by Michael Mercurio
When it comes to writing social media posts, not many people claim to be an expert on the subject. The idea of being an “expert” on Tweeting sounds exceptionally silly to some folks – and understandably so. That being said, however, there is indeed a sort of science to it if you want to gain followers and actually have your posts read by other humans. And, as a business, you absolutely want that. Here’s what you need to do, in five easy steps.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
It’s one thing to share random, silly cat pictures on the internet. It’s quite another to market your product to a target demographic. Who exactly are you trying to appeal to? Who is it that you want to read your posts? What sort of customers are you looking for? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself, and once you’ve figured that out, you can use the information to help guide what type of content to post. A cat playing a harmonica, for example, might be great for when you just want to grab attention as quickly as possible. It wouldn’t be as well suited however, for say, an IT company trying to warn businesses about a data breach. (Unless of course it was a picture of a cat breaking into a server, in which case that would be purrfect.)
Step 2: Do Your Research
Never take your readers for granted. They’ll know when you don’t know what you’re talking about, and you should always write with that assumption in mind. Setting aside the fact that in today’s age it takes about five seconds for a reader to type something into Google to find out if what you said is true or not, when you know the subject well, it shows in your writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog or a short Twitter post – when you know your stuff, it just plain looks and sounds good.
Step 3: Use Your Hashtags Correctly
#ThisIsNotHowYouUseAHashtag. This is how you use a #hashtag. Don’t go hashing everything in sight, but always be sure to make your most important subject points stand out. For the moment, let’s return to your photo of a cat playing a harmonica. In this instance, we’ll say the picture and associated blurb are being used to promote a music school. (Which, if we’re being completely honest, is bloody brilliant!) We have the photo. Now, what should the post say along with it? How about: Acme Music School is the cat’s meow! Sign up today!
Now, we have our picture, and we have our blurb. But it’s missing a few important things that are needed to make it work for social media platforms. So how about this, instead:
#AcmeMusicSchool is the cat’s meow! Click the link below to sign up today! #Music #MusicSchool 555-555-1234 http://acmemusic.meow
If you’ll notice, we hashed everything that’s important and relevant to the subject. We didn’t put a hashtag for “cat,” because that would completely bury your post, and/or possibly break the internet. In summary, you want your hashtags to be “useful.” That’s the key word here (as opposed to “keyword”). Whether it’s a hashtag, a link or a phone number, in social media you want everything to lead back to YOU if possible.
Step 4: Use Cat Pictures
No, seriously. We’re totally overusing this cat metaphor, but the weird fact is, cats do in fact seem to own the internet and social media. So do dogs, food and babies. You may think it’s silly. You may prefer to come off as serious and professional. Your readers don’t care what you want. Your readers WANT the cat pictures. And the dog pictures. And the squirrels. And whatever bizarre memes are floating around on Google Images and Reddit. You can be professional – in fact, it’s preferable when you are – but you also have to be “entertaining” as well now and then. We know you have something very important to say, but sometimes you need to pad it with fluff to make it more palatable to the average reader. Think of it as slipping the medicine in with a scoop of ice cream. A little sweetness can make a pill much easier to swallow.
Step 5: Please Tweet Responsibly
Are you absolutely sure you want to post that? Really, REALLY sure? Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Sure, most times you can delete or edit, but this is the internet. It only takes SECONDS for “cat”-astrophic PR damage to occur. One of the inherent problems with text is no two humans will read it in exactly the same way. Often how we perceive the written word depends on our own state of mind while reading it. It’s difficult or sometimes even impossible to predict how your post is going to come off to everyone on the planet. And that’s part of the issue, too: When you post something on the internet, literally the whole planet can read it. What you have to do is make your message as unambiguous as possible, despite the cultural and personality differences of your entire potential audience. In other words, try very, VERY hard not to offend anyone when you are writing business posts or posts that represent your organization. Social media makes things so quick and easy – too easy. One employee having a bad day and accidentally posting a rant to the wrong channel is all it takes to ruin everything.
Like we said before, there aren’t many people who can claim to be an “expert” on writing social media. It’s an art as much as it is a science. But we do have scientific proof on how to get people to read the things you post, and that proof is in the numbers rather than in the pudding. Follow these steps, and YOUR numbers are sure to grow.
Michael Mercurio is a social media specialist and writer for Prince William Living. He has also been known to create and share cat memes upon request.
“Your Words Mean Business” provides insights and tips to business owners, organizations and professionals seeking to better their performance and increase their bottom line through sharpening written and marketing communication skills.