Best Practices for Social Media Content That’ll Improve Your Writing and Design

An analysis of job listings shows the most in demand skill for content marking is social media content creation. After social media strategy content creation is what social pros spend much of their time on. While results vary based on target, brand, and social platform there are best practices to follow when writing and designing any social media post that will lead to more interesting and engaging brand posts.

Social Media is the most Requested Skill in Content Marketing

Write in Active Voice and Second Person. 

Most experts agree active voice creates more engaging social media copy with clear, concise, action-oriented sentences. In active voice the subject performs an action by directly using a verb to show the action versus passive voice where the action verb or object is emphasized over its subject. For example, the second version of the following post copy would grab more attention with active voice.

  • Passive Voice: The 2 hour marathon barrier was broken by team Nike!
  • Active Voice: Team Nike broke the 2 hour marathon barrier!

These posts can be improved further with point of view and benefit. Instead of using first person “I” or “we,” or third person “he,” “she,” “it,” “they,” or “name” use second person “you.” Using “you” draws  attention focusing the message on the audience. Conveying the message as a benefit to them will also draw interest. The example post has now been written in first person, third person, then improved with second person written as a benefit to the audience.

  • First Person: We made the Vaporfly shoes that broke the 2 hour marathon!
  • Third Person: Nike Vaporfly shoes were used to break the 2 hour marathon!
  • Second Person: You can run in the Nike Vaporfly’s that broke the 2 hour marathon!

Consider Audience Interests, Brand Voice and Tone

Write messages your audience will want to share because it is something their friends will like, it shows appreciation, or it is about beliefs or causes they support. And don’t stop the message at the post. When sharing a link match post message and link destination. Sending them to a home page or unrelated page causes confusion and lost sales or leads. Keep interest going with a distinct landing page that delivers your message benefit and focuses on what you want them to do. The example post above should interest a target audience of runners and their running friends and then send them to a page about the shoes and the record attempt not the Nike home page.

  • Home Page Link: Nike.com
  • Landing Page Link: Nike.com/Sub2Vaporfly

Keep brand voice and tone in mind. What is the personality of your brand – bold rebellious, modern cool, or serious classic? Write like you talk as if the brand was a person talking out loud to another person. Skip jargon and avoid boastful claims such as “top,” “best,” or “only.” Be genuine fun and helpful. Be consistent but change tone with the situation. Even a fun, casual brand should take a more serious tone with an upset customer or in a crisis. For example, during the Boston Marathon bombing releasing a post celebrating a marathon record would come across as tone death as seen below.

  • Original Tone: You can run in the Nike Vaporfly’s that broke the 2 hour marathon!
  • Modified Tone: You can support Boston marathon victims. We’ll match your donation.

Create Good Brand Design and Aha Moments.

Keep text to a minimum ensuring it is large enough to view on mobile. Use unique fonts for emphasize but limit total fonts in a single post. Ensure good contrast with text over images so they can be seen. Don’t overcrowd the layout or image with too much text making it feel overwhelming and busy. Change individual messages but be consistent in overall message including brand keywords, taglines and hashtags. Follow brand standards for colors, logos and fonts. With the example post you would follow Nike brand guidelines not Wendy’s.

  • Wendy’s Brand Voice: Witty and Sassy.
  • Nike’s Brand Voice: Powerful and Inspiring.

It’s easy to grab a generic stock or product image, but a unique image that compliments the text draws interest. Creatively connect text and image inviting the viewer to fill a gap for an “aha” moment they’ll want to share. A simple image of running shoes would be the easy to include with the post text above. Instead consider something unexpected like a back of the pack amateur runner photoshopped into the finish line scene of Eliud Kipchoge’s record breaking run.

  • Generic Image: (Product Image of Nike’s new Vaporfly shoes) – You can run in the Nike Vaporfly’s that broke the 2 hour marathon!
  • “Aha” Image: (Kipchoge’s record finish with amateur runner) – Break your own records in Nike Vaporfly’s!

Follow Rule of Thirds and Rules of Social Platforms

Good images and layouts follow the rule of thirds. This principle divides a space into thirds horizontally and vertically to place elements in a more appealing balanced way. Research shows that people’s eyes focus on one of the intersection points rather than the center where most amateurs place the subject of their image or design. Instead place the subject in one of the intersecting points to create a more dynamic, natural, and interesting visual. Also leave room for white space or negative space. This is the area between design elements that helps them stand out.

Third-Rule Rule of Thirds for Good Social Media Post Design

Wide White Space Logo - Use white space and negative space for good social media post design

Each social media platform has different design standards and requirements. Refer to each size by pixels, file size, image type and other submission requirements. Many design tools include templates for the most popular platforms such as Canva or Adobe Spark and built in tools such as Facebook Creative Hub and Snapchat Instant Create. Most also have options to create mock ups for social media plans and presentations.

Social Media Post Template Created by FreepikBusiness psd created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Finally consider post schedule. The time of week and time of day matter and can vary increase or decrease engagement based on the social media platform. To plan your social media content calendar and schedule you posts Sprout Social provides a report on best times to post from their customer base.

Best practices are a great place to start, but keep in mind that the best content is created to be unique to each platform customized to the environment and brand community. Test posts times and variations in designs and copy to optimize as you go. This can be done with simple A/B split tests. This will keep posts fresh to avoid ad fatigue.

What Hollywood Pitches Can Teach Us About Storytelling, Social Media Marketing, and User Generated Content.

In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell Is Human, he references a study by two business professors who analyzed the Hollywood pitch process to discover how writers got their movie and TV series ideas approved by producers. What they found can help improve our social strategies.

The researchers observed that the most successful pitches didn’t push their idea on the person they were trying to convince. Instead, the “seller” invited the “buyer” in as a collaborator. The more the buyer was able to contribute, the better the idea (product) became and the more likely it would be approved (bought). One of the producers told the researchers, “At a certain point the writer needs to pull back as the creator of the story. And let [the buyer] project what he needs onto your idea that makes the story whole for him.”

I’ve written before about the power of story, my research in that area, and how to leverage storytelling in social media strategy. Yet, here I want to focus on collaboration. It is important to tell your organization or brand story and ultimately we all want to sell something, but don’t be too “pushy.” Invite the consumer in to tell their story and help expand upon your brand story to make it more of their own. When they start feeling like it is more of their own they have already bought in. So when you do present them with a sell message it is seen as more of an opportunity than a hard sell.

In social media, inviting the consumer in as a collaborator is called user generated content (UGC). Not only is this good for the user, but the content they create is more convincing than your own content. Research has found that 66% of consumers rely heavily on user generated content when making purchasing decisions Click To Tweet and 65% of consumers trust word-of-mouth on the Internet (UGC) more than content produced by advertisers.

Surprisingly, 51% say user generated content is more important than the opinions of their friends and family, and far more trustworthy than website content. How much user generated content is there? Researchers estimate that 25% of search results on brand names return user generated content from review sites, blogs, and social media updates. So how do we invite consumer social media collaboration? I’ve collected some ideas from Social Bro, Sprout Social, and HubSpot.

Here are 6 strategies to increase your user generated content:

  1. Share consumer comments, photos and video. It amazes me when I see awesome brand fan comments and photos and the brand does nothing. I ran an experiment once where I posted some positive comments and photos directly to various brands on Twitter. Two responded, but one ignored me. Don’t miss out on this easy opportunity, if you see a fan compliment your brand or share photos and videos using your products or services thank them and then share the content to your own followers. Fashion brands and GoPro are good at doing this. For the super contributors consider sending special offers and gifts as a reward.
  2. Reward fans by featuring their content in your advertising. When I was an advertising copywriter I always got a kick out of seeing my ideas and lines on TV, billboards and in magazines. Most consumers feel the same way. Plus, UGC is more believable, so including it in your advertising could make the advertising more believable. Doritos turns UGC videos into Super Bowl commercials every year and gets a lot of press for doing it. Of course, before placing that fan photo in your next print ad always get permission.
  3. Make user generate content part of a competition. Sweepstakes and giveaways are tried and true marketing methods, but instead of simple entry forms suggest users submit a photo, video or quote. Starbucks challenged consumers to decorate the Starbucks white coffee cup and post on social media. The winner’s design was turned into a limited edition reusable cup.
  4. Crowdsource ideas for new products, services, designs and ad campaigns. Who knows better what they want than your customers? Why not ask them? In the process they will generate a lot of brand content that will help get your organization noticed. Fiat Brazil crowdsourced a concept car design and now collects ideas for new car features via Facebook and Twitter. Dell’s IdeaStorm has collected over 20,000 ideas and implemented over 540 of them.
  5. Create a specific user generated content campaign. Ask for content by creating a campaign hashtag and promoting it on your social channels, but also in ads, in-store, and on packaging. Under Armour has #IWILL. Tourism Australia gets amazing photos and videos from all over the country. Photos they could never afford to take on their own. They post on their Facebook “Tourism Australia’s official Facebook page. Post your best photos to our wall to give us permission to share.”
  6. Just ask a questions. Perhaps this suggestion is the simplest, but it is a basic social media engagement strategy that we should not ignore. In Daniel Pink’s book he also cites research that says people are more likely to support something if presented with a question. Instead of telling them the benefits, asking a question makes people come up with their own reasons for agreeing or believing in what you are selling. GRK Greek Kitchen asks simple fun questions to encourage response such as “fill in the blank,” and “what is your favorite flavor?”

A nice big brand example of UGC is the “Share a Coke” campaign where the brand produced Coke bottles with customers’ names on them. Customers were asked to share the pictures of their personalized coke bottles on Twitter and other social media platforms. Coca-Cola attributes the UGC campaign to a 2% increase in U.S. sales after over a decade of declining revenues. Also check out Pantagonia’s Worn Wear website and Tumblr blog where they ask for and feature customer’s stories about their well worn Pantagonia clothing.

How is your social media pitch? Are your being too pushy or are your letting consumer’s in on your brand story? Leveraging user generated content could mean the difference between a social media flop and a block buster response.