How to write copy that converts and the Facebook/Google Australia spat – S2:E7

Hello folks, welcome back to the Marketing Mindset Club. I’m back today for season 2 episode 7. Thanks for bearing with me last week. I was all set and ready to record this episode, but being full of cold I decided to save you all from my sniffles. After all, it’s bad enough having a cold let alone listening to someone with one. Thankfully it’s not COVID – just the usual winter sniffles – which is doubly annoying this year since I’m not going out, not socialising, not seeing friends because of lockdown.

Anyway, having almost recovered and being virtually sniffle-free, today we’re talking about how to write copy that converts and what’s the current state of the argument/debate/dispute/disagreement – call it what you will between Google, Facebook and the Australian government. The reason I want to cover this is I think it has the potential to affect publishers all over the world and therefore should be something we marketers are aware of. 

So I’m going to start there.

What is going on with this situation?

So, it stems from a proposed media bill that, if passed, will mean Google and Facebook have to negotiate with media outlets and publishers to pay for use of their content. For example, this means Google and Facebook would each have to pay a fee for any articles published or displayed on their platforms by the Sydney Herald. The idea behind it is to redress the balance of advertising revenue that goes to the top tech companies vs the media outlets. In an article published before Christmas, the Guardian said “for every $100 of online advertising spend, $53 goes to Google, $28 to Facebook and $19 to everyone else”. 

The draft code was elevated in priority as the pandemic affected regional newspapers and reduced circulation, so revenue is key to keep these independents open. It recently reached parliament, and they are hoping to get it passed before the end of this session of parliament on February 25th. According to ABC news, there were recent changes to the bill that would mean publishers are paid in lump sums rather than per click.  

Now, apart from the obvious financial implications, the objection from Google is that as part of this process, it would be forced to disclose details about the algorithm. They said this would essential ‘break the Internet’. Facebook is in a different situation in that the content shared on its platform is sometimes not put there by them, but by the users who post the links. Google responded by threatening to withdraw its search engine, which handles around 95% of the country’s search queries. So that would leave a huge gap in the market, which Microsoft has eagerly eyed and is making moves to step in! But it seems that Google may be coming to terms with the bill as we’re hearing more and more deals are being made with the large media groups, so there could be an agreement reached without disruption to Google’s search or news products in the country.

Despite being equally disgruntled with the potential bill, Facebook responded quite differently by threatened to stop all Australian users from sharing news stories on the platform. At the time of recording, which is 21st Feb 2021, I’m hearing that this has actually happened. Someone in my network on the ground in Australia said that news stories had disappeared overnight from the platform and that some Government agency posts had also been removed. 

In a story from the BBC, they said “Australians on Thursday woke up to find that Facebook pages of all local and global news sites were unavailable. People outside the country are also unable to read or access any Australian news publications on the platform.” Since then, it’s been reported that the ban has had other, probably unintended consequences. Some Australia emergency services and health organisations found their pages had been affected, but they have since been restored. This meant a temporary blackout on information about COVID and vaccination rollouts. There’s also been an increase in misinformation spreading on the platform and some say the absence of factual news leaves a huge void for hate speech to overwhelm the platform.  

Now, as you might imagine this situation is problematic in a great many ways. 

It could set a global precedent for how media companies and the big tech companies operate. Google has already withdrawn its news product in Spain over a similar situation, so maybe this time they are trying a different approach? These kinds of challenges over copyright or usage are happening all over the world, and Microsoft are in support – at least of the media bill in Australia. They reportedly said “The code reasonably attempts to address the bargaining power imbalance between digital platforms and Australian news businesses,”

But this leads me to think, what if Google in particular declines to pay existing media providers for news and decides that it’s in their own interests to create their own local news content. Are we going to see current affairs according to Google? And that then begs the question of who would moderate or regulate that? I’m definitely concerned that we could end in a scenario where Google is not only integrated with our entire lives, they are also in control of most of the journalism we consume. It also concerns me that in the void of accurate reporting on Facebook, misinformation will spread. It’s already a challenge for Facebook and without the facts, a passive audience won’t seek to verify what they’re seeing on the platform.

I also have concerns for regional journalism and independents. Google seems to be striking deals with some of the media giants, but what about the smaller, local papers and sites that are so important for those living in those communities? Is Google going to support them in proportion with the way they have been with the media giants? One report found in a study of news stories in different US counties that national news outlets were favoured over the local ones, so the same could be true globally. Which leads to a larger question about how wide our view of the world is when it’s viewed through a search engine, but that feels like a huge rabbit hole to go down and I’m not sure that’s useful right now. 

The point is that we as marketers need to keep an eye on this situation because it may affect our future channel selection for acquisition activities. Google ads is often such a prominent feature because of its coverage, that if they do decide to withdraw it from the Australian market, anyone doing business in that country will need to diversify their strategy. Although Microsoft has said Bing is ready to step in, I suspect we’ll see a boost across many of the other engines as well. It also might be time to give your strategy a shakeup from a priority perspective. If acquisition is about to go through a big upheaval, why not turn your attention to loyalty, upselling and customer retention. It could end up being more cost-effective for you and also protect you from potential disruption to your bottom line figures. I’ve written more on this on my company’s blog this week, and I’ll link to it from the show notes.

Writing copy that converts

So, moving on to the other topic I want to talk about today and it’s about writing copy that converts. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about recently because I’ve been looking into the differences between functional and emotional messaging. I find it really interesting how copy can connect with customers in different ways depending on the words and phrasing. I think writing copy is something every marketer is going to do at some point in their career, and whether that’s client-facing or customer-facing, we all write words every day. So how do we choose the right words to connect with the audience and get them to take the audience we want?

Audience needs

In order to get into this topic, we need to start by thinking about audience needs. Now I’m gonna make an assumption here that everyone has heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs but for those who haven’t, I’ve included a diagram of it in the show notes, which can be found at marketingmindset.club. It’s a way of expressing human needs that starts with the basic physiological needs like food, water and shelter right up to self-actualisation, which is about achieving one’s own potential. The theory is that human beings are not driven alone by physical stimuli, rather than once each level of need is achieved, human beings aim towards the next level up and that self-actualisation and being their best selves is the highest goal.

Now, we know that the most successful brands connect with their audience on an emotional level. People buy brands because of how they feel about them, not just what the product does for them physically. Brands help customers with their decision-making, they provide safety and reassurance, they save time and we know that customers choose brands that are an extension of their own personalities, or that further their own values. But how do we speak directly to those needs in our marketing?

Functional vs emotional messaging

Well, you need to think about how we’re expressing the functional vs the emotional benefits of the product or service you’re marketing. There’s a role for both in your copy, and it depends on the phase of the user journey which approach a customer will find most helpful. 

For instance, take Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a coke’ campaign. This was the initiative that put names on the bottles so you could buy your friend a personalised bottle of coke. It was designed to create ‘a more personal relationship with consumers and inspire shared moments of happiness’ according to the Coca Cola Australia website.  The top 150 names in the country were printed onto bottles and became so popular that it was rolled out globally with names altered for each region. Now, this type of messaging worked because it connected with the audience on an emotional level. Everyone wants to be happier and to spend time with friends and loved ones. It speaks directly to humans on a primal level because we’re a herd animal. But for someone who wanted to know how many grams of sugar are in full-fat coke, that messaging wouldn’t have fulfilled that need – but the ingredients table would have. So that’s the balance between functional and emotional messaging. 

We humans think we’re so logical and that we’re rational thinkers – most of the time we’re not at all. The lizard brain (or limbic system) is where all our primaeval instincts live – our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, our emotional decision-making centre – it’s where mood, emotion and addiction live. Much of our decision-making is instinct and if we see something that connects with us on an emotional level, we’re more likely to go for it than assess it rationally. 

So, how can you as a marketer use this to write copy that converts?  

Step 1 – know your audience

Understand their situation and what will connect with them on an emotional level. Know which channels you’re writing for, where they will see this message and what context they might be viewing it in.

Step 2 – know your offer

Does your product or offer solve a problem? It probably does, so what are the emotional impacts of that problem or challenge? What might someone be feeling or experiencing that could be eradicated with your product.

Step 3 – write your words

Writing copy that connects emotionally is tricky – we tend towards the functional nature of the product we’re trying to sell. So getting to copy that emotionally connects can take a few revisions, but there are some pointers to remember.

  • Keep it concise – a headline should be around 5 – 20 words. Don’t use four words when one will do. I’ve included a link in the show notes to an article on Copyblogger that gives you 10 headline examples. These include ‘Who else wants [blank]? Or ‘Now You Can Have [something desirable] [great circumstance]’
  • Use ‘power words’ – these are words in the English language that make an impact on the reader. For instance, the difference between ‘sad’ and ‘devastated’ or ‘large’ and ‘gigantic’. There are a ton of articles written about these power words, and again I’ve linked one from the show notes.
  • Finally, call to action. The bit where you can make or break whether your user will take the action you’ve been trying to inspire. If it’s in the form of a button, and you write ‘submit’ for that button text, you’ve already lost. There are so many more powerful things you can do here. Microcopy, or button text, in this case, is so so important in the conversion action. Try ‘get my free download’ or ‘join the club’ or literally anything other than submit. 

Step 4 – test, test and test again

You won’t know what is going to truly resonate with your audience until you test it. Test different headlines, calls to action, body copy, channels – but do it in a methodical way so you can identify the lever that’s making the most impact.

So, the next time you’re wracking your brains about how to create copy you know will resonate with your users, think about how to appeal to them on an emotional level. Remember – a buying process starts with problem identification. If you can speak to alleviating the problem or making something better and how that will feel, you’re onto a winner. 

And that’s all I have for you this time. Thank you so much for coming back to the Marketing Mindset Club. I’m so glad you tuned in. Did you find this episode useful? If you did, pop me a DM on Instagram @MarketingMindsetClub, or if you didn’t I’d love to hear your feedback. If you haven’t yet subscribed or left a review, please consider doing so if you’re getting value from the show – it really helps me out in my goal to grow this club. See you next time.