Say Something Worth Talking About

I recently published a short e-book called 'One Thing I Know About Doing Business Online'. Seventeen people contributed - including Seth Godin, Jeffrey Zelman, Danny Sullivan, Jared Spool, Gerry McGovern and Ann Handley.

But I didn't make a contribution of my own. This article is about the one thing I know...

First, I should say that the rules are a little different for me within this article. I allowed my contributors only 150 words each. Why? Because I wanted them to think hard, find that 'one thing' and explain it clearly and briefly.

To be half fair, here's my 150 words or less version:

"Say something worth talking about. Unlike any other medium, the online experience is linked, networked... through sites, email, newsletters, discussion lists, forums, weblogs, wikis, cell phones, PDAs and more. If you have products or services that people actually want, then invest some time in talking about them in an interesting and different way. Talk about them in a way that stands out, makes your readers smile, laugh or scream in outrage. Don't be safe. Say it as it is. Say it loud. Say it in a way that strikes home and is memorable. Do that, and you'll have done something worth talking about...and the network will reward you."

Ok, now for the cheating part - where I go on to embellish on what I've said.

I think we can all agree about the online space being networked. It's a beautiful thing... to have all those prospects and customers connected and just a click or two away from each other.

It gets a little tougher when we look at the issue of whether you're selling something that even a small group of these people online actually want. Because if you don't, it doesn't matter what you say... you'll never have something worth talking about. However great your copy and text, if the product isn't interesting, nobody is going to talk about it.

Assuming you have a product or service people truly want, then writing in a way that really differentiates you from your competition will pay off in spades.

The Web is awash with safe, boring text. Approved, screened and whittled down until it can offend nobody. You can blame your managers, your company lawyers...blame whoever you want.

But the trouble with boring text is that it reads just like all the other boring text on the Web, and you can be absolutely sure that none of your prospects are going to get excited about it and tell their friends.

With boring or 'ordinary' sales copy and content, you have to invest big bucks in pushing the message out there. In other words, you have to pay for advertising, in one form or another, just like you do offline.

But if your sales copy and content is interesting enough, really interesting...then people will notice it. They'll laugh, smile, be offended or amazed. And remember, they are networked. And in the same way that people email jokes, cartoons and horoscopes...they'll also email news of your site. And rave about it in their weblogs, or post a mention in a discussion list, or tell a friend through instant or short text messaging.

From what I can see, there are three types of copy being written online right now.

There's the really boring, super-safe corporate stuff that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what it is they are trying to say.

There is the super-hard-sell - "You'd be a moron not to buy this NOW" copy - that seems to come from the desk of some demented Ginsu knife salesman.

And there is the OK stuff, that is written well and clearly...but really doesn't get your heart beating or your neurons firing.

But where is the really exciting writing? Where are people writing in a way that is unexpected and surprising? When did the text on a commercial Web site last make you smile or laugh?

Sure, it's scary to write that way. But as soon as you soon as you say something worth talking about...the network will begin to hum and word will spread.

So, truthfully now, are you writing in a way that is really worth talking about? Does the text on your site and in your newsletters terrify the boss? Have you had to lock the lawyer in a broom cupboard?

This is the Net - and if the words aren't interesting, they won't spread.

-- Article resource: Here's that ebook I mentioned at the beginning of the article: One Thing I Know About Doing Business Online

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocate of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

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