How to write content for the social web

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By Alexandra Reid

Social media has transformed the way we communicate online, but creating content for the social web does not require a revolution in the way that we have traditionally produced content. News value and proper writing style still apply; what has changed is the environment, which provides us with new tools that require a more conversational approach and faster pace to producing content.

New media still favours content that is newsworthy and concise. The core components of newsworthy content a hundred years ago maintain relevancy in today’s social web, which are timing, proximity, significance, prominence and humanity. The same rules for good writing are also valued today. Brevity is still regarded by many as the soul of wit. Grammar, spelling and proper sentence style are still integral to demonstrating professionalism and authority.

However, while news value and proper writing style are still cherished today, these virtues of good content are eroded by the 24-hour news cycle and conversationalist tone of the social space. Our growing hunger for good content served up when, where and how we like it puts enormous pressure on content providers, which can result in sloppiness and poor judgment on their parts. Social media also encourages a rapid-fire, back-and-forth banter that can diminish sentence style, grammar, spelling and also the integrity of the communicator.

As we create and rework content for the social space, we must not lose sight of what has always made content great. It is the only way we can stand out from the overabundance of mediocrity that forms the bulk of social content today.

Social content must be:


Share the most current news you can get your hands on as older content has likely already been shared. Social media content is fleeting and consumed quickly, making the most current news the most relevant. You can still share older content, provided you add new information or a different perspective. The real-time nature of Twitter demands that information you share be current and timely. Blogs are a bit more lenient as they offer more room for subject expansion.


As our Francis Moran likes to say, “be bold, be brief, be gone.” We no longer have the luxury to sit through long video interviews or read 2,000 word blog essays. Provide smart information fast. Helpful tip: lists on blog posts can help users navigate content more effectively.


Create and share content that offers a fresh perspective and don’t shy away from voicing your opinion, even if it rubs people the wrong way. So long as you’re not outright offending somebody, be bold enough to take a stand on an argument. You will push away all those people you don’t care about and win strong loyalty from the group you do care about. It’s also a good way to get people talking and ignite a good debate, which fosters learning and growth. It’s the best way for you to stand out from the crowd of passive middle-grounders.


The primary reasons why content should be sharable is because it gets your name out there, establishes authority, and boosts your search engine ranking. Sharable content maintains all of the core news values listed above. It can also be structured for optimum circulation. For example, Twitter’s 140-character limit requires us to keep our updates extra short if we want people to retweet, as retweets include the extra characters in our handles. Also, as skimming is a byproduct of the quickened news cycle, serve up easy-to-digest sound bites that will articulate your business case that people can simply copy, paste and share, whether these be embedded in your blog posts or status updates.

To optimize your search engine ranking and thus increase further the ability to share your information, new media thought leader Jay Baer recommends we consider taxonomy, or the words and phrases used to describe our products and services. According to Baer, taxonomy is “the most direct link between the world of social and search marketing.” So, when creating and promoting social content, include relevant keywords and search phrases wherever possible.


In C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley’s book, Content Rules, content is defined as “anything created and uploaded to a web site; the words, images, tools, or other things that reside there.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, content is a shape shifter as it can be expressed in a variety of formats, including tweets, podcasts, blog posts, whitepapers and Flickr photos, to name a few.

In the Social Media Examiner article listed above, Baer suggests that the best way to repurpose content is to create a content ladder, which illustrates the comparative publishing schedules that you typically employ for each of your outposts, ordered from most frequent publication (ex. Twitter) to least (ex. blog posts). Measure the success of the content sent out through each of these platforms, and repurpose the most successful content from the first step of the ladder for the next step down (for example, the most shared Twitter content could be repurposed for Facebook, and the most shared Facebook content could be repurposed for your blog, and so forth). I recommend you read the complete article to understand the full scope of the process.

What do you think?

Image: Mashable


One Comment »
  • Nick Stamoulis

    September 07, 2011 10:05 am

    I think the key when it comes to social content is to attract attention and be brief. There is so much noise going on in social media that it’s easy to get distracted. By crafting an engaging headline and providing information that is to the point you have a better chance of being noticed.

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