I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about what it means to write for many devices, many audiences, and an audience that is time pressed.
When we’re planning our campaigns, we tend to gravitate towards a picture of our audience in our minds eye that is sat on the sofa, with iPad or daily newspaper, slowly digesting our messaging and its implications.
We wish. In reality, we probably have around thirty seconds of someone’s attention while they’re standing at a bus stop, with a latte in the other hand. And that’s a difficult shift for us to adjust to.
Social media will change how you write – and that’s ok
Writing for social media does mean changing the way we write – nothing less than designing short attention spans into our content. We now spend as much time planning outputs (interactive charts, punchy intros, subheadings, social media links) as we do messaging.
But it also means putting the processes in place that allow great content to happen. O2 is a superb example of this – they have created a ‘triage’ so that senior management understand how customer queries are going to be responded to, but don’t have control over what precisely is said. That is (rightly) the job of the community manager.
Do you invest appropriate time providing an accompanying image to a post? It’s tempting to think that once you’ve written a post the job is done, but a well-chosen image could increase engagement by over 300%. That could be the difference between a campaign succeeding or not – is it worth your time? With sites like Stocksy around, there really is no excuse.
Beware the Hummingbird
Within five years, Google Hummingbird will kill off ‘brochureware’ sites with only static pages, however well keyword optimised they are. That’s how big it is.
The rise of mobile search and mobile and voice search platforms such as Google Now and Siri are ushering in a future where very specific search terms are the norm.
It won’t matter where you rank for ‘PR agency London’ as no-one will be searching for it. They’ll be searching for help with brandjacking, social media crisis simulation, media relations for charities, or one of the many other myriad terms. If you don’t have a page for it, you won’t be in the race.
As such, you’ll need to invest now in thorough market research (emphatically not simply keyword research) to find out what it is your audience wants from you, and how you can help meet it. The strategy that is now being pioneered by the likes of gov.uk will become commonplace within the next two years.
Tap into human emotion if you want people to share
People make content go viral. Specifically, it’s people’s emotional reactions to content that make it go viral. You can roll your eyes at BuzzFeed all you want, but they understand this.
It’s very difficult to get anyone to share anything without first asking “what is it about this post that would make people want to share it?”
In the real world, people share information to survive, to express themselves, to form social bonds, to help people and to manage how they are perceived. And that’s more or less it.
If you want to create content that is shared, you need to tap into one of those emotional states. We share feelings, not facts, and we share content that triggers emotions.
A strategy for social sharing
So then, what should your social media content strategy revolve around? It should have a healthy dollop of ‘Library’ content first up – that’s specific content that answers real questions for real people.
It should also have ‘Cafe’ content – short, visual, shareable content for social media that is delivered in packages for different audiences and platforms. Always, of course, created with an awareness of the culture of that particular platform.
But it’s also about what we don’t share. Facebook is incredibly unforgiving of poor content – its EdgeRank algorithm decides whether to display your content on someone’s News Feed based on their engagement with your previous content.
If that previous content happened to have been a duff Facebook update that a stakeholder had pressured you to put on the Facebook wall because ‘it would be popular with the kids,’ then there is a very real cost to that update.
Indeed, with Facebook now increasing emphasis on Promoted Posts, it may be that you have to pay to get that user back. Food for thought next time you’re asked to post a bad update!