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Digital Marketing

Social media content—Developing the words that work

Pay tribute to your teachers by applying what they taught

By Heather Lockwood

It's not what you say; it's how you say it. That may sound really simple. You probably learned it in elementary school when you had to do book reports—and throughout your life as you went to college or had to write proposals or decided to own your own business. But the reality is, writing for the Web and for social media is not the same as writing a book report, proposal, letter or even an e-mail, for that matter.

In this world of instant messaging, people are able to gather information more quickly than ever—and they are more demanding than ever. It is amazing how something as small as a typo can tarnish the credibility of your business. And in the same instant that someone can find you in the social media space, they can instantly have a reason not to want to do business with you.

But never fear. You can follow some pretty simple rules to ensure that you are developing a credible and reputable persona for your business as well as giving existing and potential customers the experience they came for when visiting your Web site, Facebook page or blog by honing your content and delivery.

1. Have a plan. While your blog and Facebook posts sometimes can be spontaneous, you need to have a solid plan around your posts to ensure that even if you get little or no feedback on a specific post, the conversation doesn't end there. Create a plan that revolves around important dates in history or in the industry, holidays or special occasions, dates and events that are specific to your agency that readers can comment on. You can back-fill with other topics as the opportunity arises, but if you have a plan, you can ensure that your readers will have something fresh to read regardless of whether the natural conversation lulls on a previous post.

2. Brevity counts. As people get more inundated with data, they want to learn more from fewer words. Say what you mean in the fewest words possible without losing meaning. You should include one key point to each message. If there are several points that are connected, make them separate posts. If visitors want more information, they can ask for it, but your main goal should be telling them what they want to know or what you want them to know directly and to the point.

3. Simplicity matters. Try not to take your reader on a wild goose chase to connect the dots. Social media sites are not the place to tell complex or technical tales. Again, only one key point at a time and if there are interconnected thoughts, tie them together in a way that is clear and easy to follow. If you let someone proofread your blog post or your Web site content and you have to explain anything, it's too complex.

4. Be fun. People don't want a hard sell over social media. They want to try to get to know you and your business and then determine if you might have a product or service to meet their needs. They want to know if you and your staff have the same interests they do. They want to hear the funny story from the company picnic or that someone had a baby or is graduating or retiring. Being personable makes you and your business more of a friend than some faceless business that just wants to make money. It's great to make people chuckle or even LOL over your content.

5. Be thoughtful. Consider the words you choose. Could they be misconstrued, understood differently or send a message that is different from what you intended? There's a big difference between saying "John got hit," and "John was in a minor fender bender." Even if you have to use a few more words to be clearer, the clarified version is sure to conjure up fewer questions and is more concise for the reader.

6. Have a call to action. Tell your viewers what you want them to do. If you want them to like your page, ask them to. If you want them to view your video, ask them to. If you want them to share, retweet, etc., ask. Be direct and give them a task. If they find your content to be interesting or entertaining, they will do what you ask. If you want to get feedback, don't just wait for it. Ask the people who read your blog or Facebook page to tell you what they think, to post their stories or to share their thoughts and ideas. You'll be surprised at how inclined they are to respond and follow your direction.

Second set of eyes

If there's only one thing that you take away from this article, let it be this: Please, please, please let someone proofread your work

There is nothing more detrimental to your credibility and professionalism than a typo. Some readers will simply stop reading as soon as they come across a typo regardless of the topic or their level of interest up to that point. It just takes a second to have another pair of eyes—preferably someone not as close to the content as you are—to give it a quick review and make sure there aren't any errors.

Typos that often get missed are things such as homophones (to, two, too), plural vs. possessive (babies, baby's), and words that are easily mixed up (affect/effect, stationery/stationary). It is also very easy to rely too heavily on spell check and grammar check to do the work for you. There is nothing that should take the place of having another person review your work before you post to make sure you have spelled everything correctly and convey the meaning you are going for.

With the exception of the last piece of advice, I find all these rules to be of equal value, and all of equal importance. While it may seem like a lot to remember, if you look at the course of any marketing piece, it is the natural progression that every piece should follow: Have a plan, get to the point by way of the most simplistic route, be engaging and thoughtful in your message, then tell the readers what you want them to do. And before you click Submit, Send or Post, have someone else proofread your content. Every… single…time. No matter what.

The author

Heather Lockwood is advertising manager for Foremost Insurance Group. For more information, visit


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