Our lives are ruled by rules. 

Since day one it’s been elbows off the table, don’t wash your reds with your whites, chew with your mouth closed.

And writing is the same. We’re taught to write in a certain way until we learn things aren’t black and white. Then we start switching up the formula by trying new ways of expressing things – even if they break the rules.

In a digital world, this is key. A lot of the rules in social media, SEO and email marketing have been tried, tested, and tried again. You’re constantly fighting with other brands who do the same thing to reach their audiences.

To stand out, you need to do things differently.


Where brands break free – Social media

Staying ahead on social media means constantly adapting to what your audience is saying. Sometimes, that will mean going against everything in your brand book.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website reads like any other website for a family-friendly tourist attraction:

Contrast this with their Twitter:

It’s tough to decide what you should sound like online. Where to get serious, and where to engage with your audience. What’s relatable, and what’s just cringey.

Getting this right means hiring social media writers who know your brand, but also know your audience, and what they’ll respond to. 

You might think you’re hitting the mark when you hop on the latest social media trend, but don’t do it for the sake of it. 


Write by numbers – SEO

SEO writing has lots of rules. Rules that can hinder the quality of your writing. 

We’ve all encountered copy that’s been written for Google rankings first, and humans second:

This might attract more clicks – but it won’t impress people once they get there. Which is a big problem.

If someone can’t read your content because it’s chock-full of keywords, they’ll click off your site quickly. And Google will consider your site not worth ranking.

This paragraph from ASOS contains ‘tux’, ‘black tie’, ‘workwear’, ‘three-piece’, ‘skinny-fit suit’ – all key words for the sector, but it’s also a pleasure to read.

If you know what you’re doing, good SEO doesn’t come at the expense of good writing. 


Press send – Email marketing

Rules in email marketing can be the bane of your life. You’ll likely have strict deadlines, short character counts, and 101 messages you need to fit into one email. 

When you bombard people with the same formulaic emails, it soon becomes annoying. Instead of ticking off all the boxes in one go, consider planning out your user’s journey. Identify what they need from you and when they need it. That way, you can decide your own rules, based on how their journey goes.

Break the mould to catch people’s attention. Like these emails from Urban Outfitters:

And make sure to check over what you’ve sent before. Personalised emails get more clicks, but some brands can be a little too friendly.


When it comes down to it…

Finding your groove in our fast-moving digital world can be tricky. But the more you learn about what works for your brand, the better impact you’ll have.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try out different approaches, and see what sticks. And most importantly: be ready to break the rules whenever you need to.