Improve your Copy with these Copywriting Exercises

Improve your Copy with these Copywriting Exercises

Our previous VMA blog defined copywriting and discussed what makes good copy. As a refresher, good copy will engage your audience and provide something valuable to make people want to buy your product or use your services. In addition to starting a conversation with your customers, good copy also needs to take web design and SEO into account in order to thrive in modern-age business.

The next question is:

How do I get better at writing copy?

Let’s go over some useful copywriting exercises to help you improve your copy and make you more comfortable with writing and creating as a whole. Practice makes perfect, so let’s go over some things you can do to develop your copywriting skills.

Re-Write Ads

Advertisements are everywhere. We’re bombarded with them constantly. As you interact with the world every day, pay close attention to the ads around you and try to re-write them. Can you figure out a way to make people crave that restaurant’s food even more with a better billboard slogan? Is there any way to improve that Google AdWord advertisement that came up on your last search?

Don’t worry about the quality of your fake re-written ads. The important thing is to constantly practice using different styles and methods to promote an idea or product.

Make a Swipe File

If you have a job that requires you to constantly produce new content, keeping a swipe file is a must. A swipe file is a collection of advertisements and copy that left a mark on you in some way. Even if it has nothing to do with your field, you can put content in your swipe file for any reason: great visual design, a clever turn of phrase, or even a cool font that you want to use later. Make sure to save anything that makes you click on a link, laugh, or even just pause for a closer look.

A swipe file can be either a physical file or digital file. You can even have one on your phone, which is a great way to keep up with mobile-responsive innovations. Screenshots are a great tool for easily saving digital copies. If you have a Mac, you can press command-shift-4, then drag a box around the desired image. By default, this saves the screenshot to your desktop, where you can drag it into your swipe file.

If you have a Windows PC, it gets a bit more complicated. Here’s an overview of several different ways to take screenshots in Windows. If you have Windows 10, by default one of the easier ways to take a screenshot is to press Windows-PrintScreen (usually abbreviated to something like PrntScrn or PrtScn and located near F12). This will save an image of your entire screen to Screenshots under the default Pictures folder.

So what do you do with your expanding swipe file? Use it for inspiration! If you need to make something, browse your swipe file for ideas related to that project. Need a clean-but-interesting web layout? Want to find phrasing ideas for blog titles? Check your swipe file and see if anything that popped out at you in the past can help with your current problem.

Copy Copy

A simple exercise for improving your content is to copy other people’s copy. While you’re filling your swipe file with fun ideas, physically write down advertisements, slogans, and other forms of copy that you think are brilliant. Copy them word-for-word, so you can get a better feel for how the sentence is structured and what makes it sound and look good.

Highlight the Benefits

When you describe the features of your product or business, don’t simply list them. You also need to let your customers know the results of these features and how they will benefit them.

For example, a feature of WordPress is the ability to publish content such as pages and posts without using code. This is a great feature, but on the WordPress website, the copywriter further explains that anyone who has created a document on their computer is already prepared to write a post, format it, insert media, and publish “with the click of a button.” Not only does the paragraph describe the feature of WordPress, but it also explains in simple terms how this feature benefits the potential user.

Keep in mind that you are most likely much more informed on your business’ field than your customers. They want to know how they can use your features to benefit themselves and why they should use your company over another. Most of them won’t be drawn to a jargon-heavy list of features.

Be Concise

There’s a reason why social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram are so huge. People love taglines. A short, concise phrase such as “just do it” or “I’m lovin’ it” sticks in your head much easier than a longer sentence would.

When creating your copy, try to trim down the content and get your point across with as few words as possible. By sending out information more efficiently, you will get your message across better. Whether it’s text, video, or audio, spread information with fewer words.

This doesn’t mean that all of your copy should be cut short. Long copy can spread a lot of information, draw people in, and sell well. Longwinded copy, on the other hand, drives people away before they finish listening.

Read Out Loud

One of the best things you can do to improve your copy right away is read it out loud. Not only does this help you weed out typos and grammatical errors, but it also helps you make your content sound more conversational. It’s much easier to make a sentence sound natural if you hear it as you read it. It will also help you avoid being as longwinded!

Read aloud to yourself, record your voice and listen to it, or even force someone else to listen to you. You’ll see instant results.

Learn More

Many jobs require you to keep up-to-date on the latest news, techniques, or trends. Working as a copywriter is no different, especially if your focus is online. A copywriter who is good at many things is always going to have an edge over one who is only good at one thing.

Get experience wherever you can. If you want to work as a freelancer, it’s best to start out in an established company for a few years. That way, you can learn how many aspects of the business works, and it’s not as easy to get stuck in a rut of your own repeating ideas.

Constantly search for more ways to learn something new or improve an old skill. Take classes, join a discussion, read a book…the possibilities for new information are endless, especially online!

Hopefully these tips help you develop your copywriting skills a bit more in the future. If you want more information on SEO, web development, design, and many other topics, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogs here!


10 Ways to Use Social Media to Boost Online Sales

Social media has become a necessity for helping businesses flourish, especially if you rely on online sales. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and many other sites are great platforms from which you can spread information about your business. The unique thing about advertising on social media is that you can easily start a discussion with your customers. You can also get immediate feedback, answer questions, ask your own questions…the possibilities are endless! Another great aspect of social media is the fact that once you create content for one site, you can easily share it to your accounts on the other sites.
Whether you’re just starting out with promoting your business on social media or need a few tips for expanding your reach, here are several ways you can use social media to boost online sales:
Using Twitter is incredibly simple. There’s a small limit to the number of characters you can use within your message, forcing you to keep it short and to the point. Because of its popularity and simplicity, Twitter is a great resource to use to start a conversation with your customers and spread news about your business.
Twitter is the site that created the use of hashtags (#) in social media. By putting a hashtag in front of a short key word or phrase, it groups your message in with similar hashtags. This makes it so that you can search for related posts and other people can similarly find your post. Use this tool to see what people are saying about your product and to interact with them. Get people talking about your product, answer questions, and make connections.
Although Facebook started as an exclusive site for connecting college students together, it has grown to be one of the biggest and most influential social media sites. As such, it’s important to use Facebook to your advantage for your online business. Make a page for your store that other people can visit and follow. Reach out and share information with status updates. Interact with other groups and pages that have to do with your business.
Pinterest and Instagram are both amazing resources for online businesses trying to get more traffic. They are lumped together here because they are both used to spread more visual media than many other sites. Engage with your audience by sharing photographs, infographics, and other pictures. Take pictures of your product, show the manufacturing process, tell a story, and develop your brand image. Some businesses will have an easier time coming up with interesting visuals than others, but if you are creative enough, you can gain a loyal and growing following with these sites.
LinkedIn is a more business-oriented, professional social media platform. It’s purpose is to connect professionals from all kinds of industries together. It allows you to easily network with people from all around the world. Set up an e-commerce business profile and look around for connections with other companies, suppliers, potential employees, and other websites. Use it to find other businesses that might want to carry your product. This site is less for advertising or sales and more for connecting professionally and improving your reach in other ways.
YouTube isn’t just for finding music videos, movie clips, and other entertainment. It can be a powerful tool to use for your business. People love to watch videos, and if you can make interesting content in video form, you can draw in tons of viewers. Create a YouTube channel for your business and post videos related to your product. Try behind the scenes manufacturing videos, tutorials, maintenance and repair tips, interesting ways to use a product, and any other type of video that works well for you.
Tumblr and other blogging sites are a great way to spread information about your product and business. Design your page around your business and provide content that is engaging, informative, funny, or otherwise interesting. Reinforce your brand by talking about it and providing more information. Make sure that you connect these posts to your other social media pages and vice versa. You don’t have to make completely different content for Tumblr and for Facebook!
Reddit is a site used mostly for news and entertainment. However, if used properly, it can also be a great resource for your business and draw in dedicated followers. The tricky part is knowing which subreddits (indicated by r/topic) you should post on. r/entrepreneur is a great place to start. Also look for subreddits directly related to your business or product, if it’s popular enough. As with other sites, try to engage with the audience by showing behind-the-scenes processes, reveal struggles you have faced, and other unique information about your business in particular.
Online marketplaces can be a great place to start selling your products before you set up your own sales website. General sites such as eBay and Craigslist have been around since 1995, and allow you to sell pretty much anything to pretty much anyone in the world. More recently, sites have created more specialized sales environments. For example, Etsy is a marketplace for artistic and handmade creations.
Before the big social media explosion, forums were the major way people connected online over various topics. Although they have been shoved out of the spotlight, forums are still thriving and are great places to make connections. Find forum websites that specialize in your product or niche and start a conversation. Forums tend to be great resources to use to find answers to questions that people have already asked. You might find some great blog, post, or video ideas deep in the online forums!
Besides providing content, there are other ways you can use some of these sites: paid advertising. Facebook, Google AdWords, YouTube ads, and banner ads reach all over the Internet. Carefully consider where your money would be best spent when deciding how to use paid advertising on social media sites. Do you have a lot of followers on Facebook? Are people watching your YouTube videos? When you design these ads, spread the word about your other social media pages so people can easily connect.
Try using these sites and others to help spread the word about your business and boost online sales. Compared to other advertising methods, these sites require you to show a bit more of your company’s unique personality. Try to engage with your customers, listen to what they have to say, and adjust your content to fit their needs and wants. Using social media for your business can seem like a daunting task, but once you get used to it, it can be really fun!
If you want more tips for promoting your online business, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogs. Here we discuss ways to use content marketing to boost online sales.

Content Marketing and Return on Investment

Content Marketing and Return on Investment

It can be difficult to calculate how much return on investment (ROI) your business is getting from your content marketing strategy. If done well, content marketing has a higher-than-average marketing ROI. This Forbes article contains an interview with Julie Fleischer, former Director of Content Strategy and Integration at Kraft Foods. Fleischer claims that Kraft’s content marketing gives the company a ROI that is, “among the highest of all of our marketing efforts.” So where do you start to improve your business’s content marketing strategy?

The first step is to determine your current content marketing ROI with these 3 components:


First you need to determine how much money is being spent on your current content marketing strategy. Depending on the size of your company and the amount of content it produces, you will either need a full audit or a smaller sample of the total content. Use average costs to get a rough estimate of content spending.


You also need to figure out how much of the content that’s made is actually being used. Any created content that goes unused is a complete waste. Calculated a rough percentage of content utilization.


For the content that is created and used, you also need to determine how well it is performing. There are many factors to check, such as page views, likes, social shares, etc. But you also have to link these results back to the business’s content history. See which types of content marketing worked best for your company and review how the strategy developed over time as groundwork for moving forward. It’s important to continue checking performance regularly as you change your strategy.

Make sure your business holds marketing accountable for their ROI. Often a company will send out employees to produce content without fully keeping track of the investment. Request verified results that are measured and reported. Don’t let your content marketing go unsupervised.

How to Improve Your Content Marketing
Now that you know more about how your content marketing has worked up until now, it’s time to start improving it.

Reach Out to Early-Stage Buyers

Much of the marketing we see around us is overly promotional. For buyers who are not yet familiar with your brand, pushy advertisements tend to get tuned out. You need to find a way to make your brand noticeable, likable, and trusted enough that people will want to buy your product or use your services. Here are some things to take into account when setting up your online marketing:

Branded Conversations

Search the online conversations about your product category. What percentage of them mentions a specific brand? What percentage mentions your brand? If that percentage is much different than your market share in your category, it means your competitors are taking away potential prospects right from the beginning.

Unbranded Search Traffic

How many people are searching for your product category online? What percentage of these prospects end up at your website rather than a competitor’s? You can’t only promote your brand within your own website. You must branch out to other sources in order to draw people in.

Website Traffic

Be aware of the quality and quantity of traffic that flows through the websites you use for advertising and the cost of using them. High-traffic sites are great for spreading your brand quickly, but may come with a hefty price. Smaller sites with less traffic can be much cheaper for advertisement fees. Keep track of these costs as you determine where to show your ads.

Organic vs. Paid Traffic

Many companies pay for fake traffic in order to make their sites look more trustworthy and popular. Organic content marketing allows you to reach out to potential and existing customers, start conversations, spread the word about your brand, and gain additional reach without paying for fake viewers. In the long run, it’s always better to earn your customer’s trust and attention rather than buying it.

Unused Content

Again, any content that is created for your company that goes unused is a complete waste of resources. Keep a close eye on the percentage of content that goes unused and reduce that number as much as possible.

Banner Advertisements

You see banner advertisements everywhere you go online, but how effective are they really? Banner ads are actually shown to underperform when compared to almost any other kind of content marketing. Make sure that they are part of a broader marketing strategy. Think carefully about where you place them in order to get the most out of the investment.

Engaging Your Customers
There are several ways that you can monitor how well you are engaging your customers online. Resources such as Google Analytics allow you to easily keep track of various aspects of website viewership.

Bounce Rate

How many people who visit your site stay there for an extended period of time and click on several different pages within the site? The percentage of viewers who leave your site after viewing only one page is known as the bounce rate. As you alter your content marketing strategy, pay close attention to how each change affects the bounce rate, so you can focus on the changes that are beneficial.

Repeat Visits

Pay attention to repeat visits and extended time spent with your brand. By looking at repeat visits, you can measure the value of brand awareness and track how your content marketing affects loyal customers.


Calculate the value per subscriber. Determine the cost and payoff of bringing customers into the brand fold, and learn how to market towards these customers.

In summary, keep track of your content marketing strategy. Pay attention to where the money is going. Pay close attention to the cost of your content, and make sure that the content actually being used. Check on the performance of each type of content and constantly try to improve. Use a resource such as Google Analytics to help see what’s going on with your website traffic as you make changes.

Try to draw in organic traffic by starting conversations, spreading your brand name, and instilling loyalty in your customers. When trying to develop your business’s content marketing strategy, keep these factors in mind, and make improvements wherever possible for a greater ROI.

If you want more suggestions for developing your website, check out VMA’s other blogs. This one goes over how to keep your content fresh and up-to-date, or “evergreen.”

What is Good Copywriting?

We’ve all seen spammy, boring advertisements that make us just want to hit “next” and get on with what we’re doing. But there are also advertisements out there that will draw you in and make you interested in learning more about the product. What’s the difference? Often, it comes down to the Copy!

What is Copy?

Copywriting is when someone comes up with text content for the purposes of advertisement and marketing. Copy is the content that the copywriter creates. Glance at a billboard next time you go down a highway, or flip through a magazine at your next doctor’s appointment. All of those words were written by a copywriter. Open up any website page and the text you see is also copy.

Good Copywriting

So what distinguishes good copywriting from bad? The majority of advertisements fly past us, day after day, without making us stop to think about them. Good copywriting stops people from passing by, draws them in, and makes them care about the product or service being sold.

As a copywriter, you don’t have to come up with constant brilliant advertising, like the “Budweiser Frogs” or Apple’s “1984.” You just need to learn how to engage with your targeted audience. Here are three major tenets of good copywriting:

Get your audience to want to engage with you. Don’t spam your viewers.
Offer something valuable to your audience. Don’t just ask for their money.
Make your customers want to buy from you because they like your content.
Unfortunately there’s no one single trick to achieving these objectives. Everything depends on your business, your product, your target audience, and the goals you are trying to attain.

Pay close attention to number 2 on the list. It’s easier to draw people in if you have something to offer to them. This doesn’t just mean using coupons, though that’s a place to start. If you want more ideas about how to use pricing strategies to draw in more customers, check out VMA’s blog on the subject here. It goes over more details on ways to draw in new customers and bring back old ones with offers from your company.

Modern Age Copywriting

One result of the Internet is that there are new kinds of copywriting specifically geared towards that medium. What works in a magazine, newspaper, or billboard won’t necessarily work for a website. How you set up the back end of your website is crucial to ensure that your pages are seen in the first place.

SEO Copywriting

SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” You use SEO to make it so that when people search for topics related to your business on a search engine such as Google, your pages are included in the top results. There are 3 major parts to setting up SEO copywriting:

Finding the right keywords. The ones that other people are using the most to search for your product.
Writing articles on subjects that people want to learn more about to draw them in.
Use the important keywords and the content you create around them to try to rank in the top results for those keywords.
The simplest way to see what people are searching for when it comes to your product is to see what Google automatically fills in when you perform a search yourself. Although this can give you a basic idea of keyword searches, it’s much better to use another resource. Programs such as Google Analytics allow you to look in-depth at your audience and what they are searching for. This is an incredibly useful tool to have on your belt for keeping track of how your website is performing. It can also help with determining what to do to make it better.

When Internet search engines first began, getting your site to the top of the search was a simpler process. You could get away with spamming the audience and throwing a ton of junk articles on the page. These days, search engines are getting incredibly smart. They do their best to weed out spammy, junk sites for ones that people want to see.

When you write an article now, it’s important to make it as interesting as possible to draw in more people and keep them on your site for longer. How many people can find your site through searches, how many different people click on your site, how long viewers stay on your pages, and many other factors determine how well your website is performing. Again, tools such as Google Analytics can help you keep track of this kind of information. You can then use that to see which articles are working and which are not, to help improve your future copy.

Also keep in mind that search engine optimization is changing all the time. Google and other companies are constantly working to improve their algorithms. Sometimes they make small tweaks and other times they completely overhaul the system. Staying up-to-date is crucial.

In the end, making good copywriting comes down to the same things that almost any skill requires. Practice and a willingness to constantly learn new techniques will get you far. Being able to keep up with the newest trends is what the Internet is all about. If you get out there and engage with your customers, you will quickly learn what they are interested in and what kind of information will appeal to them. Use their questions as article topics, and start a discussion. One of the best (and sometimes worst!) aspects of modern marketing is the ability to get instant feedback and conversations with your viewers.

If you want more information about SEO, marketing, and other topics, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogs!

Online Business Pricing Strategies

For most businesses that sell a product, a significant portion of sales come from repeat customers. After you put in the effort to get customers to visit your website and make an online purchase, it’s time to start working towards bringing them back. One major way you can accomplish this is by using smart online business pricing strategies for your products.

The Benefits of Repeat Customers

In 2015, RJMetrics posted a study on eCommerce buying behavior. They found that 32% of customers who make an online purchase are likely to come back and make another purchase within a year. Although this doesn’t seem like much, repeat customers tend to also come back again. If someone makes a second purchase, they jump to a 50% chance of making a third purchase. This continues incrementally, leading to a statistic that shows that return customers can be very loyal. If you make an effort to develop customer loyalty, you can increase your sales greatly and make everyone happy!

Use Smart Online Business Pricing Strategies

Smart online business pricing strategies can be a powerful tool in helping you bring back repeat customers. These methods reward customers for choosing your store again and again. There’s more to it than simply passing out coupons. Here are some simple pricing strategies to try for your online business:

Delayed Rewards

People love rewards and will go out of their way to obtain them. Although you may draw in many first customers by simply distributing coupons and offering a reduced price on a first purchase, this method doesn’t necessarily bring people back for a second buy. In fact, the customer might feel upset when they realize that they now have to pay more for the same thing they purchased before.

Instead, give a reward for a purchase by offering a discount on the next purchase. Rather than handing out $5 coupons for a first purchase, offer a $10 discount on a second purchase. This has two major benefits. First, it brings more people back for a second purchase, which can snowball into customer loyalty. Second, the offer doesn’t have to be limited to first-time customers only. This makes your business look really good to repeat customers, and may even bring back buyers who weren’t originally planning to make another purchase.

Instant gratification is great, but delaying the reward can be even better for your business by drawing in repeat customers.

Reward Certain Actions

You can make customers feel more involved and recognized by giving out rewards for doing certain things that benefit your business. You can reward many types of actions, such as:

Coming back to make a set number of different purchases.
Purchasing the same product repeatedly.
Purchasing several different items at once.
Spending specific amounts of money.
Joining a monthly subscription.
A good example of this method is Target’s Cartwheel app. When you are checking out at Target, you can use the app on your phone to scan the items you’re buying to earn extra savings. It also includes a badge system, letting the customer feel like they are progressing towards extra rewards on top of saving money.

This kind of reward system makes the customer feel good while shopping at your store. The rewards don’t even have to always give discounted prices. Many people will return to a store that makes them feel good and have fun while shopping.

Membership Pricing

Other common and beneficial pricing strategies include memberships. Having a key ring full of membership cards is a hassle, but these days you can easily handle memberships online. Grocery stores often use memberships to bring in repeat customers, and the system works well. If a person can buy a product in one place cheaper than another with a simple membership, they are much more likely to return there.

Keep your members feeling special by setting up great exclusive rewards. If you regularly change which items are discounted to members, they will keep coming back to see if the items they want are currently on sale. This will also entice new customers into membership if they see something they want at a cheaper price. You can also set up different membership tiers that offer greater discounts at higher levels. Another great option that combines the previous two methods is to have members unlock higher tiers of savings by making repeat purchases.

Not all of these methods will work for every business. Consider which pricing strategies would work best for your online business before setting up a lot of discounts. If in doubt, you can try several methods over a period of time and see which work best for you. If you want to learn more about improving your online business, check out VMA’s other blogs such as this one that goes over different ways to use content marketing to boost online sales.

9 Ways to Use Content Marketing to Boost Online Sales

Content marketing has become a very important method for businesses to reach out to their target audiences. It involves providing content online that your customers might find interesting and/or helpful. Valuable content will help you engage potential customers and bring in new business. Here are 10 types of content marketing you can use to boost online sales. Whether your business already has a content marketing plan or you’re just starting out, hopefully you’ll find something useful in this list for your online business.

Blog Posts

Blogging is one of the most potent content marketing tools at your disposal. Blogs allow you to provide as much useful and interesting content as you can and easily spread the information to lots of people. If you’re not sure where to start with your blog, try to provide general information about your product or think of questions that customers have asked in the past and give the answers. You can also look and see what other similar businesses are talking about on their websites for inspiration.

Guest Blog Posts

Once you get comfortable writing your own blogs, you can expand your reach by writing guest blog posts. These are blog posts that you write for other websites that are relevant to your business to try to expand your reach to new people. You need to build a relationship with the owner of the site to get permission. You might offer a trade of guest posts so both of your websites receive more traffic.

Email Lists

Having a list of emails for current and potential clients is an amazing resource for spreading content. Posts to social media sites such as Facebook may only reach a small amount of your followers. Emails are guaranteed to at least go through to everyone on the list (though whether or not they read it is up to them!) Start your email list ASAP by adding an email subscription form to your website. Then you can send content as a regular newsletter containing whatever information you want. If you add incentives, such as a chance to win free products, you’ll get even more people interested.


Videos are a great way to provide content, and people love watching them. Since they are more visual than regular text, you can express yourself in many ways that don’t work as well in a blog. You can supplement your blog with similar information or provide completely different content. Set up a YouTube channel for your business, create videos, and link them to your website.

Images and Infographics

Images are a powerful tool and can relay a large amount of information to your audience. Use photographs, illustrations, or other types of images to spice up your content. Link them to your website, blogs, and social media posts. Infographics can be even more useful since they can combine the visuals of pictures with informative text. However, when choosing pictures to use for your content marketing, make sure that they are ones you made yourself or that you have permission to use. Otherwise you can get in some legal trouble.


The popularity of podcasts has exploded in recent years. People listen to them in the car, at work, while doing chores, or while hanging out pretty much anywhere thanks to smart phones and laptops. Record interviews, stories, or other information about your business and post them as podcasts for your customers to download.


Anyone can make an ebook to either sell or give away online. You just need to combine enough information about your business into one package for distribution. After you’re done writing and putting together the information, provide a download of it on your website.

Surveys and Interviews

Your content doesn’t always have to come from your own mouth: ask around for information from your audience or other people in your profession or niche. Surveys and interviews are both great ways to get information to your customers in a smooth and easy-to-understand way. Use them to bring more interest to the topics related to your business.


Similar to surveys and interviews, testimonials also allow you to get content about your business from the points of view of other people. Testimonials are endorsements from customers that provide proof of the value of your business. New customers tend to feel more comfortable with a business if they can see that other people have already tried the product and support it. Urge your customers to provide feedback about their experiences and put them on your website or social media.

Content marketing is a great way to boost sales for your online business. Use these methods as a starting point and get the content flowing on your website! You can also check out more ways to spice up your website and boost online sales with VMA’s blog here.

Social Media and the Unfiltered Internet

Social Media and the Unfiltered Internet

Do you remember The Dress? The one that no one could decide whether it was gold and white or blue and black. The one that was being talked about all over the place in 2015. Did you know that the original post for the dress was a Facebook post that got fewer than 20 likes? It was only later, when it was posted to Tumblr and Twitter, that the dress picture because the phenomenon of The Dress.

Filtered Internet Content

The Internet is a huge place that’s expanding every day. In fact, we can only see a tiny portion of it. And that portion is further shrunken by the social media platforms that we use to browse for entertainment or work. The general population adds to these sites constantly, providing an ever-expanding source of content. The question arises though: is there too much content?

Even if you browse social media sites all day every day, you won’t be able to see even a small fraction of their content. This poses a problem for the companies running these sites. They want people to stick around and continue to browse the site, because the more viewers they have, the more money they get from advertising. If a viewer’s feed is too bogged down by uninteresting or irrelevant content, they are more likely to stop going to that site altogether.

This problem has caused most social media sites to start filtering content in one way or another. For example, Facebook decides what to show on your feed based on many underlying factors, such as your sex, age, marital status, and the types of websites and links you tend to visit. In general this is a good thing, since it makes our feeds more interesting and pertinent to us. However, it also causes a sizable underlying layer of social media that gets lost and unseen in the shuffle.

Hidden Content

This hidden content is public and recognized by search engines, but it only reaches a tiny audience and is difficult to find if you’re looking for it. To give you an idea of how much content is hidden, here’s a study from 2009 that showed that 53% of YouTube videos had under 500 views!

Hidden content (besides the spam) often feels more honest, since it doesn’t contain the repetitive formulas of mainstream traffic that keeps those posts more visible to search engines. It also tends to be more amateurish, of low quality, be too short or too long, and have titles that are difficult to find in a search. In general, the hidden content feels more candid, intimate, and human.

If you’re interested in sifting through this forgotten content, several resources have popped up to help you. These include Oviews for unwatched YouTube videos, SadTweets for unseen Twitter tweets, and Forgotify for unheard songs on Spotify.

Using the Unfiltered Internet

As with every resource, some people have actually found a way to get money from the underbelly content of the unfiltered Internet. Some companies search through public photos that people post online looking for recognizable brands. They then sell the photos to the brand’s company for demographic information or advertisement.

Some of the unpopular content is eventually discovered and becomes extremely popular for a time. When content goes viral like this, the original poster very rarely profits from their fame, and sometimes it can even cause them harm. Imagine having a video you posted go viral to the point where you get hundreds of notifications per hour. It would get old quickly and make it impossible to actually find the notifications that you want to see. This is what happened to the girl who originally posted about The Dress. Her phone kept crashing from the influx of notifications. In the aftermath, BuzzFeed posted about a party they were throwing to celebrate The Dress as their largest post ever. It’s impossible to know exactly how much money BuzzFeed made off of that post, but it is known that the original poster didn’t really benefit.

What is interesting (and disconcerting) is that the biggest post on one of the most popular social media sites was taken from another site, which was also taken from another site, without the permission or knowledge of the act from the original poster. No one was compensated for this string of events, and the post was eventually taken down due to copyright infringement.

The Internet is becoming more and more centralized and controlled by corporations trying to subsist on other people’s content. Some of these companies last a long time, while others disappear and are quickly replaced by something else. The future of these companies and social media in general is unclear. It’s similarly hard to tell what will happen to the enormous amount of unseen content that makes up the majority of the unfiltered Internet as it continues to expand every second.

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