Put a group of social media managers in a room, and the conversation invariably turns to content. If you manage a social media account, you’re always armed with a story about the latest post that wowed — or flopped. There’s no exact formula for social media success, but the most engaging posts usually benefit from a combination of video or photos, timing, placement and engagement from followers. And no doubt, shelling out a few dollars to promote a post or tweet can help, especially if it’s spent on a targeted audience defined by demographic data.
But the reality about successful social media content is much simpler than graphs of data — and much cheaper than a Kansas school district communications director wants to spend. The secret to engaging social media content, organic or paid, is great content. Period. Content is king.
So, what is great social media content? It’s giving your people what they want! Posts that catch fire and engage the most followers nearly always fall into one of these categories…
- People they know. This can be someone they personally know — in a school district it includes students, employees, parents and community members. Or it can be someone people feel like they know — a favorite sports player, musician, movie star or other public figure. Seek always to share good news or updates about the people in your organization. Use local “stock” photos to accompany your posts, whenever possible — and remember that the soul-less generic stock photo is worse than no photo at all. Really, it is.
- Places they love. Picture your grandmother’s home, the main street of your hometown, or the iconic campus building at your alma mater. Favorite places represent a host of memories, experiences and emotional attachments. In a school, there is never a shortage of stories from libraries, kindergarten classrooms, auditorium stages and basketball courts. As you travel around your organization, community and state, take photos of the places that mean something to your audience. And watch for stories — often posted in other social media communities — that connect your organization with the places your followers love.
- Information they need — which, incidentally is not the same thing as information I need my audience to know. As an average wife/mom/crazy lady, the things I need to know include when the school calendar is set, when the rain has canceled soccer practice, when head lice have been found in my child’s class and the last possible day I can turn in a permission slip for my kindergartner to go on a field trip to the zoo. These messages — and others that meet me in my time of need — will resonate, every time. Now, if you have information you need people to know, find a way to frame it in your audience’s need-to-know. Consider your audience’s WII-FM, or “What’s in it for me?” Strive to align your message to the things that motivate their interest, and you’ll enjoy the engagement this type of message deserves.
- Truth in the midst of rumor. Budget cuts, layoffs, leadership changes, student or employee discipline, legal action — these are just a few of the things that can fire up the rumor mill. Don’t pass up the chance to provide the facts about a topic that triggers side conversations, misinformation and speculation. Because these messages can take off in a hurry, spend some time before you click “post” to think through possible comments and reactions, and the ways you’ll respond. Often I’ll even type up a few replies to likely questions and save them in the cloud, giving me the ability to easily respond from any device, at any time.
- Calm leadership. Whether it’s the rumor mill or a critical crisis, people long for a calm, steady leader to trust and follow. Especially during a crisis — school lockdown, public health scare, severe weather or other high-stakes situation — a message that demonstrates calm leadership will resonate and engage a social media community like few messages can. No question, these messages often take courage to post, especially when details are still emerging. But if done correctly, you will engage your followers in the short term and build meaningful trust in the long term.
If you focus messages around these key areas, your audience will engage, whether you pay to boost your post or not. In fact, boosting a post doesn’t make content great. A paid post may show up in people’s feeds, but it’s as likely as ever to be ignored if it doesn’t engage your audience’s interest. But give your people what they want — paid or organic — and engagement is sure to follow.
This post is part of my series, Social Media Day Trips.