Using Tension in Social Media Posts

If you’ve made the commitment to work through this course, chances are you’ve been creating social media posts for a significant period of time. Most likely with some success, possibly some posts bordering on viral, and many just plain blah. Hopefully in this course you’ve come across some ideas that might improve your chances for success. One of those ideas could be to improve your captions.

As makers, we want to let the art do the talking. But in today’s internet, if you want to break through all the clutter, all aspects of your marketing need to be as strong as the art.

I’ll admit, I much prefer creating the visuals of social media posts. Probably because I had no idea where to start with captions. No matter how hard I tried, my captions sounded either too sales-y (“Buy this now!”), or I sounded like a show-off (“Look at what I did!”), or they were just plain boring (“Here’s a table!”), that is, until I discovered tension.

Tension: The Key to Engaging Social Media Posts

In fact, tension is the tool I’ve just used to bring you along in this story to this point. Remember, I love creating visuals, but I have a problem. I don’t know how to write captions. Here’s the tension: Will I be able to resolve my problem, and learn to write captions? (This is getting kinda meta… writing about not being able to write effectively, trying to use tension to talk about tension.)
To resolve this problem of mediocre social media posts, I learned how to use tension in my captions. And I wanted to share that technique with you, as well.
So what does it mean to add tension? I fully admit here that I am no Stephen King. But there is a lot to learn about writing from people who write for a living. So let me explain to you four types of dramatic tension that writers add to stories. And then we can repurpose these for makers.

Tension #1: Relationships

This is the tension of everyday life, like love, discipline, aggression, and arguments.
For a maker’s social media post, this might be the discipline of hand-detail work, the pressure of finishing a project, or the strain of a day-job and a night hustle. This can be the arguments you have with yourself as you work hard to get better at your craft with every single piece.

Tension #2: Task

This is the tension of completing the task. Like, what hurdles do you have to surmount? What obstacles do you need to overcome?

For a maker’s social media post, this might be the tension of working in a small garage, or working late at night or working on a piece you’ve never made before. Or all three at the same time. This could also be trying a new skill or a new tool. This could also be a behind-the-scenes post showing all steps to finish a task and the tension of how it turns out. Everyone loves to see the victory at the end of the story!

Tension #3: Surprise

This is tension associated with an unexpected event. For instance, what project or task didn’t go as planned? What project turned out even better than you hoped? What mistakes were made?

For a maker’s post, build tension by introducing the surprise and all the consequences of it: like a shortened timeline, a challenge to your abilities, or the effects on your other projects. Highlight your flexibility, the mistakes you learned from, and the love of the work you put out despite the uncertain circumstances.

Tension #4: Mystery

This is the tension of a mysterious ending. Who won a giveaway? How did that cold snap last month affect your projects? Who is the local celebrity you just sold a dresser to? This is tension that propels a reader forward in the story because they want to know what happens!

Any given post can include multiple points of tension. In fact, an effective post almost has to. But enough of this talk of theory. How does this look in real life?