Writing for social media: what not to do

Jul 11, 2017

As all social media managers know, writing for social media isn’t as easy as it seems.

People always say to social media managers “Oh, you get to tweet all day and go on Facebook? What an easy job!” but they couldn’t be more wrong. Managing social media for a brand should be highly strategic, precise and time-consuming. After all, it’s a form of marketing that requires you to be both calculated, socially intuitive, and up to date with the phreshest memes.

When you write for social media for a living, you quickly realise a) managing your own Instagram has not prepared you adequately and b) good social media is not that easy.

Here are some tips on what not to do when starting out as a social media manager.

Don’t be formal but don’t be overfamiliar

A confusing combination of advice there but it’s true. There’s no place on social media for long, wordy sentences and stiff phrasing. Literally. If you tweet regularly, you’ll learn to love acronyms (so efficient!) and Instagram captions cut off after a line or two anyway, so verbosity will quickly be stamped out of you.
Social media platforms are meant to be a social place. Use friendly phrasing, first and second person language, slang, emojis, and first names. But don’t forget, you’re representing a brand so don’t overstep the line and always err on the side of respectful.

Think long and hard before jumping on viral trends

There are so many horror stories of brands weighing in on debates and leveraging exposure from social issues where they’re not welcome (talking directly to you right now, Kendall Jenner and Pepsi). Like in 2014, when American pizza brand Digiorno pizza implied that people in abusive relationships stay with their partners because they had pizza. That gaffe still comes up when you search for Digiorno.

Or brands flubbing it completely because they didn’t double-check their facts. Like in 2016 when beauty brand Total Beauty awkwardly mistook Whoopi Goldberg for Oprah Winfrey, inciting the #thatsnotoprah hashtag and a fiery conversation about racism in American. They donated US$10,000 to charity to make amends.

Or just plain old bad judgement. Like when KFC Australia launched a bizarrely sexual ad campaign to promote their ‘hot and spicy’ new product and many, many jerk chicken jokes were made.

These anecdotes illustrate a deeper point: brands should know their place. Don’t weigh in on social issues. Don’t take space/attention away from people talking about real issues in order to sell yourself - people can see through it easily and they don’t like it.

And, for love of all things holy, double check everything you send out. The internet is not kind.

Spell check, then spell check again. Then again. And again.

Honestly, brands can’t make silly spelling errors, it’s unseemly. As a brand on social media, you’ll have less wiggle room for mistakes than individual users. Why? Because brands should be super-human and all knowing. Also, it distracts from your message if people are getting irked by spelling, grammar, and formatting errors (this is why we should all develop social media style guides).

Striking the right tone on social media is tough. Most people struggle with it and it can be even tougher when representing a brand. Keep an eye out for our guide to what you should be doing as a social media manager.