Copywriting for Facebook… Is this even a thing?
The potential audience of 2.19 billion monthly active Facebook users suggests that it is.
Can bad social media copywriting lower your chances of reaching more potential customers across Facebook’s platform?
Yes. It can.
There’s even a big difference in how mediocre v.s. well-written social media posts perform.
Thing is, you’re probably not spending half as much time on writing copy for social media posts than you would spend on developing a print campaign’s messages.
If you’re already going to say something as a brand, why not do it well?
Tens of Facebook ads and social media posts will eventually contribute to the general perception of your brand. The messages you use across your Facebook and Instagram advertising campaigns can make a big difference in your ads’ ROI. (Naturally, there are also other important factors to your campaign’s success such as design and ad bidding, but copy is liable for part of the success.)
To make a point here, compare these two (hypothetical) ads:
They both look ok. I bet the ad on the left would get the company some results.
However, by adding some small extra touches and making your copy more user-focused, you’ll have a chance to increase your click-through-rates and conversions.
I mean… Nobody cares that your tool is New and Awesome. 🙄 (This line was taken from an actual SaaS Facebook ad.)
So how can you write copy that people will care about? That they will click on? That they’ll remember?
1. Know what you want to say
Kind of obvious, isn’t it?
However, take a look at the branded posts in your Facebook newsfeed. Many of them sound like someone just wanted to fill the box with “some copy.”
Here’s what often happens: By the time you’re posting a social media post or a Facebook ad, you’ll have an image/URL ready and you just need to add the copy + hit the “publish button.”
What’s wrong with the image-first kind of approach is that…
- You won’t have an ad/post design that delivers your messages in the most efficient way.
- Your ad copy won’t be focused on delivering the most important message.
As I don’t want to focus on negative examples, here are a couple of GOOD Facebook ad examples that have the messaging and design in place:
Why is this Sonarworks ad good?
- It has the key value proposition right in the ad image – the first thing people will read
- It clearly states what the advertised product does
- It focuses on a benefit that people care about
- It has a clear call-to-action
Here’s one more example:
Why is this Virgin America ad good?
- It focuses on a special deal and it’s already advertised in the ad image
- This ad features an offer people care about
- It lists all relevant information about the offer
Both designing and copywriting for social media posts should start by defining your key message.
Here’s the best way to plan your social media post’s content:
- Step 1: Plan what you want to say
- Step 2: Plan the exact wording
- Step 3: Develop the post’s design
- Step 4: Upload and publish your message
I think it’s an appropriate moment to recall one more important rule…
2. If you have nothing to say, don’t say anything
If you have to choose between quality v.s. quantity, opt for quality.
Of course, in the perfect world, you would have a lot of important things to say about your brand, product, and its users.
So what should this message be? And how to make people care about it?
3. Make it about the customer, not your company
Many marketers make the mistake of writing about their product’s features.
People don’t care about your product per se.
They care about how it will benefit them.
As the marketing legend D. Ogilvy put it: “Each advertisement must say to each reader: “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.””
He definitely followed his own principle when writing this advertisement for Sears. Furthermore, notice that the ad focused on savings and the ad image also calls for the attention of people who are interested in monetary savings.
Once you know the value proposition that you want your ads to focus on, you’ll have a clear path for writing relevant copy.
How to find a good audience-message fit?
Interviewing your existing users can give a good overview of what people care most about your product. You can also A/B test various ad messages to uncover what resonates with your audience.
For example, we tested many different ad messages with MeetFrank until we found one that people were most interested in: potential raise on their new job position.
4. Address various audiences
Remember that you may have more than one target audience that you want to address with different messages.
For example, you could advertise/communicate in social media to potential new customers, your existing customer base, your fans, etc. All of these target groups have various interests and thereby require a different messaging strategy.
- New potential customers (a cold audience that hasn’t heard about your product before) need to be informed about your product’s main benefit to them.
- Existing customers might be more interested in how to get additional value out of your product, they’re also more prone to react to upsell and discount offers.
- Your brand’s diehard fans will engage with branded posts, even if it’s just a fun fact/post about your company.
For example, this Facebook post by Slack is not relevant to people who don’t know about their work collaboration software. However, it engages their existing users and fans.
When it comes to Facebook ads, you can set up multiple campaigns that target different audiences. Similarly, you can publish social media posts and boost them to specific audience segments.
Read more about Facebook retargeting campaigns here.
5. Include important information only
Copywriting for Facebook is different from typing an email or a blog article. You’re limited in the real-estate for copy.
A general rule applies to 99% of marketing copy (website, blog, email and ads, included: You should only focus on what’s relevant and avoid fillers lacking a real meaning.
For example, Intercom’s Facebook ad mentions their product’s benefits first thing.
How to catch people’s attention with your ad copy?
- Mention the key value proposition fast.
- Ask a question to get the reader hooked.
- Avoid long intros and get to your point fast.
And then there’s the option to get people to click on your ads/posts with clickbait.
However, do you want your brand to sound desperate or trustworthy?
6. Place your key message in the first sentence
Read this copy for a Facebook post:
As the summer’s right behind the corner, it’s time to update your wardrobe with some color! For the next 24h, everything’s 20% off in our online store. Wait no more!
Sounds legit, right?
However, what’s the key message of this post? – “The summer is near.”
That’s not what the company wanted to inform you about. So why did they place this information into the first sentence? Careless copywriting alert.
Let’s try to rephrase the ad copy:
Flash sale! Get 20% off everything in our online store! Time to bring some color to your summer wardrobe.
Now, the reader will immediately get the most important message.
7. Keep it short
One of my favourite website conversion rate optimization rules (I think it might have come from Peep Laja) is that every element on your website must contribute to the conversion. If it doesn’t, remove it.
The same rule applies to social media copywriting.
If a word/sentence doesn’t contribute anything new to your message, leave it unwritten.
As a result, you will have a clear copy that takes less time to read while delivering the key message faster. That’s pretty useful considering that people don’t have a remarkably long attention span these days.
Once you’ve written the first version of your ad/social media post copy, take a break, then review to remove any unnecessary wording. Also, reword complex sentences to make them short and easy to grasp.
The above sentence actually started as a longer version:
Another simple hack to make your copywriting more engaging is to…
8. Use active language
Intercom’s Facebook ad that you saw above had one key message that can be framed in several ways:
- Your customers can now be supported faster and smarter
- You can now support your customers faster and smarter
- Intercom helps you support your customers faster and smarter
- Support your customers faster and smarter (original)
If I had to choose, I would go with the original version. Why? Because it almost tells you to go and do it.
Using active language suggests that there is a logical action the reader should follow, nudging them to take that step.
Airbnb is using a question to get people’s attention and as they answer “yes” in their mind, they’re told to “choose from …”
This is a good formula for Facebook copywriting: Question + a logical solution.
9. Organize and format your copy
Sometimes, you’ve got a lot to tell. If you can’t cut anything out, look for ways to turn a long paragraph into well-structured copy.
For example, take this copy from a BarkBox Facebook ad:
1 day left! Get a free upgrade and get a bonus toy in every BarkBox for your entire subscription (up to a $150 value!) As a member of the Extra Toy Club, you’ll receive a monthly delivery of 3 mind-blowing toys, tailored to your dog’s size, 2 full bags of drool-worthy treats, and an all-natural chew.
That’s a looong copy to put into a single paragraph.
But then again, all of this information is potentially relevant to various readers.
What do? 🤷
Here’s how BarkBox solved the issue – by using caps lock, parentheses and a lot of numbers (easier to read than words).
Another way to accommodate more copy into the Facebook post format is to use bullet points (or emojis as bullet points) to list several benefits/services.
If MindTitan had listed all their services in a single line, separated by commas, it would be one hell of a difficult ad to read. It got a lot better as we organized the information into a formatted list.
Here are a few simple formatting-related copywriting hacks:
- Use caps lock to outline words like LIMITED TIME and FREE. (Too bad Facebook does not support bold copy in ads and posts.)
- Use line spacing to split long paragraphs into multiple text blocks.
- Use bullet points for listing several benefits or products.
- Insert emojis in Facebook ads/posts to catch more attention.
10. Write as if you were talking
Many people hear a voice in their head while reading.
If you’re one of them, know you’re not alone. According to one study, 82.5% of contributors said they did hear an inner voice when reading to themselves, 10.6% said they didn’t, and the status of the remaining contributors was unclear.
To make your copywriting easy to read, make it easy to pronounce.
You can literally read your Facebook post’s copy out loud to yourself (or use that inner voice) to see if it sounds natural in spoken word.
For example, this Facebook ad by MOO sounds natural when read out loud.
This Facebook ad by Harvest not so much.
How to make your ad copy sound more natural:
- Use short sentences that would be easy to read out loud.
- Use questions and exclamation marks to make your copywriting sound more alive.
- Use natural wording that’s not too complex (and avoid industry jargon)
Additional social media copywriting hacks
To focus on the benefit for the reader (you), to cut straight to the point, and to follow other best practices listed above, I’ll just share some small yet effective hacks as a list.
11. Make it interesting to read – use fun and irregular wording.
12. However, never sacrifice the meaning over fancy wording.
13. Avoid double meanings – your message should be straightforward.
14. Be consistent in your brand’s tone of voice across all messaging.
15. Have someone proofread your copy before you hit publish.
16. End with a strong call-to-action
Last not least, end every social media post and Facebook ad with a call-to-action. Let the reader know what’s the next step.
For example, Squarespace tells people to start a free trial. The New York Times might have benefitted from adding a “Sign up today to save 60%…” at the end of the ad copy.
Don’t leave the reader hanging there after seeing your ad.
Successful Facebook copywriting starts by knowing your audience, your message, and how to best frame it.
It ends by taking the reader one small step ahead in your marketing funnel.