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Copywriting & Design

How to write for different channels and platforms

Writing for email isn’t the same as writing for Instagram. We’ll dive into the nuances you need to know.
by Dahlia Snaiderman • October 5, 2022
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When it comes to copywriting for various channels, one size does not fit all. It’s easy to write a blog post and just copy and paste your favorite parts into other platforms from there, but this shortcut is less effective than you’d think. Emails, social media posts, and full length articles all have different purposes and they’re received by different audiences, so it can be helpful to learn how to write for every channel.

It takes time to tailor your writing for various platforms, but it leads to infinitely more engaging content — whether it’s on social media, in an email, or any other channel. It’s the best way to make the most of every piece of writing, from full-length articles to tweets. After all, when you only have 240 characters to make your point, it’ll need to be worded differently than when you’ve got infinite space — and it’s always good practice to make the most of the moments you get with your audience.

We’ll outline the nuances that differentiate writing each type of content. But first, here’s our most important advice that applies for all platforms: 

Copywriting 101

Every marketing channel requires attention to detail, strong grammar and spelling, a focused approach, and an adherence to the voice and tone of your client or company. Here’s how to make sure you’re hitting the mark every time:

  1. Consult your style guide.

Whether you’re writing for a startup’s blog or doing social media for a major corporation, consult the brand style guide of your publisher. Some industries lend themselves to a more casual tone, while others require consistent formality. Know your expectations inside and out before you get started.

  1. Know your CTA. 

Almost everything you write in marketing will include a call to action (CTA). Choose one to highlight and don’t bog it down with other requests. For example, if you want your LinkedIn post to get readers to sign up for a newsletter, tell them to do just that — and don’t also add “and follow us on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, and sign up for our upcoming webinar.” Focus is important, so know the intent of each post and the desired outcome of each post. A reader isn’t going to take every action if you ask for several, so only ask for the most important outcome. 

  1. Write in Google Docs and paste into your platform of choice. 

Content management systems (CMS) are notoriously glitchy, and social media platforms sometimes crash and don’t save your work. Save yourself the trouble — write everything in a Google Doc and paste it into your channel of choice. Plus, if you keep an organized doc for each platform, it’s easy to spot trends and areas for improvement as you look back at your previous work.

  1. Read your work aloud to check the flow.

Especially early on into your copywriting career, and as you get used to the difference between each platform, take the time to read your work aloud. Any errors will jump right out, and run-on sentences will leave you out of breath and ready to edit.

How to write for different channels and platforms

Blog or article writing

Full-length articles don’t have to be formal, but they should still be professional. It’s important to walk the line between coming across informative and authoritative and sounding condescending. You can almost always use contractions — check with your publisher or company’s style guide to be sure — but you should rarely, if ever, use exclamation marks except in quotes. 

Choose your topic, do your research, create an outline, and get writing. Some writers find it helpful to leave the introduction for last, as you’ll be the most educated on your topic once the body of your article is filled out. Always back up your claims with data from reliable sources, like Forrester, Statista, or other trusted publications, and link to your sources.

How to write a how-to article

How-tos are a very popular area of content marketing, because they answer evergreen questions that are widely searched on Google on a daily basis. This makes them extremely valuable from an SEO perspective, helping you drive traffic to your site while establishing you and your publisher as an authority on the topic at hand.

  1. Choose your topic. 
  2. Research the task you want to explain how to do. Find several online sources and ensure the instructions you find make sense.
  3. Introduce the task and explain why a reader needs to know how to complete it.
  4. Outline each step of the task, providing details and examples wherever possible. Help them visualize how to get it all done. Make each task its own header, and explain it in a short paragraph beneath it.
  5. Once you’re done explaining the task, create a table of contents at the top of the article that outlines the basics and links to each header.
  6. Conclude with a CTA — for example, offer a demo of your company’s product that can help with the task you explained, or ask readers to sign up for an email newsletter or an upcoming webinar. 
  7. Write your headline title, subheader, and meta description.
  8. Read through your work and correct any errors. 

How to write a listicle

Listicles or roundups are extremely popular in content marketing. They’re often created in an attempt to grab the top spot on Google away from one of your competitors. 

This can usually be accomplished by going bigger — if they have 25 restaurants to visit in Miami, you write one that has 40 restaurants to visit in Miami — and make sure to keep your content up-to-date, with working links, and detailed information. 

  1. Choose your topic, often based off of keyword research that shows high keyword volume.
  2. Do real research: don’t just use the same 25 restaurants on your competitor’s list and tack on 15 more. A small amount of overlap is fine, but dig deeper. Search for hyper-local lists divided by neighborhood, read critic reviews, dive into the messy world of Google reviews, click around Google Maps, go on Instagram and click around relevant hashtags, and come up with a list that’s unique and robust. 
  3. For each item, don’t just write half a sentence describing what they serve. Give each item at least a short paragraph explaining what makes it special.
  4. Conclude with a CTA, like asking readers to follow your publication or company on Instagram, or to buy tickets for an upcoming food festival.
  5. Write your headline title, subheader, and meta description.
  6. Read through your work and correct any typos or errors.

How to write a feature article

Feature articles dive deep into a large topic, often deeper than the average blog post, and they’re defined by the use of at least one primary source and a multitude of secondary sources. You want to get as much information and perspectives into the piece as you can.

  1. Choose a subject. 
  2. Do your research — has this been written before? How can you write your piece from a new angle? What keywords will you target, if any? 
  3. Make an outline. Write out every header and roughly what you’d like to cover in each section.
  4. Find strong sources, ideally including at least one primary source that you interview over the phone, via email, or on zoom. What makes feature stories so compelling is that they bring in expert perspectives and data that illuminate a subject. 
  5. Fill out your outline with your research and quotes, and string it all together with an attention-grabbing intro. 
  6. Write your headline title, subheader, and meta description.
  7. Read through your work, ideally out loud, and check for flow and any errors. 

How to write an interview or profile story

Interview-based articles are sought after in journalism as well as in content marketing. They allow a reader to dive deep into the perspectives of one person — compared to a feature story where multiple perspectives are required. Profiles run the gamut between exposés about politicians or the real story about a celebrity to introductions to a specific employee or executive at a company. Basically, anyone can be your subject, and it’s up to the writer to provide the context and color that makes their words sing.

  1. Choose a person to profile and read anything else you can find on the internet about them.
  2. Interview your subject, and record the interview via audio or video. Some profile stories will revolve around one long interview, while others are based off of multiple interviews that include the subject as well as people close to them.
  3. Transcribe the interview — you can use an affordable service like Temi.com to do 90% of the work here. 
  4. Pick out your primary quotes and collect them in a document. Open a second document and start writing. Will you write their story chronologically? Or will you start at a specific event? It’s up to you.
  5. Write your profile and include the best quotes as you go. Be careful to not editorialize or twist the meaning of the quotes of your subject.
  6. Write your headline title, subheader, and meta description.
  7. Read through your work, ideally out loud, and check for flow and any errors. 

Social media copywriting

Writing for social media is inherently more casual and playful than what you’d do for a longform piece. You can break grammatical rules, use the occasional exclamation mark, and get playful. The goal of social media is to catch a viewer’s attention in a fraction of a second, because if you don’t, they’ll just scroll right past your post. 

There are nuances to keep in mind when writing for various social media platforms, because each one has its particularities. 

Writing for TikTok

When creating videos on TikTok, there’s two types of writing you might be doing: script writing and caption writing. 

TikTok scripts

Depending on the type of videos you plan to publish, you might need a script. You can take any of the following three TikTok script approaches:

  1. Write out what you plan to say and read it off as you record (either as a voiceover or a front-facing video).
  2. Write out bullet points that you want to cover but keep the reading and recording casual, off-the-cuff, and as natural as possible.
  3. Storyboard the whole video. Read through your script several times and time how long it takes to say each point, and plan what visual you want to match to each phrase if you’re going beyond a front-facing storytelling video. 
Writing TikTok captions

Every video on TikTok needs a caption — it can either add to the content or describe what’s in the video, but either way, it helps users find your video. And recently, TikTok’s videos became searchable on Google, so TikTok SEO is more important than ever. TikTok captions are typically short, because creators are limited to 300 characters, including hashtags. Plus, the platform only shows the first few words of a caption (and then users can click “Read More” to read the rest), so if you want your caption to be read, you’ve got to lead with the most interesting stuff right at the top. 

Basically, writing for TikTok means making every word count.

  1. Use a keyword search tool like Mangools, Moz, Ahrefs, or Google Search Console to find out which keywords you want to target.
  2. Write out a few different drafts of your caption, keeping an eye on character count. Mix and match elements from each draft until you have your perfect caption. 
  3. Add a few relevant hashtags — for example, if you’re doing a video about tattoos, be sure to include #tattootok — but not too many. 
  4. Keep in mind that if you do use the whole 300 characters of the caption, a user clicking “Read More” will see a caption that covers up your entire video on most screens, which is distracting and unpleasant, so it’s better to keep it short and sweet.

Writing for Instagram

Writing for Instagram Stories 

Story posts are often light on text, but if you’re tasked with sharing a lengthy message on stories, take the following steps. 

  1. Draft your message in Google Docs — you’ll catch any grammatical or spelling errors (which are easier to miss when typing in Instagram’s busier interface). Keep it as short as possible and start with a great hook, because Instagram stories flip away automatically after a few seconds, so users need to be really interested if they’re going to stop the auto-load in time.
  2. Paste your message into your Instagram story.
  3. Try out a few different fonts, colors, and backgrounds, and see which ones fit best with the brand you’re working with. Most importantly, ensure it’s actually readable! Too many Instagram stories are written in too-small font, or with an inaccessible color combination. 
  4. Add a link to your CTA of choice, whether it links to an article with more information, an email signup, or an event page.
Captions for Instagram Feed Posts
  1. Draft your caption in Google Docs. Get right to the point right away, because Instagram only shows the first few lines of a caption — and only the most interested readers will click Read More to keep reading. 
  2. Tell the story behind your post — don’t just describe what’s in it. Try to make your caption add new information and more context than a reader would get seeing the post alone.
  3. If you’re publishing a text-heavy photo post, paste the text into the caption as well so that screenreaders can actually parse the information. 
  4. Use emojis sparingly but strategically to break up blocks of text.

Writing for Twitter

Writing on Twitter means keeping it brief! With only 240 characters available, Tweets must be clear and concise. If you’re having trouble getting what you want to say down to 240 characters, write out a few different attempts and cut out any unnecessary connector words. 

  1. Keep your CTA in mind as you write several drafts of your tweet. With so few words to work with, your CTA needs to be front and center. 
  2. Review each draft, cut out the excess, and find the most concise way to still come across as fun. For example:

We’re incredibly excited to announce our upcoming webinar on catering and food safety! Sign up today and join us live, or receive a recording and watch it on your own time. [LINK]

We’re excited to announce a new webinar on catering and food safety! There’s a few ways to watch — learn more at the link below and sign up today. [LINK]

  1. Add any links or photos and review for errors. Tweets will soon be able to be edited, but not yet, so if there’s any errors you’ll have to delete it and repost it if they’re not caught in time. 

Writing for LinkedIn

LinkedIn used to be a much more buttoned-up social media space. And while it’s still meant for professionals, the landscape has shifted so users don’t need to be quite so formal. You can write like you speak, with contractions and the occasional use of slang, but keep your posts educational.

  1. Consider your topic — there’s so many things you can write on LinkedIn. Provide useful information about your industry, tell a story about your own career trajectory, highlight the work of a colleague or a mentor who’s inspired you, or talk about an upcoming event, product launch, or other exciting work update.
  2. Draft your posts in Google Docs.
  3. Use a few emojis to break up walls of text or to function as bullet points.
  4. Avoid industry jargon, or define it if you do use it. The primary function of LinkedIn is networking, and filing posts with unintelligible jargon keeps out new joiners to your industry and company.

Email copywriting

Emails can be divided into two different categories: email newsletters and marketing emails. Newsletters are part of a long content marketing game, getting your subscribers to trust your authority and enjoy your stories and content so that they eventually buy your product, sign up for your service, or come check out your business. Marketing emails, on the other hand, always have a specific CTA in mind and are centered around it — for example, they might be a notification of an upcoming sale, a customer’s reward points level, or an email showcasing a brand-new product. 

How to write an email newsletter

  1. Decide what kind of newsletter it’ll be. Will it be a staff update? A roundup of your favorite products for the fall? The story behind your business? A recipe your chef just came up with? Anything goes.
  2. Draft the newsletter in Google Docs. You can be more long-winded in a newsletter, as subscribers are people who have proactively signed up to receive your words. Think of it as a short essay. 
  3. Sign off by thanking your subscribers for being part of your community, and include a CTA if desired.
  4. Add photos and links. 
  5. Edit as thoroughly as possible, reading your email out loud and testing every link, because once you’ve sent an email, there’s no taking it back. 
  6. Send a test email so you can see how it’ll look in your inbox. If you’re happy with it, press send. If not, make any necessary edits.

How to write a marketing email

  1. Choose your topic and gather any supporting materials, like a designed header image with information about an upcoming event. 
  2. Draft your subject lines. Many email platforms let you A/B test subject lines, so draft two different options that you think could get readers to open the email.   
  3. Write your email’s subject lines, body text, and CTA copy in a Google Doc. Keep it brief and as compelling as possible, as readers often only dedicate a second or two to skimming a marketing email. Lead with what’s most exciting, not a drawn-out introduction. 
  4. Add links and CTAs, making sure to use visuals and font choices to draw the eye to the most important information. 
  5. Read your email out loud and test every link. The editing process is specially important, because once it’s sent, there’s no corrections or edits you can make.
  6. Send a test email to see how it’ll look once it’s been sent to your subscribers. Press send if you’re pleased with it, or keep editing if you’re not. 

Write your best copy by tailoring your efforts to your channel of choice

Taking the time to practice writing for different channels is a great way to grow your copywriting skills. Each platform and channel has its nuances, so tailor your work to each one to better engage your audiences and grow the reach of your content, and analyze performance to see where you can improve.