New Media Matters: Switching writing careers in the digital age

I often work under contract for nonprofits and businesses, mostly supplying content on their blogs and social media sites. This service is referred to as content providing or content management. It’s a valuable service because it is fast becoming one of the most powerful ways to market your business, large or small. In terms of quality, the advertising used by corporations with large marketing budgets -- especially radio and TV -- can easily eclipse the locally made TV spots produced on a tight budget by the local network affiliate.

Today, print ads in newspapers and magazines for even the smallest companies can be beautifully rendered by graphics professionals to compete with the slickest glossy ad spreads found in a major consumer magazine. Online, every business of every size is on a level playing level field to market themselves effectively. The businesses with the online advantage are the ones who use talented content providers/managers who know what they are doing. Many of these new online writers are former print journalists who have learned to use their writing skills to create content in a new way, a way that resonates with an online audience demanding attention-grabbing content packaged as useful information or even entertainment.

Any writer can learn to create dynamic content online if they study the field diligently. Writers already know the craft, they know the power of certain words. But it can be a complex task to create effective content (that is, content that results in new customers, clients, followers, fans or whatever group you are after to build your business). In reality, it’s more a form of public relations because it is a soft sell, not a knock-you-over-the-head, hard sell method. Here are some other tips:

1. Write like an expert in the particular field or industry for which you are blogging or managing social media sites. Give tips and helpful advice about your client’s industry as a whole, not necessarily referring to by business name except at the top or the bottom of the post. Remember you are befriending and cultivating your readers, not pitching your clients’ wares. Make sure your advice is meaty and informative, not merely yada-yada sales talk that everyone tunes out.

2. Make your online posts or social messages short, concise and easy to read. No long blog posts; no long Facebook posts. Use tweets with photo or other graphic attachments.

3. Use at least one good photo to illustrate your main point or few people will actually read it.

4. Don’t overlook copyright regulations! You can’t just snatch a photo off Google images and use it without permission.

5. Write things your competitors are not covering widely. Example: a grocery store might give tips on how to choose the best produce in any grocery store.

Paige Henson is a new media consultant for small businesses. She specializes in inbound marketing and content management. Her email address is