How to Write for Today’s Readers
Those of us wanting to create meaningful online content must reassess much of what we learned in school. Also, people who have been working for several years must adapt to shifts in business communication.
Consider the likes and dislikes of today’s online readers. Are you communicating with them in the way they prefer? Consumers of digital information have different mindsets that have left many business professionals scratching their heads about how best to deliver information and news. If your writing hasn’t evolved to meet the needs of today’s information consumers, it’s time to refine your practices.
- They demand brevity. Think of your headlines and subject lines as the first kick to open the door. If you fail to intrigue people with just a few words, they will move on to other sites, closing the on you and your content. As writers and content creators, our goal is to convince readers, viewers and listeners to willingly prop the door and invite us inside. People won’t read your content unless the headline or subject line is so brief yet compelling that they simply can’t resist and turn away. Choose each word carefully with a focus on a benefit for the reader. Put yourself on the receiving end and be relevant. Recommended resource: BuzzSumo.
- They need space. Onlinereaders refuse to be inundated with words. How can bloggers and content creators offer more reader-friendly posts, case studies and articles? Consider these tips:
- Write short paragraphs with ample spacing.
- Break up longer posts (anything over 500 words) with bolded subheads.
- Increase margins.
- Add a couple of appropriate images.
- Use bullet points for skimming.
- They enjoy a well-crafted story. Successful bloggers and content creators understand the essence of a good story that moves people emotionally and prompts them to take action. Too many people, however, are writing for Google analytics and algorithms instead of the human factor. My advice is don’t worry about word count and long tail SEO. Instead, share valuable insights and content that isn’t self-serving. “The goal of story-driven content is to tap consumer emotions and make them feel something remarkable toward your brand,” says marketing pro Danielle Corcione. “This strategy is particularly relevant to the millennial generation, currently the largest target consumer demographic, according to Pew Research Center,” Corcione says. Remember, prospects are people, and people love great stories.
- They want personality. Give readers a glimpse into your world. How can you do this while focusing on their needs and challenges? Always connect your experience back to your audience. For example, my post, “What it Means to Get in Front”has been one of the most well-received posts I’ve written.
- They are willing to share quality information. Readers today—especially millennials and young adults—appreciate opportunities to influence others. Likewise, successful content marketers must be prepared to be generous with their knowledge. Do you give freely to your community or are you pushing too hard for a sale? Give to your followers, and they will reciprocate. Nothing makes a stronger and more genuine impression on someone then when you share selflessly. This also speaks to the point of being part of a community. By nature, human beings long to be accepted and be part of a group. This tactic opens the doors of your neighborhood with a friendly smile and outstretched hand. Isn’t this the premise of hashtags: subsets of people with common interests?
- They engage with images, videos and graphics. Talented bloggers and content creators reach beyond words. Remember, not everyone is a professional writer or wants to be. I have been writing news as a reporter and broadcast journalist for 30 years. It’s certainly served me well, still writing isn’t for everyone. Neither is reading. That’s where video blogs, Periscope, Snapchat, Instagram Stories, YouTube, SlideShare, Vimeo and Facebook Live can be beneficial. Podcasting is a terrific alternative to writing and reading as well. Savvy bloggers weave images, video, audio, infographics, slide decks and assorted vignettes into their posts. They are skilled at making content pop. Personally, I enjoy infographics. This week, for the first time, I saw a “Gifographic”about ad words and search (shared by my Twitter connection Lou Bortone). It featured blinking eyes, rotating price tags and moving custom filters.
Video, of course, is the hot commodity that’s expected to remain top-of-list in 2017. This graph reminds us about the value of short videos and snippets:
- They want fresh and timely information. Coming up short on topics for your blog? Don’t panic. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. The key to consistently developing new content that’s relevant and timely is to pay attention to your own community—and the community-at-large (the world). What does your target audience struggle with and how can your knowledge and experience ease their pain? There are many formats for written and video blogs, such as “how to” tips, interviews and curated content. Repurposing old content that resonated with your audience is a solid approach, too.