In 2013, brands are posting an average of 36 times per month on Facebook. Over a year that adds up to 432 posts. That’s a lot of content. With the average Facebook user liking 40 pages each, they’re now seeing a whopping 1440 updates every month (source). A solid social strategy will help you jump out of the murky newsfeed pond, but strategy is only half the battle. What we really need to talk about is quality.
It’s hard to maintain consistency in your content when you’re producing it at scale, especially with limited resources. But quantity shouldn’t mean a sacrifice in quality. Here are six questions to ask yourself before you post anything on social platforms:
1. Why am I posting this?
Your social strategy needs to start with why and repeat on loop ad infinitum. If you’re not constantly asking why, you need to drink more coffee and develop some anxieties. Same goes for your content.
Social content is not an afterthought. It is not filler. It isn’t a box to tick. Posting content because it’s funny or because you have to post something isn’t good enough. Neither is posting because the CEO asked you to, or because it got a lot of engagement when ‘Brand Y’ did it.
The answer you’re looking for is this: ‘because it is relevant to the community and provides value.’
And by value I don’t mean it saves them money. I’m talking about entertainment, information, advice. Value is what makes your content special. Value is what makes content shareable. Value is a customer insight, not a brand insight, and it’s the reason people want to engage with you on social platforms.
If you just do the same thing as everyone else, then you aren’t providing any value at all. If your content isn’t valuable and relevant, post something else. Better yet, don’t post anything. Go back to the drawing board and ask why you’re on social platforms in the first place.
2. Who is it for?
Your community is not your customers. Sure, your customers are in there, coiled in anticipation for the chance to click on a link to your latest product, but they aren’t going to do that unless your content speaks to them directly.
A consistent tone of voice will help. Your brand on social should sound like your brand everywhere else. Hopefully it sounds like someone your customers want to talk to. If not, fix that first, then come back. The post can wait.
It’s no good developing a fun, irreverent tone in order to ‘talk to the kids’ if your brand doesn’t always talk like that and your customers aren’t those same kids. It’s also no good being too sales-focused. You need to talk to your community, not at them. Think about the way your customers speak, think about the dialect and jargon specific to your location or industry. Make the content speak to your target audience. Rewrite or redesign until you get it right. Review and optimise your tone and style regularly.
You’ll reach more people talking to the right people than trying to reach more people by talking to everyone.
3. What do I want to achieve?
Most social content is confused. The call to action isn’t clear and it fails by trying to do too much.
Recently I saw this update: ‘How was your weekend? What are you going to do today?’
Two questions, two calls to action, low engagement. The questions cancel each other out. This should have been two separate posts, if it was the right thing to post in the first place. Remembering to put one call to action per post will save your engagement rate along with your blushes.
The type of update you post also affects engagement. Take Facebook for example. If you’re asking a question, then the goal of the post is comments. A simple status update will generate more comments than an image, but an image will generate more shares. So if you’re looking for amplification, post an image.
Everything you post should want to achieve something. If it doesn’t, then don’t post.
4. When am I posting this?
When you schedule a TV ad, chances are you try and do it at a time when your target audience are sitting down in front of the TV. Your social content strategy needs to take time into account also.
When are your audience online? When are they on Facebook? Check the data, find out. The days of ‘this has to go on out immediately’ should be well in the past. Your audience dictates when you post.
The half-life of a tweet is seven minutes. Depending on your engagement, the half-life of a Facebook post averages at around two hours (much less if you post poor content). Post at the wrong time and you’ll turn an urgent message into an unread one.
5. Where am I posting this?
A tweet has room for 140 of your finest characters. A Facebook status however, has room for 63,206 characters. That’s around 10,000 words, depending on the words.
Should you post a 10,000 word status update? Probably not.
The point is this: not all content works on all platforms, not all platforms engage with content in the same way, and each platform is home to a different community.
On Tumblr, 60% of all reblogs are images, and using animated GIFs will ensure you get more of those reblogs. On Instagram, emotive images get more likes. On Pinterest, adding a price to your image leads to more click-throughs.
Each platform you choose to operate in needs its own content strategy. If the piece of content you want to post isn’t right for a particular platform, don’t post it there.
The platform-specific optimisations are many and minute, but it’s these one-percents that will give your content an extra boost, not a blanket of platform-agnostic mediocrity.
6. How else can I say this?
Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘The first draft of anything is shit’. He probably wasn’t talking about Facebook posts, but still. Too many updates are written once and posted first time.
The first thing you write might be adequate, but if adequate isn’t good enough for your product design, for your television ads or your customer service, then adequate shouldn’t be good enough for your social content.
Adequate is a failure. Be better.
Good copy is as little copy as possible. Can you say it in fewer words? Can you say it visually?
Think about your own news feed. What do you like to see? What would you click on?
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. And when you’re done, write it again.
Once you’ve asked yourself these six questions, you should be confident that you’ve got a solid, valuable piece of social content on your hands.
But there is a final variable in the social content equation that is just as important: you.
If you wouldn’t read it, if you wouldn’t comment or share or click, don’t post it.
Your community won’t tolerate bad content. You shouldn’t either.