writing for your audience

You have more to say than you realize

Show me what you've got to say - I bet it's really good!

Show me what you've got to say - I bet it's really good!

There's a common piece of advice given by big name marketers that says you should only write when you have something to say. It's meant to be applied everywhere - your blog, your newsletter, and social networks. In theory, it makes sense: Don't overload/bore/waste your audience's time with content that you share just to have content to share.

For a small business, with a small audience, that's trying to build up engagement, this is not good advice. Here's why:

1) It requires a critical mass of engaged followers/subscribers.

The marketers who say this have all done their time, building up a good sized audience that trusts their expertise. They have loyal followings that look for their content and interact with it when it comes. As a small business owner, it takes time to build that kind of relationship with your audience. To remain successful with a "write when you have something to say" strategy, you need a critical mass following you. Can your business grow if 50% of your followers convert to paying customers? Depending on the size of your audience and what you do, many can say yes to that. The reality is that most businesses won't convert nearly that many people. So, how many people would it take to build your business to the level you want to reach? Now, you'll likely have to grow an audience that is at least 20 times that size (or more!). That's why it's important that you know that when content isn't delivered regularly, your audience will not grow consistently or as fast.

2) Credibility starts with visibility.

The point of posting content regularly is to keep your business and expert content top of mind with your audience. If they don't see or hear from you on a regular basis, they can't learn to trust what you have to say. Whether you're sending a newsletter, writing a blog post, or posting to social media, each of those touch points is an opportunity to provide value that builds your credibility as an expert in your field. As your audience sees the information you share, they will respond in various ways: by filtering it out or ignoring it, reading it, taking some kind of action - like, comment, share, tweet, or apply it to their work. Each of these responses is important - some can be measured and give valuable insight to you for future content. Stay visible with your content by delivering consistent 

3) You have more to say than you realize.

Has anyone ever said, "There's a reason we have two ears and one mouth," to you? Human nature is that we like to talk and some people need a gentle reminder that listening is important too. It's a rare person who truly doesn't like or want to talk. Posting content without thought or for the sake of putting something out there isn't valuable to you or anyone else. But if you think about the interactions you have with your customers and clients each day, how many times did you find you had nothing to say to them? What about associates? 

On January 13, 2015, Lara and I are leading a Content Mindset Workshop that will help you see how much content you truly have. Whether you've been creating content for many years or you're just starting out, we have some exciting plans for this day that will help you look at the creation of content from a different angle. We're going to spend time teaching about various types of content, and tools and tactics that can help you create more effective content. You'll walk away at the end of day with content to use for your business. We strongly believe that you have more to say and this workshop is designed to draw those things out of you - for the benefit of your audience and your business.

Join us - I promise you won't regret it!

Are you giving your audience value?


There are several phrases I use over and over again because they are key to online success. Today I’m focusing on one of them  - give value to your audience.

We’ve talked about the importance of understanding your brand and how important it is to be thoughtful in what you post, but there is something else you need to keep in mind. If you go too far off course from your brand, values, and promises, you will bore or irritate your audience into un-following you.

How do you figure out if you’re sharing content people who follow you value? Let’s break it down:

Who is your audience?

Can you describe your audience? Every audience is different and you need to take the time to really figure out who your audience is. Understanding who makes up that audience, what they like, what they don’t like and what they would like from you is critical in creating the kind of content that can help you build relationships that turn that audience into customers.

Once you’ve figured that out, creating and sharing content that can connect with your audience becomes a lot easier.

What do they value?

Not every audience is looking for the same kind of information. Make sure that everything you share has some kind of connection back to who you are and who your audience is. 

Think about why they followed you in the first place. What would people expect the content to look like coming from your brand? Make sure your content doesn’t go too far off from that.

Things that people value tend to fall into three main categories:

  1. You’re teaching them something,
  2. You’re entertaining them, or
  3. You’re giving them tools and knowledge. 

What don’t they want?

Nobody likes to follow a brand that is only trying to sell to them. That’s valuable to the brand, not to the audience. Make sure that you’re giving your audience something they want or can use so that when you do post some sales posts - and you definitely should - they think so highly of you they’re far more inclined to make the buy.

People don’t want information that has nothing to do with them or that they can’t relate to.

Let’s look at some examples

  • If your main audience is young women about to get married, interesting articles about retirement don’t make sense. 
  • If your main audience is men who want to home-brew their own beer, then funny cartoons about being a new mom don’t make sense.
  • If you promised tips and tricks to help them do something better, just sharing things you’re selling isn’t going to convince them of anything other than that you’re pushy and too sales-y.
  • If you sell hammers, make sure that you talk about the hammers, and the things you can do with the hammers. 

Spend some time thinking about your content and what you’re giving to your audience that they would value. Then share some examples (good and bad) of what you’ve seen or done that relates to giving an audience value.

Can I hear your voice when I read your written words?

Earlier this summer at the last #SoCapOtt twitter chat, Lara sent this tweet:

The statement was so simple, yet so profound and I have thought about it quite a bit in the weeks since. Lara and I both have years of experience writing for the web and have both found our distinct voices. My writing is definitely more formal than Lara’s, but - as much as I wish it weren’t so - I naturally speak more formally too. I have a lot of respect for the way that Lara says things simply and concisely and I know I’m not alone in that.

If you disregard the technical skills of writing - grammar, punctuation and spelling - and focus solely on style, there are two important areas that can influence how your words are received by readers online. 

Active vs. passive voice

Always be cognizant of active vs. passive voice in your writing – online and off. Generally, the experts would say active voice is strongly preferred in most writing, but this is especially true of writing for the web. If you aren’t sure which voice you’re using, these articles may help you: 

This is not to say that passive voice is always wrong – it isn’t! However, choose carefully when you employ passive voice; readers on the web tend to engage better with content that has an active voice. Active voice is easier to comprehend, quicker to read, and gives concrete action. 

I am the QUEEN OF PASSIVE VOICE at times - or I used to be. I’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of passive voice in my writing so that what I have to say has greater clarity and focus. 

Formal vs. Informal

I think formal vs. informal is much more subjective than passive vs. active. If you speak formally, that IS your voice. If you speak informally, that IS your voice. It’s an area where good writers are able to be flexible. They use formal or informal tone as required by the purpose, medium and audience of a piece. However, if you’re all the writing for your small business blog and social networking accounts, you are likely THE voice of the brand and it is appropriate that it should sound like you.

Online, the style that is easier for readers to engage with and respond to is informal, or conversational.

It makes sense; we’re all participating in a conversation on our blogs, social networks, and email that often extends to phone calls and face-to-face meetings. You can’t go wrong if you write conversationally.

Pro-tip: Record and Transcribe

Not sure if you’re writing the way you speak? Instead of typing your next post, record your thoughts and then transcribe. How does it compare to your usual content? 

If you find it’s significantly different and you like the result from transcribing, try out some of the voice to text software that’s available. 

Can I hear your voice when I read your written words?

Who are you talking to?

Do you know who your audience is? Have you ever sat down and thought about who it is you’re trying to reach with your business?

Who is your audience?

For social media (like any other communications and marketing initiatives) knowing who your audience is and understanding them sets the tone for all your messaging.

What do you know about your audience?

Once you know who your audience is, you need to figure out what makes them tick:

  • What do they like?
  • What do they want?
  • What do they need? 
  • How can you help?

“Social Media Simplified” is our tag line. A lot of our audience wants help understanding what they feel is complicated and, at times, overwhelming. They want simple, concise information. They don’t want to feel silly for not understanding when they come to us.

How do you say it?

Speak their language and at a level they feel comfortable with. Don’t talk down to or confuse them by talking over their heads. 

For us it’s avoiding jargon or information that is overly complicated when it’s not necessary knowledge. 

Example: Personal chef

Let’s go through it again with the example of two personal chefs with two different audiences.

The first specializes in catering special events, making delicious and complicated meals, and bringing haute cuisine right to your home.  The second makes home-cooked meals for your convenience.

The audience for the first is high income professionals who want to live an exquisite life.  They want to feel they are getting the best and they are willing to pay for it.

The audience for the second are busy professionals who are willing to pay for the convinience of not having to cook themselves.

The messaging to those two audiences would be very very different and for the most part, not interchangeable.  The first would be all about having the best, treating yourself to what you deserve and bringing a 5-star restaurant right to your home.  The second would be all about convenience, making life easier, and giving you more time and energy for the things that are important to you.

Same job title; completely different messaging based on audience.

Knowing who your audience is (and pick your IDEAL audience instead of saying “anyone who will give me money”) makes all the difference in the way you communicate.

Have you taken the time to figure it out? Who is your audience? Leave a comment and tell us who your audiences are and how you’ve gone about creating content for them - we’d love to hear!