How to Utilize Social Media for your Business or Personal Platform
Most of us have ideas - some of them are great and should be seen by the world but that's a hard thing to do in this tech savvy culture. Sure, everyone is connected to the internet, which means you can find any resource, but it also means you have an overwhelming amount of competition. So where do you start? You start by creating a platform for yourself, which is just a glitzy way of saying you need to get out there until people know your name (or your product, art, etc.) Once you dip your toes into this world you will hear, "build your brand!" over and over and over again. Most of these people say your "brand" is either yourself and personality or the product or piece you are trying to draw attention to. They say you should remain focused and only beat this one horse to death - until it catches on! I'm going to be that one dissenting voice that says this isn't always the way to go for certain people... but I'll go over that in a moment. For now I would like to tell you my own experiences with certain social media sites and what I have found them useful and not useful for. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. If not I've got a nice wall to bang your head against and afterwards you're welcome to a nice calming cup of tea.
FaceBook has been enormously beneficial to everything I have tried to get out there - my farm, my writing, my art, they all have both business pages and a lot of promotion there. People like FaceBook because they feel like it's safer because it has the name of yourself or your business and it's a lot harder to be a troll or a con artist - people will immediately notice and link it to your name or brand. This means you're automatically probably going to be under your best behavior. This is good business sense. Business pages on FaceBook are a great place to start if you are looking to promote something - even if it's not a business or you're promoting yourself. If you are promoting yourself, as an author, artist, local personality, musician, or anything else, you should make a separate page from your personal account and use the same name under a business account. This will draw more attention, more random people will see it, and it'll allow you to take out ads to promote it if you chose to. Business pages are great to let the world know what's going on, keep everyone updated, keep enthusiasm strong, or to educate your base. FaceBook is great with this because it gives you a lot of options on how you can achieve this. You can use your page for just blanket updates, to share photos, or even to share videos and live events. The only bad thing I have come acorss with FaceBook is the fact that your followers have to occasionally click the 'like' button on something you post or eventually they'll see less and less of your posts on their feed until they see none at all. This means if you have 200 followers to start with in the following months it's very unlikely that they'll all be seeing what you want them to, in fact there's a distinct possibility none of them are. So the numbers are misleading - but I have found FaceBook to still be enormously beneficial to drawing new crowds and getting people involved.
I have heard for many years that blogs can create a livable income. I have no idea if these people are full of it or just really lucky but this has not been my experience, and I have a lot of blogs! The thing with blogs is that there are millions of them out there and you're not just competing with all of them to be found by the search engines but you're fighting with each individual page of all of them. Blogs are fickle things, if they are the main part of your platform you need to update them very frequently, daily if possible. Worse still you need to focus each blog on one subject and keep going with it. If you come across a different subject you want to write about, feel free to do so, on a different blog. People who follow these blogs want consistency. They don't want to shuffle through ten entries about your cat, your strange aversion to waffles, the latest political news, a rave review of your favorite movie, in order to find that one entry telling them how to fix the toaster...
I have a lot of blogs. I started them all on WordPress.com, which was the worst thing I could have done. WordPress.com is a website that offers to help you create free blogs which can be upgraded for money if you wish at a later point when they become successful. This sounds like a good thing but it's all a bit of a show. You see they do not allow you put AdSense or any other ad programs on your blog, which is where the revenue is going to come from. I thought that if I upgraded my account to business then they would allow me this privilege. So they charged me what I felt was too much only for me to find out that this is not the case. They only allow their own ads, which they'll only give you a part of, if you upgrade yet again to their professional accounts which is another massive waste of money because their own ad program is never going to produce as much revenue as AdSense. So how do you work around that? Either buy your own website off a different host that does allow AdSense (most do) or start with a free blog at WordPress.ORG, which will allow you to upgrade later, for a fee, and use AdSense or any other program you chose. This is a great option if you're just starting because hey, I've been there, sometimes you want to start things for free just to see if there's any interest. Why waste the money if there isn't?
Blogs can be a wonderful way of gaining exposure to whatever project or business you're promoting and I still think it's a great idea but don't expect to retire on it. If you can someday, PROPS! You've made it!
I admit it - I kind of hate Twitter. I avoided it for years because I found it way too chaotic and disjointed. For me it was like walking into the mind of an ADD schitzophrenic. I have slowly gotten used to it but it still isn't my favorite. In my own case I have a personal Twitter account which I link to all my projects so people can follow me as a person and see what I am up to. I like to honor George Carlin in referring to it as a receptacle for all my brain droppings. I will post links to every article I write as they come out, updates on projects, but also tiny tidbits of personal information. A few times a day I will try to throw something on there that's just a funny thought going through my mind or something exciting to think about. Popular daily hashtags are a great way to get involved in the community and as with all the social media the more involved you are the more followers you will gain. Besides this it can be kind of funny sometimes. When I signed up I didn't bother to specify which catergories and people I wanted to follow, I just allowed them to sign me up with all their suggestions... and now my feed is intensely strange. I get updates from all sorts of bands I don't listen to and which aren't connected in any way, political debates I'd rather avoid, and for some odd reason it also thinks I'm British so I get a whole ton of British news and personalities... I'm not complaining, it just adds an odd slant. I found Twitter to be the platform you want if you're trying to do anything political - writing political articles, joining political debates, or just being a news junkie. This is another reason I often run from Twitter screaming and pulling my hair out. But to be fair... there's also a lot of funny people there as well so it seems an enjoyable place for satirists such as myself.
Instagram is a great way to get visual audiences involved. I know a lot of businesses have an Instagram account but to be honest it seems to be a very specific crowd there. I started my account to promote my farm but I found followers of this were fickle. They wanted a constant influx of cute animal photos which I just couldn't keep up with and over time it morphed into an account I used solely to promote my travel blog. I suspect with time I will break it into several accounts but for now it has 270 or so followers and growing. However that was hard work getting followers! I had to post 3-5 photos a day for five months to get those and it all starts to feel a bit spammy... I have found it also to be a pretty miserably poor way to get people to visit your website or business (in this case the travel blog.) With this much dedication I get about one visitor a week from here. Not great but this could be a wonderful way to promote your work if you're trying to make it as a photographer. The biggest draw back of Instagram is I have not found a way to upload photos from my computer. It appears to be just a phone app so if you're posting photos and hash tagging the life out of them to get attention you have to do this on your phone. In this way fifteen minutes of computer work becomes an hour of eye killing labor.
I have yet to start making my own YouTube channel but it's an option I am thinking about. If you're a crafter, an educator, or just someone who knows how to work a video camera this might be the platform for you. You can create your own channel and basically broadcast your own little series from there on whatever topic you chose. You can do How-To videos, educational mini documentaries, or even do interviews with other people in a specific field. As with any of these sites consistency and quantity seem to be where it's at. If you decide you can do one video a week you must actually do it. People will eventually follow as you build up a backlog.
I started on Hub Pages over a decade ago. I did so on a whim expecting nothing to come of it and threw a few articles up here and there. Some of them were pretty decent though and over time people started to visit them with some frequency eventually ending up with a nice bit of pocket change for me. Can I live off it? Not even close, though if I dedicated myself more to it who knows! What I love about HubPages is the fact it allowed me a platform I could express my sheer randomness on. Unlike a blog I don't have to focus on one specific topic, I can write about anything. If you look through my profile page you'll find satirical personal stories, top ten lists, and educational articles on a diverse set of categories. It's probably the most ADD thing you'll see in a long while but it's working for me! So I'm not complaining!
With all these platforms you'll gather more followers the more engaged you are. Post often but also comment on other people's work, entice them to possibly check you out. Post comments on forums with your website used as a signature, put it on the bottom of all your e-mails, invite the friends you already know. All of this will help! When it's possible post something that forces people to comment back - like a question. Foster a human connection whenever you can. This is what will spread your name or your brand the farthest.
Hasgtags, Tags, and Keywords
Learn the platform you're using and how to best work it. With many of these sites this means adding a lot of hashtags wherever you can - either to get more people to see something or to properly identify what you're putting out there. I use hash tags to the hilt on my FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram. It works even though it feels a bit over zealous at times. Blogs often have an option of adding tags and or keywords that will help people find you through random searches. Use them or no one will! And learn which tags make the most sense to each situation.
Be Personal but Try to Keep It Upbeat
More people are drawn to enthusiasm, passion, and positivity than drama and negativity. I'm not saying you can never make a stand, state an opinion, or say something that might be less than bubbly from time to time. I am just saying you should limit that so that when you do have something to say important it's more likely to stick than if you're just the weird dramatic nut job people watch for bemusement. So whenever you can be happy, be happy! Believe it or not this will filter into your real life. I have learned how to look at everything in a positive light because I am super conscious of what I am saying and thinking now. In this sense I I think social media can be psychologically beneficial. Imagine that!
Using social media is exhausting. It's time consuming, it's demanding, and it can really put you on the spot. However it's also a great challenge and can potentially pay off well if you play the right cards. It can also be very life affirming and you never know who you'll meet out there and what roles they'll play in your life. So there you have it - the tools, the when, why, what, and how. Now it's time you spread your wings and fly! (And be kind to yourself. Do not expect immediate fame or fortune, as with everything this takes a lot of time and dedication no matter what you're doing so don't get discouraged! Just keep plowing through!)