Writing for mobile and social audiences
Online readers aren’t typical readers. The nature of mobile and social is that readers on both platforms are on the move and pressed for time. They’re looking for instant information, news, and bits of entertainment — with an emphasis on “instant.” Naturally, writing for mobile and social takes a different approach than writing traditional prose.
Because of the abbreviated nature of mobile and social, writers must adapt their writing style to fit inside these small spaces. Not only does your copy need to fit into small spaces, but also it needs to grab and sustain your readers’ attention.
This is old-school journalism speak for an introductory sentence. In online writing, this is the most important copy in your piece aside from your headline. This is assuming your readers get past the headline, which they often don’t. Your lede is not the place for an introductory paragraph like the ones you were taught to write in college. Your lede is your one chance to pique your readers’ interests and reel them in. You only have one chance with your lede. Write, rewrite, and rewrite some more.
Body Copy for Social Media
Writing social media copy is similar to writing a lede. You have only a few sentences to work with, so it must grab your readers’ attention quickly. Because you’re likely trying to get fans and followers to click on a link that leads them to your website, your copy shouldn’t reveal too much. Think of social media copy as your headline. It must be crisp, intriguing, and irresistible.
Body Copy for Blogs & Articles
Nearly half of the time we devote to the Internet is on a mobile device. Additionally, in 2014, Marketing Land reported that 47 percent of adults access social media sites on their mobile phones. You must keep this in mind when you’re crafting your blogs and articles. No one is interested in reading a manifesto on an iPhone. Mobile readers are looking for quick, interesting reads stuffed with useful information.
Forget everything you learned in college about writing. Apart from the standard rules of English grammar, which you must absolutely know through and through, writing for the web is a completely different monster with its own set of rules. Dangling modifiers and subject-verb disagreements are never OK, but short, choppy sentences and sentences beginning with conjunctions and ending with prepositions? Absolutely.
Copywriters, including original Mad Man David Ogilvy, made a career of defying the rules of writing. A good writer that knows his or her grammar knows how to manipulate the language and break the rules while remaining perfectly grammatical. Breaking rules without consequence takes practice, but great writers are masters of the craft.
Images on Mobile and Social
According to Jeff Bullas, articles with images get 94 percent more views than articles without images, and according to HubSpot, tweets with images receive 18 percent more clicks. Most people grab their mobile phones and tablets because they’re searching for specific information, so your social and mobile content must provide that to them. Fluff articles with no direction and no solid information will cause you to lose readers quickly — fluff articles also turns off search engines, like Google. Adding images to your social media posts piques a user’s interest with visual stimuli that isn’t possible with text alone.
For writers and communicators with a traditional background, writing for mobile and social can feel like learning to write all over again. Make a daily habit of reading blogs like Copyblogger and HubSpot, where crisp, concise copywriting draws in tens of thousands of readers per day. On February 26, MUIPR is hosting a Master Class in Writing and Communications for Mobile and Social at Social Media Week 2015 in Lagos, Nigeria. You can register for the Master Class here.
What are your tips for writing for audiences on mobile and social? Leave your thoughts in the comments section, or tweet me @nataliepetitto.