Copywriting for digital: are you neglecting it? - Zeta Global

See why well-written words are fundamental to building meaningful, lasting connections with your clients

By Zeta Global

March 27, 2016

“Copy-writing is an essential part of any campaign, but it’s being neglected.”

So says Tony Brignall, the most awarded copywriter in British advertising. This is especially true of copy-writing in the digital sector. Yet well-written words are fundamental to building meaningful, lasting connections with your clients and customers.

Before we get hung up on copy-writing, let’s take a look at the bigger picture.

The degree to which the digital world has proliferated modern life is astounding. It’s hit the point of no return; we can’t function without it. For better or worse, we consume more content than ever before. Thanks to multiple devices and platforms (emails, tweets, images, ads, banners, blogs, websites, snap-chats, pins…), everything we want (and even things we don’t) is but a click, swipe or tap away.

As producers of content, you’re often forced to act fast; what’s relevant this moment will be old news the next. But this time pressure, coupled with the ability to communicate quickly across multiple platforms, makes copywriting the first casualty. And it means marketers and brands are missing out on huge opportunities.

As brand guardians, marketers and communicators, our challenge is to reimagine copywriting for the digital world. Use words wisely, and you will be able to forge communities, strengthen loyalties and, ultimately, drive sales.

Pack copy with personality

It’s easy to lose sight of the message when you’re focused on the medium. But remember, real people with real lives will be reading your content – on the sofa, on their way to work, or tucked up in bed at night. Whether you write copy or review it, you need to empathise with your reader, understand who they are and what matters to them. With empathy comes wit, charm and a strong connection to your brand.

Above all, be real. Create an authentic experience. Make your customer feel valued and comfortable. How?

Stick to your brand’s tone of voice

Tone of voice is your brand’s verbal identify. It’s the language you use to communicate with your customers, stakeholders and even casual bystanders.

Everything from emails and till receipts to websites and blogs is an opportunity to connect with your customers – share information, make them smile or feel good. Unlike print, digital comms is a two-way street, giving you the opportunity to learn something about your customers, too – you’ll gain valuable data that paints a much clearer picture of your customers’ likes, dislikes and personality.

Why does tone of voice matter?

Without face to face contact, your words are the only way you get to talk to and connect with your customer. Whether that connection is via your website, ad, email or tweet, it will be stronger if it’s consistent.

As a rule of thumb, your tone of voice should be warm, natural and conversational. Imagine you’re reading your copy to someone in the same room – if it sounds awkward, re-write it. Remember, your words are all you have to establish a relationship and connection, so make every one count.

If content is king, then context is queen

Is an enthusiastic tone appropriate for a piece of comms informing the customer about a price rise? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean you have to turn into a cold robot devoid of personality. Be empathetic.

Tone of voice can flex depending on your audience or your message. The top three questions you should always keep front of your mind when setting a brief, writing copy or reviewing a draft are:

What do you need your reader to know?
How do you want them to feel?
What’s the ONE thing you want them to do?

Keep it short. Keep it sweet. Only say what you really have to say.

Do it again, but better

The beauty of digital copy-writing is that nothing is set in stone.

Digital, unlike its print cousin, can be refined, even after it’s been published. Website not achieving hits? Banner falling flat on its face? Email message not effective? With digital, you can easily track where your audience is from, what elements of your site, email or banner they’re responding to, and fine tune to your heart’s content.

Test. Test everything.

Subject lines, headlines, short copy, long copy, CTAs. A/B testing gives you a quick look at what’s hot and what’s not, and allows you to dive a little deeper. But don’t just dip your toe in your data lake – take the plunge and allow your learning to shape your approach.

Do your readers respond better to questions, news announcements, personalisation or a sense of urgency? Measure open rates. What works for this campaign might not apply for the next one.

What sort of headline works best? Test direct offer vs emotional hook. What makes people take stock and read on? Test CTAs. Make them a button vs a text link. Test the wording of the CTA. Is ‘Act now’ stronger than ‘Buy now’? Is the CTA visible and compelling enough for your customer to click? Test the use of imagery vs graphics vs text-only.

By running tests, you can build up a very clear picture of what your readers respond to best of all. And that picture will help you hone your message on future campaigns.

It’s not what you say, it’s where you say it

Got lot to say? Tempting as it may be to say it all at once, that makes for an unruly comms – especially if it’s email.

Remember, when you’re creating or responding to a brief, always think about what you need the customers to know, how you want them to feel and what you would like them to do. Only then will you know the most appropriate medium and structure for the message – and encourage maximum engagement.

To conclude…

There is a raft of information online about how to write good copy. But, as time is of the essence, here are our top tips to get started:

  • Before you write, work out what you want to say.
  • Structure the content.
  • Keep sentences short.
  • Punctuate well – marks can be hard to read on screen, so use punctuation wisely.
  • Full stops are your friend.
  • Use colons correctly – never after the word ‘including’.
  • Vary the pace with longer sentences.
  • Writing is essentially rewriting. Build in time to edit your first draft.
  • Write your headline last.
  • Use clear signposting – sub-headings, graphics and so on.
  • Make your copy clear, concise and interesting.
  • Avoid waffle, unnecessary words, clichés and jargon.

If jargon is unavoidable, explain what you mean.

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