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Behind-The-Scenes: Copywriting For A Student Audience
5 minutes ago – February 22, 2021
This article was originally published by Yash Gadodia as a CreatorKit article and is reposted by SMUMods with permission. All credit also goes to Blake Emal.

First, introductions.

I'm Yash Gadodia, college sophomore at Singapore Management University studying some-degree-that'll-be-outdated-in-5-years-so-why-bring-it-up-in-the-first-place-also-why-am-wasting-valuable-wordcount-sorry-Blake. I'm the Team Lead at SMUMods.

People know me in school as "that guy who doesn't shut up about SMUMods". And now, so do you.

What's SMUMods? We're a 100% student-run initiative that's looking to redefine the college experience.

We make college life better for students by providing a platform that solves their needs. For example, we provide professor and course reviews -

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Due to supply and demand forces, it's imperative we have knowledge about what professors to 'bid' for. It's our first and biggest feature.

That's just 1 of a suite of features we provide over at SMUMods.

Why should you care about us? We're less than 2 years old at this point, but we've seen some significant growth. At SMU, we're used by pretty much every student. That's over 40 thousand users!

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"Gotta bump up those numbers. Those are rookie numbers."

So that's us. We're growing really fast, have an excellent team, and have big plans for the future (Spoiler alert: World domination).

Now that introduction's over, let's talk about our journey.

College students. What do they know? Do they know things? Let's find out -

You probably already know this - but when copywriting, it's important to know your audience. Know what drives them, and develop mental models for thinking like them.

What makes college students unique?

1. We're bombarded daily with advertisements. You can get a sense of the fatigue students feel by looking at this -

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This is from 5 minutes of perusing on the various chat channels available to SMU students.

2. Short attention span / low tolerance for fluff. I speak from firsthand experience when I say it's really difficult to focus in the age of push notifications and TikTok feeds.

To be fair, it's tough getting anyone's attention these days.

3. Students LOVE, and I mean love free stuff. We go through great lengths to score free food and swag.

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Queue at SMU for a giveaway, circa 2019

Of course, this isn't to say that all students are this way, but it is important to have some sense of what your audience looks like. It constantly changes, so do be in touch with your audience, always.

Problem: Most copies we see aren't good.

The SMUMods Team learnt very quickly that school administration and other clubs and businesses break the cardinal rules of copywriting every day -

  • Less words. Big headers. Do less.

  • Use an active voice.

  • Show not tell.

  • Have a little "oomph".

  • Take risks.

To give you just one example -

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If any of you read through this in its entirety, I'll buy you a coffee.

Why (we think) we do a better job.

1. Titles are short.

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“Help us help you” would have been an even punchier title, but oh well.

2. We keep giveaways simple.

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Easy to follow = More likely to work.

3. We keep it consistent. All of our banners and copies have our unique SMUMods design and tone to them.

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We've formed a brand image and stick to it. Consistency across all pages.

4. We aren't afraid to make mistakes.

We tried a colloquial message in "Singlish" as part of one of our campaigns -

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It didn't get the response we were looking for. So, we tried again.

Key takeaway here: You won't always score. And that's okay.

Here’s some tools and/or rules that help us achieve the very best -

1. Grammarly and Hemmingway

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2. MOM Test FTW.

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Before we launch a copy, we always show our designs/copy to non-SMU people to get their truly unbiased opinion.

We're also constantly getting feedback from our users to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. As mentioned earlier, know your audience.

3. Focus on the visual, never the copy.

Think of the copy as enhancing your visuals. It should always be visual first, then copy. It's a rule we stick to -

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This was our most successful post ever. It beat the giveaways in terms of high organic social media engagement.

4. Keep it simple, (stupid).

Never use big, flowery language.

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"Join us" - short, simple, tells you everything you need to know

5. ABL - Always Be Learning

Some useful resources to learn copywriting
  1. This.

  2. Watch the copywriting exercises video

  3. Marketingexamples.com is bae

  4. There are way too many resources out there, so JFGI

That’s it, good luck with your copy!