The digital world runs on words. From web copy to social media captions, ALT text and META data, algorithms require words in order to understand what an image or web-page is about and be able to rank that post or site accordingly. Although web-developing coders and graphic designers tend to get all the glory, the web still relies heavily on the written word. If you really think about it, copywriters are the unsung heroes of the digital world.
Of course, everyone can write. But not everyone is necessarily able to write well, especially for the digital space – at least not straight off the bat. Just like any other skill, writing needs to be practised in order to strengthen your abilities. If you are an aspiring digital writer, I have 2 tips to help you develop your skills.
Tip #1 – Read
Exposing yourself to the works of other writers is probably the most important thing you can do as a copywriter. I’m not just talking of the literary greats either. Sure, there is a lot to be said for the works of Shakespeare, Hemingway and Twain, but not every piece of writing needs to be hailed as a Pulizer candidate. If you end up as a professional copy or content writer, there is a strong chance you’ll need to write a social media caption or Google ad to entice “Boo and Bae” to fork out money for a product.
In order to be an adaptable writer, read everything you can get your hands on. Fictional novels, factual tomes, business books, newspapers, poetry, magazines, blogs, song lyrics… Even really poor tabloid writing – the type that makes you shift uncomfortably as the words hit your eyeballs – has its place on your list. (Why bad writing? Well, how else are you going to recognise if your own writing is not up to scratch if you don’t have a baseline against which to measure it?)
By using an eclectic array of material to feed both your conscious and subconscious minds, you expose yourself to different styles and tones. This comes in pretty handy when writing for a diverse array of clients who sell different products, requiring their message to be communicated in very specific ways.
Another upside to reading everything you can? You end up knowing an extremely eclectic mix of “stuff”, which, while probably totally useless in any other profession, is critically useful fodder for a copywriter trying to come up with new ideas.
Tip #2 – Write
If your end goal is to become a better writer (which I assume it is), your reading regimen needs to be complemented by actual writing.
Whether you start your own blog and publish your ramblings in the public domain, or prefer to keep things private and keep your writing hidden in a password protected file on your PC, there is one truth that cannot be escaped – you will never get better unless you write, and write a LOT. Not only are you able to put into practice the various styles you’ve been reading, but you can then benchmark current work against earlier projects.
There is a true art to copywriting – especially in the digital space where attention spans are short, keywords are hailed as gods and you need to balance a clients brand personality, their marketing message and the language of their target audience all with the added challenge of fitting it in to a space of (sometimes) as little as 30 characters. So, read, write, and go forth to create something awesome!