How do you produce great content for your social media programme?
It’s easy. Think like a journalist.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Easier said than done… I know nothing about journalism… Heck, I don’t even read a daily newspaper anymore.
So let me — the former journalist — help you out (yes, even if you’ve never set foot in a newsroom).
In recent years, it has become clear that one of the best ways to build your business online is to publish top-notch material that your potential clients really care about and find genuinely useful (usually on your blog). By giving them information they truly want and need, you build a close connection with them and eventually convert them into clients.
The industry name for this is “content marketing”.
The companies that are doing this best are effectively turning into online publishers – even if they are in a completely unrelated sector, for example selling soft drinks (watch Coca Cola’s inspirational content manifesto here ).
But even if you’re running a smaller operation, you need to produce regular, good-quality copy, and that’s where journalistic skills come in:
1. Know your audience. I still remember, early on in my journalistic career, one of my editors sitting me down and telling me, “People want to read about themselves.” What he meant was that people liked stories that were directly relevant to their lives.
Given the choice between articles on elephants in Africa or the standard of living in Japan, and pieces on the price of cheese in Tesco or the frequency of rubbish collection in London, most British readers would probably prefer the latter two – even if the foreign pieces were ever so well written and much more intellectually stimulating.
As journalists, we needed to think carefully about what our readers actually wanted.
It’s the same in social media. If we are to produce posts that actually draw our potential customers in, we need to develop a deep understanding about who they are, and what they care about – and tailor our material accordingly.
2. Write great headlines. Every journalist knows that you can write the most amazing, ground-breaking, Pulitzer Prize-worthy piece – but if the headline sucks, no one will ever read it.
Same goes for your blog posts. Don’t let the headline be an after-thought! Think carefully about what title will draw your readers to actually click on that link, because if it’s boring or bland, nobody will.
3. Be visual. Most newspaper pages are dominated by large images, which look great, make the written text easier for readers to digest, and entice them into the related article.
Often, the picture is deemed to be more important than the accompanying text: it’s sometimes chosen before the text is laid out, and the length of the text is dictated by how much room is left after the picture is put on the page.
Social media content is, likewise, not all about words. How your blog posts look matters to your readers. It has been shown again and again that Tweets and Facebook posts with images get far higher engagement than those without. Use them!
4. Write stories. When I was a features writer, I made a point of starting every single piece with a short anecdote. This could bring even the driest subject matter to life, and was an important way to draw in readers.
On social media, it can be tempting for companies to talk a lot about facts and figures, their accomplishments and the technical details of their products. But they need to humanize their material, or it will turn off anyone but die-hard fans.
By focusing on stories — How did my client’s life change by using my product? What happened when our company started raising money for charity? How our CEO came across the invention that redefined our company – they make themselves accessible and interesting to potential clients.
5. Use an editor. Even professional journalists are not expected to come up with brilliant ideas and flawless copy all on their own. They attend editorial meetings where the team brainstorms, editors help them refine their angles and suggest leads, and when the text is written, it is reviewed and often re-written by copy-editors. Everyone makes mistakes and a second pair of eyes is always useful.
For similar reasons, don’t allow whoever writes your content to work alone. They will need help coming up with good concepts, and their writing must ALWAYS be reviewed by someone else before it is posted online.
This will ensure that the material is polished and free of typos, and even more importantly, help weed out anything embarrassing before it’s let loose on the world. After all, they are speaking in the name of your company.
Have I missed anything out? Let me know in the comments!