10 Ways to Make Your Online Writing Worth Following
Have you ever noticed how certain writers online have such a distinct style that even if you didn’t see a byline, you could tell who wrote it after reading just a line or two?
They’ve developed their own unique way of writing that not only stands out, but connects with readers so strongly that it makes them want more.
It’s unique, useful content worth following.
It’s Not Just for Bloggers Anymore
It doesn’t matter if you’re a “solopreneur” blogger, a brick and mortar business, an author or musician... anyone really... you need to embrace content marketing.
I used to tell people content marketing was the future of business marketing. That’s no longer the case. It’s not the future. It’s the present.
Consumers expect more from the businesses they patronize today. They expect frequent touches, a steady flow of useful information about the things they care about, and the feeling that they have a relationship with the brands they follow.
Phone books, coupon books, newspapers, billboards, traditional radio, and television ads just don’t do the trick anymore. At least not like they used to.
Continuing to bet the farm on these types of marketing and advertising alone (especially for solo business or small business) is the modern day equivalent to being the last person to admit the world is round.
So, if you produce written content of any kind, the big challenge that lies before you is to find a way to make your content stand out.
That doesn’t mean you should assume a position of bogus authority or produce more of the ridiculously over-hyped fluff that rains from the sky online. That niche chasm is full.
My advice is to go the opposite route.
Go real. Go sincere. Go authentic.
10 Ways to Make Your Content Worth Following
This isn’t one of those *gag* “secret copywriting formulas” that you see online.
It’s a collection of real strategies you can weave into your content that will allow you to connect with your readers on a deeper level, help you stand out is a sea of average content, and make your content worth following.
1: Your Content Is NOT for YOU
If you want to shoot yourself in the foot right from the get-go, you should make your content all about you. Make sure you brag about your experience and knowledge. Make it clear how much smarter you are than your readers. Use big words, and do your best to impress every time you get the opportunity.
While you might work in a personal story that illustrates your point from time to time, your content is about your audience.
Your “authority” will come after you develop a reputation for regularly delivering useful, high-quality content - not from writing about yourself.
2: Write in “You” Language
Make your content personal by using “you” language. For instance, instead of writing, “Some people might be tempted to write too much about themselves”, write, “You might be tempted to write too much about yourself.”
Your second best choice it to use “we” language. If used sparingly and strategically, using “we” can help create commonality and a bond between you and your reader.
3: Keep it Conversational
Consumers are evolving. They're more intelligent and more informed than they used to be. They don’t want to be preached at from a soap box. What they really want is to be spoken to, conversed with, and treated like individuals.
Creating content worth following is about genuinely helping someone who needs help. Write in the same way you’d speak if you were having a real discussion with a friend over a cup of coffee or a cocktail.
Think of it as a verbal conversation that just happens to be in the form of the written word.
4: Headlines do More Than Attract Attention
You’ve probably seen all the advice about headlines: They have to be surprising, shocking, exciting, clever, and sensational. There’s some truth to that. They absolutely do have to grab attention.
But in addition to that, remember that since the headline is the first piece of your writing a new visitor will read. It’s your introduction.
Your headline is just like the first eyeball to eyeball handshake that says, “Nice to meet you. Here’s what I’m about. This is how I operate.”
What are you saying about yourself, your company, and your brand, if in an effort to be clever or shocking, your headline makes insane promises that your content can’t deliver? There’s a line between clever and clear you need to walk.
So, yes. Write creative, attention-grabbing headlines. But remember you’re building a reputation as someone worth following - and if you have to choose, always choose clear over clever.
5: The One Thing Your Opening MUST Contain
Copywriters call the opening part of their copy the lead or the hook.
You've probably heard that the purpose of the first line of the copy is to get the reader to read the second line of copy. That’s true, but in online writing, remember that you’re also trying to build a long-term relationship with your reader.
Think about your closest real-life relationships. No matter who you are, you probably like to be in relationships with people who understand you and the challenges you’re facing in your life.
There’s a word for that. It’s EMPATHY. And the best place to introduce empathy into your written content is: As early as possible.
Here are some ways you can demonstrate empathy early in your content…
- I know what you’re going through
- (doing what they do) is tough
- I’ve been there myself
- It’s not easy being a (what they are)
You can come up with a million ways to start your content with empathy. No matter how you do it, just make sure to do it - and do it early.
6: Sometimes a Paragraph Isn’t a Paragraph - It’s a Design Element
People who read online content are scanners. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they look for easy to digest bits that catch their attention and latch onto them.
So when you create content, your paragraphs need to be short, non-traditional paragraphs.
Break up your thoughts into a small sections. It’s not uncommon in online writing to have two sentence, one sentence, or even one word “paragraphs.”
Breaking up your content into shorter chunks visually creates more white space, and makes your content appear easier to consume.
If you were to open two different online articles and both of the following pages loaded, which of the following pages would you look at and think, “Yeah. No way. I don’t have time for this.” (click away)
7: Subheads Aren’t Labels - They’re Bridges
Subheads are another effective way to visually break up content, they but they also play another powerful role in keeping scanning readers on the page - and a lot of content creators miss this one!
They’re bridges. They tie one thought to another in your article, and properly executed, make your reader curious to see what’s on the other side of the bridge.
Most writers use subheads as labels and give away the content that follows.
For instance, if the next thought in my article explains that subheads are just as important as headlines, and I actually use the subhead "Subheads Are Just as Important as Your Headline" - then why would anyone read the paragraph that follows? I just told them what it says.
But if the subhead said, "The Attention Grabbing Opportunity You’re Throwing Away" instead, the reader might be compelled to continue reading to find out what they’re missing.
For an in-depth lesson on writing great subheads, check out my post on Jon Morrow’s Blog called The Ultimate Guide to Writing Irresistible Subheads.
8: Be Positive and Inspirational, but Hype-Free
A lot of conventional online writing advice will tell you to never, ever go negative in your content. And I believe that’s true 90% of the time, even though I am a fan of an occasional, “This sucks because…” rant.
But here’s what you don’t hear as often: Going with falsely positive, rah-rah, over-promising sunshine and rainbows all the time is equally as damaging. That’s called hype, and smart people can smell it a mile away… and don’t think they won’t remember who flung it in their direction.
So yes, by all means, keep it positive and inspiring the vast majority of the time. But just as you don’t want to be known as the sad-sack who’s always complaining, you also do not want to be known as the person who’s all sizzle and no steak.
9: Be Authentic But Not Broken
If you’re like me, you LOVE writers who can be vulnerable and show their scars. It’s endearing, and it makes you feel like it’s ok to stumble a bit here and their on the way to achieving your goals.
Besides, like I said earlier, consumers are smart cookies - and the “infallible authority” schtick inspires more skepticism than admiration with most folks these days.
But there’s an *asterisk* on showing your scars. You should always wait until you’ve overcome your deficits before you share them. A story about how you used to be so broke that you bounced a check here and before you figured out your fiances is very different than talking about how you bounced a check last Tuesday.
Be human and show your scars… but wait until you’ve solved the problem before you share. After the fact, you’re helping other people avoid the same mistakes. During your struggles, you’re just bumming people out and killing your credibility in the process.
10: Above Everything Else: Move The Reader Forward
Your content can do a lot of things for your readers. It can entertain, educate, and motivate. But there’s one thing is absolutely, positively MUST do every time.
It needs to move your reader forward in some way. It needs go give them some knowledge, a resource, an idea… something they didn’t have before they consumed your content… that they can use to get at least one step closer to their goals.
How to Put These Strategies in Play
Content marketing is now a normal component of starting and growing a business. But to have your content reach the right people and have the maximum possible impact to both help your readers and gain exposure for you, you have to find a way for your message to stand out.
Download this post as a free, one-page checklist to keep you on track as you create your own content worth following!
These 10 content strategies will do exactly that for you. Apply these strategies as you create content, and use them when you're done creating to check your work.
Soon, you'll see a difference in your content and so will your target audience. Your following will grow, and you'll be on the road to becoming someone worth following!
What makes you want to follow someone?
What kind of content really impacts you on a personal level?