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How to have an engaging social media presence

Last night, our content editor Vanessa Hsieh, senior social media editor Marios Mystidis and social media coordinator Chester McKee lifted the lid on translating the magazine for the extremely online

For the third instalment of our Making It Up As You Go Along series of educational talks on how to break into the creative industries, we sat down with the team behind Dazed’s six million-strong social media platforms to learn how they engage with you lot on a daily basis. From planning for cultural moments, to curating memes – content editor Vanessa Hsieh, senior social media editor Marios Mystidis, and social media coordinator Chester McKee lift the lid on translating the magazine for the extremely online. Here are five takeaways from the night. 


“I think the key thing to remember whether you’re doing social media for yourself or a brand, is to always think about how you use it yourself,” says Vanessa. “We consume so much all the time, we become hyper-aware of how it’s utilised so I am always more interested and engaged when I can see how a brand or account is playing with our expectations within the limits set by these platforms.” Emphasising the need for it to feel personal and organic at its core, Dazed’s social tone of voice has been cultivated over the past five years to break away from rigid posting in triptychs and appeal directly to the audience, positioning content from print and digital as you would sharing with friends. “Using an internet-native language of memes, pop culture commentary and more to speak straight to the end-user, we’re able to establish a tone of voice so it’s recognisable even when people aren’t familiar with the magazine, as the nature of social often presents posts out of context to new audiences.” It’s a fine line to balance between being personal while also operating as a publisher, but thankfully the social team at Dazed are all around the ages of our target demographic so sense-checking is easy. “Obviously always think within the parameters of the brand you’re representing, and if your gut instinct feels off, use the people around you to consult and collaborate.”


No one wants to see the same thing over and over again. While regular programming helps build consistency across platforms, making sure the content itself feels fresh, different and original every time is the key to getting more engagement across your posts. At Dazed, we have a 360 approach to producing content, always thinking about how formats can be “stackable” across the board – and we collect content with this in mind. “As platforms have shifted towards video-first we have been conscious with how we translate the storytelling from print and online into social-first video,” says Marios. “We’re involved in the process from the start so these asks can be put to talent teams in good time.”


Always remember the same thing won’t work across all platforms. “Positioning is so important,” says Marios of our process of creating content with end platforms in mind. “Something that works for Instagram or Pinterest might not work for TikTok which is more chaotic and has a shorter attention span.” With audiences increasingly consuming direct on the platform, content needs to be optimised for where it’s being seen and it helps to keep up to date with each latest feature to see how we can capitalise on organic pushes from within the platform. “It helps to think of each platform as a site in and of itself, and approach commissioning native social content in the same way the other teams do,” says Vanessa.


The easiest way to get engagement is to capitalise on conversations that are already happening. While there’s no magic 8 ball for whatever “discourse” the internet is going to latch onto next, you can plan ahead for big cultural moments that people will be talking about – and the work of social media coordinator Chester is crucial to the team knowing when these moments are. “For example, at the moment it’s Pride so we can reposition our extensive archive of evergreen LGBTQ stories, and plan videos like our What is Pride? series looking at the LGBTQ experience from New York to Sierra Leone.” What’s evergreen, you ask? “It’s basically content that doesn’t rely on a specific news hook to be relevant, like beautiful photo stories, that we can reposition on social as and when we need.” Where possible we always like to create new original content, so the cultural calendar allows us to have the necessary lead time to action bigger content pieces and campaign moments.


At the end of the day, it’s social media not surgery – so lighten up! As much as the pandemic proved how platforms can be used for real cultural change, it’s easy to get caught up in this extremely online world. If something doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world. “As an emerging space, social media is a great place to experiment and see what sticks,” says Vanessa. “It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers of it all but there are stories worth telling beyond our endlessly scrolling screens. As important as it is to stay plugged in, there are times it’s good to get outside and touch the grass, shift your perspective and return refreshed.”