Like everything else today, the media landscape keeps changing, like a river incessantly redefining its banks and altering its course.

So how do you keep your social media investment from floating away in the rapids? Successfully navigating today’s media streams requires, well, a navigator. Someone who knows not just what’s available, but what venues and content will work best for your goals, at what cost, and according to what new rules.

While we can’t make you a social media expert over the course of a single blog, we can give you some general guidelines and background information to put things in context.

Wild waters need deliberate decisions.

When Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter change certain rules, you can generally see them. But they also have changing algorithms, which you can’t see. Algorithms are the mysterious computer “instructions” by which their platforms operate. It’s these emotionally detached, secretly written algorithms, not some human being sympathetic to your goals, that decide where your ad is seen and who gets to see it. But even through its secrets, we do know a few things:

1. Content should work, but not sweat.

Three points to keep in mind: Video, video and video. At some point, we have to accept that people just don’t ready anymore. They prefer pictures, especially ones that move. And with video, you have precious little time before they get bored and click Next, so deliver your points early and save production costs by calling “Cut” at 10 or 15 seconds.

Speaking of short attention spans, the phrase ‘Less is More’ anticipated social media perfectly, especially the copy. A social post can amuse, entertain, and intrigue people to learn more, but it can’t seal the deal or tell people everything. Pick a point, make it, and move on. And don’t bury the point in cleverness.

Keep in mind that each platform works differently. On Twitter, 1:1 conversations and owned content are preferred, and they put more weight on newsworthy and #trending topics. On Facebook, it’s quality over quantity: brief copy and quality images unmarred by text overlays. Instagram recently started favoring more recent posts (again!), and time of day and quantity matter – again. All these platforms favor “native content” (image with post copy) over links to your own sites; Shares and Comments carry more weight than Likes; and Facebook and IG reward you for leveraging their latest content types, like a ‘collection’ ad, or an ‘instant experience’.

2. Social posts: organic or paid?

In social media, organic is another word for free, and so has many fans. There are fewer rules for organic posts, and you are largely communicating with your established fanbase, an invested audience that that already knows you, so your communications can reflect a greater familiarity.

Paid social media has its own advantages. Paid ad space is limited, but it does give you greater ability to expand your typical audience and provide a clear call to action. The stories you tell people with paid posts will differ from what you do with organic, as you’re talking to strangers instead of friends. And paid media have some very creative ad products that can give your story punch. The main drawback to paid social is complex pricing, but a savvy media advisor can help guide you to maximum benefits.

3. New Rules for Instagram, Facebook and Facebook Messenger

To meet new legal requirements, the targeting rules on most of the top platforms are changing in significant ways. You can still advertise employment opportunities, but the new standards are much more complex, and the need for expert guidance is more important than ever.

JWT INSIDE hasn’t just kept pace with changing technologies and capabilities, we’ve led the way in putting them to work for our clients. Our award-winning work has led to vastly improved metrics, from hiring statistics to brand awareness, and given our clients the kind of returns that justify continued investment. See how we can help guide you to better social media results. Email us at info@jwt.com

Larry has worked at JWT INSIDE as a writer, creative director, and associate creative director since 1988. As the head writer in the Los Angeles office, Larry brings to JWT his life-long fascination with the power of words and their ability to influence ideas and actions.