Social Media

Digital marketing, social media, SEM, SEO, Adwords – for some they are buzzwords. They become amorphous objects, loosely collected in the back of their minds and there it’s gripped onto for fear of losing relevance. Utilizing the buzzwords are no longer about ‘keeping up’ but about following the pack, pretty pictures and likes only get you so far, brand building is not just an about creating a great landing page or a growth of followers year over year, but about making an impact. It’s one to one – meaningful marketing. There is a reason your boss wants you to look for influencers, there is a reason influencers are a thing or were.

I’ve built a brand from next to nothing to fully realized; something with supporting documents, direction, and real soul. The general public doesn’t want to connect with a brand – they want to connect to a person, an idealized entity that lives somewhere on the other side of the screen. They are connecting with their favorite celebrity, they collect ideas, feelings, pictures from across the hum and din of spinning fans in a server room. Our job, as social media and digital professionals, is to close that gap. It’s up to us make it feel less like showing up late to a speed dating event and more like finally getting the attention of that cute barista – something they know, maybe something fun or unexpected, but they want to know they’re okay, they’re heard.

Obviously, that isn’t always the case. Some people, many people live a life of complaints on twitter or facebook like it’s their personal megaphone to the world at large. They cry foul and only relay how they’ve been slighted. I’ve dealt with my share of that type – as anyone in customer-facing social would. Sometimes they happen to be someone who comes in 3-4 times a week, or spends thousands of dollars on hotels a week, or… well your “best” customers. Some folks just have an ax to grind and you’ve got to find out how sharp it is. Sadly, many companies feel as though this is what ‘social’ is all about; running searches and algorithms to mitigate damage and running press releases through 140 character ticker tape.

This misses the point.

Of course, this begs the question – what is the point?

You’ve got to find that out for your company, brand, store, etcetera. We are living in a world where you’re allowed to not be on a platform for whatever reason. You can sass your customers. Be a style brand. Collect likes as if they’ll stop giving them out. Do you need to post cat videos to be relevant? Maybe for you, but not for everyone.

My advice: don’t get caught up in the “we’re not on [x] platform” talk – it’s useless; don’t get wrapped up in everyone else is doing – find where you thrive; keep active and watch where it ‘feels’ right to grow. Get out there, kid.

I was recently laid off from my position as an Area Social Media Manager for five local hotels. I wasn’t sure how social media was going to be handled but I knew somewhere in my gut that they’d just push it back on the hotels and thus the overworked staff to get it done. The smart properties would find someone at least willing to put in the time/energy or point to one of their ‘go-getter’ staff to fill in after no one ‘was doing it for them.’ I sent a couple of those people at one of my formerly-repped hotels a short list of resources I’d use if I were in their shoes and thought it may be helpful for me (and maybe others) to get it all down for future reference – so without further ado:

Where to start

What do you like on social media? What kind of content would get you to like the page? If you are ‘just checking a box’ so your boss doesn’t get mad about how many times you’ve posted this week – then don’t really worry about it. But if you actually care, put some thought into it. Start there. Follow some brands you like, doesn’t have to me in your industry but bonus points if they are. Follow your competitors and do a quick search for top social media accounts that are applicable to what you’re doing – imitate and do better.


Let’s talk quickly about things that eat a lot of time: You have an idea for a post but have 4 different platforms you want to post it on. Or maybe you want to monitor a few key terms or when someone geotags your business or even uses a hashtag you’ve been pushing for the past six months. You open the native app on your phone, then search for the thing you need, get distracted by something else and coming back to the task at hand 20 minutes later to see you’ve missed a post from three days ago. Let’s streamline things, shall we?

Everyone hates it, but uses it anyway: Facebook Native

Facebook API sucks (or apps haven’t figure out how to perfect the ‘preview’). Couple that with Facebooks infamous consistent “Thursday” feature dropping [bug squashing / testing] and you’ve got a terrible place to “just dump” content. Do yourself a favor – schedule posts natively in Facebook. It sucks, I 100% agree, but it’s honestly the only way to make sure the link you shared doesn’t fall into the hell dump of some horrible preview image or a handful of stupid glitchy garbage that can happen when not crafting natively. Posting to Facebook? Do it there.

For listening and scheduling: Hootsuite

Are there better, more effective listening tools? Yes. Are there better scheduling tools? Shit yeah. What about better analytics? Of course. But bang for your buck – Hootsuite is dead-simple and amazingly effective at all three for a very reasonable price. Things it does well: Twitter scheduling, search & monitoring, Instagram scheduling, search & monitoring. Things it sucks at: Their mobile app is painfully unreliable for IG notifications (check it often, more so after updates), geo-fencing (beta).

For easy-as-pie, set it and forget it scheduling: Buffer.

I’ve loved buffer for a very long time for a couple reasons: G+ & Pinterst integration, plus that sweet sweet “rebuffer.”  Long story short: not everyone on twitter will see your post at the one time you posted it, so if you toss it back up tomorrow 5 hours later, or sometime next week – that is cool with Buffer. The program also elegantly handles calendars, automatically pulls, sets and rolls ‘best posting times.” Things it does well: Scheduling, handling “pretty much everything” you want to post on, integration. Things it sucks at: Analytics/reporting are clunky if existent, & doesn’t “listen.”

Make pretty pictures:

Meet your new best friend: Canva. It’s a super-simple graphical magic-maker. Slap a bunch of crap together, use their templates for guidance, build out your supplemental images for social in minutes instead of hours/days. I STRONGLY suggest buying into the Pro version for the brand color, logo/image folders, premium graphics, premium templates, brand templates, and font branding addons. It’s astonishing how any small business ever handled digital media design before Canva.

Need a picture? Don’t just ‘google’ images and rip that stuff down to claim it as yours, do the right thing and collect free commercial-friendly stock from legit sources. I use AllTheFreeStock as my go-to. Their website makes sifting through many search sites pain-free, as not all search sites index the same free stock available out there. Two tips: 1) grab and keep EVERYTHING you don’t use and 2) always get it at a higher resolution than you intend to use it at.

Utilize a photo editor, free entry-level image editing software like VSCO and Snapseed are tops imo. Don’t just take one dark photo and slap an over-saturated Instagram filter on there and act like it doesn’t look like garbage. If you want to take your photography up a notch – see also: you’re literally doing everything anyway – use Lightroom.

Top photo tips:

  • Take 5+ photos of what you want to share before being ‘done’.
  • Move around – try shooting from another angle, move the things around a bit
  • Experiment – if you don’t have photo brand standards to live by, try different things and see how they work.
  • A shitty camera can always be made up with by solid photography, don’t hang your hat on a DSLR if your smartphone shots suck/need work.
  • Food needs natural light.
  • Avoid “low light” at all costs, no matter the subject

I get asked a lot if “I do social media work on the side.” My short answer is “not really, but buy me lunch and we can talk about strategy.” I’ve met with many small businesses that want the moon. Most of them were posting 2-3 times a month on various outlets or might as well as not exist online. They complain it’s hard. I usually end up telling them it’s easy and give them a few pointers and they walk away with confidence; although that “ease” meets usually meets little action.

Someone recently said social is about a “Return on Experience.” That is the bumbling grumble of some marketing person smelling their own farts, we’re marketing – not going on a tour through the amazon. I admit, there is a lot out there. It’s hard to sift through the noise of people telling you what is best for your business because they are so-called “experts.” In my history, it’s those who claim expertise are rarely so; don’t trust anyone with “guru” in their title. With all of that blithering, I thought it time to put some honest info out into the universe.

Here is what I’d say in those meetings, to use as a reference in simple, plain-English my tips to social media good times:

  1. Listen
    1. Start by emulating a brand you wish your page could be like, then do better
    2. Follow the same accounts, like brands, and influencers – ie: google “top/best [platform] brands/influencers”, feel free to add [location] if your business is brick & mortar.
    3. Share, engage, and reply
  2. Post
    1. Failing is an option. Try something & if it doesn’t work, you’ll know. Move on + learn.
    2. Consistency is key. There isn’t a “magic bullet” of the right amount of posts, set a number in your head or track on a google doc and try to hit your numbers.
    3. Don’t let time rule you. Take an hour and plan/schedule your posts for the week. Bam, you’re done with the creation side, but DON’T FORGET TO LISTEN!
  3. Pictures
    1. Take so many you need to empty your phone every month or so.
    2. Put time into editing; You don’t “need’ Lightroom or Photoshop, Snapseed or VSCO will do just fine.
    3. Filter to look natural or softly enhanced, do not overdo it.
  4. Share
    1. You are passionate about something, tell it to the world. Only you know awesome your [widget] is. Spread the word.
    2. Other people will like what you do – say thanks, use a listening tool (like Hootsuite) to say “thanks.”
  5. Time/Money
    1. Facts of life: Facebook is a paid space, Instagram is a (now) a paid space, Twitter takes time. What is worth more to you?
    2. $5 can get you far – targeted boosts, tailored ads, local, awareness ads can take you places.
    3. Learn the ad space you are working in. Create ads that you’d click on or the people you are targeting would click.
  6. Platforms
    1. Ask your customers what they open on their phone first while sitting on the toilet, start there.
    2. Don’t jump into a platform because you think you have to ‘do it all.’ Focus on what matters.
    3. You didn’t “miss the boat” – you skipped the old guard. If your audience is on Snapchat, why worry about building an audience on MySpace?
  7. ROI?
    1. Track your success with Pixel, Google Analytics and the like, but don’t get hung up.
    2. Be awesome and people will be awesome to you. You’re putting out ‘good vibes’ not pushing a sale. This is marketing, not sales.

There is, of course, more complicated strategies to flush out and give guidance on. But this is simply an introduction. The long and short of social media can be boiled down to: “Just try it!” and “Do what feels right for your brand.” As with most things in life, if it seems too good to be true it very much is, no one has a perfect plan, it’s up to you to craft one.

As with all of my social posts, I’m not going to hang my hat on getting x number of followers or getting a video to go viral. I think creating and fostering a long term strategy is important to sustained success. You can do this.