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