I struggle a bit with formatting my work for social media.
Many of us do.
At first I resisted the idea of offering something short and sweet to readers, feeling like I was grossly oversimplifying everything I tried to condense. (Twitter, anyone?)
It took a while to understand that simplicity is the key to not only being understood, but truly understanding your OWN topic!
As I grew more experienced, and more attuned to my own reading habits, it occurred to me that people who want the long, detailed explanations will engage with an author directly or (one hopes) even buy the books. Most online readers are happy with a little taste of a new idea at first, especially when we have it with our morning coffee while perusing everybody else's missives on the channels we monitor.
Perhaps a small taste is enough– like that little sample of salted caramel fudge that makes you want to buy and eat the whole pan before leaving the shop. (Guilty)
If we accept that we can't succeed by offering everyone we meet (in person or virtually) an unabridged version of our entire life's work, complete with illustrations and a soliloquy or two, then the next question becomes one of maximizing impact within the context of online brevity.
How do I grab your attention and keep it long enough to impart one or two little nuggets that you might actually use or even begin a conversation about?
The blogosphere is cluttered with "how-to's" and social media gurus offering "tried and true" methods. Recipes abound.
Formats & templates & instructions... OH MY!
It's tempting to try out a canned approach, to assume one size fits all...
(like so many unfortunate accidents of fashion over the course of my lifetime- Yikes!)
Yet even when I cook, I seldom take a recipe at face value.
It's just a suggestion, a general path to follow.
I add my own spices, or I make my own detours and unscheduled stops along the way. I simmer it longer, throw in a splash of sherry and some mushrooms that weren't called for but are definitely needed...
(Note to self. Blogging before lunch leads to excessive use of food metaphors.)
Recipes are great. Don't get me wrong, but I trust my own gut when it comes to variations.
Yet there is one formula that appeals to me like no other– particularly as I become a rapid consumer of more and more content, myself. You guessed it! The LIST! So without further ado, I offer a list of three reasons to use lists when writing for online readers.
1) SPEED: Readers are in a hurry!
If I offer you a long, laborious posting, most of you will click it open and close it when you realize you don't have time to read it right now. It is relegated to the "later" pile, discarded completely, or worse yet, it becomes a "should."
I really SHOULD go back and read that long, awful posting. ....I am sure there is something good in there SOMEWHERE!
A LIST, however, lets me keep your attention for the entire 30 seconds you have at your disposal to read my "drive-by" content. You quickly scan the items, look more closely at the ones you might use, and allow them to bounce around in your head as you go about your business. WIN!
2) CLARITY: Figure out what you want to say, already!
Distilling a concept down to a few key, actionable items helps a writer to achieve greater clarity. When I go to the trouble to figure out what the main reasons are for doing something, or the three key things I want to share about a particular topic, I cease to ramble or (God forbid) rant!
3) SERVICE: Don't you want to be useful?
Finally, if the goal of a posting truly is to benefit others, it behooves the writer to share content in a way that is USEFUL to people. Being useful helps achieve other goals too, like establishing one's expertise, gaining name recognition, content marketing, etc.
While we don't want to be driven by checklists entirely (unless you work in an operations center or fly airplanes of course) a simple list of the salient points for a particular topic may prove quite useful.
It is sticky-note worthy! It ends up on our white boards, on refrigerators, and wherever important reminders are kept. After all, isn't that the ultimate victory for a writer?
(My dream is to occupy that space on the fridge, next to your grocery list— to say something so useful that you will want to remember it every day.)
So there you have it! A list of reasons to present content in...well... lists!
What's your favorite list from a social media posting?
Do you love lists or hate them?
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