Ah, social copy—the veritable bane of many a digital marketer’s existence. I mean, who has time to come up with quippy/informative/engaging pieces of bite sized content when there are metrics to examine and strategies to craft? It’s tempting to postpone the task over and over again until you end up cramming it into that 10 minute slot in between meetings, or leaving it until the very end of the day when you’re drained and, let’s be real, all together over it. It doesn’t matter if it’s Netflix or yoga or happy hour, something is calling your name at the end of the day, beckoning you away from your newly designated copywriting time. After all, Jessica Jones isn’t going to re-watch itself. So you write some generic copy, slap a hashtag on it, and hit the couch/gym/pub of your choosing.
Now, that copy you wrote most likely isn’t terrible, but it’s probably not great either. Putting in just enough work to get by leaves so much potential on the table—for your agency, your client, and their audience alike! You have to shift your mindset and change the way you think about copywriting. Stop considering it a task and start seeing it for what it actually is—an essential skill you need to thrive in the digital marketing space. If you do that and follow these 10 tips, then you’d better get ready to watch those engagement numbers soar.
Know your audience.
This may seem basic, but that’s because it’s foundational for creating great copy. Moving away from the basic means moving towards the tailored—even bordering on the niche in some cases. But you can’t move if you don’t know in what direction to head. Try thinking about your audience as if it were a person. What do they look like? What are their interests? Where do they hang out? What kind of books do they like to read? Do they even like to read books? This information is invaluable when it comes to creating context for custom copy.
Don’t be afraid to skim.
Marketers are busy people. We’re constantly working, brainstorming, monitoring, and all with deadlines buzzing around our heads like gnats. But being in a time crunch doesn’t mean you should crank out some cookie-cutter copy and call it a day. It just means you have to learn to craft copy efficiently. The best way I’ve found to do this doesn’t come with cutting down on your writing time, but cutting down on your reading time. When you just don’t have the bandwidth to read a five page article, try reading the introduction, the headings/bolded text throughout, and the conclusion. This is the best way to get an overview of the article in the least amount of time possible. And you can always dig deeper if and when the need arises.
Kiss CTAs goodbye.
“Learn more” “Discover how” “Click Here”
These phrases haunt my dreams. They’re the ultimate example of cut-and-paste copywriting, and happen to be completely unnecessary 99 percent of the time! Maybe, circa 2007, when Twitter was in its infancy, users needed an indication that there was a link there, just begging to be clicked. But it’s 2017, people. Harry Potter and Star Wars have entirely new (and surprisingly good) franchises. We’ve gone through 15 different kinds of iPhones—it’s a whole new world out here! Have a little faith in your audience. I promise they don’t need you to direct them to the link. So when it comes to tacking on that little call to action, just say “no.”
Always write for Twitter.
After dealing with the inherent constraints that go along with writing for Twitter, it can be so tempting to head to LinkedIn or Facebook and write ALL THE WORDS. It’s like taking your hair out of a ponytail after a long day; you just relax and let the words cascade out of you. Unfortunately, the human attention span isn’t terribly expansive and most audiences aren’t looking to read a paragraph about an article before they even click the link. So no matter what channel you’re writing for, imagine you’ve got a character limit. Keep it short. Keep it sweet.
The thesaurus is your best friend.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that thesaurus.com might be my favorite website ever. It’s the first page on my bookmarks bar, and it has gotten me out of a pinch more times than I can count. It doesn’t matter what I’m writing; it could be anything from social copy, to fiction, to an email—I’ll use that freaking website. On the most basic level, synonyms can help you replace one word with an even better word when you’re trying to avoid the over-used and dreadfully buzzword-y. But my favorite thing about synonyms is the way it can help knock ideas loose from the dregs of my mind. Sometimes when I’m stuck on the copy for a given article, I just start inputting some of its stand-out words into the thesaurus search function. Ideas begin to spark, my wheels start turning, and before I know it, my writer brain is out in full force.
Be wary of acronyms.
If you’re a fan of the Fast and the Furious franchise, then you may be familiar with the term “NOS.” For those of you who, for whatever reason, aren’t into fast cars, over-the-top action sequences, and poignant illustrations of loyalty and love, “NOS” stands for “Nitrus Oxide Systems.” It’s the stuff that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) injects into his engine near the end of a race, pushing him ahead, and allowing him to win. A compelling metaphor could be made about software that allows your company to get ahead in much the same way—if only everyone knew what “NOS” meant. This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. After completing a chunk of what I considered to be clever copy, I had three different people come to me and ask, “what’s NOS?” It made me realize that no matter how intuitive something seems to me, it could still be completely foreign to someone else.
Make the right kind of references.
The same advice goes for instances in which you’re being referential in your copywriting. Infusing your social copy with pop culture references can be a great way to break up talk, but you have to make sure you’re using a reference that works for your audience. Think about it like this: If you’re writing copy for a large software company in which most of the employees are adult men, Star Wars references are probably a safe bet. Avril Lavigne, on the other hand, is probably not right for that audience—no matter how many times the article mentions how “complicated” the industry is getting. Resist the impulse, and go for a nice C3PO call back instead.
Face the fast facts.
You’re not always going to be able to include a reference or a joke in your copy, but don’t worry; those aren’t the only ways to peak audience interest. Including questions or fast facts in some of your posts can work just as well. There’s something about percentages and compelling numeric values that flips the curiosity switch in the human brain. It makes us wonder about the information that’s being provided and compels us to click the link to find out more.
Read it out loud.
Sure, you might look a little crazy talking to yourself in your cubicle, or at your favorite working coffee shop, but I cannot stress enough, the power of reading your work out loud. Stylistically, this can help you asses the flow of your writing, but it’s also crucial for capturing mistakes. When we read in our head, our minds tend to compensate for mistakes that exist on the page. Things like double words, misspellings, and punctuation errors are far more noticeable when we actually vocalize what’s been written on the page. And if you’re really worried about looking crazy, don’t be afraid ask your coworker or coffee shop buddy if you can read your work aloud to them!
No seriously—this might be the most important tip of them all. It’s like cooking—if you’re miserable while you’re creating, it will show in the final result. So really try your best to let writing be something you look forward to. Turn off your phone, break out the thesaurus, light a candle if you need to…just get yourself in the mood to create, and let yourself have fun while you’re doing it.