One click and you’re done! Sharing on social media is as easy as clicking a single button.
But a little more effort gets you a lot better results. Especially in a super crowded space like social media, more time and attention on each social media post is the key to better engagement.
Let’s start with an example of a social media post that combines all the elements we recommend. It’s easy to imagine how this sample post would get more traction than just a simple share.
Here are guidelines for what to post on social media for business, and how to roll up your sleeves and upgrading your social content with better writing, images and mentions. Adding these elements to your posts will increase visibility and engagement on everything you share.
In these social media post examples, we’ll use Twitter, but these guidelines are relevant to every social network.
1. Headline best practices
Most social media posts are headlines, so for starters, use every trick in the book for maximizing click through rates.
- Promise a specific benefit
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- Use numbers
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- Ask a question
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- Create urgency
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- Trigger curiosity or emotion
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For a complete list, see How to Write a Headline That Won’t Get Ignored, but ignore the keyphrase tips. This is social, not search. Keyphrases aren’t important here.
2. A second headline
A second headline will give the reader another reason to click. It gives them a better idea of what the content is all about. You’ve got plenty of room, so why not write two headlines?
The second headline is a second chance to catch attention and get them to engage.
The Buzzsumo research on headlines found that the top-shared posts on Facebook were 11 words long on average. Here’s a 11+ word, double-headline social media post example:
3. Special characters and emojis
Special characters add visual prominence. Just notice how these characters stand out on this page:
→ An arrow is an easy way to draw attention to a link in your social post
☞ A pointing finger may be even better
★ Using a star can make something stand out
✔ Adding a checkmark shows that something it’s actionable
Some social media networks will also support emojis. But don’t overdo it. And make sure that these more playful, less formal characters fit with the voice and tone of your brand, or you may upset your boss. 😠
A hashtag is a clickable keyword or topic, such as #contentmarketing, #blogtips or #Chicago. They can increase the visibility of your social posts, especially hashtags for trending topics.
When someone clicks a hashtag in any post, they’ll see all the posts with that hashtag. If they see yours, that’s good! But if someone is looking at your post and they click the hashtag instead of the link to your content, that’s bad. So use them only if you believe your content is more click-worthy than the other content on that hashtag.
Instagram posts don’t include links, so hashtags there won’t compete with links to content. That may be one reason why Instagram posts include often have tons and tons of hashtags.
Molly Lynch, Lynch Communications Group
“Hashtags should not be used to express a complete thought or product benefit, in other words, #DontUseHashtagsLikeTheyAreSentences. That’s not the point and we see that mistake all too often.”
5. Line breaks
Few marketers do this, so it’s a good way to help your posts stand out. Line breaks increase the vertical height of your social post, making it more visually prominent in the social stream. Also, the additional whitespace keeps text within the post itself from getting too crowded.
Currently, all the social networks allow for line breaks, except for LinkedIn.
If there is a compelling soundbite from the article, use it as the text in the social post. It could be educational or inspirational quotes. Anything that will help it stand out.
Or, as Molly suggests…
Images are critical. Research consistently shows that more visual social posts get more shares, engagement and clicks than other social media content. Social is visual.
If your website is properly programmed, the featured image from the article will automatically appear in the social post when shared.
If there is a more compelling image from within the article, such as a diagram, add it manually. Some social networks let you add a tiny gallery of images.
Images with faces are powerful attention grabbers. And when the headline is included within the image itself, it is much more likely to be read. Create new images for social posts that include the author’s picture and a catchy headline. Puppies also work well.
Related: Best practices for blog images
Better yet, go all in and make short social media videos describing the article. This can actually be done in seconds using the native video features of Facebook and LinkedIn.
Don’t just write an article and share it. Share it with a short video of yourself explaining the article. Make a commercial for everything you make.
Ian Cleary, Founder RazorSocial
“If you’re watching TV and you see a promotion which works better, a video or an image with text? We are media producers and need to promote our content in the most effective way. Native video gets the most interaction on social channels and now we have the tools where you can create that video in seconds. If you want to step ahead of your competition and get more traffic to your content create a video ad for every one of your posts.”
8. Power trigrams
Steve Rayson’s research on 100 million headlines has decrypted the psychology of social media users. It gives us a powerful cheat sheet for word choices. Steve discovered which trigrams (three-word combinations) appear most often in the most shared posts on social media.
But look closely at the trigrams and you can see why they work so well. They all make promises. If you’re writing blog headlines that include these trigrams, you’re offering specific benefits to the reader.
Here are examples of my favorite 3-word trigrams from Steve’s research:
For most marketers, explanatory trigrams are more useful in marketing than emotional ones.
Please, no clickbait.
“Clickbait” is a headline that attracts a visitor, but an article that doesn’t live up to the promise. They may give you a short-term benefit but they reduce trust over the long run. If your headline says “These 10 stunning photos will make you cry tears of joy!” …I’d better be crying as I read your article.
Mentioning others in your social media posts is a super powerful social media tip. It’s part networking, part promotion and part gratitude. Mentioning or “tagging” someone is simple and it’s so fundamental to social media, that you’ve likely already done it hundreds of times. But in case you need a refresher…
If they’re active on social media, they’ll see the notification and be glad for the mention. They may even reshare your post with a simple click.
If you mention someone who isn’t active on social media, they probably miss it unless they have email notifications turned on. So it’s ideal to mention people who are active in that network and likely to engage with the content.
Who to mention
Mention contributors or anyone who helped to create the article. It lets them know it’s live, but it’s also a small way to say thank you. The social media mention is an important part of collaborative content marketing. It’s also a way to bring the article to the attention of new people who might love it.
Here are the types of people you can mention when sharing on social media:
Anyone quoted or cited in the article
If you quoted someone, a mention is a way to let them know. Share the quote itself on social media, mention them and link to your article. Similarly, use social media to mention anyone whose research you cited in your article.
If you reached out to a person or two to get a contributor quote while writing, now is the time to mention them when you share. This may also include designers who created the graphics, photographers who took the picture, and even friends who helped craft the idea.
Anyone who would sincerely love the article
This kind of targeted sharing involves taking a minute to find and mention people who are sure to like the article. Do this badly and you’ll look like a spammer. Do this well and they’ll be thrilled that you brought it to their attention.
The idea is to find that tiny slice of overlapping topics or themes, and then use social media to find people who have both in their bio.
Did you write a zombie-themed post about corporate tax accounting? Find and mention people with “zombie” and “corporate tax” in their Twitter bio. They’ll love it. Did you write an article about changing careers from clinical research to government regulation? Find and mention someone with those titles in their LinkedIn profile.
These mentions trigger notifications and can lead to quick engagement. And those first few likes, comments and shares can trigger the algorithms that push you to the top of the streams. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are looking for fast evidence that the post is interesting. Mentions help a lot!
Adam Bianco, Marketing Director Move for Hunger
“After posting on just about any social network, the newsfeed algorithm shows it to a small sliver of your audience to test to see if it is an engaging post. If you quickly receive Likes, Comments, Retweets, etc. then, not only does it begin expanding the earned reach of the post, but it also tells the social network, “Hey, this IS an awesome post, and you should share it with more of my own audience.”
Warning! Self-mentioning social widgets
Social sharing plugins are easy to add to websites and they make it easy for visitors to share, but they might mention themselves in the social media posts they create, rather than the blog or the writer. This is one of many common mistakes in social media integration.
Make sure that your social sharing buttons mention the website by default. And if possible, ask your developer to have them mention the author of the article as well.
A little more work leads to a lot more engagement
This diagram explains my own experience in social media marketing …and pretty much everything else in life.
Most social media posts get almost no traction, while a small percentage of posts get huge engagement. So time is linear, but results are exponential. Even a little more effort can move you much higher up the results curve. It works for all social media platforms and all types of content. And it’s one way that small businesses can compete with the big guys.
It can take five minutes or more to upgrade a post in this way. But the results are exponentially better. Work a little harder on your social media posts. It’s worth the effort.