The internet has dramatically changed the way people get information. I can remember research searches lasting weeks, with countless trips to the library, and endless hours spent hunting down topic experts. As more and more people have gained access to the Internet and started to use it on a daily basis as an information source – a huge opportunity has been created for copywriters. Today, hundreds of millions around the globe use the Internet to access information. Without being aware, they depend on the work of copywriters to provide them with the information that they need.
I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve told traditional agency copywriters (who feel they are getting too old for the ad game) to learn how to write for social media. It’s the same horse. But it’s got way more ways to ride it.
Sites that rely on others to create their content (they call them Web 2.0 but I really don’t get why) – sites like Wikipedia.org, YouTube.com, IMDb.com, Digg.com, Facebook.com, and Twitter mean people are getting information from other Internet users through social media sites and forums. Conversely, fewer people are getting information from traditional articles posted on informational sites.
But whether or not I fully understand the whole 2.0 thing, I recognize the opportunity that exists for copywriters. Regardless if people are mining full length articles, or perusing social media, clients need help engaging with consumers – having two-way conversations with consumers to ensure that people find out about their products and services. It’s important that you understand this distinction. Before you didn’t get credit for your work. You wrote it, the agency paid you … end of story, unless you were lucky enough to win awards for it. But now, with social media sites requiring user registration, agencies and clients can no longer separate the copywriter from the work that you have done for them. You gain a following on Web 2.0 sites that makes you more valuable. Look at the influence some bloggers have. Most everyone knows Copyblogger by name.
Active users with masses of followers are extremely influential in social media and discussion forums. On the largest sites, they sometimes have millions of followers. On Twitter for example, there are users like @briansolis and @chrisbrogan that specialize in sharing information about PR, Web 2.0 and social media. When a user has thousands of followers, they are like gold to companies and businesses that want to get information out to potential customers. To repeat: these guys are hugely influential.
We all know that in recent years, slick multi-million dollar ad campaigns have been met with a shrugging of the shoulders and squinting of the eyes by consumers. But add a Web 2.0 aspect to the campaign, and those same skeptical consumers become brand advocates. And when ideas, information and opinions come from individuals, rather than corporations … well that’s the new art of persuasion in adland.
So what do you have to do?
Build a name for yourself. The more followers you have, the more people you talk to in discussion forums, the more influence you have. They read what you’ve written and potentially share it with others. This increases your value as a copywriter, and it gives you a soapbox to do it from.
Become an expert. Focus on one area. Be active in it online. Focus your career and you will be respected as an authority on it. You’ll be in demand – and you’ll make more money in less time because you’ll be in demand as a known expert.
Develop a network. A network of dedicated followers and peers who respect you can result in friendships as well as business opportunities.
How do you get your act together?
What area do you think you would enjoy spending time learning about? You can visit websites like http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/web-2.0-websites or http://www.seomoz.org/web2.0 for some ideas. Visit a site each day for a couple of weeks to become familiar with the type and quality of content being posted before you begin participating yourself.
Engage and post regularly. You can become influential on social media sites by being responsive to questions posted by other users, and by posting original, informative content on a regular basis.
Be friendly. People develop followers by being well-liked. Go out of your way to help people with any problems that they are posting about.
Share links. It’s nice way to promote someone else (it’s not all about you, this social media thing) while providing valuable content.
Ask questions, it’s a good way to meet people with similar interests and to begin developing your network.
Engage in conversations. Make friends and you will attract followers. You don’t have to have all the answers … but you can still have something to say. Seek out others who have similar interests.
Find other users who have similar interests and become friends with them. Don’t be a “headhunter” – the person who is in a frenzy to collect the most “friends”. Seek out users who are posting on a similar topic or subject. Follow them. Request friendship. Engage.
The End Result?
Advertising, marketing and PR experts can’t control the images of their client’s companies as well as they have in the past. Instead of being a one-way message, marketing is an ongoing online conversation between consumers and potential consumers. Bada bing!, an opinion can be broadcast to thousands of people, all of whom can respond and continue to relay the opinion. No one can control this reaction, but they can have an impact on it by participating in the conversation. This can also be done by hiring copywriters who are experts and leaders in forums related to the company’s product or service. As such a copywriter, you can help your Web 2.0 friends and followers to find products and services that they will like while simultaneously making money. Your followers can become the online fans of the companies that hire you because of your influence.
People want high-quality information from experts—not random opinions and misguided information. If you can position yourself as an expert who provides high-quality content, you can benefit from the new Web 2.0 environment and expand your copywriting career, simply by positioning yourself as a expert on popular social media sites.