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I was having a conversation earlier today with someone I consider to be up there with Houdini in the magic stakes. In his case it’s working magic with websites and social media. We were talking about social media scams and spammers… those clever little people that sit in darkened rooms coming up with ways to tap into your resources of Facebook friends or Twitter followers. I imagine them based in the mid-west of America, drinking Mountain Dew and wearing plaid shirts with oversized t-shirts… it’s more likely that they’re based in Norwich, drink Typhoo and wear a lot of M&S. Either way, he told me about a time he got caught out and announced to his extensive Twitter following that he enjoyed ‘relations’ with goats on a regular basis. This was his way of cheering me up for the fact that, last night, I got caught out… I was stung… they got me… I clicked where I shouldn’t have clicked and told a whole load of people in Facebook that they looked really stupid (including my husband, who commented that I was a bit out of order saying it on Facebook, even if I did think it).

But what really struck me was how people actually believed that it was me… they believed the first post (which started with ‘yo’)… they believed the second (which included a lot of asterisks)… they believed the third (which spelt ‘that’ with a ‘d’ and no ‘th’)… it was only when they saw a post that included the term ‘lol’ that people started to twig. They just, simply weren’t talking my language or that of my followers (or the Queen’s, for that matter).

The whole experience got me thinking about the importance of speaking the language of those we’re targeting. There is no denying that these people wanted to get as many followers as possible clicking on their links. To fool them into thinking that they were genuine, so that they too could have their accounts hacked into. So that they could get into my network and develop their own ‘relationships’.

If that’s the case, therefore, why don’t they do their homework properly? If I turned up to a networking meeting and started with an opener of ‘Yo, how ya doin’?’, closely followed up with ‘Youz well fit’ and ‘Dat biz of urs is raht tasti’… people would think I’d had a heavy night and was still on it! No, we take the time to find out how to position ourselves properly within the context of our target audiences.

I spend a lot of time writing copy for businesses that need help speaking the right language for their customers and clients. It’s easy enough to speak like ourselves but what about trying to get a message across in the language of the people we’re trying to build relationships with? All too often copy is the forgotten hero… a website without great, targeted copywriting is (as I have said many times before) a bit like buying a Ferrari and putting a Smart-car engine in it.

So, how do we develop our linguistic skills?

  1. Stop – Put the pen down, stop churning it out… cease writing. The first step to learning about language is to actually think about what you want to achieve… and that means setting out some goals based on what people need to hear about – not what you think they ought to hear about.
  2. Look – Next steps are to go and find some targets and look at the ways they’re describing themselves. What words are they using? What words aren’t they using? Do they use long sentences or short? Lists or prose? What sort of fonts and colours are they using? How do they use imagery? All things that tell you a bit about your target’s personality.
  3. Listen – Once you’ve found them and looked, then step back and listen to the things they’re saying on a regular basis. What conversations and discussions are they involved with online? Do they blog or are they in the press at all? What are they posting on their own social media profiles and using what style of writing?
  4. Move – Only now can you form a full picture of your targets and the language they speak. Now is the time to think about how this can be applied to you and your business. How it can be tailored to support the objectives you set out above.

One of the most powerful sales tools you have is the power to make people ‘empathise’ with your approach. If, when they’re reading about your business or you, they are made to feel ‘wow, yes… I agree… I really like what they’re saying’, you’ve cracked it. You have the open door you were looking for in terms of business development.

And in the meantime, a word of warning… don’t click on anything that doesn’t sound like it’s written in your language – lol!