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G.A.’s Quick and Dirty Social Media Tips

10 Oct

Everyone thought social media was just a sexy trend that would soon pass, but it’s looking like its here to stay for a while. I’ve had conversations with several people over the last few weeks about developing and implementing social media strategies for a variety of end goals. For the past year, I’ve been working as a freelance social media coordinator and have come up with some quick and dirty tips for your venture— whether it’s for your ice cream delivery service (someone please do this near me) or just to try to get all of your friends to like your witty commentary on your raucous neighbors.

The first thing I must do is make a disclaimer: Social Media is NOT advertising.

Repeat after me: Social Media is NOT advertising.

Think about it—people get on social media to “hang out.” They get on there to see their friends new haircut, share jealousy-inducing pictures of their fabulous vacations, Instacreep on their ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, etc. People don’t want hard sells on social media. They don’t want you to be saying “Buy this, buy this, buy this.” Don’t people DVR television shows these days just so they can fast forward through the commercials?

What people do want on social media is to feel connected. To feel special. To feel part of something. To feel like they know you, know your product, know your brand. They want to hang out with you—laugh at your jokes, hear your interesting stories, learn something or be inspired. So cater to them.

My four W’s: Who are you talking to, Where can you find these people, Why do you want to engage with them, and What are you saying?

Who:

If you don’t know your audience, you need to take a few steps backward and identify it. Be specific. I’m not going to go into outlining your ideal client/target audience, but what I will say is BE AS SPECIFIC AND DETAILED AS POSSIBLE. You really can’t move forward until you have an idea of who makes up your audience.

Where:

Once you know who you’re talking to, you’re going to know where to find them. Don’t waste your time trying to get on every social platform out there. Be smart. If you’re a retirement home, do you really think your ideal clients will be on Instagram and Snapchat? And if you’re a teen boutique, do you think they’ll be concerned with your Linked In profile? It’s more valuable to have consistent, tailored, knockout content on two or three platforms than one post every four months on a half dozen networks. Figure out with platform or two your audience is already hanging out on, and go put yourself in front of them!

Why:

What are you trying to accomplish with your social media presence? Providing customer service in real time? Letting your audience get to know the person behind your business? Positioning yourself as an expert in your field? I cannot say this enough: Be useful, be inspiring, or at least be entertaining.

What:

Like I said earlier, do NOT make your page all about yourself. Make your page a resource for your audience. If you’re a kitchen store, then post recipes, local foodie events, articles about area chefs, funny cartoons about cooking… be creative and have fun. If you aren’t interested in your content, chances are, nobody else will be either. I tend toward the 80/20 rule in social media: 80 % of your content is about your audience and 20 % is about you. Using the kitchen store example, only post store events, sales, and new products 20 % of the time. Otherwise, your audience will be bored and disinterested.

Be personable and engaging—ask questions, encourage response, and PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING RESPOND TO YOUR AUDIENCE. If you get a direct message, respond to it within a day or two. Comment back, favorite a retweet, tag other people or businesses…this is social media. Not “I’m a recluse sending things into Cyberspace on my iPhone” media.

 

This is not rocket science. It doesn’t require hours of work every single day. If you’re consistent and dedicated, you can spend 15 minutes a day on your social media strategy. But it’s like a sourdough starter—you must feed it regularly or it will not yield anything.

This is a basic overview…if you have questions or comments, post them here!

On Blogging

2 Sep

I had a great conversation today with one of my best friends who asked me for some tips on starting her own blog. She said she wanted to write to keep her skills sharp and to have some clips to show to potential editors or employers and wanted some input on content creation.

Git up, git out, and git something

The first thing I told her was to just do it. Outkast was playing on the radio today, imploring the world to “Git up, git out, and git something,” and I think that applies to many things, blogging included. Like I talked about in “Creativity Training,” it’s often more about consistency than about trying to strike gold every time.

Git up, git out, and git something!

Git up, git out, and git something!

But “gitting something” aside, how do you pick what to write about?

Write about something that you’re passionate about

That sounds self-evident, but I think for a personal project like a blog, you should absolutely be writing about things that you genuinely care about. Whether it’s something funny that happened while getting your tires changed, an interesting conversation about the relative merits of using Snapchat for advertisting, or a Norwegian band that you can’t get enough of, make sure it’s something that you can easily sit down and talk to somebody about with enthusiasm.

It's easy to wr

It’s easy to write when you’re somewhere cool and foreign, like on the Malecon in Cuba!

My blog is my baby. I love blogging. I started this blog as a travel blog to document my adventures in Mexico and Cuba and found it was easy to write about all of the crazy experiences that happen when you’re traveling. Since I’m not traveling as regularly or for long periods of time like I had been, I’m finding that I’m struggling to create my identity for my blog, but I’m also having a ton of fun because I choose to just write about whatever is on my mind.

Don’t be afraid to test out several identities and voices

            One of the most liberating parts of blogging is having a chance to experiment with your voice, style, and subject matter. One of my favorite posts I wrote was a spoof on “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie,” a silly look at the headache of trying to get a cell phone in Cuba. Another favorite was a much more serious homage to my grandmother that I wrote in the airport, tears streaming down my face while I typed.

I recommended that my friend pick out a tagline for her blog that is open-ended enough to allow her to cover a broad range of topics. Mine, “Working to Eliminate the Word ‘Bored’ From My Vocabulary,” gives me a wide enough umbrella that I feel comfortable writing about a variety of topics. I’m not constrained by the label of “This is a travel blog,” or “This is a food blog.”

That being said….

Determine what you really want out of your blog

            For me, blogging is a creative outlet. It’s more about the process than it is about the finished product. Blogging is a more fleshed-out journal—

I don’t edit my posts very heavily (I’m sure you can tell). It’s partially an exercise in writing quickly and partially a way to just say what’s on my mind. I admit that some of my posts (this one included) are incredibly self-indulgent… but let’s be real, isn’t that just a lot of writing in general? But deciding what you want out of your blog is an important first step— are you trying to create a huge network of loyal readers? Be a teacher? Inspire, amuse, entertain? Are you giving advice on a topic you’re in which you have expertise? Are you making your own recipes and sharing them? Are you chronicling your journey training to pogo stick up Mount Kilimanjaro?

This is pessimistic, but I think when you blog you need to have a healthy amount of realizing that if someone who's not your mom reads your blog, you're doing great!

This is pessimistic, but I think when you blog you need to have a healthy amount of realizing that if someone who’s not your mom reads your blog, you’re doing great!

But at the end of the day…

It’s your thing—do what you wanna do

            If you’re blogging for yourself, it should be fun. It should be YOUR thing and an extension of your personality. So enjoy!

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? If you have a blog, how are you using it? Why did it start?

Creativity Training

9 Aug

This morning, I was having a discussion with a friend about writing. She wrote an excellent post for Elephant Journal almost a year ago about body acceptance, and the post has received around 450,000 views. She said she wanted to write more, but that posts like the one that went viral on Elephant Journal only came about when the inspiration struck—when she found something she was particularly passionate, angry, or excited about.

I told her that, like any skill worth having, writing (or any creative endeavor) has to be developed and practiced.

Even if you aren’t necessarily an athlete or “in shape”, sometimes a burst of adrenaline or a good night’s sleep could get you through a two or three-mile jog or a fitness class. But to be ready to run a 10K, you would have to train and dedicate time weekly to be prepared for the race.

Creative pursuits are no different. Let’s take writing. I’m going to use my own experience with this blog. I started blogging during the summer of 2011 when I spent a summer studying in Merida, Mexico. I tried to write a weekly post about my experiences and funny stories that would happen. I noticed that each week, it was easier, and (at least in my opinion), the quality of the posts improved. When I studied in Cuba during the spring of 2012, I was enrolled in an independent study focused on travel writing. One of the assignments was a weekly blog. Each week, the writing got easier. It took less time, I was able to stay focused, and again, I think the quality of the posts improved.

Whether you’re exercising your body or your brain, consistency is key. In the case of a blog, some posts are going to be better than others. For creative endeavors, it’s hard to make something that is just mediocre, or that, while passable, you don’t think is necessarily your best.

But it’s far worse to just stop altogether for fear that whatever you make won’t live up to your highest standard. Inertia is powerful, but it works both ways. If you stop, you’ll stay stopped. If you go, you will keep going and build up momentum and drive that will translate into some really phenomenal creations.

My favorite ballet teacher summed up this point so succinctly during the last class that I took with her.

“With dance, you’ll never be perfect. But if you do a step and don’t do it right, you can’t just stop what you’re doing. You have to keep going and try to do it better next time.”

I think about it in terms of doing any kind of balance in a dance class. Sometimes, you can hold a balance for just a split second, long enough to suffice, but nothing special. Other days, you are holding all of your muscles just right, breathing properly, and wearing the right shoes. You hit the position and balance ephemerally, suspended in time and only coming down when you have to. But you know what? You practice your balances in class multiple times every damn day.

Whether it’s writing a blog, balancing in passé, sketching a bowl of fruit, designing a logo, or playing the piano, you have to keep at it consistently. Only then will you truly be able to have those moments of sustained inspiration—a heart wrenching story, a balance that lasts for days, a masterpiece, a symphony.

 

What do you think? Can creativity be developed? How can you foster creativity in your own life? More importantly… has my writing improved over the years, or did I peak at 19? 😀