What is a swipe file? Copywriting guidance to swipe right for
Have you ever found yourself facing the dreaded creative block?
All you want to do is craft a fantastic headline or start writing a brilliant blog, but instead, you’re staring at a blank page, with no motivation or inspiration to guide you.
Though marketing, brand building, and content production may seem simple enough on the surface, the truth is that it’s incredibly tough to create something out of nothing. Countless artists and creative minds rely on digital and real-life muses to help them develop their masterpieces. For instance, writers read other blogs and interview people for useful information. Even entrepreneurs create new companies based on the success of business models they’ve seen before.
When it comes to digital marketing and copywriting, you can create a resource that ensures you’re never left out of ideas when it’s time to create something new.
A swipe file gives you a list of useful ideas and insights to draw from when your mind is begging for stimulation. Also known as a ‘scrap file’, these documents are used by creatives all over the world to overcome almost any professional hurdle.
So, how can you set yourself up for endless inspiration?
Today, we’re going to answer the question “What is a swipe file?” and cover the steps you can follow to create your motivation manifesto.
What is a swipe file, and why do marketers need one?
Inbound marketing methods like content production generate about three times as many leads as outbound promotion. Unfortunately, constantly coming up with creative ideas for your advertising campaigns isn’t easy.
A swipe file is one of the tools that creative minds can use to improve their chances of long-term success.
So, what is a swipe file?
In simple terms, a swipe file is a digital or physical folder where you keep all the fantastic marketing ideas you’ve encountered over the years. Think of it like a professional scrapbook designed to inspire your future marketing plan.
Whether you create a digital marketing swipe file, headline swipe file, or something else entirely, the idea is to collect incredible concepts from other companies and promotional teams, so you can use them to motivate your work later.
Importantly, you’ll need to organise your swipe file in a way that makes it easy to search through and find the guidance you need when you need it most. This might mean that you need to create multiple files for email, social media posts, video marketing and so on. Some copywriters and marketing leaders also keep their swipe files divided according to industry or niche.
One of the best ways to look at your swipe file definition is to consider it as a form of content curation. Content curation is the act of selecting and managing items in a collection.
When you curate, you collect things that are important to you and your business, with the intent of using those resources to improve your work. Similarly, when you design your swipe files, you’ll be collecting visuals, examples, tips, and notes that give you the additional support you need to create fantastic advertising assets.
So, why do you need to create swipe files? Simple, with a swipe file you can:
Avoid writer’s or design block when you’re working on growing your business.
Improve your skills by learning from successful teams in other companies.
Discover new ideas that keep your content and marketing strategies fresh and engaging.
Learn about alternative marketing channels that you may not have considered before.
Something for every occasion: Types of swipe file
Your copywriting swipe file will grow naturally over time.
The more complete your swipe files are, the more powerful your resource will be. This is why so many experts recommend continually adding new entries to your files as often as you can. Crucially, however, you’ll need to make sure that the things you’re adding to your swipe files are valuable and relevant.
If something catches your attention, the chances are that it will have the same effect on others. However, you’ll need to consider content not just from your perspective, but from your target audience too. It’s no good learning to write in a style that’s great for you, but uninteresting to your customers. Here are some of the types of swipe file you can add to your repertoire:
Headline swipe file: Headlines that grab your attention can help you to learn new copywriting skills. Remember to keep an eye out for things like style, headline wording, and the use of fonts on website pages too!
Sales copywriting swipe file: Check out sales pages from marketing gurus around the world. This will help you to develop your own sales strategies in the future and make sure that you’re writing copy that compels your audience to act. Look at everything from placement of graphics on sales and squeeze pages, to the use of call-to-action buttons and more.
Digital marketing swipe file: Keep track of all the marketing copy you see online that makes you want to buy something. It could be a blog post that encourages you to sign up for a website newsletter or an infographic that convinces you of the value of a product or service. It’s best to collect examples of multiple different types of content so you can diversify your content marketing strategy.
Email swipe file and subject lines: Email is still one of the most powerful marketing channels in the world. Keep track of the emails that convince you to click and use them to guide your email strategies. Pay particularly close attention to compelling subject lines, as these can make or break your email strategy.
Landing page and website design swipe files: Make sure you’re ready to guide your web design team with examples of landing pages and websites that have spoken to you in the past. This will ensure that whenever you need to design something with selling power, you don’t have to start from ground zero.
How to build and use a copywriting swipe file
As mentioned above, a swipe file is a selection of proven strategies for marketing that you can use to guide your promotional campaigns. There are various ways that you can organise your swipe files. For instance, you might:
Cloud or computer file: Use a folder on your computer or cloud drive to collect all the advertising inspiration you’ve found. You can also create sub-folders to make choosing the right solution easier. For instance, your digital marketing swipe file might include sub-folders for email, social media, blogging, and PPC.
Email swipe file: You can create a folder in your email inbox, or an entirely new email account to save emails that could contribute to your future campaigns. A brand-new email address may be the best option, as it means you can create multiple folders for things like welcome emails, lead nurturing campaigns and so on.
Browser swipe files: Create a bookmarks folder in your browser where you can save website pages that appeal to you. This is an excellent solution for when you’re building out your copywriting swipe file with examples of landing pages, product pages, and other content.
How to use your swipe files
Once you know how to create your copywriting swipe file, using it is easy! When you find yourself facing a complicated writing situation, all you need to do is pull out your swipe file examples and look for guidance from other marketing professionals.
For instance, here are some of the ways that copywriters frequently use swipe files.
1. Use a swipe file to discover your voice
When you’re establishing a new marketing strategy for your brand, a swipe file can be a great way to find the right tone of voice. With saved emails, marketing campaigns and landing pages from your competitors, you can pick and choose the writing strategies that will work best for your target audience. When you find writing styles you like, make a note of things like:
How long or short the sentences are.
How the writer achieves a pleasant rhythm.
If the word choice is formal or informal (is slang used?).
Which sensory and emotional words appear most often.
2. Use a swipe file to enhance your writing
There’s more to being an excellent writer than discovering the ideal voice. You’ll also need to think carefully about how you’re going to use your content to engage your audience and convert them into loyal advocates for your brand. Your swipe file can offer useful guidance on how to boost your writing, by looking at things like:
What kind of topics appeal to your target audience.
How the writer attempts to solve customer problems in their content.
Whether the headline grabs your attention – and how it does that.
When articles or emails lose your attention – and what causes you to become distracted.
How the writer uses subheadings and bullet points to break up the content.
How visual content adds to the context of the piece.
3. Use swipe files to keep your marketing strategies fresh
Sometimes, even after years of success with your blog posts and podcasts, you may discover that your traffic numbers start to drop, and engagement begins to dwindle. The problem may not be with your writing or content. Instead, your audience may be looking for something new. When building out your swipe files, consider creating a folder for ‘alternative’ marketing strategies you may be able to use in the future, such as:
Often, the process of creating something incredible can start with reverse engineering.
When you’re new to the world of marketing or copywriting, it’s often best to create a strategy based on what you know already works. That’s why countless experts turn to knowledge bases and swipe files for help.
Tracking successful work and learning what you can from its core structure or template ensures that you’ll have plenty of ways to deliver value to your own audience in the future. Just remember, the aim of swipe files isn’t to give yourself content to copy – it’s to provide you with an initial foundation on which you can build unique campaigns. To improve your chances of success, follow these tips:
1. Be as organised as possible
Proper organisation is critical when developing a strong swipe file. You’ll need to come up with a reliable strategy for where you’re going to save each document, what you’ll name your ‘swipes’, and how you’ll keep on top of your collection. Just some of the tools you can use to help you include:
Pinterest: Pinterest is a fantastic place to collect inspiration for infographics and visual content.
Evernote: Ideal for messy swipe files, Evernote can help you to keep track of useful quotes and scribble down ideas before they’re fully-formed.
Dropbox: If you need to keep all of your links and content in the same space, a cloud storage system like Dropbox ensures that you don’t run out of essential computer space.
2. Know your audience
Remember not just to collect content that you find interesting. Although reading plenty of blogs and articles online can help with developing your voice as a marketing expert, it’s important to think about the audience that you’re going to be writing for too.
If you’re marketing for a specific brand, keep your user personas on hand when you’re collecting resources for your swipe files. If you’re a marketing expert building your digital marketing swipe file for a future business, consider separating your resources into multiple folders according to niche, industry, or the kind of audience they would appeal to.
If you are focused on a specific niche or brand, it may still be worth creating a separate swipe file for the documents that appeal to you but don’t necessarily fit with your audience. You may learn lessons from this content that you can apply to your customer base in the future.
3. Stay ethical
We’ve already answered the question “What is a swipe file” with our fundamental swipe file definition above. However, it’s worth clarifying that a source of content for inspiration and a grab-bag for plagiarism are two very different things. Your swipe files aren’t there to give you material that you can re-hash and reuse at your convenience.
Ultimately, stealing other people’s designs or intellectual property will always be wrong. Not only is plagiarism an ethical concern, but copied work won’t help your business to grow effectively either, because you’ll never be able to find your voice, and develop a genuine affinity with your target market. Use the content you collect only as inspiration. For instance:
Try taking a different approach to a topic that inspired you.
Use the structure and format of the piece to guide you in talking about a different concept.
Examine ‘parts’ of the marketing campaign, like its headlines or email timing strategies, but leave the actual content untouched.
Sensational swipe file examples: Where to find ideas for your swipe file
Now that you understand the purpose of a swipe file and how to use one, you’re probably wondering where you can find the ideas for your digital marketing resources.
The good news is that great advertising is everywhere. Whenever you stumble across a fantastic blog, a useful guide, or a compelling infographic – save it. You’ll be on your way to a powerful swipe file in no time. Pay particularly close attention to the following places for inspiration:
1. Your internal team
Instruct your team to find and share any content that might be relevant to your business as and when they find it. You could use a social tool like Trello or Slack to make this easier, or set up a “curated content” email address for your brand.
The idea here is to encourage your people to get into the habit of collecting and sharing content – even if it won’t always be useful to your marketing strategy. It’s much easier to build a robust swipe file when you’ve got multiple people working together. Don’t just focus on blogs and articles that your team finds either, collect things like:
Experiences with sales and marketing teams.
Information from competitor advertising campaigns.
Videos or podcasts.
Interviews and inspiring quotes.
2. Your customers
When you’re looking for ideas on how to enhance your marketing campaigns, there’s no better source of information than your existing customers and clients. Your current audience can help you out in a number of different ways, for instance:
They can complete polls or questionnaires that guide your future marketing strategies.
They can share content from other brands on social media pages that you can collect and curate.
They can offer reviews of your products or services that you can use as quotes in the future.
They can let you know which kinds of content they like the most.
Your sales team probably has a list of ‘frequently asked questions’ from customers that could be perfect for your promotional strategy. A marketing article that addresses a common concern for a customer is sure to be an instant hit.
3. Pre-existing swipe files
You’re not the first marketer to use a swipe file to improve their skills – and you won’t be the last. If you’re struggling to build up your repertoire alone, consider checking out some of the swipe file content that’s been pre-organised for you online. For instance:
The Adespresso list of Facebook Ad examples includes around 200,000 examples of exceptional social media marketing strategies you can use for inspiration.
ReallyGoodEmails.com collects amazing emails, and fantastic subject lines sure to upgrade your lead nurturing strategies.
Ideal for designers and visual marketing experts, Dribbble.com is a place where experts can upload shots of their works in progress – it’s a great place to go if you need help building a great website.
Marketing expert Jeff Bullas put together 100+ headline formulas to help you make the most out of every title in your advertising efforts.
Time to get swiping?
Coming up with truly innovative and engaging marketing campaigns isn’t easy.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your chances of success. A swipe file is just another resource in a toolbelt of solutions for the perfect promotional strategy.
With a swipe file, you collect all the advertisements, content articles, promotional emails, videos, and social media posts that inspire you throughout the years and use them to make sure that you never run out of fantastic ideas. As your business grows, your swipe files will grow with it, potentially breaking off into new subcategories and folders.
The most important thing to remember? A swipe file is only the launching pad for your advertising campaigns. It’s not a place where you can go and find content to blatantly copy and paste online. If you use your swipe file unethically, you could risk legal problems, issues with your brand reputation and more.
Your swipe files are there to help you come up with fantastic new ideas when your inner creative well is running dry. It’s a safety blanket of useful information, strategies, and guidance that you can turn to whenever you need inspiration for your next piece.
Use your swipe file correctly, and you’ll never have to worry about overcoming a creative block again.
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