Opinion: It’s a marathon, not a sprint
By Garrett Moon
Remember when you first started thinking about outer space as a kid? It was hard to wrap your mind around all of the stars, planets and galaxies. You suddenly felt so small.
Well, now there’s something seemingly vaster than space to make you feel even more insignificant. It’s called social media.
As you thoughtfully craft your daily Facebook post—adding the perfect image, spell-checking and shaping your brand’s online persona—55 million other status updates are crowding onto the platform along with yours.
It’s easy to question whether it’s even possible for your post to become the signal in all of that noise.
Why brands’ social media approaches fail
Brands are desperate to be “good at social media,” and they will do anything for guidance to show them the way. Unfortunately, relying on so-called best practices can do more harm than good. If you’re copycatting other brands and following a set of rules for social media posting, you’re camouflaging into the crowd rather than emerging from it.
Instead of worrying about the perfect word count or the prime number of emojis to put in a subject line—which often doesn’t lead to the high engagement rates one might expect—you should concentrate on building a connection with consumers.
The key to this is what we call “message optimization”: the art of writing posts that are naturally eye-catching and interesting to your target audience.
Here are tips from our experts on how to shift your social media mindset and start optimizing posts:
- Overcome perfectionism: In life and work, you might be used to seeking perfection. A product is honed and tested more times than you can count. But with social media, perfection is the enemy of productivity. Instead, think of social media as a series of minimum viable tests. Strip approvals from your process and instead approve the process. Allow your team to post regularly, learn quickly and iterate so that your style and schedule is always refining while you’re building relationships with followers.
- Stop selling and start communicating: Who do people trust most on social media? Quick answer: friends and family. That’s why behaving like a corporation on social media platforms will get you nowhere. Rather than asking for likes and shares, which has proven to be ineffective, earn your engagement by building goodwill. Participate in social media with the mindset that it’s a collection of human beings. You can do this by actually interacting with the people who follow you. Most social media sites’ algorithms favor two-way interaction. This means that for every like or comment you receive, you should offer likes and comments in response. Better yet, by doing this, Facebook will reward you by prioritizing your future posts in its News Feed.
- Go against the grain: Keep in mind that algorithms and audiences glaze over content that simply repeats or agrees with another source. Instead of eyeing up someone else’s success and replicating it, do something unique. Take a risk, represent a controversial view, be the first to comment on an event or trend or present the facts in an unusual way. My company focused on promoting engaging content when building our Social Message Optimizer tool. In doing so, we analyzed more than 6.3 million social media posts and learned a lot about the ingredients for the perfect message. As a result, the tool takes care of the small, repetitive stuff like word counts and platform-specific formats. With the nitty-gritty details and mechanics of social messages out of the way, you can better concentrate on developing unique posts. For example, put in some extra work and use a survey to identify a new trend among consumers and then present the data through engaging content.
- Put on your marathon shoes: Social media is not a sprint, so slow down. In order to craft meaningful connections with followers, you need to be prepared for the long haul. It’s common for companies to do a simple test and then stop. For example, they might write one blog post, and when nobody reads it, blindly decide that blogging isn’t for them. Remember, no company became a social media superstar overnight. To improve your success, take a long-term view of message optimization. Plot the process into your overall content strategy and keep publishing individualized content at a regular cadence so that audiences have a hard-to-resist incentive to return to your site.
Envisioning the size of the social media universe can be disorienting. To gain back your balance, keep posts down-to-earth by humanizing them. Become genuinely curious about the human beings who log on to their devices and seek out your content. You can still exercise your childhood imagination by wondering about questions such as, “What do consumers care about?,” and, “How can we make them laugh, cry or think with our next post?” With the right approach, the enormousness of social media can hit much closer to home.