How to Write for Social Media [TIPS + VIDEO] #smlondon

sue keogh teaching social media london how to write

This month’s Social Media Meetup was “Sweet Retweets: How to Write for Social Media“ with Sue Keogh (@sookio), who owns Sookio and runs the Sweet Retweets workshops.

Some background information:

The meetup started with a brief introduction about Sue who runs a company based in Cambridge called Sookio, which she set up in 2008 after working freelance for a number of years working as an editor for Yahoo! and AOL, as well as working for other companies (Magic FM, BBC, ITV).

Sookio offers website content, copywriting, and help for social media channels. In addition, she also runs workshops on how to write for social media, applying her editorial knowledge to writing for social media channels, to make things as clear and compelling as possible.

To start the event, Sue gave an outline of the meetup, which touched on writing for social media, a topic that some might consider trivial or even obvious.  However, it’s not just about setting up a Twitter account and typing 160 characters or less in a box. As it’s so easy to set up an account, the temptation is to just write without paying attention and 6 months down the line you notice that you’re not building an audience.

Facebook and Twitter were the main focus of this meetup, with a few other platforms as well.  The following topics were tackled as well:

  • How to get likes, comments and shares on Facebook.
  • How to get your tweets retweeted.
  • How to write good titles for your blog posts and other content that will be shared on social media.

As part of the meetup, Sue shared 9 of her favourite tips on how to write for social media.

1. Don’t be all “me me me”:

Remember: social media is all about being human. Why not set up a LinkedIn group and start a discussion? Also, keep in mind the “rule of thirds” – spend:

  • A third of the time promoting yourself, talking about your products, service and what you have to offer;
  • A third of the time talking about what’s going on in the industry, retweeting and sharing other people’s content;
  • A third of the time just answering people’s questions and doing general admin tasks.

2. Don’t be afraid to be brief:

As Facebook doesn’t have the character count limitations that Twitter has, there’s the temptation to waffle on forgetting the fact that a lot of people view content on their mobile devices. People who view Facebook might be put off if they see lengthy content from you, so don’t try to be too dominant with your posts.

With Twitter, make each tweet that you want to be shared retweetable:

  • Keep your tweets under 120 characters, to leave space for the username of the person retweeting you and space for any comment that the user might add to your tweet.
  • You can use a link shortener, which is often built into a few Twitter clients.
  • Before you post the tweet, read it and ask yourself, “is there a way I can write this tweet to make it more concise?”
  • Try using synonyms for long words: for instance, instead of saying “attempted”, why not say “tried”?

3. Use extra punctuation:

Punctuation makes your tweets easier to read and easier to share as well, as they add extra clarity to your tweets (when used correctly). This is statistically proven: Dan Zarrella, an award-winning social media scientist, has conducted a research on Twitter and retweets and he found that retweets are more likely to contain punctuation that tweets that aren’t retweeted.

4. Ask a question and say “you”:

If you want to engage the reader:social media london

  • Make use of the word “you”,
  • Ask questions,
  • Ask opinions,
  • Use strong words like “why”, “what”, “who”, and “how”.

5. Avoid abstract titles:

Unfortunately this is sometimes that often goes overlooked in social media: coming up with a good and effective title for your content. This applies to blog posts, YouTube videos etc.

When you use “abstract titles”, people can’t be 100% sure of what your content is about until they click on a link and finally see it. If users don’t feel compelled to open the link after reading the title, they won’t see your post, hence they won’t share it.

6. Tell people what to expect:

Tell your readers or viewers what to expect right from the title.

You don’t need to give all the details away to do so. For instance, football writers will only hint at what the article is about in the title but they won’t give away all the details. This is a simple but effective way to invite readers to see and read your posts.

Though people overlook this, update your bio on social networks. This will give people a chance to see what you and your blog/channels are about.

7. Check your spelling and grammar:

If you don’t use grammar properly, it reflects badly not only on you as a person but also on your brand.

Don’t rely heavily on the spellchecker – they will detect incorrect spellings but they won’t check the semantics of your sentence (whether what you’ve written makes sense or not).

Don’t rush – read your content through before you post it, whether it’s a tweet, a Facebook status, or a blog post.

8. Don’t forget your context

Context is very important: once you post a tweet, you don’t have control over it – people will start retweeting and it’ll be shared with the world.

Keep in mind what’s going on in the world – if your tweets are sent out in inappropriate moments, they might be retweeted and shared for the wrong reasons.

9. Don’t auto-post between context

A lot of people auto-post across platforms because it’s quick, efficient and very easy to do.

Sookio argument against auto-posting is that it looks lazy to your followers and readers, and you might come across as dismissive and too busy to cater for your audience on your various platforms.

In addition, by using auto-post you don’t take full advantage of your social media platforms. For instance, on Twitter you might be limited to text, a link and/or a picture, but on Facebook you can make more use of multimedia and write more.

Be very careful what channels you auto-post on, especially if you decide to push your tweets to your LinkedIn feed. Though you might have an amount of liberty to express yourself on Twitter, remember that LinkedIn is a place for professionals and they might not be particularly happy to see drunken tweets on their LinkedIn feed.

Question Time

To conclude, Sue gave the audience a chance to ask a few questions. Here are the questions and answers in a nutshell.

Q. Is there any specific punctuation that works particularly better than others?

A. It depends on context – even though punctuation is recommended, be careful not to abuse it. If you’re a charity, you might want to be “strict” with your punctuation, using a more serious tone perhaps; on the other hand, if you’re in showbiz you’re free to use punctuation in a way that suits you/your brand best. In general, tweets with colons (:) are more retweeted that tweets with semicolons (;), probably because not everyone is certain on how to use the latter. However, don’t look at punctuation too much: if you have a perfectly worded tweet, don’t fill it with unnecessary punctuation. Remember: be concise and straight to the point.

Q. How do you track how well your tweets are doing?

A. You can use Hootsuite or Buffer to track this. One way to broadcast your tweets further is to ask people who are more influential in your area of interest to retweet your content. If successful, your tweets will be shared to a wider audience and you’ll also gain more followers. If you’re using Facebook to publish your content, check Facebook insight to see how well you’re doing.

Q. Is it appropriate to ask people to retweet us?

A. Words like “please” and “please retweet” are very common in retweets, as Dan Zarrella noticed. People respond really well when they’re told or asked to do something, so if you have something that is of benefit to others, asking people to retweet it is a really good way to ask people to share your content with their friends and followers.

Q. Do you have any favourite platforms?

A. Sookio used to have Hootsuite as a favourite platform, but as her needs changed she changed platform too and moved to Seesmic. However, due to bugs, she might change back to Hootsuite. A lot of people have personal favourites: Tweetdeck (though some prefer the older version before it was acquired by Twitter), Echofon.

Q. What do you think about scheduling tweets?

A. Scheduling tweets is very useful – it’s a very good way for you to get on top of your time and reach people at the right time after you’ve identified the best times to post your content.

Q. How many tweets do you schedule the same tweets?

A. It depends: if you have urgent content (e.g. breaking news) then it’s best publishing it right away, but if you have a blog post that it’s not time-specific you can post it various times during the week. Keep your audience in mind though – if you notice that you’re suddenly getting comments on your blog post, you might want to change the wording the original tweet you sent about your post and resend it, asking people to voice their opinions on the latest blog post comments.

Q. Should you tweet as a brand or as a person within the brand?

A. This varies from situation to situation: a lot of the times people tweet as a brand if it’s a large organisation. However, if you’re a small brand you might want to tweet as yourself, to put a human face to the brand and to inject some personality into it.

Q. How do you follow people on Twitter and reach out to them without coming across as a stalker?

A. Social media is good at levelling the playing field, allowing you to talk to people who normally would be out of reach to you. So don’t be afraid to contact them. Be friendly, polite, subtle and use flattery before you start asking them to look at your content or share it. If they don’t answer right away, you can get in touch with their PR agents – depending on who they are.

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My Views

This was another great meetup which answered a lot of questions for me, especially about auto-posting and paying attention to context when publishing content online – the last thing you need is publicity for the wrong reasons. At the moment I haven’t got a favourite application to check how well my tweets are doing for my blog – I’ve used Sprout Social but I personally think that works best for bigger brands. However, I’m going to have a look at Buffer as it not only provides an easy and quick way to schedule and post tweets, but it also provides clear stats to tell you your potential reach, how many people have clicked on your links, how many retweets you’ve received etc.

For more details on Sue’s How To Write for Social Media workshops, check out Sweet Retweets.

Don’t miss our next meetup,  “How To Master YouTube Marketing” with @PhilNottingham on Tuesday 24th July at The Green Man.

Social Media London is a community and monthly meetup featuring expert social media speakers, proudly powered by Link Humans.

Ben Donkor

Ben Donkor is a Social Media Analyst at Link Humans and BT. He blogs about social media, technology and startups (brnrd.me). He can be contacted on Twitter at @FR314.