I recently published a short e-book called One Thing I Know About Doing Business Online. Seventeen people contributed—including Seth Godin, Jeffrey Zelman, Danny Sullivan, Jared Spool, Gerry McGovern and your own Ann Handley.

But I didn't make a contribution of my own.

First, I should say that the rules are a little different for me in this article. I allowed my contributors only 150 words each. Why? Because I wanted them to think hard, find that “one thing” and explain it clearly and briefly.

To be half fair, here's my 150-words-or-less version:

Say something worth talking about. Unlike any other medium, the online experience is linked, networked… through sites, email, newsletters, discussion lists, forums, Weblogs, wikis, cell phones, PDAs and more.

If you have products or services that people actually want, then invest some time in talking about them in an interesting and different way. Talk about them in a way that stands out—makes your readers smile, laugh or scream in outrage.

Don't be safe. Say it as it is. Say it loud. Say it in a way that strikes home and is memorable. Do that, and you'll have done something worth talking about… and the network will reward you.

OK, now for the cheating part—where I go on to embellish on what I've said….

I think we can all agree about the online space being networked. It's a beautiful thing… to have all those prospects and customers connected and just a click or two away from each other.

It gets a little tougher when we look at the issue of whether you're selling something that even a small group of these people online actually want. Because if you don't, it doesn't matter what you say… you'll never have something worth talking about.

However great your copy and text, if the product isn't interesting, nobody is going to talk about it.

Assuming you have a product or service people truly want, then writing in a way that really differentiates you from your competition will pay off in spades.

The Web is awash with safe, boring text. It's approved, screened and whittled down until it can offend nobody. You can blame your managers, your company lawyers. Blame whoever you want.

But the trouble with boring text is that it reads just like all the other boring text on the Web. You can be absolutely sure that none of your prospects is going to get excited about it and their friends.

With boring or “ordinary” sales copy and content, you have to invest big bucks in pushing the message out there. In other words, you have to pay for advertising, in one form or another, just like you do offline.

But if your sales copy and content is interesting enough—really interesting—then people will notice it. They'll laugh, smile and be offended or amazed. And remember, they are networked.

In the same way that people email jokes, cartoons and horoscopes, they'll also email news of your site. And rave about it in their Weblogs, or post a mention in a discussion list, or tell a friend through instant or short-text messaging.

From what I can see, there are three types of copy being written online right now

There's the really boring, super-safe corporate stuff that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what it is they are trying to say.

There is the super-hard-sell—“You'd be a moron not to buy this NOW” copy—that seems to come from the desk of some demented Ginsu knife salesman.

And there is the OK stuff that is written well and clearly but really doesn't get your heart beating or your neurons firing.

But where is the really exciting writing? Where are people writing in a way that is unexpected and surprising? When did the text on a commercial Web site last make you smile or laugh?

Sure, it's scary to write that way. But as soon as you do—as soon as you say something worth talking about—the network will begin to hum and word will spread.

So, truthfully now, are you writing in a way that is really worth talking about? Does the text on your site and in your newsletters terrify the boss? Have you had to lock the lawyer in a broom closet?

This is the Net—and if the words aren't interesting, they won't spread.

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image of Nick Usborne

Nick Usborne has been working as a copywriter and trainer for over 35 years. He is the author of Net Words, as well as several courses for online writers and freelancers. Nick is also an advocate for Conversational Copywriting.

LinkedIn: Nick Usborne

Twitter: @nickusborne