With the whole world coming to play in the playground we call social media, it’s starting to get pretty crowded. Just like a real-life playground needs some basic rules of engagement to keep Little Jimmy from bopping Suzie on the nose, and encourage Josh not to launch himself from the top of the jungle gym – again – certain basic conduct guidelines have emerged over the last few years in an attempt to keep the peace and reduce misunderstandings.
The “rules” are not cast in stone, of course. It’s not as if Facebook is going to refuse to post your content if you don’t adhere to these rules … but perhaps the world would be a simpler place if they did. However, regardless of a particular social channel’s usage guidelines and etiquette-managing algorithms (or lack thereof), these five guidelines will help you not to look like a palooka when you share content online. (Which is a good thing).
Are you breaking these five rules of social sharing?
1. Repeating yourself
Yes, I know. You’re only using social media to get your brand out there, right? So of course you want to get the biggest bang for your social sharing investment. And that means telling as many people as possible, as often as you can, about your amazing product. Or does it? The truth is that even though social media users have a short attention span, flitting from one article to the next without a second glance, and forgetting what they’ve read almost as soon as they’ve read it, if you bombard their social feeds with a similar message over and over again, they will start to notice. And get annoyed. And leave. The best you can hope for is reduced engagement. A more likely scenario is that they leave or even block your posts. Fail. You don’t want that.
Solution: Share interesting, relevant, diverse content on a regular basis. Include humour, case studies, meaningful tales and light-hearted banter. You’re creating a like-minded community of fans, after all. Invest in that outcome and you’ll see results.
2. Using too many exclamation marks (or too few)
‘Multiple exclamation marks,’ he went on, shaking his head, ‘are a sure sign of a diseased mind.’ – Terry Pratchett in Eric
According to the literary genius Terry Pratchett, a person’s sanity is inversely proportional to the number of exclamation marks they use. So if you’re regularly using a whole string of these excited little punctuation points, perhaps it’s time to consider professional help. Probably not, but it certainly is worth dialling the excitement back just a bit. An exclamation mark is a wonderful tool for conveying energy, excitement, emotion, urgency and passion. But in much the same way that, when your mother shouted at you all the time as a kid, you learned to tune her out, eventually too many exclamation marks become a blurry fiction in the mind of your reader. Your excitement is diluted by the fact that no one could possibly maintain that level of energy all the time, leaving your reader to undervalue your use of punctuation – and possibly your entire communication.
Of course, you’re not a mindless, monotonal robot with no emotional variance whatsoever, you’re a real human being and your communications online need to convey that. If you’re genuinely excited, incensed or impassioned, your trusty exclamation mark is their to make that clear.
Solution: use exclamation marks sparingly – if at all. There is a place for a little excitement and urgency in your communication, but err on the side of conservatism and avoid using exclamation marks as far as possible.
By now, even the least literate internet user ought to know that using only capital letters in any written communication is the online equivalent of shouting. It’s rude. Don’t do it. Keep your voice down and communicate like a balanced and reasoned individual.
Solution: STOP SHOUTING. Plain and simple.
4. Not proofreading
We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: write, PAUSE, read, revise, repeat. No matter how seasoned a writer you are, it’s always possible to make a mistake. When you’re typing fast, or if your subject matter engages your passions, or if you simply happen to be a human being (as some of us are), errors creep in and because we’re so invested in the material, it’s easy to miss them. So take a step back, give yourself a little cognitive bandwidth, then come back and review what you’ve already written. Be brutally honest and make the changes your copy – and your readers – deserve.
Better yet: hire a professional proofreader. An objective third party with a passion for language can be your greatest ally when it comes to crafting error-free content.
5. Not being original
Yes, I know. Writing takes time. Posting to social media takes time. Engaging your audience takes time. You’re time-strapped as it is, right? And it’s hard: knowing what to say, when to say it and how to express it is an art, and sometimes even thinking about it all can be a little overwhelming.
But it’s important to do it, and more important to do it right. Part of getting the content right includes being original. You can always curate content – share engaging and relevant information from around the web – and you should. But, at least some of the time, you need to be sharing your own content. And it needs to be original.
This means that it needs to be both creative and, more importantly, not plagiarised. While you might find inspiration in your online research forays, never, ever copy text verbatim. You need to make it your own, or suffer the wrath of Google in penalised search result rankings. We don’t want that.
Solution: hire a professional writer – ideally someone who will bundle research with their writing and save you time, and Google points, by crafting unique content suited to your business needs.