What not to post on social media

John Chapman
Tuesday 13 February 2018

What type of content should you be sharing on social media? Generally, images and videos perform better than plain text, but there are no set rules. What might work well for one publisher might not work as well for another. It all depends on your audience; that is why it is important to research your audience demographics as part of your social media strategy. However, there are some forms of content which are best to avoid:

  1. Sharing PDFs
    While a PDF can contain a lot of relevant information, they are not necessarily a good fit for social media. Facebook does not even allow you to upload PDFs directly to a page, although you can share them in a group. Mobile phones are the number one device for social media use. If your audience is on mobile, they are more likely to just be skimming over social media for a quick update and don’t have the time to read lengthy PDFs.
    If your PDF is not optimised for mobile, this will also create a bad user experience. Users won’t want to read a file if they are having to constantly zoom in and scroll around. There is also increased chance mobile devices are using 3G or 4G data, and depending on the size of your PDF, it could require a substantial amount of their data to download and view. If you have information from a PDF you want to share on social media, pick out the key points and create posts using that information. If there is a lot of information, create various posts and stagger their publishing time throughout the day or week. You could then include a link to a webpage where the PDF is hosted and allow users to download the file when they have the time.
  2. Lengthy text
    While Twitter limits posts to a concise 280 characters, Facebook and Instagram are a lot more lenient in their character limits. Facebook offers a generous 63,206 characters for users to utilise. Theoretically, you could create one post to share the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, however, this is highly discouraged, as it would create a bad user experience. Facebook users don’t go online to read essays of text, and studies have shown that shorter posts receive higher engagement.Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone
    You also increase the chances of Facebook cutting off your post the longer it is. After roughly 400 characters, and even less on mobile, Facebook will ask users to click to ‘See more’. In a time when you are constantly battling to gain your audience’s attention, they are not likely to click and will swiftly move down their news feed to the next post.

    Example of long Facebook post being cut off
    Example of a lengthy Facebook post being cut off.

    Instagram offers a 2,200-character limit; however, the strength in Instagram lies in its USP of being primarily photo orientated. Instagram users log in to see attention-grabbing photos, not paragraphs of text. The Instagram feed is also designed to omit the majority of post text before encouraging users to click to see more. Instagram text should be reserved for a brief description and hashtags, with the main feature being your photo.

    When it comes to writing posts for social media, ask yourself what do you want the user to take away. Keep posts short but concise with the most important information to the front. This is likely to increase the user reading your post in full and engaging more with it.

  3. Portrait videos
    90% of all social media content in 2017 was video, and this is a figure that is expected to rise in 2018. Video content is a great way of engaging with your audience creatively. You may think that you need to employ specialist videographers to create engaging videos. However, you can create your own videos with the help of a mobile and some apps. If you are recording videos for social media, avoid filming in portrait mode. If you upload a portrait video to social media, it will be compressed, and two black bars will appear on either side. This does not look visually appealing on a news feed, and also does not utilise the screen space available.

    Students jumping over PH stones
    Example of black bars being added to a portrait video.

    As already mentioned, more content is viewed on mobile devices than desktops; for this reason, when creating content you should always think ‘mobile first’. Ask yourself what is likely to get more engagement and how can you make the most of a user’s mobile screen.

    Landscape videos have always been preferred over portrait videos; however, now content creators are increasingly encouraged to make videos square. Square videos tend to be 1080x1080px, and when uploaded to social media make use of the full screen.

    Example of Love Food square video on FacebookExample of BBC News square video on Facebook

    See examples above of Love Food and BBC News, whose videos occupies most of the screen space. If you have a prominent presence on a user’s screen, you are increasing the chance of catching their attention and getting them to engage with your post. There are various apps available to help you shoot videos in the square format.

    Whatever type of content you create, always think whether it fits in with your audience demographic and if they are likely to respond well to it. Social media content should always be engaging, captivating and shareable. Finally, don’t be afraid to try new ideas; after all, part of social media is about taking risks.

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One reply to "What not to post on social media"

  • Dee
    Wednesday 14 February 2018, 6.05pm

    While portrait mode video looks awful, Facebook often does not automatically rotate landscape video. So you end up with video that makes the reader turn their head. A conundrum.


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