7 Copywriting Formulas: How to Energize Your Social Media Posts

copywriting formulas social media

Let’s play a simple game of fill in the blank.

  • I have a ______. ~ Martin Luther King
  • Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you ______. ~ John F. Kennedy
  • Be the change you want to ______. ~ Mahatma Ghandi

How’d you do? I’m willing to wager a bet that if this were a high school exam, you’d get an A+ and a gold star of perfection. That’s because these quotes had an impact. In the matter of a few words, these leaders changed a thought, persuaded an audience, and made a difference in people’s lives.

So much so that we continue to remember each of these people’s words years after they were uttered.

What does this have to do with your marketing? Everything.

Just as these words made a difference in the lives of millions of people, the words you use in your business can make a difference in the lives of your customers. It’s called copywriting and done well can make or break your sales.

Why Copywriting for Social Media Specifically?

Because today’s businesses (especially the little guys) are at a tremendous advantage. Today’s businesses have the Internet and a little thing called Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram, or whatever other social network your customers hang out on).

These social networks attract the attention of your buyers just by being a stellar place to stalk old high school flings, giggle at cat gifs, or find dinner ideas (hello, Tasty videos). While your buyers are already there, they’re also looking for something interesting. And that’s where you come in.

You have something interesting to offer your buyers.

The problem most businesses run into is, the way they’re presenting the thing they’re selling isn’t interesting. In fact, the sales messages feel just about as comfortable as sitting in a rose bush. They’re pokey, stabby, and painful to listen to.

So, customers tune them out.

As soon as there’s a shadow of “push” behind the message, your buyer says, “I’m out.” Before you can get heard, he’s scrolling to the next item in his newsfeed hoping there’s more value down below your post.

You’ve lost.

The secret to winning at the social media attention-grabbing game is to put a kibosh on the pushy messaging with better copywriting.

Check out: 17 Easy Tricks How to Write Catchy Titles and Headlines

Headlines can make or break you content. There are infinite ways to write a headline. You can combine the principles of headlines to get even more possibilities.

Here are 7 copywriting formulas you can use to make people’s eyes light up with delight instead of inspiring groans of disgust at your posts. Each example is from a Twitter post, but these formulas can be used on any social network with the same success.

1. The 4 C’s

In marketing, it seems like things come in fours. The 4 P’s are often taught in introductory marketing courses. So, it makes sense that there are the 4 C’s of copywriting.  They are:

  1. Clear
  2. Concise
  3. Compelling
  4. Credible

If you can infuse your social media posts with these 4 C’s, you’re on a roll. This formula gets a little bit tricky. Start with the first C (clear) and tweak your post as you move down the list. Here’s an example from Copyblogger.

copyblogger 4c copywriting

In it, it’s clear what you’re going to get – tips for successfully going it alone. It’s concise. It’s compelling to people going it alone and not sure how to find support. And it’s credible because Copyblogger (a reputable company in this space) backed it by saying, “Good stuff.”

2. The 4 U’s

Speaking of 4 P’s and 4 C’s, there’s another copywriting formula with the 4 U’s.

  1. Useful
  2. Urgent
  3. Unique
  4. Ultra-Specific

This one has a little more oomph behind it than the 4 C’s. If your target audience needs an extra push, this is a great formula to deliver that push without feeling like you need to take a shower as soon as you hit publish.

Chris Brogan is the King of this. He sells without it sounding sleazy. Here’s an example of a recent promotion he did for a paid webinar he hosted about email marketing.

brogan 4u copywriting

It was useful for people who didn’t feel email marketing was their strong suit. The webinar was happening that night so there was a sense of urgency in the post. The positioning was unique. And, it was ultra-specific about what the person would get. That’s hard to do in less than 140 characters, but he did.

3. Cliffhangers Make the Readers Want More

Our brains like closure. We’re drawn to it. We have to know what happens to the damsel in distress at the end of the fairy tale. We’re drawn into movie theaters like moths to a flame just so we can find out who did it in the murder mystery teaser we saw on TV.

We want closure.

In social media, ending your posts with a cliffhanger encourages people to click away from the latest gossip and over to your website so they can get that closure.

copywriting cliffhangers

In this example, Dr. Emad Rahim poses a question leaving the audience asking, “how?” To find out the answer, you have to click on the post and read the article.  There’s curiosity baked into that post. Click and you’ll find out how to develop empathy, which is a coveted feeling most marketers want to achieve.

4. Use Social Proof

It’s easy to make claims online. I can claim to be an astronaut and with strong copywriting, I could get someone to believe I could teach him how to cook in space.

That’s obviously far fetched. I have zero training in either space walking or culinary science, but by adding a few words to my post.

This type of sleaze has made many consumers worrisome about believing claims online. If your business falls into that class, you might want to use social proof in your posts to get people to trust you. One way to do that is by tagging and/or referencing someone who is influential in your industry.

Recently, I attended the Digital Commerce Summit in Denver. When I tagged the founder of the company that hosted it, Copyblogger, it got more engagement because people knew who he was.

copywriting social proof

5. AIDA

AIDA is a classic copywriting example. It’s the go-to for most copywriters of all skill levels because it works. AIDA stands for:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Grab the person’s attention up front. Tease them with something interesting. Plant the seed of desire. Then, tell the reader what action you want him to take next. Here’s an example:

copywriting aida

In this post, the attention grabber was the new trend in advertising that was going to be discussed on 60 Minutes. The interesting statement was about that trend might leave you dumbfounded. The desire statement used a popular (and sometimes controversial) generation to show that this trend is worth paying attention to – millennials. Finally, the action was simply the word, “tonight.” It was clear that in order to find out what that trend was, the person had to tune in that night to the show.

6. So What?

“So what?” That’s the question running through your customer’s mind when he reads your sales pitch.

So what?

So, you should answer it up front before he can turn you down. And that’s the entire copywriting formula. Here’s an example:

copywriting so what

Instead of just saying, “How to Keep the Editor Happy” the headline goes on to say why that matters. Keeping an editor happy will help you get published.  It’s a clear benefit and it gives a more tangible reason to pay attention to the post. It’s not about sucking up to the editor; it’s about getting your work in front of their audience.

7. Who-Why-When-What

In storytelling, these are all important questions to answer. Copywriting is a lot like storytelling, so when added into a strategic mix, they make for a strong copywriting formula.

  • Who is this for?
  • Why should that person care?
  • When can they get it?
  • What do they have to do next?

Let’s look at it in an example:

copywriting who why when what

In this post, it’s clear that the info behind the link is for anyone who blogs. If their blog isn’t generating them an income, they should care. It’s a new course, which means it’s available right away. To start learning, the person has to click the link and sign up.

Bonus Formula: Your Own

Ultimately, to be persuasive and attention grabbing in copywriting, you have to tell your story with your voice.

If the copy feels dirty to write and publish, chances are the reader will feel the same way and you’ll lose that coveted attention on social media. On the other hand, if you feel good about what you’re saying, you’re in a far better spot to capture the attention of the reader.

You choose what feels best for you. Test different formulas, tweak your approach, and learn as you grow.

kimberly crossland copywriterKimberly Crossland is a copywriter with a flair for writing words that pull out brand’s personalities. Sign up for her email list to get more copywriting strategies.

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Cover image by Freepik

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