Archive | Writing Without Waffle

How a call to action saves lives

In Kenya, you take your life in your hands when you travel between towns in a matatu – a small bus or minivan. They are notoriously driven fast and furiously, contributing to one of the highest road death rates in the world.

The Kenyan government tried a number of expensive options, including:

  • lowering speed limits
  • repairing damaged roads
  • encouraging the use of seat belts
  • installing speed bumps
  • cracking down on drunk-driving

Then two economists came up with an ingenious solution.

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“Oh f***!”

Teapot

Keep calm and have a cuppa
photo credit: Hot tea at The Pizza Express via photopin (license)

That’s what many people were posting on social media when we woke up this morning to the news that the UK has voted to leave the EU.

But why did they use the famous four-letter F-word (in full) instead of Fiddlesticks, Fridge magnet, Gerbil, or any other word from our vocabulary?

When we are young, we are taught that certain words are ‘bad’, so we store them in a different part of our brain – the amygdala, sometimes called the reptilian brain, responsible for the fight-or-flight response. It’s where we find the language we use when we are most in shock, which is why people swear when they stub their toe or bang their head on an open cupboard door.

For more on this, see the language of swearing videos below.

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So you want to be a copywriter?

Having been doing this for over 30 years, aspiring copywriters often ask me to mentor them.

Here are some of the questions they ask (including my answers, because this article would be pretty useless without them):

Q. Do you have any advice for a marketing strategy, when a new freelance copywriter has little or no budget?
A. When you have time but no money, focus on social media, including blogs, guest blogs, newsletters and guest speaking. When you have money but no time, try advertising.

Q. How did you go about meeting new contacts and potential clients, when you were first starting out?
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Copywriting for your LinkedIn profile – the business end of social media

linkedin

photo credit: DSCF0038 via photopin (license)

If you are launching a B2B business (business-to-business), or you want to promote yourself as an expert in something, LinkedIn is the place to be.

As with all marketing, LinkedIn marketing is about objectives. In order to decide how best to use it, you have to know why you are using it and what you are hoping to achieve.

Once just a glorified address book, it now has all sorts of useful functionality.

Here are my top three tips.

  1. Edit your professional headline

LinkedIn allows you to write a two-line ‘professional headline’ at the top of your profile. By default, it will show your latest job title and company name.

But a headline can account for 80-90% of success, and might be the only bit people read, so write it carefully.

For example:

  • Express your unique personality and sense of humour e.g. “Sub-editor and proofreader with special responsibility for commas”
  • Add your call to action e.g. “Currently looking to meet Brad Pitt. Can you help?”
  • Include keywords to help your profile get found on a LinkedIn search e.g. “Expert plumber in Pimlico here to solve Pimlico Plumbing problems”

If one objective of your LinkedIn profile is to drive traffic to your website – and it should be – there is space to include your URL in the professional headline area.  That’s because LinkedIn has hidden your web addresses under the index card icon and the default link “company website” or “personal website”. There is only a small chance that people who view your profile will bother to click there. (Bonus tip:  you can change this anchor text to something more compelling when you choose “other” from the drop-down menu.)

All your LinkedIn contacts who have not unsubscribed from the weekly digest email (let’s face it, most people don’t because they don’t know how) will receive a message saying “[Your name] has changed his/her professional headline to…”

I’ve won business just by adding the word “copywriter” in mine. One of my contacts got in touch to say “Hey, I never knew you were a copywriter!” I never knew he was in marketing, because we’d originally met in another capacity (public speaking). He went on to pass me a lot of web copywriting work.

You can change your professional headline as often as you wish. I know a recruiter who writes “Expert in recruiting for Javascript programmers” when he’s recruiting for those, and “Expert in recruiting for landscape gardeners” when he’s recruiting for those. He then does some other LinkedIn activity to drive his target candidates and clients to his profile. When they see it, they think he’s the right recruiter for them.

LinkedIn expert, Bert Verdonck, includes “happy chocoholic” in his professional headline. He told me that people send him chocolate just because of this.

Think of your professional headline more like a poster advert – a few words that will prompt people to read on and contact you. You have 120 characters to play with – go for it!

Do second level searches

At the top of every LinkedIn page is a dark grey search bar.

The default is set to search ‘all’, as you can see by the three-line ‘list’ icon on the left beside the drop-down arrow.

Click the word ‘advanced ‘on the right – this will open a new ‘people’ search window.

Ignore the third column with the gold icons. This feature is only available to (paid) premium users.

In the second column, tick the box marked ‘2nd connections’.

In the first column, type your desired search details. For example, keyword ‘copywriting’ within 10 miles of postcode ‘BR3 4HL’.

A list of your 2nd level connections will appear.

If you click the down pointing arrow beside the ‘connect’ button, you will see an option called ‘get introduced’. If you want, LinkedIn will walk you through the process of an online introduction. But I recommend an alternative approach.

Under each name will be a green link showing how many connections you both share.

Click the green link to see who they are.

Instead of using the impersonal LinkedIn interface, pick up the phone and contact one or more of your 1st level connections. Ask how well they know your target individual. Explain why you would like to connect with them. Perhaps they will be willing to introduce you? Or you could arrange a three-way Skype conference call or Google Hangout? Maybe you could all meet for coffee or lunch?

When a mutual connection arranges an introduction for you, it’s much more likely to be warmly received than a cold call. If nothing else, it’s a good chance to reconnect with a 1st level contact. And if it works out, remember to thank your introducer appropriately.

  1. Customise your URL and public profile

If you want to send the link to someone, you’ll find the default URL (web address) for your profile is not very catchy. Go to Profile > Edit Profile > Edit public profile to customise your URL i.e. change the random string of numbers to your own name, if available. You can also tick and untick the boxes on this page, to select which elements of your profile you want the public to see i.e. people not in your network. You will see a preview showing changes as you make them.

 

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Sainsbury’s: What in the world were you thinking?

You might have seen this story; it was all over the press and social media this month. Here’s the ad that caused all the trouble (published 12 May, page 14, Camden New Journal):

Sainsbury's

Putting aside the fact that a £5.2billion organisation wants a local artist to paint their Camden canteen for nothing, the copy is appalling.

I had planned to list all the errors, but it’s SO bad, I almost lost the will to live. Here are just a few:

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Copywriting for Facebook – the social end of social media

facebook

photo credit: Generation Y via photopin (license)

If you have seen the Social Networking film, you will know that Facebook grew out of purely social roots. Originally, Mark Zuckerberg and friends developed it as a platform for rating the attractiveness of the women on campus. It grew to become a way for Harvard and Yale alumni to keep in touch, before expanding to universities around the world.

Soon, we grown-ups joined in, seeing how useful it was to communicate with our global family, friends, suppliers and clients.

Initially, Facebook was completely against any type of advertising. In fact, they resisted doing anything to help businesses.

Then, they realised that’s where the money was and tagged on some extra functionality.

Facebook for business: The basics

It’s important to understand the difference between profiles, groups and pages.

  • Profiles are for individuals
    • Profiles collect friends
  • Groups are for profiles rallied around a common cause. You might set up a group around your business, but the business doesn’t ‘own’ the group. It’s a place for what I call ‘bottom-up’ communication and engagement.
    • Groups collect members
  • Pages are for businesses. The business ‘owns’ the page, and can use it for ‘top-down’ communication and engagement.
    • Pages collect likes (they used to collect fans so are still sometimes called fan pages; I predict that one day pages will collect follows, because you might like the page even though you don’t necessarily like the business)

In order to have a business page, you need to have a personal profile to act as the page admin (although you don’t have to post any updates on your profile if you don’t want to).

Top tip

If you do not ‘like’ your page from your profile, no one will know you have anything to do with it.

Objectives for your Facebook page

Only a tiny percentage of people will go back to your page once they have liked it. That means they will only see your header image once. Your page has three objectives – to get people to click the like button, visit your website, or sign up for your newsletter.

Top tip

Up to 20% of your header image can be text, so I recommend you use a free tool such as Canva to add these objectives as calls to action.

Remember, most people use Facebook on a mobile device. This means your avatar (the square picture that overlaps your header image) will usually be seen at only 30 pixels square, so make sure it reads clearly at that small size. If it’s your logo, add space top and bottom to make it square.

Most people will only see your updates in their timeline if they are logged on at the right time. That means you should post updates at least two or three times a day (on pages, you can schedule updates using the ‘clock’ icon under the posting area).

Your objective with each update is to get people to like, comment or share, so that their friends see your updates too. Therefore, add a question or call to action in some (not all) of your updates.

Top tip

I’ve seen it quoted that videos on Facebook get shared 30% more than images or text.

Facebook no longer shows all your updates to the people who have liked your page. It might be as little as 10%. This is because they want businesses to pay for promoted updates and Facebook ads

Promoted updates are guaranteed to reach many more of the people who have liked your page, and their friends too. It can mean your page gets more likes.

Remember that people on Facebook are in social mood. They are not buying and selling. So choose wisely which updates you share. They should not be too sales-y or you risk getting a backlash.

Facebook ads can work well, to get more page likes, or to drive traffic to your website. Some of my clients have found it works out at about £1 per like.

It is all a bit of a numbers game – but the real measure of success is sales.

Top tip

Be careful about running competitions on Facebook – that’s currently against the rules. Better to run the competition on your blog and link to it from Facebook.

Summary

Because of its roots, Facebook is the social end of social media. It works best for business-to-consumer (B2C) businesses, rather than business-to-business (B2B) businesses.

As a freelance copywriter, I use my personal profile to stay in touch with family, friends, and networking contacts. I try not to annoy family and friends by posting too many business updates, and am careful to protect my personal brand by not sharing social photos that will be seen by my business contacts.

I don’t post many – if any – sales messages. Even so, one of my scuba diving friends recently messaged me on Facebook to ask about a training course for her team.

Think Facebook can’t be used for business? Think again.

 

 

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Wonderful Website Webinar

Here are the edited highlights of a webinar I did to follow up the talk I gave at the #MakeItHappen conference in Marbella. I hope you find them useful. Of course, if you want any further help, you know where to find me…

PART 1
13:00 minutes
What does Alice Through the Looking Glass have to do with websites, Review of EFT Costa Blanca, What the banner printer did wrong

PART 2
7:30 minutes
Review of Guide to Malaga, Q&A: Should your website be scrollable?

PART 3
13:30 minutes
Review of Change My Life, How your website fits with your other online marketing

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A copywriter’s rant.

Dear Clients,

When I write copy for you, I spend quite a lot of time. I draw on my skill, qualifications and over 30 years of experience to research your business, your customers and your competitors, and then craft words that will work. Then I edit what I’ve written. Then I tweak it some more. When I’m finally happy I really can’t do any better, I send the draft to you.

What you get is words that represent your unique brand personality, make you stand out from the rest, and contain the psychological triggers that will cause the reader to take the action you want them to take.

Every word is there for a reason.

Despite that, I’m not precious. I’m not going to argue with you about the position of a full stop, or whether a sentence can start with ‘And’ or ‘But’.

I’m happy to change the copy when there’s a good reason to do so.

So don’t dive in and rewrite it yourself.

If you want to change anything, just ask me. That gives me the chance to explain why things are the way they are, or we can agree what needs to be changed.

There’s a well-known saying: “Don’t hire a dog then bark yourself”.

In this scenario, I’m the dog.

Woof.

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