If you’re trying to better your social media skills, there’s no reason to run out and buy a “Social Media for Dummies”-style book or pay to attend evening classes. Instead, turn to some of life’s most basic lessons, the ones I find myself repeating to my 2-year-old day in and day out.
If you’ve ever raised — or been — a toddler, you may recognize some of these time-tested phrases that conveniently double as great social media ground rules. These eight basic concepts not only create the foundation for a pretty typical childhood education, but also for establishing successful social media practices.
1) Keep it short and sweet. There’s no sense in lengthy explanations when it comes to 2-year-olds. Short sentences with a focus on the important words are not only the best way to make your point, they’re the only way. You can skip the baby talk when it comes to social media, but the principle remains the same. Short, punchy posts stand a much greater chance of hitting home with your readers, especially when your content is competing against a smorgasbord of other posts. If your thought is interrupted by the “Read More” button, you might want to consider shortening it up.
2) Use pictures. My daughter certainly can’t read yet, but she knows every barnyard animal by sight. Always add an image or video with your post. They help grab attention, further the story and increase the overall size of the post, giving it more real estate on your audiences’ screens.
3) Get on their level. Nobody, not even a toddler, likes being talked down to, and eye contact goes a long way in ensuring you are understood. Likewise with social media, know your audience and adjust your voice accordingly. If your general audience has only a basic understanding of a topic, don’t try to impress anyone with your own extensive knowledge. It leaves readers behind and less likely to come back to you for more information. Keep your content on their level and share only what your audience will understand and connect with.
4) Get on a schedule. The hardest days with my 2-year-old are when normal nap times are missed, meals are skipped, mornings come earlier or nights go later than usual. When we stick to our normal schedule, everyone and everything is at harmony. You’ll feel the same if you have a schedule to follow and stick to with your social media posts. Without a schedule you’ll be left making decisions on the fly, which will lead to inconsistent posts and a decline in performance. Find out when your audience is most likely to view and engage with your posts, and stick to their schedule.
5) Learn to share. A 2-year-old needs to learn to share, plain and simple. It’s the nice thing to do, and it’s how you make friends. I’ve seen firsthand how sharing a stuffed puppy can go a long way at daycare. Sharing in the social media world helps makes friends, too. You want others to share your content, so why shouldn’t you share the content of theirs that you find interesting and relevant? They’ll take notice and will be more apt to give you a share in the future.
6) Learn from your mistakes. My daughter once touched the furnace when it was on. Now every time she walks by she lets everyone know with a shake of her hand, “Hot. Daddy, hot. Don’t touch.” If in the social media world you come across any signs that tell you what you’re doing isn’t working (i.e. no engagement), it might be time to switch things up. Maybe it’s the time of the day you’ve been posting, maybe you’re lacking an image or video. Learn what doesn’t work so you can avoid those mistakes in the future.
7) Ask politely. Toddlers can pack an unbelievable amount of sass in a small package, but my daughter is learning asking for something instead of demanding — and throwing a “please” on the end — is much more likely to get her what she wants. The same goes for your social media posts. Don’t just expect that people are going to do what you want on their own volition. There’s no harm in asking for a share or retweet, or asking your audience to comment or visit a provided link. Your readers are people, too. Ask nicely, and the results might just surprise you.
8) Go ask your mother. This one might relate more to dads than 2-year-olds. Sometimes I’m in no position to make a decision and have to defer to higher powers. And let’s face facts — that’s Mom. I see no problem with a couple cookies before dinner. I had some myself. But Mom will intervene and let me know I’m making a bad call. On the cookies-before-dinner and social media fronts, use a “What would Mom say?” approach. If ever you think a post might come across as controversial or offensive, and as a business you certainly want to avoid this, just think, “What would my mother say if I showed this to her?” If a post wouldn’t fly with my mom, leave it alone. There’s always a way to get your point across without alienating anyone. That, and moms are always right.
Are there any other childhood lessons that you think offer some good guidance for social media? Share them in the comments below. And if you’re looking to put lesson no. 5 to more use, check out this blog on finding valuable content to curate and share.