Best Practices for Social Media Content That’ll Improve Your Writing and Design

An analysis of job listings shows the most in demand skill for content marking is social media content creation. After social media strategy content creation is what social pros spend much of their time on. While results vary based on target, brand, and social platform there are best practices to follow when writing and designing any social media post that will lead to more interesting and engaging brand posts.

Social Media is the most Requested Skill in Content Marketing

Write in Active Voice and Second Person. 

Most experts agree active voice creates more engaging social media copy with clear, concise, action-oriented sentences. In active voice the subject performs an action by directly using a verb to show the action versus passive voice where the action verb or object is emphasized over its subject. For example, the second version of the following post copy would grab more attention with active voice.

  • Passive Voice: The 2 hour marathon barrier was broken by team Nike!
  • Active Voice: Team Nike broke the 2 hour marathon barrier!

These posts can be improved further with point of view and benefit. Instead of using first person “I” or “we,” or third person “he,” “she,” “it,” “they,” or “name” use second person “you.” Using “you” draws  attention focusing the message on the audience. Conveying the message as a benefit to them will also draw interest. The example post has now been written in first person, third person, then improved with second person written as a benefit to the audience.

  • First Person: We made the Vaporfly shoes that broke the 2 hour marathon!
  • Third Person: Nike Vaporfly shoes were used to break the 2 hour marathon!
  • Second Person: You can run in the Nike Vaporfly’s that broke the 2 hour marathon!

Consider Audience Interests, Brand Voice and Tone

Write messages your audience will want to share because it is something their friends will like, it shows appreciation, or it is about beliefs or causes they support. And don’t stop the message at the post. When sharing a link match post message and link destination. Sending them to a home page or unrelated page causes confusion and lost sales or leads. Keep interest going with a distinct landing page that delivers your message benefit and focuses on what you want them to do. The example post above should interest a target audience of runners and their running friends and then send them to a page about the shoes and the record attempt not the Nike home page.

  • Home Page Link: Nike.com
  • Landing Page Link: Nike.com/Sub2Vaporfly

Keep brand voice and tone in mind. What is the personality of your brand – bold rebellious, modern cool, or serious classic? Write like you talk as if the brand was a person talking out loud to another person. Skip jargon and avoid boastful claims such as “top,” “best,” or “only.” Be genuine fun and helpful. Be consistent but change tone with the situation. Even a fun, casual brand should take a more serious tone with an upset customer or in a crisis. For example, during the Boston Marathon bombing releasing a post celebrating a marathon record would come across as tone death as seen below.

  • Original Tone: You can run in the Nike Vaporfly’s that broke the 2 hour marathon!
  • Modified Tone: You can support Boston marathon victims. We’ll match your donation.

Create Good Brand Design and Aha Moments.

Keep text to a minimum ensuring it is large enough to view on mobile. Use unique fonts for emphasize but limit total fonts in a single post. Ensure good contrast with text over images so they can be seen. Don’t overcrowd the layout or image with too much text making it feel overwhelming and busy. Change individual messages but be consistent in overall message including brand keywords, taglines and hashtags. Follow brand standards for colors, logos and fonts. With the example post you would follow Nike brand guidelines not Wendy’s.

  • Wendy’s Brand Voice: Witty and Sassy.
  • Nike’s Brand Voice: Powerful and Inspiring.

It’s easy to grab a generic stock or product image, but a unique image that compliments the text draws interest. Creatively connect text and image inviting the viewer to fill a gap for an “aha” moment they’ll want to share. A simple image of running shoes would be the easy to include with the post text above. Instead consider something unexpected like a back of the pack amateur runner photoshopped into the finish line scene of Eliud Kipchoge’s record breaking run.

  • Generic Image: (Product Image of Nike’s new Vaporfly shoes) – You can run in the Nike Vaporfly’s that broke the 2 hour marathon!
  • “Aha” Image: (Kipchoge’s record finish with amateur runner) – Break your own records in Nike Vaporfly’s!

Follow Rule of Thirds and Rules of Social Platforms

Good images and layouts follow the rule of thirds. This principle divides a space into thirds horizontally and vertically to place elements in a more appealing balanced way. Research shows that people’s eyes focus on one of the intersection points rather than the center where most amateurs place the subject of their image or design. Instead place the subject in one of the intersecting points to create a more dynamic, natural, and interesting visual. Also leave room for white space or negative space. This is the area between design elements that helps them stand out.

Third-Rule Rule of Thirds for Good Social Media Post Design

Wide White Space Logo - Use white space and negative space for good social media post design

Each social media platform has different design standards and requirements. Refer to each size by pixels, file size, image type and other submission requirements. Many design tools include templates for the most popular platforms such as Canva or Adobe Spark and built in tools such as Facebook Creative Hub and Snapchat Instant Create. Most also have options to create mock ups for social media plans and presentations.

Social Media Post Template Created by FreepikBusiness psd created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Finally consider post schedule. The time of week and time of day matter and can vary increase or decrease engagement based on the social media platform. To plan your social media content calendar and schedule you posts Sprout Social provides a report on best times to post from their customer base.

Best practices are a great place to start, but keep in mind that the best content is created to be unique to each platform customized to the environment and brand community. Test posts times and variations in designs and copy to optimize as you go. This can be done with simple A/B split tests. This will keep posts fresh to avoid ad fatigue.

Social Media Update: Top Social Media Channels By Category

Multichannel social media strategy: Social media is no longer a small experimental part of marketing. Social media spending represents 12% of marketing budgets and is expected to increase to 20% in five years. Social media is also seen as an essential part of digital marketing which has surpassed traditional with digital ad spending reaching 54% of total ad sales. Today brands must go beyond the top three social platforms or simply continue to use current brand social platforms. As social media plans become more sophisticated with a combination of organic and paid content how do you decide among the over 200 social media platforms? To simplify this process the chart below lists social options in eight categories by key characteristics and top platforms per category.

Audience Size and Engagement: Total audience size is important when selecting a social media platform within which to invest your time and money. Yet tradition measures of monthly active users or unique monthly visitors only tell part of the story. A user could visit a platform once a month and be included in audience size. Engagement is another important factor that looks at how active those users are on the platform. How many users are daily users and how much time are they spending per day or session?

Target Audience Demographics: How active is your target audience on each platform? Define  target audience by demographic characteristics such as gender, education, income, ethnicity and age. Look for social media platforms popular with your target age group. Be sure to look at both monthly active and daily active users by age. A high percent of Millennials may be monthly users of Facebook but if you look at daily usage they may be spending more time on Instagram. If your target is Gen Y, Snapchat may have the highest daily usage.

Target Audience Psychographics: Not all people in a generation have the same interests, therefore it is also important to define target audience with psychographic variables such as, values, beliefs and interests. People interested in crafts, fashion, the environment, or gaming may be active on other social media platforms where those interests are popular such as Reddit, Pinterest, Forums or Twitch.

Target Business Category: Not all purchase decisions are considered in the same social media channels. Therefore also consider type of business. Is the brand B2C or B2B? What industry is it in? Is it a local or national company? Does the brand offer online sales, in-person or a combination of both? The type of business could make other social media channels more relevant to a plan such as LinkedIn, TripAdvisor or Yelp.

Target Communication Objective: Finally, consider the communications objective. A plan to build brand awareness may work best with Facebook, YouTube and Buzzfeed. A plan to improve customer response may work better in Twitter and Messenger for customer support and Google My Business for customer reviews. A B2B lead generation plan may best leverage Blogs, Podcasts, LinkedIn and Slack. A direct sales plan for a multinational fashion brand could work best with Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp and WeChat.

Now that you know what to consider in selecting plans. What are the latest social media channels? Bellow is a list of the top three or more social media channels divided into eight key characteristic categories.

Social Networks: These are the websites and apps that connect people sharing personal or professional interests through profiles, groups, posts and updates. Facebook has 2.4 billion monthly users (1.6 billion active daily) and is by far the largest social media channel of any of the categories. LinkedIn is the dominate business/professional social network growing to 590 million users (260 million active monthly).

Social Messaging: Instant messaging platforms are chat applications created around social networks for communication on mobile phones with less limits and more features than traditional texting. Facebook Messenger has grown to 1.3 billion users but is still behind Facebook owned WhatsApp with 1.5 billion users (1 billion active daily). Other popular messaging apps include WeChat with 1 billion month active users mostly  in the Chinese market and Viber with 1 billion users popular in Eastern European countries. Slack is the business messaging service with 10 million daily active users providing opportunities for B2B.

Blogs and Forums: Blogs are websites that contain posts or articles in reverse chronological order that include hyperlinks and usually allow commenting. Forums are online discussion sites where people hold conversations via threads around common interests and topics. WordPress is the top blogging platform with 409 million users viewing over 20 billion blog pages a month. Tumblr (owned by Yahoo) is the short-form blog focused more on photos and video and less text with 463 million blog accounts but usage has dropped this year to 370 monthly visitors from a previous high of 642 million. Medium is a blogging platform focused on higher quality blog content with a subscription model that pays content creators. Medium has grown to 225 million monthly visitors. Blogger is a simpler platform with less customize options and is owned by Google. Recent stats estimate 85 million monthly visitors to blogger.com down from 167 million in 2017. To find forums try directories and search options including BoardReader, ProBoards, or Omgili.

Microblogging: Microblogs are a form of traditional blogging where the posts are limited by content length or file size. The leader in Microblogging continues to be Twitter with 321 million monthly active users (126 million active daily), but this is down 9 million from last year. Pinterest is the social pin board dedicated to visual discovery, collection and sharing that limits posts to single images or video. Pinterest has grown to over 250 million monthly active users. TikTok is the new app with 15-second videos that has replaced now defunct Musical.ly. Estimates put TikTok at 1 billion monthly active users. An another alternative to Musical.ly is the short video music oriented app Triller, which some estimate at 29 million users worldwide. Many people miss Vine since Twitter shut the app down. The creators of Vine promise a new short form looping video app called Byte that will be launching soon.

Media Sharing: This category is for social media channels developed mainly for the sharing of image or video media. YouTube is the lead video sharing site with 1.9 billion monthly active users and an average 60 minutes spent per mobile viewing session. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is the quality photo sharing social channel that has grown to 1 billion active monthly users with 500 million active daily. Snapchat is a photo- and video-sharing messaging service in which media and messages are only available for a short time before disappearing. Snapchat’s monthly active users total 301 million with 190 million active daily. LinkedIn owned Slideshare has 80 million users focused on sharing business oriented content with 80% of traffic coming from search.

Live Streaming Video: Top live video channels include Periscope with last reported numbers of 10 million users and 1.9 million daily active users. Facebook Live is a big competitor with Facebook emphasizing live video in the newsfeed. Facebook claims 8 billion video views per day or 100 million hours (includes all video). Instagram Live works in Instagram Stories which has 500 million daily active users. Instagram launched a new long form video platform IGTV, but reports indicate they have struggle to boost user numbers. For niche audiences Amazon owned Twitch is a live streaming platform attracting gamers with 140 million unique monthly users and 15 million active daily.

Geosocial: Geosocial is a type of social networking where user-submitted (GPS) location data connects users with local people, businesses and events. The innovator in this category is Foursquare, but the platform has dropped to 7 million monthly users for location discovery while its app Swarm has only 2.1 million monthly users for checking-in. However, Swarm users spend an average of ten times longer on the app versus Foursquare. Marketers can leverage Google geosocial features though Google My Business that adds businesses to Google location search and Google Maps and includes ratings and reviews. Facebook Check-Ins are the geosocial feature in Facebook that is good for increasing reach, generating awareness and has ratings and review features. Instagram Location has locations that integrates with Facebook Places. Snapchat offers geosocial features with Snapchat Geofilters. Another consideration in this category is Nextdoor, which is a private location-based social network that has 236,000 active neighborhoods.

Ratings and Reviews: Reviews are reports that give someone’s opinion about the quality of a product, service or performance. Ratings are a measurement of how good or bad something is expressed on a scale. Yelp is the innovator in crowdsourced ratings and reviews representing a broad range of interests. Yelp has 132 million active monthly users and over 184 million reviews. For travel related businesses TripAdvisor has 490 million active monthly users and 730 million reviews. This social channel provides reviews of travel-related content and travel forums. Amazon attracts 197 million monthly visitors and has been reported as being the largest single source of Internet consumer reviews. Angie’s List is the long time subscription based ratings and review site with crowdsourced reviews of local businesses that has merged with HomeAdvisor to create more than 22 million monthly users. Ratings and reviews should also be tracked on Google My Business. If you are in the human resources or the recruitment industry, company reviews on Glassdoor are important as it gets 60 million visits a month by perspective employees. Ratings and Reviews are also important on the video sharing platform YouTube as many a Vlogger reviews products and services on their channels.

Social Bookmarking: Social bookmarking sites are online services that allow users to save, comment on, and share bookmarks of web documents or links. Social bookmarking sites have also expanded into content discovery and curation tools. Reddit is one of the top social bookmarking social platforms with 330 million users. Digg is the social news site that aggregates publisher’s streams via peer evaluation of voting up content for sharing. Digg has reached 12 million visitors a month up from a low of 3 million several years ago. StumbleUpon was a discovery engine that found web content based on user ratings. It shut down in 2018., but has emerged as part of the new platform Mix which adds curation of websites into collections to be found and shared. Buzzfeed is a content discovery platform with a monthly audience or over 650 million. Buzzfeed has become a cross-platform network creating its own content with popular channels on Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube and offers native advertising opportunities for brands. NowThis creates video news to distribute to other social network feeds with 2.6 billion monthly video views. And Imgur focuses on sharing the most viral image and gif memes attracting 400 million visits a month.

Social Knowledge: Social knowledge channels are web-based information exchanges where users search topics or ask questions and get answers from real people. This includes social sites such as wikis and question and answer websites. Wikipedia is the big one with 374 million unique monthly visitors and over 71,000 active contributors to over 5.6 million articles in English. Brands cannot created their own pages, but should monitor for misinformation. Yahoo! Answers is a community question and answer site that attracts 145 million visitors a month. Quora is the question and answer site that focuses on higher quality content and attracts 300 million unique visitors a month. Ask.fm is a global social site based on user profiles and questions attracting 43 million monthly users. Question and answer sites are good for customers engagement, thought leadership and marketing research. YouTube also comes under this category as a destination for How-To, DIY and Education videos.

Podcasts: Podcasts are a series of episodes of digital audio or video content delivered automatically through subscription. Podcast consumption has grown in the US to 90 million monthly listeners. iTunes is the innovator in Podcasting and hosts over 550,000 active podcasts. Other social platforms to consider are SoundCloud, which is the global online audio platform that enables users to upload, record, promote, and share their original works. SoundCloud has 175 million monthly active listeners with a lot of Podcast content being produced and shared. Another option is TuneIn, which has 75 million users and 5.7 million podcasts. iHeartRadio, the internet radio platform owned by iHeartMedia features podcasts. Amazon owned Audible has also expanded beyond audio books to podcast distribution. For the video version of podcasts, called a vlog, YouTube is a top destination.

This is by far, not a comprehensive list of social channel options, but it does give an update on the top channels by category to choose the best for your social strategy. What social platforms have you found to be the most effective in your social media strategy?