To publish high quality content that lasts, you now need to know both AI and non-AI tools of the trade.
Content writing is an essential skill for social media posts, press releases, and other digital marketing pursuits. Whether you’re a professional content writer, freelance writer, or someone who just wants to get more eyeballs on your message, a clear content writing process will help you reach more people.
- Content creation has emerged as an important strategy for reaching potential customers on social media networks or search engines.
- AI can automate some creative writing efforts. What sets good content writers apart from AI, however, are personality and clarity.
- Most marketing content incorporates writing in some way. Video content transcripts and podcast scripts are powered by writing more than you might think!
The Big Question: Search or Social?
Yes, I know you want to follow your heart’s desire and write about whatever you want. You want to “play the sunset,” like that clarinet player in Mr. Holland’s Opus. (Does anyone else remember that movie?)
If your goal is to get more eyeballs, however, it would be good to better understand how high quality content gets distributed on different platforms. Online publishing is about formatting as much as it is about subject matter.
Before you publish content, decide whether your objective is for the content to be seen on search engines, social media platforms, or both.
How Search Engines Scan Written Content
When a user looks up something on a search engine like Google or Bing, they are then presented with search engine results pages (SERPs). A SERP is a website or blog post. Google and other search engines’ algorithms crawl web pages for high quality content related to certain terms, known as target keywords.
Users who search on relevant topics or industry trends have what we call search intent. Your reader is motivated to take action or learn something new.
When SERPs have engaging content, they line up with a user’s search intent and help convert readers into paying customers. Google wants to give users good SERPs, because if you are consistently served relevant content for your queries, you’ll be more likely to use Google again in the future.
Search engine algorithms weigh many factors when crawling content for a certain keyword. Meta descriptions, internal links, keyword research, and sentence structure are all factors. One big factor that is within your control is consistently creating high-quality content on your website.
Pro Tip:Long form content tends to perform well for SEO.
If you’re trying to write content that gets seen on search engines, prioritize learning about SEO as you become a content writer.
How Social Media Platforms Distribute Content
In contrast, social media content often gets distributed based on whether readers engaged with the content.
Users on social media don’t have the same intent that they have with a search engine. Often, users are logging on simply to log on and browse, in hopes of finding interesting angles, a fresh perspective on a topic, or simply some entertainment.
Although users are less intentional, there are more users, and many users spend a lot of time on social. One study found that TikTokers spend an average of 92 minutes a day on the platform. Social media doesn’t have to always be about video, either; examples of social media that mainly use written content include Medium, Substack, and Threads, for example.
Whether you’re prioritizing search engine content or social media content, aspire to bring readers off of these platforms and onto your email list. Email marketing is one of the most powerful distribution channels we have for reaching a target audience, and it’s heavily powered by content writing.
With that, let’s dive into 8 skills you should consider developing to take your content writing game to the next level.
Content Writing Skills to Develop
No. 1: Learn How to Write a Lead
In journalism school, the very first thing they teach you is how to write a lead. The lead is the point of the story. In news, the lead sentence or lead paragraph comes first, and it summarizes the who, what, where, when, why and how of the story.
You may have heard the phrase “don’t bury your lead” before. This refers to lead writing. You may also sometimes see lead spelled “lede”; these are referring to the same concept.
The reason it’s good to study lead writing is because it teaches you how to get to the point in a very succinct way. I recommend checking out the AP Business Highlights for inspiration. These are single-paragraph stories about events that have happened around the world. Notice how the entire story gets communicated in one paragraph.
As a writing exercise, see if you can summarize some of your stories or ideas into one paragraph.
No. 2: Use AI to Workshop Headline Options
One interesting use of AI chatbots like ChatGPT is revision. Prompt an AI with some existing drafts of things you’re working on, then ask the chatbot to rewrite them in different ways. This can be a nice way to get out of your head regarding the phrasing and wordsmithing that often comes with headline writing.
Headlines must be short, succinct, and exciting. Their job is to inspire a reader to click. A second opinion is almost always helpful, even when that second opinion is from a machine.
When I asked ChatGPT to give me 10 alternative headlines for this article, here are the options i created. Nothing to write home about, but these alternatives give me some formatting ideas.
- "Enhance Your Written Content: 8 Tips to Elevate Your Prose, AI Optional"
- "Mastering Written Content: 8 Pointers for Polished Prose, AI-Enabled or Not"
- "Crafting Compelling Written Content: 8 Strategies for Improving Your Prose, AI at Your Discretion"
- "Boost Your Prose: 8 Tips for Enhancing Written Content, AI Inclusive or Exclusive"
- "Elevate Your Writing: 8 Pointers to Improve Written Content, AI at Your Disposal"
- "Unlocking the Power of Written Content: 8 Tips to Refine Your Prose, AI as an Option"
- "Enhance Your Prose with These 8 Written Content Tips, AI or Manual"
- "Polishing Your Prose: 8 Pointers for Improved Written Content, AI or Non-AI"
- "Craft Better Written Content: 8 Tips to Upgrade Your Prose, AI Flexibility"
- "Written Content Excellence: 8 Pointers to Perfect Your Prose, AI or No AI"
Example prompts in ChatGPT 3.5.
No. 3: Use Anecdotes to Liven Things Up
An anecdote is a short story that makes a point. Stories communicate your ideas in an interesting way, and experienced content writers know how to use them for dramatic effect.
One popular treatment of an anecdote is to use an anecdotal lead. In this strategy, you tell a short story at the start of your content and delay the actual lead. If the story is good, your reader gets invested early on, and the result is stickier, more emotional marketing.
Think about the specific audience for your blog post or video content. What examples or stories would resonate with them?
No. 4: Focus on Short, Succinct Sentences
It’s time to embrace your inner Hemingway.
When we’re creating content for online consumption, we often want our language to be relaxed and conversational, almost like you’re explaining something to your reader at a café.
When we speak, our sentences are often very long. This doesn’t really faze us at the time. However, when we translate this text to a written format, we need to introduce more grammar and syntax to help users process the information.
In general, aspire to write short, succinct sentences. Short sentences are often harder to write. You have to kill your darlings and communicate only the most essential information.
Give your drafts a diligent edit before you press publish. This will make your written content easier to read.
No. 5: Use an AI to Summarize Transcripts or Documents
AI chatbots like ChatGPT are trained on what are known as large language models (LLMs). These bots have ingested massive amounts of written information in order to become fluent in scanning and summarizing documents.
Use this to your advantage. If you have old video scripts or other transcripts, and want to convert those posts into a different digital content format, have an AI analyze and summarize this information.
No. 6: Optimize Content for Mobile Readers
Smartphones have recently overtaken computers as the dominant way users visit websites. The way your content appears on a phone might be different from how it appears on desktop.
Take the time to ensure your content is legible when being viewed on mobile. This means that you have the correct font size and that your paragraphs aren’t too long.
Knowing what makes a good mobile user experience (UX) is an important part of online publishing.
No. 7: Anticipate Questions Your Reader Might Have
When users browse online, they’re often trying to find information or get their questions answered. Think about how you can answer these questions as succinctly as possible.
Consider presenting an idea in more than one format. This helps appeal to different readers’ learning styles. For some, a written explanation is sufficient, but for others, a bulleted list, diagram, or video might be better to help grasp the concept.
Serve your readers and they will look to you again and again for guidance on how to navigate a given industry.
No. 8: Explore Using AI as a Tertiary Source
AI chatbots are often built from what is called a foundational model (FM). This is a templated bot that has been pre-trained on certain volumes of information, and can be customized further later on.
Since most chatbots were trained on historical documents, they can be used as a tertiary source. A tertiary source of information is a source that points you in the direction of other sources to explore. Often, you don’t know what you don’t know; a tertiary source can point you toward other topics you might want to explore.
For example, a ChatGPT prompt on the history of the credit card might yield the names of important figures or financial institutions that you could then go research. AI is often inaccurate, so you’ll want to check these sources yourself.
Example of using ChatGPT as a tertiary source.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Examples of Written Content?
Examples of written content include blog posts, articles, guest posts, ebooks, social media captions, and essays.
How Do You Create Written Content?
- Document your ideas.
- Come up with a strategy.
- Outline what you will write about.
- Produce a quick first draft.
- Revise, edit, and polish.
What Is the Purpose of Content Writing?
Content writing helps you get discovered on social media platforms and search engines. Content projects authority and expertise, and helps prospective customers develop a positive association with your brand.
What Does a Content Writer Do?
A content writer will know how to optimize written content for SEO, while also retaining a brand voice and tone that informs and inspires users to take action.
How Do You Develop Content Writing Skills?
- Learn how to write a lead.
- Practice writing consistently.
- Read the formats you want to write in.
- Develop the skill of self-editing.
- Take writing courses to improve your craft.
Written content helps you spread your message in an authentic, quality way. But it can be a challenge to find your publishing groove.
Continue to improve your craft and you’ll have an easier time establishing momentum. ◆
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