Image source: mkhmarketing.wordpress.com

So you want to enter the social media world

Dear New User,

Entering the social media world is deceivingly simple. You create a profile, enter a few personal details, read (or skim) some basic instructions, and that’s it: you’re officially online. But then comes the followers, likes, pins and posts. And don’t forget about the sharing. Pretty soon, you realize you’ve entered a popularity contest with 3.2 billion other people.

Don’t worry too much, New User: this post is made especially for you, and you’ll be on your way to proper internet etiquette (and maybe internet fame) in no time following a few key concepts and practices.

The concept of sharing

In the social media world, information is constantly being consumed, exchanged or discarded. As a consumer, your clicks, views and time are valuable, but as people, the information behind those clicks and views is the real jackpot. And according to the New York Times White Paper, sharing information can be where people find their value.

Source: New York Times White Paper

Now that we have the ability to share all kinds of information quickly and easily, we are faced with discerning which information is worth sharing and with whom we want to share it. Retweeting content, posting it on Facebook or directly messaging someone a link may all accomplish the feeling of satisfaction from sharing, but it can also tell a lot about what type of online persona you have, so choose wisely.

Furthermore, you also have to be exteremly aware of what type of information you are sharing. On April Fools Day, NPR tested users to see if they would share something they did not actually read. People fell for it. Don’t be that person. If you want to get anywhere in the social media world, you have to be trustworthy, and unfortunately, you can’t trust everything you read on the internet. That’s where your detective skills come in: check your sources, check those sources, double check that information with other sources, and once it’s passed the verification test, feel free to share it.

Knowing your audience

Once you decide what to share and with whom, you will start building your social media footprint and a social media network. That footprint can be whatever you want it to be, but the more tailored and aimed your content is, the more likely you are to build a larger audience and touch people outside of your coworkers, friends and family. So pick a niche (or two) and stick with it. If you want to make your mark, you have to be reliable and consistent.

According to the same NPR story, that shared content may have made you feel good, but it’s not likely that the people you shared it with will do more than just see it and possibly click on it. Despite clicking random links, people visit certain websites or users based on trust and loyalty. So after you check your sources, then grab your reader’s attention. And then, you also have to keep that attention. This involves having good, consistent and relatable content. According to the 2016 Chartbeat White Paper, the longer someone spends reading your content, the more likely that person is to return.

Source: 2016 Chartbeat White Paper

Stylizing your content

You have to get your reader to hooked, but you can’t do that without grabbing their attention and getting them to click on your content. This is where style, different forms media and the term viral comes in. Viral means getting a large amount of views and shares in a short amount of time. It involves having catchy, unique and sharable content, but virality shouldn’t be your goal. (If it is, check out this article for more information about going viral.)

Social media has opened up a whole new kind of content — social graphics and interactive storyboards are replacing photos and paragraphs, but that doesn’t mean those methods are dead. It’s just a matter of making your content appealing and easy to read. Take a look at a few forums you enjoy, figure out what appeals to you and try to imitate those styles.

As a general rule, use short paragraphs and break up long blocks of text by adding pictures, pulled quotes, graphics or other content. According to Jakob Nieslen’s research, the human eye tends to read digital content in an “F” shaped pattern:

Source: nngroup.com

No one will stay on pages that are distracting or difficult to read, so always keep in mind the style and the way that your content is presented. (You can use Google Analytics or another analysis site to keep track of views and readers.) Don’t be afraid to be creative, and use the resources of the internet to your advantage by asking questions, exploring different sites and interacting with other users.

With that, congratulations and welcome! Beginning your journey in the world of social media is an exciting step and with a few clicks, you’ll be liking, sharing, creating and engaging like a Professional User in no time.