Social media has become an invaluable tool for companies to build their business by sharing information and increasing brand awareness. Web pages, articles, blogs, and posts can be liked, shared, retweeted, and discussed, all of which lend social credibility, much needed for successful business. Every like or share is a vote that increases credibility in real-time.
But content still rules and good content means customers (current and future) will see your brand, talk about and, hopefully, purchase it. Good content will also see more visitors visiting your website. If your aim is to convert casual visitors to regular ones, you need effective online writing skills. Print and web writing are two very different media and one requires specialised journalism skills different from the other. Therefore, it is not just a matter of pasting written pages online. Print content has longevity, is more static and has more uniform style because you usually know your audience. Online writing, on the other hand, with its visuals and links, is dynamic and draws readership from different demographics with varying knowledge, levels, and interests. Its style is also more conversational in nature.
It is important for the writers to keep in mind that web audiences read differently. A study by Nielsen Norman Group found that 79 percent of text users always scanned new pages and only 16 percent read word-by-word. They also recommended that web pages should be condensed by 50 percent because users also read information displayed on screens 25 percent slower. One reason for this is screen flicker and varying resolutions making it more difficult to read. But the main reason is that the online reader is impatient and easily distracted, and wants information delivered in bite-size pieces.
To derive the maximum benefits from social media you need to have a team of social media writers, qualified and equipped with highly specialized and creative business writing skills, who are more than simply copywriters. Here are some ways your professional social media team can develop their writing skills:
- First, thoroughly research the company’s products or services as well as markets so you can correlate the two in your writing.
- Next, research to understand the demographics of potential readers to help you prepare pertinent information and presentation.
- Use short paragraphs and short sentences, and keep the language clear and concise. In Thomas Jefferson’s words: “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
- Hook the readers’ interest from the start by front-loading paragraphs and sentences; i.e., give the most important information first.
- Remember, your readers are impatient and if you bury important information in the body of the text, you risk their giving up before reaching it.
- Use meaningful and attractive graphics, photos, videos, and hypertext links; these make your writing authentic, dynamic, and credible. You will also win their appreciation for providing further relevant and useful information on your site, which leads to more likes and shares helping you reach a larger audience.
- Avoid using jargon and technical terms that not all readers may understand.
- Use simple vocabulary and write for the least educated, not the most.
- Make web page visually attractive and more scannable by using bulleted lists, highlighting key words, and using clear sub-headings. Bear in mind the busy reader needs information that is readable by being simple and clear both to the mind and the eye. Research has shown that retention is better when information is broken down, bulleted, or highlighted than when presented in one dense paragraph. Understand that white space is breathing space on your page and works the way pauses do when you speak.
- Choose active voice where you use a simple “who did what” pattern that is clearer and more easily digested. Apart from being dynamic, direct, and concise, it is also less ambiguous by placing the responsibility of the action on the actor.
- Check the readability index on word under Tools and grammar options to check the length of your paragraphs, sentences, and words as well as the percentage of passive voice used; as a rule of thumb, the lesser the better.
- Learn how to post your content appropriately to different cultures and how to use buzz words. For this, web writers should be proficient in using SEO (search engine optimization).
- Consider having an editorial policy to ensure consistency among the writing team, to record all posts and to maintain standards as well as credibility.
- Finally, don’t forget the WIIFM or the “what’s in it for me” factor; make sure you create a buy-in for the reader by showing the relevance and benefit of what you are saying to them. Start by asking yourself why a reader should read your posts and how it helps them achieve their goals
The benefits of web writing skills are indisputable. The right content creates loyal readers and customers who also become promoters of your business, and word of mouth from loyal customers is the best marketing strategy of all.