How to Use Social Media Without Being Annoying

Social Media

Many articles (and e-books, and e-courses) out there advocate “dominating” social media. But if you’re managing your personal brand or you’re a freelancer (or biz owner), do you really need to be on every social media platform? And do you need third-party tools?

What’s more important — getting 10,000 likes or getting 100 of the right people to interact with you? No judgments. It just depends on whether you’re trying to get industry leaders to pay you $5,000 for a speech or recruiters to offer you flashy new gigs.

Here’s the right way to use social media professionally.

Keep It Simple

Keep It Simple

Many articles (and e-books, and e-courses) out there advocate “dominating” social media. But if you’re managing your personal brand or you’re a freelancer (or biz owner), do you really need to be on every social media platform? And do you need third-party tools?

What’s more important — getting 10,000 likes or getting 100 of the right people to interact with you? No judgments. It just depends on whether you’re trying to get industry leaders to pay you $5,000 for a speech or recruiters to offer you flashy new gigs.

Here’s the right way to use social media professionally.

Facebook

Facebook

If your career is about staying top-of-mind among people in your circle (or networking with a few hundred people can make a difference for you), consider designating your personal profile as public, and interacting on Facebook the way you would at a cocktail party — part social and part networking.

You can be funny, talk politics, and tell everyone that you love your Mexican beach vacation, but you probably don’t want to post baby pictures more than once a fortnight. And you might have to ask your mom, romantic partner, etc. to tone it down.

I have long kept my Facebook settings non-private, and I simply don’t post anything to Facebook that isn’t intended for the public. (Baby pics stay on a private Instagram account.) When someone I’m friends with on Facebook hires me to give a speech at her company, she knows from my frequent Facebook posts that a) I’d like to round up everyone promoting sexism and give them a “speech” involving certain medieval punishments, but b) in actual practice, I’ll keep it highly professional, Lean In-style. The point is, she knows me. You can’t buy an ad for that.

That said, if you’re a freelancer or want to promote yourself or your work, go ahead and make yourself a Facebook page (business pages and fan pages are now the same thing). But know that you’ll have to pay to reach most people.

Even people who have already clicked “like” on your page — and that in itself is an accomplishment! — are unlikely to see your posts unless you click “Boost Post” and pay up. (The budget Facebook usually suggests to me is $30.) To be fair, Facebook ads are remarkably effective if you have something clear and specific to sell. Over the last few months, I have been served ads for these things, all of which I 100 percent want: a stylish trench, fancy ottomans, industrial-style tables, lessons on how to make an app for my business, and an invitation to the number-one cat-themed apparel site on the Internet.

Well done, robot overlords!

LinkedIn

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is sort of the boring older cousin of all the other social sites. Have I ever seen a beautiful, inspiring post on LinkedIn? Maybe not.

And yet, one great advantage of LinkedIn is that you can actually contact people on the site — the right people, making it clear you’ve done your research — and they generally won’t get offended. It’s a business site. It’s there for business.

LinkedIn Influencer Katty Kay recommends using the site to remind your own boss about your accomplishments within the company. A little roundabout, but all right then.

To promote an event, you can create a Group and populate it with content (not all of it related to your event!) to get people to join. Once people are in your group, you can send them direct emails without having to use LinkedIn’s paid InMail service.

Even if you don’t have the bandwidth to spend time on LinkedIn every day building up your network, get your profile page right. While Linkedin pages do, for good reason, look a lot like résumés, that’s not exactly how you should use your profile. Don’t make your summary all about your past jobs and accomplishments. No one’s going to give you a cookie for those.

Instead, make your summary about who you want to meet, what you’re working on now, what you’re aiming to do next, and what you can do for others.

Twitter

Twitter

I consider Twitter to be the main networking avenue for me (and my businesses). Twitter is free, mobile friendly, and focused more on ideas and dialogue than other platforms, and that works for me. I’m about ideas.

Top tips:

1. Tweets with images stand out. Larry Kim on Social Media Today recommends using colorful images and infographics to get retweets.

2. Use correct grammar. According to Fast Company, tweets written at a higher reading level are more likely to get retweeted.

3. Repeat yourself. At a networking event, Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable Local, commented that tweets go by so fast you have a responsibility to tweet anything you want to say five times (presumably over several days). Many in the audience gasped. Here’s the middle ground: If you really want people to read your article, come to your event, etc., rephrase the message and use a different image each time (like this and this from DailyWorth).

4. Keep within certain bounds. Being professional doesn’t necessarily mean staying out of politics (even the stodgiest brands have been making beautiful commercials featuring LGBT families). Sometimes ignoring the news can seem tone deaf.

5. Nervous? You might want to include a profile disclaimer that tweets are your own and do not represent the views of your employer.

6. Maintain different accounts for different purposes. I have accounts for myself, my company (GetBullish), and the Bullish Conference. I think of these like “channels” on a blog. Plus, this way people can hear more or less from you, depending on their interests.

7. But mix it up as needed. On my personal account, I absolutely post my articles and promote Bullish events, but I also retweet things I find funny, and make fun of people who believe in Mercury retrograde and not vaccines. It’s a consistent message: I offer business advice for people who are against mindless positive thinking. If you try to appeal to everyone, no one is likely to be passionate about what you have to offer.

Instagram

Instagram

My opinion on Instagram is that, if you’re going to do it at all, do it right. If you’re a CPA, no one wants to see your tasty sandwich. You’ve got to become a sort of … object stylist. Instagram can be tough to use professionally when you’re not a visual brand.

If you do have a “brand story,” you want your pictures to look good, be aspirational, use a consistent color palette, and prompt some kind of action. That in itself is an obstacle, since Instagram allows only a link in your profile.

Many Instagrammers use “Click on the link in my profile!” and send users to an Instagram-specific landing page (you can make landing pages with Instapage or a similar paid service). If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is.

Graphic designer Shauna Haider and many other (usually female) bloggers regularly post still lifes that represent a certain theme or feeling. An instructor at The Blogcademy, Haider recommends collecting props such as pretty trays and including natural elements like flowers, fruit, and plants.

Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society quit Twitter to focus on branding and selling through Instagram. As a stylist and business coach, she has a clear visual story to sell, and posts a mix of fashion, still lifes, inspirational quotes, personal pics, and graphic ads.

See Warby Parker for an example of a brand doing it right. Some of the pictures are of Warby Parker’s glasses, but many are of great-looking stuff next to Warby Parker glasses. People who don’t wear glasses follow because they want their lives to look more like those pictures.

Note: You can buy paid ads on Instagram, but people pretty much hate them and mock them mercilessly. Save your money!

Pinterest

Pinterest

While social media in general is dominated by women, Pinterest is the queen of all matriarchal social media platforms. According to Marketing Land, 92 percent of all pins are posted by women.

You can absolutely drum up business on Pinterest if, again, you’re selling something visual — or you create unique content, such as tutorials and infographics.

If you’re not creating your own content, starting a bunch of boards to pin other people’s content is probably not a worthy strategy. (Some experts disagree. See Shareaholic’s 3 Brand New Ways Your Business Can Use Pinterest.)

Social Media Examiner recommends taking some of the content creation work off yourself by creating group boards to collaborate with pinners who already have large followings. Experts also recommend creating a lot of boards — see Starbucks, which has Pinterest boards on “Inspiring Spaces” and “Praline All the Things.”

Where Else?

Where Else?

Of course, the list of social media sites goes on and on. Learnist, for instance, is like Pinterest for education. A bunch of sites are trying to be “Pinterest for men,” mostly by adding black backgrounds (and breasts, and cars). I’m not sure About.me exactly qualfiies as a social media site, but you certainly can make yourself a very attractive page that aggregates your social media and attractively displays your bio and resume.

As for Reddit, it might claim to be “the front page of the Internet,” but you definitely cannot go on Reddit to promote yourself or your business. (Reddit has specific rules against such self-promotion.) But you can buy ads, and there are some subreddits that invite promotion.

Keep in mind that Reddit is heavily community oriented — so establish a persona and contribute to discussions for a substantial period of time before trying to sell anything, even obliquely. Oh, and Reddit is 74 percent male, so success depends on what you’re promoting. (Google+ is 70 percent male.)

If you never get around to updating your blog, Tumblr is a good way to do it easily and with less pressure. A post can just be a quote, picture, or a few short thoughts, whereas those bits of content would look lost on your blog. Nearly half of users are between 16 and 24, a demographic that’s hard to reach on other social media platforms.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve gotten clients from my Quora answers. If you want to demonstrate your expertise but wonder who’s going to read your blog, why not respond to questions that people are waiting for answers to? Unlike other sites, the questions are less “What does Justin Bieber like in a girl?” and more, “What’s the best online course for the GRE?”

Jennifer Dziura is the founder of GetBullish and the Bullish Conference.

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