Social Media: What Works, What Doesn’t and Why Bother?
Before I started Manporium, I would say that I was a ‘social media native’. Like many, at university I started off with Facebook, and then graduated to Twitter only relatively recently. I quickly found that 140 characters limited the sheer amount of dross people could write about, and Twitter became my preferred medium. I had an Instagram account, but always found that I was more comfortable with text-based social media.
Then I got into blogging, and everything changed. Not in the paradigm-shifting ‘oh-my-god-check-out-this-colour-tv‘ sort of way, but much more subtly. New words like engagement and influencer would enter my vernacular, my eyes were opened to the world of analytics, scheduling, and hashtags.
I therefore wanted to share my experiences and learning with you – so that hopefully if you are starting a blog, or already have one, you can find some benefit or amusement.
The Benefits of Social Media
There’s no escaping it. Social Media is a great way to drive traffic to your site and build awareness of your brand. Much like your neediest friends, though, it’s high maintenance. You will largely get out what you put in.
It’s important, also, to choose the medium most appropriate to your subject matter – and to be aware of the idiosyncrasies of each platform.
So why bother with social media?
- Reader Engagement This works both ways. If you’re clever about the way you communicate and promote yourself via social media, you can begin to build a loyal and well-engaged following. This is important – there’s no point having thousands of followers who want to read about fox hunting when you blog about veganism. They’re not interested in you, and you’re probably not desperately interested in them.
Get a bunch of people together who share a common interest, and the conversation starts flowing. People will start reading your blog and will share, comment and reply. You’ll reply. Some of their followers become yours and vice versa. This sort of organic growth based on mutual interest is the foundation of social media.
- Brand Opportunities You like a brand. You mention them in a tweet, they reply, they read your blog, they ask if you’d like to do a review. You do a review, they retweet, and hey presto, suddenly your blog is elevated to their followers, all of whom likely love that brand too. Simples.
- Community and Support There is this whole community and almost sub-culture of bloggers out there, all of whom (largely) support and promote each other. I had no idea Twitter chats even existed (more on this later), but they quickly became a major stalwart of my weekly routine.
This is where social media is great – you make contact with other bloggers, you can ask questions, or answer them, share tips or general merriment.
- SEO This is an interesting one, and I’m going to write a whole separate piece on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) specifically (like that hasn’t been done to death, Nathan). Many of the search engines are wising up to the viral nature of things, and are ranking sites more highly that are featured heavily in social media. It should be an important consideration in your general SEO ‘strategy’. Ultimately search engines want to provide you with the content you want to see, and social media engagement is an easy way to measure this.
So, with that in mind, let’s jump into the platforms I use and what I’ve learned thus far.
My favourite platform – it’s concise and very targeted. Plus, the ability to latch onto trending hashtags is a really useful way to reach a larger audience of likeminded individuals.
It’s not limited to mobile phones for the best usage experience, and you can drive traffic directly from your posts (unlike Instagram).
Twitter Top Tips
- Firstly, you only get 140 characters, so use them wisely. You have to immediately grab your readers’ attention, so be economical and efficient with your words. Some things to bear in mind:
- In the latest update, images and GIFs don’t count towards you character count. So if you’ve got a longer message to convey, include the key summary in the text and embed the rest in the image (I did this for a competition I ran). Remember though, images are images. If you want words to be found by search, they need to be in the text of your tweet.
- Links, regardless of length are counted as 23 characters. Twitter automatically shortens them to a t.co link, so you don’t need to use any 3rd part link compressors.
- Be selective with your hashtags Twitter recommends a maximum of two, and sometimes I think even this can be overkill. Too many and it looks spammy. Too few, and you won’t reach the people you want. So, again, be economical. Use a site such as hashtagify.me to identify the most popular and relevant hashtags for your audience and subject matter.
- Get involved in Twitter chats As I mentioned, these were a revelation to me. Basically, there are a number of accounts that run chats usually over an hour with a specific subject. Some are for beauty bloggers, some for lifestyle bloggers, others for over thirty bloggers, others just generally for bloggers. If you’re just starting out, I recommend you join in as many of these as you can and really contribute and get involved. They’re a brilliant way to get to know the community and build you follower base.
- @ mention brands If I were you, I would only do this positively. Yes, some people have had great success going to war with brands over their customer service on Twitter, but I personally think the place for this is your personal account. I just don’t think that a blog’s Twitter is the right place to wage war. Instead, if you’ve had a great experience with a brand or just want to give them a shout out, @ mention them and see what happens!
I came to the Instagram a bit later than others, but am really starting to enjoy it. As you might expect from a photography platform, it’s best suited to – errr – photographs. So given that I’m a bit of a wordier person, it was a medium that took me a bit more time to get used to.
I’ve sort of seen the light now, though. I think the first thing to realise is you generally won’t drive traffic to your blog directly from Instagram. Why? Well, primarily because links don’t work on your posts (unless you’ve paid for advertising). So no matter how many likes or comments you get, people are only going to get back to your site if they navigate to your profile and click the link there.
So why do it? I think you have to see it as a medium in its own right. Use it to complement your blog, maybe as an opportunity to show the person behind the blog a little bit more, and as a way to attract people who are less into the wordy side of blogging.
Instagram Top Tips
- Remember when I said be economical with hashtags in the Twitter section? Yeah, forget that for Instagram. Hashtag the crap out of Every. Single. Picture.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags in a single post, and they’re the single best way to help people find your account. Try to find a balance between quite specific hashtags to attract those in your area, and more general tags to appeal to wider audience and expose your content to a wider platform.
Do your research. Look at similar photos that have had a lot of engagement in your niche and see what hashtags they’ve used. Make use of the autocomplete function, too – start typing your hashtag and see what Instagram recommends. You’ll see on the right it includes how many instances there are. The more popular, the more likely someone will find you.
- Have a theme – whether it be a colour scheme, composition or font – it’s just another aspect of your branding. If you’re smart, it should tie in with your blog in some way, so that anyone going from one to the other would immediately feel at home.
By the way, I’m crap at this. I just take a photo. If I like it, it gets posted. Looking back to my earlier posts, even a good photo wasn’t a pre-requisite. (I’m probably going to go on an IG purge now!).
- Instagram is hella transient Your followers will spike and fall on an almost hourly basis. Try not to get too fixated on it – some are people following to get followed back who’ll disappear as quickly as they appeared, others are just spam accounts. Instagram quite regularly goes through and purges these accounts. Don’t sweat it. Focus on the general trend, and don’t worry about the odd couple here and there.
This Complete Guide to Instagram Marketing from Buffer is a fantastic piece, and is extremely comprehensive. I thoroughly recommend you give it a read.
You all know Facebook: Used to be cool, now has become slightly passé as the younger generation are quickly discovering that their parents are on it. As a result, if targeting a younger readership you may find that Facebook is not the best way to drive traffic and engagement.
For the more mature among us, Facebook can be great. I’ve found it a really powerful way of driving traffic to my site. Firstly, there’s no limit to how much you can write, it includes nice big page previews, and there are no end of groups that you can join to target a specific niche.
Facebook Top Tips
- Facebook is like Twitter when it comes to hashtags. Use them sparingly. Too many can actually reduce your engagement – a study by Social Bakers indicates that somewhere between one and three is the optimal amount.
- Search for groups in your niche, and join or request to join the largest ones. Once you get approved, you’ll suddenly have access to a whole host of people who share a common interest, most of whom will likely have the groups constantly sending them notifications on their timeline.
Remember this one? A lot of people don’t use Google+, but a lot of people also do, and it seems to be much more focussed towards groups and communities and common interests.
I would use Google Plus in almost exactly the same way as Facebook above.
One single Google Plus top tip: Remember I mentioned SEO. Well, Google own Google Plus. They also own Google (shocking). So, they have a social media platform merrily feeding information to their search engine. It’s a really good way of improving how you rank for searches when you’re starting out – though bear in mind that it’ll be your Google Plus profile that ranks, not your website.
Snapchat: Medium for the Younger Audience?
So those are my big four – I really haven’t got to grips with some of the more video-based platforms out there, like Snapchat. It is, however, a real area of growth, and unlike Facebook has a much younger audience. For me, it’s not too critical to target the lower end of the age range, but if your blog is looking to engage those younger readers, you may want to take a serious run at Snapchat.
It Takes Time
The key thing to remember is that it all takes time. It seems that every day someone is going viral whilst you’re still languishing and celebrating every single new follower. These viral posts are the exception, not the norm. You should be celebrating every single new follower, regardless of whether you have thirty or thirty thousand. Never forget that.
It’s a big world, with a lot of noise and a lot of information to compete with. You need to find a way to get your voice heard and noticed above the others. For platforms like Twitter and Instagram, the major take-away message is this: volume. Most people follow hundreds if not thousands of accounts, and your one post has got to stand out among those myriad others. To stand the best chance, you’ve got to post regularly.
This great piece from Buffer suggests the following to maximise engagement with your audience: Twitter engagement peaks at around 3 tweets a day. Facebook drops off after two. Interestingly, Instagram has an almost limitless level of engagement – you can post as much as you like without risking a drop in engagement.
Hopefully you’ve found these tips useful – I’d love to know what you’ve found works well across the different platforms and let me know if any of the above has helped you out!