A few weeks back, a friend of mine suggested me to write about swipe files in my blog. I only had some vague ideas about what they are or how they are used. But I dived deeper into the web and found a lot of interesting things to know about swipe files. For example, you don’t need to be a marketer or a copywriter to be able to use them. In fact, all of us may have already used some sort of swipe files for one purpose or other.
Let’s take a good look into what swipe files are, how they can help us and perhaps most importantly, how best to use one.
What are Swipe Files?
The idea of swipe files originated in the copywriting world of course, referring to the practice of storing tested and proven advertising copies. But since then it has travelled happily across many different industries. Journalists call them ‘morgue files’ for having a sinister effect as well as referring to the collection of dead news stories which might need reviving at a later date. The ever-evolving field of creative artists and designers have their own version of swipe files, referring to the collection of interesting ideas and inspiration on which to base their next work on.
So, swipe files are nothing but a collection of things that will be useful to you in future. Think about all the things that we do on a repetitive basis. Swipe files will help you to simply do them faster, better and in a much more efficient manner.
One thing I have to say in here. Using swipe files is not a way just to store great examples in order to be used in their original form in future. That would be nothing but copying. Instead you have to learn from the techniques others are using and apply them in your own undertakings.
How Swipe Files May Help Us
If you’re a student, your swipe files may consist of project headlines, inspiring quotes, abstracts and conclusions, more inspiring quotes, topic-based research articles and even more inspiring quotes.
If you’re a teacher, your swipe files may contain your lecture’s topic-based summaries, inspiring quotes, letters of review to your students, more inspiring quotes, other teachers’ teaching examples you can follow and even more inspiring quotes.
If you’re a blogger and a content-writer just like me, you’ll find even more use of using swipe files, not only to store even more inspiring quotes. (No, I don’t have anything against inspiring quotes; in fact, I have an enviable collection of them as well; I mean who doesn’t?)
To store headline examples
In order to perfect that catchiest headline on the planet, you’ll need to look through a lot of headline examples. You can store the headlines that you find most helpful for writing your own versions later in your swipe files.
Headline examples are stored not only to get ideas on crafting headlines for yourself. You can rummage through them in future and get the idea of your next writing topic.
Do not copy headlines. Instead look at how they are structured, what kind of trigger words or power words are getting used or try to find the hook element used. The purpose of swipe files is to learn from others (preferably the best in your niche) and then apply the learned techniques onto your own headlines.
To store e-mail examples
Checking e-mails on a regular basis becomes a mundane affair after a while for almost all of us. But even then, sometimes out of the blue, you come across some happy little piece of e-mail that’s exactly how you would’ve wanted it to be written. You can save it to your swipe files and then go through the things that were done right by the author of that mail.
Note the color scheme, word usage, writing style and other little things that hooked your attention. Wait for your next opportunity to implement them.
To store blog posts
It can be related to your own chosen niche or not. If someone’s writing touched you, attracted you or inspired you; no matter what they’re writing about, save it to your swipe files folder.
When visiting them at a later date, think about the things that made you save them and then study them carefully. A lot can be learned in this way, at a much faster pace too.
To store social media campaigns
You may be interested in starting your own social media campaign or not. Still I would recommend storing other interesting campaigns anyway because that is exactly how marketing is done: by going through great examples, learning the techniques and using parts of them as and when necessary.
Usually blog posts and social media posts are two very different kind of animals, with their own set of characters, goals and writing styles. Also if you want to truly embrace the digital marketing life, you’ll need to use them later.
To store great ad examples
Yes, sometimes we also come face-to-face with some great ads that can be summed up in a single word: ‘genius’! Even if you’re not writing ads for yourself or others, these ad examples can provide a lot of insight into how a buyer behaves. And that knowledge transcends boundaries.
Look at how their landing-page is built, what sort of call-to-action or lead generation techniques they’re using, of course the color scheme that is turning heads or the use of right words at right places to perfectly communicate the message to the reader. These are all timeless knowledge, classic bits of wisdom you can lean on every time, even when writing some of your blog posts or gigs as well.
How To Create & Store Your Swipe Files
Of course the traditional physical storages for your swipe files are impractical to say the least. Here I’m going to show you three ways to store all of your swipe files digitally. All are excellent options. You can use anything else that makes you more comfortable too.
For the starters, Gmail is the perfect place to begin storing the swipe files. It can be used for storing attractive e-mail templates, good sales copies, e-mail marketing mails or newsletters. You can use a separate e-mail account or just create a label named “swipe files” and store your ideas and inspirations under different sublabels such as “blogging” or “SEO” or “newsletters”.
Pocket is super-easy when it comes to saving interesting things found on the web. You just have to go to https://getpocket.com/ and create your free account there. Then it’ll be even easier for you to save your swipe files if you also download the browser extension provided by them. Then whenever you come across something save-worthy, you need to just click on the Pocket button shown right in your browser.
It’ll be saved right in your Pocket list instantly. You can browse them as and when necessary.
If you download their mobile app for Android or iOS, your Pocket list will be synced across your devices, reflecting changes made to it in real-time.
Moreover, Pocket supports popular social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. So you can easily save anything interesting from over there also quite easily.
Evernote is probably the most used swipe files app on the internet. It can be used in a multitude of ways that makes it a popular choice. Among the features, obviously the note-taking one is pretty much self-explanatory. Still you can do a lot of things like adding media files to your notes or sharing it with your audience.
But the most used feature of it, when it comes to adding swipe files, is its web clipper. Here, I have shown how to save a webpage right inside your own Evernote app.
First you need to install their browser extension (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera). Then when on a save-worthy webpage, simply click on the Evernote button. You can save the web clip in whichever notebook you chose, with whichever tags you want to remember it by and even can add your own annotations about the saved clip.
It takes just a few moments for your web clip to be saved and synced with your Evernote account.
When synced, it’ll show right in your desktop / mobile app.
There’s one more thing to be excited about Evernote. If you’re not comfortable with using both Gmail and Pocket for storing your e-mail and web document swipe files, then you can simply use Evernote for both these purposes. You can keep all your important e-mails right inside this app, by forwarding them to a certain address provided by the app.
Whenever using swipe files, always remember that the idea is to get new ideas. About the things that excite you, make your creative juices flowing, and of course the traditional use, saving a lot of time trying to tackle similar assignments already taken by others. The underlying usefulness of using swipe files can be very aptly summarized by the following quote from the creative visionary, Steve Jobs:
“It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then try to bring those things in to what you’re doing. Picasso had a saying: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”
And the best way to do exactly that is to use swipe files.