Public Works Partners is offering an online course for workforce development service providers on using social media to connect with participants and increase program outcomes. This is Part 5 of an 8 part series:
- Why Social Media?
- Making social media a part of your overall participant engagement strategy
- Deciding which social network to use to interact with participants
- Using Facebook groups, pages, and/or profiles to interact with participants
- Deciding what to post to social media (and how to do it)
- Building your audience
- Measuring the impact of social media on your outcomes
- Teaching participants how to use social media
Welcome back to Social Media for Workforce Development! After four posts on strategy and tools for using social media to connect to program participants, we’re finally ready to talk about the actual content that you’ll share with those program participants.
There’s a cliché phrase that’s used a lot in the context of social media and the web: “content is king.” But like many clichés, there’s plenty of truth behind the pithy statement. If the content you are posting isn’t attracting eyeballs and prompting participants to action, then it’s all for nothing.
The good news is that if you’re operating a robust program with an energetic team and meaningful services, then content should flow naturally from the program’s stream of activity: workshops, hiring events, celebratory moments with members, etc. The bad news, though, is that your content is entering an arena of intense competition for audience attention.
Take a moment to reflect on what’s in your own news feed or timeline. First, note that it’s really crowded with content (the average number of Facebook friends for American adults is 338). Second, note that some pieces of content catch your attention more than others, right? An even smaller subset of those posts actually compels you to action, such as clicking on a website or sharing a post. What’s going on here? Why do these posts cut through the noise?
Psychologists and user interface experts run sophisticated experiments like brain scans and eyeball tracking to answer this complex question, but I think a lot of this can be understood through three basic principles:
1. Make your content eye-catching.
Right off the bat, whatever you’re posting needs to catch your audience’s attention before they decide to scroll past it. This happens at an instinctual, emotional level. The brain decides in a split second whether it’s interested or not, so your content needs to act on the brain at that level.
This mostly boils down to “use photos (and video) to the greatest extent possible.” Don’t just write about your great medical training program; post a picture of people practicing CPR on dummies, with a brief text description. Compose or crop the picture so that it’s interesting to look at on a small smartphone screen.
But compelling text copy can’t be ignored. Sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy spend a lot of time crafting sensational headlines in order to maximize clicks. Think about how you can compete for attention against copywriting gems like “If You’re Thinking Of Having Kids Anytime Ever, This Pie Chart Might Make You Stop And Go WTF” (actual Upworthy headline). Don’t get too hyperbolic, but sell your services like you mean it!
“Come to our office to learn more about healthcare job training”
“EMTs are real-life SUPERHEROS! Do you have what it takes? Sign up for our information session NOW [Link to sign-up Eventbrite or Facebook event]. Space limited!
2. Make your content relevant to your target audience.
No one can ever appeal to 100% of their audience 100% of the time, but it’s in your program’s best interest to get as close to that as possible. Remember, anytime someone scrolls past your update because they don’t find it relevant, they’re getting used to ignoring you.
A lot of this is common sense: are you operating a youth workforce program? Then don’t post senior management job openings! Then get beyond filtering irrelevant content to getting the right message to the right audience. If you have content that is most relevant to one sub-group of your audience, such as employed individuals, you may actually want to segment them into an entirely different page, feed, or group to maximize your ability to post relevant content to this audience—and avoid posting irrelevant content to others. An example might be a LinkedIn group targeted to employed alumni.
3. Make your content inviting for engagement.
And I don’t mean asking people to just “like” a post. “Likes” are no substitute for participants acting on information and taking advantage of your services. Invite people to take an appropriate next step that creates a sense of momentum and action. Go beyond instructing someone to call or email the office to get more information: you need to capture data and/or encourage people to keep acting on something after the initial moment of excitement.
- If you’re advertising for a workshop, give clear instructions for people to RSVP through Facebook or Eventbrite.
- If you’re trying to encourage peer-to-peer publicity, incentivize sharing and liking posts through contests.
- Post links to job posts or great articles, and measure how many people are actually clicking on links (look out for a future post on using analytics tools to measure social media success)
Making content that’s eye-catching, relevant, and engaging isn’t particularly difficult, but it does take time and attention to get right. Your competition—including major Fortune 500 companies and your members’ hilarious and attractive friends—is investing time and attention in order to win eyeballs, and you’ll need to do the same.
In our next post, we’ll talk about how to build an audience, both among your existing participant base and among those you’re trying to recruit into your program. Until then, please send us your feedback and questions. Comment on this blog post or contact us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or our new Facebook page!