Here’s what I think.
I think that when people surf the web — whether to buy, learn, chat or just have fun – they want to be touched. I think we all surf through this vast technological space in search of people like us.
Think eBay, think Table Talk at Salon Magazine, think peer reviews at Amazon.com, think chat at Amused.com. Think of the many tools and models we’ve devised to allow people to meet and interact with like-minded and like-spirited people.
I think commercial web sites harness an extraordinary power when they say, “Hey, people like you are here.”
Most powerful of all is when you, the site creator, express this message:
“I’m like you.”
Let’s face it, whatever you offer at your site, people can find it elsewhere. They have that choice and exercise it frequently. Whatever your price, someone can undercut it. Whatever your service, someone can and will improve upon it.
But no one can be you. On the ‘net, within your business, you are the “unique selling proposition” (long time since I last used that phrase). You are the ultimate consumer benefit.
Wondering what this all has to do with the topic of this column, writing to sell?
Here’s the rub: The words you use signal your presence at or absence from your site.
Here are a couple of lines lifted from The Center for the Easily Amused.
“Happy Holidays from Cathie and the Amuseketeers!”
And, “Play Bingo Blitz, the fun bingo game for the 1990s! Three cards per person, chat, and four prizes every hour (the best part is you can play in your jammies!)”
Both these lines give a clear indication that Cathie is there. In one line she states it, in the other the word “jammies” signals to everyone who has been to the site more than a couple of times that Cathie wrote the line. People who are “like Cathie” visit at a rate of over a million a month.
Here’s a line from nobrainerblinds.com, cyber home of Jay Steinfeld.
“If you first want to read up on general decorating articles and information applicable to window coverings, I’d suggest you go to the Free and Useful Advice Section. Then go to the Product Section to read about specific products.”
Jay doesn’t make himself the star of his site. But he sells a lot of blinds and shades by making it clear that he is there. He gives advice, he thanks people, he invites conversation. He wrote the site. And a lot of his visitors agree, “I’m like you.”
Here’s something a little less subtle from Christopher Locke’s Rageboy site.
“Please go sign up immediately so we can kill this braindamaged legislation created by clueless morons and finally stop having to put these stupid f**king banners all over the goddam internet. Thank you.”
(To be fair to Chris, the “**” is mine. He used “uc”.)
Again, there is absolutely no doubt about the fact that this site expresses Chris’s viewpoint. A lot of people like what he says. His style and language says, “I’m like you.” And if you’re not, well, you can just f**k off! At least, that’s the message of his site.
Whatever the purpose of your site, the way in which the content is written should say, subtly or otherwise, “I’m like you.” The people who are touched by that “signal” will become your most loyal visitors.
However, if there is no person, no voice, no inner life to your site, you’ll be dependent on things like selection, price and service. And in those areas you can be beaten. In a heartbeat.
How can you achieve the “personal touch”? Stay close to the creation and development of your site, even if you contract much of the work out to others. Keep your voice and views alive within the text of what you say. Write key parts yourself – even if others write other parts of the site. Stay visible, be there, be responsive.
That’s how people get to know who you are, and get to feel, “I’m like you.”