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I attended a social media summit last year, and in listening to the experts, I sometimes thought, “What the heck are these people talking about?” At times, the jargon was undefinable, the concepts overly cerebral. To me, many of the speakers sounded like mathematicians, not marketers.
Eventually, my stupidity was exposed. It happened when I sat on a panel, talking about my company’s social strategy. The other panelists lectured like Ph.Ds – me, I felt like I was teaching 2 + 2 = 4.
I’ll say it again, “What the heck are these people talking about?” Too often, social media’s portrayed as quantum physics. If Stephen Hawking wants to talk social media, then let him talk to the physicists. For the rest of us, social media doesn't have to be so dang difficult. This isn't rocket science.
And that’s the one myth.
The Rocket Science Myth
Social media isn't rocket science. You can portray it that way; start throwing around terms like SMMS, content curation, engagement. All this jargon muddies the playing field, but in the end, social media, at its heart, is about interesting stuff. Some might call it “value-add” (sorry, jargon), but put simply, its sharing something useful with your readers.
The Heavy Lifting
And that brings us to the one truth.
Social media is hard – hard like Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption, who took 20 years to tunnel through his prison wall. One post doesn't support a blog, just like one tweet doesn't fuel a Twitter stream. Like Shawshank, you've got to put forth some effort – everyday – if you want to break through the social media wall. Without the effort, get used to prison food.
However, “hard” is not synonymous with “impossible.” In social media, “hard” is actually synonymous with “success.” Here’s 3 things that make social hard. Face them head on, and you’ll find yourself on the other side of the Shawshank wall.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
If the internet’s an information factory, then social media’s a pipe carrying the runoff to your readers. Of this runoff, let’s say 90% of it’s carbon dioxide and 10% of it’s oxygen. In which percentage does your shared content fall?
Hard work #1: If you’re not offering oxygen to your followers, then you’re polluting them. Social media, at its core, has two layers of hard work: 1) you have to share, share, share; and 2) what you’re sharing has to be interesting, interesting, interesting. The latter’s hard work because it takes thought, creativity and (if you’re searching for content to share) research.
One Man’s Title Is another Man’s Trash
This is the hardest to recognize, the hardest to believe in, the hardest to master. It took me about a year to realize this truth, which is: many article/blog titles stink. Or maybe they don’t stink. Maybe they’re just not written for your audience.
Hard work #2: If you’re sharing content from other bloggers, rewriting titles is vital. Great text doesn't necessarily equal a great title. Think about it – what’s most important to any writer? Answer: the meat and potatoes, not the gravy on top. Titles, sadly, are an afterthought.
When sharing content, the default is to doze on titles (something I suffered from for many years). It’s a “Just Post It & Forget It” mentality. But let me ask you this: Do you think my titles are written for your social media audience? Heck no they’re not! I selfishly write them for my audience, just like any other author. So why do you share titles verbatim if they’re written with selfish intentions? Start working hard, rewrite titles, and aim them at your audience.
Stop Vomiting All Over Your Blog
No apologies for this graphic image. Too many bloggers vomit all over the page, which makes for some very unpleasant reading. Ever clicked a great Tweet, only to have those 140 characters transformed into a 10 page blog? Condensing information is a must, but it’s hard if you’re too busy to read through an article and pull out the highlights. It’s even harder if your ego finds pleasure in writing long, academic blogs.
Hard work #3: If your followers read while sipping cognac or while they’re sitting in a smoke filled, 18th Century reading room, then by all means, offer them a tome. If not, then you've only got a small window to grab their attention.
I’ve mentioned Roy Peter Clark before, who, in his book “How to Write Short,” mentions the practice of “reading at a glance.” He says:
When you practice that single glance [of the entire text], you can begin to make predictions about how the reading will go.
Frist-glance reading is venomous to long writing. The antidote – condense. It’s hard to slash and burn your over-writing, and likewise, it’s hard to distill what somebody else has written. The path of least resistance is to quit after your first draft or quit after you cut and paste. However, if you follow these paths of least resistance, guess what? You’re offering your readers a path of least resistance: a first-glance that says, “Skip it.”
Social Media presence is hard work and long-term process. One can't just do it overnight! Although there are paid applications to increase follower, the question are they really worth it!