Six Approaches to Writing for Social Media

Social media is an online publishing revolution. Anyone can launch a blog or Twitter feed in the next five minutes.

There is little doubt social media is here to stay and will continue to grow in influence. Every company should seriously consider using some form of social media as part of its future marketing plans.

Most organizations resist jumping in the social media fray because they don’t feel like they have anything to say. Not true. The key is packaging.

Here are six content types – information, observation, explanation, application, opinion, and prediction – that your company can use to make a social media impact right now. Using one or two approaches at a time will keep your writing brief, relevant, and poignant.

Information

Information includes facts, figures, and other data without any author interpretation.

Your business undoubtedly generates data. If you are willing to share some of it (not the confidential stuff), other people in your industry and those who follow your industry will find your data interesting.

Your industry also produces facts and figures in reports, studies, presentations, etc. Many companies write blog entries or tweets about industry information to help their clients stay ahead of trends.

Example:  Statistics via tweets

Observation

Observation is finding a pattern in information, e.g. a trend within your industry.

Pundits make their livings observing patterns in business. You likely do the same thing every day. Think about what you would be willing to share as long as it doesn’t give away your competitive advantage. Readers will value the advice and come back for more.

Example: Freakonomics blog

Application

Application is showing the reader how to use information or an observation in their business. The application could recommend a strategy to take advantage of a positive situation, a growing industry in which to invest, or employee engagement strategies that save money. The application might be a problem to avoid altogether.

Application is one of the best ways to connect with your target readership because it’s your advice. It’s an opportunity for them to understand your philosophy and approach to business.

Example: Home Depot channel on YouTube

Explanation

Explanation is why or how a past event happened or a pattern of events exists. How did we get into the subprime mess? Why did so many people who had never voted participate in the last election?

Explanation requires credibility from the author. The reader has to believe that the author has experienced the situation before or successfully counseled others in similar positions.

An explanation is often followed by recommendations for repeating the situation (if good) or avoiding it altogether (if bad).

Example: GM blog

Opinion

Opinion is the author’s assessment of something. Is it good or bad? Right or wrong? True or false?

The opinion is usually followed by a series of reasons that support the opinion. Readers are often more interested in the reasons than the opinion itself. As with application, it is an opportunity for them to really see how the author thinks in a given situation.

The same rules about credibility apply to opinion. Experience plays a significant role in forming trustworthy opinions about topics. It’s the reason why only seasoned journalists get to become columnists. Only the most senior people in the organization should write opinions on behalf of a company.

Example: Scobleizer Tech Geek blog

Prediction

Prediction is the author’s assessment of the future.

Credibility and experience are critical to the believability of any predictions. As with opinion, the author should provide reasons for the predictions and where possible add anecdotes or stories.

Predictions are last on the list because they are risky for the author. Make good predictions, and your stock rises. Make bad predictions, and your readers are going elsewhere for advice. Once again, only senior executives should make predictions on behalf of an organization.

Example: Sonicbids founder/CEO Panos Panay’s predictions for 2010

Combining the approaches

Authors can combine the approaches at any time. For example, the author should explain a prediction or provide information to support an observation.

The key is limiting your combinations to avoid overwhelming the reader.

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