It’s often a misconception that if you have used various social media platforms personally, you know how they work from a promotion and marketing perspective. And I promise that is not the case at all. This is the introductory post for a series of social media posts for Guide to Blogging.
What is social media?
In it’s simplest definition, social media is websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. There are constantly new social media platforms being started, but only a few are standing the test of time it seems. Some of the most popular social media platforms are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Reddit, and YouTube. Let’s break these platforms down a bit.
Facebook is one of the most widely used social media platform. YouTube is the only other platform that comes close to this giant. It is closely equal between male and female users, with no one gender being significantly dominant users on the platform. The age of most frequent users is said to be between 25-34 years old, however, the age range among frequent users is fairly close. Facebook is also the platform that users take a break from, probably due to all of the controversies it has faced in the last few years.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is also a very popular platform. It is especially popular for women between the ages of 18 and 30. It has seen a decent increase in use recently as well.
Twitter trails behind both Instagram and Facebook in popularity, but still a largely used platform. Twitter’s most frequent users are between the ages of 18-29 and gender is fairly even.
Pinterest is a very popular platform among women, with women having triple the number of users on it than there are male users. It’s especially popular for women between the ages of 30 and 49.
These four platforms will be the ones I am covering in this series for social media. But you can learn more about all of the other platforms with this research from PEW Research Center, which is where I got the stats above as well.
Why should you be on social media?
Simply put, you should be on social media because your audience is already there, whether you’re there or not.
In my building an audience post, I discussed ways to grow your audience and readership. And one of the significant tips was knowing who and where your audience is. Once you’ve defined your target audience, you can then figure out what social media platforms they are on. That’s where the stats above come in handy.
Being on social media also helps you with credibility. And credibility is useful for gaining more followers faster as well as opening doors for new opportunities, such as working with brands or diversifying your content.
And, in its most basic benefit, it gets your content out there and seen. With the amount of work blogging can take, you really want to have it seen. So even if it just feels like you’re shouting into the ether with your posts, that is better than doing nothing.
Since I will be covering specific platforms in more detail in future posts, I’m not going to go into in-depth detail in this post. Mainly, as you’ll learn from the future posts, each platform is very unique and works differently, thus meaning different advice for each. However, here are some basic tips to get you started on your social media journey.
- Do your research
What I mainly mean by doing your research is taking the demographics and psychographics of your target audience and connecting that info to matching social media platforms. More than likely you will find that a few platforms will work well.
Also with doing your research, learn what the platforms offer beyond how to post and the type of content. As an example, it’s common knowledge that Instagram is for posting photos and videos. That is not enough research to understand using the platform. Learn how hashtags work, learn about Instagram Stories, learn the difference between a personal and business account, and learn (as best you can) about the algorithm. This research will help you get started the best you can. And this research is useful even if you already have an Instagram.
- Only make accounts for the platforms you’ll actually use
This is not a common tip, but I stand behind the advice of only using platforms you will actually use. You’ll learn which platforms are beneficial to use based on stats and such, and that is good motivation for using those platforms. But, if you know you’re going to hate using that platform or it’s beyond your comfort level, don’t use it. It’s easy to stretch yourself thin when using social media as a creator, so keep that in mind. Once you spread yourself too thin, you start to neglect platforms and it’s both a waste and not a good look.
A good personal example for me is I will never use Reddit for blogging purposes. While it has some potential to get your content in front of a lot of eyes, it is also hugely frowned upon to use the platform for promotional purposes. You often can’t link to your post without sharing the majority of it in a Reddit posting. Rules of subreddits can be very restrictive. And I personally do not enjoy using Reddit as a personal user, let alone as the blog.
Based on the example above, you can see it is important to do your research about the platform and compare that information with your goals and preferences. If they don’t line up, do not use those platforms.
- Use the platforms appropriately
I mentioned this briefly at the start of the section. Every platform is unique and needs to be treated as such. Whether it’s the fact you must post a photo/video on Instagram or the character count on Twitter, there are factors that mean you need to use these platforms for their strengths and take advantage of their strengths.
My biggest thing with this is: do not cross-post. Ever. Crossposting is where you publish the exact same post across all platforms. This never works well for multiple reasons.
- It looks lazy. Everyone can tell that you are not putting attention to the post individually.
- Content won’t cross-platform correctly. Sharing a post from Instagram to Twitter won’t post the photo there.
- It is impossible to create a post that is optimized for every platform in a single iteration.
I honestly could keep going, because I really dislike cross-posting. I am guilty of cross-posting because it can seem efficient. But it can also do a disservice to you as well. Now, writing similar messages for different platforms is totally fine. I often write one message and then edit it appropriately for different platforms. This can include shortening for character counts and adding hashtags on appropriate channels. And for things like this, this is where social media schedulers come in handy. Speaking of schedulers…
- Use a scheduler
If you want to save time and energy, schedulers are the best. I use a variety of schedulers to get my content out on various platforms. Common schedulers are HootSuite, Later, IFTTT, TweetDeck, Tailwind, and Buffer. There are many more that do many different things, like MailChimp for newsletters. You can access some of these for free which is great for getting started. And if you get to a point where you need more features and control, they offer paid plans.
I personally use Later with a paid plan to schedule Instagram posts and Pinterest pins. The paid plan lets me schedule on multiple Instagrams and such, which is super helpful for scheduling the social posts for Geek Blogs Unite. It also gives me a linktree, which is an often debated feature mostly because you could make your own linktree for free on your site. I enjoy the convenience of using Later’s since a schedule everything pretty far in advance.
I also use TweetDeck and Facebook Page’s scheduler for my From the Archive posts and other smaller posts that don’t require an image. Those are both entirely free, but they only schedule to Twitter and Facebook respectively.
Last I use IFTTT to have things that need repetitive sharing to get posted automatically. An example of this is every month on the 16th it will share on Twitter and Facebook a post about my Steam Curator page. You can set up a ton of conditions to run things, like tweeting when you have a new YouTube video, posting on Facebook when you go live on Twitch, and many more.
*A note on schedulers for Instagram. Unless they have explicit permission from Instagram to access the API, what you schedule will not automatically post. This means you will get a notification at the time you scheduled it so you will be reminded to manually post to Instagram. You’ll still get to prep your caption and hashtags, but you manually handle publishing the post. Later and HootSuite both have access to the API and will schedule posts to go up automatically without your involvement.
- Do an audit
An audit is essentially a review of your social media and seeing what is working and what can be improved. It’s good to do audits semi-frequently, especially after you make a change to your strategy. If you’re reading this post and you’re already on social media for your blog, it’s a good time to do an audit and see what you can improve and what is working. Audits are usually the first step in creating a social media strategy, so it is a good place to start.
And this is just the beginning of social media! I’ll be covering the specifics of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter in future posts so keep an eye out for those.
Alright, here is a mini plea from me, but mostly for you all. If you’re a wordpress.com user, you may have noticed that Guide to Blogging does not show up in the reader at all. This is because it’s placed in a portfolio instead of my normal blog post stream. So if you want to make sure you don’t miss any GtB posts, please either follow me on social media (ha convenient for this post) or sign up for the Guide to Blogging newsletter. Or you can become a patron on my Patreon and get notified and access to new GtB posts a day early. The choice is yours.
I’ve seen people using scheduled posts to promote their content on Twitter but honestly I had no idea that service was free – I thought they were paying for a business account or whatever. This is interesting stuff and I look forward to seeing more detailed analyses of the websites I use most!
This is really helpful advice, especially about cross-posting. I’m guilty of using the WordPress feature that shares each of my posts across Twitter and Tumblr but now I can see how that appears lazy and not as engaging. Great tips!