I just opened my first Twitter account a few weeks ago. Yes, I’m aware that it is 2015, which makes me nearly a decade behind the times. The format didn’t particularly appeal to me (I have trouble reading through all those @tags and hashtags, and keeping messages to 140-character haikus sounded restraining), but my publicist recommended it, as I have a new book out. I recognize the power of social media as a direct marketing tool. I’ve enjoyed Facebook for years and just added Instagram, which I’m loving, so I figured, why not?
Being relatively new to social media, and not using it for personal reasons whatsoever, I set about researching how best to use it for professional promotion, and found some useful tips along the way. Here are five that I’ve found most valuable.
1. Time your posts
I’m an American and most of the readers of my work are in the US, but I live in central Europe. So I have to be careful when I post to social media, or it might disappear in a flood of other posts before my main targets are awake. At noon my time, it’s just 6am in New York and 3am in LA. To post then is a waste. Not everyone takes the time to scan through hundreds of posts when they check their social media—they’re most likely to see the most recent posts. So don’t let your post get buried by poor timing.
I’ll post around 5pm my time, which is still working hours in Europe, lunchtime on the East Coast, and breakfast on the West—meaning that anyone I’m hoping to reach could theoretically be reachable, and not asleep. By contrast, if my target is in China, I’d have to calculate accordingly. Consider using software such as Buffer—this allows you to create a single post that you send to all your social media followers (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn), and it only sends out content at the most optimal times. So you can compose five posts while on the bus to work, and Buffer will distribute them to all your social media at strategic intervals over the course of the next two days.
2. Use the Facebook Boost Post and target as specifically as possible
The best advice I received is to use the Boost Post feature on Facebook. It’s different from ads—it appears as an option on a Facebook page post. Post something and a button will appear to “boost post.” This is a very inexpensive, highly targeted advertisement that can send whatever you just posted to a tailored audience of people you don’t know personally (not your “friends”).
For example, when I teach a workshop in London on writing about art, I prepare a post with an image and a link to sign up, and then target the “boost” to reach student-age people living in London who have “art” or similar keywords in their profiles. The more specific the target group, the cheaper the “boost.” I reached 13,000 people, and filled my workshop, for a total of $37. Play with the targeting options and see how to maximize the reach by being as specific as possible.
3. A picture is worth a lot of words
People respond to pictures or short videos much better than text. The eye absorbs it all at once, whereas we scan selectively through words. A post that contains text with no image is much less likely to be noticed than text-plus-image, and you’re often best off if the image expresses most of what you want to convey. So a book cover is more likely to sell a book than a paragraph describing the book, even if you would learn much more about the content by reading the description. Most social media users look to consume quantity quickly, and will judge a book by its cover. So always include an image.
4. Master hashtags
On Twitter and Instagram, hashtags are the best way to get noticed and to increase your follower base. It took me awhile to get the hang of it, and I’m still frustrated that Twitter includes hashtags in the 140
character limit, which means you have to be highly selective. A hashtag acts like a pushpin to attach your photo or message to a virtual bulletin board containing all the posts that contain the same hashtag.
If you want your food photo noticed, add popular hashtags such as #foodporn or #foodgasm. Research the most popular relevant hashtags prior to posting, so you can include the most relevant. Instagram lets you hashtag to your heart’s content, with dozens if you like, but Twitter is highly restrictive. This is just an extension of the targeting rule—if you want followers in the food world, pepper your food news and pictures with foodie hashtags.
5. Be as personal as is comfortable
Actor and social media god James Franco wrote an op-ed justifying his frequent posting of selfies. He did so, he said, because his followers liked them far more than his other posts. Though I rarely put anything personal on my social media, whenever I do, far more people “like,” share, or supportively comment on them than they do for anything more objective or strictly professional. This doesn’t make me want to start posting pictures of my dog, but it’s a useful thing to know. The more personal you’re willing to be, the more followers seem to respond positively.
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