3 Reasons Why Short-Form Copywriting Is Set to Become Your Next Superpower
At this year’s Bootcamp, I’m going to be talking about the rise of short-form copywriting.
It’s all good news … whether you’re just learning how to become a copywriter or have been copywriting for decades.
In today’s post, I’m going to whet your appetite with a quick look at three reasons why short-form copywriting has become a big thing in the world of digital marketing.
But first … a funny thing.
It used to be that the real measure of a great copywriter was how well he or she could write long-form copy.
Back in the day, long before the arrival of the Web, I was writing direct-mail packages that included 16-page letters, plus brochures and more.
A lot of words!
That was the test of our skill as copywriters … to keep people reading for page after page. It wasn’t easy. Keeping your readers engaged for 16 pages of sales text takes a fair amount of skill and practice.
But truth be told, that’s not a skill set I find myself using much these days. Actually, hardly at all. I know there are copywriters still writing long-form copy, but in my opinion, it’s not the way of the future for most web writing.
Today, you’re more likely to be briefed on a job that involves writing a 100-word email, or the video script for a short Facebook video, or a 280-character tweet for your client’s Twitter account.
Welcome to the world of short-form copy!
Now, let’s look at three reasons why this is becoming such a big deal …
Reason #1: We live in a world of fragmented attention
Back when I was writing direct mail, there was no Web. You could watch TV, listen to the radio, see some ads in a magazine or, if you wanted to, read a piece of direct mail.
The point being, there wasn’t too much clamoring for our attention back then.
As you sat down to read my direct-mail letter, you could be a few hours away from your favorite TV show or radio program.
That meant it was no big deal giving me a few minutes of your time.
But oh … how things have changed!
Today, there are a zillion things competing for your attention.
If you did start reading some long copy, you’d likely be interrupted by a call, a text, a tweet, an email or … most threatening of all … the promise of having a good laugh watching kittens on YouTube.
In other words, there is massive competition for attention these days.
People are getting used to being interrupted and juggling multiple distractions.
This doesn’t mean you can’t try to hold their attention with a long sales message, but it’s becoming awfully hard.
And that’s why marketers are now testing shorter copy across digital media.
They’re aiming for a series of small slices of attention, instead of trying to carve out one big chunk all at once.
Reason #2: Welcome to the mobile web
Our first experiences of online marketing were through our desktop machines.
Then our laptops. Then our tablets and smartphones.
Just walk down any street or shopping mall. Or look at people on a train or bus.
Everyone is looking at their mobile phone.
Even my 94-year-old mother connects with the world through her iPad.
That’s where she gets her news. It’s where she receives the latest photos of her great-grandchildren. She checks her Facebook feed several times a day.
My point being … the mobile web is not only the future. It’s here now. It’s the dominant media for digital marketing today.
And in a universe of photos, text messages, and updates … it’s short copy that rules.
That’s why so many companies are now using text messages as a medium not only for customer service, but also to reach out with promotional messages. Just a few words of text and some emojis!
As user experience becomes a leading factor in marketing, UX copywriting (usually short-form copywriting) becomes more valuable in the industry.
Reason #3: Social media is all about short-form content
I was on a call with someone from the marketing group at Facebook a little while ago.
I asked him how long video posts should be.
10 minutes? 5 minutes? Shorter?
His answer? “Try to keep them under 15 seconds.”
As a traditionally trained copywriter, I have gone through a lot of changes over the last few decades.
But asking me to write a video script for a 15-second video? That’s a whole new skill set.
Not that I mind. I love this stuff. I love all the new challenges being thrown at me. Every new challenge represents an opportunity to shine in a whole new way.
And with social media, you’ll be challenged afresh every single day.
Doesn’t matter whether it’s for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, or one of dozens of other social media apps …
You’ll always be faced with the task of getting the job done with short-form copy.
Does this mean forgetting the core lessons of copywriting?
The fundamentals of the craft remain the same even for short-form copywriting. I’m still trying to connect with my readers, listeners, and viewers at a personal, emotional level.
I’m still working to address their needs and desires before I open my mouth to talk about my client’s products or services.
It’s the same game as before.
But now I’m learning to write as a short-form copywriter, mindful of the massive changes we see playing out in the world of digital marketing.
Like I said, I love this stuff.
Do you have any questions about the short-form copy trend? Add them as a comment below and I will do my best to answer them.
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Hi, can you give me more details on the format you would use for short form copywriting? what would be left out from what is used in the long form copywriting?
I'm putting together a website where I am selling a family product and don't want to use a long form copy.
thanks for any tips,
Guest (Kam Giegel) –
Hi Nick, Have you ever seen articles that inform you it will be a "5 minute read"? "7 minute read"? I saw one today that was an "11 minute read". I must admit I may not read something any longer than 11 minutes.
Nora King –
Do you think this shift to short form copy could negatively affect copywriters' ability to command good writing fees?
Take the niche I'm focused on, information marketing. Since the 'guru' is expected to have the personal interaction with customers/'followers', they're more likely to just do the short form stuff themselves. "Why pay a copywriter to do my facebook posts? I could just publish 5 new posts in the time it would take to relay my needs to my copywriter."
It looks to me like long form direct response is the one golden goose that most clients don't wanna touch themselves. So there's perhaps a certain esteem attached to any service provider who can deliver on those goods.
How do you view all this?
Guest (Tom Oakley) –
Kam, hi. Great question, but I don't have teaching materials devoted specifically to short-form copywriting... beyond what's included in my current AWAI programs.
Nick Usborne –
Nora, hi. I've been seeing that too. But like you suggest, when you get to 11 minutes, it begins to sound like hard work! I think this works best with shorter reads, like 2 or 3 minutes.
Nick Usborne –
Tom, information marketing is the one industry niche I would cite as an exception. For those clients, long-form writing will probably always be best.
Nick Usborne –
WOW...15 second video? What videos did you write for FB?
It'd be fun to see them! That would be quite the challenge to stick to 15 seconds...
Can you direct me where to find them?
And thank you Nick for your wonderful teaching skills. So appreciated!
Kelcey Taber –
What is the right amount of copy?
In print and in digital media, what you sell may need more or less copy.
The right length of copy depends on the readers awareness and readiness for the product or service.
A reader may need time to get cozy with you first. Why not give him what he needs?
Long copy may sell a high ticket product better. But if brand and value awareness is already established, then you can use short form copy.
The conclusion: Know your customer to sell more.
Guest (Mario Worm) –
Another one: If long copy engages the reader, helps, and informs them, they will read it. Especially if it's all about what THEY get when buying.
Guest (Mario Worm) –
Hey dont you think being a short form copywriter, we might miss out on things like writing copy for a landing page or websites [here we cant make it shorter] & our services will be limited to short copy like email, ad copy.
Guest (mk) –