Monday, 25 January 2016

How To Better Use Social Media As A Blogger

Welcome to week two of my Bloggers Series. If you missed last week's post, it's all about how to write the best blog post possible, and you can catch up here. This week I'm talking about social media and how you can make it work better for your blog.

As a blogger, social media is a BIG part of how you promote yourself, your blog and your posts. But in the big wide world of social media with all of the different platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube etc) it's easy to sometimes get caught up in what to post where and when, and it can sometimes seem like you try to use all the big social media outlets and then you spread yourself too thin. In my day job as a Social Media & Digital Marketing Manager I've learnt a lot of little tips, and really basic techniques that have helped me incorporate social media to be a key part of my Lady Writes brand. And I hope that these tips will help you do the same...

Names
First things first, and a lot of people overlook this one - it's the names of your accounts. Your username needs to be the same on all platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc) - this is SO important. Not just because it looks neater, but it's better for consistency, it reinforces your brand and it also makes you easier to find. Bet you didn't know a name could give you so much, did you? If a blog reader loves you on Twitter and wants to find you on Instagram, it's no good if your Twitter handle matches your blog, but your Instagram handle is @Ilovebunnies - they won't ever find you and will probably give up trying. Also, you're a brilliant blogger - you may not feel it yet, but you have a brand! Your blog is your brand! John Lewis, Kate Spade, Mulberry etc. wouldn't have anything other than their brand in their social media names would they? So why would you? Obviously it's sometimes difficult to register smaller titles with so many billions of accounts now days, but make your social media usernames match your blog title - and your handles match this as closely as is possible. For example: I'm Lady Writes on Twitter (username) but I couldn't register that handle as it was already taken, so my handle is now @LadyWrites_Blog - when it's not possible to use only your blog title, get as close as you can.

Primary & Secondary
Did you know there are over 300 active social media platforms in the world? I'm sure there are millions more than that, but 300 'main' ones. Depending on which country you live in, you may have national ones, as well as the big boys like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. But unless you're a full time blogger (lucky you, I'm jealous) then you're going to struggle to commit to using all the big boys in the social media playground...unless you never leave your house. Social media takes time investment. So to overcome this, pick one platform as your primary platform and another as your secondary and then focus your efforts on these two. You can have a presence on others if you choose but do not spend vast amounts of time there, and don't invest too heavily. Likewise, don't have unrealistic expectations of the results either. What you'll find is that sometimes when you have more free time you'll use that third platform more, and then when you're busy you might not use it at all. This is actually really detrimental. Consistency is the key.
The general rule of thumb in social media management is that you need a minimum of one hour PER PLATFORM to manage social media at a decent enough level. So, you want to be predominant on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest? Then make sure you've got five hours per day...not quite so realistic is it? Now, I'm not saying that if you don't spend two hours or more on social media that your blog is going to fail - I AM NOT SAYING THAT! But what I am trying to say is that social media takes work - like everything, you get out what you put in. Don't expect the odd tweet once a day to bring in 200 page views to your blog. It doesn't work like that sadly. Having a primary and secondary platform means you can really make it work for you, you can network with others and promote your blog - the more people who see you, the better your social media will work to promote you.
Consistency
As mentioned above - consistency is key. If you can't manage two platforms, it's fine to only use one. It's all about what works best for you and your schedule and ultimately what brings in the best page views for your blog. It's so tempting to try and manage loads of different platforms because you want to be on all of them - I was guilty of this in the beginning. But imagine you are a blog reader, or someone wanting to purchase from a brand - you go to their Facebook page or their Twitter account and see it's not been updated for two weeks, and then it was only updated for a few days and prior to that it hadn't had much more than the odd RT for months - what goes through your mind when you see that? It's happened to me a lot when I go to look at a brands social media etc. and it's not a great advertisement is it? Sad but true - you lose brownie points with your audience for not being consistent. Sometimes it's better not to have a platform presence at all, rather than having one that looks bad and doesn't set you up in the best possible light. Food for thought hey?

Scheduling
We live in a modern, social media age - and I am so glad for central managing systems. In my day job I couldn't live without them and my blog certainly runs better thanks to them. Now the crap part is that they do remove the one thing that social media is built upon - it's foundation of being personal. Social media is about keeping in touch with people, brands, places etc. and it's a way of keeping up to date and knowing what's going on. It's all about being personal - and nosey, quite frankly in some cases! (I'm talking about me here, not you!) And building a brand is all about people buying into you - so using a scheduling resource - however helpful, does remove that personal side of things. Just remember that before you go scheduling crazy. However, I do use a central managing system for my blog - did you know that? Probably not because it's only used very minimally.
A central managing system is a website that allows you to schedule your posts for all platforms in advance. I know a lot of people don't like Hootsuite but it's my platform of choice - it's easy to use, so try that one. It's free to use and set up, and once you've got everything linked, you're good to go.
Now here's my personal advice - don't schedule everything. I only schedule content (mostly for Twitter and occasionally for Facebook, but never anywhere else) that promotes my blog posts during working hours - because obviously, I can't do it myself then. And I recommend you do the same. None of any other tweets during the day, or otherwise, are scheduled - they are all done in real time. So the meme's, the random thoughts, funny pics - they're all personally from me. This is important to me because I'm not a robot and I wouldn't want anyone to question whether or not I was really 'there'. Just because I'm at work, doesn't mean I don't respond to tweets, comments etc but I can't sit and promote my latest blog post while I'm working so scheduling is a good way round this. I'm always there though - and whether or not you are too - scheduling means your blog is still getting exposure, even when you can't do it personally right that minute.

Hashtags
Big, BIG in social media. Underline that in red pen! All social media now incorporates hashtags - so use them. You can link in to any (and as many) topic(s) that's relevant - how amazing is that? You know your post title? Well what words are key there? What words could be linked to the content of your post? Think about it and use those hashtags. If you're writing about a day out in London - use the obvious ones: #London #Dayout etc. But why not use things like #daytrip #adventure #tourist #visit...there's loads of key words you can pull from your post. These will all help to show your post to a larger audience, which is ultimately what you want.

Tags
Likewise with tags - if you're talking about, or even if you just mention another person, brand or place then make sure you tag them on social media and let them know. In fact, I recommend that you specifically tweet/tag each person/brand you mention to let them know. Every tweet or  Facebook post promotes your blog post anyway, and you may even get a RT or comment back from a big brand - everything helps increase the audience reach of your post.
Visual
Visual social media is the biggest trend in social media overall right now and it has been for years. People now want content delivered visually as much as possible - hence the rise of Instagram and Snapchat etc. Make sure you are using visual content as much as possible on your social media. Here's a specific tip - when you're promoting a blog post, make sure your post has a headline image. Pretty images are great, but when you're Tweeting about it or Instagramming about it - assume this: (because it's a fact) people will look at your image before the text. This means you need to grab their attention in that image otherwise they might not even get as far as reading the text before they move on. So to capitalise on this make sure your headline has a graphic and the title on it. Not separate to it. You'll notice that mine very rarely stray from this (unless there's a genuine reason why). You can get loads of free apps to help add text to images, so you don't need to be a design pro for this. You'll be surprised how much more attention it brings when your promoting your posts.

So there are my top tips for making social media work better for you and for your blog. I hope they help!
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