As a brand and marketing strategist, I spend a ton of time talking to people about social media. I've had conversations with people who are leveraging their accounts to build their own businesses, people who are signing up for Periscope, Snapchat, or Instagram, using these tools to build their personal brand, people who are searching for their dream job onFacebook or Twitter, and people who are using the various platforms to grow the organizations they work for.
Regardless of goal, industry, or level of expertise, the majority of these people tell me the same three things:
They continue to be surprised by how quickly everything keeps changing.
They believe social media offers interesting opportunities to connect with people and help them grow their personal brand or business.
Despite all the advice out there, they still don't feel like they're any good at it.
If this is how you feel, here's what I want you to understand: There is no one way to be good at social media. The strategies, tactics, and platforms that're going to make a job seeker in the food industry well versed in social media won't necessarily be the same strategies, tactics, and platforms that make a marketing manager in the financial industry excel and stand out.
But, even though there's no one-size fits all way of using the platforms, there are best practices and steps you can take--no matter why you're online--that'll make you a better at it.
Today, I'll walk you through my top four tips:
1. Understand Your Unique Posting Style and Stick to It
If you want to be a confident, savvy social-media user, you have to decide what you want to be known for on social media. How do you want to position yourself and/or your brand on your platforms?
For example, do you want to be a go-to expert on a topic? Do you want to create a Facebook page with funny videos everyone watches while they eat lunch? Do you want to offer no-holds-barred commentary on current events?
Here's the trick to being successful: Be known for who you are. How would you describe your personal brand?
I know this might sound warm and fuzzy, but it's actually an important marketing tactic. If you pretend to be an expert on a subject you know nothing about, people are going to catch on--and disconnect--very quickly.
Similarly, if you have an incredible sense of humor but post overly formal, serious, and sales-y posts (like so many brands!), you're missing the opportunity for people to get to really know you and your business or your work within a certain industry.
Once you decide what you want to be known for--in other words, what you want your community to come to you looking for--all you need to do is serve up that content consistently.
2. Keep a Running List of Videos, Articles, and More That You Love
In marketing lingo, we call this "curating content," which sounds a lot more complicated-;and boring-;than it actually is.
One of the pillars of having engaging social media platforms is sharing content you think the people you're trying to connect with will find interesting, insightful, and thoughtful. Ideally, it's also content that speaks to you.
It may sound pretty straightforward, but it can get hard to manage in the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day. The easiest way to post great content (and to post it regularly!) is to keep a running list of the content you come across on a daily basis that you think your audience will enjoy. You can compile this content on whatever platform you use most often: Google Docs, Word, Evernote, Pages. (I have a running Google Doc I call "Stuff to Share.")
Then, whether you decide to create content monthly, weekly, or daily, you have a big meaty document to pull from, rather than trying to come up with content on the spot.
Just remember to add the content you're creating to this list (like guest blogs, videos, podcast interviews) along with the content you're finding.
3. Respond to Everything
If you scour the internet for social media tips, you'll find a ton of articles about how to create content and how to publish that content.
Here's what people don't talk as much about: What to do once that content inspires someone to comment.
When you think about the real reason we choose to be on these platforms-;to connect with people--it's crazy that we spend so much time and energy trying to get people interested in us or our businesses (by creating and publishing great content) and not spend time actually solidifying the connection we just worked so hard to make.
Creating and publishing awesome content doesn't make you good at social media-;it makes you good at creating and publishing great content. To be good at it, you need to foster and nurture the connections you derive from your online presence.
So, if someone comments on a photo, answer him. If someone tweets an article you wrote, thank her. If someone sends you a direct message on LinkedIn, reply back. It's one of the easiest ways to grow your network.
If you make directly connecting a habit, your platforms will, without a doubt, begin to take off. Why? Because people are much more likely to tell their friends and family about someone they have a real, human connection with over a stranger who posted a random article on Facebook.
4. Eyeball Your Analytics
If you want to get better at social media, you need to understand who's engaging with what you post and what's resonating most with those people so you can continue to serve up content they'll respond to.
The easiest way to do that? Analytics.
If you haven't gotten up close and personal with your analytics yet, I know it can feel daunting. But all you really want to know is: What were your top pieces of content in the last month? How much engagement (likes, shares, comments) did top posts receive? Who is interacting with your content most often?
Arming yourself with this info will make it easier to choose and create content for your platforms and help you forge the connections you're looking for.
To learn how to navigate Facebook's analytics, called Facebook Insights, check out Andrea Vahl's article on Social Media Examiner. If you want to wrap your head around Twitter's analytics, Kevan Lee's Buffer piece includes the 15 most useful stats to keep an eye on. Want to check out how your LinkedIn posts are faring? How your Pinterest account is doing? Regardless of your preferred platform of choice, there's information to better understand how your content is being received beyond user comments or likes.
If you want to really excel at this whole social media thing? Go offline. Take some of your best connections and venture off Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Exchange email addresses. Invite an active follower to coffee. Send a handwritten thank you note. Invite a few contacts to your next webinar. That's when you'll know your social media game is strong.