Monday, February 24, 2014

Social Media Monday—The Basics of Composing a Successful Social Media Update

by Edie Melson

Conference season is gearing up and I just finished a great weekend teaching at Writer’s AdvanceBoot Camp. One of the things I get asked over and over is how to compose a successful social media update.

Although there are some major differences between Facebook and Twitter, composing an update has some similarities.

What do I say?
The first thing to remember about social media is that it’s not about you. Think about your audience or the audience you want. The things you share on social media should do one of three things:
  • Give valuable information.
  • Start an interesting conversation.
  • Enrich the lives of your followers.

This means you can share links to valuable blog posts or articles, post an interesting quote, or ask a thought-provoking question. And don’t forget, humor is good for all of us, so sharing something that tickles your funny bone is fine, too.

How do I say it?
Think in Headlines. The purpose of social media is interaction and engagement. So think about small bits that entice those reading it to join the conversation.

Don’t give away the ending. Don’t end the conversation, get it started. If you jump ahead, drawing the conclusion, there’s less reason for others to join in.

Keep it short, if possible. Twitter only allows 140 characters, so you have no choice. On the other hand, Facebook doesn’t limit the length of your updates, but still shorter is better. After about a couple of lines, Facebook will cut off your post and replace the end with the dreaded read more. Now think about it, how often do you really click and read more? Exactly my point. Try to make sure what you have to say fits without requiring your readers to click read more.

Utilize Hashtags. I’ve done several posts on hashtags and how to use them, but here’s the short version.
When you put a # in front of a group of words and/or numbers—with NO spaces—that becomes searchable within a specific platform. For example, #write is a popular hashtag for writers. If I’m looking to find new connections on Twitter (or even Facebook) I do a search for #write and every recent update containing that will show up. I can find people that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. More on this later, when I show you examples of valuable social media updates.

Shorten Your Links. A link, proper name hyperlink, is the URL of a given web page. Sometimes these links can be forty, fifty or even more characters long. If you’re concerned about how much space you have to say what you want, you’ll need to shorten any link you include in an update. I recommend you use There are other link shorteners out there, but it’s my favorite. And yes, they’re all free to use.

Try to include an image. If you’re sharing a link, a lot of times there are several images to choose from. You won’t always be able to include an image, but the most read posts are those with an image attached. This isn’t as important on Twitter, but sometimes people will share a Twitter update on FB and you’ll be glad you included an image.

Examples of Updates—Good and Poor:
Below are some examples of topics, followed by good updates and ones that are so good. I’m using (hyperlink) to show where I would insert a shortened link.

Topic: Using Hootsuite to Improve Social Media

Good Update:
Tips for Writers to use Hootsuite to Improve your #SocialMedia Life – via @EdieMelson (hyperlink) #amwriting

Reasons it’s good: It’s intriguing and doesn’t tell what the tips are. It includes two hashtags that fit the topic. It mentions a person.

Poor Update:
Using Hootsuite Will Improve your Social Media Life (hyperlink) #write #amwriting #socialmedia #writers #marketing

Reasons it’s poor: It gives away the ending and basically stops the conversation. There’s no reason for the reader to click on the link. There’s no mention of a name, so no personal connection. There are too many hashtags. Try to keep it to no more than two. Otherwise you’ll look like a spammer.

Topic: A free or discounted book on Amazon

Good Update:
Don’t miss eBook LAKESIDE LOVE from @EdieMelson – FREE today on Kindle (hyperlink) #KindleFree #amreading

Reasons it’s good: it’s clear and concise. You know instantly what the title of the book is, because it’s in all caps. You can also find the author on social media because the name is tagged. It also utilizes two hashtags that are most popular for free books (#KindleFree) and for readers (#amreading).

Poor Update:
Great ebook from Edie Melson, Lakeside Love, free today on Kindle (hyperlink) #kindlefree #ebook #amreading #writers

Reasons it’s poor: You have to read it carefully to figure out what the title of the book is. You only have the name of the author, no way to connect further, and again, there are two many hashtags.

Now it's your turn. Here are two topics. Practice composing updates and post them in the section below. I'll give you feedback on what works and what doesn't.

Topic One: A blog post about what makes a good blog post.

Topic Two: A free ebook from a suspense author you admire.

Don't forget to join the conversation!



  1. 7 tips to #write or improve your #blog posts
    #Free suspense #e-book available today

    1. Ellen you've got a good start here, but you've got too many hashtags - remember, try to keep it to no more than 2. Also #ebook doesn't have a hyphen in it. But the headline you composed is excellent! Blessings, E

  2. What 3 elements make a good blog post? @ediemelson #writing

    Also kept the tweet short so it can be re-tweeted (RT) or modified re-tweeted (MT). Boy, tweeting's complicated! ;)