People keep telling me that the internet is making people dumber. To be honest, I don’t know whether or not that’s true. But did you know that Twitter can make you better writer?
If you are purposeful in your how you approach your use of any microblogging platform, there are 5 ways that you can they can skyrocket your writing ability.
1. You learn the value of every word — no, of every character. In writing, especially for marketing and sales, the tighter your message is, the better. When you have only 150 characters to work with, each letter has to earn it’s place. It has to pull it’s weight. This forces you to think carefully about your choice of words.
If you’ve ever gone over the character limit and had to edit your tweet, you know what I’m talking about. “How can I say what I need to say in the allotted space?” You have to be ruthless. If that comma isn’t serving a purpose, it’s gotta go!
2. You begin to break free from some of the “rule” forced on you by your English teachers. The best writing is the plainest. How many people do you know that speak with perfect grammar 100% of the time? In my neighborhood (Calumet City, IL, in south suburban Chicago), it’s probably less than 10%.
When you are communicating via the written word, sometimes there’s a desire to be super-formal. Believe me, that’s not the best way to get your message across to the average audience. Unless you’re talking to English professors…
George Orwell’s sixth rule for good writing is to break any of his other five rules before ”saying anything outright barbarous.”
Writers need to have the freedom to say what they mean, forsaking the rules when necessary.
3. You have to learn to communicate in such a way that your reader will understand exactly what you mean. How many people do you know who don’t quite understand this principle? I see plenty of tweets that have no clear meaning, or that can be understood in multiple ways. Thoughtful writers will take the restricted amount of communication space to heighten their concentration. ”How can I eliminate any ambiguity and say what needs to be said so that the message is plainly understood?“
This is great focus training for any writer.
4. You are forced to choose exactly what you want to say. In an age where noisy chatter is constant, a Twitter message makes you strip your message down to the core. The way it should be. There’s no room to go off on tangents or talk about about non-essentials.
When brevity is required, you see who really knows how to communicate, and who’s just talkin’.
5. Twitter can give you extra writing practice. Tweeting is writing on a small scale. More practice is always a good thing. A high percentage of Twitter users access the social network with their cell phones. So even if you don’t have a pen and paper, you can practice crafting clear, compelling messages.
A discussion in one of the groups I’m a member of on LinkedIn brought an interesting tool to my attention. It’s the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer. This tool will take a look at the emotional value of the words in your headline and give you a score.
From the site:
This score indicates that your headline has a total of ***% Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Words. To put that in perspective, the English language contains approximately 20% EMV words.
And for comparison, most professional copywriters’ headlines will have 30%-40% EMV Words in their headlines, while the most gifted copywriters will have 50%-75% EMV words in headlines.
A perfect score would be 100%, but that is rare unless your headline is less than five words.”
Let me post my response to the group on this topic:
There’s another pretty cool tool, the Carlin Ad-Speak Calculator, which will tell you if your headlines sound to “salesy” or “hypey.”
Maybe the two could be used in combination
It probably goes without saying, but I’d like to note that it’s impossible for a computer to “know” the emotional power of any given headline. Human psychology can’t be broken down into logorithms.
No one really knows how words will hit home. Headlines will affect different groups of people differently. Current events, whether national or personal, will also determine the impact words will have on an individual. For example, the “foreclosure” is a pretty compelling word for many of us.
To add some perspective, I tried the AMI Headline Analyzer, just to see what happens.
It appears to simply add the “emotional value” of the individual words in the headline.
Example: Having an idea of a couple highly emotive words, my first attempt was “Free Money Now.” Guess it was too short, because that didn’t get a result.
So I tried “Get Free Money Now.” Guess what? 50% EMV. Not bad, eh? My personal analysis would be that there may be some power in that headline, but a lot of skepticism would accompany it. Who could believe it?
Next, I added the most powerful word in any language. “You Get Free Money Now.” The score: 60% regardless of where in the sentence the word “you” is placed. “Get You Free Money” got the same rating.
Finally, for whatever reason, I removed “get” from the headline. “Free You Money Now” scores at a full 75%!
(Incidently, each of those headlines scored low [less than 2%] on the Carlin Ad-Speak Calculator that I promoted myself.)
On the other hand, “Stop Your Foreclosure Now” only produced a 25% emotional value?
Those are the scores you want. But the limited ability of tools such as these is demonstrated.
Your best bet is to bring your writing prowess to the table, coupled with an intimate knowledge of exactly who you are speaking to.
What do you guys think?
I mentioned the Carlin Ad-Speak Calculator on in an earlier post, which you can see here.
A thought for your consideration (which happens to be a comment that I made on John Carlton’s blog last summer)
Selling is just like a marriage proposal. You can’t just walk up a stranger and ask her to marry you. You have to take the process one step at a time, starting with small, easy-to-make choices (“hey, wanna catch a movie?“). Make the first step for your prospect irresistibly easy to take. Over time, the actions get larger.
Long copy allows the message to start small and move the customer increasingly toward making the purchase. Short copy doesn’t have that ability-there’s no time!
Long copy is can be a “greased slide” to the sale. Short copy is one big step, and grease on a step (stair) is not usually a good idea.
This is what Gary Bencivenga called “throwing the monkey fist.” Most big tasks can’t be accomplished in one move. Master salespeople (that includes smart marketers) use a sequence of expanding steps to move the prospect to take the desired action.
Think about it…
More importantly, implement it.
From the Marketing Beyond Advertising blog:
Do your ads sound like ads? Do your ads boast about your superior service, your wide selection, or name the number of years you’ve been in business?
If so, you may be guilty of Ad-Speak.
Introducing the Carlin Ad Speak Calculator!
This cool tool will analyze your advertising copy and tell you if it sounds too salesy, too much like and ad.
I think its rather neato.
Advertising that sounds like advertising is easy for your target audience to ignore. If it does get read, it’s often disregarded.
Your message has to interrupt your readers enough to grab their attention, channel desire, and direct them to you and what you offer.
The Carlin Ad Speak Calculator is just another way to take a critical look at your copy. It will even list the elements that you’ve used that are commonly considered advertising lingo
Have a little fun, a little laugh, and another look at the quality of your message.
Jim Punkre is a legend. He’s widely considered to be among the top ten copywriters in history, generating over $1 billion in sales over his 35 year career.
I can’t even describe this treasure trove of copywriting and direct mail wisdom from an interview Daniel Levis did with Jim for his Masters of Copywriting compilation.
Anyone in sales, marketing or real estate can benefit from this interesting article by hypnotherapist-turned salesman Ken Ellsworth.
Take a look at the “Could You Sell The Eiffel Tower…Twice?” here. He tells the true story of scam artist Victor Lustig, who actually “sold” the Eiffel Tower to unwitting marks in the 1920’s. He then relates some lessons we can learn from an expert salesman.
There’s also a fascinating interview with Michael Senoff and Ken Ellsworth at TheBuyingCode.com. In this interview, Ken tells you how to unlock the unconscious selling strategy of your clients. He says that you should be able to reach 90% closing rate using these techniques.
Lots to learn here.
1) Use surgical precision. Know who your prospective customers are so that you can concentrate on stopping them in their tracks with your headline. Determine which words and themes appeal to your target right now; what is he thinking about? Wondering about? Worried about?
Headlines really serve a single purpose: they use words to get your advertisement read.
Advertising forefather Claude Hopkins, in his legendary work Scientific Advertising, further explains:
“The advertisement is read only by interested people who, by their own volition, study what we have to say. The purpose of a headline is to pick out people who you can interest……what you have will interest only certain people and for certain reasons. You care only for those people, so create a headline which will hail those people only!”
A headline must not “cast too wide a net.” There is no way to appeal to everyone without decimating the strength specificity creates in capturing your target. The attempt gain everyone’s eyes is an error that is all too prevalent in advertising today. The headline will only appeal to people who are interested in the product or service offered. Readers will not waste any time investigating an ad that isn’t selling something that pertains to him. Men don’t generally care much for tampon headlines…
Keep in mind that YOU are reading this article for a reason. Most of the people surfing the web will never read this article.
2) Go for the heart! Almost any expert (and anyone who is genuinely honest about their own purchasing patterns) will admit that people base their buying decisions more on emotion than logic. Shoppers buy what they want, and use reason to justify their choices. The most powerful purchase-driving emotions include Fear, Greed, and the Desire for Love and Prestige.
3) Focus on the Customer. The headline should be more about how the customer will benefit from the product or service than about the thing itself. As the old sayings go, “People don’t buy drills because they want drills, but because they want holes,” and “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” Readers care about what you offer only insofar as they care about what they get out of it. Construct your headline with this in mind
4) Avoid hype. You will lose credibility if you rely on it. There are far too many superlatives and big promises that don’t reflect reality. “Super Awesome Cogs” sounds great, but that headline doesn’t convey any meaning to the reader, other than a setup for disappointment (which the he will protect himself from at all costs.) “New Cog DOUBLES Your Car’s Gas Mileage” better describes what the product does without resorting to hype.
5) People hate to be sold. They love to buy, though. If you can show your audience how to get something that they already want or know they need in a way that is easier, cheaper, or better in some other way, your advertisement will produce good results. Trying to convince a reader that they need something they know nothing about is a losing endeavor. Don’t fight against your target; go along with him. Help him get what he wants.
If the ad is for something that may be unfamiliar, the headline will have to appeal to a need or desire that the reader is familiar with.
6) Test Rigorously. Try different headlines. There is no need to guess at what will work. Find out with certainty by testing different word usage, benefit presentation, etc. This is a good rule in general, as each market will respond uniquely to different parts of your advertising.
7) Consult the masters. Advertising writers and marketers find instruction as well as inspiration from successful advertisements put together by others. Copies of headlines and body copy are often kept in “swipe files” for future reference. What worked well for others has a good chance of working for you.
The other aspect of learning the art of headline writing is studying classic works on the subject. From legends of the past such as Hopkins, John Caples and Robert Collier to contemporary pros like Clayton Makepeace and John Carlton, there are many lessons to learn. Discover the secrets of advertisers that have produced millions of dollars in sales. Continuing your marketing education will always be profitable, especially for a beginner.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of headline-writing guidelines, but following these seven tips is essential if you want to reap the benefits of effective advertising.