Top Tips on Copywriting for Facebook and Social Media
Most marketers still think of copywriting as a print campaign issue.
But with a potential audience of 2.19 billion monthly active Facebook users, it’s time to revisit where we spend our copywriting efforts.
Bad social media copy lowers your chances of reaching potential customers-- how fast do you typically click away from a site riddled with spelling errors?
Brand page aside, there’s a big difference in how mediocre vs. well-written social media posts perform. Which means you can’t just hire a digital copywriter to build your page-- you need one for as long as you plan on using social media to advertise. Your posts will contribute to the general perception of your brand, and the messages you display across your digital platforms can make a big difference in your ads’ ROI.
Take a look at these two hypothetical ads.
They’re both generally fine. Each will get a certain number of clicks. But the one on the right is just a little bit better. It contains some extra touches, like a more direct call to action, and the use of questions, which make the brand seem more customer-focused. It also lacks any weird capitalizations (what’s going on with “New and Awesome tool” over there?).
So how do you make sure your copy has that edge over your competitors’, or at the very least, isn’t left behind?
1. Know what you want to say
This feels like an obvious one. But take a look at a collection of branded Facebook posts, and some of them really do look like the work of someone who was told to “just put some copy.”
The typical recipe for this kind of thing is an image-forward approach. You’ve got your photo and URL ready, and all that’s left to do is hit “publish.”
However, the problem with that image-focused process won’t deliver your messages in the most efficient way, nor will the ad be focused on delivering the most important message.
Here’s a good example from Sonarworks:
What makes this ad good?
- The call to action is clear
- It clearly states what the advertised product does
- It focuses on a benefit that people care about
- The key value proposition is the first thing people will read
Here’s another one from Virgin America:
Why is this one good?
- It features an offer people care about
- It lists all the relevant info about the offer
- It focuses on a special deal
Defining your key message should be step one when designing and copywriting for social media posts. Plan what you want to say in broad terms, then write the specific verbiage out. THEN develop the post’s design, and publish it.
So, what are you supposed to say, exactly?
2. Focus on the customer, not the company
If people want to hear about your product’s features, they’ll look on your actual website.
Until they reach that point, they only want to hear about one thing: how the product can benefit them.
As the marketing legend D. Ogilvy put it
“Each advertisement must say to each reader: “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.””
He put his advice in action on this Sears advertisement-- the ad focuses on the customer’s potential savings, and even the image attracts the attention of the frugal shopper.
Your path to writing good copy will become clear as soon as you know the value proposition you want your ads to focus on. But how do you figure out that value proposition in the first place?
Interview your existing customers about the product to find out what people like most about it. You should also A/B test various ad messages to uncover what resonates with your audience. Here are a few variants on an ad message from MeetFrank:
The one on the left is a clear winner
everybody wants a raise.
4. Address various audiences
You probably have more than one target audience to try and reach.
Your social media content is a hub for potential new customers, your existing customer base, and your fans. All of these have various interests and require different value propositions from you.
New potential customers need to be informed about your product’s main benefit to them. Your existing customers might be more interested in upsell and discount offers, as well as how to get extra value out of your product. The diehard fans will engage with branded posts, including simple fun facts about your company.
This Slack ad, for example, isn’t especially relevant to users who don’t know about their work collaboration software.
Existing users and fans, however, are likely to show some interest.
Facebook is a really great place to set up multiple campaigns aimed at different audiences. Not only is it easy to do, you can boost existing social media posts to specific audience segments.
5. Limit your copy to crucial information
Facebook posts shouldn’t look the same as your blog.
You’re dealing with limited real estate-- cut all the fillers and only focus on what’s relevant.
Check out this Facebook ad that mentions their product’s benefits right off the bat.
How do you catch people’s attention with your ad copy?
- Get your point across fast-- no long intros
- Ask a question to hook the reader
- Mention your key value proposition right away
You can go for a clickbait if you want,
but unless you're a publisher like BuzzFeed, you might come off as more desperate than trendy.
6. Start with your key message
Here’s some copy for a Facebook post:
As the summer’s right behind the corner, it’s time to update your wardrobe with some color! For the next 24h, everything’s 20% off in our online store. Wait no more!
Cute intro, but unless you’re advertising for summertime, your post is in the wrong order.
Try this instead:
Flash sale! Get 20% off everything in our online store! Time to bring some color to your summer wardrobe.
7. Keep it short
If it’s not adding anything, toss it out.
Don’t use extra verbiage to try to bulk out posts-- streamline them with clear copy that takes less time to read while delivering the key message faster. The time you have with a potential customer before they keep scrolling is a matter of moments, and you can’t afford to waste any of them.
Write your first draft of a social media post, then go take a break. When you come back, review to remove any unnecessary wording. While you’re at it, reword any complex sentences into the simplest and most bite-sized form possible.
8. Use active language
When we looked at Intercom’s post from before, we saw that their key message was first and foremost.
Here are some other ways it could have been stated:
- Your customers can now be supported faster and smarter
- You can now support your customers faster and smarter
- Intercom helps you support your customers faster and smarter
- Support your customers faster and smarter (original)
None of these, however, is as good as the original, which basically tells you to go and do the thing. Active language like that suggests that there’s a logical next step the reader should take, and nudges them to do so.
Speaking of logical,
the question-->suggestion format is a great formula in general.
Check out this one from AirBnB:
9. Organize and format copy
If you’ve got a lot to say and no real way to cut it down, look for ways to structure long paragraphs so they don’t look so dense.
Barkbox started with this copy:
1 day left! Get a free upgrade and get a bonus toy in every BarkBox for your entire subscription (up to a $150 value!) As a member of the Extra Toy Club, you’ll receive a monthly delivery of 3 mind-blowing toys, tailored to your dog’s size, 2 full bags of drool-worthy treats, and an all-natural chew.
That’s a lot of copy. However, it is all relevant. They solved the problem of the text block like so:
Caps lock, parentheses, and lots of numbers ease the passage of your reader’s eyes and break up the sentences.
Another way to do this is with bullet points (or emojis as bullet points, if you want to be precious about it).
It’s an easier way to list a number of benefits ans services.
Take a look at this copy from MindTitan:
The copy is vastly improved through the use of points-- it would have been unbearable to have all those services in a single line, separated by commas.
Here are a few simple formatting-related copywriting hacks:
Use caps lock to outline words like LIMITED TIME and FREE. (Too bad Facebook does not support bold copy in ads and posts.)
Use line spacing to split long paragraphs into multiple text blocks.
Use bullet points for listing several benefits or products.
Insert emojis in Facebook ads/posts to catch more attention.
10. Write like you talk
Most people have a “reading voice” in their head, and will unconsciously read your post to themselves.
That means your copy should sound like a person, not a robot.
These ads side by side show this phenomenon pretty well:
How to make your copy sound more natural:
- Use short sentences that would be easy to read out loud.
- Use questions and exclamation marks to make your copywriting sound more alive.
- Use natural wording that’s not too complex (and avoid industry jargon)
- Finish with a call-to-action
Every social media post should end with one of these.
Let your reader know what the next step is. Squarespace, for example, always asks you to start a free trial right away.