You don’t have to be a writer to create engaging content for your company. Here’s how. – USA TODAY

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You don’t have to be a writer to create engaging content for your company. Here’s how. – USA TODAY

Steve Strauss  |  Special to USA TODAYOne of the interesting things about being in business for yourself these days is that not only must you be an en

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Steve Strauss  |  Special to USA TODAY

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One of the interesting things about being in business for yourself these days is that not only must you be an entrepreneur, but you very likely have to be a content creator, too. Between websites, e-newsletters, social media posts and blogs, creating content has become part of the fabric of being a small business.

But that begs the question: What works online?

It’s one thing to have a post on your website or Facebook page, it’s another to have a post that engages people and moves them to like, swipe, click, share, or buy.

That said, not all posts are created equal. Having written online for more than 20 years now, including this column as well as countless articles, e-books, social posts – not to mention 18 books – I have learned a few things that work:

Be conversational. One of the best parts of writing online is that because it is less formal, you can be more personal. Write in a conversational tone. And don’t think you have to be a “writer” to do so. Just let you and your personality shine through, use good grammar and you will be off to a good start.

Have something to say. Share an insider tip. Tell a good story. Post some valuable resources. People have plenty to read these days, so the key is to create a post that they would find interesting, funny, useful, etc. Just don’t be boring.

Have a great headline. Headlines that work do two things: First, they spark interest and second, they don’t mislead. Content that does not deliver on the promise of the headline turns people off. Headlines are good, clickbait is bad.

Remember these headline tips:

  • Immediacy works. Words like “Now” or “Today” are useful. Example: “three daily habits of sales superstars”
  • Celebrity sells. Example: “Warren Buffet swears by this simple investment strategy”
  • Unique takes are memorable. Example: “Why Customer Relationship Management apps are a waste of your time”
  • Evoke emotions. Evoking a legitimate emotion – joy, anger, fear, something –  works.

Make it visual. The Internet is now driven by images and the more media you have within a post, the more people will be attracted to it. Pictures can illustrate ideas and break up long articles. For example, if you are writing a blog reviewing a product, add in a picture of a person using that product.

Follow the six-sentence rule. Writing online is different than writing offline. Online, your paragraphs need to be short; some people suggest six sentences or less and that is about right. In fact, when writing online, usually, less is more. Save the longer paragraphs for when you are explaining a concept.

Also, if you place a picture between the bigger paragraphs, it can create a better experience for the reader and they will retain the information you present better. (This paragraph is long and it has five sentences.)

Appreciate Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Don’t ruin a good post by stuffing it with keywords and think that that will get you to the top of the search engines. It will actually do the opposite. Keywords and key phrases are important, yes, but they should be used as needed. You can perform your own search engine optimization in Google Trends to see which phrases resonate most in online searches.

Make it worth the reader’s time. Never forget that your content is an extension of your business and brand, so make it worth someone’s time. Whether it’s goofy, funny, smart, cute, or whatever, if you create content that offers real value and reflects your brand, you will get noticed and get results.

Steve Strauss is an attorney, speaker and the author of 17 books, including “The Small Business Bible.” You can learn more about Steve at MrAllBiz.com, get more tips at his site TheSelfEmployed and connect with him on Twitter @SteveStrauss and on Facebook at TheSelfEmployedThe views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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