I did a book report on Great Expectations when I was in the fourth grade. Night after night, my father and I read Charles Dickens’ melancholy albeit intricate account of Pip. I was fascinated by the language used as much as the story itself.
My teacher was shocked when I announced my report findings. It was clear that I’d certainly found something more than interest in a book a little too advanced for a fourth grader—I’d found my passion: writing.
Writing has been my passion and constant companion ever since. I always knew I wanted to write, but wasn’t sure which specific medium suited me best. Novels were enormous projects that took years of diligent research, editing, and unspecified quantities of coffee. Short form writing, such as essays and poetry, were outlets more aligned with my needs and voice. I wrote poetry all throughout high school, chronicling my first relationship, love affair with competitive swimming, and my own understanding of the tumultuous world around me. Though I was fortunate enough to win a few awards and read my work at hotels near the airport, I wasn’t quite sure how to move forward with this beautiful creative outlet. Poetry is a stunning visual and auditory art form, but didn’t seem to pay the bills.
In a move unanticipated by everyone, including myself, I joined a sorority when I began college. I’d just graduated from a small high school of 800 students and it seemed like a vibrant way for a shy young woman to make friends at a school of over 40,000. It paid off—I found much more than friends. Soon after joining, an older member posted a job opportunity in our community Facebook group about an SEO writing position with a nearby agency. I knew nothing about this type of writing but immediately took her up on her recommendation, wanting to try something new. Before I knew it, I was training in an office in Woods Cross, Utah, learning the ins and outs of writing social media regimens, SEO content, and press releases. I was completely blown away by the intricacy and detail that goes into every piece. Each article came with meticulously-selected keywords that had to be seamlessly integrated into the content a certain number of times, in accordance with the then-SEO best practices. Amidst the world of keywords, optimization, and marketing, I was also introduced to the challenge of social media marketing, which immediately clarified my career path. Through this first remote writing job, I fell in love with social media marketing, content writing, and advertising.
During and after the completion of my degree in English, I moved on to a few different agencies here in Utah. With their help, I discovered how to apply marketing strategy to the content I’d been writing. Under the invaluable guidance of my mentor, Kate, I learned how to identify key target audiences, promote posts, create relevant ads, and engage in meaningful conversations with audiences. Kate is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She helped magnify my existing knowledge and artistry and empowered me to reach my professional goals. Soon, I felt comfortable speaking with clients on my own, discussing my writing ideas, and formulating strategies to fulfill their marketing goals in an authentic way. Most of the clients I’ve worked with so far are automotive, e-commerce, or health care. Each industry presents a unique challenge in their differing audiences, needs, and standards. I’ve adapted my writing voice to match each, creating a versatility that otherwise might not have been readily achievable. It’s a thrill to create art that serves as a conversation piece, sales tool, and key advertising strategy.
Social media marketing seemed simple from the outside looking in: make a Facebook post or tweet here and there promoting the business. However, after working with multiple advertising agencies, it’s fair to compare this emerging and distinctive form of marketing to an iceberg; there is a lot more underneath the surface than meets the eye. Facebook’s data suggests that a marketer has fewer than two seconds to make an impression on a user before they keep scrolling on their phone or computer. Obviously, this means less needs to be more when it comes to content. I’ve learned how to take my love of writing and transform it into pieces that not only satisfy the character limit but also grab the users’ attention within that short window of time. Each word must be selected with the utmost precision; it could literally be the difference between a sales lead and a dreaded “hide all posts” click or website bounce.
Social media marketing is as much about the writing itself as it is targeting and strategy; if anything, it’s reaffirmed that high quality content wins every time regardless of current trends. This doesn’t detract from or degrade more traditional forms of writing. Instead, it adds the unique challenge to say more in a smaller space. It adds an objective to your writing. I thrive on this challenge and the rush I get knowing thousands of people read my work every day. In retrospect, I’d like to think that little girl with her nose in a book would be proud of the woman adapting a timeless artform for contemporary use. Working in advertising has been a test of character as well as character limit—I can’t wait to see where this ever-changing industry takes me next.
About Anne Henkels
Anne Henkels is a writer and social media specialist. Since attaining her BA in English from the University of Utah, she has written and strategized for several advertising agencies and assorted clients. When she’s not traveling, writing, or researching industry trends, you can find her searching for the perfect cup of coffee or defending the Oxford comma. Follow her on Twitter—Starbucks does: @BaconAnneEggs