This much we know is true: online channels are great assets for anyone looking to sell products and services, tell their story, establish a brand – and, yes, promote digital content.
Understandably, this new online playground can be pretty daunting for the social entrepreneurial newbie taking their first digital steps. But the approach you take can mean the difference between getting great pick-up for your content and watching it fall flat to the ground.
That point was a critical one that I and my fellow panelists shared this past weekend on a panel titled Social Media for Social Good at Harvard University’s Igniting Innovation Summit on Social Entrepreneurship.
As the editor and publisher of SEE Change and a communications consultant, I was asked to offer some specific tips on digital storytelling and social media: how can you make your story more “sticky” (ensuring it gets read, re-tweeted, shared etc.)? How do you garner the response you want from prospects? And what can folks do to gain the attention of the media?
It’s not an exact science, to be sure. But there are strategies that any social entrepreneur can adopt to elevate their online game. Here are some of the ideas that I and my fellow panelists shared that afternoon on how to best tell and promote your digital story:
1. Blog. Yes, do it. It helps get your personal story out there and establishes you as an expert in your field. It can be annoying and seemingly exhausting but if you set aside some time every few weeks to do it, you’ll be glad you did. It’ll help you tell your story, build your personal brand and advance yourself as an expert in the field, one the media can turn to when needed.
2. Don’t rest on your laurels. Your story may be incredibly unique and compelling but don’t assume it will promote itself. With the overabundance of content found online, “good stories” are a dime a dozen. You need to work hard at getting yours heard – and read.
3. Use words for impact. When blogging, tweeting, ensure the headline you use for each message is clear, impactful and meaningful. After all, it needs to grab the attention of others amidst the clutter and noise, growing larger every day. And that’s not an easy feat. Just to be clear: I’m not talking about negativity, foul language or any other attention-grabbing-but-not-attention-sustaining wording. Simple, everyday words can have huge impact when done right. Avoid long, run-on sentences, for example. Use titles with a call-to-action. Make them snappy. And engaging. And meaningful.
4. Know your audience. Always ask yourself who you’re trying to attract. Are you interested in capturing the attention of the social sector? The corporate world? Are serious business publications your target or more light-hearted fare? Cater your messaging to the individuals you’re looking to attract. Then, if and when you follow-up with them directly (through direct messaging or email), they will be much more eager to respond. No one likes to be pitched a story on something they don’t cover – not only is it a waste of their time but editors like to feel you’ve spent time researching what they’re about and that you understand their core business.
5. Speak authentically. We all know when someone’s not communicating with an honest voice. Don’t be that person. Your impact will be severely diminished as a result. Instead, speak from your heart, from the core of who you are and what you have to offer.
6. Be a good member of your community. Sure, your story is important and promoting it is vital but, perhaps counter-intuitively, one of the best ways to enhance your impact is to spend almost as much time helping others do the same. The traction you gain online is often directly proportionate to the support you offer your network. Share others’ content, engage with as many folks as possible, bring value to conversations and to issues that matter to your followers (or who you wish were). You may be surprised at the response that follows.
Elisa Birnbaum is the co-founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of SEE Change Magazine, and works as a freelance journalist, producer and communications consultant. She is also the president of Elle Communications.