Let's talk social media

Avatar Michèle Blockhuys

By Michèle Blockhuys

Header image
If various types of marketing could be associated with different dog breeds, social media would undoubtedly be the Golden Retriever. Friendly and likeable, social media craves your attention but not in a way that would annoy you. It's cheerful and playful and it's very much set on obtaining maximum engagement from its audience.

How to spark a conversation that captivates your followers

Social media is the more casual and conversational of the marketing channels. As such, writing for social media is quite distinct from writing for other platforms. Read this article to discover how to spark a conversation that captivates your followers.

If social media were a dog, it'd be a Golden Retriever.

The smartest brands will understand where they fit into customers’ lives on social media, and they’ll find creative ways of fitting into the conversation.
Hootsuite Social Trends Report 2021

Want to learn more about how to craft a strong social media strategy?

A unique channel with unique challenges

Marketing has become more of a dialogue over the last couple of years and nowhere is it as noticeable as on social media. Social media is the epitome of an interactive, two way conversation, where brands can reach out to their audience and their audience answers back.

While certain rules are always valid, like writing from the perspective of your target audience, social media has a unique style. It generally employs a perky and personable tone, coming off as sincere, to the point and it aspires to stand out with punchy attention getters.

MoonPie is fun and relatable and uses a conversational tone.

Social media is a unique channel which also comes with unique challenges. Like a city which never sleeps, social media is alive and kicking 24/7 but marketers and copywriters don't work around the clock. Until Artificial Intelligence evolves to the point where it can take over from humans, the fact that social media is omnipresent will continue to be a challenge.

After all, posts have the potential to go viral with a mere click of a button. It could all go south very quickly if the post in question is generating negative backlash with the potential to damage the brand’s reputation.

Finally, while the aim is to get a consistent message across all social media platforms, this message still needs to be tweaked to fit the characteristics of the specific channel.

The mini creative brief

As a copywriter, you may have to write posts for different brands across different social media channels. In order to make your task a little easier, it helps to create a mini creative brief for yourself which you can then use as a type of checklist or template to write more efficiently. This brief should contain certain elements: branding, the target audience, the goal and the social media channel you'll publish your post on.‍

1. Branding

It can be incredibly helpful for a brand to associate themselves and their core identity with a brand archetype. An archetype is a universal image that is familiar to everyone, regardless of their cultural or religious background, as these images occur and recur in storytelling across the globe. For instance, the Hero or the Trickster are relatable characters which have featured in stories and myths since the beginning of time.

Archetypes have the power to make the brand personality tangible in the mind of the writer as well as the reader. Rather than relying on their own subjective perceptions of the brand, the various writers can refer to the brand archetype and its character traits to craft a consistent brand voice.

Nike, a Hero brand, stayed true to its archetype and inspirational brand voice during the pandemic.

When a brand speaks in a specific voice, it becomes familiar to the target audience, almost like a handshake or a signature. The tone of voice, however, will still vary depending on the context. For instance, during the covid-19 pandemic, brands that are normally upbeat might have toned it down a little in order not to be inappropriate.

Greggs’ humorous brand voice and messaging resonates with their audience.

Curious to see which archetype would resonate with your brand? Find out how an archetype can elevate your brand by creating a well-defined brand voice and how it can help steer the business strategy in a clear direction. Click here to read more about branding archetypes or take our brand archetype test.

2. The target audience

It's imperative that any copy you write is customer-centric, written from the audience’s perspective with their needs and desires in mind. A somewhat surprising side effect of the onslaught of technological advances, is that they have spotlighted how important it is to keep the human connection at the heart of all communications. You're not writing for Google, you're writing for your audience and your audience consists of actual human beings.

Additionally, if your brand has segmented your audience in personas or fictitious characters that represent your customers, it's of course essential to target that specific persona with your writing. Be mindful of their level of knowledge and address them in their language, especially when writing for social media which is much more about ‘talking’ to your customer than ‘writing’ to them. If you're targeting a niche audience, ensure you're familiar with any slang or specific terminology they might use.

Grammarly showcases how well they understand their audience.

On social media it's also vital to get straight to the point and to be very clear about what's in it for your prospective customers. Don't write something which only highlights the benefits of a certain product e.g. ‘This cycling helmet can withstand 4000 tons of pressure’. Using the ‘so what technique’ helps you to be very direct and to outline why that's a real benefit your audience should care about e.g. ‘This cycling helmet can withstand 4000 tons of pressure and is therefore the best option in the market to protect you from head injuries’.

 Netflix is very clear about what their prospects would get.

3. The goal

Ask yourself why you're writing this social media post in the first place. Social media posts usually consist of digestible snippets of information which either intend to showcase your brand and its values or which hope to whet your audience’s appetite for more content and pull them through the marketing funnel.

Your social media post will point them to the deliverable you'd like them to download or you can direct them to long-form content, driving more traffic to your website.

Social media posts are part of a marketing and content strategy and so it's essential to remember what exactly it is you want your reader to do. To this end you can formulate a concrete statement of purpose for yourself e.g. ‘I want my reader to share this post’.

Be sure to include calls to action (CTAs) and to make them very direct and explicit. Tell your reader in very clear terms what the next step is that you want them to take.

Visme explicitly asks their audience to retweet and share their ideas.

4. The social media channels

Naturally, you need to be familiar with the social media channel you're writing for: the style, the audience and all the other channel attributes. Social media is renowned for being fast-paced with platforms continuously introducing new features and changing algorithms. While marketers keep an eye on trends, it's a good idea for copywriters to also be aware of changes to the social media landscape.

For instance, Facebook is trying hard to limit brand visibility by reducing the organic reach of posts. Therefore, unless your posts go viral and trigger a veritable avalanche of engagement, you'll be hard pressed to reach your audience with organic content only.

Repurposing existing content saves a ton of time and effort. You can pluck snippets of interesting information, facts and figures or quotes from long-form content like a blog article and turn them into engaging social media posts. However, rather than simply copy-pasting your Facebook post on Instagram, take the time to tweak your message so that it closely matches the platform’s unique characteristics.

Instagram, for example, caters to a younger audience (users in their 20s and 30s) and is a very visual platform that focuses on lifestyle and entertainment. The caption serves to elevate the story told by the image and is best kept short and sweet as the text cuts off after a few lines.

National Geographic uses powerful images on Instagram to captivate their audience’s curiosity and then enhances the image by providing more context in the caption.

Driving up engagement

There are different levels of engagement. Rather than focusing on vanity metrics like the number of likes and followers which won’t do much for your business, it would be wiser to aim for deeper forms of engagement like comments, shares and user-generated content (UGC).

Social media is all about sparking a conversation. In order to elicit comments, you can use various techniques such as asking questions, creating a poll where the audience gets to vote with emojis or launching an interactive Q&A, an ‘Ask me anything’ session.

Always make sure your content provides value to your audience; whether it's helpful, entertaining; newsworthy or inspirational; and that you optimize your posts for sharing.

During the #showyourself campaign, Dove asked women to post a picture showing their perception of women. This campaign generated a lot of user-generated content.

Prospects love to be invited to participate in your brand by co-creating, advocating for your brand or simply giving their opinion. User-generated content - content which is created by your prospects on your behalf - is a powerful form of word-of-mouth as your audience prefers to get insights from peers they trust. A simple way of encouraging user-generated content would be through social media contests.

Finally, you can also amplify engagement by sharing other people’s content (with the right permissions!)

Psychological triggers

Technology is advancing with the speed of a bullet train but the passengers inside are still wired the same as they were hundreds of years ago. Human behavior hasn't changed all that much throughout the years. We still respond to certain triggers the same way we always have. Writers would do well to tap into this knowledge, called behavioral economics, as it has great potential to make their copy more successful.

Behavioral science has revealed that human beings are mostly irrational beings who make their purchasing decisions based on emotion. They then use logic to justify that emotional decision. Therefore it's not sufficient to write posts that are product-based and that solely outline the benefits of your product. We need to delve deeper into the psyche of our audience and the underlying need that they themselves may not even be aware of.

It's not so much about the product or service as it is about using the product or service to get a job done. For instance, a fast food chain that wanted to boost milkshake sales discovered that their customers were interested in the milkshake in the morning to stave off hunger and because it gave them something to do during their long commute to work. The company actually proceeded to make their milkshakes thicker so it would prolong the experience of drinking the milkshake.

Always used the #likeagirl campaign and the negative feelings associated with stereotypes to turn them into positive storytelling and engagement.

There are many other psychological insights and triggers you can fall back on. Playing to people’s emotions can be very persuasive, especially when you play to emotions of high arousal like feelings of excitement, anger, etc. rather than emotions of low arousal like contentment or sadness.

Playstation uses a sense of urgency and what their prospects stand to lose.

People are risk averse and so they're more motivated to act out of fear of missing out than if they were to gain a benefit. Consequently, stressing what they stand to lose is much more powerful than enticing them with additional wins or promotions.

Creatively insert your brand into the conversation

For any kind of writing, it's useful to have a broad range of interests and to be mindful of which conversations are taking place on social media and in the world at large. Crafty writers can draw inspiration from current events and pop culture. They could piggyback on the popularity of a trending topic if they're clever enough to make it relevant to their brand.

You could even take something that might not have anything to do with you and find a creative way of inserting your brand into the conversation. An iconic example of this occurred in 2013, when there was a power cut during the Super Bowl and Oreo jumped on the opportunity to create a post stating: “You can also dunk 'em in the dark”.

A word of caution

While social media is the more casual of the marketing channels and many users will simply ignore you, it's worthwhile to take just a few seconds for a once-over before publishing your post. Much can be learned from other brands and their successes and failures.

Preventing a social media storm is much simpler than containing one.

DiGiornoPizza thought it would be a good idea to jump on the trending hashtag #WhyIStayed, not realizing that this hashtag was actually about domestic violence survivors.

With the platforms’ potential to have posts go viral in a heartbeat, it's always worth sitting tight for a moment to double check that your post ticks all the boxes and that it doesn't include anything that might kick up a storm. After all, preventing a social media outburst is much simpler than containing one.


Social media is a bit of an odd duck in that it's essentially a very lively, round-the-clock conversation between billions of users worldwide and anyone can take part. While there are plenty of opportunities for brands to join the conversation and foster a deeper connection with their audience, they need to find ways to get their message heard in a rather rowdy marketplace. Moreover, as the internet has given prospects the power to speak their truths, their opinions and whims can make or break your brand’s reputation.

Social media is the best reminder out there that we're dealing with human beings, not algorithms. By appealing to your audience’s desires and motivations, by making an effort to truly understand their needs and most importantly, by showing your human face, you can engage your viewers and win over hearts and minds.

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