Since I was young, writing has been an important part of my life. I wrote my first book when I was five called “There’s A Microphone In My Throat.” It won some children’s award, and that award was followed by consistently winning first place in Young Authors with my poetry.
Intuitive writing came easy to me and I always wanted to be writing. I was, and continue to be, inspired by every single little thing— living in a constant state of awe that I just had to write down.
Fast forward to college, where I double-majored in Public Relations and English-Creative Writing. One professor told me that my writing was not believable, and I needed to write about more simple things when what I had written about was a TRUE story!
I had another force away my voice and demand that I write in the tone she wanted all of her students to write in. This all completely countered my Public Relations classes, telling me to cut and cut and cut until I had just the bare bones of what I needed to communicate on the page.
I had wonderful professors too. I ended up with an incredible Godsend of a creative writing professor my senior year who pushed me so hard that I wrote an incredible piece that I still cherish. She allowed me to view my writing as a sanctuary, a solace place to go when the world hurt too much.
I was very ill when I was in her class. I was being flown to different hospitals, a mere 110 pounds on my tall frame, missing classes, and trying to complete my last semester of college still. While some professors tried to give me grief, this particular professor knew she could pull something beautiful out of me during this vulnerable time in my life— and she did.
I had a Public Relations professor that I absolutely adored. I was half-scared of his intensity, but his passion for his students energized me to come out of college ready to be successful PR pros. This particular professor gave many pop quizzes to see just how much we could whittle down a draft press release.
The skill of writing concise copy was helpful when I became a social media manager. This same professor also introduced me to the man who gave me my first job, who is now one of my clients.
The point here is that there are many different types of writing and copywriting. One of the most detrimental forms of writing clashing I have witnessed was when I worked for a healthcare system. A lead digital writer was hired who only had journalism experience. He was a fantastic writer with a pedigree one could only hope to have, but he was not on social media himself and had never written a single piece of digital copy in his life.
He came in demanding that we write more professionally and stoically on our social media sites. He wrote a story that he wanted me to publish on Facebook that read like an entry in a medical journal.
When things finally came to a head, the team decided that the social team would write the social copy and the lead digital writer would edit. This still did not improve the situation and we were soon told not to use hashtags on Facebook and Twitter.
I have seen many traditional journalists effortlessly make the transition. This was just one time in which digital writing needed to be recognized as its own circus.
Content marketing is its own thing and the writers are at the helm of this ship. Here are some things I have found helpful as I have spent the last decade writing social and digital copy:
Begin With A Value Proposition
This seems like a TON of work, but the hope is that the value prop process will become something that you can do quickly in your mind before writing a piece of content. I still manually write these out when I have a bundle of content that I need to make for a campaign. It’s helpful to think of each digital piece of copy having its own purpose. You cannot write effective copy without knowing who and how it is going to affect them.
I included a blank example to the left of the exact format I use when writing value props and included an example of one filled out below to give you a better perspective of how value props are used in digital marketing content creation.
Write At Your Target Audience’s Grade Level
My first job was working at a research firm in NYC. Everything I wrote teetered on the technical side of writing unless I wrote a report for a client. I wrote those reports professionally and objectively. Fast forward to my second job, and I am responsible for five different nutrition brands, the main focus being a trendy bodybuilding brand.
About two days into the job the president called me into his office.
He said, “Marji, the guys buying our stuff don’t understand what you are saying.” I was utterly dumbfounded. “They are at maybe a seventh/eighth grade level of reading. You need to dumb these posts down.”
It’s not that he was calling his target market dumb, but he was saying how I was writing was at a grad-school thesis level, and it wasn’t coming across at all on social media to these bodybuilders buying the brand’s products. I had to learn how to write in their language.
I wrote on a seventh/eighth-grade level and suddenly met all of the goals the President had set before me. I will never forget that conversation, and I remember what that president said today when I am writing digital copy. It is so vital that you are writing what your audience can understand.
Include A Clickable CTA
A call-to-action should be used whenever it is possible in the copy. CTAs can be anything from asking your audience to retweet something to asking your audience to fill out a form. A quick Google search will tell you how to use CTAs in different situations. I often search for new ideas for CTAs because I use them so often in my clients’ copy.
Audiences like to have a call-to-action to continue their connection with a piece of content. Adding CTAs to your copy for social media posts can increase the click-through rate by 285%. This in itself is the definition of compelling digital copy.
Tailor Your Copy To Each Digital Marketing Channel
Using the same copy on all digital marketing channels is one of the most common mistakes I see across digital marketing. I will see a website hero image with overlayed copy used as a LinkedIn post. Your audience coming to your website is a bit different than your audience coming to LinkedIn. It’s important to pay attention to how people speak on social media marketing channels, as well as what they are looking for in an email versus landing pages.
Instagram copy should never be copied to Facebook. The hashtags you would use on Instagram often differ from the ones used on Facebook. Tailoring copy is incredibly important in the world of social media marketing.
Instagram copy should never be shared on Twitter because the hashtag ratios are not the same across social media channels. It would be best if you were using three hashtags MAX on Twitter.
When I am writing digital copy for clients, I create a spreadsheet for each channel and tailor each copy to be different. Specifically writing copy per each channel dramatically improves engagement and quality lead generation. I’ve watched many clients go from sharing the same copy on all media and receiving little interaction to tailoring their copy to each channel and making a sale. I include everything from web pages to affiliate marketing to social media marketing in this spreadsheet.
Be Approachable At The Core Of Your Voice
Entering the “human” part of digital marketing is a hard sell for some, especially if they want to maintain a hyper-professional presence online. However, you are interrupting people shopping for something else on Google, checking in on their grandchildren on Facebook, looking for the latest sports stats on Twitter, and sharing their latest fashion find on Instagram. These are not people who want to have a super-professional voice thrown in front of them while going about their lives.
Your target audience craves connection, and you need a connection to generate leads and foster engagement. You can be professional and maintain your brand values while still letting your guard down just a bit online to become a part of the online community. Being approachable is an absolute MUST if you want to power-up your social and digital marketing.
Never doubt the power of search engine optimization (SEO.) One of the most effective tools I use is SEMRush. Their SEO Content Template is easy to use and is a quick way to ensure that your content is SEO-optimized. All you do is select your keywords, paste your content in, and then SEMRush will tell you what you need to do to improve your content. I recommend doing this for all of the blog posts you write to increase brand awareness.
You want search engines to be familiar with your brand. This is where digital writing can take a quick turn away from the writing needed for traditional marketing. You have to pay attention to what words you are using when in order to attract internet users to your brand.
Personalization is an online marketing trend that is not going away because it is extremely effective. Especially when you are thinking of email marketing. Using a person’s name in the copy immediately creates a connection.
There’s an opportunity to also personalize via micro-targeting. When writing about products and services, make them familiar to the specific target audience that would buy that product.
Digital copy is one of the most important tools in the digital media toolbox for converting a customer. While photos and videos initially attract a consumer, what’s written can tell the person how to get to the next place in your sales funnel. What hashtags, language, SEO-optimization, etc., used can make or break an effort to gain a new qualified lead. Newspapers do a great job of sharing the news, novels entertain us, and digital content from brands online should be valuable enough for us to take action and become a lead. There is a time and place for every type of writing, and digital writing is at the core of creating effective pieces of content that convert.
I hope this “how-to” article can help you advance your digital writing so you are able to gain even more success in the online space.
-Marji J. Sherman