How to write for social media

With 67% UK market penetration, having a social media presence is critical. How confident are you about your social messaging? If you want your voice to be heard above the clamour, you need to know how to write for social media.

What we will cover

It starts with a story…

“Customers buy products and services they can understand.” That’s the simple truth expressed by StoryBrand CEO Donald Miller. Yet clearly communicating what their business does seems to flummox many business owners, especially when it comes to the social media arena.

One of the most powerful ways you can engage with people so that they really ‘get’ what you’re offering is through the medium of story. When you replace employees with characters, company vision with the glory of smashing a heroic quest and business ops with an epic journey you tap into the shared love of storytelling that spans industries, geographies and generations.

Storytelling also fits neatly into the purpose of social media: to connect, entertain and enjoy shared values. 

Our previous blog post, What is Storytelling in marketing? takes you through the process of discovering and telling your story. You can then apply those principles to your social media messages as we look at how to write for social media.

how to write for social media

How can you tell a story through a social media platform with only a limited number of characters to play with? The trick is to be concise and use language that will evoke specific emotions (e.g confidence, surprise, happiness, anticipation or even sadness or anger).

One common strategy for clarifying a business message is to create a 10 second pitch which can then be used across different media. This is traditionally known as an ‘elevator pitch’ because it should enable you to summarise your business in the time it takes to take an elevator ride with a prospective customer (I suppose us Brits should really call it a ‘lift pitch’ but that doesn’t really have the same ring, does it?)

The beauty of the elevator pitch is that it can be adapted for all types of short-form content, including billboards, PPC ad campaigns, the side of a bus, Tweets. Facebook posts and direct messages (more on those later).

Video and imagery

Of course, when it comes to social media, words alone rarely cut it. The art of the social media message involves combining the concise, impactful copy you have created with images or video content that reinforces the message and the mood of your story.

Even the overused GIF can sometimes cut through the chatter if it is thoughtfully designed and has relevance to your message.

Know your platform

It is also important to understand that all social media platforms are different so you will have to tailor your creative to fit both the format and vibe of the platform you are using. For example, Facebook is all about sharing and connecting with friends and relatives while Twitter is more ‘newsy’ and focuses on the smart use of hashtags to garner interest.

It is acceptable to post a more thoughtful, educational piece on LinkedIn but this is totally inappropriate for Instagram or Snapchat where viewers expect to be wowed and entertained by your images and stories.

4 tips for personalising your direct messages

While posting on social media is great for attracting new prospects and stimulating general engagement (retweets, shares, likes, etc.) you will sometimes want to reach out directly to a specific person of interest.

Direct messages are the media to use for this but jumping in from nowhere with a request to connect can come across as rude and opportunistic. If you want to speak directly to someone on social media via the DM route, the following four-step process should help:

  1. Spend some time researching the person you are reaching out to. Read their profile, become familiar with their communication style and the type of content they post and engage with. Take particular note of any shared interests you have as this is often a good way to open up a conversation. 
  2. Start showing up on their radar by adding supportive comments on some of their posts or replies alongside your retweets.
  3. When you feel you are in a position to make a genuine connection, send them a friendly but concise DM and directly ask them to respond.
  4. Don’t make any additional demands on their time at this stage (e.g. don’t ask them to look at your company website or join your mailing list).

Social media has a set of unwritten rules and one of the main ones is that commercial activity is generally frowned upon. Focus on building authentic relationships rather than winning business and the rest will surely follow.

How to set and forget

Hope that gives you some ideas on how to write for social media, the final piece of the social media jigsaw is the organisation and automation of your content delivery. It is simply not possible to effectively run a completely hands-on social media campaign unless you have the resources to fund a dedicated social media department.

The strength of your message is dependent on the consistency of your social media activity. It is much better to post something once a week, every week for a year than it is to blast out 50 posts in a few days and then go silent for a month. This often happens with small marketing teams who find themselves forced to help out other areas of the business when things get busy. Ironically, this stretching of resources can stall the momentum that has been so successfully built!

A content calendar is essential for setting a realistic schedule and will enable you to manage the frequency and timing of your posts to tie in with the rest of your digital marketing activity. You can also use your content calendar to tap into the buzz around regular seasonal events. This is something we go into in more detail as part of our upcoming Social Media Training Course.

We also introduce attendees to Hootsuite. This is a social media management platform used by many marketers, including the team at Vu Online, to automate the scheduling of social media posts. This can release your marketing team from the routine aspects of social media management and free them up to focus on creating great content.

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