One of my big regrets in my time in the advertising agency world is that I never seemed to have enough time to figure out a good way to talk to the creatives at my former agency about social media. My door was always open, but I was covered up with projects, as were they. So when it came time to look at the social media concepts for our clients, most of the eyes looked my way.
I've always maintained that advertising creatives are far better than me for coming up with the “big idea.” It's kind of what they're trained to do. Sure, I've been able to produce a few of my own through the years, but leaving your winning social media concepts up to one guy's (or gal's) brain isn't a sustainable approach. Even as my staff grew, we were PR folks, SEO folks and technology folks. We weren't creative concept folks.
Still, there was (and I assume still is) a disconnect in a lot of advertising creatives (art directors and copywriters) and the world of social media. Some have made the transition. Still others are still finding their way.
One of my former creative colleagues emailed me recently and asked my take on copywriting for social media. Below is a more polished version of my response. See if it holds true for you and your experiences, then add your own thoughts in the comments:
Copywriting for social media is an interesting and deep topic because there are so many different channels, mechanisms and purposes. It's almost like you have to learn a separate business … there's the ad business … there's PR … there's social. Each slightly different.
Get to know copywriting for SEO. It's not just about great prose on the web, it's about keyword-enriched prose that helps you win search. I've read that 85% of the time someone opens a browser, they search. It drives almost everything that happens online. As a copywriter, you have to know it. For a good starting point, see SEOBook.com, TopRankBlog.com, Copyblogger.com or just Google “Copywriting for SEO” and see what comes up.
Think In 140 Characters
Think of Facebook Wall Posts, Twitter Messages, YouTube descriptions and short email-like messages as your new canvases. Instead of five words on an outdoor board that compels people to call for a certain yummy bourbon, you've got 140 characters (more or less) to make someone:
D) All of the above
The point here is to know when your messages do any of those four, it's not just that one person communicating to the brand, but often, everyone in their network sees it, too. It would be as if we had a recording of a customer screaming into the voice mail, “I effin' love you!” and we played it back to the whole world. Only we don't have to do the work and it doesn't cost anything.
Think Two-Way Communications … Or More
Keep in mind that messages are two-way now. Compelling communications is no longer just “This product rocks. Buy it and you'll be sexier.” The consumer gets to respond and to that they'll likely say, “Bullshit!” So your message has to be more human … “We're here to hang out with you. If you want to talk about your car repairs, we know a thing or two about that, but we're just chillin'.” Obviously, you've got to push people harder than that, but you need to be honest enough with them so they don't say, “Bullshit!”
And don't forget that it's more than a dialogue. You can talk to them. They can talk to you. But you can also watch them talking to each other. That's powerful.
Sometimes It's Not The Writing
The most compelling social media executions are not copywritten at all. Or they certainly don't appear to be. See BlendTek's videos. As you create ideas, concepts and so on, think about taking the human with the brand or someone who can be the brand's human, and put them in a natural environment that lets them show off the product and show how cool, smart or helpful the company is. The more “real” and not staged these types of events can be, the more people will respond to it.
Creatives Are Still The Rock Stars
Even social media stuff needs a creative's touch. Compelling presentations, viral videos, dynamite websites, etc., they still pop more with trained creative minds behind them. If guys like me are left to come up with all the home run ideas, we're going to be hitting far more singles and doubles than we'd like. I've got a long ball or two in me, but I'm far better suited to tell creatives what the environment is like and the tools can do. The genius is more likely to come from them wrapping their brains around that than me forcing myself to be outside my box.
So, what did I miss? The comments are yours.