Having good copywriting skills is an important part of a social media manager’s toolkit. On Twitter you have to tell a story–but succinctly. And on Instagram, the photo has to match a carefully worded caption.
How do you keep all of this balanced with your brand’s marketing strategy goals? Writing for social differs from other types of copywriting. Here you need to balance your sales pitches with a more conversational “social” tone.
In this post, we’ll examine a number of ways you can improve on your copywriting skills when you’re writing for social. Each tips comes with a helpful tool to help you execute it. Let’s get started!
1. Analyze Your Headlines
Not every headline is tweet-worthy. Some are boring, others are clickbait, while some just meander around. Be careful of sharing only a title when you’re sharing a link. You may need to rewrite the copy to make the article sound a little more appealing.
Good headlines can do one or multiple of the below:
- Evoke an emotional connection
- Inform: teach or help someone learn about the subject
- Incite action: clickbait headlines are used because we can’t bear to miss out on a fun fact
In fact, OkDork analyzed 10,000 widely shared articles and mapped an emotion to each one. Awe and laughter were the top two emotions that drove the shares.
How a Silicon Valley team helped rebuild Stephen Hawking's distinctive robotic sound: Compare Hawking's 1986 voice with one he rejected in 1996 and a version from 2018.
— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) March 19, 2018
San Francisco Chronicle took the original headline, “The Quest to Save Stephen Hawking’s Voice” and added information to the tweet to make it more interesting. From the timing, it also likely evoked emotion in the reader.
You can execute this tip by using a headline analyzer tool. Advanced Marketing Institute offers a free analyzer that will score you based on the industry you’re writing in. The tool is helpful in times when you’re at a loss for words or you need extra confirmation that your headline is working.
2. Create Headline Templates
If you’re constantly running out of headline ideas, you may find having a list of successful headline templates useful. It cuts out on time that you could use for other work.
As you test through your headlines in your social media copy, make note of which ones are more successful. Are certain headlines getting more shares and others receiving higher engagement? No template is out-of-the-box ready for your business, so you’ll need to tweak them as you go.
Arguably the media company that prompted the clickbait frenzy, BuzzFeed has nailed headline writing down to a science. Numbered articles are highly shareable and you usually know what you’re getting into when you click on them. This piece will not be useful for everyone but if you’re looking for a list of robotic cleaners, then you’ll be compelled to click.
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3. Recycle Your Content
Don’t let all of your headline writing go to waste. Take an article that is resonating or will resonate with your audience and schedule out several different posts about it.
There are many options to take when you share one article:
- Pull a quote from the article
- Write a one-sentence summary
- Share an image from the piece
- Create a graphic that quotes the piece
Baby gorillas spend the first three months of their lives in their mothers' arms—an extremely rare sight in the wild https://t.co/o5YuZsjOa4
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) March 13, 2018
Instead of reusing the headline, National Geographic chose to write a descriptive and informative tweet. In other tweets, they may choose to pull a different quote from the article or share a related photo.
To help you out on scheduling posts, use a tool like Sprout Social to plan out your posting and schedule ahead. Instead of constantly worrying about content, you can take one piece and schedule three tweets about it at various future times. This strategy works best when you are posting often.
4. Use Active Voice
Learn the difference between passive voice and active voice. Using active voice in your call to actions compel users to immediately take action. Active voice also works well in social media because it’s more concise and focuses the sentence on the subject.
For example, would you prefer “A New iPhone Model was Released by Apple” or “Apple Releases a New iPhone Model” to stand out? The second option, the active voice headline, is usually preferable to the first. It tells you upfront who the subject is (Apple) and what it did (releases).
For an easy analysis, you can use a free tool like the Passive Voice Detector to identify if you have it in your copy. The paid version of Grammarly can also check passive voice as you type in your browser.
5. Create a Style Guide
While this isn’t exactly a hack at the beginning, a style guide can save you a tremendous amount of time in the future. It should encompass everything about your social media communications, from grammar to visual graphics to post formatting. Consider this an upfront time investment.
Creating a style guide will make your copywriting work easier. Instead of wondering what vocabulary to use in a Facebook post, consult your guide to see if any company-approved words would work. You also won’t need to wonder if a tweet is too long if your style guide says to keep it under 20 words.
If you’re starting from scratch, check out our post on how to create your own style guide.
It’s clear from Kit Kat’s Instagram Posts that their style guide is to keep the captions at under three lines. At the end of each caption, they add on their branded hashtags. The formula is simple and it’s rarely deviated from their guidelines.
6. Test Out Longer Posts
While some brands stick to a short-and-sweet posting strategy, others embrace a longer word count. Longer posts can help you tell a better story and if it’s written well, be engaging for your readers. This tip is also counterintuitive to those who recommend writing brief posts. When executed correctly, long posts can be highly engaging.
This advice works well for brands that market through education and information. It’s most suitable for Instagram and Facebook. On Twitter, you can thread your tweets if the content is compelling.
Darryl Cheng on Instagram uses longer posts to teach his followers about plant care. While he certainly could write shorter posts, he uses his skills as a writer and his platform as an educator to help his followers.
To execute this, find and/or create content that you think will be able to teach your followers something new. Does it tell a story about a customer’s life journey? Will you show results of an experiment between using almond flour and whole wheat flour? The more informative, the more your readers will want to read. Also, play around with creating paragraph breaks for an easier reading experience.
7. Test ‘You’ vs ‘Me’ in Call-to-Action Buttons
When A/B testing their trial signup page, Unbounce found that a simple change in using “your” over “my” resulted in 90% more clicks. The phrase? “Start ___ free 30 day trial.”
The phrase was on their call-to-action (CTA) button and was the only change that was tested. Earlier in the article, we mentioned how people are more likely to share when there’s an emotional connection. The same is true for sales. When you feel a personal connection, even as simple as a first-person pronoun, it may the unconscious push you need to purchase the product.
How can you put this into action? When you’re writing CTAs for social copy, such as in ads or CTA-forward posts, pay attention to the pronouns you’re using. Are you asking people to “Grab Your Free E-Book” or “Grab My Free E-Book?” Luckily for us, A/B testing in advertising is available on most of the major social networks. On your part, all you’ll need to do is run the ad to see which pronoun is more successful.
8. Exercise to Stimulate Creativity
Famous writers like Henry David Thoreau valued how walking positively affected their writing. One study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that walking increased its participants’ creativity performance by 81%. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to step away for a few minutes.
You don’t need to walk to reap the creativity benefits. Any mild exercise may stimulate your brain for faster processing speeds. Studies show that the best breaks are ones that mentally disengage you from work thoughts and boost positive emotions. In addition to exercise, this can include meditation or helping out a colleague.
So the next time you’re stuck in your copywriting, don’t be afraid to walk away from your desk.
Copywriting is a skill that can be honed and tested. With the multitude of tools and services out there, it’s easier than ever to check your work. Copywriting for social is not the same as writing for long-form articles. Using catchy headlines, style guides and A/B testing can add to your marketing toolkit. Hopefully, this article gave you some tips that you can employ in your daily copywriting.
What tools and tips have you found to be useful when copywriting for social? Reach out to us on Twitter!