10 tips for writing engaging content previews for social media

Social media users scan their feeds, so marketers play around with images to get their audience to stop scrolling. But glowing images shouldn’t be the only hook they can stop, click and read on.

Scrollers, seeing an image, often go to the text to see what it’s about. And if this content preview doesn’t motivate them to read on, the promotion efforts will be in vain.

These 10 tips can help your content previews on social media convert scrollers into readers of your full-length content.

HAND SELECTED RELATED CONTENT: Social Media Content Plan: Take control of your strategy

1. Emphasize the popularity of the content

This trick serves as social proof, an indicator that other readers thought your content was worth clicking to read more. It also contains a component of FOMO – fear of missing out. Scrollers don’t want to miss out on content that others found really informative and valuable.

By promoting a piece of content as the best or most likeable, shareable or controversial resource on offer, you spark curiosity and motivate them to see what all the fuss is about.

Use superlatives to promote #content on @SocialMedia. They pique curiosity and motivate them to click, says @LesleyVos via @CMIContent. Click here to tweet

In this tweet, I’m promoting an article, How To Deal With Cognitive Biases in Social Content, by calling it “one of my best writings of 2021.”

Honesty is key here. Don’t use this tip to fool readers. After all, brand reputation counts for far more than a few extra clicks on social media.

2. Mention a bonus in the content

Tell your readers there’s a nice bonus waiting for them in the article. This can be free templates, a list of the best blog posts of the year or practical checklists on a topic.

Long story short, make them understand that your content has value. In this Instagram post, CoSchedule is promoting an article on how to do a content check. But it doesn’t stop there. It also mentions the inclusion of a template and a checklist.

3. Add a humorous but relevant image

Technical or detailed content is difficult to preview on social media. It is difficult to convey terms and concepts in a short format because some cognitive biases occur when the brain sees too much information to explore or too much content to remember.

Appealing to humor and using the image superiority effect can help. Supplement the meaning of the content with a fun and attractive image. You will smooth out its complexity and thwart these cognitive biases.

The example I shared in the first tip includes the funny giraffe image to draw attention to the seemingly complex topic of cognitive biases.

If you don’t think the humorous route is possible, an alternative to promoting technical or detailed content is to use a bright illustration that will stand out in user feeds, like this brightly colored rainbow and colorfully dressed model, to preview an article via social view listening research.

4. View the table of contents

Describe the main point of your article in one sentence, followed by a table of contents. This typing trick works when a simplified main point sounds too general or vague. Users can see the details behind the topic to determine if it’s valuable and relevant to their needs.

Share a table of contents to promote your full-length content on #SocialMedia, says @LesleyVos via @CMIContent. Click here to tweet

In this preview social post, WordStream identifies the topic (types of email to send in 2022), followed by a bulleted table of contents that lists each type addressed in the full-length article.

5. Write as if you are speaking to a friend

Afraid of looking unprofessional and overly friendly, some authors make their previews overly formal and impersonal. This type of content can make it difficult to attract social media users who will scroll to find something interesting.

I’m not talking about being too personal, but there are steps you can take to be more chatty in your previews:

  • Don’t use technical jargon, complex words, massive grammar constructions and long sentences. Further proofreading and light editing will also help refine the preview.
  • Write while you speak. Imagine telling an interested friend about the content.
HAND-PICKED RELATED CONTENT: Write Like You Speak: 12 Tips for Conversational Content

6. Use a quote from the content

You see this trick a lot because it works well. Write a preview of a piece by adding a citation or citing a statistic from the full-length article. This social preview from environmental company Jacobs includes a quote from the employee profiled in the article.

7. Answer the why-should-I-question

This tip relates to the earlier ones, but I’ve separated them for emphasis. Briefly explain in a preview why A person should invest their time to read your content. Perhaps the author is a well-known expert whose opinion is important for the niche. Perhaps the information is structured in a suitable format. Maybe it will bring some extra freebies or other benefits. The point is to let the scroller know what’s in it for them.

In this example, Ahrefs promotes reader-friendly structure (succinctly) and mentions a new feature.

8. Mark known sources

If the author or sources are well-known in your niche or worldwide, mention them in the preview. Make sure you tag them too. The preview will catch your audience’s attention and can be shared by the author or source so their followers can see it too. (It also indicates that the content is authoritative.)

This preview of Digital Olympus features the attendance of experts Winnie Sun and Jason Barnard for its weekly webinar.

9. Mention an overwhelming fact

You have a moment to captivate social media users. Create a wow effect in the first sentence of your preview using:

  • Strange words or expressions
  • Exceptional Insights
  • Shocking information
  • Exclusive Facts

In this example, Semrush highlights that articles longer than 7,000 words generate almost four times more traffic than articles between 900 and 1,200 words. (Now that’s a wow!)

10. Speak directly

You know your buyer persona inside and out. Using their personality traits, motivations, fears, and frustrations in mind, create content previews so the reader exclaims, “Oh, that’s about me!” and clicks to read on.

In this example from Elna CainShe writes in second person, β€œStop apologizing in your freelance business! Are you always apologizing for not having the right niche, tariff, or style of writing? Stop apologizing and say this instead…”

Be ready for paraphrases

Creating effective social media previews for your content isn’t done in a single draft. Use two or three of these tips to write multiple previews to share on social media. Analyze audience response to understand the most attractive preview structure and tone for this particular type of content promotion.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to to weekday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute


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