5 Social Media Content Formats Your Business Needs

How To Reel In Your Target Audience On Social Media

5 social media content formatsLike a hungry teenager, social media always wants more content.

To attract an audience on social media, you need to know your prospects, customers, influencers and social media followers. Ideally create a social media persona.

At a minimum, answer the following 5 questions about your target audience:

  1. Which social media platforms do they use? Guides you to the optimal social media platforms.
  2. What information and topics attract their attention on social media? Determines your social media content focus. It should be promotion-free!
  3. Why are they using social media? Do they want specific information or are they just filling time? Influences the information content and format.
  4. When do they check social media? Supports your social media posting schedule.
  5. Where are they when they check social media? Also consider the type of device they’re using. Helps determine the content focus, format and context.

By understanding your target social media audience, you can create social media content to achieve your business objectives.

To ensure your information attracts attention, engages followers and builds influence, use a variety of the 5 social media content formats.

A mix of social media content formats yields content tailored to each special social media platform to appeal to the largest audience.

5 Social media content formats

There are 5 key social media content formats. Each has its own specific characteristics to attract your target audience on social media.5 social media content formats


1. Social Media Content Format: Text

Text tends to be the densest and most difficult to consume social media content format.

Users read about 20% of the text on the average page according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen. While adding additional words increases read time, visitors only read about 18% of them. Attract blog post attention - consider word length-Jakob Nielsen


50% of Americans read at the 8th grade level. Reading level is often measured by Fleishman-Kincaid tests. If you use the Yoast plug-in on your blog, it checks the readability level.

US Reading Level Chart


Write easy-to-understand information on novel topics to convert text social media content into social media shares.

Social Media Content Format

900 words is the sweet spot for blog post length according to Orbit Media’s Blog Survey. But 8% of bloggers are going deeper with 1,500 words.

Average Number of Words In Typical Blog Post-Orbit Media Chart


Social media options

  • Blogs are the jewel in the crown of social media. You own the content and the media entity. You retain all intellectual property rights. BTW, blogs also handle other social media content formats! (For a deeper conversation as to why blogging isn’t dead, check my view, Chris Brogan’s view and Gini Dietrich’s view.)
  • LinkedIn Publishing (as well as PDFs on LinkedIn Slideshare) enable everyone to publish long form content.
  • Medium remains below the radar as a social media entity. It’s worth using.
  • Facebook Articles and Twitter are expanding the amount of text allowed. (BTW, Ann Handley called BS on Facebook for saying that text was going to disappear. )


It’s important to note that you can republish your blog posts on LinkedIn Publishing and Medium. BUT there’s a good chance it can be considered duplicate content.



Text Social Media Content Format Strengths:

  • Provides in-depth information on your offering.
  • Offers broader audience (when used on LinkedIn Publishing and Medium)
  • Supports search marketing (when used in your blog.)
  • Links to your offering (most frequently on a blog.)

Text Social Media Content Format Weaknesses:

  • Looks intimidating. TH;DR (Too Hard; Didn’t Read) The data backs this up.
  • Takes time and skills to create quality text content.

Actionable social media content format tips to improve text readership:

  • Make your text lines look short and easy to read. (Hat tip: Derek Halpern) Screenshot of Social Triggers' Use of Good Content Formatting
  • Use short sentences and short paragraphs. They’re more inviting to read.
  • Outline content and bold important lines to guide readers.
  • Select short words. (Hat tip: Winston Churchill)


2. Social Media Content Format: Images

Images include a variety of options: pictures, photographs, charts, infographics, cartoons and even activity books. (BTW, I wrote Marketo’s Let’s Get Visual ebook. )

74% of social media marketers use images according to Social Media Examiner’s 2016 Research.

Photographs are truly worth a thousand shares if you use the correct one.

  • 10% of all of the photographs made in the entire history of photography were made last year.
  • 1.8 billion photos are uploaded and shared per day.

Social media options

  • Instagram is a mobile app designed to make everyone look good in photos.
  • Blogs. Every post should include at least 1 image. Andy Crestodina recommends at least 1 image per major point. Here’s an example from his 2014 Blogger Survey. It includes a chart and a photo.Blogger Survey of 1000 Bloggers-orbit media
  • Facebook can include a variety of different images including photos. Posts containing photos receive a 37% increase in engagement according to  Dan Zarrella.

    Facebook: Photos Trump Other Social Media Content Formats - Charts by Dan Zarrella

    Facebook: Photos Trump Other Social Media Content Formats – Charts by Dan Zarrella

  • Twitter can include photos and other images.
  • Pinterest is image rich. Use Pinterest to promote your blog columns! 

Include an image to attract readers, engagement and shares across social media platforms.

Image Social Media Content Format Strengths:

  • Attracts attention. People are visual. We process images 60X faster than text!
  • Improves results for other content formats.
  • Easy to create and to consume.

Image Social Media Content Format Weaknesses:

  • Aren’t search-friendly. Without text, people may not find your images.
  • Don’t necessarily show your brand or logo. (aka: Accidental branding)
  • May be a by-product of a subject that reflects negatively on your brand. 

Actionable social media content format tips to improve image use:

  • Tag people in your images. Identify people where appropriate to expand the social media conversation.
  • Name your images. Add search relevant text to improve your search results.
  • Spotlight customers and fans. Ask customers for photos (with permission to use them).
  • Show your audience how to style your product. This type of content works great on Pinterest.
  • Participate in memes. #TBT (aka #ThrowBackThursday) is a great opportunity to show your business history. Ford does this well on Facebook.

    Ford's #TBT - Photos

    Ford’s #TBT – Photos


3. Social Media Content Format: Video

Social media sites have expanded their capability to support video. Facebook predicts  that video will be the social media content format in 5 years.Heidi Cohen on Video

According to Social Media Examiner’s 2016 Research:

  • 60% of social media marketers use videos.
  • 14% of social media marketers use live videos. Mike Stelzner cited live video as the leading social media trend.

Live video is 2016’s darling of the social media content formats. Live video presents a raw view of the world. You have to be willing to be a real person, warts and all. Social Boom’s Kim Garst, the diva of Periscope, admitted she had to get over the wall between public and private.

Video Social Media Content Format

Kim Garst on Periscope

Social media options

  • YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. It should be part of your social media strategy. Here’s an B2C example from 2 Danish brothers, called Slikhaartv.Social media video content
  • Facebook Live. Follow Mari Smith.Mari Smith Creates Facebook Live Content
  • Periscope (Part of Twitter)
  • Snapchat is no longer just for kids.
  • Blogs are another way to distribute video content. Spin Sucks’ Gini Dietrich has a regular Saturday curation column called Gin and Topics.Spin Sucks Gin & Tonic Logo
  • LinkedIn Slideshare also supports video content.
  • Google Hangouts provide a video experience.


Video Social Media Content Format Strengths:

  • Are easy to consume. Even better they’re like tv and movies.
  • Attract viewer attention due to the movement.

 Video Social Media Content Format Weaknesses:

  • Has a lot of professional competition.
  • Requires professional support to create quality content. (Read: Expensive.)

 Actionable social media content format tips to improve video use:

  • Create branded intro and conclusion. Include branded visuals and sound to build consistency and an audience.
  • Tape live events and conferences to expand your reach.
  • Start using video to build your skills. Follow Jay Baer’s example.
    How Jay Baer Creates His Jay Today Videos



4. Social Media Content Format: Audio

Supported by Apple’s iTunes store, audio has experienced growth.
10% of social media marketers use audio according to Social Media Examiner’s 2016 Research.

As a marketer, consider that audio can play a variety of different roles.

  • Fresh-to-audio content. Use audio for interviews and talking heads.
  • Read text content. Like children we like hearing information read to us. It’s the power of the human voice. Ironically magazines have taped their content for the blind.
  • Music can be shared as audio or video.
  • Live content. Tape speeches and other events for broader audiences.


Social media options

Not quite social media options

  • iTunes (Apple) is a must have distribution for podcasts and audio versions of text content.
  • Amazon can be used to distribute longer content for a price. Think audio books.


Audio Social Media Content Format Strengths:

  • Gives your content a human voice.
  • Is under-utilized. Social Media Examiner’s Mike Stelzner has been promoting podcasts for years.

Audio Social Media Content Format Weaknesses:

  • Is often a secondary activity such as exercise and drive time.
  • Requires good production quality. 

Actionable social media content format tips to improve audio use:

  • Create an audio logo to makes your audio content recognizable.
  • Add audio content to your blog to expand your regular columns.


5. Social Media Content Format: Presentations

Presentations are often talks without the talk track. Think PowerPoint come to life and webinars.

Presentations work best when they take advantage of the visual format.

Social media options

  • LinkedIn SlideShare dominates the presentation space. It’s easy to integrate into other social media platforms and allows slides to be clipped. BTW, it’s great for B2B marketing.
  • Blogs are a good place to spotlight your presentation. Even better, use them to build buzz for your talk.
  • Pinterest showcases your presentations on a Pin Board. It’s another way to drive traffic and readership.


Presentation Social Media Content Format Strengths:

  • Increase searchability.
  • Works best for a B2B audience.

Presentation Social Media Content Format Weaknesses:

  • Can lack enough text to convey your message.
  • Improves with professional graphic resources. 

Actionable social media content format tips to improve presentation use:

  • Add relevant commentary to your slides. Remember that your social media audiences don’t have the benefit of hearing you speak. Help them. Ann Handley does a great job of this on her Follow The Fear presentationAnn Handley annotates her Slides on Follow the Fear Talk-1
  • Make each slide stand on its own. View each slide as shareable content.
  • Create direct-to-social media presentations. While at SAP, Michael Brenner developed content marketing based on executive talks. (BTW, SAP updated this Slideshare to increase views.)99 Facts on the Future of Business-SAP
  • Embed social sharing to expand your reach.



The social media content format bottom line:

You need to use a variety of different social media content formats to maximize your audience and achieve your business objectives.

At a minimum, share your content on the relevant social media platforms. This is particularly true for formats like presentations.

Unfortunately, most social media sites don’t follow a standard set of rules dictating text length, image size and format.

But don’t let this stop you!

Stop continually creating more and more content.

Instead reformat and re-imagine it into different formats to meet other contextually relevant audience needs.

Even better, create all related content at the same time. This minimizes your content investment and extends the life of your content.

Result: You maximize your audience and improve your social media content ROI.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

Photo Credit: Alan Bishop via  https://unsplash.com/photos/gjshuj_QB2s

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