Ask yourself the question – where did you discover this post? The chances are that you stumbled across it via social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook, (although admittedly you may have found it using traditional search methods too); and the reason for this is that more and more people are discovering content through social media. Whether it’s a piece of breaking news on issues relating to the events in Syria, rumours about who is signing for which club in the transfer window or the latest release from a tech giant that will “change the world forever”, we’re learning about these events on social and “new” media. Social networks have now become as influential as the print media and news channels on the television with conversations running along the lines of “did you see that Tweet about…” more than “did you see that article on…in the paper?” For that reason, how we produce online content is now as important as the way we produce online content. It’s Good to Share The days of an article being written according to a specific word count to simply share knowledge or information are gone and it’s now about the context of the article and whether or not it is “shareworthy”, (how likely that piece of content is to be shared via social networks). Having an article shared is as good as someone talking about it in front of an audience. Each person with a social media account that sees your article will share it with all of their connections which can be anything from ten followers on Twitter to 200 or more friends on Facebook. In turn, every retweet or follow-up share goes to a similar audience and all of a sudden you’ve got an article that is spreading like wildfire around the Internet. Essentially, everyone else is doing the promotion for you and you can feel your reputation grow with every share. This is why so many businesses, brands and even charities are trying to get involved in social media. In order to sell copies of their latest book, for example, people would usually have to go around the country to various stores signing copies, posing for photographs and even reading extracts in an attempt to sell the book – today, they do this on a much lesser scale as they can just tweet about it or share a link on their Facebook page achieving the same result. The title of your content and the words themselves now take on extra importance. If your content is to be shared, you need to write in a way that is going to target your audience – and then captivate them. Newspapers and magazines used to be sold according to the quality of the content, and to an extent this is still a fair assessment regarding online content, but now people look beyond the grammar and punctuation, whether the paragraphs are in the right place and if you’ve used the right version of ‘to’ or ‘there’, it’s now whether or not the content is interesting and creative which affects their desire to share it. Creating Posts the Public will ‘Like’ When using Facebook to promote your posts, either by maximizing the reach of your post through likes from your friends, family and customers; or by embedding recent posts into your content – in whatever form that may be from blog post to video, infographic to sound clip – it’s important that you consider the recent updates that affects how posts are displayed. Over the years, Facebook has developed, like the majority of websites, and changed their ratios which means any images you attempt to use can be modified and might make little or no sense if you’re not up to speed. Nobody wants to include a fantastic image in a post, only to find the key parts are cut out because they no longer fit in with the size of the thumbnails. Since the most recent update, thumbnail images should be approximately 400×209 pixels to have the maximum effect on a news feed and 560×292 for mobile. There’s a really good guide to optimising the size of your social images on the Sprout Social blog, which explains about the size of the file as well as the physical size of the image. The introduction of embedded posts and videos has been great for content, with users able to FINALLY move away from screenshots to enforce their points, putting in genuine content in its place. Not only does this provide extra value for the reader, but it will help to enhance their online presence especially when linking to their own social media accounts. Also, it doesn’t just look better on the page, it makes sharing easier. With a couple of clicks you can embed a post onto your Facebook page just as easily as you can retweet a funny comment from your favourite celebrity on Twitter. I Want it All…and I Want it NOW It’s not all about Facebook however. As mentioned earlier, it’s the way we produce content for the modern market and in the generation that is obsessed with 140-characters and doing everything as quickly and easily as possible, video and photography are playing a key role in modern content. Visual content is one of the best ways of hooking an audience, whether it’s a picture taken using Instagram or a short video clip on Vine, the image or video can help to elaborate and emphasise and almost without knowing it the viewer is on their way to sharing your piece. A tweet might only use 140 characters, but a picture can tell a thousand words – and get you thousands of retweets, as Twitter recently revealed. A new study showed that tweets that contain images are 94% more likely to be retweeted than those that are just words and hashtags. Instagram has become one of the most popular platforms for businesses to run competitions and share their latest news. This article from Nitrogram focuses on the five most innovative Instagram contests and campaigns of the year showing how many people get involved in campaigns just because they’re challenged to get creative with their smartphone app and combine it with a blog post and all of the campaigns saw increased engagement with their social accounts, more followers and ‘likes’ and this will also lead to more sales of their products – especially when the contest is along the lines of ‘snap yourself with our latest product’ for instance. After all, this is the main goal of any business – you have to remember that. A social media campaign is absolutely pointless if you just want to spend you time and money on the acquisition of followers and likes, you want to encourage them to buy your products or invest in the business. Remember, you’re building a social community, not just a following. Success in the social world is gauged on interactions, engagement and conversions not just the number of likes. Using Your Social Powers for Good You also need to make sure that you use the information you can collect from your social campaign for the right reasons. If you’re gaining hundreds of new likes, your whole target audience could have shifted and you need to change your focus entirely. Take an example, your ice cream shop has previously been targeting passing trade on the street who were, on average, between the ages of 40 and 50 and out shopping. However, you started up an Instagram campaign that encouraged people to buy one of their ice creams and then pose in a variety of locations around the town or city and then to submit them. With Instagram and smartphones being – stereotypically – aimed at people much younger, your ice cream business might have to start thinking up new flavours that are significantly different to the traditional favourites that have had your loyal customers coming in on a regular basis which is, of course, a huge risk, but one that is worth investigating with your new social data. This data can be particularly beneficial when it comes to your wider marketing campaign, especially when it comes to search. Social media campaigns should now be run alongside SEO and other marketing strategies to succeed, as opposed to being run as separate campaigns. We can now take the insights from our social campaigns, and use them to monitor what people are engaging with and their interests so that we can target certain aspects in search rather than going for the whole campaign. Your social conversions can then be taken forward to inform your keyword strategy, helping you to establish exactly which terms to target based on what is helping you to drive traffic and make sales. Essentially, the greater the impact you can make with your social campaign, the greater the impact social media will have on SEO and your business, organisation or charity as a whole. It’s All in the Timing It’s not as simple as clicking ‘post’ and letting the people find what you’ve got to say, however. You need to think about the best possible time to post your content and that will vary according to the platform you choose. By this I mean that posting content on Facebook at 10am will have a different effect to posting on Twitter or Instagram at 10am. A recent post by Buffer revealed that the best time to post on Facebook was on a Thursday or Friday, with engagement rates around 18% higher with people getting closer to that more relaxed ‘Friday feeling.’ In terms of the actual time of day to post, Facebook users would share more often around 1pm – their lunchtime reading – and they would click more around 3pm once they’ve reached that mid-afternoon lull between lunch and home time. In comparison, brands fared much better on Twitter over the weekend, with engagement 17% higher than at any other point in the week, but the middle of the week also fared well. Retweets were shown to be more frequent at around 5pm, with people clicking through more often between the hours of 12 noon and 6pm with users reading content during their lunch breaks and satisfying their cravings for any distraction from their workload! According to a TrackMaven study published on the Marketing Profs site, posting on Instagram isn’t really affected by the day of the week, or the time of the day, although there was a small spike on a Monday and a drop on Sundays which might suggest that users are more creative at the start of the week, and happier to leave their phones and camera apps specifically alone on a lazy Sunday before they go back to work. Social media – and social content – are the future, and should be seen as such. Together, they can take you forward and help to achieve your goals so use them wisely by monitoring what works now, not what used to work. Change might not be for everyone, but in 2014 social media is likely to becoming more influential than ever before. Conclusion In summary, the most important thing to take into consideration is that whichever platform you’re writing for, you need to adapt the content accordingly. What you write in a Tweet will be short, to the point and encouraging people to follow you or to click the link you’ve provided. With Facebook, however, you have the opportunity to say much more and to use an image that will give a summary of your content. It’s then over to you to create the best possible piece of content on your blog. Getting people to read your content is the hardest part – you’re never going to get everyone to give it the big thumbs up as content is always so subjective, but if your goal is to drive traffic to the site or increase sales, you need to encourage them to at least give what you have to say a try, you never know, they might just you.