The world of social networking is exciting: social media is an excellent way to connect with other people, share your work, or promote your business. How exactly can you do that? Read on for some tips on effective social media writing.

Research everything, and use references

When creating content or sharing a post, you’ll want to be sure that the information you put on the internet is correct and reputable.

Remembering to research

If there’s one thing social media excels at, it’s spreading misinformation. A study published in Science magazine found that falsehoods are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted on Twitter than facts. Your content will impact your audience, so do your research.

Understanding academic writing vs. social media writing

Academic writing prizes formality and a certain level of professionalism. On social media, however, your audience will be more lenient. Emojis and deliberate misspellings abound, and rules of grammar and punctuation are given less weight.

The sources you use may also differ. Academic writing usually emphasizes research-based sources, while social media posts often use internet sources like blogs and other social media accounts. That’s not to say that social media can’t be used for research projects or vice versa. In fact, pulling from a variety of sources is good practice and can help you avoid plagiarism.

Finally, academic writing typically requires that you follow a style guide, particularly for citation styles. You may use in-text citations or footnotes. While these are good practices, citing your sources on social media can look a little different.

Using references in a social media post

Many sites have a built-in sharing function, so rather than reposting an image or web page, it’s possible to retweet it or click a link and share a blog post to other social media accounts.

However, there are times when such a thing is impossible or impractical. In these cases, add the original owner’s name in the caption of your post and tag their social media accounts or include a link to their website. Incorporating hyperlinks to the source is an efficient way to link directly to the reference. You can also add your reference in the caption of an image or video.

Some posts include reference lists at the end of their articles or incorporate in-text citations, though this is less common in personal social media channels.

Use proper grammar and spelling

Good writing is a simple but fundamental part of content marketing on social media. Though the style of social media writing is more laid back, it’s still important to put care into your posts. This is particularly true if you’re using social media in a professional capacity.

Styling your writing on social media

There can be some leniency if your target audience will understand nonstandard uses of English or if you’re going for an informal tone. Still, you should write to convey information to your audience in the clearest way possible.

A messy social media post indicates carelessness. If your writing is sloppy, what does that say about the work you do as a business?

Adapting to social media’s effect on the English language

Writing has become more concise and abbreviations more common. New vocabulary words, such as selfie and emoji and the use of google as a verb (“Just google it”), have entered the mainstream.

Some existing words have new meanings. Examples of these include troll, streaming, and catfish.

Check for homophones and easily confused words

Occasionally, the spellcheck function on your word processor may catch commonly misused words, but often it’ll be up to you to figure it out.

Checking for commonly confused words

Unsure if you’ve used the right word? Look up its definition or have a friend read through your work to see if they understand what you’re saying.

You can also read your work aloud. If something sounds wrong when you say it out loud, that’s a good indication of a possible mistake.

Understanding homophones, homographs, and homonyms

Some of the most commonly confused words are homophones, homographs, and homonyms.

Homophones have the same pronunciation but different meanings, like two and to.

Homographs have the same spelling but different meanings and pronunciations. Bass is a homograph.

Homonyms have the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings. An example of a homonym is the word pen, which can be a writing utensil or a holding area.

Easily confused words are abundant in the English language. Luckily, resources like this website from the University of Richmond list out a few of the most common culprits.

Using dictation software

Speech recognition software relies on both pronunciation and context from text analysis. It’s not always accurate though, so be sure to double-check your work.

Avoid errors in punctuation

The grammar checker in your word processor sometimes catches punctuation errors. However, it will not always be accurate. It’s important to proofread.

Understanding basic punctuation rules

Online software can help you catch errors. Alternately, proofreading or copyediting services are great ways to get professional feedback from a human.

It’s also helpful to look up basic grammar rules. Here are some tips:

  • Commas
    • Commas follow introductory phrases, clauses, or words.
      • “While I was sleeping, Santa sneaked down the chimney and stole my TV.”
    • When two independent clauses are joined by a conjunction (and, butor, nor, foryet, or so), a comma precedes the conjunction.
      • “I like cats, but I like dogs more.”
    • Commas are used to set off nonessential phrases.
      • “On Monday, which is my least favorite day of the week, I have a math test.”
    • Commas separate items in a list. Some people prefer not to use the Oxford comma, which precedes the conjunction before the final item in a list, but many style guides require it.
      • “My favorite fruits are oranges, mangoes, and limes.”
    • Apostrophes
      • Apostrophes are used to show possession. With single nouns, even those that already end in s, add an apostrophe plus s.
        • “That book is John’s.”
        • “Seamus’s music taste is impeccable.”
      • With plural nouns, no additional s is necessary unless there is no s after the noun.
        • “My parents’ house is on the other side of town.”
        • “The women’s meeting ended at noon.”
      • Apostrophes are also used with contractions to show where letters were taken out.
        • “They’re inside the house.”

Removing unnecessary punctuation marks

Like unnecessary words, unnecessary punctuation clutters your writing. Overuse of the comma is a particularly common problem.

Social media writing is concise, so your sentences should be shorter. You may not need to use colons, semicolons, or em dashes to join two clauses together. Instead, a simple period will do.

Punctuating abbreviations

Social media is rife with abbreviations. Different style guides recommend different ways of punctuating an abbreviation, so if you’re using a style guide, double-check it when you’re in doubt.

The following are some generally agreed-upon methods for punctuating abbreviations:

  • When using capitalized letters, you don’t need to put a period after the letters. Within a sentence, punctuate as normal.
    • “He worked for NASA, but he lost his job in May.”
  • In American English, abbreviations that consist of the first and last letters of a word should have a period at the end.
    • Mr., Dr., St.
  • End punctuation is not necessary for abbreviations containing a period, but question marks and exclamation marks should be included.
    • “She left at 4:00 a.m.”
    • “Did she leave at 4:00 a.m.?”

With some abbreviations, punctuation is up to you. The most important thing is maintaining consistency. If you use periods after Ph.D. in one paragraph, include periods in reference to academic degrees throughout the text.

Keep it brief and simple

If you’re hip to current social media terms and trends, you probably know that concision is key. Readers favor short, easy-to-skim articles. And to comply with a platform’s social media policy, you may need to fit your content within character limits.

Writing long-form content

Social media prizes brevity, but long-form writing has its place. It’s an excellent way to build awareness about your brand and drive traffic to your website.

Through long-form content, you can expand on an area of knowledge or write an in-depth article about a niche topic. Doing so will position you as an expert on that topic and help build trust among your target audience.

Finding the best length for a social media post

A study found that social media posts with the most engagement tend to be very short. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Facebook
    • Posts should be between forty and eighty characters.
  • Twitter
    • Posts should be between seventy-one and one hundred characters.
  • LinkedIn
    • Aim for twenty-five words.
    • Longer articles clock in at around two thousand words.
  • Instagram
    • The best captions are between 138 and 150 characters.

Taking time to compose your social media writing

The time you put into social media depends on the scale of your social media marketing strategy, the support you have, and your goals for social media use. While the content you post to social media should be well thought out, try not to agonize.

Interviews with social media content creators revealed that generally, Instagram posts take about twenty minutes; tweets take one to two minutes; and Facebook posts take one to two hours to compose.

Use photos and videos

While a formal, official post should be free of distractions, visuals are a great bonus for other types of social media posts. Visual content is eye-catching and easier to understand and remember than written content, so it’s a good idea to make use of it.

Including different kinds of visual content

Images help illustrate your point, break up walls of text, provide information in an appealing way, or entertain your audience. GIFs and memes offer humor or more personality to your social media presence.

Videos are also popular on social media. Facebook and Instagram both offer livestreaming capabilities, and Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have “story” features where you can post photos and videos that will last for a short period of time before disappearing.

Captioning content effectively

The best captions grip readers with a strong opening line, show off your personality, and include a call to action.

Calls to action should entice your audience—something like “tag a friend” or “like this post if you agree.” Invite your audience to comment and start a conversation.

Hashtags can be useful, particularly on platforms like Instagram, where users can follow hashtags and see new posts from people they weren’t previously following.

Finally, visual gaps between paragraphs make captions easier to read. Use line breaks, and keep your paragraphs short.

Boosting performance

Across social networking platforms, posts with visual content far outperform those without. Tweets with images are retweeted 150 percent more than those without, and posts with relevant visual content get 94 percent more views than those without.

Avoid plagiarism or other misuse of copyrighted content

Hopefully, if you’ve credited your references, you’ll be able to circumvent any issues with plagiarism.

Preventing plagiarism

Many online plagiarism detection services, such as PlagScan or Dupli Checker, will check your work. Some services are free, while others have certain features available only to paying customers.

Credit your sources when you quote or paraphrase something, and add your own ideas and your own words to the work you reference. When researching, keep track of your sources and create a reference list.

General knowledge and well-known facts don’t need to be cited. However, if you’re ever in doubt, it’s best to add a citation.

Understanding copyright infringement vs. plagiarism

Plagiarism occurs when you take somebody else’s work and claim that you made it yourself. For example, if you were to take an illustration that somebody else drew, post it without proper attribution, and claim it as your own, that would be plagiarism.

Alternately, copyright deals with the legal framework of who owns what. The copyright owner, also known as the copyright holder, is the person or company who owns the rights to that work. This allows them to reproduce it, distribute copies of it, or display it publicly, among other rights.

So even if you properly cite your source to avoid plagiarism, you might still infringe someone’s copyright if you’re not careful.

Copyright infringement occurs when you use work without the copyright owner’s permission, such as including a copyrighted song in a video. A copyright owner can file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to have stolen work removed from the web.

Under fair use, however, copyrighted work can be used in a limited capacity. What qualifies as fair use depends on the purpose of using that work, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount used, and the market effect of using that work. For example, if you’re using a small portion of copyrighted material for educational purposes, you’ll likely be protected under fair use.

However, your safest option is always to ask for a content owner’s permission to use their content and to respect their conditions.

Stay positive

Whether you’re writing content about a particular niche or posting personal photos, your social media account can influence your audience.

Influencing through social media

To be a positive influence, it’s important to create a sense of unity and connection among your audience. Extend compassion and respect to the people you speak with. A well-placed joke can also lift your audience’s mood.

Cultivating positivity

Moods are contagious, so it’s important to cultivate positivity. Being a positive force on the internet also increases brand loyalty and word of mouth, and meaningful audience engagement boosts search engine optimization (SEO) rankings. Active, thoughtful interactions between you and your audience lead to a greater reach.

In contrast, negative content can alienate your audience. It could impact your professional image or ruin your audience’s trust in your brand. Worse still, negativity could seriously hurt other people.

Get the most out of your social media content

Writing for social media is a delicate balance, and many businesses seek professional help. At Elite Editing, our services can cover your needs. Contact us, and let us know how we can help you achieve your social media goals.

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