6 Tips for Writing Well on Social Media
There are 1 million links shared, 2 million friends requested, and 3 million messages sent on Facebook every 20 minutes. Twitter users send 9,100 tweets every second. More than 60 percent of all Americans have at least one social media profile — and many use this profile daily. Whether you love it or hate it, communication on social media is a fact of life.
Unfortunately, the nuances of communicating on social media escape many people. This can be frustrating for those who cherish the written word. However, it’s definitely possible to write well and find your voice on any platform. Here are six tips to improve your social posts.
Use Your Casual Voice
Social media is made for the casual voice, even for users on professional networks. The focus is on the social aspect of communication. It’s about starting a conversation and engaging with others in your network. Ask questions, offer insight, and avoid the colorless “business-speak” that clutters so much business and professional writing. Your social voice should feel like talking with a friend — a grammatically correct friend.
Keep It Short and Simple
Social media isn’t the place for deep musings, long rants, or well-reasoned arguments. If you have a long piece you want to share with your readers, link to it, and keep your commentary short. While Facebook allows around 400 characters plus a link, it’s best to stick to around 200 characters, or 40 words or fewer. Of course, Twitter’s 140-character limit makes pithy writing not only a virtue, but a necessity.
Use Action-Oriented Language
The point of using social media in business or at work is to get your followers to do something, whether it’s read an article, watch a video, join a conversation, or attend an event. A good formula for a social media post starts with a thought-provoking question and an invitation for your followers to take action. Try this: “Ever wonder what really goes on in the White House kitchen? I loved this great interview with Exec Chef Cristeta Comerford. Tell me what surprised you the most.”
Writing on social media should feel intimate for your followers, even if you have thousands of them. Use “I,” “me,” and “you” in your updates and posts. Social media is a conversation between colleagues or friends, not a lecture from on high. Write as if you’re talking to one person, not a mass audience.
Play with Punctuation and Capitalization
Don’t be afraid to break a few rules to convey emphasis or emotion on social media. While writing in all caps is generally frowned upon in business writing, it’s perfectly okay to emphasize a word or two with capital letters. Using an exclamation point or two is also acceptable to show excitement or emotion. With the space limits on social media platforms, these devices help convey emotion and tone.
Don’t Forget to Edit
You might be tempted to operate in draft mode on social media, but that carries real risk. Writing in a conversational tone to a large audience leaves plenty of room for misinterpretation, especially when your word count is restricted. There’s a good case to be made that social media posts need more editing than formal writing, not less, especially if you’re posting for an employer. At the very least, have a co-worker or friend read your post before publishing to make sure your meaning is clear.
Social media is a powerful tool for networking and engaging with customers, colleagues, friends, and influencers in your areas of interest or expertise. Keep it casual and concise — and be sure to edit for clarity.
Which social media platforms do you use most? Have you ever published a post you wish you hadn’t?