Pagezii – Jacqueline, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Jacqueline – I earned an undergraduate degree in music education, but after three years, I came to the realization that teaching wasn’t something I wanted to do my whole life. I took some business courses and worked in management for a major retailer, but again, I felt restless. I think I’d always wanted to be a writer, but I hadn’t been able to visualize what that career path would look like.
After taking some random freelance jobs, I started writing for a technology marketing news site called TMCnet, and I’ve specialized in creating tech and digital marketing content ever since. I’ve also boosted my editing skills, so that’s now a larger part of what I do.
Pagezii – What skills make a successful content writer?
Jacqueline – Today’s writer absolutely has to understand the essentials of search engine optimization and social media engagement. These knowledge areas are valuable not only for getting your content read but also for understanding what most interests your audience. WordPress and basic web coding skills, like HTML and CSS, are good value-added skills to present to your clients. Creating more image and video driven content is a significant growth area that I see for myself in the next year.
One of my favorite quotes about the writing life comes from Neil Gaiman, who says, “People keep working, in a freelance world… because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three… People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They’ll forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good, and if they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.” It’s a cheeky quote, but his point is solid: be someone people like to work with, which means delivering good work, being reliable, and being agreeable.
Pagezii – What makes persuasive web content?
In my mind, the key to persuasion is trustworthiness
Jacqueline – In my mind, the key to persuasion is trustworthiness. People’s opinion of you or the business or publication you represent colors their perception of your content. Before they’ve read the first word, they’ve set filters in place, and your communication will be accepted or rejected based on whether you’ve earned their trust. Trustworthiness is based on accuracy, on authenticity, and on adherence to your business values, whatever those may be. When you take care of trust, you’ve taken care of persuasiveness. The rest is just packaging.
Pagezii – How can Content Marketers leverage social media to generate ideas?
Jacqueline – I think that as a content writer, it’s important to follow industry leaders and good publications in your field on social media. You learn what people are talking about, how things are changing, and what angles they haven’t considered yet. It’s also crucial for businesses to pay attention to what their customers are discussing and consuming on social media. You learn what customers want to hear about and how they’d prefer to hear it.
Social media provides a treasure trove of data for businesses
Social media provides a treasure trove of data for businesses. When you start a conversation with a person, you learn things about who they are, and that knowledge gives you more things to talk about. When you use social media data to get a full picture of your audience, your associative mind will naturally look at that qualitative information and generate ideas for the kinds of content that will reach them. Knowing your audience, thanks to social media, guides you strategically as you either try to change the conversation or join it.
Pagezii – What advice do you have for Content Marketers starting off in their career?
Jacqueline – I think the biggest challenge today is to create content that says something unique. The content marketing industry is entering maturity, and pretty much everyone is creating output, but let’s face it – a lot of it is pretty mediocre. Even when you’re helping build a library of evergreen content, you have to give it a strong voice, and you have to use that voice to present something in a unique way. When you’re covering old ground, you have to do it better than anyone else has done it before.
If you’re just joining a startup and starting to experiment with content creation, my advice is to stay focused on creating a small group of avid enthusiasts as opposed to trying to appeal to a mass market with the content you create. Take the time to discover your company’s authentic voice as well as your own, and while you may imitate a competitor’s strategy, you should execute it in a way that only you could do it. If you’re a seasoned freelancer, and you’re interested in breaking into content writing, choose clients whose work fascinates you. If you’re cranking out work that doesn’t interest you, you’ll burn out quickly, and you’ll lose the creative spark that made you want to write in the first place.
Pagezii – Thank you, Jacqueline, for a very insightful interview.