On October 27, 2016 we hosted a panel of young social media influencers including Destiny Taylor, Chandler Nehrt, and Abby St. Claire, and picked their brains about their favorite social media platforms, dos and don’ts of posting, best practices for engaging an audience and what it takes to grow your following and brand.
PICKING THE RIGHT CHANNEL
The panel began with a brief discussion about how to determine which platform is best for your brand and the importance of having a presence on multiple social media channels. The panelists agreed that understanding your target audience and which platform they use the most was crucial to making the right choice of platforms, but cautioned that it was still important to have a presence on several channels, so as not to proverbially put all your eggs in one basket. The recent shuttering of Vine by Twitter is a perfect example of why growing a following across several channels is the way to go.
Other factors like knowing what you’re good at (writing? photography? editing? styling? researching? etc), determining whether you have a budget to buy visibility, and even which channel is the most fun for you to engage on, are all important to determine before moving forward.
With Destiny’s biggest platform being Youtube, and Chandler’s and Abby’s most successful channels being Instagram, majority of the conversations revolved around those specific platforms. All panelists did agree that the ease of cross-posting to Facebook, combined with its robust paid promo & metrics tools, as well as the fact that it has the most active users (1.5 BILLION!!!) of all social media platforms, made it a great back-up platform for just about anybody.
DOs & DON’Ts
…Engage with your followers
…Look at your competitors’ or peers’ feeds and learn from them
…Be authentic & genuine
…Learn how to use hashtags properly
…Air your political opinion on your business channels
…pretend your life is perfect
…post other people’s work without giving proper credit
There was a spirited conversation about the proper use of hashtags. Panelists suggested looking at competitors’ feeds to see which hashtags businesses in similar markets were using, as well using Google to do research. Typing in the phrase “Which hashtags to use for …..?” is perfectly sufficient to get all kinds of ideas. It was also suggested to keep a copy of all the different hashtags you could use on your phone in a note-taking app, so that you could easily copy and paste them when posting. A specific suggestion about using hashtags on Instagram was to post them as a comment instead of as part of the description.
If you’re serious about growing your brand online, then you have to get serious about metrics. Youtube, Instagram (business accounts), Facebook, and Twitter all offer great metrics to help you identify your audience and see which posts are doing well. It is crucial to understand your audience and what they want to see on your feed in order to keep them coming back, and to entice new followers. Metrics can be intimidating, so hiring a consultant (if you can afford it), or offering to trade services is well worth it to have someone talk you through how to best understand and utilize your metrics data.
ENGAGEMENT VS NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS
An important point that came up during the panel was that the number of followers does not equal engagement, and of the two, engagement was a far more important metric, and the one that sponsors and advertisers were specifically interested in (for those who are using social media to build an influencer brand). What that means is that it’s better to have lots of likes and comments than it is to have lots of followers. An account with 500K followers that gets an average of 500 likes (or retweets) on a post and 5 comments, is not nearly as successful as one that has 50K followers, where each post gets 15,000 likes/retweets and has 100s of comments. While the second account has fewer followers, the ones it does have are far more interested in what it has to say, and enjoy engaging with the particular person/brand. That’s hugely important; Remember engagement = influence!
I quickly polled the three women about how much time they spend on average every week working on their channels – the answers were not surprising – all of them noted that maintaining and managing their social media presence was at the very least a part-time job, (20 hours a week), but usually entailed a lot more time. All mentioned that even when they were doing other things like attending class, or hanging out with friends, they were almost constantly thinking about content creation ideas, and how to execute them in the best possible way. Building an online brand requires consistency and a hefty investment of time and energy, and sometimes a little bit of luck!
All of the panelists had been working professionally on their channels for at least two years. The lesson here being, that if you’re just starting out, you should expect to go hard for no less than a year (unless you have friends in high places), before you start seeing your numbers and engagement grow. Dedication, patience, hard work are all prerequisites for running a successful social media channel/feed.
When it comes to social media, there are a lot of things to consider, and many steps to take before you can have a truly successful outcome. It’s important to do your homework, but it’s also really important to start NOW. Don’t get into analysis paralysis where research and prep to launch takes place of actually launching. It is not unusual to have to switch strategies and even platforms as you dive in, so don’t be discouraged if that’s what you end up having to do. It’s all a great learning experience! Social media is everywhere now, and is a very complex and demanding field that above all requires that you commit to it whole-heartedly and with the understanding that there is not going to be a quick pay-off.
Overall, it was a great evening, and I hope that those who attended got something out of it whether that was knowledge, encouragement, motivation or a good contact. A big thank you to our panelists, The Hatch for hosting us, and SunKing for the brews!
All images courtesy of Elese Bales.