Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Guest Post with Lisa Hannon - Preparing for the Future of Writing

*This post originally appeared here, and is used with permission.

"There are pros and cons for 140 character limits."

Even if Twitter goes away someday, writing short statements with a clear point is good practice.
But me, I’m just not a 140-character kind of girl. I’m only now beginning to utilize Twitter, and to this point, only as a way to point to my blog or to a LinkedIn post.  But, as a very smart guy pointed out to me, it’s not necessarily a vehicle to express yourself; it’s a place to point to the place where you express yourself.  Even so, I still have to write and rewrite anyway, because restricting myself to 140 characters makes me crazy.

Why? Because I write like I speak, and I talk in run-on sentences.  Sometimes you have to wave a hand in front of my face to get me to shut up, as I get verbalicious.  I also have a tendency to invent words.

But Twitter, to me, is pretty much always going to serve as “Hey, hey! Look over there!” It’s a tool to point elsewhere. One big reason is because I find those 140 words dangerous—I can’t explain my way out of terse statements—and how many terse statements have you seen get companies in deep trouble on Twitter?

I have lots to say. I’m a writer. Comes with the territory.
Specialize to monetize
I think all of us have a lot to say. And if you’re not already, it’s time to become the world’s greatest expert in something, whether it’s underwater basket weaving, writing, finance, marketing, technology or some other favorite subject.

People simply won’t follow a blog that’s all over the place. I know this, because I’ve had a personal blog for years that I’m remodeling now. My plan is to think about it in terms of exactly the specialties I’m talking about here—to drink my own Kool-Aid.  My 24 followers just won’t cut it in a world where 24,000 is seen as chump change.

Why would that be again? Because the last part of that heading is “to monetize.”
There are a lot of ways to add passive block advertising to a blog, from Google AdSense to Amazon partnering, and a lot of people who explain that better than I ever could. However, without followers, the big companies are never going to knock on your door, either.

And, if you don’t specialize, you’re simply not going to get followers—so go where they hang out. What do they want to hear? Ask them. Start figuring it out. Start reaching out to the people who might be interested in what you’re writing, and getting the right content in front of them.
Speak to your reader, but don’t exclude new readers
Lastly, blogs and content for the web in general just aren’t textbooks. Write like you speak. Stop worrying about complete sentences.

Don’t get me wrong—you need to spell everything correctly and use reasonably constructed grammar; you don’t want to sound like a complete goober.

I tend to use odd grammar constructions and Southern speech patterns for comic effect, but that’s my persona. I try to use it sparingly in the business venues, but in my Texas community newspaper articles, it’s much more liberally sprinkled into the text, and much closer to my personal daily speech.  Different writing venues mirror my speech patterns in my personal life and my business life.

Wherever you write, you need to know who you’re writing to and for, and specialized, informational blogging is no exception. Keep your voice consistent, and speak to your reader in ways that make them comfortable, and makes them want to hit that “Follow” button.

I pick one person to write for most of the time, and write as if I’m talking directly to him. It happens to be my husband. I also don’t  cuss every third word in my daily speech patterns, so my blogs could also easily get a G rating.

A lot of the millennial-focused blogs have writers who are comfortable cursing when they speak, and when they write.  I’m not their audience, and when I stumble into one accidentally, they make me blink rapidly and leave even faster. But is limiting your audience that much really a good idea?

Bluntly, who’s got more money to spend? My generation? Or theirs?

If I don’t leave, it’s because the content in and around the cuss words is amazing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often—all the f-bombs fuzz my ability to decide whether the rest is worth sticking around to read.

My writing doesn’t exclude the millennials, but their writing often excludes me.  Choices abound. They lost me because they chose to lose me.
Keep it short, but don’t make me jump for nothing
This post is over 800 words, and that’s pushing it. More than a thousand and you’ve definitely lost your reader.

But my biggest pet peeve right now is if you give me a paragraph or two, then make me go to page two for a key piece of information. It’s just transparent clickbait, as we all get more Internet savvy.
 Annoys me.

So, what annoys you?
What makes you go back?
Avoid the first one, and adhere to the second one.
It’s that simple, or as complicated as you want to make it.

 Lisa C Hannon is a 30-year veteran writer and editor, including print, web and video content for business and industry, as well as decades of opinion writing for community newspapers. In her eclectic career, she has served as a newspaper editor, website writer, designer and editor, and a communications consultant, among other less savory occupations such as carnival ride operator. Her awards include honors from the Texas Gulf Coast Press Association for serious and humorous articles, as well as photography. She also won the Telly Award for scriptwriting for a video history of the United States Army. Her blog about writing can be found at www.lisachannon.com.
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