I once sent my father a link to an article I had written for one of the local blogs just to get his views on how I had approached the subject in question. Being the honest but oldfangled patriarch that he is, his response was stinging but honest.
"You asked about what I think of the subject in your article but let's put that aside," he responded, "what happened to your writing?"
He went ahead to lament about how the quality of the language, the quality of the prose and the quality of the thought process in my writing was slowly getting diluted.
He further advised me to go back to articles by Wahome Mutahi, Barack Muluka, Philip Ochieng, Betty Caplan or Gerry Lourgrhan in order to re-acquaint myself with my fast-fading art of writing riveting articles.
I understand where my old-man comes from. Being retired, he spends most of his time in his wholesale shop back at home where he has the time to scan the newspaper from the headline to the sports pages. You can tell his bias for newspapers by a quick glance at the writers he referred me to if I was to get my mojo back, they are all newspaper columnist.
Suffice to say that I agree to some extent with my father's sentiments and we only part ways when it comes to the question - who are you writing for? Had I shared with him a piece intended as an opinion piece in our dailies, his sentiments would have been very helpful but since I shared with him content meant for social media, a medium he is not very fond of due to his advanced age, I felt his critique was a little misplaced.
Writing for social media is remarkably different from writing for mainstream media. Today everyone has become a social media content generator and there's more content online than there is time to go through all of it.
One characteristic of social media content consumers today is that they binge on content. In between daily chores, conversations and during that free time on a matatu ride, they want to move from platform to platform, from Facebook and Twitter news feeds to Instagram profiles, WhatsApp chats, blog posts to news sites within the shortest time possible.
The only way to keep them hooked on to your offering is by serving stellar content and by being aware of what your audience wants while weaving it with the message you want to pass across.
The first trick is to ensure your audience can relate to your content at a personal level. This will eventually earn you a like, a comment, a share or a retweet on social media platforms thereby widening your reach. Once your audience is hooked, they become brand advocates and brand voices who will market your message even better than you. This will also help to make your audience come back to your platform repeatedly and audience retention is key in the era of social media messaging.
Your content should also tell a compelling story in not so many words. It is alleged that the continuous use of social media is slowly eroding today's human's attention span. Telling a story on twitter that requires the user to read a thread of numerous tweets in order to get the gist of the message might end up losing the reader. A good content piece is a story that keeps one hooked long enough to get the message but ends soon enough to leave them wanting more.
In the age of social media, content creators have had to reboot their entire understanding of how content needs to be presented. Clear communication and storytelling need to be achieved in less than a minute and that forms part of the good and ugly of social media messaging. Good because the messaging can be direct and precise, and ugly because sometimes a minute is just too short to communicate the entire brand spirit. However, since even larger brands have to compete with social media influencers and content makers, they either have to shape up or ship out.
Qualitative and quantitative research is another hallmark of good social media content. Most creative individuals have a natural bias against the power of data and numbers behind a good content piece. However, industry data, market reports, and visual aids can give the content the oomph it needs to lay out the message without being too wordy.
What sets social media apart from traditional media is the interactive nature of the platform. Social media content should, therefore, speak with the audience and not to them. One tends to form a relationship with the viewer only when they start having a conversation with them, resulting in them feeling like part of the content and even prompting comments in the comments section.
The trick in social media messaging is to pass on the message in a simple, non-preachy manner using the many creative tools which are readily available in today's day and age.