Traditionally, creating “click-worthy” social media content was a matter of trial and error. Now, nearly 13 years after the launch of the first modern social networking website, Friendster, there is a science behind how to effectively communicate with consumers online.
Here are a few observations from social media research conducted in 2012 that will help you craft the perfect post on Facebook and Twitter.
Visuals, Questions and Coupons Rule Facebook
Facebook users tend to be more visual and willing to engage with companies than their Twitter counterparts. For example, HubSpot reports that posts that include photos generate more user interaction than simple text posts. That includes 53 percent more likes, 104 percent more comments and 84 percent more clicks.
But don’t discount text-only updates. While it’s true that “content is king,” there are a few magic words that can make your posts more appealing. HubSpot notes that question-based posts— especially if they include “should,” “would” or “who”—will attract twice as many comments than declarative updates. Buddy Media found that quips of 50 words or fewer typically draw 60 percent more responses. If your Facebook page has a casual, friendly voice, don’t be afraid to pepper in a few smiley faces. Studies show that users comment, share and like company posts more often when they include emoticons.
Photos, questions and emoticons are good ways to start a conversation with your audience, but if you’re looking for the holy grail of updates, give your fans a coupon. Nearly 42 percent of consumers like companies on Facebook to receive special discounts or coupons, which makes these posts the best way to rake in customer engagement according to Wildfire Interactive.
Twitter Users Get Straight to the Point
If you’ve seen your company’s followers rise and fall without reason, you understand that Twitter users can be finicky. Here are a few ways you can put your best tweet forward and help thwart unfollows.
Research conducted by Compendium shows that Twitter users also prefer short posts. Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters, but tweets with fewer than 100 characters have higher engagement rates (clicks, retweets, favorites, replies).
Unfortunately, that’s the only similarity to Facebook. Questions often go unanswered in the Twittersphere: Compendium’s research shows they decrease audience interaction by more than 50 percent. As counterintuitive as it sounds, hashtags can harm your tweets. Users typically engage 52 percent less with brands that utilize hashtags. Also, save the exclamation marks for Facebook – it can negatively affect your interaction with your Twitter audience by 8 percent.
So, what does work on Twitter? Users literally want you to spell it out for them. According to HubSpot, tweets that specifically ask for retweets using the entire word instead of shorthand (RT) are 23 times more likely to be retweeted. If you’re short on characters, just using RT will still increase your chances of a retweet by 12 percent.
Buddy Media found that most followers are interested in the cold, hard facts. For example, adding a link related to the subject of your tweet will boost your chances of a retweet by a whopping 86 percent.
While these statistics aren’t the secret to making your posts go viral, they do provide insight into what consumers want to see in their social media feeds. Use this social media science to experiment with posts to find out what works with your audience.
This article originally appeared in Security Nation, 2013, Vol. 4.