Creating Convincing Social Media Content

For our first event of 2021, Georgina Brooke, Content Strategist at One Further, talked to the Scottish Heritage Social Media Group about her experiences of creating and managing web and social media at National Museums Scotland, the Ashmolean and the University of Oxford.

She was joined by Alyson Webb, Director at Frankly, Green + Webb, who explained the importance of data and insight as a tool and shared snippets of what her organisation has seen from a current collaborative audience research project which focuses specifically on social and online content.

Tips for Creating “Good” Content

Georgina discussed how creating content for a large organisation can be daunting. With the gap widening between the ways emerging internet cultures operate (“young people expect us to understand the internet”) and the type of content that bosses expect, she explained that it can be difficult to get organisational buy in for the kind of content you feel would actually reach and engage new audiences.

She recommended getting to grips with what “good” online content actually is, which she believes:

  • Makes sense in terms of the organisational brand (why are we specifically running this bit of content, what is unique to us that we own in the digital space)
  • Is created with specific audiences in mind
  • Is guided by the data we get back from audiences
  • Is appropriate for an online medium (what can we only do online? Simply repackaging something that worked well in the physical space may not naturally translate online)
  • Is clear about the action or reaction it evokes i.e. how does it want to make the reader feel or what does it make the reader want to do?

For a summary of the rest of Georgina’s presentation, we recommend reading her blog post: Why creating good social media content in large organisations is hard

How Data Can Improve Your Content

When it comes to creating ‘good’ content, it’s important to remember that ‘good’ is not an absolute value. What one person would describe as good content might not be the same for someone else or even be the same for that person in different context. 

Alyson Webb spoke to the group about the importance of data and insights as a tool. She suggested that we:

1. TAKE A HUMAN-CENTRED APPROACH

  • Include people inside and outside the organisations in your content decision-making process. A lack of understanding inside organisations can result in a conflict between objective, need and resource (as Georgina mentioned).

2. DEFINE AND COMMUNICATE

  • Data – quantitative and qualitative – gives us a better sense of what our audiences think ‘good looks like’ (e.g. which posts are receiving a high level of engagement?) and communicate its possible value (not just driving people to a website) to the wider organisation.
  • Each social platform has its own analytics or insights tool, and this is a great place to start (if you’re just getting started, take a look at the most important social media metrics you should be tracking). You can also look at data from your peers on some platforms such as Facebook.

3. STOP MAKING ASSUMPTIONS

  • The UK/Scottish Heritage sector generally believes that online and social content increases access to heritage collections, reaches young people, reaches a more diverse audience, and can potentially reach an international audience. But this doesn’t happen automatically. For example, Alyson’s data revealed that museum audiences are typically very local (even for national institutions).
  • When we rely on our own judgement and values we quite often create content for people just like us – we can even alienate audiences without meaning to – and this is deeply problematic when we are seeking to grow and/or diversify our audiences.
  • You should instead be using data and insight from audiences to back up what you are sharing online as it can help pivot away from our own biases. Consider, is the content reaching the audience we intended or having the impact we intended? It’s much easier to have constructive conversations with your colleagues based on robust data and insight rather than opinion.
  • Ask your communications colleagues to also review the data available to you and see if they find insights that are different than what you spotted (for example, low engagement when using GIFs).
Figure 1 – Early snapshot of data from Frankly, Green and Webb’s Insight For Change research programme

4. LOOK AT YOUR AUDIENCE

  • Facebook Insights is a great place to start. Are they all women in Edinburgh over the age of 65? Are you supposed to be reaching young men and women across the country? What would it take to change this?

5. ASK FOR HELP

  • Take a closer look at revenue opportunities during the pandemic. A lot of people are prepared to help you get through the COVID crisis – particularly the narrow audience members that are already close to you. Appeals for specific things work best (“will you help us with x”).
  • Data won’t necessarily tell us what fundraising tactics are likely to work best, though it does clearly suggest that audiences are more likely to donate if they understand you are a charitable cause – and your cause aligns with their values.
  • Research from the charitable sector suggests that making donations easy, connecting donation to specific actions and/or outcomes also helps.
Figure 2 – Data suggests that your audience is more willing to make a donation to your charity if you show them a way to donate

Q&A

As always, the event included a Q&A portion with some great questions from attendees:

Q: How to handle managers that have their own idea about what good social media looks like?  

A: Georgina mentioned that she sent out a weekly email at National Museums Scotland which made the argument for not repeating content that was performing badly. Alyson stressed that it’s hard to make someone believe what they believe is wrong and the most powerful “switch moments” in her experience have been when sharing qualitative data. For example, showing senior management a transcript of your target audience talking about your content so that they can hear it directly from horse’s mouth and make the cognitive leap. She also suggested finding out what young people are looking at on social media and putting it side by side with your content. There’s a good chance that the visual will be completely different.  

Q: How to handle content submissions from different teams (particularly with regards to last-minute requests)?

A: Alyson suggested designing a system as a team which outlines who can commission content, how it gets approved, how it goes live, etc. and stress that there will inevitable be friction if you don’t have clear ground rules.

Q: Are there guidelines for writing alt text descriptions sensitively for images on social media (e.g. describing the skin colour of a person)?

A: As a group, attendees suggested approaching it like the tweet of a text or describing the image as if you were describing it over the phone to a friend. The group also suggested the NPHH Affiliated Accessibility Facebook Group, the Penn State resource, The Art of Alt TextDr Amy Kavanagh on Twitter, this checklist, and the Cooper Hewitt Guidelines for Image Descriptions.


Want more social media insights? Follow Georgina and Frankly, Green + Webb on Twitter, or check out Frankly, Green + Webb’s weekly newsletter.

And if you want to be the first to know about the next SHSMG event, you can also follow us on Twitter or sign up to our bi-monthly newsletter.

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