November 9, 2015
“How do you create interesting headlines in such a short space?”
“What’s the secret to engaging readers in only 50 to 140 characters?”
“To be so short, it’s hard to write compelling email subject lines.”
These are just a few of the comments that regularly get made about writing short copy. It’s true: when you add space restrictions to the writing process, all of a sudden, it becomes significantly more difficult to make a point and to do so in an enticing manner.
Saying you need to be succinct is a gross understatement. Consider this: Track Social reported that the optimal number of characters for a tweet is between 71-100 to gain retweets.
And Facebook posts? To gain the most likes and comments, Track Social found that 0-70 characters was most effective, with 71-140 character posts running a close second.
Then there is the long list of options for e-mail subject lines. Depending on what e-mail client your readers use and their customization options, the visible portion of your subject line could be anywhere from 20 to 100 characters or longer.
MailChimp suggests what many other industry pros do: an average subject line of about 50 characters.
Let’s face it: you simply can’t tell the whole story in that amount of space. Nor should you try.
It’s Just One Step in the Entire Process
It helps to remember that short copy isn’t typically written to make a sale. Instead, what you’re aiming for is the click. Your short copy (tweet, social post, email subject line, PPC ad or whatnot) should be designed to pique interest enough so that the reader wants to get more information.
Once this happens, the second step in the process (your landing page) can take over and lead visitors to the end conversion (sale, subscription, download, etc.). Curiosity is your best weapon for writing short copy because it leaves your readers wanting more.
The Art of the Cliffhanger
What do movie trailers, TV show previews, real estate listings and magazine covers have in common? They know how to tease.
Trick 1 – Take Information Out of Context
Just as movie trailers rework segments of the film to take on different meanings, you can also tinker with your headlines, bullet points, social posts and other short copy to build interest.
If you’re writing a social post about a new product, for example, pull out just the juicy bits and pieces, instead of attempting to provide all of the background information. Don’t talk about the years of research and development that led up to a brand-new way to create widgets in half the time and for significantly less money. Instead, you could simply write, “Cut production costs & double revenue with 1 simple change.”
Trick 2 – Purposely Omit Information
One longtime technique Realtors use when writing home listings is to leave out a vital bit of information, so the prospect has no choice but to contact them. You can apply this to your short copy as well.
Trick 3 – Use These 3 Words
This is one of the most-effective copywriting techniques ever taught. It has been used in ecommerce descriptions, sales letters, landing pages and many types of short copy. What is it? You’re watching me employ it right now. Trick 3 is to use “these,” “this” and “it” – instead of nouns.
Do you catch how I worked all three words into the heading and paragraph above? Each time, your brain most likely asked the questions “What words?” and “What technique?” Being vague evokes a need to know within your visitors. They click because they want to solve the mystery.
By mastering a few skills that are short-copy specific, you can reach your goals significantly faster. From social posts to blog post titles and others, you’ll begin to notice a payoff in more click-throughs, higher retention rates, better engagement and more.
Karon Thackston is president of Marketing Words Copywriting Agency and publisher of Ecommerce Copywriting: Proven Ways to Boost Sales & Search Rankings.