This post is trick-free.
I won’t tell you the best time of day to post on Facebook, how many characters your tweet should have, or which Instagram filter will make you famous.
Because none of those things matter.
What will move the needle for you is a strategic approach to what you post on social media that takes into account core fundamental ideas about how to unlock the value of these powerful platforms.
The following eight concepts will hopefully help you build that.
1. Not all engagement and followers matter.
Don’t confuse vanity metrics with meaningful ones.
There are social media hacks you can employ to get more followers, likes, and shares of your posts — but 99% of the engagement you get that way will be meaningless.
Using a million hashtags may increase your Like count, but if those likes come from bots or people who auto-like posts in an attempt to attract your attention, then what are you really getting of value?
Focus your social media strategy on building a real connection with real people —nothing else matters.
(By the way, you also may discover the path to success doesn’t involve hashtags at all.)
2. You have two audiences: People who know you and those who don’t.
If you want to grow your audience, it’s important to cater your content to two distinct groups of people with different interests.
Existing fans of your work are familiar with you so they’ll be interested in the stories behind it, but people who are not familiar with what you do likely won’t care how it gets done — they first need to be introduced to it and given a reason to care.
Audience growth depends on bringing new people into the fold and in order to do that you need to share content that speaks directly to those people.
Strike a balance with your social content so that some of it is designed to draw in new people by addressing broader topics of interest to them, while using other content to connect with and deepen your relationship with your existing fanbase.
3. Show what others can’t in ways others won’t.
If you’re not sure what to post, find ways to apply the above sentence to your strategy.
What can you share on social media that most other people can’t? What do you have access to? What stories do you have to tell? What’s your unique competitive advantage?
And when you tell those stories or share that content, do so in ways the few people who may have similar access or stories aren’t willing to do.
If none of your competitors are willing to talk about their struggles, then maybe you should.
If no one in your field reveals their works-in-progress, maybe you should.
When you combine unique access with a willingness to present things others don’t, your content will capture interest and attention.
4. Are you producing a reality show or publishing a magazine?
There are infinite ways to approach social media content, but if you’re struggling to settle on an direction this is a simple question you can ask yourself to frame your approach.
Do you want to use your social platforms to broadcast a reality show that chronicles your work, life, and adventures? Or, should it be more like a magazine centered around your interests, expertise, and niche topic?
Either can work, but it’s helpful to choose a deliberate approach and let it guide your content.
There’s only one right answer — choose the path that will provide the most value to your target audience.
(Speaking of which, here are two secrets to creating content people will love.)
5. Who do you enjoy following that you don’t know “in real life” and why?
One of the best ways to improve your social media game is to pay close attention to the social media accounts you enjoy following.
Not the friends, family, and colleagues you follow, but rather the people you follow who you don’t personally know offline.
Why do you follow them? What do you get out of it? What’s the value they provide to you?
You’ll discover you only follow people you receive clear value from them in some way—and most likely that value is they either inspire, educate, or entertain you.
This exercise will lead you to see social media channels as value delivery systems and help you clarify the value you aim to provide to your followers.
6. There are three opportunities in every post: The image/video, caption, and comments.
Too often people overlook two of these three elements in a post.
When people decide whether to like, comment, or share a post, that decision is made based on a series of factors.
They might like it because they love the photo. Or, they might think the photo’s mediocre, but LOVE the caption. Or, they might find somebody’s comment (or your engagement with it) fascinating and join that conversation themselves.
With everything you post you have three opportunities to give somebody a reason to engage with it — take advantage of each of those opportunities by putting thought and effort into each of the post’s elements. Don’t phone it in and ignore a couple of them.
You only need one element to hit in order to get that Like, so why not give yourself three chances at it?
7. Get email addresses.
Email is not dead.
Have you ever noticed when social media platforms want to get your attention they send you an email?
That’s not a coincidence.
Even the Facebooks and Twitters of the world know email is still by far the best way to reach their audience.
This is one of many reasons you should have a newsletter (like this one, for example!). But at a minimum, you should be building an email list.
An email list is algorithm proof and gives you the best chance to reach the most possible people in your audience with any message you want whenever you want.
Social platforms severely limit your organic reach and they have a tendency to disappear (and make your audience vanish as well) when you least expect it (see: MySpace and Vine).
8. Share your TRUTH.
A lot of fake people share a lot of fake stuff on social media — don’t be one of those people. Their “success” is fake as well.
True social media success is built not by being fake, but by being more honest, authentic, vulnerable, and real than most people are willing to be.
Your truth will resonate, lead people to connect with you, and enable you to build an audience of true value.
Don’t fake it ‘til you make it. The way to make it is to not fake it.