You may think you’ve got your social media strategy down pat. You write up a witty little snippet, add a colorful image, then wait for the likes to roll in. But they don’t. What gives?
Many marketers think that making the most out of social media means crafting clever copy. Being lively on LinkedIn, fascinating on Facebook, and tantalizing Twitter.
But what if we’re wrong? What if engaging social media copywriting doesn’t require alliteration, rhyming, or the perfect GIF? This article, which is adapted from Ashley Faus’ session in WriterAccess Academy, takes a deeper look at what really works to engage your target audience on social media.
The Power and Pervasiveness of Social Media
Social media has been an essential part of the digital marketing mix for more than a decade. In fact, numbers from Statistica show:
- 94% of brands use Facebook.
- 76% of brands use Instagram.
- 59% of brands use LinkedIn.
- 53% of brands use Twitter.
In addition to formal social media marketing campaigns, many companies are building amplification and advocacy programs with their employees to extend the reach and authenticity of their content.
Whether you’re already using social media or you’re gearing up to get on it, you can use a number of tried and true ways to write high-quality, engaging social media copy.
Provide Value to Your Audience
The number one rule is to provide value to your audience on your social networks. Are you:
- Sharing tips to help them develop and thrive?
- Sharing stories to inspire them as they scroll?
- Sharing memes or GIFs to give them a laugh?
What do they get out of following you and consuming the social media content you create and curate?
What are you trying to inspire? Is it an action? Do you want someone to feel compelled to immediately get up and go do something? If so, you want that action to make sense and have a connection to your brand.
Alternatively, do you want them to feel an emotion? Do you want them to feel love or trust or hope or gratitude? These emotions become associated with your brand. You want to be intentional about what you’re trying to make someone feel with inspirational content.
Entice with Just Enough Spice
Sometimes you want to share a burst of info that delivers immediate help, such as a quick content marketing tip. Other times the point of your post is to get the reader to click through to read more, such as a longer content marketing article that appears on your blog.
When you’re going for the click-through, you need to provide just enough information to pique interest so they follow through with the click.
So many social media feeds get this wrong.
They give away the entire point of the article so readers have no reason to click over to read the full article. And this is particularly bad if you’re trying to optimize for the click-through rate, as many brands do.
Alternatively, they don’t say anything to get the reader to click over. They don’t entice them to keep reading. They just say: “It’s a good article.”
- Why, what will I learn?
- How will you help me?
- Why is it funny?
Try to provide just enough spice to entice, but not so much that they don’t need to click to quell their curiosity.
Pay Attention to Your Tone
How you come across on social media plays a huge role in engagement levels. Readers aren’t fond of brands that always come across as condescending. They’re likewise turned off by those that are persistently self-deprecating.
Many brands have trouble finding the happy middle ground. Some come across as very condescending. They do this by framing every article as required reading for a certain group of people.
Or, worse yet, they present the information in a way that says: “We’ve got it all figured out. But here’s a primer for people who haven’t caught on yet.”
Who wants to feel bad with a brand shaming them on social media? No one.
On the flipside, some feeds go the opposite direction. They’re too self-deprecating. So much so that it’s really uncomfortable to read. You’ll find copywriting that says things like:
- “Oh, I’m a work in progress and constantly needing to learn about this topic.”
- “Oh, I know so many people are so much better than me, so I always appreciate the opportunity to learn.”
You can share your expertise and your know how without sounding like a know-it-all or a downtrodden newbie.
10 Tricks for Successful Social Media Interactions
Unlike web pages and other forms of content that may deliver a one-sided conversation, social media provides a prime platform for interaction. Interaction is one of the ways brands can make themselves more human.
Smart brands capitalize on the opportunity to show their humanness in a number of ways:
- They regularly react to and comment on other people’s content.
- They freely share other people’s content.
- They share their own content in a way that piques interest and engagement.
Here are 10 tricks for effective interactions.
- Use a short, all caps agreement or disagreement.
When Katie Martell shared something on social media talking about jargon, Ashley Faus responded with a hearty laugh and agreement.
Using all caps in your reaction is the equivalent of the outburst tactic you see in movie scenes when someone yells, “Preach!” or “I’m in!” or “Hear, hear!”
It’s a powerful verbal statement that something resonates. It works in movies. It works on social media. And it works for both agreement and disagreement.
- Pull a quote directly from the article you’re sharing.
Posting a compelling quote is one of the easiest ways to grab the audience’s attention. As you read through the article you intend to share, note the quotes or phrases that jump out at you.
Ashley calls this “skimming for the tweet.” Simply copy and paste the interesting section verbatim into the description area of the social media post.
In the above example, you can see how IDEO did this on LinkedIn. IDEO pulled the quote, “The reason musicians have so much to teach us is that the conditions in which they work are the ideal classroom for these mindsets.”
Hmmmm, sounds pretty compelling, whether you’re a musician or not. Who wouldn’t want to learn more about the fine line between work and play based on that quote?
- Use clichés or popular agreement or disagreement sentiments.
This tip is closely related to the single word or all caps agreement, but it uses phrases that are common in pop culture. Like “No Friday Meetings.”
Aubrey Blanche from CultureAmp, who’s very active on Twitter, shared this:
- “Me: I have a ‘No Friday Meetings’ policy.
- Also me: Why do I have 5 meetings scheduled for Friday?”
Other examples of popular sentiments include:
- Louder for the people in the back.
- Well played, author, well played.
- Here for it.
These are all great ways to show you relate to the content you’re sharing.
- Share your feelings.
Some articles are inspiring, surprising, or delightful. Some events make you feel proud, honored, or shocked. There’s even a short-term hashtag for this, which is how something affects you. It’s #TFW, which stands for “that feeling when.”
Other phrases that talk about feelings can include:
- All the feels
- I feel that in my bones.
- Wow. I’m feeling it.
Indian Motorcycle revved up emotions with its 2017 brand anthem video, which received more than 10,000 views. The video showcases motorcycle riding footage, inspiring viewers to “Be Original,” “Be Death-Defying,” “Be Wild.” It closes with the brand’s tagline: “Be Legendary.”
While the video received a seemingly scant eight comments, one of them proved the video did its job of getting people excited about the brand:
“Love my Indian. Just went and started it when I watched that clip.”
Evoking emotion in your audience can help them feel like they’re part of your story.
Whether you’re evoking emotion through your social media posts or responding with emotion to other people’s posts, sharing your feelings brings that human element to your brand.
- Share a key takeaway or insight from the article.
Another way to share articles is by summarizing the greatest thing the article taught you, or explain how it applies to a current problem or situation that you’re facing.
In the above tweet from Tableau Software, the brand asked: “What is IT’s role in shaping a Data Culture? David Clark believes that it starts with trust and a people-first mindset.”
Sharing a key bit of info is typically best for long-form content that may be difficult to skim, content that covers a lot of different problems and solutions.
- Give a general reason that explains why the article is helpful to read.
Kerry O’Shea Gorgone from MarketingProfs shared an article link with the teaser: “My latest post for Mark Schaefer tackles some common excuses for creating boring content. I do some quick debunking first, and then I offer tips for creating fun, effective #marketing content.”
Broadly describing the subjects covered in the post can stir up interest for readers to whom it applies.
- Handy tips on scaling your biz.
- Great read for marketers looking to overhaul their demand-gen strategy.
- Quick summary of the challenges of migrating to Java 8.
- Ask a question.
In the above example, Honeywell shared: “How do the ‘good guys’ protect you from hackers? Find out in this #podcast.”
Asking a question works on several different levels. For starters, people love to feel smart. We’re also eager to answer when something is asked.
You can pose a discussion question, start a debate, or share a poll to get people talking—and then keep them engaged directly in the social media feed. It’s also an easy way to talk about content you want your target audience to watch, listen to, or read to get the answer.
- Request assistance.
You can also request help solving a problem as part of your marketing efforts.
Sarah Evans, a PR strategist, has shared these types of posts a number of times on Twitter. She has a media opportunity and she needs an expert in the home biking industry to discuss a spike in sales.
She’s looking for different requirements, including an industry analyst and biking system representative, and she tells you what it’s for.
If you need help brainstorming, or you’re looking for information, ask your followers for advice or contributions.
- Use a call to action.
Some social media shares are simply to convey information, give your audience something to think about, or elicit a laugh. But often you want them to do something. So tell them exactly what you want them to do.
Semrush did this in the example above. The brand prompted their followers to share their favorite celebration GIF to help them commemorate their 13th anniversary.
Other social media CTAs could include:
- Like if you agree.
- Share this with your network.
- Tag a friend or colleague.
It’s generally best to use a single call to action for each post so that you don’t overwhelm your audience. Sticking with a single CTA also makes it easier for marketers to write clear, concise copy.
- Tell a personal or background story.
People want to engage with content that’s relatable to their situation, successes, or challenges. Sharing an inspiring story about a challenge you faced or a heartwarming tale about making a connection is a great way to accomplish this.
Stacey Delo used a heartwarming story as the lead-in to an Atlassian post to which she contributed. While she could have easily promoted the post with something like “Good read,” or “Check out my input in this article,” she went one better.
She shared a personal anecdote outlining how she copes with the work-life balance in her own home. Her lead-in kicks off with her kid saying, “All you do is work.” She then mentions how she chatted with Atlassian about the importance of talking with your kids “about what you’re doing and why” when you’re working from home.
This serves as a much more compelling intro to the article than a straightforward “Good read” would be.
Special Considerations for LinkedIn
While everything discussed so far can work on any social media platform, LinkedIn has some quirks you can take advantage of to make the most of your posts.
First, you can do long LinkedIn updates of up to 1,300 characters, including spaces. This gives businesses quite a bit of room to tell a story or share details beyond the copy shared in the previous section.
Creating a longer post that speaks directly to your target audience can result in an avalanche of engagement. A good example comes from one of Ashley Faus’ LinkedIn posts that’s had more than 20,000 views, over 1,000 reactions, and dozens of comments.
The post starts with a quote from a company leader: “If you’re in my org and you’re having a hard time, please speak up. People are first.”
The post then mentions how Ashley is proud to work for an organization that has leaders who kick off meetings with such sentiments, especially since it had been a hard week to focus for so many.
Once she’s shared the benefits of working under the leaders at Atlassian, Ashley then adds a P.S. about Atlassian hiring and a link to apply. She also included a link to the Atlassian company page on LinkedIn.
In short, it’s a recruitment post turned on its head. Ashley could have just posted a link to the Atlassian career site to promote: “Hey, we’re hiring, by the way.”
Instead, she told a story that included a quote from one of the leaders to demonstrate the type of culture and leadership people will find in the organization.
Power of LinkedIn Comments
Framing a post in a way that elicits plenty of engagement gives it a big boost on LinkedIn, as the platform places a high priority on comments. It particularly rewards comments that come within the first hour of publishing the article.
A deluge of early comments helps to drive both the reach and the engagement of the post. It tells the LinkedIn algorithm: “Hey, this content is interesting. People are reading it, people are engaging with it.”
So you can game this a little bit by having a small SWAT team of folks go in and start commenting as soon as you publish. You cannot game this by going in as the author of the post and adding a batch of comments yourself.
LinkedIn really likes to see that commenters are engaging not only with the author, but with each other. If you were going to think of this as an equation, it would be:
- Author + other commenters = Good social media strategy.
- Commenters + other commenters = Better social media strategy.
- Author + commenters + other commenters = Best social media strategy.
Tagging on LinkedIn
Tagging is another LinkedIn strategy you can use. To prevent spam, company pages can’t interact with personal pages unless the person actively mentions “@company”—and it can’t just be the hashtag.
Atlassian sees this all the time. People will use #Jira to talk about their products or #AtlassianTeam to talk about their conference.
But the company page can’t comment, like, or interact with that post at all unless you specifically use “@” to mention the page. So if you’re building an employee amplification program or an employee advocacy program, make sure your colleagues and employees know they need to actively tag the company page.
You can also tag other people to increase engagement, but don’t go spamming a bunch of people by tagging all of them.
You want to be strategic about who you’re tagging and why. Some reasons you might tag someone include:
- Noting they joined you on a panel.
- Attributing a post to them.
- Asking for their specific expertise.
In one LinkedIn post, Ashley shared: “I’m working on a conference deck about content strategy (and the content playground), and I’m walking through an @Atlassian case study of our agile microsite (started by @ClaireDrumond…).”
In the first comment on this LinkedIn post, she used the conference hashtag and included a link for people who want to attend the session.
If you’re running low on characters within the 1,300 limit, you can include hashtags, mentions of people and company pages, and links in that first comment.
Final Tips for Acing Social Media
Social media is no longer a one-way broadcast channel. It’s a place to create a two-way conversation with your audience.
No one likes the partygoer who just talks about themselves. They all want to be with the person who connects cool people to other cool people or cool ideas at the party. Whether you’re running a brand account or you’re engaging as an employee, think about how to be that connector.
And be human. It’s obvious when a company account is just copying and pasting links because somebody told them to share on social media. But part of creating that two-way conversation is being human.
Share real emotions and authentic stories. Give real advice about problems and solutions. Bring your human side to your social media feed.
And finally, develop your own voice. Part of being human is developing a voice both as a brand and as an individual sharing company content.
- Are you formal or informal?
- Serious or playful?
- Polished or friendly?
- Professional or accessible?
Understanding how you sound will help you maintain that human feeling across all of your social media platforms.
Grand Finale Social Media Post Example
One final example brings many of the best practices together. This was an example of a Valentine’s Day campaign that Atlassian ran from the @Jira Twitter handle. The post said:
“#ValentinesDay is almost here. What do you love most about #Jira? Tell us and you might just get something sweet.”
The post featured a small animation saying, “Will you be our Jira-tine?”
In this eye-catching example, the brand used:
- A bit of quippy copy to engage in the feed.
- Different media types.
- A little bit of a human voice, asking to be their Jira-tine.
- A single call to action.
The post was also interactive. If people responded to the request with a comment, the brand sent them some swag.
As you can see, quippy copy can definitely be part of your social media strategy, but it doesn’t have to be the end-all. The best content media marketing strategy combines quippy copy with additional elements to create high-quality content that increases likes, shares, comments, and overall engagement for your brand.