5 Tips for Writing Winning Social Media Posts

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

5 Tips for Writing Winning Social Media Posts

Social media has changed the way we communicate. Each popular social network dictates the format for posting on their platform, from how long an ideal post should be to the tone and style of the post. Keeping up with best practices for posting to each network can be daunting and confusing, particularly because they regularly change the “rules.”

What you publish online in social networks should be part of a larger overall marketing and communications strategy. When composing social media posts, you should first consider the following:

  • What is the image you want to convey?
  • What is your brand’s “voice?”
  • What media is most appropriate for you to use? Text only? Photos or illustrations? Video? A combination?
  • Who is the audience you want to attract and engage?

Here are 5 ways to improve your social media posts.

1. Pick your lead social network.

Most small businesses favor one social network but also manage several others. For efficiency’s sake, identify your lead social network – the one where you get the most traction and response from prospects and customers.

2. Write for your lead network then adapt content for the rest.

When crafting your social media messaging, use the best practices for your lead network then adapt the content for other networks based on their parameters.

For example, Instagram is a popular social network that, in the past, has emphasized images over content. A trend shift saw Instagram posts going from a short paragraph of text followed by multiple hashtags to longer form posts at least several paragraphs long. While only the first portion of the post can be seen with the image, followers can click to read more. Hashtags are still an important part of Instagram posts, both as search terms but also as part of the messaging.

Once you compose your Instagram post, you can pull it apart for other social networks. For example, Facebook isn’t tolerant of hashtags so if you were to modify an Instagram post to then post to Facebook, you’d want to remove the hashtags. Note that if you are automatically posting from Instagram to your Facebook Page, those hashtags should be removed or they could affect the visibility of your post.

Facebook, like Instagram, can handle longer posts and only the top portion of the post can be seen. However, Facebook users tend to skim so when composing the original post, always make sure that the main point – or a compelling hook – is in the first one or two sentences of your post. Trim your post as needed.

For Twitter, the original 124-character limit was raised to 280 characters so long posts won’t fit into their format. Take the first sentence or two from your main post and use as a tweet with two to four hashtags. In some cases, you might have to modify spelling or punctuation to fit text into a tweet such as using the ampersand instead of the word “and” or using numerals instead of spelling out numbers.

3. Be compelling, clear, and use keywords

Think like a journalist crafting headlines to attract attention. Your post’s first few sentences should make a point or pose a question, using keywords that align with the subject matter. If you’re writing about a new product, using the words “new product” may seem obvious, but you might overlook those two words and simply name the new product such as “Take a look at our Shiny Widget” versus “Check out our new product: The Shiny Widget.” You can’t be too clear or concise in your social media posts. People are pressed for time and may not read the details.

4. State your Call to Action (CTA)

In the name of clarity, if you want someone to click a link, state “Click this link for more information” or if you want people to sign up for something, state “Sign up to get our discounts.” Not all social media posts need a call to action, but even asking a question at the end of a post is a call for an action – a response.

5. Link somewhere strategic

Not every post needs a link, however, if you are going to send someone away from a social network feed to another page, be strategic. Sending people to your company website’s home page is not strategic. If you want them to enter a contest, send them to the contest entry page. If you want them to review your portfolio, send them straight to that page. Keep in mind that while some social networks like Twitter allow links away from their network without penalty, Facebook’s algorithm tends to reduce the visibility to posts with outside links. If you’re sending your followers to a blog post on your company site, replicate that post in Facebook Notes on your Facebook Page to keep links internal to Facebook for greater exposure.

A successful social media post is one that attracts attention, gets a reaction and gets shared. When one of your post’s gains traction, analyze what made it work and find ways to build on that success.