How to make text-only content for Instagram and TikTok
· 4 min read
I’ve got a figurative wastebasket full of “A picture is worth a thousand words” jokes I tried for this intro, but all were pretty terrible. I blame the math of the premise—show your work, Arthur Brisbane. Unnecessary tangents aside, I’m bullish on using written content across all social media platforms right now. Words aren’t just for tweets and long-winded LinkedIn anecdotes—they work on Instagram and TikTok, too. Let me show you a bunch of different ways the good word appears on social media outside of 280 characters.
Tweets aren’t just tweets
Those quippy one-liners you toss on the bird app? They’re more universal than you think. A simple screenshot of a tweet can generate huge numbers on other social networks.
Take Xbox’s Instagram account. You’d imagine a gaming platform’s best-performing content to be gorgeous graphical treatment or high-budget videos, but two of its three most-engaged posts from the last six months are words on a screen.
220,000 likes. On a text post about dogs. With no picture of a dog. That’s the thing—it didn’t even need a very good boy because the core thought is smile-inducing. The idea is best served by text and text alone, and we’ve got the data to prove it.
The same principle works just as well on LinkedIn too. I’ve watched The Marketing Millennials founder Daniel Murray generate thousands of likes on his LinkedIn by mostly posting screenshots of his own tweets:
Never underestimate the Instagram quote post
You know what I’m talking about. Those brief yet profound thoughts, usually scribed in sans serif black on a stark white Instagram post. Several of my favorite “mindfulness” thinkers make a living off the format, like Mark Manson, Nedra Glover Tawwab, and Yung Pueblo. I’m definitely that guy who constantly shares these posts on my Stories.
Take Tawwab, a therapist and author who publishes relationship-focused and boundary-thinking on Instagram. The post below? 90,000 likes. On a text post. On Instagram, the network where you allegedly have to make a million Reels to succeed.
Think about the depth of information in the post. It’d take several seconds of quality lighting, a strong up-front hook, and editing time to turn this thought into video content, when one static text post accomplished all that work, in a better format, far more efficiently.
A Social Media Newsletter by Jack Appleby
The ultimate example of repurposing written content
My favorite example of making words work harder comes from Ron Lim, a writer and creative director sharing his personal journey as @ronwritings. Recently, over an order of fries, I pestered him with questions about growing a 700,000-person Instagram following with just words. What really impressed me, though, was how he repurposes content:
- Ron writes a short Instagram post with his recent thoughts.
- Ron curates select posts into themed books.
- Those books become content themselves.
Check out his TikTok. He’s built 212,000 followers by mostly posting casual video of his new book No Idea What I’m Doing but F*ck It. I just whipped out my copy (thanks, bud)—it’s 162 pages. If Ron posts daily on TikTok, that’s 44% of the year covered from quick videos of his actual product, which naturally sells the book.
The easiest way to start repurposing written content
If your brand has been active on Twitter, the platform’s native analytics platform is an easy way in. Go back through your tweets to find your top performers, pick a few evergreen examples, and crop them up for new life on other social platforms.
I grabbed some of my most-engaged tweets and turned them into seven-second green-screen TikToks. The numbers floored me. I’m literally just pointing at the tweets, but many earned hundreds of thousands of views.
Use your words over and over again. Good life advice, good social advice.