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If you are anything like me, you have days where the evil cursor of your Word document blinks at you, taunting your (imaginary, yet believed) incompetence with the written word. Even though I have a lot of experience writing all kinds of marketing content for clients, I still have those days where I just don’t believe I have anything worth saying.
We have ALL been there. If you are someone that often struggles with what to say and how to say it on social media, these five tips for how to write social media captions are for you!
And to up the fun factor a little bit, the first letter of each of these tips also makes a fun acronym: PROSE. (Could it be any more fitting?)
PROSE stands for Purpose, Relevant, Original, Story, and Engagement.
Good Social Media Captions Have a Purpose
All great social media captions (let’s be real: ALL good marketing copy) starts with a purpose. We aren’t just telling stories or spouting off product features for the heck of it, we have a reason!
So as you are creating your social media content, think: what are you trying to accomplish with this particular post?
Ray Edwards, a copywriting expert, calls this your Most Wanted Response (MWR). In his book (I highly recommend, and this is an affiliate link), How to Write Copy That Sells, he discusses MWR in the context of email marketing, but it easily applies to all marketing copy. Social media captions included!
Thinking about the ultimate action you want someone to take from your post, is it that you want them to:
• simply respond in the comments? (Encourage engagement)
• read your latest blog post? (Website traffic)
• sign-up for your email list? (List building)
• something else?
As you can see in this list, a call to action doesn’t always mean pitching an offer.
Don’t be shy about telling people what they should do next and always clearly state what the next action they should take is.
I wrote an article about crafting calls to action here. (It is written about Instagram but easily applies to all social media!)
Writing Tip #1: Get clear on the action you want someone to take from your post, and clearly state that instruction in your post.
They are Highly Relevant
Every person that follows you on social media is subconsciously thinking: what’s in this for me?!
The best, most impactful social media captions start before you even write a word. Before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), we need to understand our audience.
Jay Abraham said, “If you can define the problem better than your target customer, they will automatically assume you have the solution.”
If we want to be compelling, our customer needs to be at the front of our mind:
• What do they care about?
• What are their pain points?
• What transformation are they looking for?
• What problem are they trying to solve?
• What inspires them?
• What makes them laugh?
• Who influences them?
• And much, much more!
You can get answers to the above questions by paying attention to the conversations you are already having with customers. You are likely getting emails and social media comments. Both can be a wealth of information!
Writing Tip #2: Identify how what you want to share is relevant to your customer. Why do they care?
Use Your Own, Original Voice
I think sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be witty or funny to stand out on social media. However, it is more important that what we are sharing:
- Sounds authentic to our own, unique voice, and,
- Speaks to what the customer needs (see writing tip #2 above!)
It’s easy to look at what the most successful businesses, entrepreneurs and influencers are doing and think, “ok, that’s how I need to sound.” However, this just makes you “more of the same,” instead of the unique offering that you are! In fact, I wrote about this in my article on how to stand out on social media platforms (even when they are saturated!)
Sometimes we mistakenly focus on what is new or trendy, when we really should be getting back to basics – marketing principles that we already know work.
The simplest way to stay unique and original is to write in a way that your closest friends would recognize.
Writing Tip #3: Write what you need to say as you would speak it to a friend. (You can speak it out loud before you write if that helps!)
Creative Social Media Captions Include Stories
The most beloved influencers in any niche are masters at telling stories! Look at your favorite people to follow, and I will bet they can suck you in with a good story every time.
You may think you aren’t nearly that entertaining, but I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. Don’t think that (insert favorite influencer) is over there, furiously typing out this morning’s funny story in real time. Nope.
Not only are they good at TELLING stories, they are even better at COLLECTING stories.
I got this game-changing tip from copywriting expert, Ashlyn Carter. Ashlyn teaches to keep a story bank.
Take some time to think about the stories you like to tell over and over. It could be something funny that happened this morning at home, or it could be something silly you did in high school. Think of those stories that you can’t wait to share with your friend, or maybe your mom.
Those stories tend to be universally entertaining. If you could entertain a stranger at a neighborhood Christmas party with it, why can’t you use it in your social media? After all, don’t you want fans that turn in to friends?
You just need to create a habit of recording good stories. Have a place to capture your stories as they happen. I keep my stories in a Trello board with a few bullet points so that I can remember the specifics later.
Writing Tip #4: Keep a story bank to draw from. Use Trello, a spreadsheet or Evernote to keep track of funny or meaningful things that happen in your life that would make good leads in a caption.
Social Media Captions are About Engagement
Your social media caption is the icebreaker and the conversation starter, but you aren’t done yet!
At this point, you had a clear purpose for your post, it spoke directly to your customer’s needs and wants, and you used powerful stories in your own unique voice. Your post is perfectly primed for awesome engagement.
How you handle the engagement you get from each post is where the magic happens with your audience. Each time you post to social media is an opportunity to build relationships and learn even more about what your customers need.
As people scroll through Instagram or Facebook, they can see comment counts. Everyone wants to join an active conversation! Be sure to answer questions, thank people, and acknowledge that they took the time to say something to you.
Writing Tip #5: Keep the conversation going by answering all comments! Pay attention to what people say and use it to inform your future marketing.
Now you know how to write social media captions using PROSE (Purpose, Relevance, Original, Story, Engagement.)
Your Turn: Put PROSE on a sticky note next to your computer. Which of these is hardest for you to implement?
Molly Marshall teaches small business owners and online entrepreneurs how to systematically and simply grow a profitable online presence through social media. Get your FREE Instagram Strategy Guide now!
This is SUCH a great blog post! There are so many nuggets I just learned and I’m so grateful that you wrote them out, made an acronym and compiled other expert’s work. SO HELPFUL! Thank you Molly!
Thanks, Nikki! 🙂
Great insight! I always wondered how to improve with this. I will definitely keep PROSE in mind. Thank you!
Awesome, Julie! So glad this was helpful – can’t wait to see what you come up with!
I’m so scared of sounding salesy, but this structure feels like something I can work with.
I find that people fall into two camps… either ALL they do is sell, sell, sell… or they are terrified of selling and never do it. Just the fact that you are AWARE of it tells me that you will NOT be in the first group 🙂