Like many people these days, I have a side hustle in the gig economy. I contract with a media company who contracts with small businesses to handle their social media for them. I’ve written posts for everything from plumbers to psychics, from locksmiths to limo rentals – you get the idea.
While I initially picked up the gig just for some extra money, it’s turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s also made me a better writer. I’ll explain how in this post.
Cut the fat
If you do any sort of professional technical or social media writing, you see almost immediately how much excess you’ve developed in your writing over the years. Most of us have been through lots of school assignments where we had to hit certain word counts about topics we might not be so knowledgeable or passionate about. It’s not the least bit surprising when people cope by finding more verbose ways to get their point across.
Since the posts we write go on Twitter, we’ve had to stick to a very strict character limit. This has forced me to think of more concise ways to convey my point. I don’t have the space to tell the whole history of the company and why the reader should do business with them.
Nobody cares how clever you are
Humor can be appropriate for social media, depending on the business and its audience. I won’t claim to be above hiding a movie reference in a post, but the post has to work on its own without the reference. There has to be something in there that clearly indicates how the business can help the reader.
Confession: I’ve occasionally followed up on clients’ pages to see how certain posts have performed. To my shock and horror, engagement has much less to do with the cleverness of the person writing the post than it has to do with the kind of relationship the business has with its customers.
I remember one particular client who was very fussy about the kinds of posts they wanted, but they got a ton of engagement from their customers because they’re apparently very good at what they do. If you’re providing a useful product or service to people, a lot of other things can be overlooked.
Limit the hard sell
You obviously don’t want to be that friend or relative who only calls or shows up when they want something. What might be less obvious is that this is also true in business.
It sounds like a cliche, but good business really is built on relationships. Every post shouldn’t be about some sale or promotion that you’re having.
Think about how you interact with people you care about. Maybe you send them a link to an article about a topic you’d recently discussed. Maybe you share something you think is funny or heartwarming. Occasionally you might ask for a favor or help with something, but it’s probably a small percentage of your total interactions. And if you’ve built up good relationships, you’re more likely to get what you want.
So there you have it. Helping businesses interact with their customers has done wonders for my writing. And I get the bonus of looking up random stuff on the Internet in the process. What’s not to love?
Have you ever done any writing for another person or business? Tell me about your experience in the comments!