Saturday, September 8, 2012

How to Write Effective Social Media Content



Content Writing

Few businesses seem to "get" how to promote and post on their Facebook pages. Here are three tips to avoid putting visitors to sleep.

 
As some social media start-ups get gobbled by Google (or is it Googled by gobble?) while other shining stars tumble, the naysayers are shooting from their anti-social media starting blocks faster than a Jamaican Olympic track team on Red Bull. If you’re reading some of the same articles, blogs, and Tweets that I am, then you’ve seen the recent onslaught of negative press regarding social media. Maybe I’m na├»ve to inner workings of Wall Street, but I’m not exactly sure how Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth going from a gazillion dollars to a measly bazillion signals the death knell to an entire industry.  Though Markie-Mark 2.0 aside, so many pundits seem convinced:  Social Media is dead. Over. Finito  Completo.  A member of the not-so-dearly departed.   

To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of social media’s recent demise have been greatly exaggerated. I can without reservations say that social media is indeed not dead. It is however, quite soundly asleep. Yes, that snoring sound you hear is coming from your audience, friends, customers, or followers.  And it’s only getting louder. Once alert and engaged, social media postings have lulled the online world into a peaceful sleep.  Perhaps the word “coma” would be more accurate. It’s not that social media is dead as much as most of those who are creating the content are – figuratively speaking of course. 

Content creation requires skilled inspiration. Amused or bemused, I’ve kept your attention so far by providing opinions and thoughts that were unexpected.  Granted, it’s a skill that in my case puts food on the table (primarily Ramen noodles, old pizza crust, and the occasional seedless grape) but sustenance nonetheless.  The astute Internet poster recognizes it’s not that easy to create great social media once, albeit consistently.  To which I say: bravo.  

Too many of these how-to social media blogs, eBooks and webinars tell you how others create rather than what to create.  Remember those ads for art school they’d run in magazines when they were printed on paper in ancient times? They’d ask you to draw some animal, then promised to evaluate your talent.  I took a short cut. When everyone in my family thought the dove-tailed deer I drew was a lovely single-celled amoeba I quickly gave up my dreams of being a cartoonist for a bafoonist as some might call this Ramen noodle-eating social media humorist. But I digest…

So let’s not pretend. Most people probably can’t write scintillating social media content and -- forget a deer -- I probably can’t make Bambi look like a member of its own genus.  Nor can I teach you how to write well either. I can though suggest what not to say and when not to say it in hopes that you heed my words, I might be able to stay awake tonight in front of my iPad, which is in front of my laptop, which is front of my flat screen.

Let’s start with the obvious. You know that Facebook friend who posts what they had for breakfast and then only becomes less interesting post after post as the day goes on? With your mailbox dinging letting you know that they’ve just won a new sheep of whatever “prizes” they give you in those inane games? In any event, study what those friends do, then do the opposite.  Then unfriend them while you’re at it. And then submit their email on every telemarketing list you can find. 

When a friend asks me to “like” their business or group, I usually oblige. But in doing so I expect, and at times am even excited to learn about upcoming deals and events. But after a few weeks of reading posts and tweets that talked about the weather, unrelated events, and the worst -- “Happy Monday” wishes -- I bail.  They failed to engage me and instead were putting me to sleep.
A great offender of this rule on Facebook is -- well almost every business on Facebook. Unlike a baseball park in the middle of an Iowa cornfield, they won’t come just because you build it or get Kevin Costner to endorse it.  Social media must have relevant, engaging content.  Some of the larger companies recognize this and create social media based upon a plan, a strategy, and a campaign like any communication medium. They don’t always succeed, but they deserve an “E” for eFFORT.

On the flip side, there’s need to be controversial in your posts—unless you can keep it up on for days  just like – wait no.  Too easy.
So if you don’t have it in you to create great posts, at the very least there are three rules to follow to avoid putting readers to sleep:

1.     Say it. Don’t spray it.  Be brief. Avoid getting into too many details when possible. Leave something to the imagination. Post your social media regularly, but not too much to be annoying.  Sorry, the how-often-to-post ratio differs for everyone or business so experimentation is needed.  You’ll discover that there will be better times for you to post than others too. Though there are free tools to do all of this if you look.
2.     If you don’t eat this, I’m only going to throw it away. Social media to adults is like boiled Brussels sprouts to kids. Forget Mikey -- you taste it first. I don’t have to consume it – and you can’t make me. Think your audience is different and might be interested in things you’re not? Wrong.  So ask yourself, would you read your post if you didn’t have to?  Does it whet your intellectual appetite, amuse you, make you take the next step when applicable? If not, don’t try to shove it down my pie hole.
3.     It’s like marriage: it’s a one-way street. Anyone who has been married knows that there’s usually a “giver” and a “taker”. Guess what? Just like in your relationship, you’re the giver. And as the reader/follower, I want, want, want. I don’t care if it’s a coupon, a hot tip, a send-away or give-away. Just hand it over. The better it is the more I’ll return. And would it kill you to make the bed once in awhile?! 
Social media is about providing relevant content to act as a catalyst to create buzz or “call to action” in marketing speak. They are not the action themselves.
  So if you’re selling something, rather than “Read this and buy my product” instead try “Buy this because it’s cheaper today. Read more here.”  And by all means plagiarize. Oh, excuse me. The politically correct word is “Retweet” and it’s acceptable with proper attribution. But don’t rely on just redistributing others pearls of wisdom. Mix humor with serious posts. Information with offers. Observations with opinions.
Like most writers, I’m very tired and ornery for no good reason, but believe it or not you have it within your power to provide meaningful, engaging content, like (some of) the rest of us that will make me happy. Just keep your hands off the Ramen noodles.