What’s the difference between writing for a grade and writing for social media? When someone has to grade your paper, they’re guaranteed to read it.
In the cut-throat social media world, no one owes you anything. If your social media posts fail to live up to best practice and don’t offer value to your followers, they’ll be ignored for eternity.
Writing for social media requires a different kind of skill set than writing for anything else. Follow the 5 tips below to sharpen your repertoire and write social media posts that not only get read, but get remembered.
1. Trade your adjectives for verbs
Adjectives are descriptors, verbs are actionable. When you only have a couple seconds to get someone’s attention, which is going to be more effective – describing or acting? Take this sample tweet, promoting this blog post:
This is a smart, insightful blog post about social media writing.
There’s nothing inaccurate or grammatically incorrect about that sentence, but if we focused on verbs instead of adjectives, or action instead of description, we can make it a lot stronger:
Read this blog post to supercharge your social media writing skills.
2. Ditch “that”
When I was writing for my college newspaper, my editor and fellow journalism student told me if you delete every use of the word “that” from your writing, it will almost always make sense without it. In other words, most of the time, you’ll never need the word “that” to make your point. Don’t believe me? Take this paragraph:
When I first started my company, I thought that my dog Niles would make a great logo and brand. I know that Niles is a mutt, but I was pretty sure that his breed ambiguity wouldn’t matter. He has such a goofy smile and a friendly face, that I knew he’d invoke a positive response in my readers and clients.
The paragraph reads fine as is, but look at how much better it sounds when you do nothing but eliminate every instance of “that.”
When I first started my company, I thought my dog Niles would make a great logo and brand. I know Niles is a mutt, but I was pretty sure his breed ambiguity wouldn’t matter. He has such a goofy smile and a friendly face, I knew he’d invoke a positive response in my readers and clients.
3. Shorten your sentences
Academic writing often features long sentences with semicolons, em dashes, and an endless parade of commas. Marketing writing is not academic writing. A sentence the length of a paragraph on social media (or really any marketing platform) will be abandoned at first comma.
If you’re overcome by the need to write long, flowing sentences, let it all out, then cut, cut, cut! If that sounds too difficult, I’ll let you in on a little secret to make it easier: in marketing writing, it’s totally ok to start sentences with “and” and “but.”
4. Use emotion
I’ve never heard anything that gets to the heart of the need for emotion in marketing writing quite as well as the trolley problem. The gist of it is this: Would you pull a lever to sacrifice one innocent life to save dozens? You don’t know any of the people involved and will never see the consequences. The answer, of course, is yes.
On the other hand, would you push one innocent stranger in front of a moving train to save the lives of the people on the train? Probably not.
When the general outcomes of both scenarios are identical, what’s the differentiating factor? Emotion.
Most marketing writing isn’t life and death, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add an emotional tinge. Brilliant marketers have been taking bland products and adding emotion for decades. We see it every day on television commercials.
Take the famous award winning #LikeAGirl Super Bowl commercial. How far do you think Always would’ve gotten if all they’d done in their ad spot was talk about how they offer the best feminine hygiene products?
The same approach can be scaled down to 140 characters. It’s not necessarily about what your product or service specifically is, it’s about the emotional impact it has on the world in which it exists.
5. Make it about you
Not you, the all encompassing “you.” You, the reader, not you, the writer.
This one is trickier than it seems. It’s your company, the post comes from you, and therefore it’s about you, the writer. It’s feels like the most natural thing in the world to get on Facebook and write about what your company is doing and the implications it will have on the future of your brand.
Resist the temptation and step back. Yes, step back every time you so much as tweet and think about who’s reading it and how what you have to say will impact them. Suddenly a tweet about how excited you are to launch your new line of running shoes becomes a tweet about how much faster you’ll be able to run thanks to a new, need-to-have product.
Remember, people follow you not because they want to share in your company pride, but because the act of simply being on social media as a brand promises valuable information that will make the reader’s life better. If you don’t follow through, your social media strategy will die.
What do you do to get noticed on social media?