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!
People enjoy humour, it’s part of the human psyche. The desire to laugh and be happy are shown to improve productivity, success and lifespan. Also it is widely agreed that laughing is part of human bonding. With this information in mind wouldn’t it make sense to employ humour in your content to improve it and gain appeal, creating a bond with your audience.
The simplest way to do this is through puns. One of the best wordsmiths in the world so far, William Shakespeare, was incredible at this. Many people are capitalizing on this – I mean we all do don’t we? People consume humorous content all the time – this can be seen through the popularity of Buzzfeed and The Onion.
My personal favourite punny content is a webshow called ‘Whine About It’: a show in which Matt, the host, gets drunk drinking wine at his desk and whines about things. It’s a perfect mix for me – humour and complaining. Upwards and onwards, here are five steps for you to include satire, hilarity and cleverness in your writing to engage your readers and consumers.
Consider your choice of words carefully and think about how they sound and how they play together. For example, at The Copy Collective we are always trying to make our social media more engaging. “A gift from a grateful client, heads up Dominique greatly enjoys grapes of the red variety, Maureen’s muse is more of the Moët kind” was a post we put up recently with an image of wine from a client. Something as simple as alliteration can take an ordinary sentence and make it magical.
When talking about a story or explaining something, compare it to something that’s completely different i.e., an oxymoron. To quote Oscar Wilde, “I can resist everything but temptation” or Andy Warhol, “I am a deeply superficial person”. The simplicity of an oxymoron can really boost any content in both how clever it is and its humour.
In my experience some of the best jokes are my worst jokes, although my friends may not agree with this, obviously they’re wrong. Making people groan is just as satisfying as making people giggle. For example, every opportunity I have to say, “Hi hungry, I’m Rachel” I will. It’s just like with media; there’s no such thing as bad press, all press is good. The same goes for puns.
It’s all well and good to throw in an odd joke here and there but you will upset readers when every single thing they read is a joke. They’ll stop taking you seriously and the comedy will lose its value. Be strategic, hit them when they don’t know it’s coming and make it good.
Isn’t that the point of comedy, to have fun, enjoy yourself, and make people laugh? So be funny in your writing, be clever and most of all be creative.
I’ll leave you with this: A person walks into a bookstore, “Where’s the self-help section?” they ask the clerk. The clerk shrugs and replies, “If I tell you, won’t that defeat the purpose?” – Anonymous
A brand is more than a logo and signature style for communications. It’s also what people think about your organisation. In this way, a brand is alive. It’s constantly being recreated in real-time based on people’s perceptions.
For your organisation to succeed, you want to ensure that those perceptions align with your own beliefs about who you are and what you stand for.
Your brand voice plays a key role in achieving this. But how do you finesse your brand voice? And what is brand voice anyway?
Identifying your brand’s personality
Your tone of voice helps your brand become memorable, meaning that how you say something is just as important as what you say — and sometimes even more so.
But how do you make sure you’re consistently using an authentic and effective tone of voice?
Start by thinking about your brand voice as an extension of your organisation’s personality. If your brand were a person, how would you describe them? Humble and wise? Cheeky? Direct? Friendly and approachable? Compassionate?
Establishing personality traits helps you set parameters. If confidence is one of your company’s main traits, then your tone of voice may be bold, assertive and direct. If you consider your organisation to be visionary, then your tone may be uplifting and aspirational. A bit lofty even.
Guiding questions for refining your brand voice
Clearly personality and tone go hand in hand. But there are other factors to consider as well.
As you continue to refine your brand voice, here are some guiding questions to consider:
- What type of language will resonate with your key audiences? Casual language, including slang? Or more formal language?
- How do personality and tone impact the cadence of your written communications? Are sentence fragments ok to use? Or are you more academic?
- Are you conversational in your content, using ‘we’, ‘our’ and ‘you’, for example? Or do you strictly write about your organisation in the third person?
- Do you use contractions in written communications? (This links back to your target audience as well as the level of formality you’re aiming for.)
- How do you/your employees naturally speak about your organisation? How can this organic approach be captured in your written communications?
Making your organisation distinct through your unique brand voice
Finessing your brand voice means delving deeper than questions of style, such as punctuation preferences. It’s about communicating in a way that helps you effectively connect with your target audience and stand out from the crowd at the same time.
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.
Why tone of voice matters
The way something is said is described as the tone of voice. In content writing, it is a product of the words you choose and the structure of your sentences.
Tone of voice reflects personality and for organisations it is integral to their brand — just as much as their logo.
Tone of voice enables organisations to:
- stand-out from their competitors
- communicate their personality and values
- attract and keep customers.
Developing tone of voice
It takes time to identify and develop an organisation’s tone of voice — its values and personality must be carefully considered.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Talk to stakeholders: How do your employees, suppliers and customers perceive your organisation? Is it serious and formal or casual and laid-back? Which of your competitors’ voices do they like or dislike?
- Audit your content: This can be a mammoth task, even for a small organisation, but it is worth the effort. Review website pages, brochures and proposal templates, etc. Is the tone of voice consistent throughout? Do parts clash with what you are trying to achieve?
- Review your brand: Tone of voice is part of your overall brand. Does it match the image your organisation projects? It should. So, if your website’s home page depicts serious people doing serious things, of course, fluffy, colloquial language is not appropriate.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of altering the tone of voice for different market segments. After all, shouldn’t we, like chameleons, mirror our audiences? Yes, but tone of voice must be consistent. Instead, it’s content that should change (blog posts or white papers, for example). When an organisation is inconsistent with its tone of voice, it can be perceived as ‘fake’.
Set some rules
For this reason, consistent tone of voice is important. But, when several people are producing content, this can be difficult to achieve.
It pays to set some rules.
The Copy Collective established a style guide. For example, we don’t use question marks in a blog post’s main headline; we also spell out numbers below 10 unless associated with measurements.
A style guide can also include:
- Values: For example, it may state: ‘When we write, we are always friendly, polite and helpful.’
- Language: Which words should you use or avoid? For example, for a friendly tone, your style guide may instruct writers to use ‘you’ and ‘we’. If you are an IT support company, it may advise avoiding technical jargon, which could confuse and intimidate customers.
What is your organisation’s personality? What are its values? Make sure you communicate clearly with a consistent tone of voice.
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.
Who is the audience? Write for your primary audience. Ensure the design and copy are aimed at the same audience. Work with the designer to achieve this.
Do you want the user to feel that they’ve found the right website? If so, reflect them in the visual and textual elements of the site. Don’t write copy that needs most people to visit Urban Dictionary to understand it and then show images of grey-haired individuals. Similarly, don’t depict Millennials on sites aimed at older users.
Bridge the gap
Copy cannot stand alone, so be prepared to bridge the gap between designers and copywriters. As a writer you may know that “Join Now!” is more impactful than “Register here” but does the designer know that? Can you explain why you need descriptive URLs, unique call-to-action buttons plus sub-heads and bulleted lists?
Create user personas
Design for copy
Does the design leave any space for copy? How many words are needed to describe the product/service/event? Copy should enhance the design. Consider:
- audience appeal
- style, and
- tone of voice
Beware the concrete pour (a thick slab of text that is so dense that no one can – or wants to – penetrate it). Ensure that your designer understands why you need text treated like graphical elements (see bridge the gap).
Embed labels in descriptive language
Labels – links should tell you what they do and not just “learn more” or “read more” or “sign up”. Also, make links longer – so people with limited hand control can click on them.
If the designer really wants Proxima Nova, explain why it’s unreadable on cheap monitors by old people (and lots of old people have cheap monitors). Proxima Nova does look gorgeous on a 27-inch Mac but the subscribers of the local library probably bought a $400 laptop from Officeworks that has Arial and Times New Roman installed.
Sometimes clients have brand guidelines, user guidelines, and style guides – if they do; great. Otherwise, you will need to write a style guide for the site. Base it on materials provided, their existing site and/or stakeholder meetings plus user research.
Ask the client what dictionary they use – the Macquarie (Australia), the Oxford (UK), Merriam Webster (US). If they neither know nor care, research similar sites and see what spelling they use. Stick to the one spelling (users and readers like consistency – they may not know it but their behaviour tells us that they do). Make sure the designer knows the guidelines – create a design cheat sheet if necessary.
There’s no place like home and no page like the home page. Make it accessible and relevant. So many sites make users work to find information – click this, open that, swat that pop up. Collaborate with the designer to ensure the home page copy gives the user what they want – easily, immediately and relevantly.
Just because the designer loves the infinite scroll, ensure the user is remembered and write the copy for them. See how we rank digital copy at The Copy Collective.
Use information architecture hierarchy to let users know what’s important. Write copy accordingly – longer copy is not better copy (as you know). You need to strike a balance between copy for the user/reader and copy for Google.
Just do it
It’s a great tagline for Nike but doesn’t work for copy. It’s important that copy is considered as part of the design from the beginning. Giving copy to a junior or a designer juggling multiple roles isn’t going to get to the heart of things.
A designer who’s written copy has penned a useful blog on the subject. It should be noted this designer uses US spelling and confuses complimentary and complementary and past and last – apart from that it is v helpful for designers and copywriters.
Focus on personas – who uses the content, what are they looking for.
Content needs to be readable, scannable and informative and the keywords should stand out. The reader is the main user not Google but Google is our secondary user.
What questions are our readers/users seeking to answer? Google will reward you if you know.
Have the copy follow an internal logic. For example, if you use bulleted lists or other hierarchies ensure they follow an easily identifiable schema.
Alphabetic order is the simplest schema and everyone recognises it instantly. You could also consider geographical schemas or topic or theme related (females/males, fairies/elves, Northern Hemisphere/Southern Hemisphere, city/country, modern/historical). By ordering content in a way that users recognise, you make it easier for them to absorb and find the information they want. Remember, users aren’t heroes and they don’t want to be taken on a monomythic journey where they overcome obstacles. They want information presented to them in a logical manner and they want the stuff they are looking for found easily.
How many of your visitors are on mobile devices? By using a mobile-first strategy you can ensure that you keep content simple. It also means shorter navigation titles (join, search, home, login).
Part two will be published next week – stay tuned for N to Z
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.
There is no doubt that blog writing done properly can be great for business. However, it’s pointless putting in the time and effort if you are bereft of readers. In this post, The Copy Collective’s Andrew Healey explains three simple steps for building your blog audience.
1. Know your audience
Blogging is an integral part of content marketing. And like any marketing, it pays to know whom you are marketing to.
The founder of Copyblogger, Brian Clark, says this about blogging:
“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.”
He’s right on the money, so be clear about who your audience is.
- What do they want to know about your products/services?
- What problems do they face?
- What kind of language do they use?
- How well-educated are they?
This kind of information will guide the content and style of your blog writing.
2. Call to action
Blog posts shouldn’t be ‘salesy’. However, there’s no harm in including a call to action. What do you want your readers to do?
Types of calls to action
- Subscribe — ask readers to subscribe to your blog. This way they’ll receive an email notification every time you publish a post. Another way to gain subscribers is by offering free giveaways, like e-books and white papers.
- Share — ask readers to share on social media if they like your post. There are plenty of plugins available. A personal favourite is Social Warfare, which enables you to include social icons throughout your post.
- Comments — asking for comments encourages engagement and demonstrates to visitors that you have a real audience. Social media maven Mark Schaefer says comments let you know what people think within your community, rather than other places on the internet. Make sure comments add to the conversation. There are still lots of spammers out there.
3. Promote on social media
Creating a post tailored to your audience is just the beginning. The next step for building your blog audience is the promotion.
For most bloggers, social media is highly effective for promoting their posts. Be sure to use the right sites. There are a multitude to choose from, so you can waste a lot of time. Does your audience use LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook? Do they avoid social media altogether? If you know your audience, this should be easy to figure out.
How to use social media
Social media is not a forum to ‘blow your trumpet’. Rather, it’s about sharing and adding value. Don’t be that person at a party who talks only about themselves and never listens. Social media is about a conversation.
- Promote your blog post — on LinkedIn, for example – you can do this by copying your post’s URL and pasting it in ‘update status’. LinkedIn, and Google+ also enable you to publish on their platforms. However, to build your blog audience and your website’s search engine authority, I recommend publishing on your website and using social media as a tool to drive people there. When you get to managing several social media assets to promote your blog, you may need to use a tool like HootSuite or Buffer.
- Read, share and comment — read posts by your connections that are relevant to your business. Then, share and comment. This enables you to start a conversation and encourages your connections to reciprocate with your posts.
- Reply to comments — as I’ve already said, social media is about a conversation. If someone posts a comment or question on something you’ve posted, make sure you reply.
- Make connections — this could be with potential clients. However, connecting with businesses that deal with the same people you are targeting is an effective way to generate referrals.
Keep it up
Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics, says this about blog writing:
“If you want to continually grow your blog, you need to learn to blog on a consistent basis.”
So, on a final note, remember that building a blog audience takes time and determination. Keep it up.