Seizing the social media moment

Seizing the social media moment

Social media now plays a critical role in shaping the way our world receives news. These platforms have overtaken print newspapers as a primary news source for a majority of Americans, according to a survey from Pew Research Center. And unlike with daily newspapers, anyone can join in on the conversation.

Learning how to wield this incredibly powerful tool is surprisingly simple, as long as you abide by a few key principles. Here’s what you need to know to become the next social media guru:

Join the party (and show up on time)

Social media moments often present themselves in fits and starts. Any Twitter user can likely recall a time when a person or phrase seemed to dominate their feed, only to vanish the next day. It’s important to keep an eye out for these moments and join in while the getting is good. Monitor the “trending” tab, try to anticipate which news stories may be the most discussed of the day, and look to pages with large followings to see how they shape or follow the social media news cycle. If you can be on the leading edge of a trending subject, odds are your post will get far more recognition than it would if you’re late to the game.

Be (somewhat) controversial

Sure, people love reading posts that jive with their existing opinions. But rarely does one become noticed for being agreeable. While it’s unwise to write intentionally inflammatory social media content, you should feel comfortable expressing your opinion. Be bold! Don’t be afraid to contribute an unpopular point of view if it’s one in which you truly believe. You might be surprised — oftentimes, you’re not alone: others may have just been unwilling to say what we were all already thinking.

Tags, tags, tags

Make sure to tag the accounts with whom you want to engage and include any hashtags that might be relevant to your chosen subject. For example, if you want to share a Tweet about the FDA’s response to the ongoing pandemic, use their handle (@US_FDA) and include some hashtags like “#COVID19,” “#pandemic,” or “#FlattenTheCurve.” In doing so, readers looking to join in on the discussion can easily find and reply to your posts. Who knows: maybe the FDA itself will give you a shoutout! But they can’t respond to you if they don’t know you’re there.

In making use of these simple tips, you can increase engagement with your existing audience while simultaneously attracting a new one.

If I were to offer one parting piece of wisdom, it would be to keep your message consistent across platforms: saying one thing on Twitter and another on Facebook may confuse readers and undermine your credibility. In the chaotic world of social media, consistency and trust will earn you a dedicated following. Once you have that, the sky is the limit.

Bayard Bergmann