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Write for Online Readers

The rules you followed to make your print newsletter grab readers don’t work anymore. As we have transitioned to reading online, how we read and the time we are willing to give have changed. You need to change the way you present your communications to successfully compete for time and attention.

You Get 10 Seconds

Yup, just 10 seconds. Most people give your content 10 seconds (or less) to convince them to read on or they move on. Even your top readers likely spend about two minutes on your content.

Capture Readers With the Headline

The headline of your content is the first thing that will be read. This is where decisions will be made to proceed or move on. Spend the most time writing headlines that are meaningful to your target audience.

Next in importance:

  • Subheads
  • Bullet points
  • Pullout quote

Online Readers Are Scanners

It’s more accurate to think of people scanning your content than reading it. They look for key takeaways and don’t read all your text. And, they don’t necessarily review your content in a linear fashion.

You need to tell your story in the headline and subheads. Add more in the bullets. Consider a pullout quote if there is a statement or sentence that is compelling.

Use an illustrative image. Caption it in a way that relays the key message of the content.

Are You a SME?

We are all subject matter experts (SMEs) for something. Few of us really leverage that expertise to its best potential in our online marketing.

Highlighting your expertise can benefit any business. It shows that you have a high level of knowledge about your field. Further, algorithms used by search engines and social media platforms, look for and elevate content from SMEs.

Know Your Niche

The first step in leveraging your subject matter expertise is to define it well. You want to have a clear focus on what it is that you know especially well. Narrow expertise is fine, and may even be helpful.

Concentrate on a highly specific area of your industry. Don’t recommend everything you come across or try to spread your reach across the entire field. Stick to what you know well.

The more specific you are, the better. For example, if you want to become well-known in the auto industry, don’t start a blog that discusses all things about cars. Focus on one aspect, like the safety issues and features or car repair.

Create Quality Content

Share content online that demonstrates your expertise and the valuable insight you have. Content can be blog posts, articles, interviews, images, infographics, podcasts, etc. Pick ways that you are most comfortable with, because you will need to create a consistent stream of content.

Make sure that every piece of content you create delivers genuine value to people who read it. An expert should add value over the other information already available. That’s the key to gaining attention.

Share Subject Matter Expertise Widely

Share your content everywhere that people who are interested might be. You can’t just post on your own blog and social media pages. You need to get your name out there.

Join related groups and post. Guest blog. Comment on content from other experts in your industry. When people look for content related to your industry, you want your name to be part of what they find.

Think Network

You need a network. Your network should include industry professionals who will help increase your knowledge, standing, and connections.

Social media is key when it comes to this. See who the people you admire are following to get ideas about who else to connect with online.

Networks are a two-way street. Connect and also interact. Regularly engage with your followers and share new information with them.

Hey, Have You Noticed Business Is Getting Informal?

In my first job writing print publications for General Motors I caused a stir by dropping the use of courtesy titles. My, how far we have come since then! If you feel like business communication is much less formal these days, you are right. The trend has only been fueled by the pandemic.

People expect businesses, government, and every organization they interact with to get real, be transparent and have a personality. Regular headlines about consumers calling on businesses to take a stand on a wide range of issues is proof enough. Millennials are famous for wanting to be able to relate to brands, but they are not alone.

Today’s Brands Need a Personality

Authenticity strengthens connections between businesses and people. This impacts everything from what we say to how and where we say it. Expectations for everything to be polished and tight are gone – a video taken with a cell phone can have as much impact as a professionally scripted and  produced commercial.

Your customer expects you to express things your way and to connect with them in a way that is relevant and unique. Being personable is the way to create relationships with your audience.

Be Real

It is time to stop wordsmithing press releases and to put aside jargon. Put away the thesaurus.

Communicate like each person who comes across your content is next to you having a conversation. Use the same words. Reflect your thinking in a way that helps them understand your perspective in big and small contexts.

It’s OK to make announcements on social media. It’s fine to show less-than-polished views inside your business. It’s great to talk about topics because you know they are important to your customer.

In fact, these things are expected. Businesses that meet people in these ways are poised to succeed.