Blog: Content writing and content strategy insights

Nine digital content skills that open up many job opportunities

People who know how to write well for digital media — websites, intranets, social media, blogs, e-newsletters — have amazing career opportunities.

Today when you write for work, you need to understand 'digital'. Digital technology is a game-changer for writers and communicators.

People who write for work must know how to:

  1. attract online readers
  2. improve search rankings
  3. use metadata and keywords
  4. follow web standards
  5. use a content management system properly
  6. write for mobile devices
  7. write plain English
  8. write for Google Translate
  9. publish on multiple channels.

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    The careers of five best friends begin to merge in a digital workforce

    When I grew up I had four besties. Together we were just like Blyton’s Famous Five. Sure, we didn’t roam the countryside solving mysteries and capturing villains. Golly gosh no! But we did freely roam our cul-de-sac for hours enjoying jolly adventures — at least until dinner time.

    After university, we all dispersed into very different jobs — one into journalism, one into strategic planning, one into advertising, one into corporate comms, and I moved from solicitor to information designer.

    But in the last five years or so, something funny has happened: all our job descriptions are starting to look the same. Disciplines are merging. My friends and I are doing similar tasks and use the same skillsets.

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    Links on mobile devices: eliminate the fat finger problem

    The problem with links on mobile devices is the human finger: it’s much bigger than the cursor we use on a desktop. So make all links obvious and large and not too close to other links.

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    Writing tip: Use keywords in tweets

    Using Twitter for business or professional reasons? Include keywords with hashtags.

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    Trust Agents: a gentle social media read and a scary question

    'Trust Agents' by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith sits on my coffee table and every now and then, I read another chapter. Unlike many other books on social media, it is a gentle friendly read.

    Every now and then Chris and Julien stop me in my tracks with an idea that demands attention. (See, I can't help using their personal names instead of the conventional Brogan and Smith. That's the social media world.)

    In brief, they discuss and illustrate many aspects of modern marketing. I recall that even in the late 1990s, traditional marketing was dead. The old approach (branding plus bang-em-over-the-head-with-a-four-by-two) didn't even fit Web 1.0.

    Everything that's happened online since then has steered marketing in the same direction:

    • Less skiting, more listening.
    • Less hype, more facts (for comparison shopping).
    • Less narcissism, more community involvement.
    • Less me, more you, more us.

    Even when you know the goal, it can be hard to get there, and Chris and Julien include loads of advice. Some is radical. Most is practical.

    Today this snippet made me groan aloud:

    The trick is to come up with something you could tell people at a party, something that would differentiate what you think is interesting about what you do and what the average person thinks is interesting.

    Alice and I love our business with a raging passion. Speaking for myself, I find everything about Contented utterly fascinating—our courses, our customers, our plans... I enjoy being forced to think new thoughts and do new things week after week. I love my work for reasons psychological, intellectual, ideological, economic, literary, aesthetic, pedagogic and technological. It's fun, dammit!

    But the moment someone asks me what I do, the conversation is doomed. After my first three words, the other person's eyes glaze over and drift desperately over my shoulder, looking for somebody less boring. Know the feeling?

    What a contrast with the years before I got hooked by the Web. Everyone seems to find a poet or writer fascinating. Even now, they find it mildly interesting if I say I'm a poet who went over to the dark side. But that's what I am, not what I do!

    I have been unable to tell people what I do in a way that they find interesting. In the light of 'Trust Agents', this is no way to use the Web to build influence, improve reputation, and earn trust. Why would you respect anyone whose job seems so dull and forgettable?

    Do you have the same problem? I have decided to give my sister Prue a tour of my computer and then ask her the scary question. I'll let you know her verdict.

    Thank you Chris and Julien for confronting me with this horrible truth.

     

    Facebook for business, marketing, professional development

    Facebook: it's all about you—yes you—and us too!
    You probably write or manage content of some sort, like most Contented readers, and that's certainly a big part of what we do here at Contented. By now, we're all aware that content includes everything on social media sites and social intranets. So you are probably writing stuff for Twitter or an inhouse microblog, and you may be involved with a Facebook page for a company, organization or interest group. If not, you are starting to feel twitchy every time somebody says this:

    'You should be on Facebook!'
    The reasons are undeniable. A Facebook page quickly improves search results, bringing many more people to your web site. Facebook is the favourite playground for millions who use it for most online activities. And while Facebook numbers may be declining, they're still in the multimillions.

    We need to be competent on Facebook
    To function in a digital world, most professionals ought to be competent in the Facebook environment. They need to understand the culture and write appropriately, knowing the opportunities and also the dangers. People who need to understand Facebook include:

    • business owners
    • teachers, lecturers, professors
    • bloggers, anyone in corporate communications
    • online marketers
    • technical writers
    • HR staff and consultants
    • all staff in organizations with a social intranet.

    We blog, we tweet. But for various reasons, we have been wary of entering Facebook despite knowing we should for strategic business purposes. Last Sunday we finally took the plunge and launched a Facebook page for Contented. We now volunteer as guinea pigs on your behalf!

    Discussions, Q & A, new products and special offers
    We see our Facebook page as a useful and entertaining place for people who love to write, hate to write or have to write. We'll be on tap to answer questions about writing, join in discussions, and help solve problems. Polls and contests will inform and inspire us all, we hope. And you can keep up with new courses as they are released, and occasional special offers.

    Learn alongside us about Facebook strategy
    Facebook.com/writing.skills will be a safe place to learn about writing for Facebook and other social media. Just watch what we do and how others respond: you know we're new to Facebook so we are bound to make mistakes, bound to have some struggles.

    If you are also new to Facebook, you can surely learn a great deal from writing on our wall and joining in the conversation.

    If you're already at home in Facebook, we will certainly welcome your advice. Please teach us and help us!

    The power of the Like button
    You see it everywhere. Good idea to be wary, but on the Contented Facebook page, the button won't bite you.

    To keep in touch, to post on the wall, to enter our first photo contest, you need to hit that Like thumb on our Facebook page.

    Go on. You know you want to!

    How to get exclusive news stories: retweetable tweets

    On Twitter, the very latest unique news is highly desirable content. This kind of content is frequently retweeted. But if you are not a news agency or journalist, how do you find these exclusive stories? Keep your eyes and ears open!

    Yesterday on Twitter Craig Thomier reported two snippets of news that together were new and astounding. (Well, I think so.)

    So, in a group of 250 Queensland public servants, Craig says:

    • 20% are on Twitter
    • 98% are on Facebook.

    The big thing is to recognize when something is brand new news, and more important, news that's interesting to your own readers. Craig didn't let these stats flow past him into the ether: he tweeted.

    More and more often we're getting enquiries about Facebook and Twitter from government employees and teachers. They want to know how to use social media to communicate with colleagues, students or the public.

    We are paddling as fast as we can! We concentrate on teaching what content writers need to know, whether the words they write are destined for a web site, intranet, or content management system.

    1. Strategic blogging course: already up and running
    2. Tweet for victory, a course on microblogging, is being developed right now—won't be long!
    3. Focus on Facebook: this course is already bubbling away on a mindmap.