5 Ways Shakespeare Can Help Us All Write Social Media Content

To tweet or not to tweet. Is that even a question?!

shakespeare-social-media-questionNo matter what sort of traditional/digital PR guru you chat up, the parties should all tell you the same thing about creating social media content: “The shorter, the better.”

We can think of several reasons for that, including character count being a thing, not being quoted with countless paragraphs, and the occasional “out of context” situation. Social media– whatever the platform–is the place to make a quick and hopefully lasting impression.

What is the right mixture of honesty and snark, length and brilliance, links and keywords? Ask one of the most gifted writers ever, Sir William Shakespeare. He was a little old for social, but I think the old codger would have enjoyed it. He did love gossip…

Drawing from the man’s own quotes, here are the 5 Ways Shakespeare can help us all write social media content.

1. “Brevity is the Soul of Wit.” (Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 86–92)

shakespeare omgThis is the line that inspired the post. Between 140 (Twitter) and 250 (Facebook) preferred characters, we should be able to convey our thinking. Even the really chatty PR pros in our cube farm midst have to learn to limit their language.

Many people don’t read social media timelines…they scan. If you are brief and witty, they MIGHT stop scanning and, if you’re very lucky as well, they could even click and remember.

2. “Though this be madness, there is method in it.” (Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2, 195)

Ever had that one client who looks at the web via earned/social and, instead of marveling at your handiwork, prefers to ask you, “What do you think you are doing? I don’t get it.”

This clients needs to know that, while the bigger picture may look like madness, there is method to it…and that method is yours. The job you are doing is about  creating awareness, stirring up conversation, and engaging folks. It’s not a precise science! Sure, you’re a little off center–but then again, aren’t we all?

3. “To be a well-favored man is the gift of fortune; but to write and read comes by nature.” (Much Ado About Nothing, Act 3, Scene 3, 13-16

Shakespeare-NotebookWhen you monitor social media for fun or a living, you are influenced by the nature of the world around you: What’s trending? What’s topical? What’s newsworthy?

If you want to be able to be read and write with precision and chutzpah, pay attention to general trends so the experience you create for others can be organic (dare we say natural?).

Writing for the Web cannot be forced, and newsjacking only works when it becomes part of a conversation rather than an attempt to insert a client into a larger trend. You can’t buy those skills–unless you are a client looking to hire an agency. In that case, call me and we can talk about that gift of fortune later.

4. “I’ll call for pen and ink, and write my mind.” (Henry VI, Part I, 76

Tread lightly here.

Often when people “write their mind” and regret it, they have to make up some enigmatic friend who hacked into their social media account. We all know that’s a lie but we let it pass because sometimes, you just need to get it off your chest.

Unfortunately, when you do that via 140 characters or a misguided picture on Instagram, folks take screen caps and archive it. Call for pen and ink first so you can know what you are recording down and why…and then write your mind.

Some of the best content isn’t “real-time”; it’s planned with some help from that old-fashioned thinking and strategy. Just watch out for trolls and hackers.

5. “No legacy is as rich as honesty.” (All’s Well that Ends Well”, Act 3, Scene 5)

complete worksCan we get an “Amen” from the PR pros out there?

If your client is ever stuck in the middle of some crisis, remember Shakespeare here: the crime is rarely as bad as the cover-up.

When you are honest about everything, you don’t really have to remember those talking points…and no one can really hide on social anyway.

Transparency leaves a legacy for your client, your agency and all the consumers out there who try to make sense of it all. People consider us “spin doctors” because there are a few (many) in our industry who think that innuendo, and double-speak are decent media strategies because they buy time for your client to figure out what to do for real.

That’s bad counsel, folks. Create a legacy for your client and be honest about the situation–any situation. Few brands enjoy the consumer’s trust, and yours could be one of them.

Now, who’s ready for that midsummer night’s dream?

[PHOTO: Courtesy of Cox & Forkum]