This may be hard to believe, but as a social media writer, your job is significantly harder than that of a novelist.

That’s right. While Tolkien and his ilk have hundreds of pages to tell their stories, you have but a handful of characters to capture the imagination of an inattentive audience through mediums that are as flush with competitors as they are prospective clients. Pretty daunting, right? But this isn’t meant to be a deterrent to marketing on social media. It’s a call to put more care into the way you craft your social media copy.

Goals of Marketing On Social Media

Before you can tailor your social media strategy to your goals, you’ll have to determine what those goals are. The desired outcome of marketing through social media will vary greatly from business to business, and even channel to channel (Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Pinterest, etc.). Blogs tend to want pageviews, businesses want leads and conversions, big companies want brand awareness, and the list goes on.

These days, there are too many angles to the social media game to cover in one sitting. You’ll have to determine your own goals and tailor the advice in this article to them. That said, there is a singular objective that every social media post ever has shared in common—to be seen. More than that, all social media posts aim for engagement. Thanks to these common goals, it’s been possible for analysts to deconstruct effective social media posts—no matter their social channel or business angle—and uncover overarching trends. No matter the scope or style of your social media strategy, optimizing your copy can only improve your results.

What Makes a Post Clickable?

Think back to the last CTA you clicked on social media. Okay, so maybe you can’t (it’s called internet ‘surfing,’ after all), but odds are you didn’t click on the post arbitrarily. Your interest was piqued, or your disbelief stirred, or your jimmies rustled.

If the copy was soundly crafted, you might not even know what compelled you to click. Much like good graphic design, the best social media posts are subtle. They grab a reader’s attention and carry them through to the CTA without calling attention to their form. When you break down a successful post, however, the strategies that work become more apparent. Let’s consider what social media writers can do to improve their copy.

1. Make Your Posts Easily Digestible

Writers love their language. It’s this passion that drives them to constantly assimilate new vocabulary, resolve personal quandaries with grammar, and accrue a thousand-and-one synonyms for the word “great.” But as fun as it is to use big words, social media isn’t the place to flex your lexicon. You should assume that your readers don’t have access to a dictionary, and that they wouldn’t consult one even if they did.

It’s been said that social media should be written at a sixth grade reading level, but it really depends on your audience. If you’re in a field like medicine or law, amplifying a post with intellectual verbiage and field-specific jargon is permissible. Just be sure you’re using it to enhance your message and better engage your audience.

Even when employing accessible language, exclude words that add nothing to your message. A good practice is to pretend you’re confined to Twitter’s 144 character limit, no matter the channel you’re actually using. Do your best to be concise in all of your social media copy.

What it comes down to is this: a social media post shouldn’t be a thought exercise. It should be a tiny, tantalizing bite of what your brand or business has to offer.

Consider the following tweets for this (entirely fictional) cereal brand. Which do you find to be more effective?

Though these tweets are essentially conveying the same message, odds are you found the second option to be the more compelling of the two. An English teacher might award extra points for the first one, but social media isn’t the place to impress Mrs. Wilson. Social media is the place to convince your audience that you’re worth learning more about.

In the end, keep in mind that social media posts aren’t meant to be a full meal, unlike a blog post or video. They’re sweet little snacks, and most people won’t spend more than a few seconds chewing any individual piece. Strive to make those few seconds all a person needs to understand your message.

2. Add Action Words, Urgency, And VALUE To Your Posts

Okay, so you’ve clipped your next social media post’s grandiose nails. Now what? Well, social copy has to be more than easy to swallow. Just because your audience can understand what you’ve written doesn’t mean they’ll engage with it. For that, you’ll need a few things.

Action Words:

While it may seem like descriptors like “impressive” or “ground-breaking” would add value to a post, they can actually detract from its impact. You’re marketing something, after all. Your audience assumes that you would use positive words to describe it, even if they’re not true. Instead of loading your copy with adjectives and adverbs, utilize active verbs. Don’t tell your reader that your eBook “can improve” their blogging techniques. Instead, call upon them to “master blogging today.”

Urgency:

You don’t want to convince your audience that the world will soon end. You do, however, want them to think that your offer might. Take advantage of the fear of missing out. No matter how enticed someone is by a social media post, they’re very unlikely to return to it if they don’t engage the first time. You can reduce the number of times your readers think “I’ll check this out later” by introducing an element of brevity and exclusivity.

Consider a restaurant that plans to add a new dish to its menu. Instead of releasing it normally, the eatery might instead release it as a “limited-time dish.” This compels people to try the dish out—it might be gone tomorrow, after all! A year down the line, when the dish is still on the menu, the people who tried the dish and liked it aren’t going to complain that it hasn’t disappeared.

Value:

More than anything, your social media posts need to make obvious to the reader why your product is valuable to them. What part of their life can it improve? What problems of theirs can it solve?

There are a number of copywriting formulas for creating value in a post, each of them effective in its own way. At the end of the day, though, it comes down to stepping into your ideal customer’s shoes. Do your posts clearly show how your product benefits them, the customer? Look over your social media posts — are they bland solicitations to buy a product? If you saw it while scrolling through Twitter or Facebook, would you click on it?

Let’s consider another 2 tweets from a fictional brand. One makes use of the above elements, and the other does not. Can you tell them apart?

hint: it’s the first one

3. Make Your Posts Compelling, Not Compulsory.

No one likes being told what to do. In this age of digital marketing, the audience you’ll find on social media is no stranger to being called to action, but they still don’t like being pushed around. While action words and urgency are important in pushing your audience to engage, a CTA can be only so forceful before it begins to deter readers.

It’s true that you want those who read your posts to engage with them. That said, you want to make sure you’re giving them an option. If you incorporate urgency and value into your post, you won’t need to command your audience to interact with your CTA. So while you’ll see things like “call today” or “click now” all over social media, try to avoid using such language in a way that sounds forceful. Focus instead on the boons of your product or service, and then lead into your CTA with an enticing action phrase.

4. Consider Using the ‘Curiosity Gap’

For much the same reason that reading a book is hard if you watch the movie first, headlines that give everything away can steer readers away. If they can get everything they need from a single sentence, why would they continue on to the content? The ‘curiosity gap’ refers to that feeling you get when you want to know more than you currently know. A headline or social media post that perfectly balances vagueness and juicy information can effectively create a curiosity gap in the reader’s mind.

For example, let’s say our fabricated friend Scott runs a blog that covers Santa Barbara’s food scene. A new “breakfast sushi” place is opening soon, and Scott has written an article about it. However, he needs help choosing the best way to entice people to read it on social media.

Here’s his first attempt:

Well, this is a mystery alright, but it’s not a good one. Unless someone is already familiar with Scott’s site, they’ll have no clue to what he’s referring and will likely move on. Let’s try again.

This post is certainly more elucidating, but again, it’s missing that fine balance of information and mystery that encourages clicks. Okay, Scott, one more try:

Now that’s more like it! The reader will know that this post is about a new breakfast restaurant in Santa Barbara. But Scott has also provoked interest — what kind of breakfast restaurant? What qualifies it as sorcery/blasphemy? And why would someone hate it?

As great as this technique is, though, beware that the internet is an ever-shifting landscape, and curiosity gap headlines may soon be outdated. Don’t use them arbitrarily or too often, especially if they don’t align with your audience or goals.

Finally, make sure you can deliver on the curiosity gap you’ve created. Nothing is more frustrating to a reader than having a provocative question raised, but never answered. You don’t want to dupe your audience, only guide a few minutes of their internet surfing.

5. Use A Relevant, Eye-Catching Image

Wait, isn’t this article supposed to be about writing? Write you are! … hehe. But it’s also about being clicked, and research has shown that images are pivotal as regards social media engagement. You wouldn’t put 100 hours into restoring a vintage car only to display it at your local car show without rims and tires, right?

Right. Consider your social posts in the same light. You put time and effort into them, so don’t set them up for underperformance by omitting an image. As long as your image is high-quality and somewhat relevant to your topic, it will only prove a boon.

Additional Tips and Resources

Having a clickable call to action is only half the battle. Here are some things you can do on the back end to improve your results with social media engagement:

  • To reduce bounce rate, make sure the aesthetic of your social media post and image matches your site. Keep your branding consistent across all channels.
  • Utilize A/B testing to determine what social strategies are generating the best results so you can focus your energies on those.
  • Even if you’re not a blogger, your business should consider utilizing blogging as an inbound marketing tool.
  • Use social media management system, such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, to organize and schedule your social media posts. Scheduling posts a week beforehand will allow you to time them according to peak hours for each channel. Plus, you’ll have a few days to look over them with fresh eyes and make edits.

And there you have it! Hopefully these tips and resources will have you pumping out even better social copy. Don’t forget to scroll up and subscribe to our Flashpoint.Marketing blog for more updates, guides, and resources! If you need help with your social marketing strategy, contact us to see how we can help.