Copywriting For Social Media Ads: It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

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Many might say that social media ads are interruption advertising in a modern form. However, there is definitely something less abrasive about a sponsored tweet or Facebook post, than a blaring television commercial.

The good news for advertisers is: the general public doesn’t avoid these ads as much as TV ads. The ROI (return on investment) for a social media marketing campaign is a lot higher (on average) than the ROI on a print or TV campaign.

The goal is to blend into the news feed with something interesting and personalized to your target audience that makes the individual stop scrolling! If they scroll past your ad and don’t even read it, well then that’s the sign of a poor ad.

Always Pay For A Website Click. Never Pay For Page Likes.

There have been a number of guides outlining why you should invest some of your social media advertising budget to grow the pages themselves by buying likes or followers. But in 2015, Facebook’s average post “reach” dropped drastically. That means if you had 100,000 fans and you reached approximately 20% of these fans per post, then in 2016 you would be closer to 5-10%, so paying to buy likes these days is just a waste of time.

Below is a quote from the site itself about what caused the drop in organic reach:

“The second reason involves how News Feed works. Rather than showing people all possible content, News Feed is designed to show each person on Facebook the content that’s most relevant to them. Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.”

To translate, if your post doesn’t gain a certain number of likes/shares/comments when shown to a proportion of your followers, it will be shown a lot lower in the news feed to the rest of your followers. In other words, don’t bother paying for likes anymore. They are less effective and more expensive! There are still a number of ways to increase organic reach, but it’s becoming harder and harder by the day, which is why more people are going into sponsored Facebook ads.

So What Do Good Social Media Ads Look Like?

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it (and show it.) Before getting started on the actual examples, there are 2 key elements to remember:

  1. The first is to target your correct audience. I won’t be getting into this today, but the more specific your target audience, the easier it is to write an ad!
  2. The second element is to stop the individual from scrolling, this can be done in a number of ways, the easiest of which is to use an incredibly eye-catching image. Once you’ve completed image selection and targeting, you can start to write your copy.

Facebook Ads

I’m sure everyone reading this article already knows what Facebook ads look like, so I’ll dive straight into it. Below is the screenshot of a Udemy ad. This ad (somehow), even though I very rarely go on the Udemy site or anything related to guitars, knew that I wanted to learn the guitar! They knew this obviously through smart targeting/retargeting.

Udemy sponsored ad

The elements boxed in red are what I call the secondary keys to creating a successful ad. Aside from the eye-catching image, we also have a high number of likes and 5 of my personal friends who already like/trust the company. This all leads to trust for the ad. If they like it, and the company is liked by my friends, it must be trustworthy and worth my time to check it out!

The copy itself is filled with a number of power words. The words “learn,” “enroll,” and “join” create a sense of community and, more important, create the image that whatever is being offered adds value. Next, the ad promotes the online aspect. People are incredibly lazy (as much as they deny it), and allowing them to learn/earn/do something from the comfort of their own homes makes them a lot more likely to follow through with the purchase. In the ad, we can see the words “online” and “interactive,” both of which create the idea that this will be easy to do.

The text in any advertisement should have two primary goals. The first, obviously, is to get the individual to click on the link. But the second is to break down some of the pre-purchase barriers they might already be building up. For example, quote the exact price of a product in the ad or add power words such as “free,” “how to,” “proven,” and “tested” to the copy to increase trust.

Instagram Ads

Instagram’s ad platform (connected to Facebook) is an extremely visual way to advertise to your potential audience. If you have a product or service that photographs incredibly well, Instagram should be your first port of call. The targeting element on Instagram also plays a large roll. Below is an example of an ad (again from Udemy) that was displayed on my Instagram feed. This time the ad was for Gary Vaynerchuk’s course.

Udemy sponsored ad instagram

Although I follow Gary on Facebook, I don’t on Instagram, yet the ad was still served to me. On my fitness company’s channel, we receive different ad types, mainly promoting protein or workout clothing. Although these are the competition, the ads themselves are highly relevant and the way they are displayed make them look like real posts, with the only difference being the “sponsored” element to the post.

The first key to Instagram is having a clear eye-catching image. Since I personally know and like the content Gary puts out, I’m going to stop if I ever see his name/face, and this post has both. The next stage is having social interaction with the ad. Similar to Facebook, ads that have more likes/comments tend to convert better. Just think, you wouldn’t click an ad with 1 like! There are a number of great advertisers on Instagram that include these elements in their ads.

Twitter Ads

Generally seen as a weaker advertising platform than Facebook, Twitter is still a good way to advertise to a huge range of individuals. Similar targeting options are available, and the style of ads with the primary focus on an image still apply. Humor is one of the key strategies for getting a Twitter ad noticed. “Funny ads” or controversy, which also work, tend to get retweeted more and hence get in front of a larger audience for free! If you can add humor to a commercial Twitter ad, you’re onto a winning format. A couple of examples of this are seen below:

perfect banner ad

Perfectbanner has mixed the perfect amount of relevance and value. This appeared on my personal Twitter and is perfect for a marketer such as myself, always looking to tweak conversions to get the most out of projects.

Beast Technologies ad

Beast sensor’s ad caught my eye. Although the copy from the ad can be greatly improved, this ad drew my attention from their simple tagline, mainly the “take the guesswork out of the weight room.” Mixed with the stats in the featured image, this ad will catch the attention of any serious weightlifter. Measuring the speed of reps and the average power can be hugely advantageous, giving someone the edge in their training! They could have improved the ad by writing another powerful tagline instead of simply “beast sensor,” but the ad still has 87 retweets for a relatively unknown company.

LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn ads are a completely different ball game compared with Facebook and Twitter. Although LinkedIn seems to be on the decline, their advertising platform is seen as the largest business-to-business marketing channel online. And with the correct ad type, you can gain a lot of traction through LinkedIn.

The key here (as with all social advertising) is to refine your target audience as much as possible. Assuming you’ve already done this, another key strategy is to advertise your business in relation to other business or financial news. For example, if a particular stock drops, mention this in your ad (if it’s relevant to your business). Below is an example of this method, in relation to the UK Budget changes:

KPMG small business accounting ad

The ad itself links to an article discussing the changes from a small business owner’s perspective. And then there is a call to action inside for their accounting services. Although this style of news jacking wouldn’t work for all industries, it can be angled to a wide range, and you may be able to pick up some of the traffic as a result. I’ve done a case study on this strategy that can be found here.

How to Write Social Media Copy – A Quick Guide

You now know all the background behind social ads but not how to go about writing an ad itself. For this brand new ad, I’ll assume you already have an eye-catching image and have targeted a relevant audience. The next step is what to write in the headline (25 characters), text (90 characters), news feed link description, and display link. Below are a few quick social copy tips to keep in mind when writing these:

Text – Your text should contain at least 2 power words, 1 hyper-relevant keyword, and as many barrier breaking points as you can think of. Also, remember who you’re writing the ad for. The style of writing and vocabulary used will differ depending on your target audience.

For example, “incredible” might be an effective power word for a younger demographic, but if you’re targeting males in their 50s, then this would be a poor choice. Instead, opt for a more fact-based power word, such as “proven,” “solution,” or “benefit.” More of these can be found in a great book by Frank Luntz, Words that Work.

The text itself appears above the headline, and as a result, is the first thing people see, so this should set the stage for your headline. But this shouldn’t be overly promotional or gimmicky. For example, “Finally learn to conquer your xxxx” or “9 Steps to generating more xxxx.”

Headline – This should contain a new power word (use the most assertive or powerful one here) and another relevant keyword that’s very relevant to the individual (which you should know from your targeting). Taking the first Udemy ad above as an example, instead of “The Professional Guitar Masterclass,” I personally would have gone with “Your Professional Guitar Masterclass.” This adds some personality to the ad and calls on the individual already reading it.

News feed link description – This is where you should continue to talk about the benefits of the product and, more important, why people should check it out. For example, free trials, great reviews, money back guarantees, or final 3 copies, etc.

Display link – This should be your website address, but don’t be afraid to use a parameter with selected power words in it. For example,

Button – This depends on what you are selling, but I personally always recommend a button of some sort. If your product is free, you can use “sign up” or “learn more.” If there is a cost, I’d recommend going with “shop now.”


The days of Don Draper and one tagline wonders are long gone, but writing great copy for social ads doesn’t need to be difficult. Use the checklist below, and go through each point to see if your ads all follow these key elements.

  1. Eye-catching image – Stop the scroll.
  2. Relevant target audience – No point in a 5% CTR if your conversion rate is 0.
  3. Initial likes – Getting 50+ initial likes on the ad itself.
  4. Power words – Include a number of power words in your copy.
  5. Break down barriers – Include stats, prices, and figures to break down the barriers of individuals thinking about clicking on an ad.
  6. Personal connection – Don’t make ads generic, add personal words and phrases.

About the Author: Tom Buckland is a digital marketing consultant for My Local Services and HQ SEO. He provides SEO, social media, and paid advertising advice and services to businesses worldwide. Follow him on Twitter.

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