Here are 4 easy tweaks to make to your existing writing skills.
BY TIFFANY MARKMAN
If you’re already a regular producer of written content, and you’re not confident about whether your existing skills match up to the specific needs and norms of social media, this article is for you.
In it we’ll look at 4 quick changes to make to your current writing habits, to help you to create powerful social media content for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and the other popular platforms.
Aim for value.
One of the key things about social media platforms is that users don’t go there to be sold to. They go there for some blend of entertainment, enlightenment, information, or inspiration. They’re not looking, in most cases, for persuasion. So every piece of content you create must add value to users’ lives.
There are two considerations:
- Will this info make people’s lives better or easier?
- What do my users want or need to know?
Importantly, if you’re telling your users something that someone else has told them, you must do it in a very interesting way. Otherwise, it’s just noise.
Users also dislike ‘marketese’: the writing style plagued with boastful and subjective promotional claims like “the best ever”. Credibility is at stake when they notice that a brand – or even a single post – exaggerates.
Above all, remember: The average user wants to know “What’s in it for me?” not “What’s in it for the brand?” You’ve got an idea, concept or message to communicate on behalf of your organisation, but users will only buy into it if it does something for them – and if you make that something very clear.
Example: “4 easy tweaks to make to your existing writing skills”
Think in bites.
Unlike a longer piece of content where you have room to build a story arc, provide intros and conclusions, and save ‘punch lines’ for the end, a social media post isn’t built for this. It’s built to accommodate stand-alone messages.
For this reason, resist the temptation to say everything; to give the entire context or all of the facts. Your job is merely to make people think, and to nudge them towards sharing or engaging. That’s why ‘nuggets’ or ‘bite-size chunks’ of insight and value are better than long messages.
Yes, it is possible to create themes, narratives and even whole campaigns on social media, but a good rule is this: never assume that the user has seen a previous post, or will see a future post. Each post is an island.
Tip: Think in terms of single tweets and posts, rather than detailed messages.
Use plain language
Social media is the one arena in which you must write as people speak. No matter how professional your organisation, there isn’t a lot of patience (or space!) for heavy phrasing, complex jargon or elaborate language.
Here are some tips:
- You don’t need to use slang, of course, unless it suits your brand – but aim for reader-friendly, compelling text.
- If you’d feel awkward using a formal word in speaking, like ‘peruse’, ‘thereby’ or ‘transpire’, please don’t use it in your writing.
- Use contractions: don’t, can’t, you’re, etc. They’re essential to creating the right rhythm; giving your words a natural sense of flow.
- Use sentence fragments for effect.
- Craft short sentences of up to 14-16 words.
- Look out for ‘redundancy’, which is the needless repetition of words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs or ideas.
Less is more. Strip every sentence down to the basics by crossing out extra words that serve no purpose.
Ask for action
Unlike other types of communication, social media copy often asks the user to take a specific action: sign up or subscribe, share or comment, click the link in the bio, read more – and to do it now rather than later.
It’s different to above-the line messaging (i.e. TV and radio ads), because its purpose is not to create an image or build a brand, but to get engagement.
For this reason, social media posts should almost always – let’s say, 3 out of every 5 times – include explicit, clear calls-to-action.
In every piece of writing, we want the user to take a form of action that benefits our brand, even if that action is simply believing in it. We want to nudge the user down our desired path, and our keywords should fit that goal.
Example: Take a look at the very last line of this article. Go on. Do it.
This post is inspired by our Social Media Writing Skills course, created by international social media copywriter Tiffany Markman. Each of the above tips, and more, is covered in detail in the course – with practical examples, screen captures, and exercises to test your ability. Click here for course info.