Succeeding on social media is a whole lot harder than it looks, yet people make it sound so easy.
According to Jonah Peretti, CEO of Buzzfeed - as quoted by Danielle Cormier - the key to success is simply to create content people love. Well...one of the keys, anyway.
If finding success on social networks was simply a matter of creating great content, most of you probably wouldn't need to read up on the topic of social media.
It'd simply be a matter of buckling down and creating. The trouble is that there's a whole lot more to it than just belching out a few articles.
"You need to spend 50% of your time on the idea and 50% on how you spread it," Peretti explained at a keynote attended by Cormier. "Not 95% and only a tiny portion on how to spread the idea."
"Quality alone is simply not enough to make something spread," adds Cormier, "you need a strategy." It's the foundations of that strategy that we're going to go over with today's piece.
DO: Understand What Kinds Of Content Are Most Often Shared
The first thing you're going to want to do - before you even think about creating any content - is to look at what's already successful. While there are definitely exceptions, certain types of content tend to excel on social media - while other types simply aren't shared all that much. Gini Dietrich of Convince & Convert has put together a pretty decent guide on the matter, where she lists a few of the most 'shareable' content types:
- Lists, Especially Ranked Lists
- Anything that ties into current trends or pop culture
- Q&A Sessions
- "Big Secrets" or "Tricks"
- Industry Expert Roundups
Figure out which ones are best-suited for your blog's format, and go with them.
DON'T: Just Copy Stuff From Elsewhere
Here's the thing about the web - anyone can publish an article online. If you're simply regurgitating content from another source, you might as well just quit while you're ahead. It's probably not going to get shared, and it might even get you a reputation as a plagiarist.
DO: Tell A Story
The best content creators are natural storytellers, able to hold the rapt attention of their audience while they tell their tale. You should strive to do the same. Ideally, your readers should feel like they're in the same room as you; as though you're narrating your expertise to them in person.
DON'T: Lose Sight Of Who You're Telling It To
Although you should type conversationally, never forget who your audience is. If your style of writing ends up being too disconnected from their own thought/speaking style, you risk causing a rift.
DO: Inspire Strong Emotions
As I've explained before, the most shareable content isn't always that which presents the most value to a reader - it's that which inspires the strongest emotions. These emotions could be positive - excitement, humor, joy - or negative - anger, sadness, indignity - but the important thing is that your readers feel strongly about your content and are inspired to share it.
DON'T: Alienate Your Readers
Now, with the above in mind...I've never been a fan of trying to create negative emotions in your audience. Sure, it'll get your stuff shared in the short-term, but the long-term damage it could deal to your brand isn't really worth the temporary spike in traffic. For that reason, I'd always advise you to entertain rather than insult - it's definitely the safer route.
DO: Pay Attention To The Metrics
Likes, shares, retweets, comments, followers...these metrics are all signs that your readership is engaging with the stuff you've created. They're also an excellent means of gauging audience opinion. Pay careful attention to how many you receive (or how many followers you lose ) whenever you publish something new, and keep careful track of those numbers in an ROI context.
DON'T: Assume Metrics Are All That Matters
As I'm certain I've said before, metrics don't exist in a vacuum. it's not enough that a piece of content's being shared - it's what's being said about that content that's important. Don't assume that just because everyone's retweeting or sharing an article, it's good for your site. The opposite could very well be true.
DO: Be Personable To Your Readers
Your posts shouldn't just tell a story. They should make you seem like a living, breathing human being. Both on your blog and on social media, you should make an active effort to connect with your readership. Converse with them like you would one of your own friends, and give them a human identity to attach to your brand.
DON'T: Come On Too Strong
Even though people want you to be friendly, they don't want to make a close, intimate connection with you. While you shouldn't be a salesperson, neither should you be everyone's best friend. If you show too much interest in a particular reader (or act too genial), you're just going to come across as either creepy or insincere - possibly both.
DO: Go In With A Clear Goal
As you've probably surmised by now, you need to have a clear strategy in mind if you're writing for a social network. What do you want your social marketing efforts to achieve? How will this content improve your brand? These questions need to be answered before you start blogging - that way, you can make your content more focused.
DON'T: Make That Goal Completely Unattainable
One mistake a lot of newer content creators make where social media's concerned is that they get too ambitious. They want to create a viral piece the moment their site launches or attract a million followers in a year's time. When drawing up your goals, take care to make sure they aren't just pipe dreams - otherwise, you may end up sorely disappointed.
DO: Post Frequent Updates
Regular content is a must for your blog - you already know that. The same general principle applies to whatever social channel you're working with (remember, you're marketing as much as you are writing here). Establish a clear schedule and stick to it, sure; but don't be afraid to pop on to your Facebook page and share something cool with your audience if the desire strikes.
DON'T: Overload Your Audience
You need to be very careful to avoid oversharing. If you end up machine-gunning twenty different pieces within the course of a half-hour, you're probably going to see your follower numbers drop through the floor. Share within reason - a few pieces a day should be more than enough, if not a bit too much.
DO:Just Be Totally Awesome
Creating successful content on social media isn't easy. You can't just put together some quality posts and call it a day - you need to devise a strategy, you need to market, and you need to share stuff on your own. Otherwise, you aren't writing for social media - you're simply writing.
Image credit: Kai Stachowiak