Between my business and personal life, I’ve spent a decent chunk of time creating written and visual content for social media.
Often times I’m overly critical of my ideas. My brain shuts them down before they ever see the light of day. Other times, I look back on what I’ve put out and it makes me cringe. I didn’t filter enough, and that’s not a great feeling either.
These are some of the references I’ve found useful for deciding what to post (and what not to post) on social media.
This post discusses:
- 3 heuristics for better social media posting
- Thoughts on finding things to share
- Specific social media post ideas
If you have any thoughts of your own, please do share! This post is a V1.0 and the plan is for it to evolve with time.
3 Heuristics for Better Social Media Posts
In this post I refer to “social media” as anything you share online, including:
- Written word
These apply to businesses as much as they do personal social media.
Here are three rules of thumb you can use before deciding whether or not to post.
1. Austin Kleon’s “So What?” Test
In Share Your Work!, Austin Kleon gives a simple rule of thumb for deciding whether or not to share something on social media: make sure it passes the “So What?” Test.
Ask yourself, “why should someone else care?”
Don’t overthink this, he says. Just go with your gut.
If you’re unsure whether to share, let it sit for 24 hours.
(Note: Writers can also apply this to every line they write. It’s about “cutting the fat” and only leaving the good stuff.)
2. More Jabs, Less Right Hooks
If you’re still unsure whether or not to share, it can be helpful to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
If you’re constantly self-promoting without giving any value, you can wear out your audience.
Ask yourself: “Overall, am I giving more value than I’m taking?”
If the answer is no, focus on giving value instead.
If the answer is yes but you’re still in doubt, I say share anyway. Often times you’ll be surprised by what resonates with your audience. At the very least, you can learn from feedback.
In social media, value can come in the form of:
Gary Vaynerchuk uses a boxing analogy of jabs and right hooks to explain this concept. A right hook is selling, whereas a jab is value-giving.
His argument is that brands are throwing far, far too many right hooks. He calls for more pieces of content that resonate with fans on an emotional level and less selling.
This goes for personal social media as well.
Want Rocky-like success? The secret formula is more jabs, less right hooks.
Eye of the Tiger, baby.
3. The Comfort Zone Test
In July 2018, I challenged myself to post 10 3-minute videos on Instagram. In the first video, I explained why I was doing so.
The reason was simple: it was something I largely avoided until that point. By putting myself out there in this way, the idea was to force myself to become more comfortable talking to a camera. But even admitting this felt like a challenge.
Not a ton of people watched those videos, but in the weeks following, I made some great connections because of them. A few followers reached out to tell me how they secretly wanted to do the same. Two friends ended up trying it themselves. Some great conversations came about as a result of this process.
Sure these videos could be seen as self-serving. The whole idea was to make myself grow. But in putting myself out there, I was able to make some amazing new connections that never would have otherwise resulted.
Does what you’re sharing help you or your brand become more or less authentic? Does it help push you closer to your edge?
The answer is usually obvious.
Share things that make you more authentic. If it makes you slightly uncomfortable, that’s probably a good sign.
Finding Things to Share on Social Media
Sometimes, our biggest issue is coming up with post ideas. Here are a few thoughts on how to come up with more things to share online.
1. Be More Flâneur-Like
Our brains quickly become accustomed to our surroundings.
Anyone who’s traveled for an extended period of time can tell you that the novelty wears off. It’s scary how fast it happens. Your brain readapts and your surroundings transform into the new normal.
Don’t worry if your day-to-day life feels mundane. It only feels that way to you.
The best artists, poets, writers and philosophers are able to turn this off and see things as if for the first time. Flâneurs make great documentarians because able to observe while remaining fully detached.
When you view the world this way, ideas for social media posts are everywhere. As you’re going about your day, you can document your process in a way that makes it benefit others.
You’d be surprised at what feels “normal” to you is useful or interesting to other people.
What’s around you that you could document more of?
2. Ask Yourself Questions
Sometimes, great posts ideas come from simply asking yourself questions:
- Is there a process I’m going through that I could share or document?
- How could I use this post to be more authentically me?
- What do I find entertaining?
- How can I connect with others?
3. Create Art
The best posts are a lot like the top movies and songs: they’re authentic, they evoke emotions, and they’re works of art.
Authenticity shines through. If you genuinely enjoy the process of creation, the person on the other side will sense it.
Select the medium that allows this process to best come out and focus there in the beginning:
- Written word
How can you make each post into more of a work of art? How can you put more of your personal touch into what you’re creating?
4. Keep a Journal
In psychology, chunking is a process of breaking down pieces of information and grouping them together so they’re more easily digested or remembered.
Keeping a journal allows you to take inventory of your best thoughts on a day-to-day basis. You can later break these thoughts down into digestible content to share on social media.
Journal thoughts can turn into Instagram captions. Blog posts can become books.
Walls of text can get distilled down into tweets.
Being better at organizing your thoughts helps you better able to come up with interesting things to share.
Keeping a journal is the best way I’ve found to do this.
5. Ditch the Comparisons
When I ask friends why they don’t share more on social media, the most common response I get is that they don’t have anything interesting to share.
When I dig deeper, I almost always find this comes from a place of comparison.
Stop self-filtering based on comparison to others. No matter where you are in life, you have something to say.
Share from where you’re currently at. The right people will find you.
Social Media Post Ideas
1. Share something you’ve found valuable.
- Podcast episode
- YouTube video
- Quick tips
- Share a picture of your notes
2. Tell a story.
- A personal story
- Anecdote that illustrates who you are
- Personal wins
- How you got started doing what you do
3. Share what you’re learning, working on or heading toward.
4. Share what inspires you.
- Your influences
- Anything else you come across
5. Share something you find fun, interesting or entertaining.
- YouTube video
6. Document a process.
- Works in progress
- Behind the scenes footage
- How-to or walkthrough
7. Ask something.
- Ask a question
- Conduct a poll
- Ask for recommendations
8. Answer questions.
- Host an AMA (Ask Me Anything)
- Answer common questions you get
9. Share something that others are unwilling to.
- Put something into words better than someone else can themselves
- Share what everyone thinks but is afraid to say
10. Say “thank you.”
- Post something you’re grateful for
- Recognize a friend or employee for something they did
A Few Final Thoughts on Social Media Posts
The best social media content serves others as much as it serves yourself or your brand.
Learn by posting. It’s easy to be perfectionists, but we improve our craft by putting stuff out there and adjusting course along the way.
Give as much as you take, and use your posts as a chance to connect with others.
Keep sharing and adding value, and others who resonate with it will find you and your engagement will increase.
Have any other thoughts you’d add regarding social media posts? Leave a comment below.
This Post Has 2 Comments
I always strive for quality posts. Too often we get caught up in thinking we need to post what’s trending, or something that is highly shareable. The best content is that which makes your audience think and interact in a meaningful way.
Great point Eric. In blogging, I like to look for the sweet spot between what I’m passionate about, what others need and what they’re searching for. Love the interaction point–the best content often leads to great discussions (that even you as the poster end up learning from).