[Notes] A Marketing Rant on Copywriting

These are my notes from Ramli John’s Marketing Rant Show. Over the next few days, I’ll make edits to make this more cohesive and uh… less messy… but for now, you’re seeing the raw sloppy notes.

Since this is the Marketing Rant Show and not the Marketing Advice show, we need to kick off with a hot take. So here it is: When it comes to copywriting, my rant is that when it’s not done well, it’s often because the writer – as in, the copywriter, the marketer, the person who is doing the writing – cares more about the topic/thing than they care about the reader.

I’ll repeat.

The problem is when the writer cares more about the THING than they care about YOU.

They care about some combo of:

  • Being clever or smart
  • Their own news
  • That thing they’re promoting

And they’re not showing what’s in it for the reader and what it means to them.

Examples of bad copywriting

(1) First example: An event announcement.

We are so thrilled to launch our user conference. Join us on May 13th to discuss the future of ecommerce.

  • This is not good because:
    1. Nobody cares that YOU’RE thrilled.
    2. They definitely don’t care that you’re thrilled about launching some thing they don’t know about yet.
    3. And “future of ecommerce” sucks because it sounds like it’s trying too hard without actually providing anything specific.
    4. On top of all that, there’s so much space wasted on the words, “We are so thrilled to launch.”
    5. Finally: It’s clear WHAT is being communicated. But it’s NOT clear why the reader should care.

And look, copywriting is really, really hard. I still suck at it sometimes. Maybe I don’t feel clever or I don’t feel clear. Though of course, clear is always better than clever.

(2) Second example: Asking a bad question.

Do you want to drive more leads? – Well yeah, no shit. Who doesn’t want more leads? That’s not a real question.

Do you have Memorial Day plans? – Ugh, well I’m not hanging out with you, you brand. Also, boring question.

But I’m not saying that asking questions is always bad. It’s that in these examples, the writing isn’t being considerate about the reader’s answer. It’s asking something obvious or something uninteresting that is clearly a ploy to get you to buy something.

So my guidance is this: Don’t ask the question if you think the answer is going to be: obvious or boring.

(3) Third example: The strawman argument.

This one is controversial. It’s controversial because it actually works. I just hate it. So maybe this is a true rant on my part.

These are the social media posts, the emails, the blog posts, whatever that start out with that hook like:

  • It’s easy to launch a company. But it’s hard to do the work.
  • You’re too focused on SEO. Think about storytelling.

I hate these because these are traps. The first sentence is a strawman argument. Like, no one out here is saying it’s so easy to launch a company or that too many content marketers are too focused on SEO.

These are just setups to a sexy-sounding universal truth or vague aphorism that tells you nothing.

So I know. You could argue these are GOOD copywriting examples because they’re getting me to rant, or they caught my eye, or they sound sexy. But I’m not buying it. I think ultimately, you’re just tricking the people who are dumber than you into buying your shit. You’re ripping them off. And I’m not into that.

That’s not how you build trust or credibility.

And I know, I know, you can’t measure trust or credibility. I get it. It’s not a KPI. But to me, being trustworthy or credible is just my brand. You can’t really measure brand.

And there are lots of very different types of copywriting. Writing a Twitter thread is different from a LinkedIn post which is different from a billboard headline.

Copywriting for Social Media and Individuals

I can talk about some general themes I’ve seen work well on digital platforms.

TWITTER: Write for 1 goal.

First, like all marketing, think about the goal of that one piece of content. Is the goal to get likes? To get comments? To get read? Or to get followers? You cannot say it’s all of the above. You must choose one. That does not mean that the others results won’t happen – like, you can have a high engagement post that also happens to drive lots of new followers. But you must choose one.

And then serve that need.

Optimize for likes: Needs to be super easy to read and evoke a sense of emotion.

Shaan Puri talks about this. It’s something like WTF, Aww, LOL, Ohhhh (I get it), and Finally! (Someone finally put my feelings into words)

Optimize for comments: Needs to be engaging and easy to engage with.

Ideally, trigger an emotional response. Maybe ask about pizza toppings, or ways someone makes their coffee in the morning. Use the “wrong answers only” format.

Optimize to get read: Structure your content so it’s easy to read.

Use bullet points. Space out the sentences. Or write a thread, and you need to write it well. How to write a thread well? Chunk up ideas into separate tweets, don’t just space it out based on character count. Each tweet needs to contain 1 overall idea and sort of be standalone. Think about if someone RTs one of those tweets in a thread. Does it make sense at all on its own?

Optimize for followers: Give value and expectations.

Why should people follow you, and what should they expect? This can be a tweet, or a thread, I don’t know, whatever your style is. On my own profile, I’ve noticed when I’ve done variation of this, I get a little bump in followers. And I really think it’s because you’re telling people exactly who they are and what to expect when they follow you. Look, there are a lot of people on Twitter. Pick any random person’s account and scroll through, and you’re probably going to see a vague bio like, “Don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee or before I’ve had my whisky” and then their timeline will have a bunch of random RTs from other people without your seeing any context. Now… I’m not saying those people are bad or wrong… but like… as a stranger scrolling through, I don’t know what to make of that. And so, again, my point there is just that when you tweet to optimize for followers, people get to know you. They get to think, “Oh wow, I Lucas is really into ecommerce and CPG, he hosts a podcast, and he’s documenting his journey as he approaches 5,000 downloads.”

LINKEDIN. Haha we like to hate on LinkedIn here. Let’s talk about this.

First, why LinkedIn? There are two unique things about LinkedIn: 1) it is the only social channel that gives you demographics on who people are, what their job title is, what team they work on, what industry they work in, and what city they live in. You cannot get this information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok. and 2) Haha LinkedIn is the closest competitor to TikTok. Weird take, I know. But there is a low supply of content on LI. And, everyone has a LI following. The algorithm works in your favor. Your coworkers, former coworkers, whatever, they will like your post. And LI will also serve up your content to people in your geographic location or industry. You won’t get that anywhere else.

So if you’re writing here. Do it right.

The Demand Curve team has an excellent playbook on growing on LinkedIn, and y’all need to check it out.

So, my advice:

(1) Be true to who you are, and make sure the content is relevant to who you are. In other words, write about what you’re good at.

And like any feed, you’re trying to stop someone’s thumb from scrolling. The thing is for LI, your headline (as in, that little blurb about you) is right there with your post. Right next to your headshot. So that little blurb serves as some sort of credibility indicator. So if you’re a CEO or a CMO, you might have a higher likelihood of people stopping to read.

Let’s pause. I’m also going to say, if you’re a marketing manager, it’s not that people WON’T listen to you. It’s that your content needs to match your headline. Can a CMO do content on copywriting, ad spend, leadership tactics? Yes. Can a marketing manager write about balancing multi-million dollar budgets? Probably not. And that’s ok.

I’m just saying, know who you are, write about what you’re good at, and make it good.

(2) Structure needs a strong hook, and LI likes medium length text.

Also in the Demand Curve playbook, they share guidance on how to structure the writing of a LI post. It always includes a hook. And the ideal post ends with a punchline that ties it all back.

Making Your Readers Stay

Let’s talk about hooks and rehooks.

This works for blog posts and threads.

This is going to sound mean, but tough love guys, and this is the Marketing Rant Show. Generally speaking, nobody cares what you think. And even if they do, they can still change their minds and GTFO and click out of your shit. Just like right now, anyone listening can and will at any point go, “What is she talking about? I don’t like this, she is boring, she is not compelling,” and then they’ll leave the Space.

That’s why you need to get good at copywriting. The literal definition of copywriting is to write persuasive marketing and promotional materials that motivate people to take some sort of action.

So when you’re writing online, to an audience, you’re persuading them to keep reading. To engage with you. To follow you. To buy from you. To subscribe to your crappy email newsletter.

And overall, this is why I love writing Twitter threads. Every single tweet in a Twitter thread is a copywriting exercise. And copywriting is a muscle. You need to practice constantly to get stronger or stay strong.