Tag Archive | "Delight"

How to Write Conversationally: 7 Tips to Engage and Delight Your Audience

engage readers with a conversational writing style

How often do you shrug your shoulders and press delete after reading a marketing email?

Many marketing messages make us cringe. They don’t sound like a human being wrote them. They don’t engage. They lack personality and feel cold-hearted.

It’s not surprising.

At school, we learned grammar rules. We learned how to write and spell, but we didn’t learn how to use language to connect with our readers. We didn’t learn how to engage, persuade, and inspire.

But readers crave a human touch.

When we read conversational content, we instantly feel a connection with the writer. We feel like we’re getting to know him. We start to like him.

As content marketers, we know this is our aim. When readers get to know, like, and trust us, we create opportunities to market our services and sell our products. We know we need to write conversationally, but how?

You might think writing in a conversational style requires recording yourself talking and typing out what you said. But have you ever seen a word-for-word transcript of an interview?

It’s full of wishy-washy words, grammar mistakes, and unfinished sentences. People rarely speak proper English when they talk. That’s normal.

Conversational text is a lot tighter than spoken language. So, writing conversationally doesn’t mean you write as you talk. Instead, edit your text so it doesn’t sound like writing.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” – Elmore Leonard

Specific editing techniques help make your content sound more conversational.

Shall I show you how to use them?

1. Quit writing to everyone

Imagine writing an email to a list of 10,000 people.

When you think about those 10,000 faceless subscribers, you probably sound like this:

Thank you to those of you who have donated to our charity appeal. You can still donate here.

It sounds like you’re addressing a crowd, right? The phrase “those of you” feels impersonal.

Now, let’s choose your favorite subscriber. Imagine your biggest fan — she often replies to your emails with praise, and sometimes with questions. Even though you’ve never met, she’s a friend:

Have you already donated to our charity appeal? Thank you so much. If you haven’t donated yet, you can still donate here.

A conversational tone makes readers feel like you’re addressing them personally. As if you two are having a drink at your local Starbucks.

“I’m going to have a green tea. What would you like to drink?”

2. Don’t write to impress

When you talk with your best friend, what kind of words do you use?

Do you try to impress with MBA jargon? Do you use complicated words?

To write conversationally, skip the gobbledygook and make your content more specific. For instance, look at this copy:

Pioneering software from the market leader. Schedule your social media updates with our award-winning all-in-one app.

Now, here’s the conversational version:

Save time with our new app. Schedule all your social media updates in one go.

Empathy is the foundation of a good conversation. Understand the problems your readers are struggling with, and address those problems using their words.

Write to engage and help.

“Would you like a ginger cookie with your coffee? Or a blueberry muffin?”

3. Make it a two-way conversation

When writing, we can’t see the person on the other end of the conversation. So, we forget to engage our readers and merely write from our own perspective.

Here’s an example of how self-importance sneaks into our content:

Sign up to get on our list, and we’ll send you our weekly email with marketing tips.

Note how “we” and “our” are both self-referring pronouns. Here’s how to focus on your reader instead:

Grow your business with smarter marketing. Sign up now to get weekly emails with marketing tips.

To spot your self-important sentences, look for the sentences with “I” and “we.” Edit them to highlight benefits for your reader.

But don’t feel you need to replace all instances of “I” and “we.” You don’t need to hide yourself.

If you’re a one-person business, use “I,” “me,” and “my.” And if you write on behalf of a team, feel free to use “we,” “us,” and “our,” when appropriate.

A good conversation goes two ways: A little bit about “me” or “us.” A little more about “you.”

“How was your weekend?”

4. Add a dollop of personality

Think about your friends or favorite colleagues. Why do you enjoy chatting with them?

It’s the small stories you share. You might discuss a bad referee decision in Sunday’s match, the movie you went to yesterday, or where you can get the best steak.

Your friends talk about more than their specialty subject.

It’s the same with your content. If you only discuss your topic of expertise, you show yourself as a one-dimensional expert. It’s kind of boring.

Think about how you can inject your personality into your blog posts, emails, or sales copy:

  • Share the mistakes you’ve made so your readers can learn from them.
  • Use a personal anecdote to illustrate a point.
  • Create your own style of metaphors.
  • Tell readers why you’re on your mission to change the world.
  • Add a personal P.S. to your emails — even if it’s an unrelated comment about the weather or your latest cycling trip.

When you sprinkle a little bit of yourself over your content, readers get to know you.

That’s when content marketing becomes magic.

“Yeah, my weekend was good. My sister came over from the Netherlands. Luckily the weather was good.”

5. Engage with questions

Do you pose questions in your writing?

Research has shown that questions in tweets can get more than double the amount of clicks. And what’s more, they can even boost your persuasiveness.

In his book To Sell Is Human, Daniel Pink explains that a question makes readers think — they process your message more intensely. And when readers agree with you, your question is more persuasive than a statement.

Note the difference between:

You ought to include questions marks, so your writing becomes more conversational.

and:

Want to make your writing more engaging? Add a few questions.

Questions are a powerful technique for engaging and persuading your readers. They keep readers invested in your content.

“The weather is nice today, too. Shall we sit outside?”

6. Shorten your sentences

A standard tone of voice in marketing often sounds boring and robotic, and an academic tone creates a certain distance, too, as if you look down on your readers.

Both styles tend to use unwieldy sentences — and those long sentences are tiring to read. To make your content more readable, chop up long sentences.

Here’s a long academic sentence:

Presenting yourself only as an expert makes you one-dimensional, but when you tell short stories about yourself in addition to sharing your knowledge, you become a multi-dimensional human being, and you become a more fascinating person in your reader’s eyes.

Phew. Did you run out of breath? That’s forty words in one sentence.

Here’s the conversational version with only nine words per sentence on average:

Presenting yourself only as an expert makes you one-dimensional. Perhaps even a bit boring. But when you tell itty-bitty stories about yourself, your hobbies, and your life, you become a real human being. You become more fascinating.

In grade school, we received praise for using difficult words to write complicated sentences. In college, we read verbose sentences stuffed with words derived from Latin and Greek.

That’s how we learned to write to impress.

We didn’t learn how to communicate our message, write with clarity, and be persuasive. To engage our readers, we must unlearn what we learned in school.

Put your readers first. Make your message simple. Chop your sentences down.

“Nice shirt you’re wearing. I like the color. Suits you well.”

7. Don’t drink coffee with your high school teacher

Just thinking about my high school teachers puts me on edge. I get nervous about making mistakes. I worry about sounding crazy. I fear not living up to their expectations.

And that’s how writing becomes stilted.

Following grammar rules usually makes content easier to read. However, certain rules may actually hamper readability. So, give yourself permission to break them:

  • Use broken sentences. Broken sentences don’t necessarily befuddle readers; they often add clarity. By stressing words. (Like that.)
  • Start a sentence with “and,” “but,” or “or.” Because it makes your content easier to read and less monotonous. More dynamic. Enthusiastic.
  • Create one-sentence paragraphs to stress specific statements and give readers room to breathe. A short silence in a conversation is okay, right?
  • Feel free to occasionally use … uhm … interjections like “Ouch,” “Phew,” and “Duh.” They add emotion and a touch of casualness to your writing voice.

Writing is not about sticking to grammar rules. It’s about communicating ideas with clarity and personality.

So, please come along for a cup of tea and a chat, but don’t bring your grammar teacher with you. She’ll strangle our conversation with her pedantic remarks.

“Your hair is getting long. You should get a haircut.”

Embrace the power of your voice

Do you ever think back to a conversation you had with a friend? Do you hear her voice in your head?

That’s how readers should experience your content. Let your words linger in their minds. Inspire them long after they’ve read your words.

In a world of endless pixels and meaningless likes, we crave human connections and voices that resonate with us.

So, be yourself. Brew a cup of green tea. Offer your readers a slice of homemade cake.

And have a cozy chat.

“Sugar?”

The post How to Write Conversationally: 7 Tips to Engage and Delight Your Audience appeared first on Copyblogger.


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8 Ways to Delight the Pants Off Your Community – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by jennita

Ahh yes, Community. One of the most important areas of SEOmoz. We've come to realize that growing and nurturing our community isn't just great for business, but it's great for our members and for the greater marketing community. Think of it this way: the more you can get a community member to participate, the more they learn and share their knowledge, the richer the whole community becomes. I could go on for days about the importance of Community, but perhaps another time :) .

Keeping your community happy (or at least showing them you care) is one of those aspects that is uber important, but doesn't get discussed nearly enough. Today, I'll be talking about just that! I'm excited to share some tips on ways to make your community *happy dance* their way into becoming lifelong fans. So sit back, relax, and learn how to delight and surprise your community – one cupcake at a time!

Video Transcription

"Hey, SEOmoz fans. I'm Jen Lopez. I'm the Director of Community here at SEOmoz. So of course today I'm going to talk about eight different ways that you can delight the pants right off of your community members, and by pants I mean not pants, but anyway, we'll get into that a little bit more.

So, the first thing, something that we do here at SEOmoz is we give them points. Now, that could be brownie points. It could be actual money. It could be whatever you want to give them, stars, but something that lets them know that the activity that they're doing, the stuff that they're doing that they're doing a good job, and where people can actually tell them "You're doing great," whether it's like on Instagram, you can "heart" something. I actually always love that. I like it better than a Like because a heart has a little more power than a Like, and on Instagram, when I post something and I get a ton of people hearting my stuff, I get really excited. My pants don't come off, but I do get very excited.

Number two, you have to be sure to actually thank them. So, if somebody does something really nice, you should thank them. You're going to notice that all these really boil down to the last point, but I'm not quite there yet, so I'm not going to go there. But thanking them, taking that step, whether it is on the site in a comment, whether it's via Twitter, it's on Facebook, it's in an app, it's in a forum, whatever the case may be, if you thank someone, thank them for giving you feedback, thank them for their comment, whatever the case may be, the little, tiny step of saying thank you actually makes a huge difference to somebody. I know that, for me personally, I've been absolutely delighted in other communities when I've been participating and someone has said, "Thank you so much for your help with this, we really appreciate it." It absolutely makes a world of a difference.

The third one is be human. This is in your messaging across the site. If your site is down or you're having issues, rather than just saying, "Oh, hello, I am a bot and my site is down, and you must come back later," if you had a little bit of personality and actually show that you give a crap about your community and the people who are using your site, they're really going to appreciate that. If you say, "I'm really sorry, we're having issues right now, we'll be back as soon as possible, check us out on Twitter," whatever the case may be, we all know the fail whale. That's because Twitter, although we hate to see the fail whale, we all know about it and we actually kind of like it. Twitter has even spruced it up over the years, and it shows that they're human, that they care, that they found a design, and people really latched on to it. There are T-shirts out there with the fail whale on it and all of this.

So, actually be human. In everything that you do, make it known that there's a human behind it. If you're running your Twitter account, you're running your Facebook account, don't make it be like, "Well, we're a big organization and you're talking to a big bean." You're talking to a human and make sure that they know that.

The next one is show some personality. For us, it's sort of fun when we are engaging with the community on Twitter or Facebook, we get to be Roger. We get to be a robot. It's a lot more fun to be like, "beep, I love candy apples," or whatever the case may be that Roger seems to like that day. It's easy for us to put some personality into it. But that's another thing. It goes with "your site's down." We actually recently had somebody write a blog post about how much he enjoyed our "site down" message, and then he tweeted to us and we sent him back a response with a picture of Roger and he really enjoyed it. He wrote a blog post about it, which he then linked to us. So just by showing some personality and being human and doing all these things, we actually got a link out of it, not specifically on purpose, but because we're building this community and we actually care and we're working hard to do that.

The other thing is you have to make it easy. Nothing frustrates a user more than getting to a website and not being able to do what you want to do, whether it is to simply leave a comment, whether it is to sign up for a paid account, whatever it is, even if it's Twitter or if it's Facebook, make sure it's easy for the end user.

I like to really talk about Lady Gaga's community. This sounds really silly, but if you go to LittleMonsters.com and walk through the sign-up process, you will see what an excellent community is and how easy it is to sign up. They walk you through step by step, telling you everything that you're doing along the way. They pull in your information from Facebook or Twitter, wherever you want it to come from. You can change it. Then, as soon as you're in, they walk you through how to use the community. I'm actually quite a fan of Lady Gaga, and I don't participate in the forums or anything. But we have actually used their sign-in process and on boarding process quite a bit here at SEOmoz when we've been working to build our community even more.

So make it something that, whether it is sharing content, whatever it is, if you want somebody to write a YouMoz post, we don't make that super easy. That's one of the things that we actually need to work on. But make it really, really easy for your community to do things, and they will be happy as pie. Although hopefully, they'll still have their pants.

The next one is take it to e-mail. I've had this personally happen to me several times, and from that I have then starting using that within our own community. One time I was in New York City, and I had paid for the WiFi and it was about 11 o'clock at night and I tweeted from my phone because I couldn't get on WiFi. I tweeted about the WiFi problem at this hotel. Well, the next afternoon, I received an e-mail from somebody saying, "We saw your tweet. We've actually gone to your room. We fixed the problem. Your WiFi issue has now been solved and you don't have to pay for WiFi the rest of your three night stay."

My pants almost fell off, because I was so excited about that, and I've actually talked about it in almost every one of my presentations since, because I was absolutely floored that they went above and beyond. I sent a tweet. They read my tweet, and they found out who I was. Okay, it's maybe a little stalkerish, but I'm okay with it cause I signed up with my e-mail address. Anyway they were able to find me and help me out.

More recently Sprout Social, we've been testing them out. We're testing out various social management software. We're trying out Sprout Social, and I got a tweet from someone who works there that says, "Oh, we really love you guys. I'm glad you're trying it out." The next thing I know, we get a bunch of cupcakes in the mail. That has nothing to do with the e-mail. That was actually number seven, that rolls right into that one. I am so ahead of myself here.

Number seven is take it offline, and some of that goes with the e-mail, if you can reach out to the person. Sometimes we'll have someone in the comments who's having issues or wants to ask more questions or whatever. We reach out to them and say, "Hey, I'm here. I'm a human. I'm here to answer your questions and figure out how we can help." So, whether you're doing that in e-mail, on the site or on Twitter, whatever the case may be.

Then the next step is to really take it offline, like I said. Send them something nice. So we received cupcakes, which if you follow me on Twitter or you've ever seen me speak like at MozCon or something, you probably know that I really like cupcakes. I actually think it might be in my Twitter bio. So all they had to do was look at my Twitter bio that said, "I love cupcakes," and they sent me cupcakes.

Now, are we going to use Sprout Social? I'm not 100% sure, but I guarantee that every time we talk about it, I'm like, well let's not forget about Sprout Social because they remembered I liked cupcakes. So take that when you're trying to woo a community member.

The last thing, and it's something I've actually talked about through the whole thing, is just to make it personal. They're a human on their end. If you make it personal for you, that you care about what they're saying, you care about what they're asking about, again we're talking whether it's on social, whether it's within your app, it's on a forum, it's on your blog, whatever the case may be, just remember that they are human and you are human and they're having a bad day. I can do a whole Whiteboard Friday someday on how to deal with trolls, and one of the biggest things will always be to remember that they are human also. They may not act like it, but when it comes down to it, if you treat them like a human being, they're going to respect that a whole lot more.

So that is today's Whiteboard Friday, and I believe I went through everything, and hopefully you still have your pants on. I'm hoping. Everybody got your pants? Checking? Okay.

Everybody have a really great week, and we'll see you next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Thank you."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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