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On January 17, 2001, during the impeachment trial of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, loyalists in the Philippine Congress voted to set aside key evidence against him.
Less than two hours after the decision was announced, thousands of Filipinos, angry that their corrupt president might be let off the hook, converged on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, a major crossroads in Manila.
The protest was arranged, in part, by forwarded text messages reading, «Go 2 EDSA. Wear blk.» The crowd quickly swelled, and in the next few days, over a million people arrived.
Estrada’s fate was quickly sealed, and by January 20, he was gone. The event marked the first time that social media had helped force out a national leader. Estrada himself blamed «the text-messaging generation» for his downfall.
Since then facebook, Twitter and YouTube services have become indispensable tools in the worlds of politics and protest. During the past year, social media have taken on an important role for revolutionaries in the Middle East and protesters and politicians across the world.
But how can we as individual bloggers, companies or organizations use social media to generate a reaction by the social community?
First of all, you don’t make viral content. The global social community of tastemakers makes it viral.
Let’s face it, you have little to no control over how well your social media campaign is going to perform.
You can’t make a blog post super successful (ie. read by lots of people who then go on to buy from you). You can’t make a tweet super influential (ie. lots of people retweeting it to their followers who, in turn, buy from you). And you can’t make a Facebook Page collect thousands of “likes” (ie. reach loads of new customers from a pool of 900 million who’ll, in turn, buy from you).
No matter how much you’ve slaved over your words, carefully crafting each phrase and put together the most amazing stories, you cannot create hype, increase your readership and impose change, without support from the social community.
Unfortunately, this support often has nothing to do about how important or great your content is. You finally hit “publish,” and what happens? Nobody reads them. No comments, no tweets, no sharing on Facebook.
It is however some things you can do to attract the right audience. Here are some tips:
1. Understand your readers
79% of web users scan rather than read. Think about how you use the web. You’re in search of information. And if you don’t find it on the page you’re visiting within a second, you click away and look elsewhere. Accept that people scan web pages rather than reading them in detail, and work with this reality rather than fighting it.
2. Make it snappy
If you want to cover a complex topic, consider breaking it into a series of posts. It’s a great way to keep people coming back for more, and your reader will find it easier to digest your content if they get it in portion-controlled sizes.
Even complex content can be made much more reader-friendly with the simple introduction of lots of white space. Feature one idea per paragraph, and keep them short — three or four sentences at most.
3. Use bulleted lists
A strong headline (and therefore a strong premise) is vital to getting readers to come check you out in the first place. And solid subheads keep the reader engaged, acting as “mini headlines” to keep them moving through the rest of your content.
5. Use image captions
Studies have shown that image captions are one of the most-read copy on a page. A strong image with a great caption will make your reader dig in to your whole article.
6. Add relevant links
Internal links back to your own cornerstone content will keep people on your site and reading your best material. External links demonstrate that you’ve researched the topic and want to highlight other experts.
7. Make a change
Once you’ve used subheads, numbers, bulleted lists and other formatting to highlight the key elements of your post, read through it again — looking only at the text.
Does the reader get the gist? Have you pulled out the most interesting and relevant words, the words that will pull your scanner in and turn her into a reader?
Stop fussing and fretting over finding that perfect social media tool for your business, and start taking control over how you use the tools that are available.
Hit the publish button again, and let the global social community make it viral.