Writing for Twitter and Writing for Action [Julian Shapiro, Aella, Sam Parr]

Audio notes on Julian, Aella, and Sam Parr's process for engaging their audiences.

  • Julian
    • Research top ranked posts of all time (HN Algolia, Twitter like filters, Indiehackers top posts) and find the patterns
    • Threads are useful because they show "meat" - "proves that you can sustain how interesting you are across multiple messages"
    • Julian's post on Content Marketing: Novelty and Usefulness
    • Categories of novelty:
      • Counterintuitive — "I had no idea" or "I would have never thought that's how the world worked".
      • Elegant sentence — "It's where you capture something, people know, but you say it so beautifully. They think I couldn't have said that better. Or you took the words right out of my head."
      • Shock and awe — "holy crap. I cannot believe that just happened. Thanks for sharing that news." 
    • Actionable: 
      • "Hey, now that you know this novel piece of information, here's what you can do". 
      • "Here are the steps, here's how this would now affect how you navigate the world going forward." 
    • "Actionable and novel in like a thread form tends to perform exceptionally well."
  • Aella
    • "Aella has all these polls on Twitter and they're almost always asking people like these super controversial things."
    • "What I did is I went through all of the polls. I've been doing polls for like pretty steadily for about three years. I have around 1500 and I put them all on a spreadsheet. And then I sorted them all by like the amounts of likes and retweets. And like, I weighted them differently. And then I sorted it by ones that are most divisive. So like the answers tend to be like roughly 50, 50. And then I selected from there in different categories. And I had people like vote on them. So Twitter is a proving grounds."
    • https://www.askhole.io/
  • Sam
    • "I know how to use the written word to get people to do what I want them to do."
    • Copywork
      • "the best way to get good is I found people who I admired and who were best in their field. And then I would write their workout by hand." 
      • "So for example, there was a handful of long-form copywriters that are considered the best. And I spent six months writing it out by hand copying each of their ads." 
      • "Then I wanted to learn a little bit about writing, uh, like books. So I took JD Salinger's book and I wrote that up by hand."
      • "if you want to learn how to become a good script writer for like comedy, for movies, you to go and find a Judd Apatow script or Woody Allen script and write it up by hand"
      • "I see the commonalities between all these cause I've been copying them. Now I know how to put my texture on this because I've learned the combination of what the people I like do. And I'm gonna make a little bit of my own, add my own flair to that."
      • "You actually have to feel the rhythm like a great writer. You can have one short sentence and then a really long sentence and you can feel these rhythms by writing it up by hand. And it's because when you write it out by hand, it forces you to acknowledge every single syllable, every single comma, every single period."
    • Three step process: Copy, Internalize, and Make It Your Own.

Transcript

swyx: Usually the topics are a little bit unpredictable on the show. So I'm going to try something a little different this week. This week, we're going to focus on writing how to write better, how to write more engaging, uh, and get more readers. So the first feature today is Julian Shapiro. Julian, very interesting system as a creator from writing Twitter threads that convert into his blog posts and from his blog posts converting into email subscribers.

[00:00:28] Julian Shapiro: So this gets us to the topic of how do you optimize for growing as quickly as possible on these channels? The way I start is I think, how do I get my hands on all of the top ranked posts of all time? And then if I can see what those are, can I then find the patterns?

[00:00:43] So they're really, the only trick here is find a tool that lets you measure or lets you identify. All of those top ranked posts. So for hacker news, you can use, Algolia like the search feature. And then for Twitter, you can actually use tweet, deck tweet, deck dot, twitter.com. And you can rank things essentially, but you can filter the middle east by how many likes do they have?
[00:01:03] So if I filter by 10,000 likes or more, I start looking for the patterns among these high-performing pieces. Content. 

[00:01:09] Courtland Allen: Do you, nobody does this because like on hack, like on any hackers on like, I literally on the homepage, I'm like, here are the best posts of all time. Here are the best posts every month.
[00:01:17] You're the best post every week. And I'm hoping people will go back and look at the best posts and make more posts like that because I want them to, and they never do. They just make kind of crappy posts and they complain like, why is nobody liking my posts? I'm like, the answers are literally right in front of you.
[00:01:31] Like, it could not make it easy, easier to find what works. Right. Right. Okay. So we were talking about Twitter earlier. What are you seeing that works well? 

[00:01:39] Julian Shapiro: So you want to tweet threads for the most part, if you're trying to get retweets and retweets are what bring followers. And so the reason threads are useful is because it shows so much meat.
[00:01:50] It's like, here's all this content. It's not just a single tweet. It's a bunch of glued together, which proves that you can sustain how interesting you are across multiple messages. So you're a de-risked person to follow. You can keep giving people the goods and when you're tweeting threads or tweeting single tweets, usually you want to think.

[00:02:09] A two-part framework that I write about on my website, which is novelty and actionable. So novelty means you're sharing something new that wouldn't have been easy to figure out on your own and it makes you think, wow. So there's a few categories of novelty. One is counterintuitive like, oh, I had no idea or I would have never thought that's how the world worked.
[00:02:29] Another category of novelty would be elegant sentence. It's where you capture something, people know, but you say it so beautifully. They think I couldn't have said that better. Or you took the words right out of my head. Right. And the last category is shock and awe it's like, holy crap. I cannot believe that just happened.
[00:02:47] Thanks for sharing that news. And then actionable is this thing you tack on at the end, where it's like, Hey, now that you know this novel piece of information, here's what you can do, right. Here, like the steps, here's how this would now affect how you navigate the world going forward. So actionable and novel in like a thread form tends to perform exceptionally well.

[00:03:08] Courtland Allen: have you seen Aella's account? Like as far as I can tell, you're just asking like the most controversial, provocative questions and polls you possibly can that no one else would do because we're all afraid of getting canceled. 
[00:03:18] Sam Parr: Right? I 
[00:03:20] Aella: guess. So I'm a little unclear about like exactly where my Twitter followers come.
[00:03:25] Sam Parr: Aella_girl, she's got one with an underscore and 
[00:03:28] Courtland Allen: look at the one that has an underscore, Aella_girl. The underscores has the safe for work one, like I'll give you the skinny on Aella, Sam. So Aella has all these polls on Twitter and they're almost always asking people like these super controversial things.
[00:03:41] She also has this card game that I bought. It's like, kinda like icebreakers. 

[00:03:45] Aella: What I did is I went through all of the polls. I've been doing polls for like pretty steadily for about three years. I have around 1500 and I put them all on a spreadsheet. And then I sorted them all by like the amounts of likes and retweets.
[00:03:56] And like, I weighted them differently. And then I sorted it by ones that are most divisive. So like the answers tend to be like roughly 50, 50. And then I selected from there in different categories. And I had people like vote on them. Um, and that, that's how we got, so most of those came from Twitter polls or versions of Twitter 
[00:04:12] Julian Shapiro: polls.
[00:04:12] So Twitter is a proving grounds for what's actually. Yeah, that's super cool. 


[00:04:16] swyx: I actually had the good fortune of meeting Aella not long after this interview. And I can confirm that her questions make everyone uncomfortable, but also make the meeting with her memorable and her card, her trading cards with all these questions is available.
[00:04:32] That https://www.askhole.io/, and I'm going to get one of them. And just to see what questions do you come up with? 


The next feature we're going to have is Sam Parr. He's talked about his process. Several times, but he's super confident about it. And I think it's worth studying because he clearly gets results. It may be a bit dishonest, but if you're willing to trade in some hustle, his, which is his company for results, you can get phenomenal results and he's clearly got objectively very good at it.

[00:05:03] Sam Parr: And what do you know that these people don't. I know how to use the written word to get people, to do what I want them to do. And how do you do that? 
[00:05:12] Courtland Allen: It does seem mama. I mean, Sam, the face you're making right now, you look. 
[00:05:16] Sam Parr: You look devious? No, it's just like, you know, when we're, we're always selling something, whether I want to like entertain someone with an article, like I'm not asking for money, I'm trying to sell you to give me your attention and, and read my story, whether I'm actually trying to get you to buy stuff, but I'm trying to get you to share something.
[00:05:32] Whether I'm getting you to believe something. I'm trying to tell you whether I'm trying to get you to work at my company. Uh, I'm very good at particularly the written word, getting you to do what I want you to do. Um, the best way to get good is I found people who I admired and who were best in their field.
[00:05:47] And then I would write their workout by hand. So for example, there was a handful of long-form copywriters that are considered the best. And I spent six months writing it out by hand copying each of their ads. Then I wanted to learn a little bit about writing, uh, like books. So I took JD Salinger's, um, what's his book.
[00:06:04] Yeah. Catherine there, I guess you're in the rye. And I wrote that up by hand. Um, if you want to learn how to become a good script writer for like comedy, for movies, you to go and find a Judd Apatow script or Woody Allen script and write it up by hand, it's the same way that you like. The way that we learn music is really great.
[00:06:20] Like if you gave someone six months, they can get really good at guitar. And what they do is they go and play jingle bells a bunch of times, and then they go and play a green day song and then they go and play. ACD song and they figured out blues and rock and they go, oh wow. I see the commonalities between all these.
[00:06:34] Cause I've been copying them. Now I know how to put my texture on this because I've learned the combination of what the people I like do. And I'm gonna make a little bit of my own, add my own flair to that. And so it's called the copy work. So you just copy other people's work for a long period of time until you see the similarities and you start acting like them and behaving and thinking like them.
[00:06:53] And then after a while you get really good at it. And then you. Do your own thing. So you're basically 
[00:06:57] Julian Shapiro: pattern matching while you're writing. Like you're trying to lean into what is it recurring? 
[00:07:01] Sam Parr: Exactly. That's exactly it, but it's like, do you not play an instrument? Play? The, uh, the sacks are used to. Okay.
[00:07:08] Great. When you learned how to play, did you write your own songs on day one or did you copy other people for a little while? Yeah, a hundred percent copying 
[00:07:15] Courtland Allen: playing other people's music. Wait, I, 
[00:07:16] Aella: I, is this, I I'm down with this as like a thing, but I feel a little bit confused still about it. So when you say copied out, are you telling like physically writing it with your hand?
[00:07:25] Sam Parr: Yeah. I wonder if I have my notebooks here. Like I literally have stacks of notebooks. And I have found the best selling, like there's famous ads, like long formats that sold encyclopedias. And I literally write them by hand. 
[00:07:39] Aella: I'm not, I'm not saying this doesn't work for you. I'm totally down with this. I'm just like confused.
[00:07:42] Like I can call a copy. I can do a lot of things like, and replicate it. And I still don't learn how to do it. Like when we copy things by hand, we're learning how to physically like get our hand to move in that way. Um, whereas I don't know how, like, like if I just like write out a brilliant novel I'm I don't think that would actually help me cause like, 
[00:08:00] Sam Parr: oh, it will. If you do it a bunch, because you're reading it as you're writing it. 
[00:08:06] Aella: Do it 
[00:08:06] Sam Parr: though. Wouldn't just reading music, teach you how to play music 
[00:08:11] Aella: categories of things like with like music. I have the music and how to translate that to my hands. Moving it. 
[00:08:17] Sam Parr: Good writing is rhythmic and you, and you actually have to feel the rhythm.
[00:08:21] You got to know, um, you know, like a great writer. You can have one short sentence and then a really long sentence, like, like, you know what I mean? Like it's a rhythm and you, and you can feel these rhythms by running it up by hand. And it's because when you write it out by hand, it forces you to acknowledge every single syllable, every single comma, every single period.
[00:08:39] And it's really important.
[00:08:39] Julian Shapiro:  I think it resonates more if you break into three steps as opposed to two, so Sam, maybe you're. I see this thing and I'm going to write it down. I think the intermediary step is I'm now deliberately internalizing everything I'm writing down. So the writing down is just a forcing function to actually think through the patterns.
[00:08:56] I think that's what you're capturing. And I think that might sort of satisfy. ALA's a good point, which is like, well, when I'm playing instrument, I can just do it without actually thinking. And then I'm not actually getting a true internalizing. 


[00:09:08] swyx: So that's it from today's feature on writing. We have tips from Julianne Shapiro on writing Twitter threads and then Sam Parr on just writing persuasive ad and marketing copy and, and learning that through copy work.
[00:09:20] I think these things are one of those simple, but not easy concepts. There's no secret here. You just put in the work.
2021 Swyx