A guide to writing online for small businesses
This is a guide for writing online for the ‘non-writer’, small business owner, sole trader or entrepreneur. As a small business owner, you may not think of yourself as a writer. The fact is, maintaining your business’ online presence requires a lot of writing.
‘Writing online’ is more than just blogs.
Examples of writing online:
- Social media posts
- Comments and replies
- Emails and messaging
- Website content
8 Quick Tips for Writing Online:
- Write authentically
- Think of your customer
- Think of your brand
- Be clear and concise
- Keep sentences short
- Avoid complicated language
- Write as if you’re speaking
- Use sub headings
The Truth About Writing Online
The truth about writing online is, there are no hard and fast rules. The best way to approach writing online is to make it your own. When writing, people often get caught up in grammar and punctuation. While grammar is important, the main objective of writing online is to write for your customers.
Copywriting is a skill to harness the power of words. Words are a powerful tool that can be deliberately manipulated to invoke a result or reaction.
As a self-professed word nerd, when you mention ‘copywriting’, people often think of editing, proofreading and grammar. But, it’s really just writing! Writing can be as simple or as complex as you make it.
While I find the art and science of copywriting fascinating, others don’t. And I don’t blame you!
There’s no need to overthink it or complicate it.
Tips for Writing Online
Writing authentically means to choose the content and style of writing that comes naturally. The writer and the reader both benefit from authentic writing and here’s why:
First of all, it’s much easier to write about topics you know well. What’s more, it’s much easier to read content from a knowledgeable writer.
Chances are, if you run your own business, you have knowledge that’s worth sharing. The key to writing authentically is to choose the content and style that’s compatible for you and your brand.
Think about it; you naturally expect a lawyer, accountant or politician to write with a professional and serious tone. However, a serious tone may conflict with their personality and the way they interact with their customers. So, to write authentically, they could adapt their tone to a more friendly or approachable one.
Try this Exercise:
- Start with a word doc or spreadsheet
- List adjectives that describe your brand
- Refer to this list when reviewing your writing
Online, your writing should reflect you and your brand.
Think of your customer
What would your customers want to read about? Think about the questions you’re regularly asked by customers and use this as your main topic for a blog or series of social media posts.
Think of your brand
If your brand were a person what would they talk about and how would they say it? Or, if that concept’s a little too abstract – imagine your ideal or favourite customer; how do they speak? When writing online, be sure to use the language and tone that suits your industry and brand.
Be clear and concise
Before you begin writing, identify your main topic and list your supporting points. This process provides a strong foundation for you to begin writing. Also, it helps ensures you build an argument the reader can follow easily.
Keep sentences short
Keeping sentences short enables the reader to quickly and easily scan through your content. Read your writing aloud. If you need to take a breath in the middle of a sentence, then it may need an edit. If your sentence has more than two commas, I recommend splitting it in two.
Avoid complicated language
Avoid using jargon or industry terms when explaining key concepts. For example, I work with a personal trainer with in-depth scientific knowledge of nutrition and exercise. There’s no doubt that people are interested in these topics. However, to start their blog they needed to find interesting ways to share their knowledge. I recommended making a list of technical topics and translating them into simple concepts their audience would enjoy.
Try this Exercise:
- Start an excel spreadsheet
- In column one, list technical/complex industry topics
- In column two, translate into simple concepts
It should look something like this:
|Technical topic||Simple concept|
|Scientific nutrition research/stats||Healthy diet tips|
Write as if you’re speaking
Literally, write the way you speak. Choose a topic and pretend you’re explaining it to one of your customers. Why? Well, for the reader it’s engaging and easy to read. For the writer, it flows naturally and is easy to write.
Rest assured, it’s ok to use a conversational tone when writing online. Some choose to write in an overly formal or professional tone. Let’s be honest, formal writing is boring. Read through a university or government website – you’ll notice they lack personality. Writing the way you speak instantly adds personality and makes your content more interesting.
Use sub headings
Use headings and sub headings to organise your content. This not only contributes to SEO but also allows the reader to scan and review your content.
Related Topics: SEO Copywriting
What is SEO Copywriting?
SEO copywriting is a skill focused on writing content optimised for search engines.
To that end, an SEO copywriter might offer to re-write website copy, develop a business blog and be involved in other online copy development. Typically, it involves keyword research and ties into a business’ SEO strategy. For small businesses implementing Google Ads, keyword research and SEO strategy is particularly important.
Resources for Writing Online
Grammarly Blog – Writing Tips
Eddie Shleyner – Very Good Copy – Master Fascinations micro-course
David Perell – Guide to Writing Online
Hubspot Tools – Blog Ideas Generator
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