yoda-djI am, at heart, and uncomplicated dude. Though I went through a rather protracted term of amassing large amounts of stuff, those times spent living dangerously are long behind me. These days, I remain keen on being able to fit everything I own (excluding furniture) into my car. If I can’t move it myself, I don’t want it around. Aiding this not-always innocuous strategy are several things:

  • I drive an SUV
  • I do virtually all my reading on a Kindle
  • I wear mostly jeans and t-shirts, with the occasional custom-tailored, black two-button suit (even us noveau minimalists have to retain some semblance of style)

Understand, this is not some deep-rooted philosophy of engagement with life. This isn’t some quest to rid myself of “things”. What this is, is a preference to keep things uncomplicated. Clutter makes me crazy. The less stuff I have complicating my life, the more streamlined that life becomes (or, at the very least, feels). I am infinitely more effective, creative, and agile when things are kept uncomplicated. Note – I didn’t say simple. Remaining sensitive to the fact that life, inherently, is complex, it behooves one to move through it in an uncomplicated manner. Path of least resistance, ftw.

This all aside – there is at least one arena of life in which I embrace – nay, relish – the complexity ardently resisted in other spaces: the written word. In this case and in this case only, simplicity be damned. Now that my guts are spilt, let’s address the fact of this linguistic love affair, and its bearing on the effective use of your brand’s social media assets. For this, I offer three guiding principles:

1. Don’t be wordy for the sake of being wordy

Jargon is a killer, as are all manners of verbal chicanery. A simple turn of phrase, bounded only by a capital letter and punctuation mark, will almost always do the trick. (note: that sentence is only mildly ironic). I’ve seen far too many Facebook status updates/Tweets/Foursquare tips/etc trying to be overly clever. Communicate one simple thought. When you try to be witty, you fail. Do or do not; there is no try.

2. Form without function & Function without form

When crafting a post for your various social networks, remember that each mandates its own form. You wouldn’t use a hashtag and butcher the spelling of critical words on Facebook, but on Twitter it’s par for the course (if not required to even play the course). You wouldn’t – as a brand – tweet just once a day, and hope that those following you will chance upon your oh-so-brilliant 140-character romp. But on Facebook you’d likely do just that, timing that post so that you’ve reached your Active User base at the hour that ensures a high level of engagement. As in all other forms of written communication, the audience must be considered.

Your Twitter followers are not your Facebook Fans; you should not address them as such. While Twitter has its own linguistic structure (read: form), that form’s function is entirely lost on a Facebook newsfeed. While Facebook’s algorithm, and just about every statistic out there, says that the best brands on Facebook don’t flood their fans’ newsfeeds with content, any member of the Twitterati will extol the virtues of continuous tweets (often in excess of 5 times per day). Are there exceptions to this? Sure. Look at Jesus Daily (currently the crown jewel of Facebook engagement statistics). But then have a look at Starbucks, Skittles, Oreo, and Justin Beiber (who incidentally gives Jesus Christ a pretty good run for his money, on a weekly basis). The principle to follow is this: respect both the form, and function of that form. If you opt for observance of just one, versus the other, consider yourself lost to the dark side.

3. Everyone’s Got Opinions

A favorite publication of mine used to run a monthly column under this same name (with the acronym E.G.O.). In this same vein, understand that everyone – and I do mean EVERYONE – on your social networks has opinions. When these coincide with the photo you post, or the piece of text you write (or link to), remember that you’re on that network to engage – to dialogue – with that individual. Too often, the tendency on a social network like Facebook is to delete anything negative, or potentially detrimental, to a brand’s image. Why? Why not, rather, write back to this person? Assure them that they have been heard, and offer a way to remedy their frustration. Use your words carefully. Reinforce that you understand, and then offer a way to take that conversation offline (call whatever phone number or email address you give them a “direct line”, and watch their consternation abate). The upset individual is now channeled to a proper medium. Your fan base has seen that you’re not deaf to their concerns. You, young Padawan, have become a Jedi.

Are these the only three rules about effective use of language, in social media? Heck, no. But armed with these guiding principles, you are well equipped to craft, spread, and then manage your social copy. May the force be with you, always.

Written by Ed Gazarian
Ed is the Managing Partner of Pandemic Labs, where he occasionally does some work in-between deep discussions of both Shakespeare and Star Wars.