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Anyone can write good copy, right?

7 Feb
Statue of a woman in relief, in despair

I can’t bear to look… the typos!

I live in Brighton, one of the UK’s largest media hubs outside of London. As a resident here for five years, I can vouch for the fact that business is booming.

As an increasing number of media start-ups spread their wings to the tempestuous winds of digital media,  even the most reluctant  companies now realise that social media is a very powerful business tool.

Ok, so this isn’t news. But while social media in business may be at an all time high, a lot of organisations haven’t cottoned on to the one thing that actually makes a good social media strategy work. I’m talking about content. And not just any content; quality content.

Learning from past mistakes

As a content consumer, as well as a professional copywriter, I can safely say that organisations tend to have one of two problems. They either have no idea what decent content is, or they understand the importance of having it, but don’t know how to produce it. The result is a quagmire of spam content and poorly written copy. What many still fail to grasp is that good content is not something that floats on the surface of your social media strategy; it is an irrevocable part of it.

This week, Facebook turned 10 years old. Hark back for a moment to those days of silence, before we had pictures of puppies and babies shoved down in our faces at every turn. When social media was in its infancy, it was largely ignored by businesses, and understandably so; it exploded with the volatile speed of any five-minute fad, and it took a while to trust that it was here to stay.

However, the more savvy organisations out there soon got to work hiring a social media expert, while those with limited budget (or limited understanding) simply gave the responsibility of managing social media to an intern, with the general sentiment; ‘Well, they’re young. They get it.’

The side-effects of user generated content

While I hope most now realise that being under 25 and having a Facebook profile does not automatically equate to being a social media expert, the same can not be said for good copy. Just as businesses used to believe that youngsters were the best people to manage their social media, the boom in user-generated content has encouraged the belief that anybody can write effective copy.

And let’s face it, user generated content makes up a lot of the Internet. It is a crucial part of social media, because as the name suggests, it involves the user, which drives engagement and builds loyalty. However, though it serves this very important purpose, it has also increased the widely held misconception that quality copy is the same as any copy. This is a problem, and not just for copywriters.

The rise of copy-wronging

In my recent hunt for new business, I’ve come across of a number of ‘copywriting agencies’ that have almost had me fooled… after some research, I’ve realised many of them are simply well-dressed but low-paying content mills, cashing in on two things; the desperation of penniless writers and the desperation of businesses who know that they need copy, but don’t realise that good copy is worth paying for.

What I and my fellow copywriters do (when we do it well) is a valuable and specialised skill. Unfortunately, there is a growing culture of copy-wronging – people who assume that if they can type, and are able to litter a few arbitrary key words into whatever they’re writing, then they are a bona fide copywriter.

Re-evaluating your situation

My suggestion is this: if you’re looking at your social media strategy this year, give a little more thought to your copy. Anyone can write, yes. But to write something that is informative, promotional, considers your target audience, takes into account your social media and business strategy, is well researched and does all this while simultaneously reading easily and keeping your reader awake, requires skill. Your readers will think anything else is just spam.

So next time you’re looking for some good copy, don’t go for the cheap option; go for the quality one. Even if it means investing a little more up front, having faith in the expertise of your copywriter and most importantly – in good copy – will pay off in the long run.

Looking for help with your content?

Will Hillier is a professional freelance copywriter; not a freelance copy-wronger. You can contact him here  for help with you copy and your social media strategy.

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Apple is still innovating… perhaps just not how you’re expecting

28 Jun

Do you know what I’m tired of? I’ll tell you.

I’m tired of seeing advertisements for smartphones that make me feel inadequate.

I’m tired of seeing beautiful people in private member’s clubs, looking no more dishevelled as they pour themselves out of cabs at five in the morning than Kate Moss on a photo shoot.

And I’m really tired of learning that people who own smartphones are always having fun, laughing over upbeat music, as they sit there in their perfect clothes, running around beautiful landscapes, taking photos of all the friends they’ve made because they have the coolest phone on the beach.

Advertising fatigue

These kinds of advertisements are not for consumers like you and me; they’re for a demographic of early smartphone users who have long since disappeared. How do I know? Because we all now own one. And yet, this is still the way we’re being sold to.

Galaxy S4 Group Play Ad

Take for instance the recent Galaxy S4 advert. It shows off the ‘Group Play’ function in a locker room filled with chiselled hunks. They need motivation to win their Basketball game; something I can of course relate to.

HTC One Boom Sound Ad

Or there’s the HTC One Boom Sound advertisement, which demonstrates another feature – frontal speakers that improve the listening experience, because every person who owns a smartphone loves the latest bands.

The problem is, it’s not just hipsters and teenagers who own smartphones now. So isn’t it time to move on from this narrow, under diluted perception of consumer appeal? Smartphones aren’t new any more. And while Samsung and HTC might not get it, with a great sigh of relief, I am pleased to say: Apple gets it.

And now for something a bit different…

Here comes the breath of fresh air.

Thank goodness for that. Thanks Apple.

Until now, smartphone and tablet advertising has focused on the rational ‘you need this feature’ advertising appeal. But Apple’s new approach takes a welcome step away from this. It’s distinctly emotive; arguably a little overdone, yes, but this is new territory, so I think we can cut them some slack. Largely, the iPhone hasn’t changed, but this new marketing approach acknowledges that we, as consumers, have. Who needs product innovation when you have product placement innovation?

Gone is the slick, the modern, the minimalist. Instead, Apple has brought back the clutter, the real world – a girl on her bed, children in a classroom, a woman on the subway – no longer people in glorious, unrealistic and featureless environments. Yes, it retains an element of Apple’s clean advertising, but that’s their brand. Nonetheless, Apple has tapped into the truth that people’s lives aren’t shiny and perfect as they’ve been made out to be. For me, that’s where the emotional connection lies – Apple are acknowledging that they’ve been wrong, while simultaneously asserting that, once again, they’re the first to get it right.

If that’s not enough, then the ethereal, acoustic soundtrack ought to win you over. It’s burnished with naturalism rather than with a cheap, irritating hook (I refer you to the Galaxy S4 advert above). We can suddenly let ourselves feel that Apple understands us… that their new smartphone will blend perfectly into our daily – real – lives.

Innovation in advertising

Despite complaints that Apple is failing to innovate, such as this one by Heidi Moore in the Guardian earlier this year, it is clear that they continue to stay one step ahead of consumer fatigue.

I know what you’re thinking – this is just an ad campaign – and you’re right. It might not seem like a big step. But then consider that this is arguably the first smartphone advertisement of its kind which promises to improve our lifestyle without shoving sexy features down our throats. And it comes from a company that brought us the smartphone in the first place… Does that not count for something?

I predict that this is a benchmark for smartphone advertising. I’m not saying the campaign is perfect, but it’s a start. Apple made a name for itself by doing what others didn’t dare to try, and now they’re doing it again. This ‘feely’ advertising might be sick-making for some, but looking at the bigger picture, it makes a damn refreshing change from the norm.

Made in California. Bring it home, Apple. Good work.

Keep up with all my latest opinions by following me on Twitter, @WillHillier.

Do you disagree? Here’s an alternative perspective.