How to write for social media: 5 best practices to nail it

Early in my career, I wrote investigative news articles, heartfelt magazine stories, and thoughtful editorials. Of the thousands, maybe millions of words I typed, not one single one was for a Facebook post, tweet, or, heaven forbid, a Snapchat snap …

Times have changed, my writing friends.

If you’ve written long-form content for a living, you know that social writing is a different beast.

A team of Two Rivers Marketing strategists from digital marketing, social media, and content marketing recently taught a class to share best practices and channel-specific ideas to help every writer excel at social posts. We’ve turned the class into a two-part blog article.

Today you get our five best practices to follow before writing social copy:

  1. Know your brand
  2. Know your audience
  3. Find your shared value
  4. Map your inputs
  5. Make connections through copy

Good social writers understand the brand voice and bring it to life in their copy. You don’t need to be the company founder to understand the voice and tone, but you do need clear direction. Ask for, and devour, your brand guidelines. Guidelines explain why your company exists and what you do. They should include brand identity, purpose, core values, personality, and visual and voice tone.

It’s helpful when a company says what it is, and also what it is not. The Two Rivers Marketing brand guidelines say we sound authoritative but not arrogant. Knowledgeable but not a know-it-all. If you’re lucky, your company has a social media playbook. This document explains brand guidelines for social channels. Good playbooks have sample posts and headlines, voice and tone examples, best practices for calls to action, and other useful guidelines.

Know your audience

You can’t write if you don’t know who you’re writing for. One of the greatest tools for understanding your audience is a good set of personas. They have real quotes, challenges, goals, needs, attitudes, and behavior. They’re a gold mine of audience information.

Another great source is the comments on your social channels. Make it a habit to read the comments. Take notes about your audience’s vocabulary, industry lingo, slang, and tone.

Find your shared value

Now you know who your company and your audience is. It’s time to mash them together and understand your shared values. Create a Venn diagram with two circles. The first circle is “What Matters to Your Company,” and the second circle is “What Matters to Your Audience.” Your social writing should focus on that sweet spot where the two circles overlap — your shared value.

Now list your social campaign objectives (what your company wants to do) and your audience needs. Draw lines from your objectives to the audience needs they solve. Bingo! Shared values!

Lead with these values to create strong, audience-appealing points. What does your company have to offer? What void are you filling? What challenges are you helping your audience address?

Map your inputs

We’ve collected a lot of knowledge (inputs). Let’s put them to use. Use a simple spreadsheet to answers these questions for every new social campaign:

  • Goal: Be selfish. What does this social content need to do for your company?
  • Audience: Who will you reach and why?
  • Delivery: What are the options for sending this message?
  • Call to action: What specific step must your audience take to advance your mission?
  • Image: What mental picture do you want the reader to keep?
  • Essence: How do you want your reader to feel?

Make connections

OK, time to write! Based on your input map, write a strong social message that hits the right chord with the right audience. Keep it concise, conversational, and user-centric.

You’re trying to make connections with your audience by speaking their language. Are you writing in a way that encourages them to engage with your copy and respond? Also, organize your copy for action. Put your most compelling information at the front. Write bold, confident statements. Ensure your CTAs elicit the desired action from the reader. And don’t forget to include SEO keywords for consistency and search behavior.

Follow these social media writing best practices to nail your next project. And look for part two of this post where one of our social media specialists, Erin Fry, will help you tailor content for different social platforms.