If content is king, copywriting is a skill reserved for royalty.
Indeed, while a picture may paint a thousand words, it is often the words, phrases, and sentences that make (or break) your social media marketing campaigns.
But what kind of copywriting techniques do you need to attract a digital-first audience? What are the social media copywriting tactics you should use to capture their attention, strengthen their interest, deepen their desire, and trigger action?
Before I share some social media copywriting secrets with you, let us first look at who you’re writing for.
Attracting the Digitally Distracted
Like it or loathe it, your potential customers are perpetually distracted on social media.
From mouthwatering Instagram videos of the latest Michelin-starred restaurant dish, kitten and puppy photos on Facebook, to the political shenanigans of [insert your favourite president], you’ve got an endless barrage of online content competitors to contend with.
And let’s not forget chat apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Messenger, Line and WeChat, with their endless pings and notifications.
While visual content like photos, videos and infographics are essential in any social media marketing campaign, the magic comes from combining images with the right words.
From Facebook captions and text overlays over YouTube videos, to blog articles, tweets, emails, and landing pages, great copy figures strongly on all social media marketing platforms.
To help you attract your online audiences, here are 26 tips you can use.
#1 Start with a Startle
Shock and awe isn’t just a military strategy.
To attract the eyeballs of your Facebook or YouTube audiences, you’ll needs words that jar their emotions and surprise them a little.
Introduce something unexpected so that they’ll do a double or triple take.
#2 Evoke Your Empathy
Have you walked a day in your customer’s shoes?
Even if you haven’t, you ought to study what they go through and use language and copy that they can resonate with.
#3 Quote from Authority
If you’re a nobody (and most of us are), do consider tapping on the wisdom of influential leaders.
From political icons like Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi to pop stars like BTS and Justin Bieber, the task here is to seive through their words and extract the gems.
Here’s a famous one:
With great power comes great responsibility. – Stan Lee
#4 Issue Commands
Sometimes, the best copy are those which literally directs you to “Do this!” and “Don’t do that!”
While self-effacing copywriters may recoil from such practices, failing to be direct and explicit WILL result in your copy missing the mark.
Especially in an attention deficient age.
#5 Shrink Your Sentences
Trim your paragraphs. Slice your syllables. Cut your lines.
In the attention deficient digital-first world, your audiences are not going to read a wall of text.
Brevity is beautiful.
#5 Use Their Keywords
If you can, phrase your copy in such a way that it sounds exactly like how your customers would write or say it.
Use tools like Ubersuggest or Keywordtool.io to uncover the right combinations of keywords which your customers are using. Thereafter, use those phrases on your blog articles, LinkedIn posts, Tweets, and YouTube descriptions.
#6 Front Load Your Copy
Don’t waste time beating about the bush. Or setting up the scene for your copy.
Rather, deliver your ‘deadliest blow’ as early as possible.
Put your most important Unique Selling Proposition (USP) upfront in your headline, sub-headlines, or first line of your copy.
#7 Implement the Inverted Pyramid
Continuing on, consider using the inverted pyramid style of writing.
Long practiced by Public Relations (PR) professionals and journalists, it focuses on putting the most important stuff upfront, followed by the less important stuff and the lear important stuff at the end.
#8 Practice the Power of Two
Known as the one-two punch, you can take two elements of language and rub them together for effect.
This tension and comparison helps to stir interest between two contrasting elements, like…
- Black vs white
- Good vs bad
- Fast vs slow
- Yin vs yang
- And so on…
#9 Tap the Rule of Three
If two is a company, would three then be a crowd?
Not in the world of online copywriting.
In fact, the rule of three is a universal writing principle which states that a trio of events or characters is more interesting, funny and satisfying than other numbers.
So when you introduce features, benefits, or characters in your copy, think of a trio. Like…
- Harry, Hermione and Ron
- Luke, Leia and Han
- Huey, Dewey and Louie
#10 Astound with Amazing Facts
Do you know that the average person spends almost 120 minutes a day on social media?
Or that 78 percent of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within an hour?
Use facts, figures and statistics to grab people’s attention online. The bigger or more unexpected they are, the better.
#11 Turn to Tears
No, I’m not telling you to cry in front of your boss – or your client.
Rather, write in a way that turns on the emotions in your readers.
According to Jonah Berger, you need to use high arousal emotions to trigger social sharing. They include awe, anger, anxiety, amusement, and excitement.
The best way to tap on the emotional roller coaster is to…
#12 Tell a Story
From short and succinct anecdotes to epic tales, social media storytelling helps you to make your content stand out.
Like this recent example here.
#13 Newsjack a Trending Topic
Newsjacking or trendjacking allows you to craft copy which immediately grabs the attention of your audience.
Before doing so, however, you need to understand the cultural nuances that surround the topics. Avoid exploiting the tragedies or sorrows of others for your own commercial gain. Where possible, introduce your own unique twist to the content.
#14 One-Liners are Great
Velcro—what a rip-off!
If that caught your fancy, you can visit Reader’s Digest collection of witty one-liners here.
Of course, the best one-liners are those that you can invent yourself, but that may take more years of practice and polishing.
Here are some hilarious ones that will tickle your funny bone.
#15 Ask a Question (or Two)
Wish to engage your online audiences more directly? Ask them a question!
Conversational content works far better on social media than pure marketing prose.
The trick here is to tap on a topic that your audience would care about.
#16 Write Like You Speak
… even if you are writing about a technical or business topic.
Like the Internet Of Things (iOT). Or Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) Machine Tools. Or law.
Social media ain’t called social for nothing. Make your content friendly and conversational.
#17 Capitalise on Curiosity
Ah… clickbait. Love them or loathe them, they’re part and parcel of the social media lifestyle.
The thing here is not to deceive your audiences. Instead, tap on their inquisitive instinct and tease them.
#18 Use Metaphors and Analogies
Try searching for a needle in a haystack. Or imagine a place so quiet that you can hear a pin drop.
Metaphors and analogies are copywriting tricks that help to enrich your prose. They tap on your audience’s “mindscape” and describes what we think, feel, hear, say and do in a way that is deeper, richer, and more impactful.
#19 Use Shorter Word Forms
Social media copywriting often involves squeezing the maximum amount of information in the tiniest of spaces.
To do effectively, use word contractions to shorten two words. Like the examples below.
Do also choose words with fewer syllables as they’re easier to read.
#20 Be a Witty Wordsmith
People love humorous copy. A wickedly witty piece of writing breaks down the walls between your content and your audiences.
Not all of us are naturally funny. Thankfully, there are lots of sources of puns, witty jokes, and one-liners that you can tap on.
To write with wit, make reading funny material an essential part of your daily diet. These may be comics, jokes, or parodies that you can find both online and offline.
Read this article for more tips on how to be witty and funny.
#21 Understand Universal Themes
Man vs nature. Robbing the rich to pay the poor. The power of love.
These are universal themes which resonate with humankind since time immemorial.
A universal theme is an idea that transcends cultural differences, geography or even time. They are central ideas about the human condition that deal with basic human concerns.
Examples include the following:
- Abundance/ Scarcity
- Parent-child relationship
- Quest for knowledge
Injecting these storytelling elements in your content helps you to resonate more strongly with your target audience.
#22 Memorize Memes
Wish to capture the attention of a younger audience? Craft a meme-tastic piece of content!
In the Internet age, a meme can be defined as “an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.”
While memes often employ videos, gifs or images to attract attention, the words that are overlaid play an important role too.
#23 Use Bullets and Brackets
As I’ve earlier mentioned, a wall of text is a terrifying thing on a mobile phone.
Use bullet points to break up your text, and here are three reasons why…
- Bullet points are easier to scroll
- Bullet points can be comprehended more quickly
- Bullet points are easier to write
See what I’ve done there?
#24 ??♀️ Emojis and Emoticons Anybody
Want to create content which your audiences will ❤️️?
Use an emoji or an emoticon to put a 😉 on their faces.
You can visit this website to cut-and-paste your favourite emoji or symbol on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram or even your emails. And in case you’re wondering, YES, they do work.
#25 Test and Experiment
Like any other form of online content, good copywriting comes with trial and error.
You need to experiment with different formats of copy, gauge what worked better (and what sucked), and constantly refine and hone your craft.
This is why I encourage my trainees to create their own social media channels to test what works.
#26 End with a Bang
Last but not least, remember to end your copy with a bang.
Have a memorable takeaway, witty remark, or an irresistibly attractive offer pegged to a Call To Action (CTA) that your reader cannot refuse.
Conclusion + One Final Tip
Good writing comes through experience. Great writing comes through deliberate practice.
By applying the 26 copywriting tactics above, you’ll have a much better chance of success.
Oh wait, I almost forgot.
There is one more thing you need to do to be a kickass copywriter on social media:
Read great examples of online copy – and apply what you’ve learned!
A good place to start would be this blog, as well as the numerous articles I’ve written on social media marketing, content marketing, and digital copywriting.
Are there other copywriting tactics that you can apply to win online?