Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Peter Shankman. You probably already know about him, so I don’t have to give you those details. What you probably don’t know is that he’s a really good guy. I met him via Twitter over the winter, and he happened to be in Asheville yesterday, so I drove over from Charlotte. We had a coffee and then I sat in on his keynote address at the Carolina Connect conference, which focused on modern communications – cloud computing, social media, that kind of stuff. Most attendees were business types. I guess they always are at these things. Anyway, on top of being a good guy, Shankman electrified the audience. Now I know what you’re thinking – that I’m kissing ass here. But I’m not. He really is an outstanding presenter (no slideshow necessary). He covered a lot of material, but the one thing I took away was how he ended the address on attracting and retaining audiences in social media: “Want to keep your audience’s attention? Learn to write. Bad writing is destroying this country.”
Which brings me to something I’ve been saying for more than two years here – copywriters are the perfect people to engage in this medium. I wrote a post called Revenge of the Copywriter in January 2009. I encourage you to read it. In fact, I’ll wait.
What did you think? I wrote that a couple of months after arriving on Twitter, and stand behind the core ideas to this day. Why? Because I know copywriters. Now you might think that copywriters only specialize in writing witty headlines and that this doesn’t translate to a medium that needs to respond to customers, promote content or solve problems – and that these areas require a different skill set. But you know what I say to that? You don’t know copywriters.
I started a Linkedin Group called Copywriter’s Guild in 2009. It’s nearly up to 2000 worldwide members and let me tell you – we’re all different. There are copywriters who write really crappy billboards, but who are geniuses at explaining complex medical procedures. There are copywriters who specialize in specific industries like financial and retail. There are copywriters who speak different languages. But you know what they all have in common? They’re professional communicators who can write to any voice, or any brand strategy. Which is more than I can say for the intern you hired to manage your twitter account, or the account executive you asked to tweet some pictures.
Copywriters are still the best people to manage your social media campaigns. So why not hire one or two? Either that or go back to college and learn how to write effectively and with resonance and then get a few years of real-world experience under your belt before you unleash your talent in social media.
Shankman was right. In the world of social media, the written word is king. Success here is contingent on your ability to engage and hold the attention of your audience. Hire people who already understand how to do this.
Jim Mitchem, copywriter
4 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
May 6, 2011
Couldn’t agree more.I’m a writer, so I’m biased, but I believe good writing is a HUGE differentiator in social media channels. No, strike that. Not good writing. Effective writing.Good customer service is a minimum requirement. Top flight service gives you a competitive edge. Top tier service + bitchin’ writing = an unforgettable customer experience.Alas, so-so writing is easily attainable, and most firms settle for good enough. Kick-ass costs more — a costly luxury in the minds of budget managers.Hey, their loss.
May 9, 2011
Writing is what us copywriters do best; thanks Jim, for the creative enthusiasm from one of the best. Twitter, FB status updates, blog posts: hire a writer to get your message across, whether 140 characters at a time or more. If you write well, they will read. And eventually buy.
May 10, 2011
There’s a thread I want to pick up here, and that’s the role of a specialist.I tell aspiring writers that in order to succeed in their chosen profession, they need subject matter expertise. My specialty is business, but to your point, writers can specialize in anything from public health to manufacturing processes. Thanks for another thoughtful post, Jim.Tamela
Margie Clayman (@margieclayman)
May 11, 2011
Couldn’t agree with you more on all counts. Some copywriters are great for white papers but can’t write a headline to save their lives. Some people are great at headlines but the body copy doesn’t come easily.Whatever your writing skill, you are needed in the online world. There are too many grammatical errors. Too many spelling errors. Too many blog posts that meander from hither and yon without really making a point.Help us, copywriters…you’re our only hope…:)Signed, another copywriter (among other things)