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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to get people to read — and appreciate — your Facebook posts

  • Make every word count.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Provide context.
  • Lead with the good stuff.
  • Write killer headlines.
  • Graphics expand the story.
  • People make things interesting.
  • It’s OK to use first-person.
  • Consider your audience.
  • Be polite.
These guidelines come from an enlightening slide presentation titled Social Media 101: Tactics, tips for beginners by Robin J. Phillips.

I would add one more tip:
  • Write captions for the photographs you post on Facebook and Twitter.
Many young people I know disagree on this point. "Our pictures don't need captions," they insist. "They speak for themselves." How? I am unable to understand why anyone would go through an album-load of, say, holiday photographs, when there's no incentive to pause and think about each photograph.

The job of a caption is to tell viewers what they are looking at and why. The caption also reveals details that are not immediately apparent to viewers. And the caption helps to tell a story.

Do I practise what I preach? Take a look at my Darjeeling album there are 83 photographs, each with a caption that, I think, helps to tell a story, sometimes with a touch of humour. Here's an example, a picture taken by my wife, Chandrika:

These monks appear to be in a hurry to get to the Ghoom Monastery. Note the one doing the herky-jerky on the railway track as he uses his mobile phone to explain to the abbot why he is late for Buddhism class.

Here's a picture from my Mobile Uploads album on Facebook:

YERCAUD, April 2010 At sunset this little spider would wake up and begin merrily spinning its web. By the time the sun had disappeared it would be ready for dinner. Bon appetit, Spidey!

And here are a couple of great examples from a feature about "superclimbers" in National Geographic magazine (both photographs are by Jimmy Chin):

Barely holding on with a hand chalked for a better grip, Cedar Wright ignores burning muscles to pull himself across the roof of Gravity Ceiling, a route on Higher Cathedral Rock. "I'm giving it 199 percent," he says. "But I still thought I was calm and cool."

You need training to boost finger strength and a mountain of determination to grip the teeny holds along this mostly blank expanse of El Cap. Even though Kevin Jorgeson has been climbing parts of the route for three years, he was amazed by this photograph: "There's so little of me touching the wall."

Sure, these pictures are a treat in themselves, but just think how much more context the captions provide, helping viewers to understand the story behind each picture and, at the same time, making them pause longer on each picture.

Don't you want your Facebook friends to react in similar fashion to your pictures?