How to Write Short Stories on Social Media for Better Clicks
by Lesley Vos last updated on 0

How to Write Short Stories on Social Media for Better Clicks

You want your social media content to convert.

The problem is that all your competitors want the same. With over 90% of American companies that have at least one social media profile, it’s never been more challenging to engage users and turn them into loyal followers.

In 2020, when users don’t trust ads and when engagement on social media becomes the core metric, you need to think about alternative ways to stay on top of algorithms and users’ mood changes. Your secret weapon here?

Emotions.

Users come to social media for a positive emotional response to content that would align with their values. So, concentrate on their needs rather than your product; engage with branding social media stories they would want to click.

Here are some writing tips on how to do that.

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“The pen is mightier than a sword”

Forms of engaging content are many, and most of them are about visual and interactive elements to grab attention in today’s world of content shock and short attention span. With that in mind, marketers forget about one of the mightiest tools to trigger emotions from consumers:

Words.

Speak to me gif

In 1839, English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton nailed it, “The pen is mightier than a sword,” indicating that written language (meaning power of an independent press) is a more effective tool than violence. In 2020, this statement is still unexpired:

Suitable and tailor-made words can encourage the desired action from people. Today, we know this tactic as an “emotional narrative,” crafting sales content and social media stories with specific lexical items and stylistic elements to sound more persuasive and personal.

Write your Facebook posts or Instagram captions with them in mind, and skyrocketing engagement won’t take long in coming.

Appeal to instincts

According to psychologists, we respond to social media content (click, like, or share it) when this content acts as a reflection of ourselves, or of how we want others to perceive us. 

  • 68% do that to “give people a sense of who they are.”
  • 69% do that for self-fulfillment.
  • 84% do that to get the word out about issues they care about.

In other words, people click and share the content satisfying their subconscious needs. These needs are also known as basic instincts, and they are three:

  1. Self-preservation

This instinct is about physical well-being: food, health, safety, secure environment. Any content helping to achieve that will resonate with the audience. (Ever wondered why food and fitness blogs are so popular?)

Screenshot of Burger King's Instagram post.

How to write social media stories with this instinct in mind?

Even if your brand is not about food or health, you can use so-called “tasty” words in posts: “yummy,” “juicy,” “sweet,” etc. By the way, many blogs combine their topics with something “delicious” to grab more attention from readers.

Screenshot of blog topics containing food-related words

Need social media content examples?

Screenshot of Mention's Facebook post with a food-related word and emoji.
  1. Sexual 

This one is the most powerful, and it’s about attraction and seduction. Give the audience social media content about people, adrenaline, or connections — and they will respond.

This instinct might be responsible for why we better react to human photos, doubling website conversions, by the way!

Screenshot of an instagram post.

How to write social media stories with this instinct in mind?

  • Use lust power words, such as “sensual,” “kiss,” “naughty,” “passionate,” etc. 
  • Sure enough, support your text content with high-quality visuals, attractive and intriguing for users to click.

But it stands to reason that you need to remember about your brand nature. Know your audience, and make sure your tone of voice and lexical items reflect their values and your brand’s mission. Stay authentic.

  1. Social

This one is the instinct of connection, action, social role, status, and approval. People crave fame and success, even if subconsciously, so give them content that proves they are fantastic.

How to do that:

Invite them to act, creating the illusion of presence with your content. That’s the reason why interactive content becomes more and more popular: it satisfies our need for action. Tests, quizzes, contests, giveaways, slides (carousel) — they all work.

Just make sure to use short sentences and active verbs when describing the idea behind your social media content.

Screenshot of an Instagram post using short sentences that invite to act.

Help them find answers. Users emotionally respond to content that solves their problems so they could become better and interact with the world successfully. Help them by writing about lifehacks, strategies, tools, tips, secrets, and insights.

Screenshot of a Facebook post with tips for being successful.

Show they can do it. Most people believe they are different from others and they can do everything. The tiny detail: They look for easy ways to do that. So write about “you can do it” in your social media content; show the audience they can succeed.

(Ever thought what made all the headlines with “easy,” “quick,” “simple,” and “when you are not an expert/designer/writer/etc.” so clickable?)

Screenshots of headlines describing quick and easy ways to achieve goals.

And here’s what it looks like on social media:

A screenshot of a post on Facebook with tips.

Try a pinch of neuro-copywriting

You might hear about this writing instrument before: 

First explained by legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman as “the ability to mentally process the information and transfer it to a sheet of paper for the purpose of selling a product or service,” it’s about the psychological effect of particular words and sounds to the human brain.

In other words, you write certain words in a definite order to craft so-called mental hooks to get inside users’ heads and trigger them to respond.

Yeah, it may sound a bit creepy, but it’s not as bad as it seems.

In social media content, neuro-copywriting is about:

  • compelling headlines with odd numbers, 
  • sentences with beneficial adjectives, 
  • questions and quotes to hook readers, 
  • stylistic devices such as repetition, metaphors, and contrast,
  • active verbs and transitions,
  • content supported with data,
  • negative meta language when appropriate, to appeal to the dominant human motivator (it’s fear of loss, failure, or missing something worthy) and trigger them into action.
Screenshot of a Facebook post with data and odd numbers.

Another one:

Screenshot of a post on Facebook with negative meta language and data.

Okay, one more for the confirm:

A screenshot of a post using a question, transitions, negative meta language and metaphors.

Another tiny detail you can use here to go further is choosing particular phonemes for your short social media stories to trigger desirable emotions and associations. It’s the theory known as phonosemantics, claiming that each sound has its meaning. So combining them in specific orders, you can influence users’ perceptions and emotions.

In plain English, they will “see,” “hear,” and “feel” your words.

Example:

A screenshot of an Instagram post using phonosemantics.

The /r/ here is for movement and activity. And here go /g/ and /l/, responsible for smooth, shining, and brightness:

A screenshot of an Instagram post using phonosemantics.

Other phonemes and their meanings (associations), just fyi:

  • /i/, /ee/ – small size, tenderness.
  • /b/ – round, big, and loud.
  • /gl/ – shining, smooth, brightness.
  • /o/, /u/, /e/ – powerful, strong, authoritative.
  • /mp/ – force.
  • /l/, /n/ – soft, gentle.

Tell stories (yes, again!)

I bet you’ve heard it tons of times already:

Storytelling is compelling because it’s not about data but experiences and feelings. People don’t retain information through cold facts; 70% of the info comes to the brain through stories and 95% — through emotions.

In other words, if you want social media users to listen to your marketing message — tell them a story. For business, storytelling is a combination of marketing and fiction, a chance to build a brand identity, and a personal connection with customers.

The power of narratives in business helps to make consumers see the world through your eyes. (Ever wondered why Instagram Stories and video marketing are the hottest social media trends?)

Stories grab attention, engage, trigger feedback, help users remember you, and motivate them to follow you. And to make stories work on you on social media, you need to be specific:

  • Focus on stories that reflect your brand nature.
  • Think of stories that reflect the way you want users to perceive your brand.
A screenshot of an Instagram post that tells a story.

How to write stories on social media?

Be concise. Yes, long reads are popular now, but it doesn’t mean users are ready to engage with your story once they notice it while scrolling. They’ll see the first two or three lines to decide if they want to “See more.” So, here we go to the next tip:

Hook from the very beginning. Make the visible part of your social media story eye-catching or even eyebrow-raising: a question, a strange word, a controversial fact or quote — all they can help to create a wow-effect so users couldn’t pass by.

Screenshot of a story from Humans of New York Facebook page.

Remember about the structure: Every story needs a hero (you, your brand or product, or your customer who solves a problem thanks to your product) and a plot with a set-up, narrative arc, and conflict resolution. Also, your story needs to relate to the real world so readers could recognize themselves there.

This “Aha!” or “So true…” moment is what makes users like, comment, and share your social media stories. It’s about the combo of emotional content backed with wowing visuals.

A screenshot of an Instagram post with a great story structure.

Storytelling on social media is not about long texts only. Consider different genres:

  • Share a personal story.
  • Post interviews with niche influencers in podcasts. (It’s storytelling in dialogues.)
  • Remember about video storytelling.
  • Photo storytelling also works!

The golden rule of storytelling is “one story = one idea.” Think of why users might need your story and how they can use it, and add it to your work plan for implementing your social media content strategy.

Make them SEE your social media posts

While boring writings with bare facts or statistics don’t work on social media, you might want to think about crafting your message there with words that allow users to see, hear, smell, taste, or even feel your content.

These lexical items are known as sensory words, best described and categorized by Henneke Duistermaat. As she says, “using sensory language can help you captivate your audience” and “add personality and flavor to boring content, helping you stand out in a sea of grey voices that all sound the same.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Screenshot of a post using sensory words.

Henneke speaks about sensory words as those describing “how we experience the world.”

They relate to our five senses:

  1. Sight, defining colors, shapes, and appearances.
  2. Hearing, describing or mimicking sounds.
  3. Taste and smell.
  4. Touch, defining textures and abstract concepts.
  5. Motion, which are active words that describe movements.

For better visibility of your social media posts, also consider writing tricks such as:

  • Writing a message in the visual element of your post. Scrolling their feeds or Explore pages, users see images first, so why not use text images (quotes, notes, infographics, etc.) to grab their attention and communicate your message right away?
A message in the visual element of the post.

Text images are among the top Instagram trends in 2020, by the way. Rumors have it, they are more engaging than traditional pictures, and they bring more likes and comments.

  • Using emojis if relevant and acceptable for your brand voice and tone.
  • Adding spaces and line breaks (dots or emojis work here, too) for better visibility.
  • Crafting a motivational CTA for every post you publish on social media, especially if you use Facebook or Instagram for product promotion.
  • Tagging your fellow brands, niche influencers, or followers whenever appropriate.

In a word

All the above are tiny details a user doesn’t even notice when reading your social media story. And this is as it should be: it sounds and seems like nothing special, but yet engaging enough to click or share. It’s all about pure engagement, influencing the social media audience reflexively.

It doesn’t mean you need to go the extra mile and combine all these writing tricks in one and every post. Everything is good when in the right place and time. So, try and compare, analyze, listen to your audience with their pain points and needs, follow your brand mission and nature —  and stay with tactics that work best in your given case.

And yet, it’s always worth trying something new. Right?

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