound patronizing or condescending. Instead, consider your audience as a peer whom you are trying to educate, entertain or enlighten.
A good example here is Bruce Lee. A prolific reader and writer – he had over 2,000 books in his home – the legendary kung fu star was well known for his brashness and confidence.
Unlike writing for books or magazines, online writing needs to be both descriptive and prescriptive.
In other words, you need to both show and tell.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
Remember that your readers are easily distracted online. Hence, you’ll need to captivate them with strong verbs that clearly show the action. Here are two examples of strong versus weak verbs.
To make your content more compelling, opt for specific concrete nouns which help your readers paint mental pictures in their heads. The more specific you are, the better your writing would be.
See the examples below to understand what I mean:
Unless you are writing for the queen, avoid using arcane and bombastic words in your content. Remember that you should write like how you speak.
Here are some overblown words that you should try to avoid (taken from The Pompous Ass Words website). See how many you can identify!
I know that this is somewhat basic, but you’ll be amazed by how often this rule is omitted by online writers.
Spelling out acronyms is critical as you’re likely to be reaching out to a global audience online; the same acronym could mean different things in different countries.
A wall of text is an ugly thing on an iPhone or an Android device. Rather than write in long and meandering chunks, use the following tactics to make your content easier to read.
a) Use Headings and Subheads
Headings (or titles) and subheadings (aka subheads) help your readers to zoom in to what they wish to read. They can also help you to structure your thoughts in a systematic fashion.
b) Bite the Bullets
Bullet points work very well online because…
c) Use Numbers for Sequences
If you are writing an instructional guide, you may use numbers to move your reader through a series of steps. Here’s how:
According to Ann Handley, you should spend 80 percent of your time writing your headlines and 20 percent on everything else! In the attention starved world of marketing, your headline needs to stand out in the sea of words and ideas.
Here are some ways to craft irresistible headlines that your readers want to read:
Is this a good headline? (Source of image)
Beyond your headlines, you need to write a strong lead in paragraph (also known as a lede) to draw your audience in. According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab, strong leads contain the following:
One of the most important writing lessons in my life came from one of my bosses over 20 years ago. It boiled down to these few words:
“Stick to one point for each paragraph.”
Since then, I’ve always written with that in mind. I’d like you to do so too!
A picture paints a thousand words. In the highly cluttered online world, visuals rule. Just read these visual marketing statistics to see what I mean.
When selecting your image, consider the following points:
Courtesy of Goods Home Design
The beauty of the Web is that you can link to virtually anything and everything out there. From a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) perspective, incorporating internal links to your website’s content can further strengthen your web traffic.
However, don’t just include a link just for the sake of link building. Nobody likes to be led down a rabbit hole without a bounty at the end of the tunnel.
Instead, think about linking to content that supports what you’ve written:
What I’ve written above are just some basic pointers to good writing.
As you’d imagine, there is a lot more that you can learn about writing like an online rockstar. Here are some useful links to writing blogs that you can read from: