Every solopreneur or small business knows you have to speak up and stand out to be noticed.
So why does writing copy for your website or social media account seem so difficult?
The truth is, writing advice is full of contradictions.
Be conversational – but not too conversational.
Tell your brand story – but remember that people don’t care about your story unless it’s about them, too.
Always be simple and concise – but know how to use the jargon that defines your industry.
(No wonder we spend so much time staring at a blank page when we sit down to write!)
We’re about to blast through all of that and take you back to purpose of marketing writing in the first place: Communicating, human to human.
Here are five guidelines that will help you write like a human without abandoning best writing practices:
1. Different spaces have different rules
Before you sit down to write, think about the medium.
Way back when telegrams were commonly used, a message might look something like this:
Dear John -(STOP)- I am somewhere far away by now -(STOP)- Do not try to find me -(STOP)- YES -(STOP)- I TOLD YOUR WIFE
If you dipped your quill in ink to write a letter instead, of course you didn’t write -(STOP)- at the end of every sentence!
Now we have email and social instead of telegrams and the Pony Express, but the principle is the same: Write for the medium.
Emoji, abbreviations and acronyms are fine to use on social media in moderation. They help with character limits, and convey the idea that social media is about sparking conversation and engagement in real time (even when you use Edgar to schedule posts).
— MTV NEWS (@MTVNEWS) February 2, 2017
(It’s also okay if emoji aren’t really appropriate for you and your business, too. They’re not for everyone!)
Products and services may change, but your company’s overall brand voice should be strong and consistent, and speak directly to your customer or client. That audience’s background and vernacular might be different from the average bear’s, so feel free to show off your expertise a little and lean into the language of your brand on your website!
If you’re a solopreneur, your blog can be more conversational and more personal than the rest of your website copy. Think of your blog as a place for people to get to know you a little better as you give them news or advice.
(Want to learn more about blogging? You can download MeetEdgar’s Secret Blogging Formula for free!)
Even if you prefer to publish informative articles on your blog, you can still be conversational! Think short, impactful sentences and paragraphs – and find a way to engage readers by asking for their thoughts on implementing your tips.
White papers, B2B publications, and technical sites geared toward a specific industry are spaces to flex your jargon muscles. If your readers are accustomed to technical terms for what you do, you’ll want to show your expertise – so don’t be afraid to use high-level language!
2: Speak to real world results
Everybody has seen what happens when business jargon and adjectives pile up into an unintelligible wall of gobbledygook.
Stuff like this:
Buy my product! It offers an amazing, brilliant, luxurious transformation into the totally butt-kicking glamour queen rock star you were always meant to be.
Hmmmm. What could this mean?
Do you get a makeover?
Do you learn a martial art so you can actually kick actual butts?
And what’s a glamour queen rock star, anyway? (An ‘80s hair band?)
Don’t leave your adjectives out there by themselves.
Instead, support adjectives by giving them meaning!
Say you want to use the word amazing. Ask yourself these questions.
WHO makes it amazing?
HOW do you get amazing results?
WHAT does amazing feel like?
Let’s see what copy looks like if adjectives are supported with the answers to the above questions.
Business 101 for Girls Trapped in Fairy Tales
This amazing six week program is run by Starlight, a former princess turned entrepreneur who believes girls can get out of their castle, slay their own dragons, and build an empire with a solid business model that doesn’t rely on pillaging the neighboring kingdom.
Did you spend your childhood trapped in fancy dresses when your secret idea of glamour was to gallop freely through the forest on horseback? Build your confidence and see yourself quickly transform into the kind of queen that takes charge of your destiny with ease.
This school may not exist, but you sure get a picture of what it’s about! And if you’re the ideal client, it probably does sound kind of amazing.
(Like, really amazing. Can we actually go there, please?)
3: Give brand stories context
Adjectives require support and substance to give them meaning. Brand stories and personal stories require context.
The structure of your brand determines just how much or how little your audience will want to know about you personally.
If you’re a solopreneur, your audience should definitely know your story. Especially for a service-based business, people want to work with someone they know, like, and trust!
That doesn’t mean that you need to tell them your whole life story. Context is key.
Business coach? If your story is about how someone without an MBA can create a successful brand, it’s okay to admit mistakes and vulnerability! Just share mistakes in the context of what you’ve learned from them. This makes you human and relatable while keeping the focus on the client, and how they benefit from your story (they don’t have to make the same mistakes you did).
Tax professional? Not a good idea to talk about how much you hated math in high school and that your parents made you study accounting – that doesn’t benefit your client. After all, they are trusting you to do the math for them.
If you want to mention your high school math issues, put it in context:
“I grew up in a family of accountants, but in high school, math didn’t really excite me. However, when I learned how smart accounting makes or breaks a small business, I became interested in using my aptitude for numbers to help local businesses thrive.”
Larger company? Try putting some context into employee bios to show how each hire is a perfect fit for the culture and environment you are trying to create. For example, if Ted was a consultant for local nonprofit organizations before landing a role in PR at your agency, maybe he’s fantastic at building community. (And PR is all about building relationships within the community!)
4: Talk it out
If you’ve ever been stuck in an elevator when someone gives a canned elevator pitch, it can be cringe-worthy. Somehow the words they’ve memorized so studiously sound like a late-night infomercial when spoken aloud.
Don’t let this happen to you!
Speak your copy out loud. You’ll know right away whether it sounds too technical for the audience, awkward, or overly familiar.
If you have someone read to, even better! They should be able to grasp and summarize your main points without having to ask for clarification.
Just be sure to choose someone similar to your target client. If your cat can grasp all the points of your aeronautical engineering white paper and he isn’t an engineer himself, you might want to dig into your topic a little deeper!
(Also, congratulations on having a very smart cat.)
Bonus: Talking it out is also a great way to pick up mistakes that your eyes naturally gloss over when reading. The more familiar you are with something, the harder it can be to catch mistakes!
5: Don’t be afraid to recycle
When you take the time to carefully craft language for social, website, blog, and industry use, you’ll build a resource you can turn to time and again.
Catch phrases and headlines return again and again for a reason. They help you identify a brand – so don’t be afraid to reuse and recycle your best stuff!
Not many people will read every single word your business ever writes in every single medium. In fact, you’re probably the only person who will!
That means the words you write can have more than one application – blog posts turn into video scripts, landing pages turn into emails, carved stone tablets turn into social media updates. (And social media updates can be used again and again over time!)
See? It works!
Who does it best?
There you have it – a few handy tips to keep in mind when you want to write like a human!
Got a favorite trick of you own for perfecting your voice?
Or maybe a fave business you think does it especially well?
Let us know in the comments below!