Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, a friend told me it was time to get serious about my social media strategy. She even went so far as to start my Pinterest account for me. I'll be honest, I didn't see the value at the time, but I have seen the light. Pinterest and social media (in general, along with some good SEO juice) are the greatest sources of traffic to my sites (I run more than one business and social media matters for both of them). In other words, serious social media pays the bills.
I'm glad I had a friend tell me that I needed to start using social media with a serious mindset, so now I want to share with you the top 17 ways I recommend to start authentically using social media for your blog or business.
1. Pick your platforms wisely.
Not only do you not need to be on every single platform to be effective, it can actually be an unwise use of your time (especially as a solopreneur) to try to be on each one. It's really about where your ideal audience is and where you can be most effective for your brand. This is where you’ll need to do some research on where your ideal client is hanging out online and narrowing the scope of where you’ll show up.
And make sure that part of your narrowing process is clearly planning what you'll use each platform for. Write it down. Make it real. Have a plan.
2. #EditorialCalendar it when stuff is important.
^^ That's being used as a verb by the way. This simply means, when you have upcoming product launches, brand launches, important posts, challenges/giveaways you want to promote, etc., it's time to make an editorial calendar of your social media content.
Did she just say that? That sounds like a lot of work.
It is. I don't lie on this blog. Now my other blog is another story. All lies. But here I tell you the truth. It's a lot of work, but it is so rewarding. Go ahead and click on the link (image) below and create a copy of the Google Sheets doc that pops up. This is the level I suggest you go to for any super important posts/products. Plan it out for 10 days or 30 days, whatever the situation calls for. It takes a while up front to do your editorial calendaring (see that verb use?), but you’ll be so glad you did when your brand is telling a cohesive story across your channels.
3. Research people before you respond.
How do all the cool, Snapchat-using kids say it? "I'm so over" people tweeting or commenting on social media before they've taken two seconds to check someone out. I've had people ask me the strangest things, way outside of what I do/know, and I really feel like the 10 seconds it takes to read my Twitter bio or click on the link to my site would have saved them the trouble. Also, you leave such a solid impression when you respond to people based on their needs + interests.
4. Unfollow junk accounts.
Options include Crowdfire app, not for the somewhat middle school activity of unfollowing people just because they unfollow you, but because it allows you to identify people who haven't used their accounts in like seven years. You can unfollow accounts on Twitter and Instagram very simply to keep the people you're following to actual people who actually use these platforms. With other platforms, you may just have to do an audit of who you follow, and unfollow any accounts that aren't really active or that don't add value to your feed. Exceptions would be customers you want to interact with--they totally add value.
5. Follow wisely, my friend.
You're being serious about social media now, and when you’re using social media for your business you kinda have to be purposeful about who you follow. Some platforms have lists or ways to segment the people/brands you follow so you can try to get to your most important content first, but others don't. So if you don't want to crowd your feed with stuff that doesn't help you help others, then you have to be selective. Follow:
leaders in your industry
people who inspire you to make your business even more awesome
people who just inspire you or have engaging content
people you might want to collaborate with
people who go out of their way to promote/help you
people you like who put out quality content
@MindyKaling (just do the right thing here, she's hilarious)
6. Don’t retweet, repost, or repin anything you haven’t checked out first.
Again, you’re serious about social media now. It represents your brand. You can't share something with broken links, super low quality, or something that (gasp) redirects to a totally inappropriate or sketchy page. The Internets will unfollow you if you send them to a place with digital viruses and lousy marketing schemes.
7. Don’t be afraid of the “advanced features” in each platform.
Group boards on Pinterest will get your pins and profile in front of more people.
Twitter lists will help you organize the people you like and want to see tweets from, and lists will also help you make others feel special when you add them.
Facebook Groups and Slack Communities allow you to create deeper connections with like-minded people and potential customers.
Twitter chats are epic ways to converse with others and gain new followers.
No seriously, go create a list in Twitter if you've never done so before. It can be public (when you want everyone to see it and be able to follow it) or it can be private (like when you want to store all your connections who live in a country half way around the world so you can tweet them at specific times or go see what they're up to when you're randomly up at 3 a.m.).
8. Thank everyone, one person at a time (if possible).
OMG. Thank you @name1, @name2, @name3, @name4, @name5 . . . @name17."
^^ Can usually be re-worded as:
I just didn't feel like thanking you individually."
Except for in the instances when you are in fact Justin Timberlake or when you intentionally want people to be in the same comment.
Your brand may already be at the point where it's just not logical to thank each person for their comment or specific action . . . totally understandable, but perhaps you can try to "favorite" or "like" their comments.
9. Embed the heck out of your social media feeds.
If you're making a point (in a blog post or on a web page) that relates to a specific Pinterest board of yours, plop it in using the Pinterest Widget Builder.
If you're making a point that involves a tweet you once published, embed it. I embedded the tweet below in one of my posts, and it still gets RTs and favorites . . . not because people are going back several months on my Twitter profile, but because it's front and center in a post people still read.
The one word others throw around too much that belittles how hard I know you work: LUCK. If they only knew how many work hours "luck" took.
— Regina Anaejionu (@byReginaTV) August 30, 2014
10. #StyleGuide the photos, hashtags, and wording you'll use in your updates.
When you're making a style guide for your blog or website, add in the specifics of how you'll treat social media. Consistency helps you stand out so, so, so much.
P.S. @Erika_Madden, do you mind if I use you as an example now?
P.P.S. I think we should all go follow Erika now so she won't be mad at me for using her as an example without permission.
P.P.P.S. Just kidding. She probably won't get mad, but let's all go follow her anyways. She's amazing. And she likes LOTR and sushi. Clearly an outstanding human being.
11. Create templates, yo.
Whether it's quotes or sayings (like the examples in Erika's IG account above), or the custom images you'll make each time you share your blog posts or new products on Twitter, make templates for any social media graphics you'll be creating. This will save you time and help you look super organized and consistent.
12. Batch everything.
Like that time you mixed up vegan cookie dough for just one emergency cookie . . . umm, no. Multiple cookies are always necessary so I'm assuming you typically mix enough dough to last you a day or so, right? Well, create your social media images (quotes, questions, challenges, regular pictures of you behind the scenes, etc.) in batches (perhaps 1 - 4 weeks of content at a time). That way you'll never be without something to share, and you'll be that much more likely to stick to the promotion schedule (editorial calendar) you made in #2 above.
13. Buffer (or Hootsuite) all the stuff.
I use Buffer (+ Hootsuite is another similar tool) to load multiple tweets, Facebook posts, etc. at once. So, all that stuff you just batch created . . . now you can schedule it ahead of time and not worry about it.
14. Write a better bio.
Communicate value and your personality in your bio. 👀Try really hard not to just list nouns or adjectives that describe you and your attributes. Try to communicate what makes you you in longer phrases or full sentences. So instead of opting for:
Cat lover. Chocolate lover. Wife. Mom. Friend. Copywriter. Editor."
Please don't get mad at me for that ^^--it just really doesn't stand out as much as:
I help you write words that people remember. I also like cats, and chocolate, or chocolate cats . . . I'm not picky here."
15. Get a better avatar/headshot/profile image.
Hire a photographer, or get handy with natural light and a good editing app. (Hint: VSCO Cam or Snapseed)
16. Similarize (word check: does that exist?) your bios + headshots across all platforms.
#AwkwardTruthMoment: People just don’t know you like that. If you have curly hair and a blue dress on your Pinterest profile and straight hair with a red shirt on Twitter, we might not get that you are the same person. Also, if you talk about your love for cats on Instagram and you only talk about your love for editing works of fiction on Twitter, we might not get that you are the same person.
Your average Internet user looks at 1,307 different faces online each day (most of them poorly lit selfies). I'm totally kidding y'all. I made that stat up. But, seriously . . . we just don't know you like that. Use similar headshots (you know, like either the exact same shot, or you in the exact same setting/outfit) and bios across your platforms.
17. Update your cover photos.
Make them compelling. Make them pop. Make them fitting of the season or of your newest product launch or epic freebie. Whatever you do, don't waste your cover photo space . . . people actually look at them.
Here’s the awesome Ade Aprilia who uses her Facebook cover page .
18. Verify, connect, list, and link.
Verify your site/accounts in Pinterest. Connect your accounts (such as Instagram and Twitter so that you can automatically tweet something you Instagram every so often). List and link your other accounts on each platform (where applicable--so, YouTube should have links to all your other accounts, etc.).
19. Join chats.
Find Twitter chats (or discussions in other social media communities) that focus on topics you love, that can help you learn, or that include a lot of your ideal audience. You will have great conversations, you will gain new followers, you will meet new collaborators, you will likely even find new customers.
20. Join communities.
People with like minds, similar challenges/issues/desires, and similar interests often congregate online in Facebook Groups, Slack Communities, group Pinterest Boards, Twitter chats, various website forums, and other online clubs or organizations. When you're taking social media seriously, you're not tweeting on an island . . . okay, bad example, because you can literally tweet from an island and connect with the whole world. But, you know what I mean. You're not tweeting in a bubble . . . okay, you can probably do that too . . .
What I'm trying to say here is: Community is important. When you're using social media for a brand or business, community is everything. Serious social media is not one-sided. It's interactive. It's meaningful. And it's like that one phrase people always use, "You're not tweeting in a vacuum my friend."
That analogy works, right? I'll get it one of these days.
21. Get serious about hashtag research and social media search features.
But Regina, you're telling me to go out and find my ideal clients/readers, and to find like-minded people to connect with on social media, and to do a bunch of other stuff that requires me to actually find these mythical people. How do I do that?
Ahhhhhh, the power of search. Figure out key phrases people might use when looking for content like yours or products like yours, and then search for those phrases. A simple Twitter search of the phrase "need to start a blog" returned tons of results (people saying everything from "I need to start a blog before my site goes live" to "I need to start a blog to help with all these emotions"), so if you were in the business of helping people start blogs, you'd totally have new friends.
P.S. Don't creep people out or annoy the heck out of them when you tweet them by telling them about all your services, instead, congratulate them, converse with them, point them to free resources . . . don't be weird.
While you're in research mode, don't forget to search hashtags on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Find out the most popular hashtags among your clients and communities (just do a Google search for "popular hashtags for ____"), and then search for them and use them. Connect with people who use them. You get the point. We're serious about social media now; we can't be lazy.
22. Add value, but also be yourself.
It's part of establishing a "you" brand. You always want to add value, else, why would people follow you? But, you always want to be yourself. In being yourself and sharing things with personality or sharing things other than articles/research, you're giving yourself some wiggle room. If you have a powerful presence as a brand and as a person in one, we'll follow you when you pivot into a new brand or space. Pinky swear.
23. Mix it up.
There are many types of things you can share on social media. Below are my top 25 suggestions for types of content. Click the image below or download your copy here.
24. Create a hashtag.
If you're using social media for your business, you'll perhaps want to look into creating hashtags for your brand, for your products, for your communities, and for your challenges/contests. People are so used to using #hashtags nowadays, that if you create and clearly communicate + use your hashtags, you'll likely find that they slowly catch on. So, when you ship out products, casually let people know each product's specific hashtag. You may find that it reminds people to share your products on Instagram. Or, you may find customers saying stuff about your products (on Twitter for example) who you didn't even know bought your stuff.
You may mess around and create a movement with one of your hashtags. Just don't go crazy; be mindful of the platform you're in. And on Twitter, you probably can't fit more than 3 with your tweet.
25. Create a community, show, or event . . . or host something specific on each platform.
Give people additional incentive to follow you on each platform that you're taking seriously for your blog or business. Hold monthly Q+As on Facebook, a weekly Instagram Live, an occasional Twitter chat, a show on YouTube or FB, or even a scavenger hunt on Instagram or a pin party on Pinterest. Include prizes or free resources the first few times (or permanently). People will love the events and the communities that form around them.
26. Share other people’s stuff and tag them when you do so.
You’ll create some of the most grateful, awesome fans when you share other people’s stuff (on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, wherever). If you’re able to tag the person, they are that much more likely to follow you, to re-share your content, or to love you bunches. Using social media for your brand means stepping out and connecting. You may share to crickets at first, but people will take notice and be appreciative in time.
27. JUST SAY NO to (most) drugs and automated responses.
Just kidding, kids. Say no to all drugs.
Also, if it doesn't look like a human sat down and gave the tweet/post some serious thought in the moment, don't post it, message it, or do it. What I mean is: No auto direct messages on Twitter when someone follows you, no auto tweets through a third-party app thanking the five people who retweeted you that week, and no post that simply shares the name of a product and a link ("Gold leaf scarf http://awkwardurl234567here.com").
None of these things look like an actual human sat down and gave the post some thought. Using social media effectively for your brand means standing out. Automated, impersonal, uninteresting posts do not qualify and in fact, they damage your brand as a whole.
28. Ask for help.
People love to help you and give you feedback. Whether you're asking what color you should release a new product in, asking if anyone knows someone who does _____, or asking people for advice on a certain topic, people will commit to memory those that they help and those that are appreciative of said help. When you're first building your accounts up, you might mention or tag someone directly (and without being creepy) to ask for their expertise on something . . . or you might just throw your question out into Internet land with an applicable hashtag and hope someone sees it. Either way, give it a try.
29. Switch up your post based on the platform.
That one time you saw someone post the exact same wording across all eight platforms they use. That was so interesting, right? (Insert an unamused emoji face here and while you’re at it, do use emojis to spice things up a bit in Internetland.)
Different platforms call for different hashtags, lengths of posts, wording, vibes, and images. Take advantage of the specific communities you've connected with on each platform. Delight them in different ways, and always, always optimize your images and words for the platform you're on.
30. Get handy with the editing tools.
31. Put your URL on it.
Stuff gets lost on the Internet. Have you ever found an image and wish you knew the original source? Can you imagine a potential reader coming across a great article on Pinterest but getting frustrated when the pin doesn't lead back to the original source? Ditto Google Image search. That wouldn't happen if your URL was on the image.
Images get stolen and misused on the Internet. A super sweet blogger emailed me a while back to let me know that some of my images (along with several other bloggers' images) were being used by a shady guy on his Pinterest board to get traffic back to his site. So, whereas it looked like you were clicking on a picture that would take you to my piece on How I Started Making a Full-time Blogging Income, you were actually being taken to his site. The only way my new blogger friend was able to alert me to his image theft, was because my URL was on my pin.
Including your URL or logo, or both, is a great way to reenforce your brand identity.
So, what do you think? Maybe make the information above into an R&B slow jam? Agreed.
32. READ. Because readers are leaders.
Find a book about social media in general (The Art of Social Media // Grow Your Blog Traffic with Social Media) or a book about the specific platform you want to study in the moment. As power users, let's make power moves and really explore all the features and uses of the platforms we choose to be on.
33. Stop, go back, and use the person's name.
When replying, when contacting, when asking something, when breathing, when freaking sneezing, use the person's name. People like to hear/read their own names. People like when you take time to address them personally.
Now . . . I'll give you the instances where people make their names too ridiculously hard to find. Like when their Instagram and Twitter handle are brand names, and their website bios don't have their names, and all their posts are signed "M." >> they just don't want you to have the information you need. Abort mission. But other than that, use the person's name.
How else do you get serious about social media? What do you spend most of your social media time doing? Planning, posting, finding people, thinking of what to say, designing images? Holla at me in the comments about it.