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Things I’ve learned from working on social media

By: Sabelo Mkhabela

I only know how to write for the Internet. I always imagine how it must be to write without embedding YouTube videos and using hyperlinks and hashtags. The most exciting part of being a digital content producer has to be social media. Running some of our social media platforms – Facebook and Twitter, has taught me the following:

People comment without reading a story

When we ran the 6 coloured musicians you should stop sleeping on piece, we were criticised mostly for using the term “coloured”. Some people considered it derogatory and divisive among people of colour. The intro of the story had stated clearly that there weren’t that many visible brown artists in the South African music scene, save a few. A simple read of the intro would have answered some of the readers’ concerns.

Influencers have a lot of influence

People will click on a story just because of the person who RT’d it. For instance, when we did a story on #Shackville earlier this year, it didn’t go viral until City Press writer Gugulethu Mhlungu shared it. With a lot of content online, people will pay attention to stories given the okay by a trusted source, in this case a trusted journalist.

People like hyperbolic headlines

Some publications I write for always ask for a more highlighting headline, simply because it’s click bait. So a headline like “Meet Nasty C, South Africa’s hip-hop prince” works better than “Meet Nasty C, one of the most exciting rappers in South Africa”, because it forces you to believe that there is no better artist than this guy right now. It might make sense for media houses, but it can be uncomfortable for you as a writer, because that wasn’t necessarily the story you were telling or just choose to let the reader to be the judge.

People’s opinions hardly ever change

On the aforementioned coloured musicians piece, a lot of our readers suggested that we had overlooked musicians from our list. Some of their suggestions included musos older than 35. Explaining our demographic and target market is between 18 -35, didn’t convince them that we had in fact done our research.

Lists always do well … but not always for the right reasons

A lot of our listicles get a lot of hits. Sometimes it’s not for the right reasons. For example, a bad list will travel because everyone will share it just to show the Internet how we got it wrong. Such instances are few and far between for us, but they do happen – a good example is our list of The best South African hip-hop verses of 2016 so far. Controversy aside, lists always do well, as they always have precise headlines and one knows exactly what to expect when clicking on the link.

People love inspirational stories

Stories of young people doing great things always travel. Stories like Meet the 27-year-old barber behind your favourite celebs’ haircuts, Buhle Sithela cleans bins in Khayelitsha and uses the money to screen films, This woman is engineering your favourite rappers’ songs and more, did great because they were about young people doing extra-ordinary things. It’s always inspiring your peers making something out of nothing.

 

Image credit: Tiisetso Moloi

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