The way that we interact as a community and do business with each other is always shifting and I find the process fascinating. Not too long ago, if you wanted to be taken seriously as a business person, you had to have a brick and mortar building. It gave your clients a sense of stability and trust. Take an attorneys office as an example. The office is usually ornately furnished with hard wood floors and massive bookshelves crammed full of thick books (none of which have ever been read). It is all done to give the client a sense of overwhelming professionalism whether the attorney is any good or not. If a business did not have an impressive storefront then they were thought to be “doing business out of their trunk”. That gave potential clients the impression that the company could disappear at any moment or were involved in shady business practice.
Once the Internet took off we all started to gradually shift toward doing business online. As home offices became more of a standard, the need for a brick and mortar building fell away. Now the focus is on your website. I have heard many people say that if you do not have a website then you are not a serious business person. Isn’t it interesting that a well done website now evokes trust and gives you the appearance of an upstanding professorial much like the attorney’s office used to?
Since I am a freelance copywriter I have noticed a new shift in the content for those sites. In the early days of the Internet sales talk was king. You needed a website that quickly convinced a visitor to click on a button or sign up for a service before they could think of all the reasons not to. A successful website was half eye candy and half used car salesman. Internet users have become much more savvy over the years and do not fall for the tired old tricks of the past. Honesty is the new way to attract customers and engender brand loyalty. You no longer have to fast talk them but you do need to educate them. We are a society of researchers and before we make a purchase or sign up for a service, we read about them. People are constantly trying to find honest and well written copy that allows them to make an informed decision. Copyblogger recently had a great article on the subject called 3 Steps to foolish online advertising and it makes some good points.
Another interesting shift in the way we write for the web is in the tone that we use. There was a time when you had to sound stuffy and use big words to be taken seriously. Since the web was a new communication medium, you had to beat the reader over the head with your professionalism. You wanted the tone of your writing to evoke images of that solid brick and mortar store front. Now if you want to gain readers and have repeat business you have to adopt a more informal tone. Remember when your mom told you “Just be yourself and people will like you”? Well, dear old mom would be right at home writing for the web. Customers no longer want to read stuffy web copy filled with vocabulary and self importance. They want to connect with the writer and trust that he/she is telling them the truth. So stop writing like a robot and loosen up a little. It may seem scary to just be yourself but I guarantee that your readers will respond and if the real you is a jerk then you can always hire someone else to write your copy.