Do These 5 Things to Be a Standout Social Media Writer
“Strong opinions and focused research are the ways to make outstanding content.” -Joe Pulizzi, Host, and Founder, Content Marketing Institute
Writing excellent content is no easy feat, especially since writing style and subject matter can be subjective. Some may read a piece and love it, while others are left saying, “meh.” One thing that cannot be denied, though, whether you love the content matter or not, is a well-written piece is rooted in a strong opinion backed by serious research.
While attending Content Marketing World 2016 in Cleveland Ohio this past September, it became clear that a compelling story sells every time. No matter how you are delivering this content – a blogger campaign, influencer Instagram posts, a viral video, infographics, etc – the content will fail in achieving results unless you can tell a compelling story.
“So how does one tell an amazing story?” I consistently asked myself while listening to case study after case study of campaigns that delivered.
One campaign worth noting was Lego’s Kronkiwongi campaign, which challenged kids to build something that doesn’t exist. All of this head scratching brought me back to the basics. It’s simple, to tell a compelling story, you have to be a great writer. To be a great writer, you have to have the basics mastered. While we often get so caught up in new shiny objects and new ways to promote content and campaigns, the basics get pushed aside.
It’s these little things that add up that you can do every day that will allow you to be a better content producer – day after day, campaign after campaign.
- Read Everyday
There are two types of people in the world if you ask me; those who love to read books and those who don’t. Which one are you? I guarantee I can tell by reading what you write. Now, I wasn’t always a reader. I was not the best student in school. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began reading books. Admittedly, I started out with audiobooks. Books about business.
Over time, I had read so many books and soaked in so much knowledge that I was paralyzed and didn’t even know how to apply what was I learning.
I decided to give myself a break. I just stopped reading. When I ceased reading, my brain also slowed down and my never-ending well of fresh ideas dried up. I realized I needed to start reading again but could not bring myself to read another book about improving myself or my business until I could take the time to apply what I was learning.
Without shame, I picked up the Hunger Games series – because hey, my much younger sister said it was cool. I was hooked. Never had I read for pleasure. I read all three books within two weeks – which for someone who wasn’t a reader growing up, that’s pretty impressive.
Major keys learned after I began reading for fun:
- When you think you’ve hit a wall, you haven’t. You just need to change your path. For me, that was switching up from reading for self-help to pleasure.
- Books rooted in pure enjoyment still have a lot to offer in sharpening your business skills. For me, I learned more about overall tone and voice as each character must have its unique one. In business books, you are limited to what the author’s tone and voice is.
- Reading for fun expanded my creativity levels and most importantly sent a jolt to all my emotions. I felt a spectrum of emotions while reading the Hunger Games and as we all know the content that evokes emotion is what triggers engagement. One minute I was laughing out loud at Katniss sarcasm, then next sobbing over Peeta’s undying love.
- Write Everyday
Seems like silly advice but as the old saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it. I remember once reading a story about a young comedian who found himself in a comedy club with Jerry Seinfeld. He asked him for some tips on being a young comic. Jerry told this young comic that the way to be a better comic is to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes is to write EVERY DAY.
Solid advice from a guy who brought in $267 million dollars during one of his peak earning years.
- Don’t Just Write
WHAT?! I know, I just told you to write every day. When I say don’t write, I mean that you should stop thinking about writing for a minute and get back to the “strong opinion and focused research” part for a bit.
Still write, of course, but give yourself time just to sit on an idea. To research. Research the hell out of your subject matter. Research your target market who will be reading what you write. Research how this content will be promoted. Do the prep work. Make an outline.
- Give Yourself Space
Research often makes me overwhelmed. Okay, I’ve got all this great information, now what do I do with it? There’re two things I like to do after I research. I go hiking or take a long steamy shower – or sometimes both.
I give myself the space to think about the research and to form it into an idea. Usually when I am lost in nature or letting the hot water wash my stress down the tub is when it all comes together for me. Because genius strikes me at the oddest moments – I do make sure to always to have my phone or notepad ready to write down my ideas when they strike.
- Learn From the Best
Working in social media and digital marketing in general, I keep a “student for life” mentality. There is so much to learn. Every morning I wake up to a new shiny feature that was just released on one of our favorite social networks. This advice of being a student for life can apply to any situation, especially writing. There is always room for improvement.
Here are a few professional writers and content developers I adore, and their advice that sticks with me:
Marie Forleo: Bleed in the first line.
Boom. Give it all you got in the first line of copy. If you can hook a reader in the first sentence, there’s a solid chance that they will read until the end because the first sentence will set your standard of writing. When I heard this, I thought back to my high school speech class days and remember this being a tactic I used to often. What a great reminder and delivered in a such a powerful statement that it sticks with me.
Ann Handley: The ugly first draft.
As Ann puts it, “You can’t write well without first writing spectacularly badly.” With client deadlines and Manager’s expectations, it’s tough to leave enough time to write yourself a terrible first draft. Make time. It’s essential.
Ryan Deiss: The hook.
Ryan is the founder and CEO of Digital Marketer – a resource I love for tactical digital marketing know-how. Just when you think you are already interested, Ryan knows how to hook you and take you deep into the funnel of never ending research and insight – which I mean in an endearing way. Similar to Marie’s advice above, but Ryan also knows how to grab you right in the middle or just when you think you are done reading an article he’s got you fiending for the next.
Ernest Hemingway: Write drunk, edit sober.
Okay, so this doesn’t work for everyone, and while I enjoy a nice glass of wine from time to time when doing some late night writing, this advice strikes a different chord with me.
To me, this is more about setting a routine and making writing something you love and look forward to every day. For me, I like to make myself a warm cup of Bulletproof Coffee, listen to some of my favorite songs for 10 minutes, then close out all distractions and buckle down. I need to know that I have ample time to do this – at least two hours. If I know I have an upcoming call or a deadline to meet I can’t do it. I just can’t. The thought of getting started and into the zone than having to stop paralyzes me.
At the end of the day, it was beneficial for me to revisit these basics. Lately I’ve been stuck in editor mode, reviewing other people’s content with a critical eye, and I briefly forgot what it was like to be on the other side – and one cannot be a great editor if one is not a great writer too. 🙂