The most interesting people are interested people.
This saying is endlessly helpful for me in social situations. I sometimes experience social anxiety about being liked and end up acting aloof or manic, depending on my mood.
Ironically, striving to be liked gives me a desperate, probably unlikable, energy. It’s much better to let go of this worry about being liked and just allow myself to be genuinely interested in the person I’m talking to. Not only do I have more fun (and less armpit sweat), but being interested in other people also helps them relate to me easier and relax around me.
For the same exact reasons, it’s helpful to let go of “being liked” when you’re writing your copy.
Here’s why I advocate for forgetting about likability when writing your copy, and what I recommend your focus be instead.
Trying to be liked can overpower your message with jokes and “personality”
How intense would it feel if you walked into a social situation determined to “showcase your personality” with everything.single.thing you said?
Jesus — the pressure, the weirdness. Personally, I’d probably crack way too many jokes, ask zero questions of other people (because I’m too busy showing my personality), interrupt a lot, and make awkward statements about myself that no one asked for (like, “I’m OBSESSED with coffee” or “I’m a plant-mom-slash-cool-aunt”).
At the end of the day, I might feel like I’d made a good impression? But everyone else would feel at best, entertained, and at worst, annoyed, dismissed, and confused.
This is how some copy reads. Like the person who wrote it was determined to showcase their personality at all costs. Almost like they didn’t care if the reader got the information they needed, knew what to do next, or understood what was in it for them…. As long as they “got” the personality of the brand or person.
As a result, a lot of potentially great customers or clients will walk away because they don’t feel seen or understood, or because they’re just plain confused about what’s being offered.
And sure, some kindred spirits will be entertained by all the jokes and insider metaphors and punchy statements, but it’s still a toss-up if they’ll end up becoming a client.
Just like in real life, if you put your conversation partners (your readers) first, your personality will inevitably shine through without trying much and people are more likely to feel connected to (and like!) you.
Note: I’m not against jokes or metaphors or punchy statements about yourself. But I do want to have a solid, intentional reason for using them that serves the reader. For example, if you are a photographer that serves a specific city, an inside joke about your city can help potential clients feel like they have something in common with you.
Trying to be liked can water down your message with vague promises
You know that sitcom trope where a character has told two different versions of events to two different people… and now they’re face to face with both of them? The character carefully chooses their words to apply to both versions of events. The punchline is that their words come out stilted and comically vague.
This is how it sounds when you attempt to write copy that will be liked by everyone. When you refuse to stand for something — whether that’s a specific audience, specialty, or mission — you’ll struggle to write powerful copy.
You won’t be able to get granular in your details. You’ll have to resort to terms that can apply to multiple types of readers and situations (terms which no one would ever otherwise say in real life). It’ll read like you’re not really saying what you mean… or maybe like you’re not really saying anything at all.
Readers will come away with question marks. They might not be saying, “No, definitely not,” but they won’t be saying, “Yes, definitely yes!” either.
As a business owner, I’d rather have 75% of folks shaking their head no and 25% rushing to say a wholehearted yes than 100% of people saying, “Maybe? Maybe if their price is lower than so-and-so.”
Bottom line: Take a leap and dare to alienate potential clients who aren’t a good fit for what you offer. For example, if you offer a luxury-priced service, deliberately appeal to a market that can afford that price. Or if you work best with advanced clients, don’t be afraid to tell beginners that your service isn’t for them.
Trying to be liked can lead to imitating other people instead of standing out
I was at this dinner once with some people I’d just met, and they were talking about how they weren’t into coffee culture and preferred to use Keurig single-cup coffee makers. I nodded along and said, “Oh yeah, me too, I totally get that,” when in reality, I was getting into coffee culture and thought Keurig coffee tasted terrible.
But I was more interested in being liked than I was in sharing my real opinions.
In copywriting, this can look like borrowing phrases, terms, or structures/layouts from other people in your industry that don’t resonate with you… but seem like they have the “stamp of approval” from your market.
Instead of trusting your gut and writing something that feels true to you, you fall back on the “tried-and-tested” stuff you see everywhere.
As a result, your copy, and by extension your business, doesn’t stand out.
The truth is that the best copy often springs from the aspects of ourselves or our businesses that go against the grain. For example, if you bristle at using the pain-agitate-solution formula for your services page, don’t!
What to focus on instead of being liked? What your audience needs.
The one thing that instantly dissipates any desperate please-like-me energy in social situations is wrenching my mind from myself and turning it onto others.
We all feel the difference between being used in a conversation and being involved and cared about in a conversation. We can feel when someone is putting on a show or trying to fit in to convince us — and themselves — that they’re likable (or fun, or funny, or whatever). And conversely, we can feel when they’re truly considering us.
The latter feeling is what we should aim for in our copywriting. And the path to get there is the same as in person: turn your gaze away from yourself and toward your intended reader. What do they need or want to know when they visit your website, read your welcome emails, explore your sales page?
Share that information. As clearly as you can. As honestly as you can. As unselfconsciously as you can. Forget about being liked, for the moment.
Being liked is a side effect of copywriting that validates your reader’s experiences and considers what they’re looking for. Being liked shouldn’t be your goal.
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