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The Influencer Whisperer: You Don’t Have to Write Well. You Just Have to Know Your Stuff

March 7, 2017 - Influencer marketing - , , , , , ,
By: Chris Tozzi

What makes an influencer? It’s simple: Subject-matter expertise. 

But wait! Don’t you also have to be a great writer? How else can you communicate your expertise if you can’t write polished articles all on your own? The fact is that very few influencers are amazing writers. No one expects you to be a literary genius in order to share your knowledge. They just expect you to know your stuff.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at where writing fits into the workflow of an influencer in order to explain why writing expertise is definitely not a requirement for the role.

How Influencers Communicate

It’s true: Written words are the bread and butter of the Internet. And the Internet (much more than books or TV) is now the way that most expertise is shared. When people want to make a decision about something that involves technical skills, they usually start by doing a Google search, not going to the library or hoping to find a relevant documentary on HBO.

You may therefore be thinking that if you can’t write well, then you can’t share your expertise effectively via the Internet

But that’s not true for several reasons. Consider the following points:

  • Written content on the Internet takes many forms. Just because you found it hard to write dry research papers in high school or college doesn’t mean you can’t excel in drafting a shorter, more conversational blog post.
  • Online, shorter is almost always better. Does the idea of writing a 10,000-word essay terrify you? If so, keep in mind that reading a 10,000-word essay also terrifies most Internet users. Few people will read something that long when they are trying to make a technical decision. That’s why shorter, pithy content is usually better content in an online context. That means that difficulty writing long-form pieces doesn’t disqualify you from writing online.
  • There are other ways to communicate online. If you’re not a great writer, the flexibility of the Internet allows you to play to your strengths by supplementing written content with images, video, audio or other media where appropriate. Words, pictures, movies and everything else are all just different means to the same end: Communicating information.
  • It’s easy to get help with writing. This one’s such an important point that it deserves its own section, so keep reading…

Most People (Even Professional Authors) Get Help Writing

Here’s a secret that’s little-known outside the world of professional writers: Even if an article, essay or book is single-authored, it’s a very safe bet that lots of other people besides the named author helped to write it.That’s obviously the case with ghostwritten content, for example. You knew that.

But it’s true to a lesser degree with non-ghostwritten material, too. If you write a book, lots of people (reviewers, acquisitions editors, copy editors and so on) will help you reorganize it, focus the prose, catch typos and everything else before it’s published. The names of these people don’t appear on the cover, but rest assured that a team of helpers have played a major role in the creation of almost every book you have ever read.

This holds true with shorter-form content as well. Professional blogs have editors who provide guidance to authors through the writing process—from topic selection to post-production review. Statements by company executives are usually drafted by PR agencies before they are published under a CXO’s byline. Even social media posts that appear to be organic may have been written by a company that specializes in writing posts for other people. (Yes, they exist.)

What all of this means for people who lack super-strong confidence in their writing is that they can count on lots of help in preparing their writing for publication. No one expects them to do it alone, even though few professional writers are very open about the behind-the-scenes help they get from others when they publish polished material under their names.

Expertise Matters Most

To be sure, you have to have a basic ability to communicate if you want to be an influencer. If you were raised by wolves and never learned a natural language, you’re probably not a good candidate. (Then again, you also wouldn’t be reading this blog post.)

But as long as you can communicate effectively in one form or another, then you can and should share your expertise with others. Deep knowledge about a particular topic matters much, much more than strong writing skills.

After all, subject-matter expertise is something you acquire only through years of experience. If the world expected only experts who also happen to be great writers to share their knowledge, very few people would be qualified to help others make decisions.
Fortunately, the world doesn’t expect that. If you want to be an influencer, the world’s only real concern is that you know your stuff. Don’t let a fear of writing hold you back.


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Chris Tozzi has worked as a journalist and Linux systems administrator. He has particular interests in open source, agile infrastructure and networking. He is Senior Editor of content and a DevOps Analyst at Fixate IO.