Constructing Effective Social Media Posts

Social Media

One of the many things I was tasked with doing this semester was creating social media posts for stories we wanted to be shared across the community. Creating a compelling social post takes a lot of experience reading the news — especially when it comes to stories with consequences within the community. In order to grab the attention of readers, who are scrolling faster and more mindlessly every day, posts on social media must be both creative and informative. As a copy editor, it’s important that I recognize what the most fascinating and important part of a story is. Once I’ve identified the quote, statistic or excerpt from the story I want to feature in the social post, it must be cut down to a size that allows it to be read quickly. I became better at more quickly identifying the most colorful parts of stories and bringing them front and center in a way that our readers couldn’t ignore. In many ways, the process for writing an effective social post is similar to that of writing an effective headline — the goal for both is essentially to capture the readers’ attention as quickly and concisely as possible. I will say that although the Missourian gets more digitally savvy every day, one thing we fall short on is an effective Twitter presence. Every time we Tweet, we post a link to the story we’re talking about, which doesn’t sound like an ineffective method. However, upon closer inspection, it’s clear that because we prioritize getting people to click on the link over interacting with the Tweet itself, we don’t often gain traction on Twitter at all. An exception would be the weather haiku, which is a good example of how people —people on Twitter, at least— prefer the Missourian’s “fun” side. Our Twitter account’s best use right now is that of a news aggregation source in that we retweet breaking news from community sources. However, as a publication we have the option to become that first source without trying to get people to click on the link. Building trust with the community is a two-way street, and because Twitter is such a casual digital medium I think the Missourian could be doing a better job of being present and human on the platform. The following are some of my best-performing social posts from the semester:

Post 1:

Finding the right part of this story to include in the social post was simpler than I initially thought. After scanning the story in-depth for good quotes and compelling statistics, it finally occurred to me that the most interesting part of this story was the novelty of it all. The fact that Boone County had no wind farms of this kind and the sheer amount of power that would be generated were two things that I knew would draw the attention of readers in and around Columbia. I also made sure to keep my description concise and informative, because I know the attention span of a Facebook scroller is not much longer than that of a goldfish.

Post 2:

This story probably did well both because of its content and the way I chose to promote it. In this instance, I decided to feature information within the social post that was not immediately clear from the headline alone. By tying the name Ian Thomas to the story, I made it easier for readers to connect the dots between this story and some of our older ones about potential corruption by the councilman. On top of that, by mentioning Thomas’ deal, I made a reference to previous reporting by the Missourian and tested people’s knowledge of the situation. If somebody were to see the Facebook caption and realize they don’t know the Ian Thomas deal being referenced, they might go back and find previous Missourian coverage of the story. People love hot gossip, and as far as city council goes, it doesn’t get much hotter than this.

Post 3:

I chose this story for social media because I remembered how shocked I was the first time I read the initial story, which was also reported by the Missourian. I was so taken aback that there was a full-functioning brothel seemingly right in the middle of town that I read the Missourian’s coverage of it over and over again. When I saw Manthe’s name pop up in another story, my heart jumped at another development in this story that has powerful local reach. Choosing which material from the story to include in this social post was much easier here, as I felt like all I really had to do was remind readers of exactly what Barry Manthe did, which was inundate women with drugs, impairing their decision making to the point where they were dependent on the establishment and couldn’t leave.

Post 4:

This story was the crown jewel of my social media work for the Columbia Missourian. This is the best example I have of the work I did making sure I read and absorbed the entire story, and selecting the most interesting part to feature in the social post. The headline and picture are very telling about the subject of the story, but they really don’t communicate the extent to which Missouri has fallen behind. When I saw the sentence citing the NCAA documents, I did a double-take. MU is a really important pillar of the community, and Columbia’s residents — students and otherwise — care about the University and its reputation. Columbians also most certainly care when the university misleads the public, and framing the truth in a way that left the university exposed garnered excellent viewership and engagement numbers.