Writing for social media is not an easy job.
You work with strict character limits and tight turnarounds. You speak the language of memes and microtrends that your boss and coworkers might not understand. You have to quickly — and wittily — react to trending topics. And, if you ever publish a post with a typo, people will notice and call you out. (Looking at you, Twitter meanies.)
But it’s also fun and rewarding. Great content can help you start inspiring conversations, build engaged communities, create buzz around your brand, and even directly influence sales.
Keep reading for expert tips and tools that will help you become a more confident and effective social media writer in no time.
Bonus: Download The Wheel of Copy, a free visual guide to crafting persuasive headlines, emails, ads and calls to action. Save time and write copy that sells!
What is social media content writing?
Social media content writing is the process of writing content for social media audiences, usually across multiple major social media platforms. It can include writing short captions for TikTok or Instagram Reels, long-form LinkedIn articles, and everything in between.
Writing for social media is different from writing for blogs and websites — it requires expert knowledge of social platforms and their audiences, trends, and inside jokes.
Social media writing is a crucial element of any brand’s social presence. It can make or break a campaign or your entire social media marketing strategy. When done right, social writing directly influences engagement and conversions, and contributes to strategic business goals.
7 social media writing tips for 2022
The tips below will help you create content that will inspire your target audience to interact with you, take action, or simply spend a few seconds contemplating what they just read.
Try some (or all) of these in your next 10 social media posts to build good habits and strengthen your writing muscle. You’ll be amazed at how clear you’ll write, and how you’ll zero in on your voice.
1. Just start writing (you’ll edit later)
Writer’s block is real, but there’s an easy way to blast past it: Just start writing without overthinking it.
Start typing whatever comes to mind and forget about sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation (for a moment). Just keep your fingers moving and power through any blockages. Editing will come later.
This is how John Swartzwelder, legendary Simpsons writer, wrote scripts for the show:
“Since writing is very hard and rewriting is comparatively easy and rather fun, I always write my scripts all the way through as fast as I can, the first day, if possible, putting in crap jokes and pattern dialogue […]. Then the next day, when I get up, the script’s been written. It’s lousy, but it’s a script. The hard part is done. It’s like a crappy little elf has snuck into my office and badly done all my work for me, and then left with a tip of his crappy hat. All I have to do from that point on is fix it.”
This, of course, means different things on different platforms.
Eileen Kwok, Social Marketing Coordinator at Hootsuite thinks it’s absolutely crucial to “have a good understanding of what language speaks to your target audience. Every channel serves a different purpose, so the copy needs to vary.”
Wondering what that looks like, exactly, on Hootsuite’s own social media channels? “LinkedIn, for example, is a space for working professionals, so we prioritize educational and thought leadership content on the platform. Our audience on TikTok is more casual, so we give them videos that speak to the fun and authentic side of our brand.”
But this advice goes beyond picking the right content categories and post types for each network. It really comes down to the language you use.
Eileen says: “On most channels, you’ll want to spell-check everything and make sure you’re grammatically correct — but those rules don’t apply for TikTok. Having words in all caps for dramatic effect, using emojis instead of words, and even the misspelling of words all serves the playful nature of the app.”
You can go ahead and show this to your boss the next time they don’t want to approve a TikTok caption mentioning Dula Peep or using absolutely no punctuation.
3. Make your posts accessible
As a social media writer, you should make sure that everyone in your audience can enjoy your posts.
Nick Martin, Social Listening and Engagement Strategist at Hootsuite told me: “When writing for social media, accessibility is something you should be keeping in mind. Some of your followers may use screen-readers, and a post that is full of emojis would be nearly unreadable for them.”
Unintelligible posts won’t help you reach your social media goals. In fact, they might turn people away from your brand altogether.
“The same goes for when you share an image that has text on it,” Nick adds. “You’ll want to make sure you write alt-text for that image so all of your audience can enjoy it.”
Here’s a great example of how you can have fun writing creative and entertaining alt-text for your social post’s accompanying images:
Self-care routines and bear encounters both start with setting boundaries pic.twitter.com/reul7uausI
— Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources (@waDNR) September 20, 2022
4. Keep it simple
Imagine you’re writing to an 8th grader. Like, actually.
This is a simple but super effective exercise that will force you to write clearly and ditch any unnecessary jargon that would likely only confuse your readers.
“Become a disruptor.”
LinkedIn, in particular, is home to some of the most over-used, under-effective statements of all time. And sure, it’s a “businessy” social media channel. But business people are, well, people too. And people respond well to succinct, clear copy — not overused buzzwords with little to no real meaning behind them.
To connect with your audience, you have to speak a language they understand. Say something real. Use plain language and short sentences. Practice on your niece, mom, or friend, and see if they get your message.
5. Write to the reader
Your social media audience isn’t dying to find out what your company is up to or what’s important to you (unless it’s super relevant). They want to know what’s in it for them. That’s why you should always write from the readers’ perspective. Make them the hero.
So, instead of posting a boring list of features that have just been added to your product, tell your audience how their life will improve if they use it.
Sometimes, “standing out” is nothing more than writing from the reader’s point of view — because most of your competitors don’t.
6. Have a clear purpose
… and write that purpose down at the top of your draft to keep your mind on the target while you write.
What action do you want the reader to take? Do you want them to leave a comment or click through to your website? Whatever it is, make it clear in a CTA (call to action).
Note that a CTA doesn’t have to be a button or any other super explicit, easily identifiable element within your post. It can be as simple as an engaging question within your caption, or a sentence telling your audience why they should click on the link in your bio.
7. Use (the right) pictures to enhance your words
This one speaks for itself. (One image is worth a thousand words, anyone?)
We’ve already talked about the importance of adding alt-text to images for accessibility, but the images you pick are very important.
Some networks rely on words more than they do on images and videos. But whenever possible (and relevant), you should try to include visuals in your posts — they’re much more effective at grabbing the attention of scrollers than words. And without that attention, your words won’t get a chance to shine.
4 writing tools for social media
Good for: Writing anything succinctly and clearly.
Cost: Free in your browser, one-time $19.99 payment for the desktop app.
The Hemingway app will make you a better, more engaging writer. It flags over-complicated words and phrases, long sentences, unnecessary adverbs, passive voice, and so much more. It also gives you a readability score.
Pro tip: On the Hootsuite editorial team, we always aim for grade 6 readability. Some topics are simply a bit complicated, so stay flexible and don’t beat yourself up if you’re not always able to reach this benchmark — but it’s a good score to shoot for.
Here’s how it works:
- Write your copy.
- Paste it into Hemingway’s online editor.
- Visually see what works and what doesn’t.
- Make your changes.
- Watch your score improve!
Good for: Distraction-free writing.
There’s plenty of clutter in life. ZenPen is one small corner of the distraction-free-universe to help you write without outside interference.
- Go to zenpen.io.
- Start writing posts for social.
- Enjoy the noise-free editor until you’re done.
Good for: Making your writing clear, effective, and correct.
Cost: Free basic plan; Premium plans start at $12/month
Grammarly promises to keep your social posts on point. It will flag everything from contextual spelling errors to poor word choices. And, the tool integrates with lots of online platforms, including Twitter, Gmail, and Tumblr.
Good for: Automatically generating social captions from other text (e.g. blog posts).
Cost: Plans start at $14.99
Lately is an AI content creation tool for social media marketers. When integrated with Hootsuite, it learns which key words and phrases drive the most engagement with your audience and automatically creates content based on those insights.
Lately can also take existing long-form content, like blog posts, and break it down into multiple headlines and short content pieces for social, all designed to maximize response.
As you review and edit the content, the AI continues to learn, so your automatically generated content will get better and better over time.
Compose, schedule, and publish your expertly written posts to all the major social media channels from one dashboard using Hootsuite. Try it free today.