This week I didn’t get a dog called Zoe. It turned out she was mad – constantly scanning the environment, looking for threats. She paid not a jot of attention to people. I knew we wouldn’t see her again if she was let off the lead. She would bolt and keep on going, not least because she didn’t recognise us as owners she should return to. She reminded me of the attitude I met when I went freelance. The doom merchants, like mad Zoe, would scan the horizon for perceived threats. They delighted in telling me a recession was the wrong time to go freelance. They were wrong. This week I celebrate my first year in business (and feature in The Drum’s ’70 of the best freelancers working across the UK’ to boot. Thanks to the clients who recommended me).
Here, in the first of an occasional series, I examine threats that have not materialised.
The threat of Web 2.0 – user-generated content will be the death of copywriters
Ah Web 2.0 and the way social media has allowed anyone to write content. Nowadays you’re nobody unless you have a blog. And every product is launched with a fanfare on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and iPhone app.
And because anyone can write a website, blog post, Tweet or Facebook status update, the world is a better place. The web should be alive with the sound of glittering bon mots and witty asides. Sadly, the reality is that many a website is like little orphan Annie, hanging around in space, neglected and forgotten.
Because using the latest technology is not the same as communicating. First you have to find something to say. Look at all the bloggers who have run out of things to say once the novelty of blogging wore off.
My job when I was a Channels Manager was all about placing content (messages) in the right channel: finding the best place for content to ensure the right people, saw it at the right time, in the right way. Rather than dumping all the content in the staff magazine we started to use the intranet to cover breaking news, the monthly magazine for in-depth features and podcasts for sales teams working in remote places, and so on. The biggest challenge was keeping the channels supplied with content. The more channels we had the greater the need to fill them – like a nest of hungry birds.
Web 2.0 simply means there are more channels. And tailoring the message to the medium is as important as ever. Copywriters have to adapt. The Internet was supposed to be the death of print. Instead we learnt how to ‘write for the web’, and optimise content.
Additional channels need content whether it’s scripts for videos, content for landing pages, eZines and blog posts. Even Twitter (you have to be a good editor to 140 characters concise).
Change brings opportunity. I’m busy. Writing e-zines, landing pages, sales emails and entire websites (with optimised content).
And the new marketing mix means figuring out where best to place content (and allocate resources). And that means understanding the marketing strategy.
It’s not enough to be a copywriter. You need a copywriter who understands the strategy behind the copy. Who understands what you’re trying to achieve. You say you want me to write a website? What’s your target audience? What do you want them to do as a result of visiting the site? I provide great copy based on direct marketing principles. Because I understand copy and how it works as a direct marketing technique, how it should work as a marketing tool. And I spent a decade working in marketing at a strategic level. If a sales letter or a Twitter campaign would be more effective, I’ll tell you. I work across all channels because what works offline will work in Web 2.0 too (website, blogs, online banners).
Because content must be informed by strategy. Otherwise it’s just typing.