As marketers, writers and crafters, we spend hours on bringing our content ideas to life and after all that effort, want our content to be seen.
Writing powerful social media copy to grab people’s eyes and win their hearts is a challenge, though. And often, when our content isn’t breaking through the noise we can fix it with a few slight edits and tweaks.
Editing content and copy is a key part of the creative process but is often overlooked. In this post, I’d love to share 11 editing tips and tricks to help you take your social media content to the next level.
Ready to jump in?
Here we go…
These 11 powerful, uber-specific editing actions will help you make your social media copy more addictive, engaging, and compelling.
1. Focus on the Reader
When you’re creating social media content, you face stiff competition for attention. Friends, family, celebrities, other brands and more are all vying for your reader’s attention on social networks. If you’d like to stand out and be seen, it’s important to create your content with the reader in mind.
Instead of focusing on ‘you’, try putting emphasis on the reader. For example, in a post about launching a new product we could say:
We’ve just launched our new product, Buffer for Video
But the focus of this copy feels a little off. We haven’t shown why the reader why they should care or how this post may be helpful to them. Something like the below copy could be better:
You can now upload, share, and schedule video from Buffer to all your social media networks. Upload once, share everywhere!
2. Build Curiosity
Building curiosity is an incredibly powerful technique to help improve your copy (especially if you’re trying to get people to click on and engage your social media posts).
In its simplest terms, curiosity is triggered when people feel there is a gap between what they know and what they want to know. Professor of Economics and Psychology, George Loewenstein, is an expert in curiosity. He conducted a study into what triggers high levels of curiosity and discovered that it peaks when:
- something violates our expectations (often curiosity is triggered by challenging common beliefs)
- teases a gap in our knowledge (AKA, the “information gap”)
- it’s not overdone (curiosity can get someone to click a headline, but it won’t keep them on your site forever)
Here at Buffer we understand our audience tends to be interested in becoming better marketers and figuring out how they can use social media to attract more traffic, links, and customers to their business. We could run a Facebook post with copy like:
Why Facebook Reach is Dipping For Everyone
It might grab some attention but I have a slight hunch most people will probably feel they can live without clicking on this post.
However a headline like:
Facebook Reach is Declining: Here’s What to Do About it in Just 15 Minutes Per Day
Could be more effective for a few reasons:
- the reader may feel there’s an information gap around how they can combat declining reach on Facebook
- there’s a promise to solve a problem (increasing your Facebook reach)
- it may go against common beliefs (you won’t need to spend all day implementing these tips)
Another example could be:
Check out these great Facebook marketing tips
This is cool, but there’s no hook and nothing to spark curiosity. As a reader, I may think: “Maybe I already know these tips…” 0r “I probably don’t need to click this…”
I feel like this one could work a little better:
11 Facebook tips and tricks you probably don’t already know (and how they work for real-life businesses)
The wording above feels like it opens up a much bigger information gap, “you probably don’t already know” indicates that the content may be new or a little different to what the reader already understands about Facebook. And using “real-life” also shows that these tips and tricks are working for other business, so by not clicking you could be missing out.
Here’s a real-world example from Shopify:
3. Treat Each Post as a Story
Stories are an extremely good way to connect with people. Stories draw readers in and engage them. And when it comes to writing social media copy, a good trick is to treat each post as a story with characters who carry out actions.
Let’s say you’re experiencing a little downtime on your website, you may share a Tweet or Facebook post along the lines of:
Apologies for the disruptions – our website is experiencing some technical difficulties right now.
When you break down this sentence there are three characters in play: ‘we’, ‘our website’ and ‘you’. However, each character’s actions aren’t really covered. A better option could be:
Apologies, you may experience a few issues getting onto our website at the moment, as we’re having some technical issues. We’re working on a fix and will let you know when we’re back up and running.
This version makes the story and how it affects each character a little easier to digest:
- Our website: is experiencing technical issues
- You: won’t be able to access for a little while
- We: are fixing it and will let you know when normal service is resumed
4. Focus on Value
Before you share anything to social channels, stop to think about value and ask yourself: Why are you sharing this? Why will people care? What’s the value in this for our fans?
People like to be able to justify their actions and have an underlying reason for them as Dr. Robert Cialdini, explained in his book, Influence: “A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.” And social media is no different. Every click, Like or Retweet will be triggered by some kind of value or reason.
In your social media copy, try to focus on the value for the reader and make it clear why they should care about your post. It’s also worth focusing on value with any calls-to-action within your social media content. For example, instead of ‘click now to read more,’ you could try something that promises a little more value, like ‘discover more insights.’
The below post from Evernote clearly displays the value for the reader:
5. Keep a Consistent Voice
Customers get to know a company’s personality through social media and across every social media post, it’s important for the company’s personality or voice to be consistent.
Mailchimp is a great example of a brand who keeps their voice consistent across all channels. They even have a website dedicated to explaining how they speak with customers.
We were hugely inspired by MailChimp’s voice-and-tone guide and have published a tone guide for how we write for our customers in emails, on twitter, with product messages, on our blog, and everywhere else we might interact. Our tone guide explains:
We are grateful for our customers. We have great respect for them. We listen. We are open for the next communication. We are here for them.
In all customer communications, they’re doing us the favor. (Not the other way around. :))
To the customer, our language and tone say: I am grateful for you. I have great respect for you. I am listening. I am open. I am here.
This guide helps us whenever we communicate with customers and can be great for helping us create copy for social media posts.
6. Write in Second Person
Brilliant social media copy speaks to readers on an intimate level. And second person is the most engaging narrative mode because it feels personal. Pronouns like “you,” “your,” and “yours” help us to connect with our audience through words.
Crafting engaging, intimate copy that entices readers to take action is extremely difficult to do, but thinking about things in second person is a great starting point. For example, instead of:
Here’s the lowdown in Instagram’s new features
You could say:
Want to master the latest Instagram features? We’ve got just the thing for you…
Here’s a great example from Shopify:
7. Use a Copy Formula
Writing catchy, captivating social copy is hard work, especially if you’re trying to share multiple posts across different platforms every day or putting together a content calendar.
Finding a great copywriting formula that works for you—whether it’s a storytelling formula, a headline formula, or any other—can be a big-time productivity boost and help you nail down some amazing, eye-catching posts.
One of my personal favorite formulas is the Before – After – Bridge (one we use frequently here on the blog). Here’s how it works:
Before – Here’s your world …
After – Imagine what it’d be like, having Problem A solved …
Bridge – Here’s how to get there.
First, you describe a problem, followed by a world where that problem doesn’t exist, then explain how to get there. I love its simplicity and versatility, at Buffer we use it for blog post titles, social media updates, email subjects and much more.
8. Keep it Simple
Social media posts don’t need to be a work of literary art. People have incredibly short attention spans online and often it’s more effective to be short and concise with your copy. Try to lean towards short, simple words, for example:
- show instead of indicate
- get instead of secure
- best instead of terrific
When it comes to social media content, simple is beautiful. Sometimes all you may need is a one or two-word caption to inspire action from your audience. Here’s a great example from The Next Web:
9. Add an Emoji (or Two)
It’s no longer just teenagers or younger people who are using emoji’s – they’ve reached the mainstream.
Over 6 billion emojis are sent every single day and according to Swyft Media, 74 percent of people in the U.S. regularly use stickers, emoticons or emojis in their online communication, sending an average of 96 emojis or stickers per day.
When it comes to social media posts, emoji’s can make a huge difference to your post performance as an Amex Open Forum study on Facebook engagement discovered:
- Posts with emoticons receive a 33% higher share rate.
- Posts with emoticons receive a 33% higher comment rate.
- Posts with emoticons receive a 57% higher like rate.
When you’re editing your next post or putting together your content calendar, it could be worth playing around with some emoji’s to see how they fit in with your copy.
10. Ask a Question
You know that amazing feeling where you’re having a great conversation with a good friend? They’re listening to you, taking it all in and sharing thoughtful replies and questions. Great social media posts can provide that exact feeling, too.
To truly engage with your audience and build genuine connections, try to see social media as an opportunity to start a conversation. Every single social media post you share can make a lasting impression with someone if you use the right copy and really connect with them.
Questions are a great way to bring your reader into the conversation and increase replies and comments on your content. For example, instead of posting:
Here are the most popular 360 videos on Facebook
You could try something like:
Have you watched any 360 videos on Facebook yet? Here are the most popular
11. Play With Punctuation
The rules around punctuation can get extremely complicated. But the truth is, you don’t need to know the difference between a serial comma and an Oxford comma to write a great social media post.
Feel free to experiment with punctuation a little in your content and don’t worry about being 100% correct with every comma or exclamation mark. As long as it feels good and reads nicely, you’ll be fine and including a few extra marks could even increase your engagement as Hubspot discovered:
- Posts with exclamation mark (!) see 2.7% more interactions on average
- Posts that ask questions (?) garner 23% more engagement on average
Over to You
It isn’t easy to edit content and make it stand out. But hopefully, the extra time and effort put into refining each post you share will be worth it.
Sometimes you’ll have to be a little ruthless and chop some copy away. Other times all it may take is one exclamation mark (!), or an emoji 😎 to turn a post from good to great and drive more clicks, engagement, and conversations.
I hope you find some of these tips useful and would love to hear if you have any editing tips of your own? Please feel free to share in the comments – I’d love to learn from you and join the conversation.
This post originally appeared on Buffer, and is re-published with permission.
Featured Image: Image by The Buffer Team
All screenshots by Ash Read. Taken February 2016.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!