Humility, gentleness, and helpfulness go so much further and open doors you cannot imagine. Think from a higher level and try to see beyond today. Some hard work and insight will bring you to paths that will reward you so highly, it’ll make the little inconvenience you incurred so worth it. — Ann Tran @anntran_
Ann Tran, a social media expert worth listening to, has a mantra that I have stuck with since starting in social media so many years ago. The wide world of blogging and sharing online is so incredibly vast in 2015, it can be overwhelming even to a so-called ‘expert’. In fact, I hesitate to even say expert because this kind of of requites you to be a constant learner and early-adopter. To give a little perspective, when I started to regularly blog in 2012, it felt like if you had a facebook page — than you were already ahead of the curve.
And for a little honesty hour, all of this self-promotion and sharing can annoying at times. I totally I get it, I annoy myself regularly. When you work as a freelancer, the only person who is responsible for yourself, is yourself. Just to give you a bit of a background — I started working in social media management about 4+ years ago but was always intrigued by connecting with my audience in a more fun, casual manner.
Besides the fact that this was the time when connecting with the wider world was just easier, as a a foreigner living abroad, I was already using tools like facebook, twitter and skype to keep in touch with friends and family. As a blogger, I wanted people to feel comfortable emailing, tweeting me and sending messages — social media was a way to bridge that gap between, mystical figure online and real person, making spelling errors on tweets occasionally. It happens.
Now my main job(s) are social media consulting & management, writing blogs for other companies/people and editorial content — mainly for ITALY Magazine. I love what I do, I live what I do. It is more of a lifestyle than a job, one that I willingly chose because I was doing it anyway. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, now having looked back. Cringing at my sloppy former articles or my initial use of instagram, filtering everything so that you could almost see every individual grainy pixel. It wasn’t pretty.
Now it feels like if you aren’t invested in social media, combined with paid campaigns, adwords or e-books, you are lagging sadly behind. Now I may not be an Ann Tran or Jay Baer, but I can offer a few social media tips for fellow bloggers who are struggling with how to manage it all and just need a pep talk.
My first word of advice, and probably the most important, is that you don’t want to base your content around cash. It needs to be your vision and your experiences that craft how you speak to your audience and that should always be remembered.
I just read this morning in CNN “According to the latest Travel Trends Report released at ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism convention, 92% of social media users are influenced by travel blogs, with up to 72% willing to change their destination based on the opinion of friends and networks on social media. That is why so many bloggers get emails from PR agencies or businesses looking to market their product(s).
Don’t Get Overwhelmed, But Really
I think the biggest thing I hear from clients and fellow bloggers is how overwhelmed they are with social media. They see it all around, they see that it can bring them business or attract users to their blogs, but they don’t really know how to manage their time. What typically happens is they stop before they even start. The thing is, practice makes perfect, just stick with it — use common sense with posting, and you will eventually see the fruits of your labor. Writing a blog should be like answering a problem, people are coming to you for expertise in all sorts of topics, just keep that in mind when shaping your articles, and how you use social media.
My first advice is just to focus on three social networks you think you can do well. Doesn’t really matter, whether it is facebook. pinterest or instagram. Twitter, periscope and facebook. The key is consistency, no one wants to follow someone who was really excited on the onset, and then drops off the face of the planet two weeks later. I always say, there is no better time than now, no better day than today, don’t put something off because it doesn’t seem feasible.
Still feeling scared? Than I highly recommend paying someone to help you create a strategy. Someone who can sit down with you, see what it is you are trying to do and help map out a social media marketing plan that will best fit your blog/brand. Having a schedule M-F is a good idea, and helps to keep you focused. Also I highly recommend registered milestones and celebrating them, humans need goals and we thrive off the challenge.
Before I talk more about social media, I will say don’t be scared to live in the moment, no one should be online 24/7. You can use tools like hootsuite or bufferapp to program tweets, facebook, google plus so you know you have articles shared at certain times without having to be ‘on’ all day long. This means you can put down that damn phone when you are having dinner with someone.
Make Your Blog Social Media Friendly
There are some small things that can make a big difference in your blog. For example, make your social networks visible and easy to share, as simple as adding a sharing bar on the top left of your screen, or at the beginning and end of each post. I’d also add them in the home footer. Make sure your twitter handle is included in the ‘tweet’ button, so that you will get a notification every time someone tweets your post. Additionally, there is also a fun ‘click to tweet’ plugin that allows people to tweet and quote some of your text, which is great!
When it comes to Pinterest, make sure all of your images have a ‘pin it’ button (this is also a bit of code or plugin). Make sure to add alt text in those image descriptions that mention your blog or the post itself. People tend to not like to have to write descriptions for other’s content, I wouldn’t either. Make it dead easy for them.
Do not downplay email subscriptions, they should be on the bottom of every blogpost and you should make it as simple as possible for people to share, sign up and leave a comment. Encourage comments and add a ‘call to action’ (like ‘what do you think’) at the bottom of a post, and respond to each and every single one, seriously!
On a personal note, I don’t advocate a facebook ‘like ‘ pop-up as soon as people visit your site, I find that I can include the ‘like my page’ option in the sidebar and it is just fine. I find pop-ups annoying and I have a feeling that plenty of people do too. I get that it means I have less signups but I can’t do that to you guys and won’t do that.
Lastly, make sure that your blog/website is mobile friendly and make sure that your share buttons and email subscription are visible there too. I recommend using the same handle on all social networks, something easy for people to remember and share, and keeps to a consistent voice.
Not anything truly revolutionary but these simple things will go a long way in making you easier to reach (if that’s what you want).
Treat Social Media Like A Conversation With Your Wittiest Friend
I know this sounds a little lame, but I’m not sure how else to put it. Plus my two cups of coffee this morning didn’t really help. The thing about how you present yourself online is that your voice should not be taken for granted. I am not for ‘I don’t feel good today’ updates on facebook or twitter, but rather more interesting conversations, but that is just me. Your voice should be approachable, casual and friendly but professional too.
I think while nothing should be taken too seriously, the idea of who you are talking too should be ‘my fun witty friend’, albeit a curious one. Which could help you form your posts in a nice, informative but witty way. If you are bored by what you are writing/posting — chances are, your audience will too. Keep it fresh, fun and please try not to sound like a marketing robot. Writing full sentences and paying attention to both grammar and spelling goes a long way as well, don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
It’s Not All About You
One of the biggest mistakes a blogger or company can make, is to talk strictly about themselves. I’ve had clients tell me point-blank that they only want to share things from their own blogs or social media and that’s that. Typically I don’t work with those type of people much longer, I hate that mentality. In my opinion, that’s not how this works.
I believe someone who is seriously about being an expert in any field, whether it be life in Florence, running a B&B, promoting a skin care brand, it’s about curating content and most of all, remaining humble. Your followers want to see you, hear about you, but becoming an expert is also acknowledging all of the other awesome people doing it too.
By being selfish online, it shows that you are only out for number 1. And to me, it shows you are a novice. I believe very strongly about promoting other people, letting them shine. Take the time to read other people’s blogs, sharing their ideas, making comments which in turn will help with coming together to make something happen. The most flattering thing that can happen for any blogger is having someone else tell your story :).
Social media after all is the modern day version of word-of-mouth. If other people blog or instagram about Florence, the same places that I do, or touch on the same spots where I went to in Istanbul, great! It shows that I’m not the only one who thinks that spot is cool and I happily share their content. I don’t give a damn about being the ‘first one’ to spot a new place in Florence or showcase a store, this isn’t a race, it’s just a bunch of people doing cool things online. If someone else feels salty about that, then it is their problem, not mine. We all have different followers, and our (hopefully) own voices.
Listen To Podcasts, Any If You Are Feeling Frisky, Make One
One of the best inventions in life is the podcast. I first discovered them in Los Angeles, on my way to and from work, stuck in horrendous traffic. You can download these cool audible broadcasts to your phone and listen while commuting or at the gym. I love that I can multitask, unlike a video that requites you to stop and watch. Sometimes I take a long walk to various areas of Florence and get my fill on BBC documentaries, This American Life or Social Media Pros, it’s a great way to feel connected with what is going on in the rest of the world, from my little bubble in Florence.
Also I have had friends who have started podcasts, a wonderful way to market not only your own blog, but other people as well. My friend Rick Zullo, is a perfect example of this. He is part of our Italy-blogger round-table group and started his own podcast, interviewing people in Italy about a variety of subjects. He is funny, nice and offers a lot of value to his listeners by asking poignant questions. What makes this platform great is that you can listen to real, live voices. Not just typography, not just pictures, but a human’s voice — which has a humongous power of connection.
Get On Instagram, But Please Dear God. Just, Stay, Normal
I have a confession to make, I have a sort of love and hate relationship with instagram. Obviously I adore the platform, the connections, the photo scrapbook approach. But I often get really bored looking at some of the most popular ‘grammers’. There are only so many ‘near and far’, symmetry, hands in the middle of the shot that a girl can take. I will take a page from a recent interview in The Atlantic with the creator of Socialiy Barbie, an account that makes fun of #liveauthentic hashtags and the like. She says “I created the account to make fun of the people who were using the ‘liveauthentic’ hashtag on Instagram.
All their pictures looked alike to me and I couldn’t tell them apart anymore so it just didn’t seem all that authentic, the Instagram account’s creator, a Portland-based wedding photographer in her mid-20s who didn’t disclose her identity, told Koin 6 news. We all love our photos of sunsets, brunch tables and in my case, my dog — but I also think that we just have to stay calm, and not be obsessed with followers, or instagram tricks.
I once met a girl who told me that an instagrammer said she couldn’t follow her because she already reached her imaginary limit of 200 (she had 40k+ in return), because, you know there are unwritten rules for the top of the top that regulars on the most popular social network don’t understand. Say what sweetheart? I probably post too much, aka more than once a day, and don’t adhere to iconosquare’s ‘when to post’ statistics but that’s because I feel like it.
I can see why people care, after all those with 500K can basically live off their #instafame, traveling the world and posting pictures. Becoming stars in their own right, with requests from major fashion brands or companies to slyly get inserted in a post or three. This is big bucks yall. After all, they just reached 400 million followers, 75% of which are outside of the USA. That is a pretty crazy number.
In defense of instagram, it is a highly useful network that is also a lot of fun. And easy. Unlike twitter, which has a pretty big learning curve. You can essentially be a microblogger without actually having to write long posts. I have personally met some incredible people on the network and probably will do so more in the future. In fact, a friend of mine and I hosted a photowalk in Florence recently just to connect more personally with the local community. In my opinion, it is all how you use it or abuse it. My best go-to tips include
- Use hashtags wisely. No wants to see post with text like “I visited #hamburg and #loved my #experience, it was #amazing. #followforfollow. It’s hard to follow, annoying and not necessary. Instead dig a little deeper if you want to grow your audience, don’t automatically go for the hashtags where 2,000,000 other people have posted too, or risk getting buried. Try and find the ones that consistent grammars use well, the ones that perhaps only 2,000 have used. And stick to a theme, #mapyourmondays or #deathbeforedecaf, half the fun is discovering cool tags. My friend Annie, an ‘instaexpert’ introduced me to #gostandthere, something we tell people to do all of the time to capture that ‘au natural’ shot ;-). Also you can bury other hashtags in a comment on your post which is way better than putting it all in your initial post. Less is more on the hashtag front.
- Your hashtag must be relative to the said picture, aka not #winewednesday on a Thursday. Sounds obvious, but well, it isn’t to some.
- Have fun with it, when you start to feel that itch of taking it way too seriously, follow this sarcastic skeleton (who makes fun of things like the pumpkin spice latte overload) and socality barbie they will keep you grounded. Having a sense of humor is the most underrated quality on instagram, I far prefer a quirky sense of humor, and I think many people do too.
- Pay attention to what is going on around you. If you want to get featured, depending on the theme (mine focuses mostly on travel, food, life in Italy), I generally try to see if some brands I follow, like ‘Food and Wine’ are utilizing a certain hashtag, like this summer’s #howIsummer. When I have a shot I think fits the bill, I make sure and use it, and I have been featured a few times on Condenast, Food & Wine (put a beagle on a vespa and everyone is happy), its fun and it increases visibility.
- Sharing is caring. By default, you should always be transparent and credit those who gave you a tip etc. If a friend showed me a new bar, I always make sure to mention them in the main comment, because it’s the right thing to do. Plus they typically comment and appreciate the effort. Basically everyone wins.
- Try videos! One thing I need to get better at for the blog is making videos. I am trying it out on instagram with help of their hyperlapse app and some options I already have on my iPhone, but I notice that it still hasn’t gained that much ground. I think it is because people tend to ‘like’ videos less, but who cares? Once again this is supposed to be fun and there are so many creative ways to see a place through video :).
Example of someone kicking ass at videos is @scooteromatours
Don’t Hate Twitter Because You Don’t Know How To Use It
I hear this all of the time. “I can’t get into twitter, it’s boring” but that basically translates to me as “I don’t know how to use it and don’t want to learn/or admit it”. The thing about twitter is, it can be a little overwhelming, you only have 140 characters to make your point, which can be tough. You have this long stream of information that won’t shut the hell up. What is a sane blogger supposed to do? Well first of all you need to figure out why you are there anyway. For me, it is a platform to share news/events/ other blog’s content and my own posts/photos. I find it extremely useful and a great way to ‘chat’ with people who don’t typically respond to emails/blog comments. Easy & quick, it remains one of my favorite social networks, also it is a wonderful news source. I found this article by the Irish Times to be really useful on twitter writing tips :).
How often to post? If you can, at least three tweets per day. Use hootsuite or bufferapp to schedule in advance.
My tips include
- Create a kick-add bio, something concise, explains what you do, is witty, current projects. This is your introduction to the twitter-verse so make it good :). this includes uploading a real photo of yourself and banner. No one wants to chat with an ‘egg head’ (default twitter photo). Something like Aaron’s (see below)
- Don’t expect to go from 10 followers to 10K overnight, it’s not going to happen unless you’re Kim Kardashian
- Make lists! I almost never look at my home stream but instead on my top lists. Creating a list is a great way to compile the tweets from people you really care to see, and keep in touch with a little more regularly. This will help organize who you are seeing much easier.
- Join a twitter chat! There are so many chats on twitter about every topic you can thing of, social media – art – travel, all you have to do is jump in and use the relevant hashtag. It’s a great way to meet/chat with influencers and share a little of your own knowledge as well. Not sure what is out there? This post lists some of my favorite travel chats & when, including tips on how it all works.
- Don’t be scared to use hashtags but just make them easy to remember and don’t overwhelm your tweet. This will not inspire anyone to share your tweet “What a #beautiful day, the #weather in #Florence is #great today” (it’s annoying too). Do a quick search before you tweet to see what people in the category you are posting are using, and just include one or two. Contrary to telling anyone NOT to include them, you should because it means your reach is that much higher, just have a little common sense about it. Many events use a specific hashtag to compile everything in one place, which I would search via their website or the event twitter account, which should include any hashtags they use in the bio/info.
- Show your personality. This is so important, share your projects, quote other’s tweets but avoid sounding like a robot. Add a little spice, don’t be scared to show your true self. Preferably one that isn’t touting a #followmeback sort of routine.
- Tag people, but keep it to a minimum. One feature that is recent on twitter is the ‘tagging’ option for when you upload a photo. Like instagram, the person tagged will get a notification and that increases your tweets getting shared. I only do this when it is directly relevant to the parties involved and I don’t like it when people tag me in every single photo/tweet they can think of, use a little common sense.
- Reply to people using @, but put a period first. One common mistake I see is people tweeting @girlinflorence I haveklklk…. without adding an ” .@girlinflorence” which means that the tweets will be public and not just to me personally. Example below.
- Pin your most important tweets to the top of your profile. Also a newish twitter feature. You can ‘pin’ (like on facebook) a specific tweet that you would like people to see more. I typically do this when I post something new on the blog. You can do so by clicking on the three small dots under your chosen tweet ‘more’ and then pin/unpin from there.
- Create twitter-friendly graphics using tools like Canva (which I also mention below) that already have formats adhering to most social networks. This way you can include text that you want to be seen on photos in your twitter stream.
- Analytics matter: Twitter offers their users a chance to see which tweets get the most shares/traffic, just click on your profile and you should see the analytics option which is helpful to see what is the most successful. Apparently this August I tweeted more than 1,000 times and got over 500, 000 impressions which is absolutely insane! Or it just means I talk to much.
Pinterest Is Worth It, Trust Me
One surprising thing to me is how many people don’t believe in the power of Pinterest. I’ve read articles online on ‘is it dead’ and people lamenting on not wanting to use yet another social network. The thing about it is, I tend to get a lot of hits on the blog from pinterest, and I think part of it is because so many people share but not upload content on this network, which means as a creator — you have a huge advantage. To keep from overwhelming yourself, just dedicate a bit of time in the beginning of each week to get acquainted and build up your account, even 30 minutes will make a big difference. Which means just using it regularly and making your boards a fun place to be, actually pays off. Don’t forget to promote your pinterest account on your other social media networks and add the ‘app’ to your facebook page.
How often? Ideal is around 5 pins per day. (really easy, probably takes around 10 minutes, if that).
Additional Pinterest tips
- Create interesting boards. The most obvious point leads back to the birth of pinterest itself. Whether it is traveling, food, photography — this is the spot for image-minded people and it serves as a visual pinboard for us to compile our favorite articles/ideas. Actually take the time to save at least 10-20 pins per board and think quality over quantity, use more than one Pinterest board, and make sure that each board tells the story of one aspect of your blog/brand. Before I travel to a city, I create a board for that destination and save/share pins for ideas while there, I also tag the pinner when I can so that can see that I shared their content.
- Join shared boards, and ask people to join yours. One successful trick for pinterest is creating a mini-community. For example, as I plan our wedding this November, I invited not only like-minded friends to pin on the #MyTuscanWedding board I created, but also influential wedding bloggers as well. Some accepted, some didn’t. But it did mean that more people were sharing from this board, I also have private boards for personal things that are not relevant to my audience but are to me. For a list of popular group boards that you might want to join, browse these.
- Add pins to your newsletter. One fun thing to increase awareness to your pinterest account is to include a few images from your pins on your latest newsletter/email that when clicked lead to your pinterest profile/pin. Easy and useful!
- Make sure that the images you have on your blog are ‘pinterest friendly’ (at least one per post) and that they have an image description that pulls directly from your site when pinned, this is important since most people don’t want to create a description on your behalf.
- Be clever about when you pin. Apparently someone has done the stats and calculated what people pin and which days of the week. Get the inside scoop on so you know when and how to focus your energy.
- Use pinterest-friendly graphics. Typically long and horizontal images have the most success on pinterest, especially for visually-minded brands or bloggers. I sound like a broken record but use Canva, which has a pinterest-graphic that you can personalize. Every single post that I publish (well most of the time), I try to make a specific ‘pin’ just for that post (like below).
My friend Jenna from the blog This Is My Happiness wrote a fantastic and on-point post about how to be better at pinterest, a social network that I personally get a lot of visits to the blog.
The Rise Of ‘Live Stream’. Why Periscope Should Matter To You
One social network that I honestly still consider myself to be quite the novice is Periscope app, a live-streaming app that appeared in March 2015 and was immediately purchased by Twitter for $100 million. Right now, there are over 15 million users right now on periscope, which is pretty crazy. It is easy to use, you just download the app and start your live stream which will connect to your twitter profile and send out a link for people to watch. I really like doing various walks in Florence (find me by searching: @girlinflorence or Georgette Jupe, and just making a general fool of myself, its a great tool to have a more personal connection with your audience. I see huge companies like buzzfeed or BBC using it regularly, which means it ain’t just another ‘fad.’
A few tips on how this works
- Share the love! Periscope hearts are similar to “likes” in Facebook or the “love” button in Instagram. By touching the screen you give broadcasters ‘hearts’ which they see on the live stream.
- Comment, what makes periscope really cool, is that you can actually comment while the ‘scope’ is being broadcast. This means you can ask questions, interact directly with your audience.
- While you can always see your recorded broadcasts, those watching will only be able to see the ones (alla snapchat) filmed in the last 24 hours.
- Watch and Learn. Before filming anything myself, I followed and watched plenty of different ‘scopers’ and see how they used the network. I commented, sent my hearts which helped to create a connection with those using it better than I. Honestly I am still new to this but like every social network, it takes time.
A Few Quickies (Mind The Pun)
I obviously didn’t cover all topics, you may have noticed I said nothing about snapchat, google plus or facebook. Snapchat is something that I am still learning how to use (look for ggnitaly84 if you want to see my sad attempts) but as I mentioned before, it is hard to be ‘good’ at everything so I am allowing for a learning curve on this one. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter, obviously 100 million users means that I am behind on this one (woops!). But that’s ok too.
I use google plus, and like it, but it (still) feels a bit like a ghost town for anyone not in the ‘know.’ To get the most engagement, you need to create and be active in communities. They just rolled out a new feature called Google Plus Collections, it is a new way to group your posts on topics. But yet, its a bit bizarre to me that they are rolling out new features when it seems like failed social network.
Facebook on the other-hand is a little more obvious, since we all use it much more frequently and it is become very much more ‘pay to play’. I will give a few tips that I’ve learned:
- don’t neglect your personal profile, unless you have a huge blog following, likely your friends and family would like to read your posts.
- Join groups in your niche.You can do a quick search for topics that are interesting and relevant to you, and this would be a great place to get yourself out there and meet like-minded people, and share your posts but don’t be spammy. Ps. same goes for LinkedIn!
- add your other social media apps to your facebook page: twitter/instagram/pinterest
Have More Questions About Social Media?
There is so much to say on the above topics and perhaps I should start a series about social media in the now, but these are just a few tips to help both beginners and those already active online. You are more than welcome to ask any questions by commenting here on the post, I will answer :). You can also check out my professional website and email me for a professional consultation.
How To Deal With Negative Feedback?
This comes with being online, the dark side of social media and blogging. It happens to us all. Just yesterday, I posted on my blog’s facebook page an article about visiting Paris and someone decided to write that I should go live in France because I will never be Italian. Um ok.. I didn’t even blink twice, I deleted the asshole’s comment and went on with cleaning my dog’s ears. I even based an entire blog post about a comment I got once. You have to develop a thick skin, ‘kill em’ with kindness or get even ;-).