How to make branded Pinterest board covers

How to make branded Pinterest coversBy Paula Wethington @WethingtonPaula

Have you seen Pinterest accounts where each board has a themed cover image that matches the brand or account?

It’s easier to create this visual cue than one might think. If you do it, you can create a very professional appearance for your Pinterest account!

To explain, branded or themed covers is a visual design element. It is possible to do on Pinterest because you can pick one image to serve as the “cover” for each board or collection. Think of the design opportunities as you compare this to the cover images on your Facebook or Twitter accounts. The board cover is seen as a bigger image on your Pinterest page than other recent pins.

However! The vertical images that best work on Pinterest don’t always fit into the square space for covers. How can you get around that?

The answer: you can design a collection of image specifically for the covers. And because so few businesses or individuals create branded covers on Pinterest, this is very impressive when done well!

If you don’t have graphic design software or need a free option, an easy way to do this project is through a image creation service called Canva.

Since writing the original version of this post in March 2017, I have since started using another budget-friendly image creation service, Snappa, for some of my image designs.

Either service will work just fine for this project.

1. Color selections

If you have already picked a color palette as part of your logo or branding kit, those are the colors you will select from.

If not, then pick a photo or your logo as your starting point. Your social media profile image is a logical choice. Now go to the Canva Color Palette generator. Upload your image.

You’ll get something like this – a color palette that was based off a photo of me in a teal business jacket:Canva color palette generator exampleTake screenshot of the five colors with the hexcode numbers that appear beneath them. Paste that along with a copy of your logo into a word document. Now you have the color choices as a reference point.

But as you try these out, you may decide you want other colors. I did.

That’s why I saved a whole lot of ideas on my Pinterest board about color theory. I ended up picking what I liked best from multiple palettes and came up with my new social media color scheme. The rose, gray and off black palette doesn’t exactly match the photo of me in a teal jacket. But this range of colors works much better for creating images!

Branding board Paula Wethington

2. Font selections

Now look through the Ultimate Guide for Font Pairing as found on Canva Design School’s blog. You’ll find samples of fonts that work well together and suggestions of which designs fit specific themes.

Make a note of font names that you think fit your brand, project or persona and try them out on a few samples.

I picked Lora font as my go-to font choice long before I settled on my social media branding colors!

3. Create the square template

You may find tutorials on the web referencing the former rectangle sizings for Pinterest cover images. Use the designs as inspiration, but ignore the sizing ratios.

Instead, the current sizing for that space is square. I’ve experimented with both 800 px by 800 px and 1080 px by 1080 px. Either one will work.

Pick a color from your palette to serve as a background and start making some designs. You will use the hexcode to tell Canva or Snappa what colors you want. (Canva has helpful Design School tutorials to help get you started)

4. Design a sample

If you are working in Canva and hope to keep this effort budget-friendly, I recommend you select from the free templates and icons. The reason is you’ll pay for every download on premium images and you may have quite a few samples and covers by the time this is all done.

But play around with your options.

Font and color sample from CanvaType a headline and text using the fonts you already chose.

Pick colors from your palette and change the colors of your headline and text.

Do you like what you see? If not, keep trying. This sample was made I was brainstorming my early choices.

When you end up with an arrangement you like, save and download it.

Now download and paste some sample designs into the document that has your logo, photo and hex code images. This file is now your style guide, sometimes called a branding board.

5. Make one Pinterest cover

Pinterest add buttonCreate your first Pinterest cover. Include the board name with your headline font.  Download your image.

Go to Pinterest. Tap the + sign and load it up as a image pin to the selected board. You can fill in that link box to lead to your website or even back to that Pinterest board.

After the image pin is uploaded, go to the edit feature for that board and change the cover. Since it’s your most recent pin, you’ll find it quickly.

Do you need to make the words larger? Move the logo to a slightly different spot? Do you want to change the colors?

If it just doesn’t look right, delete the pin and start over.

6. Make the rest of your covers

Pinterest board cover exampleIf you are using Canva, you can’t copy and paste work from one image into a new image. There are options for resizing images and saving brand colors in Canva for Work, but definitely not in the free usage side.

The workaround is treat your first image as a template. Create and download one. Now go back to your dashboard in Canva, change the text on the image, download that with a different file name. Repeat.

If you have a membership to Snappa, you can save and duplicate images as you make a collection.

The ones I made on the Monroe News account are from Canva; the ones currently on my account are on Snappa.

7. How many do you need?

Do you need a branded cover on every Pinterest board? My theory is no. Focus on the boards that complement each other and are the primary theme of your account.

Boards that focus on just for fun or personal interests can have slightly different covers or no covers. Remember that unrelated boards can be sorted to the bottom of your page or hidden in the secret board tab.

example of group board on PinterestGroup boards also are a complicated situation in that only the board originator can create and set a cover. If you are the leader and wish to design a cover, go ahead; otherwise, don’t worry about it. After all, group boards are their own niche purpose on Pinterest.

For example: One of my group boards is a joint board between me and the newspaper where I work. I styled the cover for the design used on the newspaper’s Pinterest account.

Want more tips?

Pinterest works very differently from other social media networks – and not just because of the demographics that skew toward females.

It’s best understood as a search engine where evergreen content can continue to pick up an audience for months (and sometimes years) as long as the image and description fit the visual searches of Pinterest . As a result, it’s a nice counterpoint to time-sensitive or viral content you may be posting on other social networks.

I have quite a bit of pins on several social media topics in my Pinterest collection. If you’re specifically looking for a discussion and examples about branded Pinterest covers, check out what Brilliant Business Moms has posted at How to Make Pinterest Board Covers in 2017 – and Why You Need Them!

This post was written March 24, 2017; and updated May 19, 2017.

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How to pick out Twitter bots from Twitter newbies

How to pick out Twitter bots from Twitter newbiesBy Paula Wethington @WethingtonPaula

If you follow back too fast on Twitter, or rely too much on automated searches when seeking out your fan base, you might very well be missing the newest and most likely fans to follow you back while following more spammers than you intended.

This is why I go through a pretty detailed process when sifting out bots from real people.

I don’t just look at the photo, the location line or the profile description. I look over the entire profile, about three to four tweets and sometimes also who they are following.

Here 10 clues that can lead you in the right direction:

  1. Does the name, profile, location, image and cover make sense as a whole package? If you have a good understanding of your target audience, you’ll know whether this adds up. I’ve seen some laughingly chaotic combinations on spambot accounts claiming to be from nearby towns.
  2. Who is this person following? If the account is following a lot of random celebrity accounts and I have no other clues that this is a real person, I pass. A real person in my target demo is probably following real people I already follow or know about.
  3. Are they posting clickbait headlines from a URL you don’t know? Yes, some legit Twitters autofeed blog content and headlines either as their sole content or to fill in the gaps throughout the day. But clickbait titles give a clue as to what you’ll find on those sites.
  4. Is the content Not Safe For Work? Block those accounts immediately; and if you are so inclined, report and then block.
  5. Does the cover art promote buying followers? Using the cover art and profile link to send people to a spammy website has been quite a popular tactic. It doesn’t matter a whole lot what content is posted; they’re trying to get you to click on the link in profile.
  6. Does the content match the hashtag they are using? It’s a popular spammer strategy to hashtag their way into an unrelated trending topic. That being said, the tactic is against the Twitter Rules.
  7. Are they following way more people than they follow back? I’m not worried about a 10 or 20 percent difference because it’s rather easy for small or growing accounts to skew off balance. I’m talking about a 50 or more percent lag in people who follow back.
  8. Are they following way fewer people than they follow back? This is the other extreme; and is sometimes a sign of a quick turnaround “follow / unfollow” strategy. There are very few accounts where I will accept a small percentage of follow backs on Twitter as a legitimate approach.
  9. Does the account profile include favorites and lists? Not everyone uses these features; and newbies or inactive people are less likely to understand them. But someone who has set up those features is more likely to be a real Twitter user than a spambot.
  10. If this is a business or organization, can you find their website independently to check the account name? Most, although not all, organizations include links to their official social media on their websites. This bit of research can help you verify the authenticity of a particular account in the absence of a verified check. And unfortunately, it’s been harder than some brand and business users would like to get that verified check.

Would you like more Twitter tips? Check out my Pinterest board on that topic!

This post was made March 18, 2017; and updated May 19, 2017.

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Checklist: How to be a Twitter rock star

By Paula Wethington / @WethingtonPaula

twitter rock starAre you ready to give up on Twitter as a communications and marketing opportunity because followers and conversations don’t seem to happen?

Don’t! It’s easier than you might think to build a sizeable and targeted audience on Twitter. After you have an established community on that network, you have a starting point to move those contacts to an email list or your other social networks.

The challenge is you can’t grow an account too fast or Twitter will take note. Twitter’s rules include this statement: “We do monitor how aggressively users follow other users.”

And yes, those policies are enforced. I remember hitting the initial follow ceiling when it was set at 2,000 (it’s now 5,000) and needing to drop who I followed in response until I was eligible for a bump. I also saw a friend’s account get a warning from Twitter one day because the bots took notice of a spurt in follows. The following activity was legit, it was just too fast for Twitter.

The point is: with a slow, steady and consistent effort to build your Twitter account, you can pick up up enough followers to send traffic to your site, run a poll, promote newsletter subscriptions, get a response to your photos, host a chat, etc.

Follow these slow but steady steps for best results:

1. Fill out your Twitter profile.

Do not follow anyone on Twitter before you have account setups done. It’s like introducing yourself at a party when you’re not dressed for the occasion.

Even spambots are programmed to appear at first glance to be a real person before they launch following sprees and spew nonsense into the stream.

You’re far more real than a spambot. Act like it.

In social media jargon, tweaking your profile setups is called “optimization” or “branding.” It means making sure that at one glance, someone can understand who you are or what you represent – and what you are most likely to post about.

Here’s what to do on Twitter:

  • Pick a user name and handle that represent you, your company or your project.
  • Fill out the profile line.
  • Add a location that makes sense to people who might find you or search for you.
  • Add a profile photo. Choose a person’s face or a business / brand logo.
  • Add a cover photo. Use this space to feature a mood, scenic or group photo; portray a campaign or project; even promote an event. Pro tip: Use the free tools in Canva to create a Twitter cover that can include text while being sized correctly.

2. Decide who you would like to follow you.

The followers you want might include friends, family members, current and potential customers, active / chatty people who are likely to retweet your content, colleagues and competitors; perhaps news media who report on your community or favorite topics.

Now that you have your profile set up, make a list of Twitter accounts you know about and go follow them. A trick for finding official accounts: go to your favorite websites to see if there are links to their social media.

Follow 10 to 50 accounts and call it a day. Continue this effort gradually during the next few days if there are more accounts you want to follow.

Remember: Twitter will not like it if you follow too many people too fast.

3. Plan what you will tweet about.

One advantage to Twitter is that promotional messages are seen by your audience in real time just as if they were other topics of the day. There is not a complicated formula skewing potential views as is done by Facebook.

But to attract followers and keep them, you must focus on high-interest content that isn’t consistently “sales” oriented. You will run into trial and error as to what conversations, trending topics, news events, retweets, links and topics get the best response.

You might also find demographics of your followers on Twitter affects the timing or content choices. That’s fine. As your account grows and there is content to review, you can study the analytics and adjust your plan.

Even when you wish to focus on a theme or concept, Twitter allows a range of creative opportunities. For example, trending topics often include puns from brands and celebrities who noticed a conversation and decided to jump in. A news outlet can run a sports fan poll in addition to the headlines of the day. “Real-time” tweeting of historical events is a tactic that National Weather Service accounts have used for special projects.

The more significant problem is posting no content at all. An account that is inactive for 30 days or more is at high risk of being unfollowed. Third-party apps can help people identify too-quiet accounts and unfollow them. This is why an inactive account eventually WILL be dropped by people who actively manage their Twitter accounts.

4. Create Twitter lists.

In my opinion, the best – and most overlooked – feature on Twitter is Twitter lists. This helps you organize accounts as you follow their conversations. Lists also provide clues to people that your account is actively managed and what topics you are interested in.

Here’s how to set the Twitter lists up.

You can designate a list as public or private. Accounts you add to a public list will be notified just as they get a notification when they are followed. You also don’t need to follow someone to add them to a list.

The advantages and applications:

  • Add an account to an appropriate Twitter list after adding them to make sure they know you noticed them.
  • Create awesome names for your Twitter lists so these notifications stand out.
  • Create a list to showcase project team members or co-workers.
  • Create a widget for your blog or website with on a Twitter list.
  • Create lists of accounts you want to watch for content ideas or retweets.
  • Monitor a competitor via private list without giving them a public follow.

5. Look up other Twitter lists.

Now that you understand how Twitter lists work, look at accounts you follow or are followed by to see what lists they created or have been placed on. See if there are accounts on those lists you also would like to follow – either for their content or in hopes of getting follow backs.

Caution! Finding a highly curated list of active accounts on a favorite topic will feel like hitting a gold mine on Twitter. You cannot follow new accounts too fast or Twitter will think you are a spambot. Pick 10 to 50 to start with, then wait another day or two before you follow more. Pro tip: “Subscribe” to a gold mine list until you have pulled the potential contacts into your public follows or created your own list.

By following these tips, you’ll pick up relevant follows and follow backs and have a Twitter fan base worth bragging about.

If you’re interested in this topic, take a look at my Twitter Tips board on Pinterest!

This post was written in February 2017 and updated May 2017.

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The one question to ask before picking a social media manager

One question to ask before you pick a social media managerBy Paula Wethington

Let’s say you are appointing or hiring someone to post content to your social media accounts.

The question you need to avoid asking is “Do you know how to use Facebook?”

This is too broad a query to result in the response you really want.

To explain: Research shows over 70 percent of American adults who use the Internet also use Facebook. But as you’ve probably noticed, not everyone has the same proficiency in understanding how the news feed works; how to use the Page functions (which differ quite a bit from Profile functions); or whether they found a reliable source or official page before hitting “share” or “check in.”

This is why scams, rumors, old content, unclaimed “community” pages and “fake news” so frequently and easily populate the network.

The one question you SHOULD ask instead starts with picking a piece of content, link or message.

Your question becomes that example and:

“What would you do with this on social media?”

A caution: Based on my conversations with freelancer and social media marketing agency owners, one of their frustrations is that contacts ask for a “conversation” or interview to get advice without hiring anyone to do the work.

You can reassure them that you are not doing that by picking a piece of content that won’t be, for whatever reason, an upcoming project for your brand or company. Instead, pick one of your competitor’s topics, or a campaign or project that has concluded.

Then listen for marketing, content writing, illustration and community response strategies relevant to that selection. These discussion points are among those that someone who has the experience and / or training to handle social media for a company or client might respond with:

  • A discussion of which target audience is potentially interested in that content.
  • What social networks this content would most likely be a good fit for.
  • Which trending or seasonal topics one could tie in this content with.
  • When is the best (or worst) time of day or week to post that content on specific networks.
  • Why a specific strategy such as hashtags, post targeting, a series of tweets, or cross-promotion could work for this example.
  • Whether it is advisable to consider promoted posts for that content.
  • How to write the tweet, title or description so that search engines or news feeds understand the content.
  • A description of a photograph or illustration that could help get that content noticed on a particular social media network.
  • How you could turn that content into an opt-in resource so to collect email addresses.
  • The reactions one can expect for that content, including follow-up questions the social media manager should be prepared to answer.

If you hear these details or other specifics beyond “I’ll post it on Facebook,” then you are talking to someone who knows more than just how to make a post on Facebook. Proceed accordingly.

If you want suggestions for candidate questions, whether in house or outsourced, here are some great posts on this topic:

If you are interested in social media and digital media, I have a huge collection of resources on my Pinterest account.

This post was written in January 2017, updated in May 2017.

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5 free resources to kickstart your social media plan

Womens Money Week blog post graphicBy Paula Wethington

One of the projects I participated in several times as a personal finance blogger was the National Women’s Money Week project.

Through that campaign, writers discuss the  money topic of the day from their perspective or expertise. The goal of the community discussions are to “help women move from financial fragility to financial resiliency.”

The Women’s Money Week 2017 project is from Jan. 1-7.

I’m no longer writing about personal finance. (Monroe on a Budget wrapped up in 2015, you can find a history of the project here). But my current favorite topic of social media is definitely applicable to the Women’s Money Week Jan. 3, 2017, theme of Entrepreneurship / Earning Your Worth / Making Money.

Social media for news reporting, special projects and personal branding is a skill I picked up on by experience and watching what worked for other people. At one point, I had Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram pages all branded to Monroe on a Budget. Facebook was a huge referral source to the site for a long time.

But my actual “day job” is newspaper reporter. Even before the personal finance blog wrapped up, I was applying what I learned to our newsroom’s social media accounts. And I was seeing good results.

I also think digital media is fun.

Following up on this experience, I looked for free and low-cost resources about social media and related topics. While you can now find master’s degree programs in digital or social media studies, that’s a bigger investment than I can make. Even the paid training I’ve taken has been carefully chosen and spread out so not to take a huge hit all at once. If you are an entrepreneur, or making a move into a new career, your goal of low budget training or subscription services certainly coincides with mine.

Therefore, this article focuses on free resources.

If you later decide to seek out paid training or hire a social media management agency to help out, now you’ll have some understanding of the topic.

1. Your public library

One of the first places I looked for information about digital and social media was my local library. About once a month, I’d find a book, or two or three, and settle in for an afternoon of studying in a cozy reading chair with a cup of mocha coffee nearby.

Yes, it is true that best practices change so fast that very specific strategies become outdated within a few months to a year. But it is also true that general topics such as copywriting, design and photography easily cross over from one genre to the next. Don’t overlook marketing and communications fundamentals. They can help you understand why certain social media tactics work – or don’t.

To explain: one of the first library books I read focused on Search Engine Optimization. That discussion explained why unsolicited pitches were arriving in my email, offering guest posts for my blog “with just a link;” or in the alternative, requesting link embeds from my posts to their sites. Something had always seemed odd to me about those emails. Now I had enough  knowledge about SEO strategy to see through the spammy, scammy, sleazy link requests.

Go find your local library and pick out a few books.

2. Hubspot Academy.

Are you interested in a course that explains digital marketing concepts as they are typically applied today? Take the Free Inbound Marketing Course offered by Hubspot Academy. You will learn how blogging, SEO and website setups such as landing pages can encourage potential customers to be interested in your products and services, and hopefully lead to sales.

The current version is a 12-class program with an exam. It took longer for me to work through the course than the hours listed, but you can stop and start as needed. I also picked up on the concepts faster when I took it the second time.

If you want to understand how and why specific content and formatting strategies get results for your business or a competitor, the Inbound course is worth your time.

3. Facebook Blueprint.

Another resource accessible from your desktop is from Facebook itself: Facebook Blueprint.

Earning a Facebook Blueprint Certification badge costs money. The annual, renewable exam and certification is meant for digital advertising professionals. But there are over 50 free webinars and modules in the resource collection for certification students — and you can access those modules for free! The topics include Audience Insights, Boost Your Posts and Direct Response Best Practices.

As explained by Facebook: “Blueprint eLearning is a series of free, self-paced online courses and learning paths teaching the best practices of Facebook marketing — perfect for small businesses, agencies, advertisers, graduates, MBA holders, or anyone wanting to market more effectively on Facebook.”

Poke around the collection and complete a tutorial or two.

4. Canva Design School.

Canva is a popular site for creating social media graphics fast and easy. It’s free if you use your own images or pick from their basic collections. The paid graphic elements are very affordable. You can create your designs via desktop or an iPad.

After you start using Canva, you’ll notice which of your favorite Facebook and Twitter pages use this tool. Some of the preset templates are quite popular!

What if you have no idea how to work in graphic design?

Canva has a collection of free tutorials in its Design School library with topics such as Building a Brand Kit, Marrying Text and Images, and Creative Color Palettes.

If you create just one image that looks good, I think you’ll be hooked.

5. Pinterest.

Did you think Pinterest’s practical usefulness was limited to cookie recipes and wedding theme ideas? Not so fast! The do-it-yourself culture on Pinterest also has extended to entrepreneurship skills and marketing concepts!

Create a board where you can collect pins on this topic – I started with Digital World, but also have some spinoff topics such as Public Relations.

After you create a board, search for keywords such as marketing, social media, or business goals. After Pinterest learns what you are looking for, it will suggest more to you via the news feed. After you pin an image from the web, you’ll see a splash page of another board that image was pinned to and perhaps you want to follow that as well.

Tip: You can create a new topic as a “secret board” while you brainstorm this and flip it to a public board later.

Bonus: Now for a little bit of money.

If you are willing to spend (some) money on a subscription or an online short course, look over the possibilities from these resources:

  • Hootsuite Academy – Hootsuite is a social media management dashboard service; and the related products include a collection of webinars. Whether you can stick with the free services or need to spend money depends on how many accounts you want to connect, the features you want and the courses you want to take.
  • Udemy – Webinars and minicourses in topics ranging from mobile phone photography to marketing fundamentals. There often are specials – sometimes as low as $10 a class. Put the webinars you want on a “wish list” and cue them up as you have the funds.
  • LinkedIn Learning – LinkedIn members who have Job Seeker, Business Plus, and Executive LinkedIn subscriptions can access a collection of webinars and short courses as part of their paid service. Pay close attention to the expiration date of your trial or membership, as you may be locked out of a course before completion.

A tip of the hat to past and present participants and the organizers of Women’s Money Week. Look for hashtag #WMWeek17 on your favorite social media networks. I’ll be tweeting my favorite links of the campaign at @WethingtonPaula

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6 steps to build your social media audience

By Paula Wethington

Six steps to build your social media audience

The first (and sometimes only) task  people think of when it comes to running social media accounts is posting content.

But that’s just one piece. The real work happens in making sure that content is seen by the people you want to reach! And for that, you need to build an audience.

The bottom line is: Social media requires a comprehensive strategy for best results.

Here are six steps I recommend for building an audience, listed in a sequence in which they will work most effectively.

And here is the discussion of those steps:

Define your audience

Who are you writing for?

In the marketing world, this question and the answer is called building a persona or avatar. You can research this in a number of ways that include collecting U.S. Census data on a particular city, hosting focus groups and pulling up audience demographics  via the Facebook ad manager dashboard.

Don’t ignore it, or you won’t have a direction to aim toward.

Here is a case study: When I was a personal finance blogger (I have a page on this site about the Monroe on a Budget project), I didn’t tackle every possible money topic.  Instead, I wrote for families who lived in southeast Michigan who were middle to low income; and as a result, living paycheck to paycheck more frequently than they would like. I thought their concerns and questions were overlooked by most national personal finance articles.

The recession hit shortly after I started that project. The demographic I had chosen as a niche audience was affected seriously. Any helpful content in an accessible format was of high interest. That specific combination of time / place / circumstances gave me plenty of angles to consider, research and discuss.

My question before writing anything for that project was always “Does this apply to my audience?”

As a result, it was a hugely successful site in terms of page views.

Create and curate content for that audience

You have messages you’d like to get out on specific dates or times. But you’ll need to find more content to choose from than just what you want to say.

Here’s a case study: One of the organizations I belong to is my high school music alumni foundation.

We host a hall of fame awards banquet on an every other year schedule. That event gives us the following discussion points: how to nominate someone, who will be honored, how to get dinner tickets, photos from the event, who made donations and where the money goes. The annual marching band alumni night that we help promote for the high school also provides these discussion points: announcing the date, photos and videos from rehearsal, photos and videos from the event.

We clearly needed something to talk about off season. We wanted our page to bubble up in the news feed from time to time, so that our school’s alumni will be more likely to see and remember announcements of our events.

The consensus was to look for content from other pages and sites to include on our Facebook page. Curation is the social media phrase that applies to this concept. To give a direction of where to look and what to post, our alumni board decided that the theme would be “music in our schools.”

An obvious choice was photos, videos and announcements about our school district’s music department. For example, a “share” that did very well was a video clip of the marching band at an away football game that a newspaper photographer posted on her journalist page. We’ve also decided to post concert announcements from nearby schools and the local college; and also share funny memes about music that we found on other Facebook fan pages.

Are our Facebook page fan counts going up? No, but the engagement and reach to actual people is noticeably higher with the use of curation. And that’s a huge boost to our visibility as compared to two years ago. It’s working.

Research the best timing for that network

I scoffed at digital content timing when I was a personal finance blogger. Reason: I didn’t want to fret about deadlines as I must do on print media assignments. Digital media to me meant 24/7, freeflow posting whenever content was ready.

But I have since learned some content CAN and should be scheduled. Facebook in particular is very sensitive to timing. I have noticed even a half an hour’s difference on timing can be noticed in the reach count on our newspaper’s account.

How do you determine the best timing when you are growing a page, or have inherited an existing page where you don’t yet have a feel for the audience? Here are some suggestions:

  • Review three or four charts that can be found via Internet search (I have some  pinned on Pinterest) that show best timing / worst timing on social networks.
  • Look over the Facebook page insights section of your pages to find the chart that shows what times your audience is online. Don’t schedule new content when you know the audience isn’t as likely to see it. It’s just not going to work.
  • Run your pages through the free Likealyzer tool to get more specific analytics on Facebook timing.

Another resource is using a social media management tool such as Hootsuite that can suggest posting times. Just be sure to review the results in case you want to override the automation – a particular topic might be seen as too late for the slot Hootsuite picked.

Now that you understand the news cycle so to speak on your social accounts, designate which time slots are your “prime time slots” for each day of the week on your active pages. Schedule content that is most likely to get likes, comments or shares for those times.

Bonus timing trick: Do you manage more than one social media account where the audience and content choices overlap? Time the posts with similar keywords fairly close together. To explain: I’ve noticed my reporter page on Facebook gets higher reach when I post a story on it about 15 minutes after that same story goes live on the newsroom’s main Facebook page.

Participate in the social community

Content curation is the perfect prelude to participating in the social community. Here’s why: it forces you to accept the fact that you are not the only voice that deserves to be heard.

The detail that makes social media unique among communication genres is that it is  a conversation (two way) rather than broadcasting (one way). Your friends, fans, competitors and yes, even trolls, will give feedback through likes, reactions, shares and comments.

How and when you reply to the community members indicates that the social media account is run by a real person or a team of real people. This interaction between the business, organization or brand and their fans is called “community engagement” or “community management.”

This does not mean every consumer or business complaint needs to be handled publicly on Facebook. Encourage people to use private channels to relay specific concerns or issues to you.

But as you watch the conversations and trends, community management can help you fine-tune the content and timing choices you made at an earlier step.

Apply free / organic growth strategies

One of the most common tactics when launching a new Facebook page is to send invites to your friends.

This is a start, but will get you only so far. I’ve seen numerous pages launched by friends, family and co-workers that have stalled out at 250 fans or less. Two pages that I can think of from that list never hit 25!

Why is that? One reason is you won’t have a large enough pool of people to work with among your friends. The Pew Research Center has reported that half of all Facebook members have less than 200 fans. Then consider the fact your Facebook friends may have very different interests. Some might live in in another state; even another country.

Twitter has a similar challenge in that the average number of followers per account, according to a blogger whose topics includes collecting Twitter statistics, is only 208.

How do you get complete strangers interested in what you have to say, enough to the point that they also will “like” or follow your social media account and push your fan counts past 200?

This is why social media strategy needs to be understood in a building block format. Go back to the first step in which you defined your audience. Provide content those people would be interested in. Post it at the times when they are most likely to see it. Let them see there’s a real person running the account.

Now we are going to grow a social media audience beyond your initial reach with the following tactics:

  • Be consistent in screen name and profile photo choices along with choosing similar cover art for each social network you participate in. This approach, which is one of the first steps in branding a social media presence, will help people recognize you across the Internet.
  • Follow new people every week on Twitter. I’ve seen recommendations of anywhere of following 10 to 50 new accounts a day. You want slow and steady progress. Don’t try to add too many all too fast, or Twitter might temporarily lock the account. And yes, I saw that happen once on a friend’s account! This was handled quickly with a password reset, but oops!
  • To find new people, look over the active accounts you are following. Which accounts are they following, or are followed by, that are active and on your topic or interests?
  • Remember that your Twitter follow is more likely to be noticed when someone has only 500 follows or less as compared to someone who has 5,000 or more follows.
  • Unfollow inactive accounts after 30 days. This makes room in your Twitter limits for new accounts. As your list evolves, you are also teaching Twitter who and what you are interested in.
  • Learn how to find an account’s “Twitter lists,” which is a substream of Twitter accounts. Some are automatically created from hashtags and therefore full of spam or inactive accounts; but others will be a gold mine as you find people you could also follow.
  • Build your own Twitter lists. People who are placed on public lists will get a notification – it’s a great way to let them know you exist. The private lists are for your viewing only – it’s a great way to keep a closer watch on the competition.
  • Have your Facebook page follow other pages that are related by niche or community. Page follows are not as valuable to some social media managers as profile follows, but there is a valid reason. Pages don’t often interact with each other. Those inactive likes might skew analytics and the community engagement rate. If you seek out pages that post content you can like, share, tag and comment on as a friendly page, that’s helping to build community in both directions. Those page owners might follow you back, and some of their fans will too.
  • Review the analytics on posts you made on Facebook. Did you notice that there are people who have liked that post but have not yet liked that page? Send them a page invite. Here’s a how-to on that very successful and FREE strategy.
  • Page invites and follows are like saying “hello” to new people at a cocktail party. So while you are doing that, consider whether there is a photo, link, post or event that you can “pin” to the top of your Facebook and Twitter profiles to provide more information about who you are or a project you are working on. That pinned content is like giving someone your business card at a cocktail party after saying hello.
  • Finding your target audience on Instagram can be a challenge with so many people setting their accounts to private. On those accounts, you can’t see who they are following or are followed by. But I’ve found an Instagram audience grows organically with a clever and liberal use of hashtags. I brainstorm or look for three to five relevant hashtags on each Instagram post; other people add twice that number to their images.

Consider paid ads on the social network

There’s nothing wrong with using sponsored posts across social media. After all, this advertising support helps create and build the networks you are relying on  for marketing strategies.

But don’t waste your money! Study up on the best practices for paid content on that particular network.

Then go back to the first step of defining your audience. Decide who you can target  among that group, and what information or offer would get their interest. And consider when THAT group of people be MOST interested in seeing THAT promotion?

Your promoted content doesn’t have to be selling a huge purchase; and that  might come across as too pushy anyway. A perfectly valid use of paid social is a free download in exchange for an email address you can send information to later. Another practical use is to promote an event you are hosting in real life.

Or consider this example that would be of interest to a news organization: You just put a lot of time and resources into a special report. On your website, you have embedded referral links to background articles, photo galleries, video clips, a call to action, etc. so that you can easily pick up maybe five or ten page views and maybe even a paid customer on a typical read.

You just need to pull in that first view.

Answer: you can push that special project to a bigger audience via paid social.

If you’d like to see other social media strategies and tips that I’ve collected, check out my Twitter feed at @WethingtonPaula and a whole bunch of topics I’ve curated on Pinterest.

This post was updated May 18, 2017

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A social media manager’s checklist

Read this post for a list of things to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis to keep social media accounts running at their best.

By Paula Wethington

Do the social media checklists you’ve found on blogs and Pinterest not fit what you really need to do to get the best results on your accounts?

Try this routine – it’s what I’ve settled into while running newsroom and personal brand accounts on various networks for several years. You’ll find a PDF version available for download and printing at the bottom of this file.

Daily

COMMUNITY

  • Look for tweets among people you follow or have listed that you could retweet.
  • Look over who recently followed you on Twitter. Block all spammers. Follow back the accounts that are your target audience, colleagues or provide useful content.
  • Check all accounts for messages / DMs/ comments you should reply to.

CONTENT

  • Write and schedule the daily content count goals that were previously agreed upon for your accounts.
  • Decide how you can get the most social media impact out of each piece of content through social media links, repeated tweets, shares, timing, reformatting, repurposing.
  • Look over the trending topic lists on Twitter, Facebook and the news headlines for topics that could be of interest to your audience for “real time” discussions and links. A fun example: snow days. Also monitor the fast-moving trending topic lists for clues of when you should pull or postpone your content schedule as your audience won’t be in the mood for it or the timing could be seen as insensitive.
  • Look over some of the pages your Facebook pages follow to see what content could be given a like or share by you.

Weekly

COMMUNITY

  • Run ManageFlitter or a similar third party tool on your Twitter accounts to find inactive accounts and unfollow them.
  • Pick an active account you are following on Twitter. Look over who they are following to find 10 to 20 people you also should be following.

CONTENT

  • Write and schedule the content that was previously agreed upon for your accounts on a weekly basis.
  • Look ahead on your editorial calendar for topics you should spend additional time working on. Perhaps an article needs a simple infographic to get attention on social media? Perhaps you need to coordinate with co-workers who will do what on a shared project?
  • Look for trending topics on Pinterest and Instagram. Even if those two are not your key networks, you can apply what you see here to your other networks.

EDUCATION

  • Read at least one article on social media and related topics.
  • Participate in the conversation of a social media managers community such as a Facebook group or LinkedIn group.
  • Use Facebook’s “pages to watch” function to look over what content has been doing well on competitor, friendly or comparable pages; and review the number of their likes and engagement rate. Is there anything you can pick up on as a case study or idea?

METRICS

  • Get the Facebook week to week page fan count numbers and put them in your spreadsheet or database. (Hootsuite and likely other social media management tools will do this for you, or you can just pick the same day a week to pull the numbers).
  • Look over the Twitter analytics on each account to see what you can learn about content choices and best timing for your audiences.

Monthly

COMMUNITY

  • Run the search tools in ManageFlitter on the Twitter accounts to search for people you didn’t know were there but should be following.
  • Look over your curated Twitter lists. Are some contacts out of date, no longer needed? Would a new list be helpful to watch the conversations on another topic? Did someone put you on a list that would be worth subscribing to?
  • Find Facebook pages to add to your news feed that might provide content you will find directly “shareable” to your pages.

CONTENT

  • Write a blog post in your area of expertise.
  • Find social media accounts to follow on Pinterest and pin links to your favorite social media content. Pinterest is a great place to find blog links and infographics on social media topics ranging from best posting times to how to design themes.

EDUCATION

  • Pick a new idea, strategy, tool or tactic you’ve learned about and give it a try. Does that content approach or timing work on your accounts? Is that subscription service worth the money?

METRICS

  • Get the month-end or month-start numbers on your key social media accounts. The weekly and quarterly are probably more useful for consistent date ranges; but monthly can be helpful for year to year comparison.
  • Is it working to set up certain accounts for automatic shares (such as If This Then That formulas) or do you need to post to each account separately?

Quarterly

COMMUNITY

  • Look over your LinkedIn profile to make sure the information is current and includes recent projects.
  • Are there coworkers or colleagues who are on LinkedIn but you overlooked making connections with them? Send a request.

CONTENT

  • Hit the content counts that were previously agreed upon/ requested for your accounts.
  • Look through your Pinterest collection and delete expired pins, dated content, board topics you are no longer interested in.

EDUCATION

  • Take an online class, watch a webinar, read a book or attend a conference on social media and related topics such as marketing, content writing, Search Engine Optimization so to pick up a new skill or learn how something works.
  • Review the notes or downloads you have saved from a previous class to refresh your memory on those lessons or concepts.
  • Run the Likealyzer tool on your Facebook pages and see what that algorithm says about how to get the page to perform better.

METRICS

  • File any quarterly reports that are requested in house or by your clients.
  • If you don’t do month-end numbers on all accounts, you should do them quarterly.

OPTIMIZATION

  • Look over every tab and section on the administrative side of the Facebook pages you manage. Is the “info” page correct and current? Are there former admins who should be deleted? Do you want to set preferred audiences? Do you have a verified check on that page, and if not, is it possible to apply for one?
  • Have you discovered fake, unofficial or abandoned Facebook pages or places that are in your company’s name and followed the procedures to claim/ delete or report them?

Yearly

BRANDING

  • Conduct a detailed review all of your accounts. Are the profiles, avatars, screen names, cover images, etc. consistent in approach and style so that someone who knows you on one platform will immediately recognize your account on another?
  • Do your profile and call to action links lead to working pages?
  • What colors, fonts, filters and tone of voice will you use on each account? Have you created a stylesheet with notes such as the hexcode?
  • Research the current recommended sizing list for each social network image you need to create such as a Facebook event cover.

CONTENT

  • Define your target audience – keeping in mind the demographics of your audience may be slightly different on each social network. What topics are they interested in? How can your social media content fit in with their conversations? Brainstorm ideas you can use as a reference when planning content for the next few months.
  • Do the research as to what the content counts should be for the social networks you are active on and the size or content of the account. Does the existing schedule called for by a previous social media manager or your client / business make sense? If so, set up your spreadsheet or checklist accordingly. If you want to change the schedule, be prepared to explain why there will be changes.

EDUCATION

  • Write and save instructions on each account to assist those who would need to fill in for you on days off such as vacation. What is the content schedule for that account? What topics seem to generally do well? What tends to be the frequently asked questions in the community?
  • What is your budget this year for continuing education classes in social media? Should you be looking at an indepth program to get the basics, or would short courses on specific topics be more helpful?

METRICS

  • Pull the Jan. 1 fan counts on all social media accounts you manage, and also pull the previous year’s numbers. You want those numbers for Year To Date comparison reports.
  • Decide what metrics you will track and report throughout the year, how often and to whom.

The PDF version:

Social Media Manager’s Checklist

I also post social media tips and strategies on Twitter at @WethingtonPaula and on my Pinterest account.

This post was written in December 2016 and updated in May 2017.

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