Show, Don't Tell on Social Media

What is Show, Don’t Tell?

If you’re wondering why customers don’t respond when you explain that your product is the best, it may be because you’re explaining it too much.

Social media is a visual medium, and as a digital marketer, you’re required to become a digital storyteller too. The first rule in storytelling? Show, don’t tell.

Show, don't tell is a writing technique that allows a reader “to experience a story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author's summarization and description.” Essentially, it urges writers to take readers on a journey instead of giving them a presentation of the facts.

We learn through experience, not by being told what to do. Think of it this way… If a novelist wants their readers to understand that the main character is nice, it’s ineffective to simply state that they are. Sure, the reader will be able to identify the character as a nice person, but they will not fully understand the depth of the character’s kindness, generosity, or benevolence until they see it demonstrated. (Just like in real life you can hear that someone is a good person and still remain skeptical until you see their “goodness” in action.)

How does this writing principle apply to marketing?

When you continuously present your audience with facts about your product/service and, as Donald Miller explains in the StoryBrand Framework, position yourself as a hero, you risk alienating customers. Tell your audience your brand is “the best” and customers can no longer see a space for themselves in your narrative. They begin to view what your selling as a far off solution and become overwhelmed by your language.

In plain terms, no one wants to be sold to. When your audience is scrolling on Facebook, they want to connect with people, brands, and stories, not just to be told “buy here” or “click here.” Instead, use all the sensory tools available to you to show customers what your product or service can do for them, and how it’s truly “the best.” This means not only exploring your visual content (photo, video, graphics, etc.) but also expanding your sensory language.

Using Show, Don’t Tell in Writing for Social Media

Each organic post on a social network is NOT an ad. When you’re writing for social media, your goal should first and foremost be to build a relationship with your customers. Your secondary goal should be to show off your brand’s mission. Only after these objectives have been covered should you begin to think about selling to your followers. Use your feed as an opportunity to show off your brand in use, in practice, and at work. Share its effectiveness in the form of testimony, action shots, how-to content, and any other creative way you can think of.

Now that your objectives are clear, allow your language to follow suit. For example, you’ve established that you want to write a brand-building post by sharing an industry-related article. Many content managers will caption the post with something like “We linked this article to help you get started on your Spring organization!” or “Click on the article below to find out how to organize your home this Spring.” While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with these captions, consider your overall posting goals...

You likely want followers to interact with your post or webpage in some way, and you’ll need to let them know that. So, save the direct language for that piece. Your followers are smart enough to know that the link available in the post will lead to a blog article. (Heck, Facebook can’t make it any more obvious that there’s a link available to folks!) Simply show readers why they need to click the link, and invite them to interact with the post or take some kind of action after the fact!

A better caption for this type of post may be: “Budding cherry blossoms and sunshine mean one thing in our opinion: Spring cleaning! We want to know… What are your favorite tidying tips?” (Don’t forget to add some emojis and the link.)

When it eventually comes time to sell to your customers on social media, you want them to be prepared and open to the idea of buying from you. So instead of spamming their feeds with “Click Here,” “Buy Here,” “Visit this Site” language, save the hefty asks for when they’re really necessary. Have some faith that building an interesting and trustworthy brand will naturally draw your customers in.


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Olivia BausoComment