Step Away From the Computer: The Best Kept Secret to Great Content Writing

Lessons I Couldn’t Learn Online

“Give up!” begged my hands. “You have googled,” they moaned. “You have bookmarked,” they barked.  “One of us has tendinitis!”

“Look hands,” I answered.  “I ‘m learning ‘how to write social media,’ so I’m studying posts on ‘how to write social media.’”

But my hands were right. I realized I wasn’t learning much. My posts weren’t bad. But compelling?  Not even close.

Throwing convention to the wind, I unplugged. I ignored the internet. I went out and bought a real notebook– one with paper. I registered for a Social Media Writing class at UC Berkeley Extension that (gasp) met in a classroom.

Why I learned in class

What was I missing online? The following lessons:

1. A compelling blog post is first, a well-written blog post. Craft comes first. Readers know the difference.

2. There is no better place to learn to write well than in a class of writers.  With my work splashed across the screen for weekly discussions, my motivation to edit jumped a notch–or three.

3. A well-thought out writing process is as important for creating social media content as it is for other written work. An instructor well-versed in the form can provide clear guidelines.

4. Feedback and class discussion are far more educational than pages of internet flotsam.

How to Improve Your Content Writing:
Tips courtesy of my real-life classmates:

  • Build a structured framework; add elegant content: Create a clear path through your content with structure: headlines, subheads, and lists.  Add text with flair. Edit concisely.
    Ciana– topic, brand development
  • Produce passionate pieces: Convey enthusiasm—it’s contagious. You will create a voice that persuades your audience. David– topic, internet safety
  • Hone your writing craft:  Want to be taken seriously? Write well. Professionals seek advice from other professionals. Work on mastering the language. Laurel– topic, microbusiness
  • Use a personal point-of-view: Don’t hide who you are. Your unique point-of-view breathes life into your content. People do business with people they like; readers read authors they want to know. Catherine—topic, travel photo app
  • Look close-to-home for topics: Readers relate to concrete examples. Personalize the abstract with close-to-home examples.  For example, are you writing about going “green?” Place the sustainability issue directly in the hands of your readers.  Suggest they hold– and consider– the destination of a Starbucks disposable cup.  Kathrin–topic, sustainability
  • Don’t be an expert: Not a topic expert? No problem. Just let your readers know your stance.If you are undergoing a career change or learning a new skill, write as you learn. Your readers will appreciate a jargon-free take on a well-worn topic. Judy–topic,  real estate
  • Experiment for results: Work smart not hard. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches for FB, Twitter and your blog. Then measure audience feedback. To save time and effort, multipurpose content. A press release can become a blog which can become a great Tweet, and so forth. John–topic, coupon website
  • Make them laugh:  Not everyone can be funny, and not everyone should try. But if you can write humorous content, your readers will remember and return for more.
    Daniel–topic, music

Do you think social media writers should excel at the writer’s craft?

How do you gauge the effectiveness of a social media writer?

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