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.

*Copywriting
Image by Bazstyle | Photography via Flickr

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.

Know SEO

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:

A) Click

B) Share

C) Respond

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.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://twitter.com/brandonchicago Brandon Andersen

    Great article Jason. Like you said, writing for two way communication is extremely important. Writing ad copy in the social media space just comes across and spammy.

    Writing with SEO in mind may appear to some people as contradictory to writing for a dialog with humans, but it's amazing how much easier things are to produce and consume when you have keywords in mind. For example, your title “Copyrighting For Social Media” got my interest right away and it's going to be a darling with Google. :)

  • Olga @ Powered

    You hit the nail on its head. Make every word count. It really forces you to see and understand the power of communication. You are almost like a poet writing short poems with deep meanings that move people (in this case…to share). FYI – This is my FB update for the Powered page. Thanks for inspiring me!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Glad to be of service!

  • http://startups.com/ M_Dilli

    Good post. The subject is very interesting and I believe that it concerns us all, at least the ones that use social media sites for business purposes. And, in my opinion, just like with every other business aspects, copyright will become an important matter when it comes to sharing business data online.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/amdinapoli Anne DiNapoli

    I love what you said about creatives being the “rockstars”. I'm a copywriter for social media and it's hard to hit multiple home runs everyday. Action verbs and conversation are key. Also, speaking to the customers of the brand you represent is essential. They want to be talked to in a way that appeals to them. Thanks for the tips.

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  • http://twitter.com/UnitedLinen United Linen

    Jason:

    BlendTek was a great example.

    The only thing I might add is, make your Tweets Retweetable by not using up all 140 characters. Really no more than 120(?)

    • http://decafbad.com/ lmorchard

      For what it's worth, the new native Twitter retweet feature lets you retweet all 140 chars of the original, unless you edit the tweet intentionally

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  • Pingback: Letsgosocial.nl » Blog Archive » Copy writing voor Social Media

  • http://www.klout.com Megan Berry

    Really interesting article. I think people don't generally think about “copyrighting” in relation to their 140 character tweets, but it's actually even more important when you have so little room.

  • http://nehalkazim.com/social-media%20/social-media-fifa-world-cup-success/ Nehal Kazim

    Well said Jason. The first time I really understood the value of copywriting for social media when I posted two tweets for the same content. I forgot I posted it the first time but renamed it when posting it the second time. Assuming the time of day was about the same when the comment was posted, the two tweets got noticeably different results.

    Having the ability to write and intrigue your following requires testing. Begin tracking results and start tweaking.

  • http://www.bcox.me Brandon Cox

    What an awesome answer! You've covered the bases… I like to add on to the idea of thinking in 140 character blocks that we need to maximize the power of those words – use words of impact since attention spans are short.

  • Mary Sweeny

    Great post Jason! SMM is it's own medium. One word change in a Tweet, for example, and POW! 30 X's the click throughs! I love the immediate trackability. And I love writing for social media!
    ~Mary Sweeny

    • http://www.opson.com Rana Singh

      Creativity writing, video etc. sure has a lot of premium these days. As a social media marketing company we are always looking for SMM writers. Thanks for the great post!

  • http://twitter.com/pmswish Patty Swisher

    Excellent post Jason. Though I've still got a lot to learn, I like to think in terms of message themes for a day. Each tweet stands alone and each also supports the theme of the day. Its a challenge but helps me focus on those key thoughts and ideas.

  • http://twitter.com/pmswish Patty Swisher

    Excellent post Jason. Though I've still got a lot to learn, I like to think in terms of message themes for a day. Each tweet stands alone and each also supports the theme of the day. Its a challenge but helps me focus on those key thoughts and ideas.

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  • ilkay
  • ilkay
  • Daniel

    Great post! Thanks! I found this rather useful for the 140 characters thinking: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/twitter-iteration… (Jacob Nielsen of course).

  • Daniel

    Great post! Thanks! I found this rather useful for the 140 characters thinking: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/twitter-iteration… (Jacob Nielsen of course).

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  • http://twitter.com/bazstyle Ahmed Bin-Baz

    Dear Jason Falls
    I'm overjoyed that you like my shot, Keep up the good work!
    http://www.flickr.com/bazstyle/

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  • http://www.socialcubix.com/facebook-developer-uk.php Facebook Developer UK

    Once again a great post Jason. Your posts are really thought provoking and they make me come to read your stuff again and again.

    I'm also learning much by reading your stuff regularly.

    Thanks.

  • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

    Nice! Generate action, think towards two-way communications….fantastic principles for social writing. Thanks, Jason.

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    Articles are meaningful, and your blog is nice!

  • http://twitter.com/TheUrbanMetro Urban Media

    There certainly is a difference between regular copywriting/web copywriting/social media copywriting. The tone of voice is also a key consideration – something which a business may find hard to establish in the first place.

  • http://www.mactonweb.com/ Web design London

    Good post. The subject is very interesting and I believe that it concerns us all, at least the ones that use social media sites for business purposes. And, in my opinion, just like with every other business aspects..

  • http://twitter.com/tflatley Tighe Flatley

    Great post. Another point I always need to remind myself of is that quality copywriting, even for the fast-paced world of social, takes time.

    There’s a lot of pressure to get things out first and fastest, but I’ve found that content is most effective if you prioritize the effort to write, read, edit, and polish with those four goals (click, share, respond, all of the above) in mind. What you say and how you say it can be so much more powerful than when you say it.

  • http://weboutsourcing-gateway.com/ Search Engine Optimization

    Being creative  is always the foundation of writing. Writing for web differs because of the concept of SEO. Thanks for social media, two-way symmetrical communication is now possible.  

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  • http://www.socialmediamarketingmall.com/social-bookmarking Nathan Kuneda

    Yes being creative really out stands all. I like how you made this post. Thanks. 

  • http://www.muddywall.com/ Muddywall

    Just stumbled across your article. Although written 2 years ago it is more relevant than ever now. But still seems that social media copywriting is an under recognised skill. Anyone else find the same?

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