social media how to

Once you find time for social media and move from social chatter to using social media for a purpose, you’ll see firsthand how difficult it can be to get noticed.

You might be using social media for marketing, campaigning or bringing attention to a worthy cause, but you’ll be battling against every other person who has the same intention or is just there for a fun time.

How do you cut through all the social media noise and get people to notice what you have to say?

Fact is, it’s not always easy.  To help you, here are 10 ways to make your message more likely to get noticed

#1: Simplify Your Message

If your message is complex, dont expect it to spread

If your message is complex, don't expect it to spread.

Your first job is to edit your message down to the bare essentials. What are the facts? Can you use the most simple language to get your point across? Could it be misinterpreted?

This doesn’t necessarily mean you should be super-brief, but it does mean that you can crystallize your ideas and make sure you’re very clear on what the recipient should understand, take away and do.

Develop a hook. Why is this interesting, why should anyone care and what’s different in a beneficial way?

Test your message to make sure it’s understood. A complicated message isn’t going to be fully understood, won’t be remembered, and therefore will certainly not be forwarded or acted on.

#2: Find Your Space

If noise is getting in the way of your message being noticed, don’t add to your problem by choosing the most busy times and locations!

Yes there will be more people who might potentially see your messages at peak times, but you have to weigh that against the fact that there are more competing messages at those times too.

The same with venue. If everyone else is competing for attention on a certain site, in a certain group, presenting in a certain way, you need to test to see if an alternative time, location or format is going to work better for you.

#3: Use Appropriate Channels

Following the previous point, where and how you present your message is as important as what you say.

Rather than just stating your facts, perhaps you need to tell a story. Pulling at the heartstrings with a human interest narrative often has more impact than a set of bullet points.

It might be that all you need to do is zig when others zag; for example, use short headlines when others are wordy, or a long headline when everyone else is brief. Perhaps others only use text and you can use video. Break out of the mold and find your place to breathe.

#4: Spread Your Message

When you have honed your message, dont be afraid to spread it

When you've honed your message, don't be afraid to spread it.

Don’t think you have to stick with one medium.  There’s no reason why you can’t go with all of them. Re-purpose your content into whichever packaging is required.

Get it into the hands of colleagues, contacts and friends. These are your seeders and sneezers who will start the viral process.

Tell people you want them to share, email and retweet your message far and wide. Tell them why it’s important and exactly what they need to do.

You need to make it as easy as possible and remove barriers such as opt-ins or logins. Just give them the content and the tools to share it. Make it as easy as one click with an obvious benefit and they’ll do the rest.

#5: Get Help

Ask for help

Ask for help. You can't do this on your own!

Stop thinking solo. You’re not going to be able to get much reach on your own.

Reach out and ask for help. Pitch your message directly to key influencers.

Yes, some will reject you. Some will listen, then not follow through. But it’s a numbers game, and worth the effort.

Don’t make it about you or your mission, make it about them and their audience.

Explain briefly what the hook is and why they should care, tell them how to take the next step and leave it for them to come back to you.

#6: Appeal to Ego

People are most engrossed in their own self-interest, so play into that.

Use “you” and “your.” Make it about them, their needs, goals, wants and desires. Relate it to their own history, situation, reputation and behavior.

#7: Cut the Clutter.

You need to remove anything that doesn’t directly support your message or argument.

Remove fancy phrases, clever wording or embellishments. Use short words and sentences.

#8: Appeal to Primitive Instincts.

Danger grabs attention

Danger grabs attention

Observe the newspapers. They sell sex and fear because that’s what people respond to. We’re hardwired to look out for danger and problems and to follow other base instincts.

If you’re having trouble being heard, try turning your message into a warning, highlight a problem or emphasize the dangers.

#9: Use Keywords.

Another element of our brain programming is to be on the lookout for keywords and phrases that interest us. Rather than using clever headlines, key into the words people are looking for, not just in searches but while scanning down headlines.

People are always on the lookout for what interests them, consciously and subconsciously, and when these particular words or phrases pop into view their reticular activating system will say “Hey, look!”

If your message is about Apple or the iPhone, mention those words. If you’re talking about Seth Godin or Natalie Portman, use their names.

#10: Stick to One Point.

This whole article builds to one argument. One point. Do the same.


Getting your message out there is not always about what you say but as much how you say it. Don’t just shovel your messages out into your social media channels. Think carefully about your audience, what they like and react to, and what else is going on within those services and networks.

Most of all… It’s not what you say that matters, but what your readers hear!

It’s your job to keep crafting and honing your message until you get it right. If people don’t “get it,” keep working until they do!

How are you cutting through the social media noise? What tips do you have?  Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.

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  • I liked the way you explained the strategy of sticking to primitive instincts. It sells!

  • I luv these points especially – very cool stuff, Chris

    Spread Your Message
    Get Help
    Appeal to Primitive Instincts.

    It’s all about being active and reaching out – gotta address that primitive part – sounds like fun
    (Don’t worry – it’s for the great good )

  • Great article as always. Thnx Chris. I do have one questions for anyone who cares to answer. What if you abhor the use of fear-selling? Also, we all know sex sells; but using it to sell insert-product-or-service-here reeks of manipulation and cheap beer commercials. So now what?

  • Great post! I like “Get Help” – right now everyone is trying to be a “social media guru” – it’s time to stop and deliver compelling content even if that means stepping down and getting someone’s help.

  • Fantastic article, Chris. The key to writing copy that gets attention is to have a keen insight into what your audience’s needs are. And they’re pretty basic: fear and pain are the two most prevalent motivators out there. Read the trade journals applicable to your profession to learn what your audience’s key fears are. Often it will revolve around the brand’s perception (if they’re having a PR crisis…think BP), and increasing revenues. If you can address their fear through your copy, you’ve got a winner.

    …I do agree with Dino’s comments about not wanting to use fear-selling. But I don’t think of fear selling as being threatening. Good copy that addresses an audience’s fear will provide a solution to their problem, or at least a partial solution. But knowing what makes your audience tick is how to write excellent copy.

  • chrisgarrett

    In that case ignore that tip and use the others 🙂

    Remember also that it can be a positive to warn people of potential problems – it is kinder to point out things that might go wrong than let them blunder in and make the same, unnecessary mistakes

  • chrisgarrett

    It’s about understanding the audience and using the most appropriate actions 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    With great power comes great responsibility 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    I get a bit queasy with the whole SM guru thing. We are all making it up as we go 😉

  • chrisgarrett

    Exactly, be seen as a credible source of a solution 🙂

  • I love that line “It’s not what you say that matters, it’s what your readers hear.”

    To answer your question about how I filter the noise – I’ve just become more and more ruthless as I’ve become busier. If three posts in a row on a blog bore me, I cut it from my reader. If I see a succession of “Selling” tweets (usually delivered via API), I unfollow.

  • Use your own language/voice. Preferably this is different from what is already out there, maybe somewhat offensive. Lots of people will hate you but you will also build a following of people that love your tone of voice.

  • chrisgarrett

    Hmmm .. I had some sales links in my tweet stream today! :O

  • chrisgarrett

    Yup, but you don’t have to necessarily be intentionally offensive

  • One of your most intriguing points is to beware of sharing your information at the busiest times. I believe I have fallen prey to this one quite a few times. Also, love the concept of telling stories, and of zagging when others are zigging….and zigging when others are zagging 🙂

  • Agree, I don’t like it either, but you can also get a growd with it.

  • talktherapybiz

    OMG–love the line:

    “People are most engrossed in their own self-interest, so play into that.”

    If that isn’t as true as the sky is blue, I don’t know what the hell is!!

    Thanks for the ying-yang (zig-zag) thing…that really resonated with me.

    Great useful, practical, and interesting ideas Chris!

  • talktherapybiz

    Hi Dino–

    Here’s my two-cents worth…

    Unless you’re holding an Smith & Wesson to someone’s head, you are not forcing them to buy anything. I appreciate your ethics, but there are always options in life, so if someone bought out of desperation in that moment, it’s on them…

    Hope this is helpful.


  • Hi Linda,

    I hear what you’re saying and I respect your view but I must disagree. Check out the stuff Edward Bernays has pulled on American (and therefore world) public back in 1929. One propaganda man (now we call it PR) has caused perhaps millions of women to get cancer through thought-manipulation. And this is only single, solitary, tiny little example which had a severe effect on all of us to this day.

    Saying “unless you hold a gun to someone’s head” is a slippery slope which might excuse the behavior by rationalizing it. Just because we can “rationalize” something, it doesn’t make it automatically OK. In fact, at that point it becomes a matter of degrees.

    Hitler rationalized the ethnic cleansing of the Jews; Slobodan Milosevic rationalized the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks; catholic church rationalized execution of scientific thinkers throughout the ages…unfortunately, we can all think of billion examples.

    In any case, I thank you for engaging and I maintain that the only opinion worth listening to is the opposing one.

  • Thanks for the advice Chris!
    For us, that must tweet in spanish there is an aditional hurdle: We add many articles and prepositions in every sentence. So we have to deal with it and be more creative 🙂

  • I watched a webinar last last where the presenter added “Fun/Escape” to the three mighty subjects for engagement (Health, Wealth, Relationships).

    What’s your sense for using “Fun/Escape” Chris?

  • Matt Hodson

    Thanks for always providing such quality information. It is all about the WOW factor to get noticed! Some use sex, others use sensationalism and others use the “fear-selling.” Keep up the great articles! I will always come back.

  • I agree. You have to appeal to the ego in order to get your message to be heard through social media. You also have to interact differently with potential clients and be more personable than sales-oriented.

  • Matt Hodson

    Lo hace mucho más difícil hacer los Tweets! Haha I never really thought of it that way but that may be because I have not had to Tweet much in Spanish…. YET!

  • Starting to zig zag. Thanks!

  • Great piece Chris… thoroughly enjoyed it… I especially liked the part where you used the phrase “reticular activating system” instead of peripheral vision… great stuff!!!

  • Excellent post, Chris! Thanks.

  • Awesome tips! It is in fact a numbers game. The problem I’m running into is the “how do you, the business, make your message cater to the interests of the reader or consumer” portion — selling your message in the midst of trying to avoid being a used car salesman (no offense to any used car salesmen here). As a web services company, among the bazillion others trying to convey a similar message, how do you stand apart?

  • jessiejo

    Great article, it isn’t about the number of fans/friends its about the quality of the connections.I also found this blog, “Simple Truths About Social Media,” to be very helpful.

  • Just what I needed. I’ve been doing a deep dive into SM the last few months & launched a blog, fb cause page etc to get my own feet wet before daring to counsel anyone else. The overwhelming volume of how-to information out there is itself noise. Your post is a great and timely reminder about the need to focus on the essentials, as I start work on my first blog for a business. And as you pointed out, with any communications, it really does come down to the audience and the outcomes you need to achieve.

  • One of the best posts I have seen on the topic … which works out to more or less of a compliment depending on how much I have seen. Sort of a copywriter post for 140 character bits and bites … fewer characters for the iPhone.

    My mind flits. How does one use social media broadcasting, using the above principles, to relate to various stages of the sales funnel? Presumably one would tailor one’s message somewhat at each stage … and keep other things the same.

    Of course one can divide by site — the open tweet and the restricted email opt-in, the social media teaser and the blog secret, the broad Facebook fan page and the tight LinkedIn circle, the consumer of free content and the paid member. But on a given social media site itself?

    Or does this say something about the limitations and purposes of social media, and hence of the content one writes?

  • Interesting and informative article – but somehow people often have the same strategy fail for them –

    I agree with your Concise, Stick to purpose points, they always work.

  • Seth_M_Miller

    Thanks Chris. You packed a lot of good material in a relatively short message.


  • Mat

    Short, sweet and to the point. I guess you heeded your own advice. I like it! Great reminders. It’s not rocket science, but you still need to have a sound strategy and methodology. Thanks.

  • I was obviously compelled to read this based on the use of a fear tactic (we’ll never get heard). So it was an effective post, with good tips, even though I personally don’t like the approach. But I think the most important point to make is that it’s so hard to get attention because so much content out there is not valuable, targeted to a specific audience or correct. And on top of that, there is a lot of duplication of what someone (such as yourself) has already written well, which I put into the category of talking just to hear your own voice. So before simplifying the message, you need to have a worthy message. I’d make tip #1: If you don’t have something valuable, relevant and original to say, keep silent until you do so that when you talk, people want to listen. (I know this point is obvious, but if everyone got it there might be less need for these tips.)

  • Great thoughts! Especially ‘Tell them’ and ‘Make it easy’. It’s amazing how often that doesn’t happen!

    Perhaps it was implied here, but I believe that changing the message (or the hook, rather) to fit the channel is a key component. As is repeating the message with variants throughout the day/week/month. We have short attention spans, and unless you’re broadcasting the exact same text, it won’t get old.


  • knowledgenotebook

    Here’s my summary:
    1. Know your audience
    2. Short msg that delivers One Point
    3. Delivers it at right time with right channel

  • Great post chris… keep it up .. thanks alot.

  • Chris,

    Your list of 10 tips merits a “ten” in my book.

    I find it fun to discover and choose the right medium…Twitter to share “Aha” discoveries, SlideShare to layout broad ideas on related topics in a streamlined way, and blogging when I feel like being more expressive. ( And I’ve just started scratching the surface with video now, which is so exciting for the full kinesthetic experience.

    I’ve also learned to respect individual preferences for connecting. Some people are LinkedIn buddies, some Facebook friends, some are sympatico souls spinning golden blog threads, and some are Tweet peeps I’ve discovered through others’ tweets.

    I’m going to save your list and place on my desktop to open and re-read in the coming week.

    Thanks for keeping us on track!

  • Awesome post Chris,,
    You are good and wrote to the point,this is very impressive,good tips,big things in short manner,,,absolutely gr888,,thanks

  • Chris

    Great post, and with so many people turning to Social Media, much needed.

    I thought I would add to #4 i.e. Spread the message and #5 Get Help – I have found that the best way to get help and support is to give it first. Identify key influencers and spread their message shamelessly. We all track how many retweets and pingbacks and blog-follows we get from others. And Humans are also naturally inclined to repay favors. In many instances I have found that even without my asking, once I share someone’s message, they pay me back in kind.

    It’s the law of the universe, you will reap what you sow. Sow first!

    Hope this helps!

  • Excellent article and let me tell you that the heading is perfect as well. Attractive, direct to the point and it fits the content great!. This is not always the case in some other blogs, believe me. As usual, as I was saying you share useful and helpful information, which is extremely valuable. In this very case, the whole explanation and recommendations given for business, especially small ones, to be able to take advantage of social media sites, by getting to convey their messages is great. And it is also necessary becasue nowadays being heard in social media sites, just like anywhere else, is very difficult with so many sources of information, advertisments, distractions, etc. Therefore, I believe it good to see we can obtain some guidance when it comes to creating a strong online presence.

  • I think this can be best summed up as the KISS principle to social media execution. Great post.

  • My big thing when it comes to blogging and other social media tools is – ‘be yourself’.

    I think when someone writes or video blogs and are authentic and expressed (finding their own self-expression), that’s attractive and naturally relateable for the audience. Have you ever connected with someone who was moved or was crying about a certain topic that had nothing to do with you or your life but you found yourself tearing up too? Authenticity brings down human barriers.

  • This is a very good post and I’m bookmarking it (on Delicious because it’s the right thing to do:-). I’d like to further the discussion by suggesting that you use a simple story to get your point across. Lay off the stats and strike an emotional chord. Think “Jerry’s Kids.” I highly recommend two books by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, “Made To Stick,” and “Switch.”

  • chrisgarrett

    Thanks Linda 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Someone once made the argument that fantasy/escape/etc were under the health column (mental health?), not sure what I think about that. Laughter is supposedly the best medicine I guess 😉

    As a content creator or marketer fun/escape are difficult to turn into something actionable. We all do our best at humor but I wouldn’t want my mortgage to depend on my ability, I am far more secure helping people make more money than make them laugh! 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    If you can get a “wow” backed up by a positive and valuable experience then you have really done your job well. Like when you say “keep up” and that you will be back, that is a consistent brand experience and hopefully you will remember it as a positive experience 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    It’s about testing and monitoring – often times I see people log in at 9am, do all their tweets, and not be seen until the next day at the same time. A better approach is to mix things up and see what results you get 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    It comes down to what is going to have the best impact, being me-centric as a communicator seldom works as well as customer-centric, would you agree? 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Cool – Keep zigging and zagging 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    I like the word reticular 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Thanks Sheri 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    The best way is to make it about a solution to their problem rather than about having a message to spread or something to sell. Discover their pains then help them solve them. Anyone looking for a solution is going to love you for it 😉

  • chrisgarrett

    At the beginning it is a good idea to build slowly and really care for the people who you attract. You don’t have to make a big splash, instead make real connections 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    I am mainly talking about the attraction phase here, but getting attention plays into things like getting better email open rates (where similar character limits apply)

  • chrisgarrett

    We don’t have a scarcity of bits and bytes but sometimes it is better to behave as if we do 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    If it was too wordy I would be seen as a hypocrit 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Yup, you are unlikely to get rocket surgery level stuff from me. Simple is as simple does 😉

  • chrisgarrett

    Yes it is a shame that now everyone can publish some people use that ability to create “me-too” or copy, but in a way I guess that is still our message spreading, if disconnected from the originator?

  • chrisgarrett

    Good point – in fact each time I have tweeted this post I have changed the headline I use :()

  • chrisgarrett

    I find face to face meetups are the only place I can get a full kinesthetic experience, but being introverted I can only take so much of it 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    You have to be careful with the reprocity approach as it can be over used so many people are looking out for it. Can blame Cialdini for that 😉

  • chrisgarrett

    These sources of info are only going to get more cluttered. Interesting times!

  • chrisgarrett

    Keep It Simple + Social? 🙂

  • This is a really awesome post and I couldn’t agree with you more. One small point that I do disagree with. You state: “Getting your message out there is not always about what you say but as much how you say it.” I think the “what” is always as important as the “how”. It keeps you relevant and allows you to earn the trust and respect of your audience. Once you’ve earned that trust then you gain more flexibility with “what” you say. It may seem like a trivial distinction, but I think it makes a big difference. That aside, you really nailed it for me!

  • Precisely!

  • I agree 100%. Clients don’t want to hear all about you, your services, how great you are… the majority want you to pay attention to them, care about their needs and provide them with insight that is helpful.

  • Matt Hodson

    And I will! Thanks for your “Wow factor.” I also love that you try to keep the convo going by letting your readers know you are listening to their responses. Thanks again!

  • chrisgarrett

    “what” is always important (it is the actual content), but “what” alone can’t do job without paying good attention to “how” 🙂

  • I like the section about the ego….people always want to know how something impacts them. Also being direct…in this day and age people don’t have the time to read all the “fluff”

  • Informative Read. This the HeadWay theme? #2ThumbsUp You are correct, it is somewhat cumbersome, still readers won’t have a problem waiting the extra seconds…especially considering the education you are providing them. >,<

  • This is especially funny because I was reading this thinking in my head ‘ChrisG is great at all of this’. And then I finished it and see ChrisG wrote the dang thing.

  • Perfect example, I work with real estate agents in SEO and SSEO, InterNetWorks. One of my blog post (coming up) is about how NOT to use facebook, what NOT to say, how NOT to use it… For an agent, that’s important. Good point Chris

  • The first point said it all. I always like simple and short messages. Hate when I have “a book” to read just to get someone’s point or message.

    Great article.


  • I like how how you open with the shift from “how to” use social media to how to use it for a purpose. I too find it hard to be “heard.” Just yesterday I posted something to that affect saying “Sometimes i make the most profound posts…but then no one ever retweets them;guess i was wrong #delusionalTweeter.”

    I’d like to share a post that I just wrote for those who ask about the difference between Tweeter & Facebook and how they can be used:

    THanks! ANd I love the look of your blog. Great image!

  • Elliot

    What is the url to your blog? I would be very interested in reading it.

  • I see your point and agree. I would add that the attraction stage even applies in some form to wining and dining one’s wife of many years. Faithful and repeat customers need re-winning and re-romancing, no?

    Of course, that may be easier than at the first contact. An established relationship comes with an known set of values.

  • Hi Chris,

    Nice blog!

    I want to add something which can help to get better results from social media. The marketers in Social Networking site just want to run behind the number game. That is, increase the followers, fan, connections, etc. irrespective of what profiles they have.

    Most of us ignore focusing on Target Audiences. If I have 100000 followers but they are not my target audience and they are not interested in my content then I am wasting my energy on wrong strategy. Instead of having 100000 followers if I have 1000 target audience it will give better results.

    Target audience and the content are the major key factors to be successful in SMM.


  • lou bella

    Run appealing competitions. Most of us like winning

  • Point 5 is important. Sometimes its hard to ask for help when you really need to. Point 6 is the key WIIFM factor that so many businesses miss and focus on how great their company is instead of the customers needs and wants.

  • I think this needs to be retweeted again!

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  • Hi Chris,

    I’m glad I found this through another article at Social Media Examiner. Excellent advice.

    I especially like your suggestions to find your own space, tell stories and ask for help. All areas I need to work on.



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  • EndOfStupidity

    Very good strategy. I receive twenty “important” causes on FB every day. But they all seems “the same” to me. I think that even on a private level people should learn how to communicate – and not anoy each other with media noice!!

  • EndOfStupidity

    One important point is missing: Invite to a followup; let the reader be able to go in depth on the subject and learn more (lik to a followup page)