I’m obviously not some sort of copywriting god or anything, but I’ve been doing this for a while now so I thought I’d share some thoughts on what makes great writing for social.
It’s by no means an exhaustive list – but what I like about it is that it’s accompanied by lots of gifs from the amazing Rick and Morty.
You might well say Rick and Morty has nothing to do with copywriting why have you done this?
To which, I’d simply respond: Take off your pants and shit on the floor. It’s time to Get Schwifty in here*.
1. Keep it snappy
Facebook recommends a 90 character limit for text on a click-through ad – and for good reason. People don’t tend to read any more than that.
It can be tough to learn that nobody cares about your five-paragraph tribute to Costa Coffee, or whatever, but trust me when I say they don’t.
Nobody is sitting there thinking about the great copywriting – they are thinking about coffee, if you’re lucky. So tell them about it directly.
2. No long words
This is a good rule for journalism as well as social copy.
There is nothing wrong with loving the English language – but if just 10% of people reading a post don’t understand it, that’s a lot of potential customers lost.
3. Make it about them
Too many brands post copy that talks about how wonderful their products are – but people just don’t care.
People are interested mainly in the things that affect them, their lives and the things they care about.
So make your copy about them, not you.
A good way of doing that is to…
4. Ask questions
This applies to both rhetorical questions and real ones.
Ask your audience something up front to grab their attention – or try asking something to get responses in the comments to boost engagement.
I’m on Facebook, innit. Find me here.
5. Give them something to do
Following on from that – all copy should have a call to action of some description.
Writing great copy with nowhere to click through to for more information is a huge missed opportunity.
6. Don’t rely on the words to tell the story
The sad truth is that on social, many people won’t even read the words you’ve written. They’ll typically look straight at the content first – and if that’s no good, they won’t even bother reading on.
This of course means you shouldn’t bank on their having read your copy before they see the content. The probably didn’t. Soz.
7. Add some colour
Make your words interesting. Sure, it can be tough when you’ve got a massive list of spaces to fill. But you need to develop techniques to keep it fresh.
One of my go-to sites is a simple random word generator. I pick a random word and try to put a sentence around it.
It doesn’t always work, but is a great way to set off in a new direction and helps keep the copy fresh.
That’s why I always say, shum shum schlippity dop!
8. Try to foster an emotional connection
This one is a toughie – but if you can connect with your audience in terms of the things they love and care about, you’ll almost certainly be onto a winner.
It goes back to point three – making it about them. Think about what matters to the people you want to talk to and find words that they’ll relate to.
9. Stop being so salesy
People who have spent a lot of time writing for clients tend to develop quite a salesy tone of voice – and it’s one you want to avoid.
Journalists often make fun of overblown press releases, for example, and it’s because of a kind of helium-balloon, bubblegum, everything-is-fantastic style that sounds very OTT.
There is also an annoying tendency to start sentences with really long subordinate clauses.
You often see sentences like this (apologies in advance to any journalists reading):
In order to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their much-loved and critically-acclaimed [PRODUCT], the world famous whatever company [BRAND X] is set to delight fans by launching a brand new super-sized [THING] in [PLACE] which will be open to adventurous members of the public to visit for [AN AMOUNT OF TIME].
Can you see what’s wrong with this? (Apart from everything?)
It starts with a really long sub-clause, it has far too many adjectives, and just delivers a massive information overload.
People are good at seeing through that shit. Telling them it’s much-loved won’t make them love it – it’ll make them bored. If they care about brand X, they want to know what’s going on.
If the idea or the brand are terrible, no amount of fluffy words is going to make them change their minds. It would be much better as:
PRODUCT lovers! Brand X have announced the launch of a new super-sized THING at PLACE.
People who care will get the info they want – and if the idea is good enough, other people will want to know what’s going on too.
And the message was delivered with less than half the number of words. And keeping it short is important.
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OK now that’s over with, time to Get Schwifty:
*Yes I do realise this makes absolutely no sense if you haven’t seen the show.