Welcome to part 5 of my series “The Business of Blogging“. In this installment, as advertised, we’re talking about social media.
I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago and I realized I sounded really hostile towards social media in general, so I decided to set it aside and write about it when I was feeling a bit warmer to that whole aspect of having a web-based business!
Okay. I’m good now.
Social media has changed sooooo much since I first started blogging. Twitter was perhaps the biggest “it” thing back in the day. Facebook was big, but growth and engagement was organic (no paid boosted posts), so it was entirely different than it is now. Instagram and Pinterest weren’t even around, yet.
The important thing to understand when approaching a social media platform is the “culture” and “language” of that platform. If your goal is to grow your following and ultimately use it to drive traffic to your blog, online shop, business, etc, that is key. I read a great article several years ago about those languages. I wish I knew the article, so I could site it. The author explained that Facebook is about the past – connecting with people you knew from school, from childhood, a previous job, etc. Twitter is about the present- what is happening right now and joining that conversation. Pinterest is about the future – it’s about recipes you want to make, hair styles you want to try, clothes you want to buy, projects you want to complete. Instagram was still in its infancy, so it wasn’t included in that article. I would say that Instagram is about connecting visually. (And I love how global Instagram is for that reason!)
When you look at each social media platform in the context of how people connect there, it gives you a better idea of how to use it in an authentic way.
So, let’s talk about the three main social media platforms I use and how I use them…
I’ll tell you that I resisted signing up for Facebook for a long time. I just didn’t like the idea of it at all. It seemed so intrusive. But, I eventually realized that it was a community I couldn’t ignore as a blogger. So, I started to embrace it. And, my Facebook page started to grow. Then, it started to grow like crazy. At a rate of something like several thousand new followers each week.
And then, they changed their algorithm and started charging for “boosted” posts. And my post views, page engagement and ultimately, traffic to my blog took a huge hit, as many other bloggers and small businesses experienced. I know I’m not the only one who laments the way Facebook used to be, but I understand that they needed to make it profitable.
For a while, I was just ticked at Facebook and wouldn’t give it more than a few minutes of my attention each day. If I’m not getting much traffic from it, it’s not a profit-earning business tool, so I’m going to focus my efforts elsewhere.
But then, I took a class at the Haven conference a couple of years ago that opened me back up to it. I tried approaching it from a fresh perspective, playing within their rules in order to be rewarded with a greater reach.
Some people play these games very well. They know the formula and they make sure all of their posts fit that formula. I just make a sure a few key things happen on each post and then let whatever happens, happen.
The three things I do are…
1.) I actually write out a post preview, so it’s more then just “today on the blog…” with a link, like I used to do. I make sure I write enough, so the content of the post is represented and so a reader will have to click “read more” to reveal the rest of the Facebook post. Even though “read more” isn’t leaving a comment or liking the post, Facebook acknowledges it as engagement and increases the reach of that post.
Here is a screen shot from when I first started doing that. You can see just about everything spikes and the reach went up over 120%!
And the referral traffic from Facebook to my blog spiked right along with it. Here is a screens shot of my Google Analytics showing that spike…
2.) I always load the picture I want to show as the preview thumbnail instead of letting Facebook select it for me. Sometimes the image pulled isn’t the best one, in my opinion, so I load one manually.
3.) I post at night, when my page engagement is the highest. This just increases the chances of more people seeing my post without having to pay for a boost.
The rules are always changing, so I’m sure this will be outdated next week, but this is what I’m doing at the moment.
And, speaking of boosting posts, I never boost the posts on my Miss Mustard Seed page. Some of my sponsors have boosted their posts and I will boost posts on the Milk Paint Facebook page, but I don’t do it very often. I do see nice results when I do, but it can get very pricey! A recent campaign that was boosted ended up reaching over 400,000 people!
Do you remember when Pinterest first hit the scene? I remember it used to crash all of the time, because they weren’t prepared for the high volume of users that flocked to the site. It was just so visually stunning and packed with inspiration. I also remember that one of the rules in the beginning was to not pin your own posts. Well, that quickly changed when all of the referral and advertising potential became apparent.
I really love the original spirit of Pinterest, so I mostly use it in an organic way…pinning things that inspire me. I do use Pinterest, though to drive traffic to my blog, since it is my #1 referral source, and have been using the service Tailwind to manage those posts. Not only does Tailwind help with getting posts out there in a strategic way, but they also provide a lot of education on the science behind successful pinning.
I’m not a Pinterest expert, but I would suggest a few things…
- Make sure your pins are a healthy mix from other sites and from your site. Too much self-promotion can become spammy.
- Take a step back and look at your Pinterest profile and boards regularly to see how you’re looking to your followers. Sometimes I’ll notice that I have a lot of one picture posted again and again, which makes it clear that either the pins are automated or I’m pinning your own pictures again and again. Either one isn’t very attractive to followers.
- As much as I hate to admit it, “Pinable graphics” do get a good response from the Pinterest community, so it is worth taking the time to do them, but as a Pinterest user who just loves the pretty pictures, I would suggest not over-doing them. For tutorials, recipes, etc. where they make sense, go for it, but for the average post, just allow your pictures to speak for themselves. That’s just my opinion and it might be totally wrong!
Instagram is my current favorite social media platform. As I mentioned in the beginning, I love how visual it is. I love that it is such a global community and I have made insta-friends all over the world. It doesn’t matter if we speak the same language. We can understand each other perfectly through pictures.
When I first opened my Instagram account, I really felt like the “spirit” of Instagram was to share casual snapshots of your life. So, that’s what I did. If you scroll waaaaay back, you’ll see pictures of signs my son made declaring “no pooping in the fort” and other random snippets of my day. I didn’t post very often, though, and there certainly wasn’t any strategy behind what I posted and when.
While I really enjoyed Instagram, there wasn’t direct earning potential for me off of it at the time, so I didn’t spend time on it. I couldn’t link directly to posts, I couldn’t monetize posts, so I needed to focus my energy elsewhere.
I finally realized I was missing the boat. There was earning potential on Instagram and, aside from that, it was an amazing community that I wasn’t really engaging. So, I started sharing the photography from my blog and introduced my look to a new audience. I also made a point to post regularly, once or twice a day, and used hashtags that were unique to me (like #missmustardseed and #mmsmilkpaint) as well as ones that were generic, which would help my posts be found by others who like milk paint or antiques or farmhouse style.
Another important piece to growth is engaging with your followers and others who are posting. I find a lot of new people to follow, just because they leave comments for me. And I enjoy the community. I find it’s overall artsy and encouraging.
A few other thoughts about social media…
- You cannot do it all. It’s overwhelming when you look at all of the social media platforms out there. Just pick and choose the social media outlets that you enjoy the most and will make the most sense for your business. Social media outlets that you don’t enjoy and aren’t profitable are just a time-suck.
- You also cannot do it all. Social media can require a lot of time, so hire help as soon as you are able to. I have two people who help me with social media, Kriste and Jenn. I manage my own Facebook and Instagram pages and use Pinterest organically. Kriste manages the MMS Milk Paint Facebook Page, manages the business side of Pinterest, and Jenn manages the MMS Milk Paint Instagram. There is just no way I could do it all and do it all well, so we share the load and the three of us together keep everything running.
- Be authentic. It’s cliche, I know, but it’s tempting to approach all social media with the goal to simply beat the algorithms and I think then it loses heart. It’s a great thing to be strategic and savvy, but don’t get lost in it.
- Remember that you’re always representing your business. I use social media for business about 99% of the time. I just don’t enjoy using the social aspect personally, so I don’t. I sometimes check in on friends or share something personal, but most of the time, it’s just about business. If you do use personal accounts that are connected to your business, I would just remind you that you are always representing your business, even when you’re just being you. How you chose to relate with others personally and professionally on social media is, of course, totally up to you, but it’s really hard to keep those two aspects of your life separate.
Social media has, in some ways, made blogs not as “necessary” as they used to be. Why would the average person looking for decorating inspiration, fashion tips, or a recipe visit a bunch of individual blogs when they can browse all of the ideas on Pinterest or Instagram, where they are all gathered in one place? At the same time, social media has become the number one way to introduce new readers to your blog, so it’s a bit of a two-edged sword.
You can harness that to your advantage, though, and watch your business grow.
If you missed the other posts in this series, you can find them below…
Part 4 | Affiliate Links
Part 3 | Sponsored Posts
Part 2 | How Ads Work