So your company decided that it’s about time to start engaging with an audience on social media. That probably means you’re going to run some social advertising (Facebook Ads, anyone?) and establish a brand presence on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and maybe even some other social media networks.
Let’s be honest, there are so many platforms with different length and tone requirements that it can be hard to figure out where to start when it comes to writing social copy. Luckily, we’ve got some best practices you can follow to get you started. Here are seven ways to write more likable—or more shareable, more heart-able, more tweetable—social copy:
- Create brand guidelines for social media copywriting
- Establish a goal for each social post
- Write for the audience on each social platform
- Encourage engagement
- Complement the visual with relevant copy
- Use hashtags and emojis wisely
- Stay on top of social media trends
Let’s get started.
1. Create brand guidelines for social media copy
First and foremost, you need to decide who your brand wants to be on social media. While this may seem simple, it can get more complicated than you’d initially expect. For instance, do you want to have the same voice on social as you do on your website? In local advertising or email marketing? What about out-of-home advertising campaigns?
Social media provides a unique opportunity to show off the fun side of your brand, whether that is through consistently playful social copywriting or through showing off your fun employees. Don’t believe me? Check out this tweet.
You wouldn’t see Pop-Tarts make the same jokes during a TV commercial or in its customer service.
If you’re not sure where to start when writing brand guidelines, we’ve got you covered. If you’re already working with some solid brand copywriting guides, that’s even better. Simply add social media to your book of rules and jump off from there.
2. Establish a goal for each social post
While it may be easy to establish a goal for each ad on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, this can be tricky when it comes to organic posts.
ICYMI: When you’re building out social ad campaigns, each platform will have you select a goal to focus your advertising and increase performance. That goal could be anything from branding to clicks or conversions. If you’re wondering how to establish a goal for your organic social media posts, why not start with the goals you apply to paid ads and expand your options from there? Consider these, for instance:
- Comments or inbox replies
Once you have set the goal, you can measure how successful a post is. Then, it’s time to get copywriting.
3. Write for the audience on each social platform
Here’s the thing about copywriting for social media: Each social media network is created differently to serve different needs for different audiences. Which means you shouldn’t use the copy you write for LinkedIn on Twitter and vice versa. In fact, when you’re writing those brand guidelines, try to identify the *most* formal and informal you’ll be on social media to establish some boundaries.
For an exercise in social copywriting, let’s pretend your office hosted a Halloween party with some clients and you’d like to put the photos up on social. We’ll use the most popular platforms as an example.
LinkedIn: “Had a spooky time with @Client1, @Client2, and @Client3 last night at our annual Halloween Monster Mash—let’s haunt together again soon.”
Tags are important on any platform, but especially if you’d like your clients to repost!
Facebook: I’d feel comfortable posting the same copy on Facebook, but you may want to consider posting more than one photo and tagging more people. Facebook lends itself to photo albums, and you’re far more likely to see your “friends” interacting with a post that has plenty of visuals.
Twitter: “It’s getting spooky up in here. The annual Monster Mash is under way, see you on the other side.”
This platform lends itself to live updates, so you should try to tweet during the party. While that leaves less time for copy review, keep it short, sweet and throw in a picture.
Instagram: “Happy Halloween from these spooky characters!”
Like Twitter, Instagram can be used in real-time. If you had a Halloween fashion show or costume contest, you could snap pics and add them to your story right away. The day after, you can choose the best of the party photos and post it to your timeline, keeping the copy simple, casual, and direct.
4. Encourage engagement
If you’ve decided to dig into social media, your brand is probably looking to tap into an audience that they cannot engage through other mediums. There is almost no other place that you can engage with potential customers like you can on social platforms. Yes, that should make you a bit cautious, but it should also be exciting!
Voss holds the crown for engaging their social media audience through contests and giveaways. The company’s follower counts have exploded, and it has a very distinct brand on Instagram (and note all the co-branding tags!).
A lot of companies tend to just talk about themselves on social, whether that means professing their mission, showing off their products or employees, or announcing company changes. Sure, that’s great and all—but if you only do that, your followers will get pretty bored. Or no one will see the value in following your accounts to begin with. Bring your brand down to Earth and start with something simple, like user-generated content from a relevant product giveaway or customer appreciation post.
5. Complement the visual with relevant copy
If there is anything that most B2B brands could do better, it’s connecting the visual to the copy. Hey, direct-to-consumer brands could use help here too! I’ve found that sometimes, we just want to have something, anything to post alongside a big brand statement like, “We believe sharing is caring, which is why we’re launching this new initiative. Check it out now.” But that copy is below the image of … a puppy? Why??
As part of their Proud to Belong campaign, Ray-Bans posted a series of re-cut videos and photos on their social accounts. It provided the company a unique opportunity to pair those visuals with copy that can add to or explain the campaign.
The best thing you can do is work hand-in-hand with your designer to make sure the messaging is cohesive throughout the post.
6. Use hashtags and emojis wisely
Remember when everyone used hashtags all the time, on every single post? You’d have some copy for the caption and then *at least* five hashtags. I did it, too! I’m not ashamed!
Here’s the thing. Hashtags still work; they function the same exact way they used to, at the beginning of social media platforms taking off. And people still use them to discover new content; influencers are still leveraging them. It’s up to you to decide if you want to include them in the posts you publish for your brand. If you want to contribute to a trending topic on Twitter, go for it. But outside of Twitter, I recommend making it a brand choice. Don’t post copy with a ton of hashtags … and then write the next post without any.
Nike is definitely one of those brands that uses its own hashtags consistently and well. We all know #justdoit, no matter what the current campaign is.
Similarly, emojis drive engagement and show that you’re keeping up with the cool kids. However, make sure that emoji definitely means what you think it means before you post it.
7. Stay on top of social media trends
Though this probably sounds fairly obvious, make sure you (or whoever is in charge of writing your social media copy) is active on social media. That means they should be following a variety of accounts across platforms, looking at trending topics, and be able to comment on silly things like, “going to tell my kids this is…” or the recent Dolly Parton challenge comparing LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Tinder.
This tweet from Netflix was right on top of the internet poking fun at IHOP rebranding to IHOB.
Opportunities for comments and jokes like this get stale quickly, so stay on top of trends—plus, this is going to be your best defense against an accidental social media snafu. We’ve all seen them, we’ve all heard corporate apologies for them, try not to be one of them.
Bonus tip: Just start drafting that social media copy
Finally, as with any copywriting, you just have to write. A lot. Write a ton of different versions of the same copy, then start all over again with a different idea. Talk to your team about the messaging—feedback is essential. All this gets easier when you plan ahead, so you can knock a full month of copywriting out in a couple days.