We’ve already heard that in the digital space, ‘content is king’. But this king can’t rule the online kingdom without loyal subjects: the readers.
Whether you’re crafting content for an in-depth blog post, or thinking of a short tweet to send out, it’s essential that first and foremost, you keep the target audience in mind.
Below are some writing guidelines that can be used whether you’re aiming the text at other businesses, consumers, or the general web population.
TONE, STRUCTURE, & LAYOUT
1. Keep it simple & conversational. Blogs, social media posts, marketing emails – it’s all about being social and to the point. This means:
- Include words like ‘we’, ‘you, and ‘I’
- Use informal (not stupid) language
- Be as concise as possible, while getting the message across
2. Make it easy on the eyes. Let’s face it – people have less and less time these days, and with so much content available, it’s easy to lose focus, get bored, and move onto the next post. So:
- Use sub-headings, bullet points, and short paragraphs. This is especially useful for those who skim-read.
- Optimize your formatting. Bold, italicize, and underline are great for emphasis and grabbing attention. But limit their frequency as this can distract the reader. (This point doesn’t really apply to social network posts except for Google+.)
- Images are everything. Yes, I know that we’re discussing ‘word’ content in this post, but many people are visually-oriented and relevant pictures will make the post more interesting. Infographics, video, and audio clips are also welcome.
3. Write a story (this of course mostly applies to blog posts). From start to finish, it’s your goal to keep the reader reading:
- As always, it begins with the headline/title. Anything witty, funny, or even odd will work here. Basically – if you came across your title, would you click on it? However, avoid being misleading or anything sensationalized; this is irritating and you’ll be ignored instead.
- Many think that if you have a fantastic title, it’s enough. It’s not. The intro is equally – if not more – important. It should accurately and succinctly tell the audience what to expect.
- The body of the content is crucial to getting your message across. Keep your targets hooked, entertained, interested – whatever you need to keep them on the page. (More on how to do this in the next section.)
- End on a high. Did your readers take away what you wanted them to take away? Was there a key point to the content?
THE ESSENCE OF THE MESSAGE
We know that what you say and how you say it is what attracts & retains attention to your content. Here are a few tips on getting your message across:
- Infuse a bit of you into the text. The great thing about online content is that you can make it personal, emotional – basically you’re allowed to be human! I appreciate dark and dry humor; others may prefer creative and sentimental text. So there’s no general wrong or right – it all depends on your personality and, of course, who you’re aiming for.
- The subject matters. Themes that are universally interesting, topics that are relevant or trending in your field, issues that never get old… these will always get your readers’ notice.
- Reinforce the message. Anything that can validate/support your content will make it more credible. This includes: reliable stats (in moderation – don’t bore people), briefly citing your expertise, quotes from leaders in the field, and images that really drive the point home.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE AUDIENCE
Last, but never least, the readers are your top priority. Unless your only target audience is yourself, everything has to be focused on the potential customer/individual/group/business – whoever you’re aiming for.
a) After reading your blog, email, or social media post, people should either gain something of value or have a next step. If your content is a tutorial, for example, the reader should be able to immediately go out and do what you’ve taught them to do. If you want them to download or buy something, there should be a clear link or call to action button available.
b) Make it interactive. Things like polls, questions, comment boxes, and social sharing buttons. These encourage participation and engagement with your content.
c) Leave them wanting more… and then give it to them. Do you have a free ebook available? Follow-up posts that could help them? Let your reader know! Hyperlinks are your friend here.
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Remember, as a business, the main goals of content creation are:
- To build your brand
- To generate traffic and consequently sales
- To establish your expertise or authority in a certain area
- To provide something useful and/or interesting to your customer (value)
If you want all or any of the above goals to happen, you’ve got to make it more about the reader, and less about the writer.
And – of course – if you have any tips on capturing an audience, please us know in the comments!