LEARN HOW TO GET HUGE RESULTS USING SOCIAL MEDIA
Donald Trump’s recent ascent to the White House caused shock waves of disbelief around the world. Over in New Zealand, another unlikely aspiring politician also caused a stir — albeit on a much smaller scale – by placing third in the race to replace Len Brown as mayor of Auckland.
The politician in question is Chloe Swarbrick. If the name is unfamiliar, you may be curious about her background. Well, she’s not a seasoned local-body politician, a well-known businesswoman, or a celebrity.
Chloe Swarbrick is, in fact, a precocious 22-year-old who, up until October’s elections, no one had heard of.
Now, to you, third place may not sound all that impressive. However, consider this: Chloe collected around 5,000 more votes than the previous election’s main contender and one-time reality-TV personality John Palino. The two who finished ahead of her were ex-Labour Party leader Phil Goff (he won the mayoralty) and ex-Xero managing director Vic Crone.
She’s got to be rich
Perhaps surprisingly, Chloe didn’t have a bottomless ‘war chest’ to draw from – she had about NZ$9,000. As a result, her face was absent from the thousands of billboards that littered Auckland’s streets – billboards that were much too expensive. And, predictably, mainstream media showed little interest in her.
So, how did she do it?
While everyone else used the dusty old strategy of putting up billboards and posting pamphlets – which most of us never read – Chloe took a 21st century approach.
You see, by day, Chloe is a social media strategist. So, knowing too well that traditional media would gobble up her funds before she had a chance to say ‘down with Len Brown’, Chloe stuck to what she knows.
“Social media lets me, as it does with all candidates, create my own content. What social media and the internet did was democratise information… people can ask questions and get answers in real time,” Chloe told the New Zealand Herald.
Five social media tips
Of course, just being on social media isn’t enough. To be successful, you must:
- Add value – don’t create content for the sake of it. Make sure what you produce is informative and answers your audiences’ questions.
- Be relevant – stay on message. Being an expert baker doesn’t mean that talking about chocolate cakes will help your cause.
- Choose the right medium – what type of content does your audience prefer? Chloe made a lot of videos; however, you could write blogs, create memes or run competitions.
- Be consistent – set a publishing schedule and stick to it. This shows you are active and keeps audiences engaged.
- Be responsive – one wonderful thing about social media is that it enables you to engage with your audience in real time. So, be around for the conversation; when people comment, make sure you respond.
What can we learn from Chloe?
Most of us hold no political ambition. However, if you are reading this post, you probably run a business or a not-for-profit organisation. To achieve your goals, you need to reach out to your target customers or donors.
Before social media, ‘reaching out’ usually meant buying expensive advertising – something that is much easier for big organisations.
Incidentally, during the recent US election, as of late October, Hillary Clinton spent US$141.7 million on advertising; Donald Trump, on the other hand, spent just US$58.8 million.
What Chloe’s campaign demonstrates is that social media evens out the odds – ‘David really can challenge Goliath.’
So, you feel like you’ve nailed your brand’s tone of voice. And you’re on board with content marketing, too — you know that by creating and sharing content that’s valuable to your audience, you can draw people to your business or organisation. Ultimately, that means you’re better positioned to meet your goals.
But, where does all that content come from? Whether you’re maintaining your company’s blog and social media or producing more in-depth content to share, it’s easy to feel stuck. Or overwhelmed. Or constantly behind. Or a bit of all three.
That’s where an editorial calendar comes in. (Queue the epiphany-moment music…)
How an editorial calendar can help your organisation
With an editorial calendar, you’re less likely to find yourself scrambling at 4 pm on a Friday for a Facebook-post topic to get scheduled for the weekend. And you’re probably less likely to decide to just share another pic of a LOLcat… though we have nothing against that. (Seriously, we share plenty of cat pics around here.)
With an editorial calendar in place, you’ll be able to:
- Plan ahead (and get ahead by writing and scheduling content such as blog posts and social media posts in advance)
- Improve delegation — with content buckets determined, you can recruit the right people within your organisation to create content (again, ahead of time)
- Stay organised and save time – need we say more?
- Be more strategic – with your bread and butter content created in advance, you’ll have improved ability to pivot content when relevant, timely opportunities come up
- Engage your audience more consistently, driving better engagement over time.
Tips for building an editorial calendar
Crafting a long-term schedule for content can feel a bit daunting, so start small. Rather than tackling the entire year, start by building a schedule for the month. Then you and your team can assess what worked, what didn’t and go from there.
Your editorial calendar will tie in to your overall content marketing strategy and goals. So you should already have a clear idea of whom you’re talking to, what channels you’re using and how frequently you’re sharing content.
Then you’re ready to start determining what your actual content will be about. Here are a few different content directions to leverage as you get started:
- Your brand pillars — start with the basic foundations of your brand. Use your core messages as content buckets. For instance, if caring for the community is one of your brand pillars, then you may highlight a story on social media once a week that shows your organisation working side-by-side with people locally.
- Milestone events, celebrations, relevant holidays, conferences, etc. – does your organisation have a major anniversary coming up? Or is there a commemoration such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month that relates to what you do? Use those opportunities to come up with some timely content.
- Evergreen content – what topics are always relevant to your target audience? Brainstorm ideas based on knowledge your organisation has (that your audience needs). These are topics that you can leverage any time of year, especially when there’s a hole to fill in your editorial calendar.
Depending on your audience and the channels you’re using, you might also throw some light-hearted topics into your editorial calendar. Maybe #ThrowbackThursday gives you a great opportunity to show your brand or organisation’s history in a fun way. Or perhaps a LOLcat is exactly what your target audience needs on a Friday afternoon. Plug those content buckets into your editorial calendar too. In addition to making life easier on you since you’ll know what content is coming up, your audience will start to look forward to those regular posts too.
One more thing
An editorial calendar can make a world of difference for anyone with content-creation goals. Are you a single-person business with a blog that’s just getting off the ground? An editorial calendar can help. A non-profit organisation with a large donor base and successful content already? An editorial calendar will work for you too. Or a B2B company aiming to improve brand awareness? Yep, you guessed it — get calendaring!
For freelance copywriters, versatility is crucial. Like many freelancers, I’m often switching gears. On any given day, I may be writing pithy B2C web copy in the morning before drafting a long-form industry white paper or annual report in the afternoon.
Adaptability is essential in terms of writing for different formats and channels.
It’s also essential in terms of whom you write for.
Being versatile allows you to round out your freelance writing portfolio (and your job options). But if you’ve been working in the corporate or commercial space, how do you transition to writing for non-profit organisations? And vice versa?
You can write for both if you think about what corporate/commercial and non-profit communications have in common: It’s all about them (the target audience), not you (the organisation).
Focus on the benefit and impact, no matter who you’re writing for
We’ve all had a chat with that person — you know, the one who rambles entirely about themselves and never asks any questions. That self-centred focus is just as off-putting in communications as it is at a cocktail party.
Compelling writing for any client — corporate, consumer-facing, non-profit or otherwise — is audience focused.
For corporate and commercial writing, that means communicating the benefit. Instead of talking entirely about a new product or service offering, write about how it can help. What business problems will it help users solve? Or how will it make consumers’ lives easier?
Likewise, when writing for non-profit clients, emphasise the impact that your target audience can make (or already has). What fundamental issues does your target audience care about, and how can they make a difference? Go beyond talking about who the organisation is; focus on the outcomes and benefits through compelling storytelling.
Understand your target audience
Effective copywriting for any client reflects a deep understanding of the target audience (more on that to come in a later post).
If you’re looking to diversify your work as a freelance copywriter, realise that your experience in one sector can help you write for another. If you keep your audience in mind (and avoid that cocktail party sin of only talking about yourself), you can write anything.
It can be daunting. That blank screen glaring, the blinking cursor taunting you and a deadline looming. Returning to work as a writer after a break is a bit like getting back to the gym after an indulgent holiday. You may need a few extra minutes to get out of bed, but you know you’ll feel better once you’ve just done it.
So, whether you’ve been on a globetrotting getaway or taking time off for parental leave, here are a few pointers for sharpening your copywriting skills when you return to work.
Allow some extra time.
Give yourself plenty of time to warm up. Plan extra time for assessing your brief, conducting any necessary research, brainstorming, writing and reviewing. That way if your writing muscles seize up, you have a bit of a buffer.
Ask for input.
Just like grabbing a spotter for the bench press, ask someone you trust to read your copy before you submit it. A second opinion can be invaluable (regardless of whether you’re returning to writing after a break or not).
You’ve heard it here before – reading is essential to effective copywriting. Especially if you’ve been reading nothing but tourist websites (or in my case, stacks of rhyming baby books!), then carve out a few extra minutes each day to read. It could be the newspaper, industry magazines, fiction – anything to stir up the stagnant words in your head and help you find your rhythm again. Even reviewing the TCC Style Guide can help.
Get back to basics.
Focus on the fundamentals of good writing. Who is the intended audience? What is the goal of the communication piece? You won’t feel overwhelmed by the task at hand if you keep best practices in mind.
Hey, you’ve done this before! Every experience enriches your writing, so leverage that time you spent away from the screen while reminding yourself you’ve got it covered.
Sometimes a break from the gym can be just the thing you need to push yourself harder when you return. And the same can go for writing. So, if you’ve taken a hiatus, whether for family, work or play, follow the above tips to fire up your writing muscle memory. You’ll be back in top copywriting shape in no time.
No team understands teamwork better than the All Blacks. They know success isn’t about personal glory – rather, it depends on people pulling together with the bigger picture in mind.
But, isn’t content writing a solitary craft? Well, it can be. However, whether you like it or not, as a content writer, you are still part of a team. At The Copy Collective, for example, writers work in partnership with account managers, proofreaders and graphic designers. The goal is to deliver high-quality work for clients, not satisfy our own ‘creative’ urges. So, resisting edits and suggestions for improvement is counterproductive — good content writers keep their egos firmly tethered.
2. Being organised
Focusing on what matters is something the All Blacks do very well. That’s because they are organised.
As a content writer, it’s easy to veer off-track — particularly when home-based. So, it’s important to keep a schedule of work to be done with your deadlines. Though far from high-tech, I use a colour-coded Excel spreadsheet.
Content writers are not athletes (well, maybe at the weekends). However, we must still manage our energy levels. In my case, I find my brain functions better in the morning until early afternoon, so that’s when I write. Other tasks, like following-up customers and preparing quotations, I leave till later. Oh, and though coffee provides a great kick-start to the day, after two or three cups, it does more harm than good. Water is far better.
3. Ongoing learning
If the All Blacks stuck to the ‘tried and true’ that delivered their first World Cup, I’m pretty sure that today their trophy cabinet would look rather sad. Thankfully (for us Kiwis) they understood that what worked in 1987 could only be effective for so long. The world changes. So, they continually keep up-to-date with new tactics and training regimens to maintain their winning edge.
The writing profession has changed dramatically over the years. And much of what content writers do now, like writing blogs and e-books, was unheard of not so long ago. What does the future hold? Who knows? So, like the All Blacks, we must keep learning.
To be a successful freelance writer, discipline is required. Lots of it. You must steer clear of everyday distractions and work as efficiently as possible. Thankfully, there are ‘squillions’ of apps available for freelancers. I highlight five of the best of them in this post.
‘Time is money,’ as they say. So, manage it wisely. Toggl makes time management easy and it is suitable for most devices. Just type the name of your task into the ‘What are you working on’ box and press ‘Go’ to start timing. Once you’ve finished, you can assign it to a project. For time tracking only, Toggl is free. However, for more advanced features, like setting your hourly rate and creating reports, prices range from US$9 to US$49 per month.
Evernote enables you to download files, take photos and record audio. It is cloud-based, so you can collaborate with colleagues from anywhere you like. For example, if inspiration strikes while you’re travelling on the bus, use your smartphone to write notes. Then, at the office, use your laptop to continue what you started. Evernote is free.
3. MP3 Skype Recorder
Thanks to apps like Skype, you can meet clients without actually meeting them. It is ideal for interviews and because you can see a person’s body language, better than a phone. I used to record interviews on my smartphone. However, MP3 Skype Recorder enables you to interview and record all on the same device. It is free to use but only suitable for Windows operating systems.
Dropbox is perfect for collaboration. At The Copy Collective, we use it to share files between freelancers all over the world. Dropbox is cloud-based and will sync to all your devices, which means you can access files anywhere, anytime. And if your laptop is stolen or breaks down, you won’t lose important information — it’s all up in the cloud. The basic version of Dropbox provides 2 GB of space and is free. You can get more space and features by paying up to US$15 per month.
For many, myself included, social media is useful for self-marketing. However, if you’re not careful, it can gobble up time like there’s no tomorrow. Hootsuite enables you to manage social media activity more efficiently. It offers a multitude of functions, however the number available depends on whether you are using a free or paid version. These include posting across several social media sites simultaneously, scheduling posts, creating reports and tracking topics of interest.
Freelancing is ideal if you can’t or don’t want to work standard hours or like variety in your work. The trade-off is you have only yourself to rely on. You must work smarter, not harder. Thankfully, the apps featured in this post and many others, will help you do just that.
One of The Copy Collective’s contributors Monica Seeber smoothly navigates the world of freelance
copywriting and shares her top four reasons for loving it with The Copy Collective.
Once upon a time there was a young, ambitious copywriter. She sat in her home office and stared at the computer.
She said, “Monitor, monitor on my desk, of all the copywriters who is best?”
“Not you, my dear,” the monitor replied, “you have far too much admin on your mind.”
The young copywriter frowned because she knew it was true. With her client meetings, invoices and deadlines – her hours were too few.
“I shall go and search across the land,” she cried, “for somebody who will give my business a hand!”
By chance one day she entered a competition to describe in 25 words her business ambition. Imagine her surprise when she won a trip to NYC… and so began the dream of what could be.
“Aha! I shall form a copy collective! Of all the best writers I shall be most selective.
There will be workshops and training and networking too,
With a social purpose, client focus and lots of fab wine and good food!
We will have clients who love us and so tell their friends,
And their friends will be clients so the fun never ends.”
And from that day forward The Copy Collective did grow, with a passion for great copy that is not just nouveau.
Okay. So maybe that’s not exactly how The Copy Collective was formed…
Except for the competition – that happened. But it is true that our “commander in chief” – Dominique Antarakis – wanted The Copy Collective to be everything that she didn’t have when starting out.
Dominique told me” “Not every writer wants to run a business, market themselves, or attend networking junkets. For new copywriters, knowing where to start can be especially difficult.”
4 Reasons I love to write for The Copy Collective
I’m a freelancer who’s just starting out, and I can tell you that The Copy Collective has been exactly what I have needed. And these are just four of my reasons why:
No admin just writing… phew!
The Copy Collective takes the administration out of the business so that copywriters like me have the head-space to just write. I get to work on a mix of interesting projects and receive useful feedback and ongoing training so that I’m always learning and improving my craft.
So it works! Dominique and The Copy Collective team – Maureen, Naomi, Marina, and Susan – get to focus on great client service, and I get to focus on creating great copy.
Connecting with The Collective is good for everyone
Freelancing can be a lonely job so The Copy Collective organises little get-togethers across Australia. Dominique is a big fan of social networking events and encourages people to “get out and about” when they can and to talk about the work that they’re doing.
I work from home because logistically it’s most practical, but it does mean you have fewer sounding boards. It is so important to spend time talking to other people who understand your work and in the end it helps us all to work even more effectively.
Words with heart
One of the things I love about The Copy Collective is there’s a lot of heart: The Copy Collective doesn’t just look after contributors and clients, but also the wider community. When I first started, I was sent a lot of (e)-paperwork about different policies.
Dominique told me: “We have a lot of policies; things like our environmental policy, disability action plan, policy around the way we support and collaborate with Indigenous Australians.”
But these policies aren’t just filed in some folder on Dropbox and forgotten about; they truly influence how The Copy Collective operates. The Copy Collective actively supports people with disabilities – by employing them and by working on their behalf. Staff and contributors volunteer and provide pro bono assistance for community groups like Attitude Foundation and Culture is Life.
Notice our swanky new website? It’s fully accessible so people with disabilities or those who use assistive technologies can access our content as easily as anybody else.
More than words
I love working with a group of people who throw their passion into creating exceptional work, but aren’t just focused on profit margins and billable hours.
And I know you will enjoy working with The Copy Collective too – whether you’re looking for a great copywriter, or you are a great copywriter.
The team at The Copy Collective work to have a positive impact in everything we do. We want to leave the world a better place.
And because climate change is a thing… we’ll stay off the roads and work at home. In our pyjamas. It’s just one more reason why I love working for The Copy Collective.
As every parent knows, traveling with children has its delights and its obstacles. But as The Copy Collective contributor Ursula Dwyer discovers, it can be your fellow travelers – not your children – who make or break the experience.
Shrieking children on a long-haul flight seldom engender generosity of spirit in fellow travelers.
So with understandable resignation I dragged aboard my overtired two-year-old, who was screaming blue murder for no discernible reason, and prepared to endure the usual serving of surly glances and unconcealed displeasure.
But this time my neighbour was a truly gorgeous creature.
She nudged my near-hysterical daughter conspiratorially, pointed to a mouth-watering cake in her magazine, and with great deliberation pretended to extract it from the page and cram it greedily into her mouth.
My daughter froze mid-tantrum, fascinated, as she proceeded to chew enthusiastically, swallow convincingly, and smack her lips contentedly.
Casually, she continued flicking through her magazine, gasping loudly when she spied an enormous platter of tropical fruit. She grinned excitedly at my spellbound (still silent!) daughter and pretend-shoveled every last morsel into her mouth, slurping and gulping delightedly.
A giggle! From my daughter! Her little arm tentatively emerged to secure a handful of imaginary grapes and shyly pretend to eat them.
The game continued until, sated with make-believe food and very real fun, my daughter finally slept.
I mouthed a heartfelt “thank you” and pondered the rarity of such simple kindness.
Maureen Shelley turns technical in Part 7 of Blog series “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author”, on preparing your digital file.
The good news about digital files is that the eBook format takes care of all the extra formatting that is required in a print-ready manuscript. The bad news is that you have to take it all out: all those extra section breaks, footnotes etc. you put in for your print book – they all have to come out. This is where you will thank yourself for using the inbuilt formatting available in word processors.
Less is more:
Remove all section and page breaks, all footnotes and end notes, remove all underlining.
if you want to emphasise a point use italics, not underlining.
Remove the table of contents and page numbers.
Leave in your chapter headings.
Remove any hidden commands.
the long dash in Word is an example: some digital programs don’t deal well with these so use short dashes or change your punctuation.
Apostrophes are another punctuation mark that can cause issues. You may have seen a question mark in some digital files; it is usually in the place where an apostrophe would be.
Remove all blank pages. Remove all notes pages.
Your file should be continuous (no separate pages; the text should flow on) with your title page, frontispiece, the introduction and your body copy.
It may be tempting to save your file as a text file to get rid of all the formatting. This is a temptation you should resist, as it will only create additional issues, such as having to replace all the chapter headings’ format.
EBooks aren’t necessarily great places for tables and graphs. You may need to convert these to JPEG files. Then you will need to embed your images or convert them to outline files remembering to save them in the correct format if they are in colour. Your eBook platform will have specific instructions on each of these steps.
Hyperlinks need to be formatted differently for eBook versions, so if you include them read up on how to do it. There are plenty of digital publishing blog sites, so search and you shall find.
There are about 40 digital formats
An ePub is the most widely used. However, as a self-published author you will want to get onto Amazon and the Kindle uses proprietary software. Also, Apple’s iBook store uses a modified ePub (it has different cascading style sheets or CSS), so you may need at least three versions of your eBook.
Storyist is great publishing software that lets you create manuscripts (and screenplays) and convert them to popular digital formats. I recommend you investigate your options. When you upload your manuscript you will need two PDFs: one for the cover and one for the body copy.
There are dozens of eBook publishing sites and platforms. They will convert the file for you and publish to thousands of outlets. However, they will also manage your sales (which could be a good thing) and you will get the proceeds. Expect to receive between 30 and 50% of the RRP or recommended retail price.
Another way to publish is simply to use a PDF file, thereby avoiding formatting challenges. Scribd will publish PDFs and Scribd has a very large readership, or you could chose to have a downloadable file from your own website; that way you don’t share your sales with anyone.
You will need to decide whether it is better to have all the money and fewer sales or less money on more sales. If you have good traffic to your website – say 2 to 3 million visitors a month – then by all means publish only on your own site.
You will need a separate ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for your digital manuscript and a separate National Library entry for the digital format. You will not need a barcode. If you publish on Amazon, you will be given their equivalent of an ISBN.
A last word on digital files: use the strengths of the format.
You can add social media buttons and links, links to your GoodReads review page or Amazon listings for your other books – all from within your manuscript. It makes sense that if someone has just read your book, they may want more or they may tweet about it. Don’t stand in the way of your readers doing your marketing for you. Read up on the HTML codes to insert these buttons into your manuscript. It could be well worth it!
We will publish a list of sites for self-published authors at the end of this series or you could just Google it if you don’t want to wait.
Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.
Maureen Shelley turns technical in Part 6 of Blog series “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author”, on preparing your book’s print file.
The least pleasant part of writing a book is preparing the file for the printer or digital publication. I recommend you save yourself a whole lot of pain and angst and send the file to a professional typesetter to do the job for you.
If you have budgeted for nothing else, budget for a typesetter. Google typesetters in your area and send off your file and get back a nice PDF that has everything done for you. Most authors don’t try to design their covers, yet many believe that they can do the work of a typesetter.
What you need to provide if you’re going to attempt it yourself:
- You will need to provide two files to your printer – one PDF for the cover and one PDF for the manuscript itself.
- If you don’t understand any of the points below, please consult Google as there are a myriad of resources available to the self-publishing author and most are available for free.
The Cover file for the printer:
- Send the checklist of the printer’s requirements to the graphic artist who designed your cover.
- They will follow the instructions and send you back your cover with embedded fonts or with the fonts outlined.
- They will also supply the PDF in the correct format for printing, particularly if you have a full-colour cover. The details below are for the body copy file only.
The body copy file for the printer must have:
- Embedded fonts – all fonts are to be embedded, this is why I recommend Times New Roman and the use of one font only
- Mirror margins
- If the book is more than 150 pages, the right margin wider than the left (gutters)
- Manuscript margins (these are wider than standard)
- The correct leading and spacing that is consistent throughout
- The number of pages in the manuscript is exactly divisible by 16
- If the pages aren’t divisible by 16 you have added blank pages at the end
- If you have blank pages, there are fewer than 10 blank pages
- If there are more than 10 blank pages, you have typed ‘notes’ at the top of each
- The last page blank,
- The introduction and the first chapter start on right-hand pages
- The dimensions of the ‘pages’ are equal to a standard paperback form such as Trade B, B+ or C
- All options of the ‘printing’ of the file to PDF are changed so the page size remains the same at Trade B or C or what size you have chosen
- Section breaks, so you can change the page numbers before the Introduction to Roman numerals
- Page numbers after the introduction or Chapter 1 starting with Arabic numbers
- The file is ‘printed’ to PDF not ‘saved as’ a PDF from Word
- Each page set so when the file is ‘printed’ to PDF the words don’t move to the next page – resulting in changes in format and more pages than originally desired
- Standard headings used by your word processing program
- A table of contents created by your word processing program
- No extra spaces or paragraph marks – not one! Extra spaces and par marks can create havoc when files are converted to PDF and fonts are embedded
- Word processing commands for paragraphs (Ctrl (or Ctrl) in Word on a PC) – not the ‘enter’ key hit twice
- Uniform paragraph spacing – not the ‘enter’ key hit twice creating greater leading after 14pt letters as compared to 11pt letters
- Consistent spelling – chose Australian English as the review language and apply it to the whole document; unless your market is the US and then apply US spelling to the whole document
- Numbered chapter headings
- Spell checked – one last time
- A frontispiece – this sets out the requirements under
The Copyright Act (1968), provides details of the author, printer, publisher (if any), the ISBN, whether the book has been catalogued at the National Library of Australia, a statement that the author is asserting their moral rights, a copyright symbol next to the author’s name and details of the edition (1st, 2nd, Australian etc). Look at recent books in your genre to see how these are laid out.
Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.