Let’s first acknowledge that writing in the digital age is not black and white. This is an art form, but one that derives great value if you apply a scientific approach.
We've hit a groove with technological advancements, and 2016 will certainly reveal new and improved ways of sharing information through video, social interaction, and infographics. Still, writing is not going anywhere. Words are still the way information is organized and consumed online.
The following guide will help you avoid clutter in your campaigns and truly add value to your brand.
The Golden Rule:
If you take only one thing away from this article, let it be this: your brand doesn’t exist to serve itself. Every post/sentence should be through a lens of service to your consumer. There’s no excuse to deviate—don’t post pics of your expensive dinner in Italy to show off how well your company is doing. If it isn’t serving your audience, it’s doing even less for your brand.
Once you've nailed the golden rule, there are ten others that will help build your brand, maintain a consistent voice, and get more attention for every one of your posts.
10 Rules For Writing Online In 2016
You can’t be everything to everybody. Focus on the strengths of your brand, and avoid its weaknesses. If the topic or post you’re about to publish doesn’t directly relate to your product or service, skip it. Seriously.
You are not the news.
Unless you are. But trust me, you aren’t—that is for ESPN to focus on. Your consumers are getting their news, scores, and headlines from other sources. So what worth are you adding? Legitimate insight or inspiration coupled with a headline? Okay, go for it.
Compliment others, not yourselves.
I know it seems like a good idea to ‘pat yourself on the back’ once in a while, but in digital form, it’s not. The cool guys at the party don’t self-congratulate. Reply to consumers with humble thanks and further inspiration. Be judicious with retweeting compliments. This isn’t a show about your brand—as always, keep the focus on your audience.
Do not pander or promise.
Asking for retweets, likes or shares damages your image. Your consumers are smarter than this. Your brand is better than this. You can feature user-generated content without having to beg or ask for it. Encourage involvement—invite it. But don’t force it.
Speak in second person.
You want to engage your audience. You want to include them. Don’t just talk about yourself. If you must, use first person plural: We are a brand. We are in this together. We’re glad you are reading this.
Use active tense.
Your audience is reading this right now, so let’s make your words reflect that. Active words are more likely to strike relevant images in the readers’ mind. The past tense reads like a news article—and you’re not the news, remember?
No exclamation points.
Say it straight forward, direct and with conviction. There is no need to raise your voice. And quite frankly, it appears amateurish.
One of the best services you can provide an audience is to anticipate and answer questions they might have. This could be anything from what’s upcoming in the week, to what your product or service is all about.
Avoid generic and overused phrases. Challenge yourself to say it smarter, or twist a common phrase to match your brand. Start with greatness, then look for ways to raise the bar with your writing.
Proofreed. Proufread. Proofread.
Seems like a no-brainer, but please, for your own sake—don’t be the only set of eyes on any given media. Luckily, I have a lot of writer friends through twitter, and they’ve let me know when a post of mine has a typo. Thank God for the edit button.
More than anything, write something—anything. Don’t let long lists like this stop you or slow you down. I’d encourage you to audit and write your own rules for your digital writing—this list is a good place to start, of course.