The differences between writing to sell & writing to build community

Guest post by Laura Bauman

How do you prefer to have a brand reach out to you?:

  • By salesy ads on and offline
  • By creating a connection or relationship with you

I'm guessing most of us prefer connecting with a company, right?

Selling a product no longer looks like pushing out ad after ad. Instead, it's about building relationships, and even friendships, with your consumers -- relating to them and reminding them that you aren't just a company but real people and personalities who exist behind the company and relate to their customers.

This is why, as writers, we need to know the difference between writing to sell and writing to build community -- and the benefits to prioritizing the latter.

Selling a product no longer looks like pushing out ad after ad. Instead, it's about building relationships, even friendships, with your consumers -- relating to them and reminding them that you aren't just a company but real people and personalities who exist behind the company and relate to their customers. This is why, as writers, we need to know the difference between writing to sell and writing to build community -- and the benefits to prioritizing the latter.

Writing to sell

We write to sell in a lot of different mediums, like blogs, ad copy and social media posts. When we're writing to sell, we’re talking mostly about product/service and cost.

Kinda stuffy right?

When writing to sell, we often lose personality because we're simply trying to get the information out there with not as much regard to solving consumers' problems based on what they're telling us. For example, you write a blog about a new product your company launched. Are you forming a connection with your audience with that writing? Are you responding to what your customers are asking of you on social media?

Likely not.

It’s often difficult to read and can be uninteresting to the reader -- if they even read it. And this isn't a testament to your writing; it's just the way consumers, well, consume!

Writing to build community

Writing to build community, on the other hand, is full of fun and personality. When writing to build community, you're writing to connect, relate and entertain. It’s content people want to read, and they're steering toward that content to find information.

Writing to build community can take a number of forms, like:

  • Responding to reviews
  • Engaging in conversations on social media
  • Blogging and Slack feeds
  • Ad copy (you're talking to your audience and building community here, too)

Writing to build community helps us meet customers and truly understand their needs. We should respond to reviews as if we would respond to a friend in need and interact on social media like we're talking to our co-workers. Let's take Buffer, for example. I recently had a technical issue with the platform and tweeted the company a simple "Hey, this isn't working ... help!" Within an hour, I had a response saying, "I'm so sorry, Laura! We have spotted this one, and our engineers are digging in! I hope to have an update soon for you! - Amy." The message was personalized and reassuring -- not stuffy or from a template!

You want to sound less like a brand and more like your consumers' BFF.

Tweet this.


In short, you want to sound less like a brand and more like your consumers' BFF. So how does that sell?

How building community sells

For example, let's say you’re writing for Blue Apron's blog. You're not going to write an article about Blue Apron products every week. You're going to share cooking tips, recommend kitchen gadgets, explain how to shop locally, etc. You're the go-to resource for all things cooking, and along the way, readers learn about you, fall in love with you and find you're the answer to their problems.

Easier said than done, right? Well, not really.

Let's go back to Buffer, which is a social media management tool for marketers. But they're also a great resource for marketing tips, podcasts and community building between marketers and influencers on Twitter and Slack. So many people stumble upon their weekly Twitter chat (click here to see what times you can attend!) without knowing anything about the company. A few Twitter chats later, you realize that they're constantly interacting with their users, making friends with other marketers and setting themselves apart as industry insiders. Then you hear what they actually do and switch from your old management tool to theirs.

They don't write to sell; they build community. As writers, we need to take a cue from that.

When you seem more like a friend than a brand, you build relationships with your consumers. They may know your team by name, or they may find themselves invested in you because of how much you’ve helped them. Think about it: Wouldn't you (or don't you) prefer a brand that's responsive, helpful and relatable? A brand you know you can go to for the answers you need?

My guess is probably so.

Plus, if you have that great of an experience with a business, wouldn't you brag about them whenever you get the chance? Hello, influencers!

As writers, let's navigate our styles from selling toward community building. Let's not be afraid to have a little fun with our writing, joke around maybe even cuss a little, if that's your brand's style. (You're like, "OMG did she really say to cuss in my writing?!")

Talk to your customers like you talk to your best friend, and you'll be closer to a sale than ever before.

Which companies do you think are awesome at this?

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About Laura Bauman
Laura Bauman is a content strategist and strategic communication professional from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has a strong passion for writing about travel, company culture, millennials and marketing and has written for brands from coast to coast in a number of different markets and industries. When she's not writing, you can find Laura on a yoga mat or taste testing the latest craft brew. Feel free to reach out and say hi on Twitter at @laura_bauman
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