1. Start with the most informative words
You risk being lost on a wall of words if you don’t lead with your main message. Most people will be scan-reading a set of largely unrelated tweets, updates or shares. If you want to be noticed, push the most meaningful words in your post to the front where they will be easier to see.
This is particularly important on Twitter, where messages are a single chunk of 2-3 lines of text, including links. On Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn, shared links are shown in the second part of your status update (above any comment you add), giving you another chance to attract attention with good keyword placement.
Compare the following tweets. In the first, several words hide the meaningful phrase ‘gender and pay equality’. The second and third versions lead with informative words.
We’d like to share some facts about gender and pay equality since it’s International Women’s Day today
Gender and pay equality facts for you on International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day today, so we’d like to share some facts on gender and pay equality
2. Use the right words
Write for your target audience, choosing words they will recognise and understand. Avoid jargon, idioms and abbreviations unless you are certain your readers will understand you.
Compare the following status updates. The first uses words some people may not understand, while the second uses everyday words.
Our new municipal transfer station will open next month. We’re offering a free service till the end of June, so take this opportunity to de-clutter your home.
Our new rubbish and recycling centre opens next month. We’re offering a free service till the end of June, so take this opportunity to get rid of unwanted items from your home.
3. Be concise
You can write more concisely if you:
- Use short words instead of long ones (‘part’ not ‘component’, ‘use’ not ‘leverage’, ‘buy’ not ‘acquire’)
- Avoid wordy phrases (‘to’ not ‘in order to’, ‘actually’ not ‘in actual fact’, ‘because’ not ‘on the basis of’)
- Take the time to review and cut unnecessary words before you post your message.
Twitter allows 140 characters for a tweet, so you need to write very concisely. Any links you share have to fit within that limit, so use shortened links when you need to. Try to leave room for a short comment in case people want to share your message.
LinkedIn gives you 700 characters, while Facebook and Google+ have even more generous limits—63,206 and 100,000 characters, respectively. Of course you’ll really be taxing your readers if you write something this long.
4. Check generated link titles and descriptions
If you share a link, social media platforms may generate the link text and description for you. They usually do this by using the HTML <title> and meta description from the linked page. You should check this text because sometimes it won’t be meaningful or easy to scan-read. You may need to edit (although Google+ won’t let you), or supplement it with a comment.
Of course there’s more to good social media content than how you write it. What you write, when you write, the frequency of your posts and the quality of the links you share are important too. So here are some links to articles that discuss those issues.