In my first job out of college, I was as the associate editor of a magazine publishing house in Atlanta. With 11 publications, some niche and some national, there was always something to write. Between scheduling and conducting interviews, planning next issues, and proofing through design, my editor and I always had at least two or three tasks to cover together. But there was one task that my bosses treated like “no big deal” that was actually a massive undertaking, and it was all mine: social media.
There wasn’t an ounce of social media strategy in this company when I started. Interning that first summer before I was officially hired, I built websites for the company itself and one of our top publications on my last day, because no web presence existed for either of them. One magazine, our largest, had a Twitter handle, a Facebook page, a blog, and a quarterly email newsletter we crafted. About half of our magazines were niche, client publications, and their social strategy was out of our hands (thankfully). The rest? They basically didn’t exist on the internet, and I was pretty appalled.
I got to work. I knew the voices, audiences, and editorial contents of these magazines, and told my bosses my plan for social media going forward. As supportive as they were about this endeavor, (because they knew, at a base level, that social was “important,”) it wasn’t by any means a priority. Selling them on the idea that our social and web presence had definitive ROI was a giant undertaking for a 21-year-old, but I made it my mission.
By the end of my time at that company, I was training my replacement on how to create the quarterly newsletters; how many blog posts to write a week and how to schedule all our posts for all our different magazines’ accounts with the Hootsuite I’d created; how to manage our websites and upload new content (another task I owned after the redesign); how to manage our Facebook pages for optimal engagement with each audience; and how to schedule the media events I would attend and cover to later share (and livetweet) to our readers—on top of the associate editor responsibilities for all 11 magazines. I wore many hats at that job, but the social media strategy I left them with has helped them to become not only alive online, but known, which is something my bosses are both pretty excited about now.
As freelance writers, we’re not all marketers. And that’s okay. When I graduated with a degree in publishing, I was no more a marketer than anyone else. I was just a millennial with knowledge of how these social mediums worked and a drive to optimize my company for greater success. When you come to the table with a social media strategy and knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO), you can increase your value to your clients and help secure more future work.
Consider this your crash course in social media posting, from one writer to another. Let’s get started.
The What’s What of Social Media Strategy
Search engine optimization references the tricks of the trade that help your content get traction online and compete with larger publications for search placement. If your clients aren’t concerned with keywords, they’re likely not utilizing SEO to their benefit. More hits means happier clients, and more recognition of your own work and name (leading to other potential clients . . . you get the idea). If your article isn’t assigned keywords, you can still utilize them sensibly. An article for a B2B tech client regarding the current state of virtual reality will perform stronger if a specific, relevant keyword (let’s say “VR today”) made its way into the title and at least two times throughout the article.
Pro tip: Using the keyword in a subhead and adding a hyperlinked source on the SEO keyword are both really solid tricks for traction. Talk to your client about conducting an SEO audit and utilizing Google Analytics to help discover the strongest keywords for your audience.
Maybe you have a handle, maybe you don’t, but Twitter is its own universe that really took off—and Twitter marketing is a key component of any client’s success. There’s an art to crafting an effective tweet in 140 characters or fewer, but the components you need to understand are these: your audience, relevant handles to tag, and hashtag utilization. When I’m assessing strong hashtags for tweets I’m writing, I search potential hashtags on Twitter to see who’s talking about them, how relevant they are right now, and if they’ve even been active in the past month (let alone year). Once you know you have a strong hashtag, write it into a succinct tweet that’s as colloquial or formal as your audience will respond to (something you know well, since you’re writing their articles) and you’re good to go. Make sure to include the handle of anyone relevant to the piece, like your interviewee or an organization that conducted the major study you wrote about; they’re more likely to share to their own audiences if you tag them in.
Pro tip: A great tweet should have two hashtags—no more, no less.
Facebook is a more easygoing social platform. Posts for Facebook should be short, a little witty (where audiences allow), and prompt an action or ask a question. We’re talking two to three sentences at most. Users love to engage with Facebook posts by liking, commenting, and sharing to their own Facebook friends, so you want your Facebook posts to be one thing at the very least: shareable. This is the place for a hook, a rhetorical question, and maybe a little teasing about what readers could learn if they click through to the article.
Pro tip: Insist to your clients that they always include photos or other visual elements in Facebook posts where possible. It can make all the difference.
While the visual aspect of posting is still true for LinkedIn as it is with Facebook, you can think of LinkedIn as Facebook’s more dignified older brother. It’s still a social network, at the end of the day, but this is where professionals and organizations mean business, and all posts should show their business value if they want to get shared. Lucky for your client, you don’t need to establish a solid following on LinkedIn for everything you post to get traction (a major plus). When writing a LinkedIn post, keep in mind what you’re trying to achieve by creating this content and what your audience really needs from this brand. Thought leadership content goes far on LinkedIn.
Some clients may ask for you to include meta information along with your content, such as an HTML title and an SEO description. HTML titles should include the keyword and be as close as possible (or exactly the same) as your original title. SEO descriptions should also include the keyword, and should comprise one- to two-sentence synopses of the main point of the content and what readers can expect from reading it. This is what shows up on Google under the title or page link, so you want it to really sell the content.
Social media management tools
Tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer help make managing social posts an absolute breeze for clients. The dashboards let you see what people you follow are posting for easy sharing, let you schedule your own posts for later in the day or week for minimal maintenance, and give you one place to control all your accounts to make it all less overwhelming. As a freelance writer, you’d likely use this more for your own brand marketing than for clients, but they might love to hear about it from you, showing your investment in their success and your loyalty to their content.
Let’s Paint a Picture
Using a recent article I edited on driverless cars and the future of ride sharing, here’s an example of a tweet, Facebook post, and LinkedIn post to show you the differences in how to use these mediums.
“Ready to #rideshare in a #driverlesscar? Here’s a look at the changing world of transportation technology, with @Uber leading the charge.”
These hashtags get a lot of attention and trend often on Twitter, which makes it more likely to be seen (and shared) by others. We engage the audience with a question and invite them to take a look at what’s happening in a really exciting industry. Include Uber’s Twitter handle also boosts its effectiveness, as it’s a major brand that has a lot of disruption going on in this industry.
“Driverless cars are joining the ride-sharing fleet, merging two major transportation technology trends. Could your Uber be driving itself soon?”
Short, sweet, and open—ending in a question means that when you’re scrolling aimlessly through your Facebook wall and read that, you just may want to know.
“Converging two top trends of driverless cars and ride-sharing goes beyond bottom-line benefits, and could revolutionize how we look at continued city development. Uber leads the charge in Pennsylvania.”
It’s newsier, but direct, letting the reader know exactly what they’re in for. It shows educational value about trends that this audience will want to keep up with, much the way the Facebook post does. It’s just more dressed up.
Your Value through Social Media
At the end of the day, you’re a freelance writer, not a marketer. But all your clients are creating content to build a loyal audience and hopefully convert reads to dollars, and that means marketing is the wizard behind the curtain. Showing marketing value to your clients and potential clients by understanding social media optimization for content creation will make you the whole package for them: a capable writer who understands their brand’s mission, voice, and audience in ways that allow their content to go further.
For freelancers offering passive services in addition to writing, there are smaller clients that won’t have the same grasp on the power and importance of social media. You can teach them and create a long-term relationship where you’re writing their keyword-optimized stories—and they’re grabbing more views and leads that get your name seen more and more.
Featured image attribution: Pexels
The post Getting Social: How Writers Can Help Develop a Social Media Strategy appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.
About the Author
BiographyMore Content by Jacqui Frasca