3 cardinal sins of social media writing

It’s an emerging art form—maybe even a science—but these fundamental errors can deflate your message. Learn to identify them so you and your team don’t make them.

As a specialty, social media writing is just coming into its own. Social media writing is a bit of a hybrid—part copywriting, part communication tool—so the rules aren’t hard and fast. Social media writing isn’t an exact science, but there are some clear guidelines for what to avoid.

Developing an approach that avoids these mistakes and gets your message across is something that an outsourced social media writing team can help you with. Whether you’re outsourcing social updates, blog posts, or a combination of the two , here’s what to avoid:

Cardinal sin No. 1: Doing too much sharing OR selling.

There’s got to be a balance. When I wrote the first draft of this post, this point was “selling instead of sharing.” However, the more I thought it out I realized that for business social media, selling is an important goal. There’s just a better way to go about it than many companies realize. You need to share content from other sources, build value for your followers, and get involved in the conversation. But you also can’t forget about the reason you’re there—the selling.

When your social media writing team members put together your blog posts and updates, they should have an eye for sales in addition to community building. This doesn’t mean that your Twitter account should be stuffed with calls to action for a purchase. It does mean that incorporating the key sales principles of attraction, retention, conversion, and measurement can be integrated in your social media campaigns.

Share freely—but communicate your selling goals with your social media writers. They can craft content across your blog and social media accounts that can move your prospects through the sales funnel, help you identify key motivators for your market, and retain existing customers long term.

Cardinal sin No. 2: Being boring.

This is another area of social media writing that requires balance. When brands enter social media, they need to remember that they are entering a world where most followers go for entertainment and education. It’s not a lecture. It’s not an advanced class on marketing methodology. It’s a conversation.

Great social media writers know this. They look for ways to be entertaining that are appropriate for their audience. Check in with your social media writing team by looking over the updates posted to your accounts. What is the overall tone of the postings? Is the writer striking a good balance between being entertaining and being informative?

If your writer is missing the mark, it’s time to have a meeting about the tone and approach for social media. Your social media writer may need clarification on your brand’s approach, better direction on how to be more entertaining, or more research on your company to get to know your target market better. Creativity is a plus in this department. Boring blog posts, lackluster social media updates, and untargeted shares are a waste of your budget and your other resources.

Cardinal sin No. 3: Working without a plan.

There’s one underlying “cardinal sin” that can pull your entire social media writing approach apart. If you haven’t developed a plan, or your social media writer hasn’t helped develop one, it’s going to be a lot harder to balance selling and sharing. It will also be difficult to maintain the right tone for your audience.

A plan is at the heart of all great marketing, and social media writing is no different. A good social media writer should be able to take your existing marketing goals and plan and reinterpret them using social media platforms. They don’t need to reinvent the wheel, and neither do you. If your marketing focus for the next three months is to increase your brand awareness, your social media writing needs to reflect the same focus.

Your marketing objectives should be clearly tied to your social media writing goals. Try to plan a month at a time, and develop a blog post strategy that covers a variety of topics around one core subject. Create a big topic that you want to explore, and then break it down into eight to 12 posts that your social media writers will put together for that month.

Next, your social media writer can develop a series of updates based on these posts, plus related shares from other sources that will help communicate your focus. Once this foundation is established, your social media writer can pull in other topics and sharing sources that are entertaining and informative for your audience. This makes your social media writing approach more focused and more completely tied to your marketing goals.

Forgetting to balance, being boring, and flying by the seat of your pants without a plan are three surefire ways to fail at social media writing. But with the right writers on your team, either in-house or outsourced, and the right focus, you can make the most of your social media presence.

A version of this article first appeared on WindMill Networking.

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