Entries from November 2012 ↓

Social Media Copywriting

Ask any professional copywriter and they’ll tell you it’s much harder to write short copy than long.Copywriting for social media

It’s much more difficult to get your message across when you only have a few characters to play with. That’s why social media copywriting is so tough and why so many people get it wrong.

How many times have you seen a random Tweet that’s full of abbreviations that makes no sense whatsoever? What about Facebook updates that ramble on and on?

In this post, I want to look at how to write effective social media updates that have meaning.


Twitter is probably one of the hardest platforms to write for, purely because you only have 140 characters to play with.

As I mentioned above, the temptation is to squeeze as many abbreviations in as possible to ‘cheat’ the character limit.

But that usually ends up in a bizarre tweet that few people will bother looking at.

Writing short copy is difficult, but also a great way of honing your writing skills. After all, with only 140 characters to play with it’s essential that every word you use counts.

You can tighten your message by cutting out unnecessary adjectives (something that will also help your general sales writing) and by getting to the point straightaway.

Keep your tweet to one topic and remember to add a link if you want to direct people to an article or web page that backs up your tweet.

Keeping your updates short like this will also help your followers. If they like what you say and want to retweet it, by keeping your character count down they should be able to do so without having to go in and edit it down.


Although Facebook gives you far more room for your updates, it is still good practice to keep them punchy and to the point.

If you post rambling updates no one is going to want to read them, so keep them short, relevant and interesting.

Also, if you want to raise your reach on Facebook ask for comments and reactions. The more reactions your post gets, the more newsworthy it becomes, which will increase its appearance in news feeds.

By adding video, polls and images you can increase your level of engagement, but what’s also important is to remember to post when your followers are likely to be online. The scheduling tool is perfect for this.


LinkedIn is more about business and less about personal interaction. It is a platform from which you can show your expert status within your field. That means comments about needing a coffee, what you had for lunch etc., are not really going to be all that effective.

For LinkedIn look at posting news stories that are relevant to your industry and add your comments and opinions. This will encourage others to do the same and get a conversation started.

It’s also a great place to share news about your company, whether you’re hiring new people, starting a new exciting project or diversifying.

This social media platform opens up the opportunity for longer updates, but again they must be relevant and interesting.

As you can see, social media copywriting can be a complex animal, but it is also a great way to practice your short copy skills.

How to Get Into Copywriting

That is something I am asked regularly by people who have been bitten by the writing bug and want to embark on a career as a professional copywriter.Copywriter - Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd

There’s lots of advice out there and a few urban myths too, so here’s my story of how I got started.

You need an agency background

This is a common myth banded about.

Agency experience is useful and it may mean you have a few useful contacts tucked away up your sleeve, but it’s not a necessity.

Before starting my copywriting business, I had no previous experience in an agency or in a role as a copywriter. But what I did have was the ability to write clearly, powerfully and in a way that connected with my readers.

Going right back to the beginning, I started out life in the banking industry and spent a lot of time writing to customers on behalf of the branch manager (skill #1 learning to take on the voice of someone else).

After a career break to start my family, I began working for an international Leprosy charity. During that time I produced fundraising material for local campaigns (skill #2 writing persuasively with emotion to get people to take a specific action).

Then I decided to go back to school and embarked on a BA (Hons) degree in English Language and Literature with the Open University (skill #3 self-discipline and the ability to write with clarity).

After I graduated in 2007, a local businessman and friend asked for my help on a project he was working on. He knew I could write and needed some copy producing for one of his clients. I did the work, the project was a huge success and I was bitten by the copywriting bug.

Within a month, I’d set up my business, launched my first website and started learning about Internet marketing and social media.

As a result, about 70% of my new clients find me through my website with the remainder being word of mouth recommendations.

Networking and cold calling will get you clients

I’m sure for many, these options do bring in clients, but in the early days I did neither.

Cold calling is one of my pet hates; it really bugs me when people call me up trying to sell me stuff, so I refuse to do it to others.

As for networking, my initial decision to grow my business online via social media (‘virtual’ networking) came about because I am not a natural networker. Being of a shy disposition, walking into a room of strangers and striking up a conversation is my worst nightmare.

Of course, not everyone is like me and networking will get you in front of the people you need to speak with. So make sure you present yourself correctly. Don’t just way “hello, I’m a copywriter”, sell yourself by telling them “I help companies communicate more effectively with their customers through writing”.

Today, I do some networking, but I’ll never cold call.

You can only write for an industry you know about

Another myth.

Copywriting is about finding the right words to convey the right message to the right people.

Your client is the person who should know everything there is to know about their industry, not you.

As a copywriter, your role is to:

  • Study the company and its brand
  • Get a good knowledge of the service/product you’re writing about
  • Understand their target customers
  • Discover what it is that their customers want to know
  • Identify the main benefits that will make the customers buy

The client is coming to you because you are an expert in your field not theirs.

You have to charge by the hour

No, no, no, no, no.

Clients aren’t paying for your time; they are paying for your experience and expertise.

You wouldn’t pay a plastic surgeon for the time it takes him to perform your tummy tuck – would you?

You are not just a writer – you are an expert in creating marketing communications that resonate with customers, compelling them to take a specific action.

Anyone can string a sentence together; not everyone can create copy that is powerful, persuasive and that gets results.

Useful links

That’s a whistle-stop look at how I got started as a copywriter, but there are numerous ways you can break into the industry.

A while ago, I was asked to participate in a couple of The Guardian Online’s forums about being a copywriter. The links to these are below so you can also read about how other copywriters started out.

Routes into copywriting

How to break into copywriting

Why Your URL is Important

How much time did you put into deciding on your website’s URL?Getting your URL wrong

For those who are unsure, the URL is the text address of your website:


Above is one of the URLs in my website. As you can see the name (Briar Copywriting) is followed by the name of the sub-page, in this case SEO copywriting.

The idea behind the URL is to describe what a website or page contains to both the web visitor and search engines. That’s why it’s essential it is relevant to the page.

But before you rush in and use your company name, stop and consider for a moment what it will actually look like.

If you don’t, you risk getting it badly wrong.

This is highlighted in the top 10 unintentionally worst company URLs as shown by the website Independent Sources. These are prime examples of companies that rushed headlong into creating their URLs without stopping to think about how they will actually be read by others.


Here goes…

1. Experts Exchange, a site where programmers can exchange advice and views became expertsexchange.com

2. Pen Island, a one stop shop for any type of pen became penisland.net

3. Therapist Finder became therapistfinder.com

4. Who Represents, a site that helps you find the name of an agent that represents a celebrity became whorepresents.com

5. Italian Power Generator company – powergenitalia.com

6. Mole Station Native Nursery – molestationnursery.com

7. For computer software try ipanywhere.com

8. There is the First Cumming Methodist Church’s unfortunate cummingfirst.com

9. An art designers website – speedofart.com

10. If you fancy visiting Lake Tahoe, try gotahoe.com


Think before you buy

All of these examples are from bona fide companies that just didn’t stop and think before they bought.

So, the moral of this post is, before you rush in and grab your company’s name as a URL, write it down and see how it actually looks (or, get someone else to look at it for you) – it might just save your blushes.


Over to you

They are some cracking examples, but do you have any more?

If so, leave a comment below and let’s see how many companies forgot to think before buying.

Is Your Website Giving Your Visitors What They Want?

When you designed your website, what was at the forefront of your mind?website visitors' wish list

Was it your colour scheme, the graphics you used, the font or perhaps ensuring the latest ‘must have’ gizmos were present?

At any point in the process did you think about the visitors to your site?

Granted, your site has to reflect you and your business, but it also has to offer your visitors what they want.

Yup, sorry, it’s all about THEM.

Your visitors’ wish list

In an ideal world your website has to satisfy these 4 visitor wants:

1. Does it have what I want?

Although they probably found you through a Google search, so in theory your site should be offering what they searched for, have you made it obvious?

The minute they land on your site they have to be able to see that you are offering what they’re looking for.

If your home page (because that’s probably the first page they’ll come to) is full of information about you – how wonderful you are, how long you’ve been trading, what colour your offices are decorated in – they will hit the back browser and disappear faster than a fast thing.

Instead, it should be all about THEM. Tell them how they’ll benefit from what you’re offering. Write your website copy in the second person to make it personal to them; keep the language simple and chatty to engage with them. In other words keep the focus firmly on THEM.

2. Are you trustworthy?

The Internet is a wonderful thing and has opened up all sorts of opportunities for businesses and customers that would otherwise have been closed to them. But because your business is ‘virtual’ and your customers can’t walk into your offices or showroom for a chat, you must use your website to show you are a real company that they can trust.

How do you do that?

Well, a professional site with a good design, great information and clear content is a good start. Throw in an About Us page with substance (showing awards etc.) and testimonials that are attributed to real people to add weight to your reputation.

If you’re mentioned in local newspapers or magazines, again link out to the articles or include a PDF that can be downloaded from your site.

All of these things show your credibility as a company.

3. What do you do?

There’s nothing worse than landing on a website only to be bemused about what the company actually does.

Because first impressions count, make sure your design and images reflect your business activities to strengthen your message.

Your products and services should be clearly stated. Clear navigation should be able to effortlessly steer your visitors to the pages they need for more information. Again, the About Us page that we mentioned earlier should also outline what you can do for your customers.

4. Easy to contact

Making yourself easy to contact will also help the trust issue.

Having a contact form is all well and good, but if you want to be completely transparent make sure you also show your email, phone number and physical address. At least then they are reassured that you really do exist.

And make sure all that information is easy to find. Don’t hide it away in the darkest recesses of your website so only the most skilled of surfers can find it.

Over to you

Have we missed anything?

What are your thoughts about what your visitors want?

Leave a comment below and let’s see how many we can come up with.

Guest Blogging – Could There be Trouble Ahead?

Guest blogging (posting) is a perfectly legitimate way of gaining more prominence online, but, as with most things in life, there are always people looking for a quick fix.

Most owners of good websites with high Page Rank and good amounts of traffic are inundated with requests from people looking to guest post in return for a link back to their site.

A recent post on Dailybloggr suggests that because the system is open to abuse, Google may consider changing its algorithm.

After all, as they rightly say, the mass posting of low quality content brought about the Panda update and Penguin was a result of link manipulation, so it’s not beyond the realms of our imagination to think that, before long, we could see an algorithm update that will affect guest posting.

But is it likely to happen?

Matt Cutts answers this question below:

Good guest blogs

How do you know if what you’re being offered as a guest post is any good?

  • A high quality post will inform the audience and benefit both the writer and publisher
  • Only accept high quality posts that offer something unique
  • Don’t accept short posts (300-500 words) especially if of low quality because it’s probably been spinned or duplicated elsewhere
  • The post will not be promotional and will add real value to your website and your readers

Over to you

What are your thoughts on guest posting?

If you have any tips to share, leave a comment below.