13 Social Media Tips (Even If You're A Seasoned Expert)

Monday, August 17, 2015

The saying "it's not what you know, it's who you know," is one we've all heard. The reality however is that it's not even who you know, it's who knows you. Over the past ten years, social media has become the best and least expensive way to market yourself and your company to a large audience, and to be discovered by people who may not even be on your radar yet. While this is news to exactly no one, the way social media is used has changed considerably since the various platforms hit the market.

While using social media may not require a lot of money, it does require more time than it used to (most "shortcuts" that worked even just two or three years ago no longer work, sorry — the people at the top of their game have pivoted to work smarter AND harder) and a thoughtful strategy. The companies who see a return from social media are the ones who have thought strategically about how to use it and consistently put in the time even when they'd rather not. Here are thirteen tips to help you as you create or revisit your own strategy:

1. Recognize that social media platforms have evolved and no longer work the way they used to — and that's okay. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter all have thriving, unique communities (not to mention their own unique and evolving algorithms). Learn how each community works currently and which make sense for your company. Also, the social platforms that make sense for your company may not necessarily be your favorites or the ones in your comfort zone.

2. Hashtags work differently on Twitter than they do on Instagram or Facebook because search works differently on each of these platforms. An example — on Twitter, hashtags are primarily used to categorize (#engage15) but words that aren’t hashtagged (wedding) will still show up in search. On Instagram, hashtags are used to categorize (#engage15) AND words must also be hashtagged (#wedding) in order to show up in search. Because hashtags slow the brain down while reading, it’s always better to use them sparingly whenever possible.

3. Have an informed opinion. Share it. Smart people like working with smart people. Mike Steib, CEO of XO Group (parent company of The Knot), does this really well via Twitter. 

4. No one cares how good you are, they care how good you make them. Self promotion is not social media. An 80/20 or 90/10 ratio is a good rule of thumb for posting something self-promotional: one or two out of every ten posts can be promotional, the other eight or nine should be helpful/educational/inspirational/aspirational/a peek into who you are as a person or company. Abby Capalbo does this incredibly well on Instagram as does Suann Song of Appointed Co and Simplesong Design.

5. No matter how good you make them, or whether the economy is up or down, at the end of the day people want to do business with people they like. This goes for clients and other professionals. 68% of engaged couples want their wedding to be described as "the best day ever" and they want to make sure that — aside from having a strong portfolio and skill set — your personality will mesh with those of their friends, family, and other wedding professionals they've hired. Create boundaries, but share parts of your personal life. Teresa Wilson of Camelback Flowershop is great at striking this balance on Instagram as is Christine Traulich of RedBliss Design.

6. That said, not allowing strangers to have access to every part of your life does not make you any less authentic. Science shows that trust is built more through consistency than through oversharing. Again, set boundaries that make sense for you and your family.

7. Create a content/posting strategy for each platform. Are you using Instagram to show your aesthetic/thought process/that you're approachable and an "every girl" (or guy)/a jetsetter/as a visual journal/as a micro-blog? Do you use it for professional images only and Snapchat to showcase some of the more "unpolished" side of your day-to-day routine? Since audiences largely vary from platform to platform or use each to consume content differently, your strategy should differ for each platform. This means it’s unwise to send links of images from Instagram or posts from Facebook to Twitter — unfortunately, the days of that tactic being a relevant shortcut are long gone. Andrea Wasserman is great at using Twitter and Instagram differently as is Michelle Rago (Insta, Twitter).

8. If you are incorporating live video into your marketing, make sure you understand how both Periscope AND Meerkat work. Although Meerkat arrived on the scene first (and is also heavily used by celebs — Jimmy Fallon, U2, Snoop, etc), Periscope is the leader right now because it is owned by Twitter and comes with that built-in audience. However, because Meerkat is independent, it can post to Facebook and other platforms and enjoy access that the Twitter-owned Periscope cannot. Video consumption is not going away nor will it lessen — make sure you don't put all your strategic eggs in the basket of a company that may not be able to grow with your multi-platform audience the way you need it to.

9. Don't take marketing advice from anyone who tells you blogs or email newsletters are dead or a waste of time. They are far from dead and you always want to create content on a platform you own. If all the other social platforms shut down tomorrow (and they can since they're free and not beholden to paid subscribers — Google Reader, anyone?), you will want to have already built an audience on a platform you own. I cannot stress this point enough. Calder Clark's blog is a great combination of witty and useful and is different than the stylish insight she shares via Instagram

10. If you’re posting photos of other people’s children, always get the parent’s permission first. There are a lot of lurking weirdos out there and every parent has a different comfort level for how much exposure their kids receive online. Respect their wishes. Period.

11. If you're visiting someone's home, don't geotag the location without their permission. Geotagging ("checking in") gives your precise geographical coordinates — allowing people to pinpoint the exact location on a map. Not everyone wants the entire world knowing exactly where they live or which hotel they're staying at while traveling alone. Again — respect their wishes.

12. Just because someone isn't a member of your followers lists doesn't mean they're not paying attention. Potential clients will often check out your social media profiles to see what type of person you are and the perspective you bring to the table — all while never officially "following" you. Same goes for colleagues who want to know if you're the type of person they'd be comfortable referring.

13. Most people who see a magazine ad or story about you will look you up on social media. If you're running print ads or getting traditional press and neglecting your online presence, your ads or features will not work as well. The two go hand-in-hand. Again, you never know the full list of who is paying attention.

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