A social media checklist before a people’s choice contest begins

peoples choice blog postBy Paula Wethington

‘Best of’ and ‘people’s choice’ contests have been around long before social media was a ‘thing.’ Even in 2018, you might see coin boxes for a “cutest baby” contest during a festival and paper balloting during a chili cook-off.

That being said, online balloting is how many of “people’s choice” contests have been run during the past 10 years. And for those, it is commonly understood that social media is part of the marketing strategy.

The reason: people who are on social media are just one click away from finding your name on a ballot.

However! If you only post on social media to ask people for votes, have outdated information on your social accounts, or started a social account just as a contest began, it can look a bit spammy or at least odd. This is why about a month out from launch, or as soon as you know that you are entering such a contest, you should review your professional or business social media presence and refresh it as needed.

Even if you don’t win a prize, the fact that your name appears on a ballot gets attention. People will look you up. You don’t want to miss that opportunity to show off who you are and what you do.

Therefore: think through this social media checklist before such a contest begins:

1. Review the photo or logo on your social media profiles

If you had a special logo on your page for a campaign or a season, but the project is done; flip it back to your standard logo. If your profile photo is over two years old, fuzzy or hard to see on a small screen, get a new one taken.

If you have one image on some accounts, but another image on others, can people can recognize you across platforms? This can be complicated when you have both business and personal profiles; I run into that myself. But I try to maintain some visual consistency among my accounts.

2. Review the profile / bio on your social media profiles

Read your profiles through the perspective of someone who knows nothing about you. It might not be specific or helpful enough. What can you say in 140 characters or less that tells them what you do and what your specialty is?

Remember to include a geographic location in the profiles! Surprisingly, I have seen numerous professional accounts that fail to include what city, or even which state, the company or individual is from or does business in. This is relevant information if you are competing in a geography-based “people’s choice” contest.

In addition:

  • Do you use “story highlights” on Instagram? Check to see that those stories are fresh or current. If not, delete and replace them.
  • Did you fill out the “your story” feature on Facebook page? It’s so new that you might not have included it as part of the page setups. But it’s there and can be seen by others.
  • Do you use the “pinned post” feature on Twitter or a Facebook group? Even if that information is still current, consider replacing it with a new pin because people can see the dates on the Twitter post in particular.

3. Review the cover art images on your social media accounts

Some people post a “vote for me” message as a social media cover art images during such a campaign.

But before the contest starts, review what you have as cover art and update or refresh that as needed. Ideally, a cover image will represent or portray in visual format a message, idea, location or concept that gets interest from your target audience. The image or mood also should be consistent across your profiles.

It’s also worth noting that the sizing can look different on desktop and mobile view; so you’ll want to be sure to review how it looks on multiple devices.

Of note: Pinterest doesn’t have traditional “cover art” options; but a business account on Pinterest can have showcase boards and a featured pin collection. Choose the options that work best for you.

4. Know who your target audience is, and what content they like

What are the demographics of those who are most likely to vote for you?

Be social with them and build up your audience before the contest begins, so they know who you are! Start or participate in conversations on content they are interested in. Give follows, comments, likes, links and shares as appropriate to your industry, cause, business or brand.

And thank your friends and fans for voting you as “best of… ” whatever in a previous contest.

5. Starting accounts from scratch – a reminder

It’s perfectly fine to have a new social media profile without many fans or likes. Everyone needs to start somewhere. But people do need to like what they see when they come to your social media profile; and they need to see that you will be active.

Therefore, if you are starting from scratch or haven’t used the account much: Get some new posts and retweets or shares on the account before you go on a following spree and / or the “best of” contest begins.

What are the first nine images they’ll see on Instagram? What are the first five posts they’ll see on Twitter? Do you have an upcoming event that can be posted on your Facebook page?

Good luck with your contest efforts!

For practical ideas and how-to’s on social media branding, take a look at the Branding Tips pin collection I have in my Pinterest collection.





How to pick branded colors for your social media images

What is color branding on social media?By Paula Wethington / @WethingtonPaula

If you hire a consultant to help with personal or business branding, or purchase a premade branding package, the services will likely include a style sheet or branding board that showcases a selection of colors.

That being said: maybe you are in a do-it-yourself situation for your “look,” and the design concept has become overwhelming.

Don’t skip the color palette decisions.

You’ll love the results when you can pick up a carefully selected crayon box, so to speak, and start using it on a project.

Here’s how I ended up with my choices of dusty rose, off black and complementary colors. As you’ll see, it’s not the first range of colors I had in mind.

1. Set up an idea board on Pinterest

When I decided to give color branding a try, I created a board on my Pinterest account called “color theory,” where I pinned a huge collection of articles and infographics about the use of color in design.

Along the way, I pinned color palettes that struck me as interesting.

If you hire a designer, he or she may suggest as part of the process that you build an idea board on Pinterest so they can understand the direction that represents “you.”

Did anything strike me as “that’s it!” right away? No.

As a result, I went in another direction for research:

2. Use Canva’s color palette generator

You may have heard of Canva, or already use it to create social media graphics. But this particular tool is a terrific feature on its own merits:

Go to Canva color palette generator and upload your logo or a photo that represents the look you want. See how the color range settles out. Do you like it?

I had a lot of fun playing around with this site.

When you seem to be going in the right direction, get a screenshot and / or write down the hexcode numbers on the color bubbles. You’ll use those hexcodes as a reference point at the next step.

3. Make some sample images

Now adapt an idea from the designers and create a simple infographic in your favorite graphic design program to be your “branding board.” This image displays the colors and fonts for your branding look, accompanied by any patterns or inspiration images.

Although you can save preferred colors in some programs once you get going, how do you find and replicate that exact shade to begin with?

The color hexcode from your designer or the generator tool is the key.

5. How do your colors work in real life?

Because I felt overwhelmed with choices I saved on Pinterest, I started my personal brand color efforts spinning off my recent business photos!

I thought my teal blue blazer could be a great signature color and the Canva palette generator came back with this range:

Canva color palette generator example

But after using it for about 20 to 30 images, I decided I really didn’t like this combination at all. It wasn’t “me,” despite the fact I look terrific in that blue blazer.

6. Keep experimenting.

I finally decided I wanted a dark red, dusty pink, and dusty purple as my core colors; with off white and off black as the neutrals. They are feminine and creative, but not too trendy. My teal blue business jacket looks fine with that color range; as do other fashions I tend to wear.

After I made a couple dozen graphics with this palette for my social media accounts, I realized this was right combination. But I needed a few more colors. I don’t like a  “monochromatic” look.

I took another look at my Pinterest board, to see what choices I had saved as “likes” that might blend in. With that review, and some cross referencing on the palette generator, I picked shades of navy blue, purple and tan to include in my collection.

The result: version 2 of my branding board.

paula branding board v 2

You can see the results by looking over my Instagram and Pinterest accounts, as using branded colors on social media images is a huge trend on both networks.




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.








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.


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.


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.


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