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The Anatomy of a Successful Social Media Post for Business

It’s international small business week, so I’m all about helping small businesses. And I’m lucky enough to have a friend that runs one. Yesterday she asked me for some social media post tips to drive traffic back to her website. So here we are!

First and foremost, I think it’s important to reiterate that social today is a brand play. Its number one goal in your marketing mix should be to build brand love and drive that awareness. If you also want to use it to also bring traffic to your website, that’s OK. But understand that these networks want to keep eyeballs on their networks. So you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle.

For example, even though Buffer’s best tweet was seen more than 175,000 times, it led to only 868 link clicks back to their website. That’s about 0.5 percent clickthrough rate. Oof!

Anyhow, today I’ll guide you through how to write social media to drive website traffic – from what to write about, to the best social media copywriting and design ideas.

Discover the best social media post tips for business

Basically, there are four levers that impact your social posts’ success:

  1. The content (what’s the offer, what’s the hook?)
  2. The copywriting
  3. The design
  4. The call to action

OK, OK, yes, your landing page matters too. But let’s just assume for the sake of this post that you know your landing page needs to mimic everything in your social media post, for the best results – from reiterating the specific offer, down to the copy you use that should clearly indicate your know you’re welcoming folks from that specific social media channel. Anyhow, here’s how to maximize each of these four components.

Pick the best social media core content for business

Here’s the deal: core content is your biggest lever. If you don’t get the “what” right in terms of what you’re putting in front of people, it doesn’t matter what you say about it or design for it.

Furthermore, if you’re reading a blog post that is about to advise you on the best things to post on social media and anywhere in it it says “behind the scenes” content, do us all a favor, and run. I can promise you all the “behind the scenes” posts in the world have seen a disproportionately low share of engagement – the ONLY exceptions are if you have a celebrity, dog, or baby behind your scenes 😂 Anyhow, that writer doesn’t know what the heck they’re telling you, so GTFO.

So what does work in terms of core content?

  1. Blog posts
  2. Timely gated content such as live webinars
  3. Limited time offers (deals/flash sales/coupons)

You’re probably wondering about ebooks. Since people interested in content are at the core interested in learning, it’s a better experience to provide them information up front in a blog post and offer the ebook download within the post as a call-to-action.

Anyhow these three components are honestly all you need. So don’t overthink it.

Keys to effective social media copywriting:

This might come as a surprise to you but social networks are intended to be, well, social. So the more conversational and natural your posts are the better. One trick I recommend is thinking about if you were going to post on your personal Facebook page and you wanted the post to be something both your grandma and your middle-school aged cousin would love, what would you write? Do that.

Also, for a while there, short punchy posts (under 150 characters across all social networks) worked best because they were attention grabbing. The thing is, everyone knows that trick. And so now the reverse is true: 500+ character posts are now bringing the heat. Here are a few specific ways to craft copywriting for social posts that get clicked:

1. Customer stories:

Literally tell the story you need to tell using the customer’s words. Take a testimonial and weave it into a natural post that a friend who was recommending something would write. You can even consider using first-person language and not using quotation marks. This technique works well particularly when you’re promoting a product offer.

One way to get inspiration for these types of posts is to join a lot of Facebook Groups and see how people talk when they post. Re-format your testimonials to match their template.

An example of using a customer testimonial naturally in your social media post copywriting

2. Questions:

Questions get people thinking, and curious to learn more, while also leading to more participation. Try to rephrase your blog posts’ and webinars’ main takeaways as a question.

You could also find questions on Quora, Reddit, or in customer support tickets and have a regular question of the day series.

Or you could pose questions you have about your field that you’d like more opinions on. Such as:

  • X is happening, do you think it’s a good strategy?
  • Where would you draw the line between beginner X and intermediate X?
  • What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
  • How have you learned to do X?
An example of a social media post by Pop-Tarts that posts a question

3. Intrigue:

People are afraid to miss out on things, so make them have to click to learn more by only giving them part of the information up front from your blog posts or regarding what’s on sale. Use words like:

  • Exclusive (to make them feel left out and want in)
  • Absurd
  • Shocking
  • Amazing
  • Surprising
  • X person shares what it’s like to Y
  • X confronted Y
  • You’ll never believe what happened

A great source of inspiration for intriguing copy ideas is reading Upworthy’s headlines.

A few simple ways to regularly include intrigue are:

  • Thought of the day – Pull a surprising outcome you’ve stumbled on from the blog post or webinar
  • Problem of the day – Explain the problem you’ve covered in the blog post or webinar
  • Solution of the day – Explain how your product is the perfect solution to a new industry trend
  • Money-saving tip – Pull a tip from your blog post or webinar that helps people save money
  • Time-saving tip – Pull a tip from your blog post or webinar that helps them save time
  • Industry news/trends – Pull an idea from your blog post or webinar that highlights a new trend
An example of a social media post from the Los Angeles Times that uses intrigue to drive more clicks by saying here's an exclusive look at The Angels new development plans

4. Action-oriented:

Don’t be passive. Make sure to use verbs, asking people to take a specific action that drives engagement. For example on Instagram encourage saves, on Twitter retweets, and on Facebook comments. Here are a few ways to drive interaction:

  • Fill in the blanks
  • Would you rather…
  • How would you rate…
An example of a social media Facebook post that drives user interaction by asking how would you rate internal links for SEO

5. Numbers:

Numbers grab attention, especially odd numbers. Buzzfeed is the m-f*cking queen of numbers, having so engrained the listicle in the core of our online being. So number the tips in your blog posts, pull out stats, or include the offer discount, right in the copy. Here are a few other ways to include numbers:

  • Include results from a test you ran from a blog post
  • Share your top trafficked social media post for the month and why
  • Write a list of 3 tips you tell every client when getting started
Include numbers in your social media post copywriting because they catch readers' attention

6. Emojis:

Showing conveys information faster than telling, so use the universal vision cues, like emojis, that we all understand in a glance. Plus, emojis make your posts feel more native because it’s actually how you talk to friends. Here’s an example of using emojis:

Here Literati is using emojis in social media posts to appear conversational and eye-catching

7. Controversy:

Nothing leads to interaction like having a point of view. Start a debate by stating a clear position related to your products, webinars, or blog posts. Here’s a basic example:

An example of a LinkedIn social media post where someone has stated employees at tech companies don't need ping pong, they need flexibility to work remotely

How to create the best social media post design

The best social media visuals grab attention by standing out against the background. Most social sites have a white background and rounded corners so think about bright colors, gradients, drips, polka dots, patterns, and sharp edges for your images. Here are a few specific approaches that work well:

1. Don’t use images:

Lolz gotcha. You thought we were going to talk about using images and I pulled the 360. Instead of including an image use a list format and emojis, as well as very specific hashtags.

Time and again, especially on LinkedIn I’ve seen posts without images (if the image doesn’t show the whole story – i.e. if it’s not a related product screenshot or something) perform best.

An example of a social media LinkedIn post that doesn't use images yet got tons of comments and interactions

2. Use custom images:

Everybody and their mom is on Canva bruh. If social is about branding, you want your brand to have a distinct feel. Find a designer or illustrator and work out a brand style together. Then ask them to create a handful of images around common themes you find yourself frequently blogging about, so you have a re-usable library. Here’s a cool example of a custom watercolor illustration (although some would argue a face grabs too much attention away from your overall message):

An example of using custom images in social media posts, this is a beautiful watercolor illustration

And here’s a great example of an image with a unique style, lots of angles and colors that pop against a white background:

Or, if you’re like me and just don’t have the budget, go ahead and use Canva but try to stick to your own unique look that hits some of these points.

By the way photographs will seem more native on Facebook in particular, so if you’re doing a post where you’re trying to blend into the conversation, such as a product post, use one. That’s basically the only place a photograph can be a better way to go.

3. Repost amazing videos:

Creating amazing content is hard and expensive. Sometimes the most value you can provide is by curating the best content. So rather than accompany your copy with a new image, just repost content you like such as funny TikTok videos (particularly of pets), Facebook videos, and others’ blog posts, etc. Buffer also concluded that curating popular, relevant posts is very effective.

For example, cooking is such a universal experience that sharing videos from companies such as Tastemade might be a win for your audience:

Use the best calls-to-action

Alright you’ve got your social media post hook, the copy, and the imagery, now it’s time to bring it all home with a strong call-to-action. The most important thing is to have one. Beyond that, here are a few social media post tips for driving the reader back to your site.

1. Use persuasive language:

Words and phrases such as “because” and “would you be willing?” are powerful at getting people to react.

2. Let them say yes to clicking by saying no:

Due to the law of reciprocity, when people give you something, they expect for you to give them something back. And, people feel more in control when they say no. So, rather than trying to get a “yes” from someone, get agreement by using a “no”. That way they have committed to something but don’t feel the negative impact of the weight of a yes. So in your post ask: “Would it be too crazy to learn more right now?”

3. Ask a question for a next step:

Invite readers to take action with a question, because it’s a clear way to incite action.

4. Highlight similarities:

According to The Psychology of Persuasion, people also like people like themselves. So one way to quickly win over your social audience is to tie their identity to the action: “As a fellow Facebook fan would you be willing to X?”

5. Flatter:

People like being flattered too. Flattery is vital, because we strongly need guidance to develop beyond what we are right now. So flatter them within your ask: “Because you’re dope enough to want to learn about science, check this out!”

Get even more ideas for using psychology that incites action by checking out LinkedIn email outreach tips.

OK so now you know the anatomy of a successful social media post. But, we’re not done there!

Social media post tips for what not to share

What not to post is as important as what to post, because social mis-steps tend to go viral fast. Here are a few tips.

1. Don’t use gifs

I’ll be honest, I was also going to recommend sharing GIFs, because now Twitter and Facebook both have them integrated into their interfaces – so today it’s easy. Once upon a time these bad boys grabbed eyeballs because of the movement in them, and often times because they were funny. Humor does wonders in terms of getting folks’ attention.

However Facebook just bought Giphy, so they will track the heck out of your data across even more platforms now. And while Buffer says GIFs in tweets are one of their top tips for more Twitter engagement, I just skimmed about 50 brands and humans on Facebook and Twitter, and no one is using GIFs anymore. What’s old is often eventually new, so you could be ahead of the curve by being behind the curve. But at this point I’d probably opt out unless your brand is going for an Office Space vibe.

2. Don’t post movement icons if there’s no action

If you’re not going to back it up a movement with action it’s best to opt out. For example, don’t post a black square in solidarity if that’s the extent of your efforts. Also be sure to use the language of the movement if you are taking part in it.

3. Don’t share anything that violates people’s security

This probably goes without saying, but as we head towards the Metaverse and more laws like CanSpam and GDPR pick up, being considerate of a customer’s digital footprint and how you’re contributing to it is increasingly important.

There are times when we’d all love to put a customer on blast for an insanely berating email, share the joy when a customer says something purposefully hilarious, or showcase a customer’s accomplishments when they make something stunning. If you decide to do this, be sure to either get the customer’s permission and/or remove any details necessary to totally anonymize the content (like don’t @ them!).

So that’s the tea on what to avoid on social media.

By the way it’s OK and even helpful to have a bank of evergreen social posts that you share again and again. Because these platforms are so fleeting, having 50% of your content be re-usable, sharing evergreen blog posts and so on, can save your team time while still providing value to the reader.

Now put these social media post tips into practice!

You’re all set to post on social media like a pro. If you want to go deeper into the best ways to drive engagement on specific platforms and improve your social media strategy, check out my Twitter marketing tips, Pinterest marketing tips, ways to grow Instagram followers, and Facebook groups tips.

Would it be too much to ask you to please send a $5 tip to my Venmo tip jar because this post helped you drive better results from your social media budget? @megsterr.

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By Megan Mitzel

I'm the wearer of overalls behind the marketing advice website Marketing Overalls. I'm also a senior marketing director with more than ten years of experience leading acquisition and lifecycle marketing at successful startups. Before that, I got a business degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before that, I owned a seashell shop. And that's the tea on me.