We take a lot of pride in the Hootsuite blog and we go to great lengths to make sure every post is helpful, thoughtful, and rigorously researched. We also want to grow our community of contributors to give our readers the opportunity to benefit from a wide range of perspectives.
So to maintain our commitment to providing value for our readers while growing our network, we thought it would be helpful to explain, in as much detail as possible, what it takes to write a great Hootsuite blog post, from soup to nuts.
We get a lot of guest post pitches, usually from other content marketers using guest blogging as a link-building strategy. We respect the hustle! But writing a post for the Hootsuite blog takes effort, and you shouldn’t expect to be able to bang out a generic 500-word post. Even if you’re an expert on the subject matter it’s still a methodical, multiphase process. Pitches must be approved and drafts have to go through edits before publishing. And not every submission gets there.
With that caveat out of the way, we’re stoked you’re interested in writing for us! If you’re passionate about quality work and have something interesting to share with our audience, then we’d be happy to hear your ideas.
How to pitch a Hootsuite blog post
Know the audience
Who reads the Hootsuite blog? The social media practitioner. She may work in the marketing or sales departments of a large organization, she may be building social campaigns for her agency’s clients, or she may be a small business marketing team of one, but her challenges are the same: get the most out of social media for her organization.
That’s who this blog is for. Your writing should be useful to her. She’s not interested in reading a sales pitch for a product or service, but she will care what you have to say on a topic that speaks to her interests as well as your area of expertise.
Writing a guest post for the Hootsuite blog is a chance to establish yourself as a thought leader in front of a new audience. Take the opportunity to show off what you know and build trust—don’t sell, deliver value. If you can achieve that the reader is much more likely to follow your brand and, eventually, reward you with her business.
Choose a topic and find your angle
Start broad. If you’re a Snapchat influencer with a large and dedicated following, you might begin with “Snapchat.” Then you need to focus that by coming at it from a specific and compelling angle (and again, one that speaks to your area of expertise). Try writing out different working headlines. “How I Got My First 100,000 Followers on Snapchat,” or “5 Ways To Get More Followers on Snapchat,” or “Lessons From a Snapchat Influencer.”
A headline is a promise to the reader. You’re telling her how she will benefit by reading your piece. Once you have that focus nailed down, you can flesh out the rest.
(If you have a few post ideas and aren’t sure which one to develop, feel free to send your working headlines to us. We will take a look and suggest which one should be given the pitch treatment.)
Create a detailed outline
In order to fill out the blog post pitch template included at the end of this post, you must be able to:
- Define your objective. What are you trying to achieve? For most blog posts this will start with a.) to educate, b.) to persuade, c.) to educate and persuade, or d.) to entertain and derail productivity. Then tell us how you will do it. Your objective will very much reflect your working headline if you already have one. If not, let your objective and the “why” (below) inform one.
- Explain why the audience will care. If you can’t articulate why our readers will want to click, read, and share the blog post—they won’t.
- Determine what your subheads will be. You already have a working headline that promises a benefit to the reader. Think of the subheads as individual points or questions that you need to address to deliver on that promise. Your subheads should be informative. If a reader were to scan your post and only read the headline and the subheads, would they get the jist of the piece? They should.
Once you’ve submitted your pitch to the editorial team, we’ll work with you to refine the outline if it looks like it’s going to be a fit for our blog. If we give you the green light, you can move on to the next phase.
How to write a Hootsuite blog post
Know what you want to say before you write
As The Economist Magazine style guide succinctly puts it: “Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought.” So before you “put pen to paper,” flesh out your outline with the guiding points that will support each subhead. You can do this in point-form and worry about complete sentences and paragraphs when you tackle the first draft.
Be useful to your reader
Never forget your objective. If your writing doesn’t support it and the promise you’ve made with the headline, you’ll lose the audience. Every paragraph and sentence should be put through the filter of: “Does my reader need to know this? Does it support my objective?” If the answer is no, get rid of it. If it’s something you say elsewhere in the piece, get rid of it.
In her excellent book on content writing, Everybody Writes, author Ann Handley recommends typing out your objective in big, bold font at the top of the page to keep you focused. (The book is full of helpful tips and practical advice for better writing, pick it up!)
Do the research
Yes, you’re an expert on the topic. But all writing requires research. At the very least you need to dig up credible sources and data that support your statements. And then those sources must be cited and linked to in the text.
Just as you use data and credible sources to support your points, use specific examples to back up advice or instruction.
“Choose social media goals that align with your business goals” is a good tip. But you need to include an example if you want it to stick. “Choose social media goals that align with your business goals. If you want to drive brand awareness, than setting a target of 100 new Facebook followers by the end of the month makes sense.”
Specific is useful.
Keep sentences short, use plain language
Long sentences and needlessly difficult words will make your writing harder to follow. Yes the reader is smart, but they shouldn’t have to work to understand you. And shorter words and sentences are easier to read and scan—which web readers do a lot of.
Oh, and if you’re using big words to sound smarter and more authoritative: don’t. That can have the opposite effect, says a study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology. A complex topic explained in simple terms using plain language will show the reader that you know your stuff.
If a sentence is too long, split it into two. If a word has a simpler and more common alternative, go with that (“use” not “utilize,” for example). Write in your own voice and avoid jargon.
A helpful tool for combatting long words and sentences is the Hemingway App. With color-coded highlights, the desktop app will point out where your writing has become sloppy or indulgent. Use it as a guide but don’t become obsessed with satisfying every “error.” Some sentences will indeed need to be more than 20 words long.
Format for readability
Like sentences, paragraphs should be short, containing one idea and no more than four sentences. Break up the dreaded wall of text. The white space in between the paragraphs will make your 2,500-word opus seem much more surmountable.
Bullet points, numbered lists, bold text, embedded social media posts, and other visual elements will also improve readability and help draw in a scanning set of eyes.
Rewrite and edit (then do it again)
After creating an outline and doing the research, try what many writers do and tackle the first draft in one sitting. In this exercise, every writing rule in the book can be ignored. The point is to get your thoughts down on the page.
Then after taking a break from the work to give your brain a rest, you can return to it with fresh eyes. Add in all the specific examples and data that support your points. Once all the information is there, edit for spelling and grammar, clarity, structure, and flow.
Do as many edits and rewrites as needed (and have someone else look it over if possible). When your text is clear, useful, and delivers on your objective, you can submit it to our editorial team for review (and surely more edits).
Want to give it a go? Then fill out the pitch template below and send it our way: firstname.lastname@example.org
Download our blog post pitch template
Google Doc (make a copy to edit)
from Hootsuite Social Media Management https://blog.hootsuite.com/pitch-write-hootsuite-blog-post/