Understanding social media formatting

As users of social media we have an intuitive understanding of the different formats – Instagram is for  photos, Medium is for articles, Twitter is for quick thoughts and so on. However, as producers we need to develop a more articulate language to describe the difference between each media channel.

For example, both Instagram and Facebook are led by photo sharing – yet Instagram’s strong filter feature leads to a post being “one great shot” while Facebook’s tagged albums lead to a series of shots.

That would mean that a fashion shoot on Instagram might be summed up with one great photo while on Facebook you’d see 30 or so photos in an album.

This kind of problem plays havoc with any social media producer trying to maintain multiple channels for different audiences: even similar content types (images) on similar style networks (FB & Instagram) need different formatting.

I’m a user of Buffer, a social media management app that makes formatting content for multiple channels easier, by letting you create a post and then choose the channels you want it posted on.

Screenshot 2016-04-19 12.25.13

However, even with simple posts pushing on two channels is hard.

For me, with my business hat on, that means Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter limits you to 140 characters and if you want to add a photo with your post, you get even fewer. LinkedIn offers more space and the photo is essential if you want your post to be picked up by a few of your contacts.

So simultaneous, automated reformatting is hard to get right, tweaks per channel are inevitable.

The real question is why do we try?

Firstly it’s quicker than the alternative of carefully crafting a post for each channel. If our audience is basically the same people on each channel then having the same content is a necessary time saver.

Secondly we subconsciously believe, wrongly, that the social media channels don’t add anything to our content.

It’s this second belief, I’d like to really challenge today.

“the medium is the message” – Marshall Mcluhan

Marshall Mcluhan said that the “medium is the message”. By which he meant that medium and message are intertwined, the medium you use to convey the message matters. A  letter written in rose petals on your bed conveys a very different image to one spoken by a disembodied voice over a tannoy loudspeaker.

Social media channels grow big and sustainable because they are different from their competitors. Instagram is different from Facebook. Pinterest is different from both. When Facebook bought Instagram there was no merger – they maintained and continue to maintain both networks despite their on-the-surface similarity (sharing photos with friends).

As producers, bloggers, vloggers, publishers, content marketers, app makers, the lesson is that we must respect the idiosyncrasies of each platform and understand reformatting as an important step in any content we create.

For example, on Rise, each board can be released as an article (blog post) and as a twitter show (series of tweets). The core content (changes in ranks and scores) may be the same but the Rise engine reformats it to take advantage of the particular medium. In the screenshots below, you can see the UN Social 500 as both a blog post and a stream of tweets. It is the same underlying content, but the formatting is noticeably different.

As bloggers we need to rethink how we use other channels such as Twitter. Simply tweeting a link to a blog post doesn’t do the post justice. We need to look at the core message itself and ask – how would we say this on Twitter?


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