Give readers step-by-step how-to information
“How do you find time to tweet?” my speakers’ network e-zine asked subscribers.
“I don’t have time to not use social media,” I wrote back.
That’s because the people I follow on social media (heart emojis to @ShelHoltz, @BillSpaniel, @mar_de_palabras and others who surprise and delight me every day) serve as sort of a virtual research team. They scour the Web, finding valuable information — new studies, quotes, resources and insights — so I don’t have to.
“Our readers don’t want to just read stories. What they really want is a big button they can push that says, ‘Solve my problem.’ It’s up to us to be the button.”
— Brian J. O’Connor, editor at Bankrate.com
That is, they’re “informers” — the 20% of Twitter users who tweet information, ideas and insights — not “meformers.”
Not surprisingly, informers have nearly three times as many followers as meformers, according to a study by Rutgers University professors Mor Naaman and Jeffrey Boase.
Just two-thirds (66%) of content marketing programs prioritize their audience’s informational needs over their organization’s sales/promotional message, according to the 2020 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America (PDF), a new study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. Yet, 88% of the top performers do.
Here are 9 ways to increase engagement on social media by being an informer, not a meformer:
1. Share helpful information.
Why do people share on email, Twitter and Facebook and other social networks? According to a study by Chadwick Martin Bailey:
- Because I find it interesting/entertaining: 72%
- Because I think it will be helpful to recipients: 58%
- To get a laugh: 58%
Want your status updates to travel the world instead of staying home on the couch? Get people to share your content by making your social media posts helpful to your audience.
2. Write service stories.
What kind of information do people retweet? News and how-tos (PDF), according to research by Dan Zarrella, viral marketing scientist for HubSpot.
Here’s how often six kinds of information get shared on Twitter:
- News: 78%
- How-to information: 58%
- Entertainment: 53%
- Opinion: 50%
- Products: 45%
- Small talk: 12%
Please note: News is what CNN and the BBC report. It’s not your urgent updates about your Widget 188.8.131.52.
That leaves how-to information, or service stories, as our best bet for content, according to Twitter analytics.
Want your content marketing pieces to move more quickly through your social channels? Create content that’s packed with tips and techniques.
3. Cover solutions, not services.
How can business-to-business bloggers build brand awareness by engaging readers?
- Focus on the customer, not on the company. Don’t let your posts sound like a series of press releases. Instead, ask, “What problems can I solve? What expertise can I share? What issues can I weigh in on?” Answering questions and providing good service are good social media marketing.
- Think of your company as a publisher. “Blog like you’re the best trade magazine in your industry,” says Kipp Bodnar, inbound marketing manager at Hubspot.
- Promote resources, not products and services. Share white papers, studies, webinars and conference speeches on your social media platforms.
“They don’t really care about your products,” says Rick Burnes, inbound marketing manager at HubSpot. “What they’re interested in is solutions to their problems.”
Offering tips and techniques that serve your customers also help you position your company as the expert in the field.
4. Tweet like H&R Block.
That’s what H&R Block does. The company’s Twitter feed offers tax tips and help on demand. Sample tweets:
“IRS urges you to perform a Paycheck Checkup today to make sure your tax withholding is right for you. [Link]”
“Have a question or problem while doing your taxes online? We have tax pros standing by to call or chat. If you’re really stuck, they can even share your screen to help you through it. Expert help, if and when you need it with H&R Block online. [Link]”
“More people file free with H&R Block Online. Find out if you’re one of them: [Link]”
This how-to approach earned H&R Block a place on Time magazine’s list of top 10 corporate Twitter feeds.
5. Share tips & techniques.
Take a tip from Whole Foods Market: Give your social media network news they can use. The all-organic market tweets recipes and how-to stories about cooking:
“Check out our foolproof three-step method to cutting a mango. Plus, get tropical ideas for ceviche, grilling and desserts. [Link]”
“We got an all-access pass to @Joan_Nathan’s kitchen while she helped us create our Passover dinner menu. Check it out: [Link]”
“This melon guide is big summer vibes. Check it out: [Link]”
“Our wine experts pair the top 12 wines with summer. Reds, whites and bubbles for all occasions. Read their suggestions now. [Link]”
Whole Foods’ recipes and service stories have made it one of the most followed brands on Twitter, with 1.9 million followers. No wonder Whole Foods landed on Time magazine’s list of top 10 corporate Twitter feeds.
What tips and techniques can you share on your Instagram account?
6. Quantify value with numerals in headlines.
Coverlines with numbers sell publications at the checkout counter. That’s because those numbers promise quantity and value. (Oddly, odd numbers sell better than even ones.)
The same thing’s true in social media. Add a numeral to your blog post headline, and it will make the rounds more widely on Facebook pages.
“In a wide range of marketing arenas, digits have been shown to perform very well,” Zarrella writes. “They tend to help conversion rates in the form of prices. And on social news sites like Digg, ‘Top 10’ style posts have always done well.”
In Zarrella’s research, blog post headlines:
- Including the numerals 1 through 9 got passed along more often than average on Facebook
- Without digits got shared less often than average on Facebook
7. Deliver more value through links.
The more links you share, the more followers you’ll get, according to research by viral marketing scientist Dan Zarrella. For his study, Zarrella analyzed a random selection of more than 130,000 Twitter users.
He found that Twitter accounts with more than 1,000 followers tend to tweet many more links than those with fewer than 1,000 followers.
And the more links you share, the more retweets you’ll get, according to Zarrella. For this study, Zarrella looked at nearly 10 million random tweets and 10 million retweets.
He found that nearly 60% of retweets include links; fewer than 20% of non-retweeted tweets do.
8. Post novel ideas.
Stop posting the same old thing. Fresh ideas — even fresh words — move further and faster on social media.
For this study, Zarrella counted how many times each word appeared in his sample set of 10 million tweets:
- Each word in a regular tweet was found 89.19 other times in the sample.
- Each word in a retweet was found only 16.37 other times.
Want to get retweeted? Share something different. You might even coin your own word.
9. Transform news and events into insights.
Alan Weiss is the consultant’s consultant. His social media status updates rock.
Instead of blah-blahing about what he ate for dinner or bragging that he’s tweeting from the Imperial Suite at the Park Hyatt-Vendôme, he spins news items and everyday events into insights and ideas:
“If you want a referral, don’t ask someone to ‘represent’ you and never send materials. Here’s the line to request: ‘Joan, I’d like to introduce Tom who’s done outstanding work and I think the two of you would benefit significantly from knowing each other.’”
“Use observed behavior and evidence, not ad hominem attack and assumption. ‘You’re late by 15 minutes each time we schedule critical calls on which you’re needed,’ is better than ‘You’re clearly not a team player.’”
“If you don’t know the size of your prospect’s business, or their major competition, or if they’re independent or a subsidiary, don’t show up. Or did you pass all your tests in school without studying? If so, I guess you’re just gifted….”
How can you take a tip from Weiss and transform news and everyday events into insights and ideas?