Why Writers Should Ignore (Most) Social Media Best Practices
Although social media is here to stay, there’s little question that the face of social media is changing. Centralized, independent platforms (e.g., Facebook, X, Pinterest) long have been the standard. But now, some experts are arguing that, with the emergence of options like Mastodon, we’re moving toward a more federated, connected approach. Federated social media would allow writers and other users to easily cross-post and migrate followings as desired. So, all of the best practices we’ve learned about engaging on social media need a second look.
The formulas are clear
Because I focus on business writing, I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. If you listen to social media managers, there’s a formula for LinkedIn posts now:
- Start with an engaging question or hook with a bottom-line-up-front (BLUF) approach.
- Summarize your thoughts and context in a way the reader will have empathy for. (Tell a story.)
- Present some takeaways or sell points as bullet points.
- Invite the reader to engage in the comments by asking what they think or offering some other way to participate in the conversation.
- End your post with some relevant hashtags, preferably using a mix of low-, middle-, and high-target words/phrases.
Of course, there are some variations here, depending on what you need the post to do. A post where you’re announcing an event is a little different than sharing your experience from your latest conference. But generally speaking, the expectation on LinkedIn is for long-form content of at least 300 words. If you can include images (or better yet, video), with those words, awesome.
This type of formula (and every platform has one) is helpful in that it gives people some guardrails. As I try to promote my writing and other work like my podcast, Faithful on the Clock, I have an outline that will keep me from seeming unprofessional. I know how to approach every post, every time, which makes writing the content a lot easier.
So, what’s the problem?
Social media best practices create mushy soup
How would you feel if you had to eat nothing but green beans for the rest of your life? I might get a little bit better of a response if I switched those green beans to Snickers bars, but the concept is, people need a little variety. If they don’t get it, they get bored and tune out. It’s nothing personal. The brain is just biologically wired to look for novelty at least some of the time. New things offer pleasure, despite the fact that we also need a certain degree of familiarity to feel safe.
When everyone follows the same social media best practices and formulates their posts in the same way, there’s no variety for readers. Everything turns into this mushy soup with no edges or differentiators to pay attention to.
And then people wonder why it’s hard to get their content noticed.
The advantage of doing your own thing
We’ve long associated popularity (i.e., follower counts) with success on social media. But if I have learned anything from watching platforms, it’s that follower counts can be deceiving. People pay for followers, either directly or through influencer partnerships, all the time, and even when followers are legitimate, it’s an open secret that most successful accounts have social media managers. The person posting often isn’t the person you think they are or that you have an interest in.
I stress this point because, when you ditch social media best practices and templates as a writer or other professional, you might not have as many followers, at least not at first. People might even warn you that you’re “doing it wrong.” But when you ditch social media templates, you suddenly have the freedom to write what you really think and to say it however your authentic self demands you say it. You literally can catch the eye of people who are scrolling because your posts don’t follow the script, and if they take the time to read what you posted, you’re offering something genuine. Genuineness builds trust. Trust builds loyalty. Loyalty means people will follow you no matter where you write.
So, be yourself. Aside from being mindful of safety and refusing to spread hate, there are no rules. Ditch the best practices in favor of your own voice and see what happens. Maybe it will be a long, slow burn to get higher follower numbers as people learn what you’re about and share your posts, but at least you won’t feel like an imposter.