10 Copywriting Formulas to Convert Skimmers to Buyers

There’s a lot of talk about “excellent copywriting” on the internet. And it’s versatile, too: Copywriting techniques can be used for multiple formats — from e-commerce websites, landing pages, sales, pages to product descriptions and content marketing.

But what about social media — where holding attention is harder than ever before? Someone might revisit your website even if you have a poor copy, but your audience is aggressively skimming on social media. If you don’t stop the scroll and give them their time’s worth, you’re invisible.

In this article, you’ll learn about ten copywriting formulas that can help you package your social media content in a more engaging way.

Why do you need copywriting formulas?

Copywriting formulas aren’t cheat codes. They won’t buzz your phone with thousands of new followers overnight. But you should try them anyway.

Why? Think of creating social media content like cooking a meal. You already have the ingredients — your ideas. Copywriting formulas are the recipe. They help you understand what order you should implement with your ingredient list, how long to cook (a hook) for, and when to simmer down with a call to action (CTA).

Think of copywriting formulas as templates within which you can fit your social media content for maximum engagement.

Why do copywriting formulas work?

Copywriting formulas work because they play on primal human psychology. They embed core persuasion techniques that have stood the test of time.

For example, many copywriting formulas help you appeal to the emotion behind your content. This is because emotionally connected customers have a whopping 306 percent higher lifetime value versus satisfied customers.

Another reason copywriting formulas work is because they’re designed to stop the scroll. Getting (and holding!) your target audience’s attention is getting more and more challenging. Copywriting formulas are designed to grab attention and deliver value without losing your audience in the doom scrolling void.

But copywriting formulas aren’t clickbait

Clickbait is writing misleading, sensational, or controversial headlines to attract attention. Hooks (or the opening of your social media posts) are a part of copywriting formulas, but they aren’t clickbait.

The core distinction is that clickbait is usually deceptive while copywriting formulas are rooted in truth. For example, if I write, “Learn more social media growth techniques in seven minutes than I learned in seven years,” the red alarm blares off. It’s transparently designed to draw the audience in — even if the technique is shady. That’s clickbait.

Most of your audience will be able to recognize it because most consumers today know PR speak like the back of their hand. Even if you use clickbait and attract people falsely, you’ll lose their trust because you won’t be able to deliver on the promise of clickbait.

Copywriting formulas stitch the content you already have in a more appealing dress — no lies or exaggeration needed.

And copywriting formulas don’t exist in a silo

When people think of “copywriting formulas,” they typically think of text-based templates. But social media content is a combination of visual design, video editing, scriptwriting, and captions.

Using copywriting formulas in your caption while your images & videos are lackluster will suppress your engagement potential. All the elements of a social media post work in tandem. If one element performs poorly, the whole post performs poorly.

Similarly, you can also use copywriting formulas in your videos. For example, you can use copywriting formulas in your TikTok transcript or showcase an element of a copywriting formula (like desire) via video or voiceover instead of text alone.

All this to say, don’t think of copywriting formulas in a vacuum. They exist with all the other elements of your social media post. And don’t be afraid to be creative if you want to use them in innovative ways using visuals and videos! There’s no rulebook on how to use copywriting formulas.

10 copywriting formulas to craft engaging social posts

If you start to look, you’ll find hundreds of copywriting formulas. But here’s the secret: You don’t need to know, remember, or even use them all. Many copywriting formulas are different derivatives of the same core concept. You don’t need the 100+ list if you learn those primary ideas.

Here are the ten most common and effective copywriting formulas for creating social media content.

1: Awareness–Interest–Desire–Action (AIDA)

Best for spurring up action

AIDA shows the various steps a follower needs to take to become a customer.

  • The first stage is awareness: This is when you introduce your potential customer to your product or service. Let them know you exist. What do you offer? Who is it for?
  • The second stage is interest: This is when you showcase why a potential customer should care. What’s in it for them? How are you helping?
  • The third stage is desire: This is when interest converts into want. Is there a limited-time offer? Is there social proof to back you up?
  • The fourth stage is action: This is the stage of conversion — usually when you move your audience beyond social media. Should they visit your website or subscribe to your newsletter? Where can they make a purchase?

In some places, you might see that in AIDA, the A stands for “attention” instead of “awareness.” If you go by the attention-interest-desire-action formula, the only difference is that you’re writing copy with an attention-grabbing hook instead of making the audience aware of your product/service.

AIDA works best when you’re enticing your audience to take a specific action. Maybe that’s visiting your website, buying your products, or even subscribing to your newsletter. A CTA is the final punch in the AIDA copywriting formula, so it’s best to use it for social media content where you want direct conversions for a specific goal.

Example

Bryan Guadagno’s Instagram Reel about Skinny Pasta is the perfect example of the AIDA copywriting formula in action.

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A post shared by Bryan Guadagno (@bryanguadagno)

He starts by introducing the product (awareness), “This is the skinny mac & cheese,” and immediately jumps to listing the product’s benefits (piquing interest), “This is the lowest carb mac & cheese ever created.” Then, he doubles down on the advantages (creating desire), “And it only takes a minute to make,” followed by footage of him making the recipe quickly and slurping it. The Instagram caption encourages watchers to sign up for early access (action).

2: Problem–Agitate–Solution (PAS)

Best for highlighting the advantages of your product or service

The PAS copywriting formula involves helping the reader identify a problem, educating them on the issue, and then offering a solution.

  • The first stage is spotlighting a problem: Your audience may not necessarily know the problem they have. For example, if you sell sustainable fashion products, consumers might not know how much carbon footprint they accrue by purchasing from fast fashion brands. Understand what problems and challenges your customers might be facing — even if they aren’t aware of it.
  • The second stage is agitating the problem: The next step is poking pain at the problem to improve relatability and helping your audience understand the full picture of their challenges. Why should they be interested in solving the problem? What are the potential negative consequences of that problem that your audience is struggling with?
  • The third and last stage is presenting a solution: The last stage is where you introduce a solution to the problem you mentioned — ideally your product or service. Because you’ve agitated the problem, your audience will feel compelled enough to solve it.

The PAS formula is versatile — it can be used for various cases. However, the best way to use it on social media is to highlight why your product or service solves your target customers’ problems. If you talk just about your product’s benefits, your followers may not understand why they should care. But if you put it in the context of their problems, their interest will pique.

Example

A great example is this Instagram Reel by travel creator Aakansha Monga.

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A post shared by Offbeat Travel | TravelAMore (@aakanksha.monga)

She highlighted the problem (there’s a lot of misinformation around visa-free countries for Indians), agitated it by sharing examples of countries requiring visa-on-arrival or other processes, and presented a solution by sharing six countries that are truly visa-free for her target audience.

Notice how she also used the PAS formula in her video and caption — using good copywriting wherever possible. That’s an A+ way to hold the reader’s interest.

3: Before–After Bridge (BAB)

Best for showing the direct results your product or service can provide

BAB is a classic copywriting formula that you must have seen everywhere, from 90s television ads to modern-day marketing.

  • First, you set the stage for your customer in a problem before they’ve found a solution. Paint an accurate picture of your customer in a pickle. For example, if you sell healthy meal prep ideas as a digital product, it could be putting a show about how difficult it is to prepare quick, healthy, and delicious meals at home. You can also poke at adjacent pain points, such as not having the time to go grocery shopping and get all the right ingredients.
  • Second, you show the happy customer after a solution is implemented. In this scenario, you showcase how different your customer’s world would be if their problem was solved. To continue the above example, you could write about how meal prepping allowed the customer to have more energy, be healthier, and save money.
  • Lastly, you present your product or service as the bridge. The bridge between the above before and after is your product. You have to highlight how your product or service can take the customer from before to after.

BAB is best used to showcase the results of your product or service. What struggle does your audience face? If they use your product, what will their life be like without the struggle? Answer these questions, and you’ll have a captivating story in your hands.

Example

Look at how content creator Mehtap Oezkan showed a before vs. after of her acne journey using a toner as the bridge.

@mehtapisme About a month ago I mentioned that I would be testing this toner for a month and take before&after pics. This is my honest before&after about the Anua Heartleaf 77% Soothing Toner. You can get the Toner with the Link in my bio by the way :) Thank you Anua for sponsoring this video and allowing me to make this honest review. I will be doing 1-month before&after review videos about skincare products more often from now on! . . . . . #koreanskincare #kbeauty #acne #koreanbeauty #acnejourney #SkinCare#그린스크린 ♬ 오리지널 사운드 - mehtapisme

The before-after picture stays while her voiceover details the “bridge” —aka the solution — the toner she used. She also highlights how she used just one product and changed nothing else about her skincare routine, making her claim more believable.

Before-after-bridge is also an A+ copywriting formula for landing pages, case studies, and sales letters.

4: Clear–Concise–Compelling–Credible (The 4 Cs)

Best for checking your social media posts for any discrepancies

The 4Cs are handy acronyms for assessing whether your posts are clear, concise, compelling, and credible.

  • Clear: Is everything you mention in the caption or highlighting in the video crystal clear? By clear in social media, I mean both concept and clarity. Ensure there’s no knowledge gap you aren’t filling and your visuals are high quality.
  • Concise: Express your point in as few words (and as few seconds for video) as possible. The minute you drag a piece of content and bore your audience, you lose the grip on their attention. Don’t take concise to mean “short” if it compromises the quality. Use as many words and seconds as you need, but not a single more.
  • Compelling: Is what you’re saying interesting for your audience? Put yourself in their shoes and use the phrasings & words that they would use to make your content resonate.
  • Credible: Don’t make exaggerated claims out of thin air (that’s clickbait). If you’re a skincare product promising to be clean, show how your production methods differ to gain credibility. Maybe do a social media collaboration with an expert to borrow that seal of trust, if you can.

Think of the 4Cs as the TSA pre-check at an airport. You can run almost every social media post through this formula to ensure you hit the mark.

Example

This Instagram carousel by biochemist and creator Jessie Inchauspé is the perfect example of using the CCCC copywriting formula in your social media content.

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A post shared by Jessie Inchauspé (@glucosegoddess)

The first thing that stands out is her clear visual (how glucose spike reduces if you add beans to rice), and then your eyes dart toward the concise caption that perfectly complements the image and the study like a sales copy. Her analogy (putting some clothes on your carbs) is compelling and memorable. To add credibility, she also adds an image of the study the result is derived from. Plus: Since she’s a biochemist herself, that adds an extra layer of credibility.

5: Promise–Picture–Proof–Push (The 4 Ps)

Best for persuading your audience

The 4Ps persuasion code is an updated version of the AIDA formula. The difference is that AIDA tells you to do something, and the 4Ps show you how to do it. You can think of them as same or separate, but they’re derived from the same philosophies.

  • First, you make a promise: The promise is your hook. It’s the place where you answer “What’s in it for me?” for the audience. Use a headline in your TikTok video and your caption that captures the followers’ attention with a promise.
  • Then, you paint a picture. How will you deliver on your promise? What are the benefits of your product? This stage is quite similar to the “after” stage in BAB — it’s a means to pique the audience’s interest.
  • You pair your picture with proof. This is the “credible” bit of the 4Cs. Why should your audience believe you? Showcase any study, customer testimonials, or facts to prove why you’re the best solution to deliver on the promise.
  • Lastly, you push. The word “push” sounds like you’re forcing the buyer, but in reality, your CTA should be the easiest yes for your audience. Deliver your offer and make it easy for the audience to take action.

The 4Ps are pretty similar to AIDA (and even have elements of BAB), so you can use them to spur action. But their best use case is to persuade your audience to purchase your products or services. Answer their common questions and address their objections — then buying from you will be the obvious choice.

Example

This influencer collaboration between hair care brand Scalpe and skincare creator Aishwarya Kandpal is the perfect example of using PPPP in your social media content.

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A post shared by aishwarya kandpal • skincare & haircare (@indianskinblog)

The creator begins by making a promise (showing three reasons for getting recurring dandruff), followed by painting a picture (why using Do-It-Yourself (DIY) solutions doesn’t work), leading with proof (how the shampoo is formulated with science-backed ingredients), and ending with a push (try the shampoo).

6: Situation–Complication–Question–Answer (SCQA)

Best as a social media hook

The SCQA is a hook formula in and of itself. It’s best for social media because it can help stop the scroll.

  • First, explain the current situation in your audience’s world. Set the stage for a problem you know your customer is facing. For example, if you provide virtual assistant services, explain why it’s so difficult for senior-level knowledge workers to stay on top of their admin work.
  • Next, present the challenges of the situation: This stage is about reaching in-depth and empathizing with your audience’s challenges. To continue the above example, you could showcase how falling behind on admin often means you’re the bottleneck in things moving forward or missing important deadlines.
  • Then, ask a question whose answer will be your solution. A question is the bridge here — like in BAB — to show a sneak peek at the solution. Think of a question statement that’d be the bridge between the challenge and the solution. In the above example, it could be something as simple as, “What to do?” or “How can you stay on top of everything without missing a beat?”
  • In the end, present your product or service as the answer: SCQA is more of a hook, so explain how your product or service can be the solution to their challenges and improve their situation, but in a concise way. You can expand on it later once your audience is hooked in.

SCQA is best used as a social media hook to empathize with your audience’s problems, show you “get” them, and expand on how you can help. It can be used as a hook for many social media posts, but it’s best for posts where you’d want to be product or service-centric.

SCQA is the sister of another copywriting formula, Awareness–Comprehension–Conviction–Action (ACCA). It’s the same game, just different player names.

Example

Erin McGoff posted a (funny and) useful YouTube Short on a common job search advice to be “strategic” and used the SCQA formula to put her point forward.

She leads with the situation (everyone tells you to be strategic) and combines the challenge and the question (what does that even mean?!) and quickly leads you to the answer (her three-phase approach). This Short is one of the perfect case studies on using the best copywriting formulas in a social media setting. Due to the nature of short-form videos (and even shorter posts on X and LinkedIn), you might not be able to use every element of a copywriting formula fully. Combining two elements (like Erin did) can be more creative, concise, and tailored to your audience.

7: Thesis–Antithesis–Synthesis (TAS)

Best for presenting a bold opinion

TAS is best for thought-driven posts that make a bold claim.

  • Thesis: Share a common opinion in your industry that you’d like to refute. For example, if you sell sustainable clothes, a common friction point is people think sustainable brands cost more than other brands.
  • Antithesis: This is your bold opinion. What is the problem with the thesis? Why is it untrue? Why should most people not have this perspective? Social proof is your best friend here. To continue the above example, compare the prices of popular brands vs. sustainable brands to prove the latter is actually more cost-effective. And it doesn’t have to be this direct comparison or refusal of thesis; you can also show how sustainable products last longer to provide a better overall return on investment.
  • Synthesis: Share a new viewpoint or “solution,” which can be your product or service. Your goal is to modify the thesis to resolve your audience’s problem. In the above example, it could mean encouraging people to shop from your sustainable brand, for instance. Or providing a list of sustainable brands that are under your followers’ budget.

TAS is best used to answer common objection questions from your customers. Or share a bold opinion unheard of in your industry. But don’t use TAS just to ruffle some feathers, garner controversy, and make your social media post go viral. Don’t be contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. Any claim you make should have the backing of facts, or you will lose credibility and the trust of your audience — which isn’t worth the virality.

Example

Elise Darma promoted her bootcamp with the TAS copywriting formula in her Instagram Reel.

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A post shared by Elise Darmanin (@elisedarma)

She starts with a common thesis (Instagram is dead), refutes it with an antithesis (showing data about how Instagram users spend more time in the app), and combines them with a synthesis (her bootcamp teaching how to use Instagram to connect with customers).

The key of TAS is that your hook (aka your thesis) has to be attention-grabbing and yet ultra-specific to your industry. Elise, for example, knew many of her target audience was worrying about the “Instagram is dead” ever-present claims. Hearing it from her — an Instagram educator — is an instant scroll-stopper.

8: Attention–Interest–Credibility–Prove–Benefits–Scarcity–Action–Warn–Now (AICPBSAWN)

Best for launching a new product or promoting a sale

If there’s one copywriting formula that packs it all, it’s AICPBSAWN. It’s a mouthful to speak, but it has all the elements of persuasion:

  • Attention: This is a hook showcasing the benefit of your product or service. Put a spotlight on the problem you can solve.
  • Interest: Why should your audience be interested in what you have to say? What’s in it for them?
  • Credibility: Why should the audience believe your promises? Throw in some tangible results and customer testimonials.
  • Prove: An extension of credibility, prove what you’re saying is true. Use facts, numbers, studies, and more.
  • Benefits: What are the benefits of your product? How will it help your audience? How is your product different from what’s already in the market?
  • Scarcity: Create scarcity by putting a timer on your sale or a discount for first-time buyers of a new product launch. This is your irresistible offer.
  • Action: Tell your audience what exactly they should do.
  • Warn: What happens if they don’t take action now? Double down on the scarcity here.
  • Now: Motivate your audience to take action now.

AICPBSAWN is a mouthful with repeatable elements (like action & now and scarcity & warn). You don’t need to use all of them in a single post. But AICPBSAWN is best used when you’re running a sale or launching a new product. It’s designed to create excitement and motivate your audience to take action immediately.

Example

Skincare brand D’you aced the mouthful AICPBSAWN when they launched their sunscreen.

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A post shared by d’you | skincare (@dyou.co)

For starters, their marketing strategy was all about creating buzz about the launch (grabbing attention) and keeping the reader’s attention (holding interest). They had sprinkled multiple posts on their feed before finally launching the product. To prove their credibility, they highlighted the various benefits of their sunscreen over other products in the market and also had Instagram carousels decoding sunscreen-related queries. The action to purchase was clear!

While they didn’t use scarcity and urgency principles for the sunscreen, they often relied on these principles while running their annual sale.

D’you is an excellent example of writing intriguing marketing copy and bending the rules of copywriting formulas to give room for creativity.

9: The fan dancer

Best for redirecting your audience to a webpage

The fan dancer is dancing around an idea without explicitly showcasing what it is. It’s using the curiosity gap to entice the audience to take action. It’s best to introduce new concepts or tease a new launch.

The CTA with the fan dancer is almost always to mark their calendars for something exciting (like a new product launch) or redirect them to a webpage where they can learn more details about a novel concept you teased.

Example

This Twitter (now X) thread by Wes Kao on developing a spiky point of view is a banger example of using a fan dancer.

She starts with a pain point that hits the heart of her target audience (standing out in a noisy world) and introduces a novel concept (“spiky” point of view). This intrigues her audience, and they’re curious to click and find out what she’s talking about.

10: Feature–Advantages–Benefits (FAB)

Best for highlighting the benefits of specific features of your product

FAB is a copywriting formula best used for audience segments that already know about your product or service but aren’t convinced to buy.

  • Features: What specific feature are you choosing to highlight? How is it different from similar features in other products on the market?
  • Advantages: What are the advantages of this feature? What problem does the feature solve? At this stage, it doesn’t have to correlate to your audience directly, but display the various advantages of your highlighted feature.
  • Benefits: How does this feature & advantage help the reader? Frame the advantages to be relevant for them.

FAB’s best use case is for highlighting your product’s feature — preferably one that sets you apart from the competition.

Example

Newsletter platform Beehiiv shared a LinkedIn post about its new website builder. They first focused on the feature (website builder), highlighted the advantages (website can be more ‘yours’ than ever), and then ended with the benefits (customizing everything).

Pssst…if you need an even simple website builder to add to your social media profile, use Buffer’s Start Page for free. You can personalize it however you wish and it’s built in minutes!

Not every social media post needs a copywriting formula

Once you’ve used these copywriting formulas multiple times, you’ll not need to “remember” them anyway. They’ll automatically come to you like riding a bike.

And even if you’re just beginning, not every post will need a copywriting formula. Social media is a place to be creative — you don’t need to always mold your posts to take the shape of a formula.

Anyway, after a while, your audience will know who you are, what you sell, and your expertise (given that you’re consistent with your social media posts). Then, you’ll have even more freedom to experiment with straightforward posts without any framework.