Last month I did a post on how to build a strong online brand and the two most popular questions surprised me. The most common was: "What do I talk about?" Remember, that's what your 100 word cloud is for. (Click that link in the first line if you don't know what I'm talking about. We'll wait.) And the other big question was "Which platform do I use?"
I'm dividing that last question into the why and the what. There is a learning curve for every new program you use, but that learning curve is shortened if you know WHY you are putting yourself through this learning curve. It's also vital to know "which platform does WHAT."
Yes, they all allow you to be social - they're pretty equal that way - but each platform has distinct audiences and personalities. I'm going to just cover the giants on the social media scene: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and Snapchat. Hopefully six social platforms be enough for y'all. *snickers*
The goal is NOT to make you tired, and I can already see all my introverts inching out the door. It's okay, introverts, there are ways to do social media without feeling like this guy.
The key is to know which platforms best fit YOU and your personality.
What you should know before starting down the social media path:
What kind of communication do you want?
Back when I worked in the early mobile phone world, we talked a lot about half-duplex and full-duplex communication. Half-duplex is basically "push to talk, release to listen." You couldn't talk and listen at the same time. (Think of a walkie-talkie.) Full-duplex meant you could do both at the same time. Social media follows this model too: some platforms are half-duplex, and some are full-duplex. Some have the capability to be either.
What makes social media fun and what makes it tiring?
The key to answering this question is knowing your own personality, and which platforms will suit it best.
Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat all work really well in that half-duplex mode. You put out content, respond to comments and like or re-pin other peoples' cool stuff. These are platforms where you get to hang out by yourself, but with other people. You don't have to interact in real time if you don't want to. People will still like and follow your stuff, even if you are more peripheral about responding.
But...you must have REALLY cool stuff, and a regular sharing schedule, to get noticed. There is more brainshare and organization that goes into these platforms because people follow you almost exclusively based on your content, rather than on your witty interaction. Your updates have to include well thought out hashtags and stand alone photos or engaging video.
Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are much more full-duplex platforms. People are talking back and forth in real time and you have to respond. If you don't respond to people on these platforms in the form of shares, Likes, retweets, +1's and conversation, eventually they will go away because these platforms demand interaction.
Facebook has everyone talking and responding to one another, in fairly real time. Ditto with Twitter, if you use hashtags to follow communications. You can do this with Google+ as well. There's Facebook Live, Twitter Chats and Google Hangouts. These three platforms reward people who interact regularly and often.
The Social Media Giants
Facebook has more than 1 billion active users each month. Those kinds of numbers mean you have to at least have a toehold there so you can connect with readers. Plus there are groups. Groups are like Christmas to an author. While your page might not reach many people at all, an update posted in a group goes to everyone in the group. That's powerful.
That being said, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. It's hard to give up the coffee memes and cat videos but Facebook is a time-sucking vacuum. You stop in for five minutes and two hours later...*POOF* You just lost your morning.
I recommend a timer to keep you under control. Or here is an article on 9 Apps to Shut Up the Internet and Get Back to Work.
From the moment I participated in a Twitter chat with Margaret Atwood, and got to ask her a question directly, I've been hooked. You gain access to people you would never get near in real life. And it's fast - I can catch up in 10-15 minute increments.
Here's a great summary from Mashable: "Tweets are, essentially, the same as status updates or links on Facebook; they're just limited to 140 characters. You can follow anyone and anyone can follow you, and you don't have to do anything to make this happen (unlike Facebook, where making "friends" requires approval from both sides)."
Twitter caveat: information comes at you in a wave until you learn to manage it. Use Twitter lists or a program like Hootsuite so you can visit and get the information you want quickly.
We have lots of perspectives on Twitter right here at WITS. Take a peek at these.
Instagram is about visual storytelling. It's primarily a mobile app, meant to let you share photos and video while you're on the go. It's not about links - you can only put active links in your bio - its about visual content and engagement with fans. Instagram is also one of the fastest growing social networks and it can pay off big for writers.
Great Instagram articles:
Google is an underappreciated social platform for several reasons. Number one, it’s owned by Google. “Likes,” called “+1’s” in Google+, will help your search rankings. A lot. Your social media posts on this platform act like rocket fuel when someone Googles you: the Google Plus results leap to the top.
Translation: if you are aiming to spend as little time as possible on social media, while still getting a big bang for your time, you should add G+ to your repertoire.
Plus, Google+ integrates with GoogleDrive and has Google Hangouts. That makes it a great place for you if you are holding online seminars or interacting with small businesses. Google Hangouts beat Skype hands down because you can easily screen share and switch back and forth between your computer and your mobile devices without ending the video chat.
Some articles that break down the "why" of Google+ in more detail:
Pinterest is great for you and your followers. While you are organizing your own ideas, photos, and research into various Pinterest boards, you are also giving this valuable (organized!) content to others. Many writers swear their Pinterest boards have revolutionized their research. Dont forget, you can make private boards if you need to keep something on the down low!
Also, as visual content becomes more and more essential to any social media strategy, Pinterest is an important tool. This virtual bulletin board is a huge driver in getting people to your website and increasing visibility that leads to book sales.
Think of Pinterest as an online catalog, but with way more opportunities for interaction.
Do you need to cater to a younger demographic? Are you comfortable producing graphics and visual content? (Remember Laura Drake's Canva post?!) Snapchat might be the tool that helps you engage your audience in a new and creative way. With Snapchat, you can create images and short videos for your audience and customize your message with text and graphics. It also gives you the ability to monitor which users are viewing your messages.
Snapchat content only lasts 24 hours. Some people see Snapchat’s “24 hour” shelf life as a disadvantage, but it can be a bonus opportunity to repurpose your content.
You can get really creative. Save your Snapchat story as individual videos, or photos and share it on your other platforms to lure people over to your Snapchat account. Snapchat allows you to click on your "ghost icon" at the top and get a Snapcode that you can share to your newsletter list or your Twitter following.
Here's a link on 7 Creative Ways to Use Snapchat to Market. (Or you can just send video chats to your pals like the rest of us.)
Moz.com has a wonderful Beginner's Guide to Social Media. I'm not a beginner and I still picked up tips. Plus, the infographics are excellent and you can download the guide as a PDF.
Contently.com has gathered 10 Great Tips for Small Businesses Just Getting Started on Social Media. These tips were practically and extremely clear. For example, this gem about the "minimum amount of posting" for your platforms:
Here’s a quick guide to the bare minimum you should be posting for each network:
See what I mean? That's a golden common sense article. All the tips are that clear.
What are you favorite places to hang out online? Which platforms would you rather never see again? Do you need more information on something I mentioned? If so, let me know down in the comments and I'll flesh out another post!
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About Jenny Hansen
By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.
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