In our constant search for more ways to watch cat videos, society has stumbled upon the most effective form of mass communication since the radio: social media. PR is about spreading a message, so clients are looking for quality social media plans in addition to traditional media. This means that modern PR firms, like Franco, are now social media agencies, too.
So what happens to the PR professional when social media becomes part of your job? For those who find themselves with a new fascination for likes, shares and retweets, I present to you my tips for writing for social media in a PR world.
Understand Your Audience
First and foremost, you MUST understand your audience prior to even sending your first post. Who’s your audience? How do they consume social media? What time are they usually online? What gets them to click links? This will guide your writing and ultimately, your social media strategy. A tight-knit segment of people will respond well to industry terms, jargon, and certain phrases. A diverse group of consumers will likely need writing that is palatable by everyone. If you’re used to writing press releases for target audiences, social media is no different.
By optimizing your writing for your audience, you’re making it easier for them to connect with your brand, leading them to share your content, which is the ultimate goal.
Take a look at Netflix’s Twitter account. They’ve become a cultural phenomenon, to the point where the phrase “Netflix and Chill” is understood by a majority of American internet users. Due to their popularity, most tweets they send will get at least some traction, but the way they consistently present their content resonates with their fan base. They know who their target audience is and they communicate to them effectively.
Sorry for what I watched when you were sleeping. pic.twitter.com/puNOV6t3IY
— Netflix US (@netflix) January 6, 2017
Take some time to sharpen your writing before hacking away.
Shorter is Better
“I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter” – Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, 1657
Twitter’s 140-character limit forces the writer to condense their message into a short sentence or two. Facebook and LinkedIn offer more room per post, of course.
So what’s the optimal length? Jeff Bullas’ data shows that Facebook posts with 80 characters or less receive 66 percent higher engagement than longer posts, and that number increases to 86 percent for posts that are less than 40 characters. Dan Zarrella, social media guru formerly of HubSpot, found that the optimum character length for tweets to be shared organically is between 110 and 115 characters.
Wait a second… the optimal Facebook post is shorter than the ideal tweet length?
Hey, the numbers don’t lie.
Entertain and Inform
Most people go to social media for entertainment.
Aside from a select few, people aren’t going to social media specifically to find out information about your business or do their job. Understanding this, your task writing for social media is to be informative while being entertaining. Global Web Index compiled a report showing that 60% of social media users are there to be entertained. Therefore, even if your business isn’t entertaining on its own (like Netflix), effective social media writing can turn the boring and bland into something worth sharing. Take a look at how General Electric talks about one of their most recent inventions:
They say you can’t fight fire with fire. Well, we did. Imagine what other impossible things we can do. https://t.co/ME0IwnhGDz
— General Electric (@generalelectric) January 13, 2017
A key component to communicating in an entertaining, informative way is to…
Write Like a Human, Not Like a Business
I can imagine that this is the most difficult thing to adjust to when writing for social media in a PR world. This is a new animal, and it’s a concept that even the best social media writers struggle with from time to time.
Social media is not a business space. It is a human space. In essence: be willing to loosen up and not take yourself so seriously. Your audience isn’t at work while they’re on social media, they’re at play. Serious subject matters are exempt from this, of course, and should be given the proper tone. But whether you’re announcing a new product, sharing links about your business or industry, or engaging with others, it’s important to keep the Reddit Rule in mind: there’s a human on the other side of the computer.
Engaging, informative, and genuine writing begs to be shared with others. That’s great, since…
Shares and Retweets Are the Goal
The word “social” in “social media” wasn’t put there by accident. As the writer, your job is to create content worth sharing. It’s okay to ask for shares/RTs, but that will only get you so far. The best posts evoke emotion. The emotions that were most common in viral content were:
Shares aren’t guaranteed from emotion-wringing posts, and some social media writers will find their subject matters easier to talk about than others. But with the right message and an effective medium, you can turn fans into brand ambassadors.
Effective writing for social media takes time, research and commitment to hone. Social media is a large part of the public face of a modern business, and its role continues to increase. With effort and experience, you’ll be creating effective, compelling posts worthy of recognition.
What do you find to be the biggest challenge crossing over from PR into social media? Comment and let’s work through it together!
Geoff Geist, is a digital account executive at Franco. Follow him on Twitter at @mynameisGEOFF.