The Do’s & Don’ts of Attention-Worthy Social Media Posts


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Everywhere you look — everywhere: into other cars on the road, in line at the grocery store, on the bleachers at your kid’s soccer game — you see people looking down at their phones, endlessly scrolling away with one thumb. The world I inhabit, the realm of public relations and marketing, has been infiltrated by social media platforms that have become the most direct and immediate route to public exposure and brand building.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining. Creating social media content has become a staple of the PR firm I’ve been running for the last decade, and I’m grateful for the influx. But because everybody’s doing it, they may think there are no “rules of the road,” no “correct” way to go about it. In a way, that’s true — just about anyone can post just about anything they want at any time, and if you happen to publish truly ineffective content or a caption littered with typos, no alarm bell sounds or REJECT stamp appears across your post.

So let’s not call this list of do’s and don’ts the “right way” versus the “wrong way.” Let’s call it “best practices” for getting that thumb to stop on your posts because that’s the real goal: grabbing the attention of the viewer long enough that they actually engage with your content to ingest your feed.

Related: How To Leverage Social Media to Optimize PR Success and Increase Your Brand Awareness

What businesses should do in their social media posts

  1. Be authentic. Even in the professional space, not just the personal space, “raw” and “real” are captivating viewers now far more than staged and formal. Bedside chat is in vogue; glam shot is passe. Talk into your phone while you’re taking a walk, film yourself prepping dinner while you present your topic, make a video while walking around your workplace, stopping to chat with an employee. Bottom line: People are drawn to real people right now, not company lines.
  2. Incorporate interactive elements. You can’t just hope viewers will engage with your content; you want to extend a direct and compelling invitation to do so. You can accomplish this by incorporating quizzes for them to take, questions for them to answer, and polls for them to respond to. Social media users enjoy opportunities to connect with the accounts they follow and find it very tempting to comment on prompts that elicit their personal opinions on things like their favorite name for a dog or a new product they’re hoping their favorite skin care company will offer next. Reactions to posts are good; actions are even better.
  3. Include a CTA. Speaking of which, make sure your content includes a call to action. It’s all well and good to get impressions and views, but if there’s nothing you’re asking the user to do — follow a link, watch a video, call for a free quote — not only can’t you productively monitor ROI, but you’ve lost the opportunity to turn a “cold call” into a warm, or even hot, lead. You’re trying to create a trail of steps that lead as many searchers to your doorstep as possible. Give them an easy way to knock.
  4. Be pretty … but not too pretty. Beauty still matters — beautiful images and eye-catching graphics will always matter in any kind of visual medium — but you don’t want to go overboard with your imagery, so much so that it looks like glossy ad content far removed from your actual industry or enterprise. I always advise my clients to budget for a photo shoot because it’s far more effective and impactful to have well-crafted shots of your own products and personnel than stock imagery anyone can purchase featuring perfect-looking models frolicking in some paradisical setting. The operative word here is “thoughtful”: you want to be very thoughtful in your aesthetics, artistically capturing what you actually do and who you do it for.
  5. Use minimal hashtags. Gone are the days when adding 100 hashtags to the end of your posts was thought to increase the chance of being discovered. Let’s cast a net so wide that we’re bound to reel in more people with voluminous lures, right? Um, uh-uh. The motto of the day now is less is more, so zero in on 3 to 5 tags that speak directly to the post’s message to attract the specific audience for that message. Here’s where SEO research can help — to identify the tags that hold the most potential to reach your market by their trending status. Sure, you can sample a bunch of hashtag options, but just use a very small handful per individual post to see what hits the bull’s-eye most often.

Related: How to Make Social Media Marketing Effective for Your Brand

What businesses shouldn’t do in the social media posts

  1. Settle for low-quality visuals. You’re on the hunt for *just* the right picture for that finely tuned caption you crafted. And, voilà, you find it. It’s not high-res and it’s kind of fuzzy, but it’s ideal for the message you’re trying to convey, so you want to use it anyway. Don’t. Do not. I don’t care if you spent 3 hours on the photo search; blurry is always a no-no. If you must choose between totally on-point but pixelated or a little off-point but crisp and clear, go with high-quality every time. Your grandfather is allowed to post a foggy photo of the mailbox he just built; your business is not.

  2. Overuse trendy language. Social media is all about what’s trending. So why am I advising you not to use trending words? I’m not. I’m advising you not to overuse them. The list of terms that fall into (and eventually out of) style is long and colorful (think “diss,” “word,” “extra,” “salty”), and some of those terms don’t just take the business world by storm (like “effort” as a verb and “leverage”), but they stay there. I’ll never forget the client who flat-out refused to use “deck” for his PowerPoints; needless to say, he didn’t win that battle. So, yes, there’s a place for “synergy” and “bandwidth,” but if your social content takes too much of a deep dive into them — if, for example, a financial company uses “sus” or “lit” — you’ll appear too thirsty (irony intended). The goalpost is balance: You can sound contemporary without coming across as trying too hard.
  3. Post too little or too much. Something that will never go out of style? Consistency. If you’re going to commit to a social media strategy, then do so mindfully. Two posts a month isn’t going to cut it; two posts every day of the week is overkill. You want your followers to have something substantial to follow, but you don’t want to become a pesky burden that congests their feed with filler. Just like talented copywriters can help you avoid slipping into overly trendy language, skilled social media managers can help you determine how often you should post and how you should diversify content to enhance interest and retain viewership.
  4. Be overly promotional. The hard sell has lost its clout. The soft sell, like soft skills, has risen in value in today’s marketplace. Instead of figuratively waving a banner that proclaims, “Come here! Try this! Call us!” the more influential approach these days is capitalizing on social media platforms as vehicles for creative output and input, not as direct sales tactics. That’s not to say that timely or seasonal sales promotions still won’t garner clicks, but what you’re looking for here is a steady, growing, and long-term stream of customer participation in your brand instead of a one-and-done purchase.

Social media is a vast and varied playing field, it’s true. But if you stick to some guidelines shown to draw users and produce results, you can more skillfully maneuver the terrain. And like anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it.

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