6 writing techniques to engage your online audience

Open Universities Australia

A common problem faced by creatives is whether their online message cuts through to the intended audience. We asked a writing professor for advice on dealing with this common conundrum.
6 writing techniques to engage your online audience

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The desire to educate, entertain and inspire through written content hasn’t changed, however, living in an electronic world means the way we create, connect and communicate has changed dramatically.  

It’s a simple fact that people consume information differently online. As creatives in this high-tech frontier it's difficult to truly know whether your story-telling skills are extending across platforms, reaching your intended audience and translating into engaged followers.

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‘Story is the currency of our generation – through social media, through therapy, through visual art – everything has a story, the world has a story,’ said Dr Carolyn Beasley, Program Director and Senior Lecturer for Swinburne University’s Master of Writing, available through Open Universities Australia.

Whether you’re looking to engage large audiences or niche interest groups with your story or message, it’s vital to create content aimed at today’s “scanning society” who will move on within seconds if they don’t find what they’re looking for.

To help ensure your content cuts through to your intended audience, we asked Dr Beasley for her top writing methods for the information age.

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Techniques to help you connect with your audience

1. Establish your tone

Effective communication needs a clear and consistent tone, especially when it comes to posting or marketing on “faceless” online platforms. Be mindful that misinterpretation of your tone can lead to frustration and confusion for your audience.

Dr Beasley advised creatives to clearly set out the tone of the intended message, and to not be afraid to convey some personality – this is key to establishing a loyal online following and vital for personal branding.

2. Map your strategy

How do specific audiences prefer to interact online and what are the most appropriate channels to reach them? Knowing this information will enable you to identify your target audience, and the most powerful way to reach them.

Online surveys, Facebook analytics, Google keyword search, online content strategy maps and researching the competition are a few ways you can begin to understand your audience. By discerning the right information you can start mapping the right content for the right platform.

3. Upskill through study

Wherever you are on your creative journey, further education can always help hone your skills and get you up-to-date with the latest practices. Through Open Universities Australia, you can enrol in a single subject, or apply for a full degree, and study completely online with leading Australian universities. Check out the undergraduate subject of Engaging Media from Curtin University (with no entry requirements), the Bachelor of Digital Media from University of South Australia, or the Master of Communication from Griffith University, just to name a few.

‘Students can study from anywhere around Australia, or even overseas,’ Dr Beasley said. ‘Swinburne University’s Master of Writing can be accessed fully online through Open Universities Australia and is designed for people to submit work at their own pace – there’s no specific timeframe in which they have to check their emails.’

4. Appeal to your audience

Regardless of the channel or platform there’s always a constant cascade of new content to compete with. So how do you stand out?

Posing a question often piques curiosity and helps you cut through the white noise – humans are creatures who crave emotional connection, so deliver your message with empathy, and end with encouragement.

Borrow ideas from other creative disciplines. Human-centred digital design focuses on putting people first. Try placing people in the centre of your story; you may find this leads to deeper engagement.

One of the most effective ways of all to reach your audience is video, with 55% of people viewing online videos every day (Hubspot). So be sure to assess the “scanability” of your content, as viewers will often only make a quick assessment, and remember that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is important to extend the reach of your content.

5. Be open to change

If your content doesn’t perform as well as you’d expected, ensure you remain open to changing your strategy. If you’re writing for a commercial purpose, your own style and personal preference may have to take a backseat. If your long, fanciful narratives and lofty quotes are not resonating with your audience, then take the time to revise your approach.

Dr Beasley suggested creatives should try changing one aspect of your content at a time and test and learn from the results. Keep in mind that online platforms constantly change, due to algorithms that shift their targeting and optimisation behaviours.

6. Keep your eyes peeled 

Constantly keep watch of how other content producers and brands are developing their assets, amplifying content, and engaging audiences – after all, imitation is the highest form of flattery!

‘There’s lots of stories around. You can really find out what’s currently happening from people tweeting things and events happening in the media that can give you great ideas. So be open to ideas, the world is your story,’ Dr Beasley said.

Sold on study to solidify your competitive edge? Through Open Universities Australia you can explore online subjects and degrees from leading unis, get guidance to ensure you make the right choice, and enrol with ease. Update your skills and gain recognised uni qualifications in a way that suits your lifestyle. Get started today at open.edu.au or call a friendly student advisor on 13 OPEN.

About the author

At Open Universities Australia, you can explore hundreds of online degrees from leading unis, all in one place.