3 things that changed the way we write for the web
The great thing about writing online is that the medium is always changing – the ideas, language and the way people consume content shifts all the time as technology and culture develop. Here are 3 things that changed writing for the web forever…
1. Twitter and Facebook
Way back when, sharing content online was about circulating emails with funny links around the office. Or posting about something interesting on your blog, along with a commentary about why you liked it.
Nowadays, sharing is far more prolific and the barrier to spreading the word is far lower than it used to be. You can share a piece of content with your social networks on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr in a click or two – just hitting the “share” button gives you a pre-populated tweet or Facebook post which pops up on your newsfeed.
What does this mean for content writers? For a start, it means your audience is far less predictable and far more widespread than you may have thought.
It also means your titles and the first few lines of your piece have to work much, much harder. That’s because when content is shared, it’s often only the headline that appears. So your heading and standfirst have to give a clear idea of what your piece is about and why it’s worth reading – all in a few words.
2. User-generated reviews
Online marketing used to be about presenting your products or services in the best way you could, and giving people a clear idea of the benefits they’d get from buying them. Setting out your stall online is a fine art – there are high levels of competition for your audience’s attention and user behaviours are rushed and impatient compared to print. Writing compelling online marketing copy is not easy.
All that still applies. But now there’s an extra dimension to marketing online – providing social proof for what you’re selling. Early reviews on sites like Amazon.com in the early 2000s have paved the way for a widespread culture of user reviews. Nowadays, an honest appraisal from your users is a standard part of your online offering, and most ecommerce sites have a user review function.
What does it mean for content writers? Well, marketers now have to pay more attention than ever to how people actually feel about their products. The way your brand appears on the web is no longer just up to you.
On the one hand, giving up control of how your brand and product is perceived online is frightening. On the other, detailed feedback gives you the chance to pinpoint what really matters to your users. It allows you to write marketing copy that really hits the spot in terms of selling the key benefits of your stuff.
3. Dual-screening and multiple platforms
What do you do in the evening? Watch television? Browse online? Contact a friend on your phone? The answer these days could well be “all 3”. The rise in affordable technology and the widening use of digital media has led to some brave new ways of consuming content. For example, the practice of “dual-screening”, i.e. using more than one device at the same time. You might be watching a TV show while tweeting along on your phone, or browsing on a tablet while you’re watching a movie or listening to a radio show or podcast.
The idea of dual-screening and multiple platforms can be a bit disconcerting for marketers. Not only is your message now competing with other websites and online content, it’s now up against distractions on a whole other platform.
Reduced attention spans and distracted user-behaviour mean that marketing messages have to be lean, single-minded and arresting. Copy thrives when it understands user motivations and gets straight to the point – while a less direct approach is doomed to fail.