The Rule of Three for Tackling Social Copy

Franny Harold, Social Media Coordinator at Khoros

In this blog series, a member of the Khoros Strategic Services team dives into a topic they have helped many enterprise brands with, sharing their insights and best practices. Khoros Strategic Services has deep expertise in community management, paid social, analytics, content, and they're ready to help your brand.

Those who work in social media can often attest to an abundance of ad hoc, last-minute requests. Copywriters and content managers might all be too familiar with the, “Could you please also draft this...” email at 4:50pm on a Friday.

Have you ever been asked to write copy for a content piece with a five-minute turnaround?

Although copywriting can often feel like an overlooked aspect of social media management, ad-hoc social copywriting requests often have the quickest turnarounds. In fact, only 37% of B2B brands and 38% of B2C brands even have a content strategy*. Meaning, only a third of brands have content calendars with clear tasks delegated in advance allowing content experts the ample amount of time needed to create brand-worthy copy.

However, this experience isn’t isolated to those who work in the digital space. You know that feeling when a friend asks you to list your favorite songs or your partner asks what you’d like for dinner, and you don’t know what to say? Being put on the spot can feel like the worst brain-freeze, especially if it occurs in your workplace. Oftentimes, there are instances where you’ll need to pitch something to a customer in five minutes. Or maybe to an entire team.

So, how can you maintain your sense of creativity in the workplace under stressful deadlines, especially when it comes to copywriting?

As a social media coordinator at Khoros who also spends her time outside of work performing comedy around town, I’ve had my fair share of having to think on my toes. The more that I’ve written copy for various brands and the more diverse audiences I’ve performed for, the more I’ve realized that the rules of improv comedy and copywriting go hand-in-hand. Not only does the “don’t think, just do” mentality help kickstart content creation but it can often lead to some of your most creative copy.

So, what are the rules of improv? To be frank, there are more styles of improv and rules than I can count. You’re also often taught to learn the rules so that you can break them later. If you’re interested, you can always take a look at Del Close’s 11 Commandments*.

One of the most infamous rules of comedy is the rule of three, which also lends itself to writing. The rule of three is a writing principle that suggests that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, or effective than other numbers*.

When it comes to copywriting, here’s my rule of three:

1. Don’t think, just do

Once you’ve received a copy request, don’t overthink it. Read through the prompt, review any creative assets that will accompany it, and then hop right in. If there are creative assets, graphics, or images that will go along with the copy, make sure that you have access beforehand. If the copy is supplementing a landing page or link, quickly browse through that site. Take it all in. Yes, literally look and stare. Then, purge!

After you’ve had a moment to read over the copy request and gather your initial impression, write out whatever keywords come to mind. Pretend you’re in a museum looking at one of your favorite Picasso’s or Monet’s. How does the infographic make you feel? Are there a few words that keep coming to mind? After you’ve written five to ten keywords, keep them in a doc. You’ll come back to them shortly.

2. Feel the room

No, I don’t mean physically start touching your desk or walls. Not only should you start thinking about what you’re trying to say, but who you’re planning to say it to. With your audience in mind, take a look back at your initial thoughts and consider the following questions: Is there a relationship or pattern between your keywords? Or an overarching message that keeps coming back?

These questions can ultimately seem heavy-handed and you can find yourself asking them for hours. As almost all comedians know, you can go on for too long. What might be one minute on a stage can feel like an eternity to performers. So, feel the room, or your audience in this case.

That is why — and I cannot stress this enough — you must set a timer. If you don’t have a quick turnaround, thirty minutes is a safe start to begin piecing together your copy.

Are you setting them up with a punch line and leaving room for the audience members to organically start discussions? Or are you telling a full, three-beat story?

Establish the relationship between your keywords and begin filling in the gaps with your words. What does your audience actually want to hear? Set a timer for yourself and follow your feet.

3. Callback

Callbacks are an improv tool used at the end of improv sets to essentially wrap everything up with a nice bow and reference things that were mentioned earlier. I’ve found this the most useful when completing my copywriting process. It can become far too easy getting caught up in editing your own work. Asking yourself questions like, “Is this good enough?” will only push your deadline closer and leave less time to creatively add your own voice to your copy.

Once you’ve reached the end of your copywriting process, your final edits should be incorporated quickly. Think back on any favorite keywords that you liked at the very beginning of this process. Did you forget to use one? Can you use that word now to spark some last-minute inspiration? Maybe it’s that bit of spunk your copy needed.

In my comedy experience, audiences don’t enjoy lengthy or unrelated improv scenes at the end of any set. Similarly, your audience should feel like they’re already in on the “joke” by the end of your copy.

With the above in mind, your copy should achieve your customer’s goals, while also feeling personable and on brand.

Let's recap

Think back on any favorite keywords that you liked at the very beginning of this process. Your final edits should go by quickly, but it’s never too late to add in some last-minute spunk.

Audiences flock to comedy shows to laugh and to be captivated. Likewise, customers crave connecting with a brand that feels authentic and engaging. In a sense, social copy can be your stage and a way to draw in more customers.

Take what you will from these three rules and know that if you’re ever in a time crunch, the Khoros platform also provides a litany of tools to help with content creation, scheduling, and publishing. You can read more on this here:

Happy writing!

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