The Basics About Writing Content for Websites, Blogs and Social Media

Note: This post was written as a lesson for my COM107 Writing for the Media students at Rider University…

Defining “content”

The communication messages we present on the Internet — whether the messages are on our blogs, websites or presented through social media channels — are known as “content” to the writers and marketers creating the words and graphics that make up these communication messages.

When you’re writing content, you should follow the same writing principles we’ve learned throughout this course, and you should start by focusing on the “P.A.S.T.” — an acronym that stands for “Purpose. Audience. Style. Tone.”

P – Determine the Purpose of Your Writing

It takes some planning to execute a content marketing strategy. So, right from the start, you need to determine the objectives and goals of your content. Ask yourself:
“What results am I looking to generate through the words I’m writing?” and “What am I hoping to communicate?” Your answers to these questions will help you determine your purpose.

A – Know Your Audience

I wish I could have come up with an acronym that started with the letter “A” — because I would have put this step first: Know your audience. Your audience includes the people you want to target and make connections with through your writing and communication messages. Whenever I’m writing for my blog or on Twitter, I envision the people I’m trying to reach sitting across the desk from me. I’m having a conversation with them. Therefore, my writing “talks” directly to my audience. I’m using a “conversational style,” and this brings us to the “S” in the “P.A.S.T.” acronym…

S – Use an Appropriate Style and/or Structure

The style and structure of your writing can help you reach and connect with your audience. Maybe it’s the familiarity communicated through your writing. Or maybe it’s the way you cleverly attract attention to your blog post, web page or tweet. Keep in mind that sometimes a casual, conversational style is appropriate for content writing — and sometimes it’s not. Also, your writing style and structure must “match” or meet the requirements of the communication channel you’re writing for… For example, if you’re writing a “tweet,” you must keep your writing short and sweet (under 140 characters and spaces). A blog post has less limitations, but you might want to “chunk” your writing by using sub-headlines and bullet points rather than long paragraphs.

T – Establish an Appropriate Tone

The concept of “tone” goes back to the idea of “knowing your audience.” When you’re writing content for the Internet, make sure you’re establishing a “tone” that reflects your understanding of your audience and their needs and expectations. You don’t want to be too casual or too formal. If you’re targeting a more sophisticated or educated audience, it’s okay to use technical words and acronyms — BUT ONLY IF YOU’RE SURE YOUR READERS WILL UNDERSTAND what you’re saying! When you pay attention to the tone of your writing, you’re guaranteed to “engage” or connect with more readers.

Do you have any questions or comments to share about considering the “P.A.S.T.” when writing content for the Internet? Please post your comments here. Thanks for reading! ;-)

Kathy Magrino

P.S.: This post was written as a lesson for my COM107 Writing for the Media students at Rider University. They’ll be completing the following assignment here:

Today’s In-Class/Homework Assignment:

Review the information on this handout (also posted on my blog at www.thewriteway.com) and then review this blog post by Ardath Albee:

Writing content is not a job for sissies

Ms. Albee offers her perspective about writing content for the Internet. Please read the blog post and then answer the following questions:

1. How does Ms. Albee’s perspective about writing content for the Internet differ from mine?

2. How are our perspectives the same?

3. Review the blogs, websites and social media channels that you regularly visit on the Internet and tell me if you find any evidence of our content writing strategies in the posts and content you read. If possible, share an example.

POST YOUR ANSWERS as a comment on my blog post by the end of the day, Thursday, April 7, 2011. Thank you! — KM

Comments

  1. Nick Charamis says:

    1. Ms. Albee’s perspective about writing content for the internet is different because she says to “write about your target audience – not to them.” This is different because you are writing about them and their interests, rather than writing about yourself.

    2. Some things about the two perspectives are the same. Such as knowing who your audience is. This also brings other similarities such as establishing a style and tone to the messages. Although Ms. Albee says to write about your target audience and not to them, the four concepts of P.A.S.T. are still found in her writing strategy.

    3. The content of these two different writing strategies can be found everywhere. I found them being used all over the internet.
    An example is how every different person or company on twitter has a different tone in the way they tweet, or talk to people. This is because they all have different audiences and they change the way they talk based on who their audience is.

  2. MyNeshia McKenzie says:

    1. Ms. Albee’s perspective about writing content differs from yours when the subject of audience is addressed. You emphasize speaking directly with the audience and Albee says “Write about your target audience- not to them”. This is the complete opposite of what you are telling us. She says talking directly to them can hurt your promoting.

    2. Both perspectives emphasizes the fact that one must know their audience whether they are talking directly to them or about them. Both state that knowing your audience is a very important aspect of the writing content. There is also emphasis on the style of writing even if it is a cheat sheet.

    3. These writing contents are found everywhere in today’s society. On the blog section of ESPN, people are capable of communicating with each other. Their communication style is in the way and language in which that particular audience will understand. Often times sports lingo may be used, it doesn’t have complicated words because they are considering their audience.

  3. Stefani Williams says:

    1. Ardath Albee’s blog about writing content doesn’t seem endemic to just the internet. This differs from this post because this one is geared towards internet content. Also, Ms. Albee’s post focuses entirely on writing about an audience. This seems to be the entire worth of her message. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as focusing on the audience is an essential aspect of the message in this blog post as well, it just seems that in this one, there are other suggested tips for writing content for the internet as well, such as style, tone, and purpose.

    2. The perspective which is the the same in these two articles is the importance of knowing the audience. In both posts, it is suggested that the audience is the most essential key to writing content for the internet. Another similar perspective presented in these posts which is the same is the way in which content is written. This is represented in Ms. Albee’s post in the idea that one should write “about” the audience and not to them, which is essentially style, which is presented in this article as well.

    3. In websites such as pitchfork.com, and rollingstone.com, both of which are alternative music news sources, style and audience are essential keys to allowing audiences to gaining the information they want from these sources. Often, these websites use a more colloquial tone in their writing, a style that makes them friendlier to their audiences as well as more likable to their readers. Another website that demonstrates the guidelines for writing content for the internet is facebook.com. As a social networking website, they need to be as user-friendly as possible. On their homepage, users may sign up for an account if they don’t have one already, which makes their product very accessible to the “buyer.” They also put advertisements with the option to “Like” them on the sidebars of their pages so that they can still sell something to their users, as well as make these products and events more relatable to their audiences.

  4. 1. Ms. Albee’s perspective about writing content for the Internet is different from yours because she talks about “writing about your target audience – not to them.” On the other hand, you tell us to speak directly to the audience and use the advertising voice. However, Ms. Albee disagree because she says that by speaking directly to the audience, it doesn’t really give them anything, the writer is just saying what is important to them.

    2. Your perspective and Ms. Albee’s perspective are the same in that you guys both think writers should know their audience. By knowing your audience, you guys believe that it will help motivate them to do what you actually want them to do. You guys also agree that the tone and way it is written is also important.

    3. In a website/blog that I regularly visit called perezhilton.com, I have found content writing strategies in the posts. On perezhilton.com, it is mainly about celebrities and gossip about them. Perez Hilton knows his audience because he delivers what they want to hear and they love it. He has many comments and responses back from his blogs that he posts. He talks in a way where it is very easy to understand and is very conversational. Perez Hilton has a purpose of sharing celebrity news with his fans and knows that it is his one and only purpose: to keep fans updated on their favorite celebrities. His website is viewed by many fans because his tone is very easy to understand and his style and structure is as well.

  5. Jade Marzan says:

    1. Ms. Albee’s opinion on writing content for the internet is that when one is writing they should be writing about there audience. Ms. Albee is basically saying that they should put themselves in the audiences shoes. This differs from your opinion because you are saying that we should write for our audience. Which is different from Ms. Albee because she says that when one writes for the audience they are not really connecting with said audience and getting the message across.

    2. Ms. Albee’s perspective and your perspective are similar because you both say that we should get to know you audience. You say that we should know what audience we are writing for and who’s attention and who it is we are trying to attract and gain interest from in our writing. Ms. Albee basically says the same thing because she says that we should always write about the audience and what they will like. So in a way you guys have a similar feel on the way one should approach their audience.

    3. Two examples of this are perezhilton.com and mediatakeout.com, both of these websites are about celebrity gossip. They follow both your and Ms. Albee’s point of view and opinion. Though Perez Hilton is most times more accurate than media takeout they both appeal to what their audience and fans want to read, which is gossip.

  6. Rakiya George says:

    1. The perspectives differ because Ms. Albee is based on writing about your audience and not to them. Your perspective is more of a means of planning who the audience is, how the tone and style should be, and the purpose.

    2. The perspectives are similar because regardless of how you get to the point, the audience and purpose is made.

    3. I checked the Forever21 twitter page which is pretty much like a blog and they use both your strategy and Ms. Albee. They already assume that their followers are customers to their store and they keep the purpose, tone, style, and audience the same.

  7. Amanda Grisafi says:

    1. Ms. Albee believes that it is better to talk about the audience instead of to the audience. She says that writing about someone means you know them really well and this will help get your message across instead of slipping into too much ad voice that might isolate the audience.

    2. Both ways, have a focus on the audience. If either approach is used effectively it is going to reach the audience. I can see how too much ad voice could lose a reader. However, I think to talk to your audience you need to know them so both perspectives mean you have to know your audience and if either way is well written it is going to be effective.

    3. I thought of a video blog series on youtube called What the Buck? which is a scripted commentary by Michael Buckley about celebrity gossip. He knows his audience well and converses with them by requesting suggestions, having them comment and answer questions, and he has live chats with his followers. He talks directly to his audience and converses with them but he also follows the bulleted list that Ms. Albee posted. I think he is a blend of both views on how to reach an audience. In addition, his purpose, tone, and style are the same in all his videos.

  8. Melvin Vazquez says:

    1. The first difference in the advice given by Ms. Albee is that she tells you to write about your audience, instead of to them, as opposed to your idea of talking to your audience as if they were across the desk from you. Also, Ms. Albee focuses on only one type of writing, sales, and already defines the purpose of the writing for the reader, rather than asking the reader to consider the purpose for his/her writing.

    2. The perspective of both post are very similar in that they stress the need to know your audience and speak about their needs in a way that is appealing to the audience.

    3. I often read articles from CNET about technology topics and they usually speak to the audience that is likely to read their website in things such as tone and content, and addressing the issues that their audience want to know about.

  9. Laura Rista says:

    1. She wants us to write about our audience, rather than writing to them. This makes sense because if we know them, we know their wants and needs. It is important to find out what motivates them. Change the word talk to think.

    2.Both of you have the target audience in mind, but Magrino’s states that tone, style (chunking), and having a purpose are important as well. You emphasize talking more with the audience.

    3.The Rider website is a great example of using good writing content. Under student life Arts and Culture, they use chunking and it is speaking about the audience. They know that there are students that are looking to have an arts degree or looking for an extra arts activity after class.

  10. Shannon Aloise says:

    1. Mrs. Albee tells her readers to write about their target audience. You advise your readers to know them and make your writing something that they would want to read. The difference is writing for the audience rather than about the audience.

    2. Knowing as much as you can about the audience is just as important to you and Mrs. Albee. Whether you are writing about the target audience or for the target audience, the important thing is that there is a target audience.

    3. Yahoo.com most definitely uses the F pattern. The links to click are along the left side, Yahoo’s search bar is along the top and below it is the headline news. You can also tell that the site is designed for skimmers.

  11. 1. Ms. Albee’s opinion about writing content for the web is different from yours because she discusses that you should be “writing about your target audience”. You shouldn’t be writing too them. In ur opinion you use A for “knowing your audience” you use a conversational style that talks directly to the the audience that your targeting.
    2. Your opinions are siminal in a way that we should get to know our audience. We should know which audience that were talking. Which include the type of language that is used as well as, the tone.
    3. I checked propaintball.com website and twitter page. They pretty much use that website to talk about the news that is going on in the paintball world. It varies from players to new gear and guns coming out in the near future. I also looked at express.com that targets people who like wearing calling for casual and dress occasions

  12. Bridget Guardia says:

    Ms. Albee’s perspective is quite different from yours when it comes to “talking” to your audience. Ms. Albee believes in talking about your audience and not to them, this way it catches their attention more. You draw them in and make them realize that they want “to buy” whatever it is you’re selling to them.
    Both of your perspectives are similar when it comes to knowing who your audience is and what exactly you are trying to say. Both also agree that one must research the audience so that we can reach them more effectively.
    Examples of both writings are found everywhere. It depends on how you are reaching your audience (blog, tweets, etc.) All websites seem to have their different tones and way of communicating with their audience. But both ways seem to have some effect regardless.

  13. Vanessa Maldonado says:

    1. Ms. Albee’s perspectives on writing differ from yours because she says you should write about your audience not to them. In your perspective you have somewhat of a “conversation” with them.

    2. The perspectives are the same because the main point of the writing content is the audience.

    3. On Twitter, I found that stores I shop at like H&M and Forever 21 use a tone that relates to their audience and focus on things that will attract their audience. Other businesses use a more professional tone, for example, CNN and Fox News.

  14. Tara Dalrymple says:

    1. Ms. Albee’s perspective differs from yours because she writes about the target audience, not to them. The style of writing you taught us is to know your target market and write to them.

    2. Your perspectives are same because they both focus on the audience, which is the most important factor for a writer to consider before they begin writing. It does not matter if you are writing towards them or about them.

    3. The writing strategies we learned in class are seen on the Internet all over. An example of this is on Ellen DeGeneres page on twitter. Almost all her tweets are either talking to her audience telling them to do something or talking about them.

  15. Katie Zak says:

    1. The biggest difference between Mrs. Albee’s persepective and yours is that she believes that when it comes to knowing your audience, you need to write about your audience rather than to it. She believes that writing from a third-person point of view rather than a first-person, direct point of view will do a better job in securing the targeted audience’s business. In addition, she also firmly states that you need to turn your audience in buyers rather than keeping them at prospective buyers by convincing them that they don’t think they need the product, they should know they need the product.

    2. Your perspectives are the same however, when it comes to knowing who your audience is and understanding their needs. It is important that you know who you are speaking to and what kind of tone and language you need to use to make your company or product more appealing. It is also important when getting to know your audience that you are sure of just how much you should write when trying to reach them.

    3. Of course I am going to reference my favorite clothing store for this one- Forever 21. On their Twitter account, they use the first-person voice rather than the third-person as they talk directly to potential customers asking them questions and stating facts that they might find interesting or that really stand out to them. Here is an example of one of their tweets:

    “Want amazing, affordable deals? Our Fabulous Finds don’t disappoint!”

    Here they talk directly to the audience and use adjectives that would peak their interest and get them to look more into their “Fabulous Finds”. They also included a link to their website page with the “Fabulous Finds” as their call-to-action, making it quick and easy for a customer to shop their brand.

Speak Your Mind

*