5 Principles of Social Media Copywriting

Anytime a new medium comes along, we bring along the baggage of an old medium. Case in point, social media. When I peruse the Facebook pages of the world largest brands, I’m struck by how inappropriate the copywriting usually is. In many cases, it seems as if someone in the PR department received the unfortunate assignment of running the company Facebook.

More than any other channel, social media deserves its own unique set of copywriting principles. Below are what I consider to be the 5 most important guidelines when writing copy for social media. Most of these recommendations are geared towards Facebook, but they can be applied to other platforms as well.

1. Keep it Short & Shareable
Short copy always wins. Bite size content is significantly more likely to be consumed or shared, regardless of the platform. Here’s my strategy: First, write your status update using as few words as possible, but without losing its impact. When you’re finished, review the copy and eliminate another 20%. If you’re like me, you’ll find that you regularly use unnecessary filler words that can be easily eliminated. Better yet, get used to writing within Twitter’s 140 character limit, regardless of whether you’re using Twitter.

2. Keep it Conversational
Ok here’s a challenge: You’ve just written a status update, and you’re about to click post. Pause for a minute, and copy the status update into your own personal feed. Now read it again. Does it sounds contrived, salesy, or impersonal? Would you ever post this to your friends? If not, then why is it ok for your company’s followers?

Recently I began trying a new strategy on the Facebook pages I run. Whenever possible, I’ve been writing the posts in the first person and signing my name at the end. So for example, a stodgy, corporate sounding post like this:

“We’re proud to announce the release of our new green widgets.”
Now becomes:
“I’d love to get your feedback on our new line of green widgets – Palmer, Page Admin”
Why does this work? Because fans need to remember there’s a real person behind the page. People buy from people, not “entities.” This style is not always appropriate, but when it is, the difference in engagement & conversions can been astounding.

3. Find a Voice
Develop a unique voice that suits your brand. It might be quirky or it might be serious – just make sure it fits with the overall image you’re trying to convey.

Having a distinct voice actually makes writing easier. If you develop a persona and ask yourself, “How would my brand communicate this message in our unique way?” copy will flow much easier.

4. Give Breathing Room
One mistake I often see on Facebook is the failure to use line breaks when writing updates. Breaking up longer copy with spaces between sentences makes your messaging easier to scan and increases the likelihood followers will engage. This is vital especially if the end of your post contains a call to action and/or link. Which brings us to the most important tip…

5. Ask for Action
Before you write an update ask yourself, what’s the goal here? Do I want to drive traffic to my site, get lots of likes, comments, or shares? Whatever your goal is, ask for action.