This is the thirteenth part in my Start a Blog series about blogging. This post is relevant whether you’ve started your blog or not, but you might want to check out my other posts if you haven’t seen them since they lay the groundwork for starting your money-making blog journey. Also, keep in mind that some brands won’t work with you unless you have a dot com and you’re self-hosting (both easy things to do!!) so check out my post about setting up a hosted blog if you aren’t there yet. This post contains affiliate links.
I’m talking social media today because (1) it’s really hard to have a profitable blog without utilizing social media, (2) social media can be really overwhelming when you’re trying to tackle it all at once, and (3) I would argue that (as a blogger) you’ll spend just as much (if not more) time on social media than you will actually doing the blogging. It’s a joy and a necessary evil and after years of research I’ve broken it down into bite-sized morsels for you.
I’m going to give you this information divided up by social media platform, but don’t feel like you have to only pick one or two to concentrate on. You can cultivate an active presence across many platforms without devoting your life to the Internet as long as you aren’t scrambling around in the muck every time. I do have to say that this is sort of a “do what I say, not what I do” situation, because I don’t always follow all of these practices and I’ve pretty much abandoned certain social media platforms altogether (*cough* Google+ *cough*) so although I understand their value I will also understand if you don’t turn around and hit all your social media channels at once.
Also, certain newer social media platforms aren’t represented here, simply because they’re either relatively untested or I just haven’t figured out best practices for them and therefore am in no position to be advising you. So this is not the end-all-be-all list of social media, but it’s a good place to start.
To start, I have to explain why you have to bother with social media at all. The thing about being a blogger is that, ultimately, you want people to read your stuff. You can say that you’re just writing for you and whoever happens to walk by is welcome to comment, but if you really don’t care if anyone sees your writing, I suggest you buy a journal and get offline. If, however, you want to make money with your blog, you need to get the word out on social media. Otherwise, you’re the person who spent a whole lot of time planning and executing an amazing party only to realize you didn’t send out any invitations. Yes, someone might walk by and invite themselves to your party, but isn’t it better to target the right guests?
And if social media = party invitations, than party = your brand. You are not only trying to drag people back to your site. You are trying to create a consistent experience that makes them want to seek you out and make you a part of their day. That means that you aren’t constantly “ME ME ME” online and you aren’t interrupting brand-related tweets with angry expletive-filled rants about the customer service at Comcast.
Because it’s your brand, you’re going to want all of your social media platforms to be similar. That means trying to get the same username (or very similar usernames) for each so people can find you. You should also use the same picture on each to make it easy for people to recognize you. A close up photo of your face is best, since logos end up being a little hard to recognize when they shrink down to avatar size and they don’t give you the warm fuzzies you want to cultivate if you’re building a community around your blog brand. I was using a fancy photo of me for a long time and then switched to a little sketch when I was doing a lot of sketching, but ultimately I decided that my everyday face fit my blog brands the best and switched to this one:
This is now my photo on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Easy to recognize, not distracting, relatively up to date, and doesn’t look like a driver’s license photo. It also uses the same filter I’ve been using for my Instagram photos so the color don’t stand out too much and the fact that it’s a casual-but-filtered photo with a bit of mom mess in the background fits in with my overall brand.
Still with me? Feeling a little overwhelmed? Let’s break it down more.
I’ve come up with a list of questions you should be asking yourself as a blogger whenever you post to different platforms. I’ll go through them all, but there’s also a printable PDF of the questions at the end of this post and I suggest that you actually print it out so you can reference it until you get used to covering all of your social media bases. Going through checklists is always a big timesaver for me and sometimes I need a little reminder to avoid an online “oops!” or two.
/// Is there any way this could get me into legal trouble or embarrass my friends/family/coworkers, etc.?
/// Would I be proud to show this to a sponsor as an example of the work I do?
Just don’t post anything online ever without asking yourself these two questions. EVER. Especially that first one. Yes, there are bloggers who make whole careers out of embarrassing people but frankly I don’t like those bloggers and I don’t want you to be one. Be nice. And as for being proud of your work, I don’t want you to get stuck in a perfection cycle where you never post anything that isn’t worthy of Martha Stewart Living but I also don’t want you to quickly post blurry images, typos, or the classic “sorry, I’d blog but I’m totally hungover right now” if you’re trying to create a blog that will make money. Be willing to stand behind whatever you’ve contributed.
/// Do I have at least 1 keyword in the title?
/// Do I have 1-2 keywords in the first two paragraphs?
/// Is my post positive and professional?
/// Does my post add value?
Some people argue that keywords matter less now because Google keeps changing the way it finds things online, but I keep keywords in mind because they tend to keep me focused and I’ve found that having keywords in the title makes skimming the archives a lot easier. As for the last two, I would argue that you really shouldn’t be sharing that post if the answer is “no”.
/// Have I already posted in the last hour?
/// Have I posted 4 helpful posts for every self-promoting post?
/// Did I include a link, allow the image to generate, and then select the best image before posting?
Posting more than once an hour happens, but it’s a little annoying and Facebook will ding you for it and not show your stuff to your followers. As for the 4 helpful posts to every self-promoting post, I wouldn’t post 4 things randomly just to hit your quota but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. I think I’m still a little too self-centered on Facebook but I’m working on it! Oh, and Facebook will share more posts if you post a link and generate an image than if you post an image and put the link in the image description. Found that out the hard way.
/// Have I used the same filters/image type I usually use to create a cohesive brand look?
/// Did I use more than two hashtags in the description?
/// Did I use more than five hashtags in the first comment?
/// Did I include appropriate usernames?
/// Is this post valuable to anyone besides me?
/// Is this post someone might want to share with a friend by tagging?
I’m all about sticking to 2-3 filters (or no filters at all) to create a consistent look. People will skim over your photos before they decide to follow you, so think of it as a “lookbook” that represents your brand and the feel of your blog. If you really want to share personal candid shots but they don’t fit with your brand, I’d set up a secondary (private?) Instagram to keep things separate.
As far as hashtags go, the process used to be that people would include 1-2 hashtags in the original post and then a few days later they would go back and leave comments loaded with hashtags to bump themselves back up to the top of people’s search results. Instagram changed the way that works, though, so if you go back and add hashtags to old images you will jump into the search results but your image will be around other images taken at the same time (not at the top of the results). The new rule is to keep hashtags as limited as possible so you don’t look spammy, which means you want to pick hashtags that will get you found BUT aren’t so popular that you’ll be buried immediately. Also, you can add a comment with more hashtags under the original description to get more people to find you, but don’t use more than five or you’ll look really desperate.
The thing about Instagram is you want to share a thought or experience with someone, so tag brands or people when it’s appropriate (i.e. when you’re promoting them somehow or you want to thank them for something) and try to share Instagram posts that other people will want to share with their friends by tagging. This is tricky for sure and I’ll still working on it (especially since I mostly ‘gram my kids) so now I try to share the mood or a photo that creates a story instead of an image only a mother would love.
/// Is this post shared publicly?
/// Did I include the blog post link and a link to pin it to Pinterest?
/// Did I include relevant hashtags?
/// Did I include an eye-catching image that is 735 pixels wide?
First off, I swear Google + is drying up and dying. So, take this advice with a grain of salt.
That being said, if you’re going to do it, do it right. Share an image that corresponds to your blog post, and use the description field to share your post title, a link to your post, a link to the pin on Pinterest for your post, a short description, and a few relevant hashtags.
/// Is this pin useful?
/// Does this pin feed the consumer dream?
/// Do my board titles match to create a cohesive brand?
/// Have I picked inviting banner images for the front of my boards?
/// Is the pin description eye catching and something a normal person would search for?
/// Is my image vertical and 736 pixels wide?
/// Is my pin easy to read at a small size?
/// Does this pin fit my brand, look, and purpose?
Pinterest is a mad beast that is a huge source of traffic for bloggers. I heart it very hard. It’s basically a visual search engine, so your pins need to be pretty, useful, and easy to find. Also, you should be pinning and repinning images that fit your brand and adding them to a cohesive set of boards that makes sense for your brand. So, if you want to save all of your so-useful-but-so-ugly pins, I would create a few secret boards. Same goes for the Justin Bieber memes you save because you just can’t get enough. The world doesn’t need to know…
/// Is my tweet accompanied by a photo (512 pixels wide) or video?
/// Do I have more than two hashtags?
/// Did I include a call to action?
/// Did I avoid slang and abbreviations?
/// Did I use bit.ly to create links?
/// Did I leave space for RT?
/// Does this tweet fit my brand’s voice?
Twitter is rough, but (affiliate link coming up –>) I got an e-book at the end of June that has more than doubled my Twitter followers so now I’m getting really into Twitter. It turns out that it’s a pretty solid traffic source and a good way to find people who didn’t know they wanted to be part of your community. Just keep the questions above in mind to keep things running smoothly and avoid looking like a thirteen-year-old who snuck their phone into study hall.
/// Did I include a custom intro/exit clip to brand my video?
/// Is my video 3-5 minutes long?
/// Did I disclose any sponsorship in the video AND in the video description?
/// Did I use music that doesn’t violate copyright?
Video is so the thing and it’s quickly becoming a fact that you have to include video occasionally if you want to get work doing sponsored blog posts! Luckily, smart phones and GoPros have made it a lot easier and as long as your videos are short, branded to your blog, and don’t violate any laws you’re still going to be ahead of the curve for most bloggers. Get into it now!
/// Did I ask a question to start a dialogue?
/// Did I add an original thought?
/// Did I tell which part of this post resonated with me and why?
/// Did I leave a non-intrusive way for people to find me?
This last bit isn’t for social media, but it’s worth noting. Blog comments are as rare as gold these days (unless there’s a giveaway going on) and the good thing about that is that bloggers are likely to check you out and respond to your comment. Therefore, commenting can be a great way to connect and build your tribe. Do not, however, only comment because you want people to come back and read your stuff. Use the questions above to help you contribute to someone else’s work, be authentic, and see what happens!
As promised, here’s the whole list of Ultimate Social Media Questions for Bloggers in a free downloadable PDF format: Ultimate Social Media Question List
I hope this helped. Anyone want to chime in with tips or things they’ve learned about other social media platforms I didn’t touch on?
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