There’s No Substitute for “Doing Your Homework”

David Ogilvy — arguably one of the most influential ad men on earth — once wrote in his book Ogilvy on Advertising that there was no substitute for “doing your homework.” That despite how much some copywriters or creatives could argue that they were better off relying on intuition, the best ads were often researched for weeks beforehand, and that the best ad writers would often read any and all books on ad writing that they could get their hands on. “Your gall-bladder has to be removed this evening,” he suggests, “Will you choose a surgeon who has read some books on anatomy and knows where to find your gall-bladder, or a surgeon who relies on intuition?”

Recently, I wrote a blog that argued that you shouldn’t listen to anyone when it comes to things like social media and that may have turned you off of this blog, because, that also means that you probably shouldn’t be reading this. But hopefully it didn’t, and hopefully you still are.

Still, Ogilvy was undoubtedly right in a lot of ways: There is intuition, and then there is knowledge. But intuition, more often than not, is driven by knowledge, which means that the more knowledge one has, the more likely they are to make intuitive decisions. Strange, I know.

Avoid Overly Complex, Confusing Copy

Some copywriters, or business owners, might think that writing overly long copy that describes something — a business, a product — in elevated terms is the best way to go about writing copy.

And they would be wrong. As a general rule of thumb — across the writing industry — it is accepted that American’s have an average reading level of an 8th grader. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people are writing for 8th graders, though. It just means that the average reading level is around there, give or take. When I first began writing for a local newspaper, my editor once told me to completely throw out my first article, suggesting that my article read too much like it was intended for a college audience. I started over, and my second effort was much better.

Further, it’s important to keep copy as concise as possible while still maintaining the true essence or meaning of a particular piece of writing. Save longer copy for detailed guides or explanations on websites. Research has shown that that copy is more effective when it is handled that way.

When in Doubt, Keep it Short

Social media, on the other hand, is an entirely different beast. Although elevated language doesn’t necessarily fly, long, overly detailed posts messages are even less likely to gain any real traction with audiences.

Which is why I find it so baffling that some of the larger brands write such long, elaborate posts on places like Facebook, even despite the fact that research (and experience) reveals that posts that are shorter — under 80 characters — generally have much greater engagement than those that are longer.

Still, it is important to consider what you want your message to be, and how you want users to view those messages. Twitter already forces brands to simplify their messages, but because Facebook doesn’t necessarily have a character limit (you could, theoretically, write a novella as a post) for posting, brands seem far more likely to drone on on their individual pages.

Lastly, Consider Time

Finally, research has shown that the best times to post on Facebook, and other social networking sites including Twitter, is generally during the middle of the day, and in the middle of the week. These are facts, really, supported by research done on thousands of posts and of hundreds of brands.

Avoid posting too late at night, and too early in the day  — after 8 p.m. or before 8 a.m. — and if you want something to get lots of viral attention, avoid the weekends. Generally, and our own research supports this, interaction rates on the weekends are substantially less than they are during the week. So, even if you post great content that is short and concise during the week, odds are that less people will likely see that during the weekend.

And these facts only touch the tip of the iceberg as far as social media and marketing are concerned.

But focus on learning facts. In that sense, case studies are a great way to help understand the web through proven research. Good articles, too, can usually be very helpful. Maybe even a book here or there.

And although Ogilvy’s statement on the importance of doing your research was pertaining mostly to advertising, it still applies here: You should have a sense of what works and what doesn’t before you start dedicating serious amounts of time to web endeavors. Simply put, knowing that information will safe you lots of time and hours of frustration, most likely. It might even save you some embarrassment, too.



Source: MSM DesignZ, Inc. is a Westchester NY Social Media company specializing in advertising, web and graphic design, and SEO.