Ask yourself this one question to transform your social media content

Most people use social media personally, so they’re pretty sure they know how to use it for business. These “experts” wonder, how hard can it be? Snap a photo, slap a caption on it, sprinkle in a few hashtags, and you’re done.

Social media managers can attest that creating great content for a brand isn’t simple, and personal use definitely won’t prepare you for everything. Speaking English doesn’t make you Shakespeare, does it?

Maybe you know one of these “experts,” or maybe you are one. Good news! Your personal experience using social media is valuable, and it can make you a better social media manager, if you know how to leverage it. This means asking yourself the right questions.

In my experience, content creation is both an art and a science. The science isn’t exact — Facebook isn’t going to tell us the secret to unlocking its algorithm — but there are best practices that you can learn. Once you’ve got the basics down, you can focus on getting creative.

Social media is not about advertising your product. It’s about personifying your brand, establishing your identity, and building relationships. Your audience goes to social media to engage… socially. As a brand, you better be prepared to do that.

The most important thing to remember is that your content should provide value to your audience. So how can you assess the value of a post? Start by asking yourself one crucial question: “What does my audience want to see?”

This is where most “experts” lose their way. Too often, page managers get stuck asking, “What do I want to show my audience?”

For example, imagine that a university wants to remind students about an upcoming scholarship application deadline. The post might look something like this:

“Reminder! May 15 is the deadline to apply for XYZ scholarship! A, B, and C students are eligible to apply. Follow the link below to complete your application.”

Is this the type of post you’d pause to engage with while scrolling through your newsfeed? This university had the best intentions, but the post is executed poorly. The best content on social media evokes strong emotion. People are most likely to engage with a post that makes them tear up, LOL, seethe with anger, or burst with joy. Did the phrase, “complete your application,” make you burst with joy?

Consider instead that the university had asked the right question when planning this post. “What does my audience want to see?”

Rather than a cut-and-dry reminder, they tell us a story about a student who received the scholarship last year. What obstacles did she overcome to get into college, and what dreams will she be able to achieve thanks to this scholarship? We see her photo, or maybe even a video of her telling us how hard she worked to be where she is and how much this scholarship means to her. We laugh. We cry. We’re inspired. In the comments section, the university posts a link to the application.

Draw on your own experience using social media here. Which post would you be more likely to like? I suspect most of you chose option B. I agree. The second post is emotionally engaging and inspires us to take action.

Now, a real-life example from A.T. Still University. The registrar’s office proposes a post. Graduation is coming up, and the staff wants to remind students to double-check their names and addresses in the university database before diplomas are mailed out.

Rather than delivering a plain-text reminder, the social media team asks the right questions, and the university mascot, Bucky the Ram of Reason, gets involved. This is the result.

An unfortunate typo for poor Bucky is a win for the university, as this funny, engaging post is likely to draw reactions from the right people.


· Pay attention to the type of content you’re engaging with on social media. What are the qualities that make you pause to react to a post as you’re scrolling through your newsfeed? How can you apply these qualities to the content you share on behalf of your brand?

· Send me your boring content ideas, and let’s brainstorm creative ways to turn them into engaging posts.

· Follow A.T. Still University on Facebook and Twitter to see how our social media team creates valuable content.