Dear Emily: A Social Media Advice Column

Have a social media crisis on your hands or a pressing question you just can’t figure out on your own? Never fear, our social expert Emily is here to solve your problems for you!


Let’s face it: social media can be a tricky animal. It seems like every week one of our networks gets a redesign, changes its policies or introduces a new feature. And then there are the other social media users to deal with! Even if you’re an absolute angel, you’re bound to come across certain commenters who try your temper and make you question your standards of etiquette.

If you need to bring in the big guns to help solve your problem, look no further. Volusion social media expert Emily (that’s me!) is here to answer your most burning questions every month. Looking for answers? You can submit your questions in the blog comments below and I’ll tackle them in future columns.


1. What are some suggested topics to avoid when engaging followers? I feel people often learn this the hard way.
– Chris in Austin

That’s an interesting question; lots of people want to know what they should be writing about on social to grab their followers’ attention, but not as many people think about what they shouldn’t mention.

First of all, and this is really obvious, it’s probably best to steer away from anything too controversial unless your online presence is clearly targeted at one specific audience. For example, I would steer away from making any potentially polarizing political statements (“Who are you voting for? Obama all the way!”)… unless I managed a merchandise website for the Democratic National Committee.

Even worse is trying to capitalize on a trending event that has nothing to do with your website. Do you remember online retailer CelebBoutique’s humiliating fiasco during the shootings in Aurora, CO? They tried to capitalize on the trending #Aurora hashtag in reference to one of the dresses they were selling and, unsurprisingly, the Twitter community did not approve. CelebBoutique says it was a mistake, but either way – ouch. Think really carefully about using current events as social media fodder. (Especially tragedies. This should go without saying, but really, really don’t leverage other peoples’ grief for your social media gain.)

You should also avoid being too general or too specific. I think the key is finding your social media sweet spot. Think of it as a venn diagram. Too general (“Happy Monday, everyone! Check out my site!”) and people aren’t going to be interested. Too specific (“Major thunderstorms in Texas today! If you live in Southeast Austin, check out my new line of ponchos.”) and you’re going to alienate any of your followers who can’t relate to your post. A marriage of the two (“Springtime can sure bring some mean April showers! Head to my online store to receive 15% off ponchos this week”) will grab the most attention.

If you’re wondering which is the lesser of two evils, general or specific – I would err on the side of being specific. Why? Being general is Borrrrring with a capital B. Personally, I would never respond to a super general “Happy Monday” or “What’s up everyone?” tweet or Facebook status. It just looks like you have no creativity, so you’re phoning it in.


2. It would be interesting to learn the best way to get Facebook posts to “go viral” and be shared by customers/fans.
– Joe in Winchester

Going viral is a funny phenomenon, because these days it’s the ultimate goal of every social media marketer, yet it’s not always a good thing. Sometimes posts can go viral and get a lot of negative attention because people don’t like their content (unless you subscribe to the school of thought that all publicity is good publicity. See my example in the answer above, though – I doubt anyone would think that CelebBoutique benefited from their #Aurora mistake, regardless of how much attention they received). For the purposes of this column, let’s focus on a few key posting techniques to get you some positive buzz.

There are some really simple things you can do with your Facebook posts to garner attention. I’m not promising that following these tips will make you go wildly viral per se, but they will definitely up your chances of being seen, liked and shared by your followers.

  • Keep the text to a minimum. Sadly, people have goldfish-sized attention spans these days. Your Facebook post might be the most eloquent thing since Shakespeare, but that doesn’t mean that your average follower is going to stop scrolling long enough to read it. When composing a Facebook post, remember the three S’s: short, snappy and smart.
  • Include an image or video! Graphics are way more likely to show up in users’ news feeds thanks to Facebook’s algorithms – and all algorithms aside, pretty pictures are simply more attention-grabbing than plain black and white text. Make sure your image looks good when resized, because if you post a larger graphic, Facebook will shrink it down to fit into the news feed (hint: long, skinny graphics aren’t going to work well here).
  • Be relevant. Like I mentioned in my advice to the question above, nobody cares about a “Happy Monday” post. Mondays happen every week to literally every single person on the planet. Snore war. Find something interesting, topical, and/or humorous to tie into your post, and people will be much more likely to stop and pay attention.
  • Ask questions and/or use a call to action. It’s one thing to share a beautiful picture of a sunset, but it’s quite another to share that beautiful picture and share a caption that encourages others to respond (“Check out the gorgeous Tahiti sunset I snapped on my honeymoon! What’s the most exotic sunset you’ve ever seen?”). Shared experiences and stories that draw your readers into the narrative are much more compelling than a basic statement about just you (“Check out this sunset photo I snapped”).


That wraps up my advice column for this round. Thanks for reading, and remember, if you have a social media related question you’d like help with, don’t hesitate to submit it in the blog comments below! I’ll be answering 2-3 of your questions per month.

Happy selling!
– Emily Teachout, Volusion


Emily Teachout was a Social Media writer and professional. She graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Communications and a specialization in Technology & Society, and has managed social media campaigns for brands across multiple industries. In her spare time, Emily blogs about Austin’s culinary and entertainment scenes – in fact, she attends over 100 concerts per year.

5 Responses to “Dear Emily: A Social Media Advice Column”

  1. Margaret

    Hi Emily I am having trouble with the basics – knowing how to link my website to my FB page (to get stats etc) and vise versa (set up a tab to “browse my website”) – also how to add the facepile plugin to my front page
    Cheers, Margaret

    • Emily Teachout

      Hi Margaret, have you checked out the Facebook section of our Knowledge Base? That could be a good place to start – we have tutorial articles as well as helpful videos. For help with integrating social into specific aspects of your site, I would recommend opening a ticket for one of our support team members to help you out – they’ll be able to dig more deeply into your site than I can. Hope that helps, and good luck to you!

  2. Peter Egan

    If you want virility in your Facebook posts, the easiest way to achieve it is to come up with a clever meme that’s either funny or widely agreeable, inspirational or critical of someone or something in need of criticism. The other easy way is to pay for a quality infographic.

    Both ways work well, but the latter comes with significant costs probably better spent for publishing the infographic to the company site or blog and use it for link-bait and placing the primary marketing emphasis on that as opposed to generating likes, shares, retweets and so forth.

    While social signals most certainly are playing an increasingly significant role, links are still the name of the game.

    Peter Egan of EGAN Medical Equipment & Supply

  3. Kimmie Hutmacker

    Greetings Ms. Teachout,
    My daughter recently set up a Twitter for me and I’m trying to figure out how to write my Twitters. Do you know of a shorter word for hashtag to include in the Twitters? For instance, with my last Twitter over Easter, I wanted to post hashtageasterbunnyishere but it was so long. Could I just shorten that to hasheasterbunnyishere or hteasterbunnyishere?

    Blessings to you, and thank you for your advice!
    Class of 1957, Anderson High School


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