Don’t do as I do, do as I say: Learn from my top social media mistakes

I think it goes without saying that when something is your area of expertise, that doesn’t mean you have it all sorted. So, with some trepidation, I will admit I’ve made my share of social media mistakes.

Although I work on strategy for startups and SMEs across content, social media, SEO and marketing, I’m sure that my own set up lacks a few of the ingredients I talk to clients about. I might be working with people to make and execute their strategies but I’m not always working on mine as much as I should be.

Before I get started I’d also like to point out here that I’m not detailing my mistakes in that slightly jokey way that people sometimes do. You know the self-talk – ‘oh yeah, I’m so bad at XYZ’ – that kind of thing. These are areas that my business lacks and I’m working to do something about them.

I loved this article from Convince and Convert about how they made themselves their own best client. This is what I want to work towards and achieve, running my business the way I would for a client. It’s just that while this is a work in progress it also makes a catchy blog title and a good way to show you where you might want to focus when thinking about your own business.

My Social Media Mistakes

My advice here is clear – don’t do what I am doing right now, do what I’m telling my clients to do as they are seeing real results from working with a defined strategy to reach their goals. Here are my top mistakes and what to do instead.

Mistake 1: I don’t have a clear strategy or goals

One of my main problems is this: I don’t have my own strategy or goals for what I’m trying to achieve with my content and social. Not knowing what I want to achieve from being on social, or how I want my content to connect with people, things are a bit disjointed.

I enjoy using all my channels and post to them regularly. However, with no real overview of why I’m doing this, it’s hard to get them to join up with my work or the development of my business.

Goals and strategy go hand in hand. Goals are what you want to achieve and strategy is going to get you there. Both sound big, and can sound a bit scary, but they don’t need to be. What you are really asking is; what do you want to achieve from your content or social media and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?

This might be tied into other areas of your business. Your content might be connecting with more people in your industry to raise your profile with a goal of being a influencer in your chosen field. Or you might see your social as one part of an overall marketing strategy.

Goals can change. I often work with clients who want to start by getting everything in order. Their goal is simply to get to a stage where their content, website and social reflects the successful business they already have. After that they set goals again to take them to the next milestone, and then the next.

Mistake 2: I’m not sure who my audience is and whether I’m posting in the right place to find them

Since I started working as a freelancer it has become pretty clear that my market is startups and small businesses. However, that’s a pretty broad category.

Within the section of ‘every startup and small business’ there are many ways that I could define my audience better in order to make sure my content connects with them online.

Why is this important? If you are a food and lifestyle blog, taking wonderful flat lay pictures of your latest bake, there’s little point in posting that to LinkedIn. Your professional audience on LinkedIn are going to want to know how you grow and maintain your engaged community and the skills you’ve learnt from it but your well-staged photo is going to play out much better on Instagram.

By defining your audience, you know who you are looking for, and by extension where to find them. In the example I just used you’ve got two different audiences, followers on Instagram and connections on LinkedIn, who are looking for different things. You might have both of these things, which is great, it’s still a good idea to make sure you are posting each strand of your business to the right place rather than just scattering it over all your channels and hoping for the best.

Mistake 3: I don’t engage with any communities or grow ones of my own

I think one of the big areas that people don’t consider on social media is their community. We all check in on our social accounts and like comments that other people make on our posts but do we spend time really engaging?

Do you reply to every comment that someone makes on your social channels? It’s a powerful way to engage with people who’ve taken the time to comment on your posts, and just one great way to grow your own community.

Seeking out communities that fit with your audience, brand and niche is also a great way to grow your engagement online. This could mean taking part in a twitter chat for local businesses or relevant industries. It could be searching relevant hashtags on twitter or Instagram and replying to comments that resonate with you. You might want to congratulate every one of your connections on LinkedIn that has a milestone which appears on your notifications.

All these small interactions add up. They come together and bring momentum to what you are doing. When you spend time finding and growing your community you start to know them better. You know what they like and what resonates with them, which in turn starts to inform your business. It’s a win win.

So there you go. Three social media mistakes that I know I’m making and I’m working to improve. Let me know what you think your social media mistakes might be. And, as always, do get in touch to chat about your strategy. As you can see from this, I’m all about making sure my clients don’t follow my own mistakes!

Why do we need someone to do social media? Isn’t it just all common sense?

When I first started out freelancing I organised coffees with some of my friends who I knew worked in the kind of industries and sectors I was interested in. I felt a bit nervous and thought that just having a chat with some people I already knew about something work-related would be a good place to start.

And it was. I met up with a friend of mine who is a CTO. He was really encouraging, stating ‘I’m really glad you are doing this, you’re good at it and we need more people like you.’ I was, understandably, grateful and very pleased to be starting out like this.

My friend got back in touch within a few weeks of our coffee. Would I like to do a proposal for him for a local community initiative that he was working on. There might be some work in it, nothing big, but the chance to write the proposal would be a good opportunity.

I was happy to do it. I saw it as a chance to show him what I could do, as well as the chance to pitch for potential work so I put something together.

When we had a follow up chat, I asked how things were going. Yes, the proposal was great, everyone liked it and agreed with the content. And one person had made the comment that makes up the title of this blog – ‘Why do we need someone to do social media? Isn’t it just all common sense?’

It’s a good point. In fact it’s such a good point that still, 2 and a bit years on from receiving this feedback, I think about it every time I write a proposal, or content, pitch for work or post for clients.

I welcomed this feedback at the time and I welcome it every time I think about it. It focuses me to think about what my skills are and what value I add to my clients.

When this feedback was given my friend qualified it straight away. ‘You and I know the value of this work but you know what people can be like.’

Yes, I do. But I’m more than happy for people to question what I do, to be curious and ask. OK, it’s not always said in a nice way but I’m a pretty positive person. I’m good at answering questions for people and deflecting their bluntness to chat about what they really want to know.

And I’m happy to chat about what I do. The power of social media is an awesome thing and I could geek out on it for hours on end. (Sidebar: if you want to get in touch and discuss your social media, please do! Always happy to chat, virtually or in person. 🙂 )

Yes, a lot of social media is common sense. It is a skill that can be learnt. In the same way that doing your accounts is just maths. It is just maths. That doesn’t take anything away from accountants, who understand this ‘maths’ on a grand scale for small and large businesses. In the same way, as a social media professional, I have the skills to show you how you can reach your goals with social media.

Some of my clients want to learn how to do social media themselves, they are looking for tips and tricks. Others have heard that they ‘should’ be doing social and want to know more about what that means. Resourcing for small business, which I specialise in, is an issue and having someone who can take care of another thing that’s looming on your to do list is valuable.

I was reminded of this last week when I was doing a tiny victory dance as one of my clients ranked onto page 1 of Google for their chosen keywords. Last year, before I started working for them, they were sold multiple keyword URLs. They were told this is what would get them ranking on Google and they did nothing.

There is a lot of noise in the digital content, SEO, social media arena for small businesses. Some companies do make their money from small businesses by using words that don’t mean much and selling ‘must haves’ for things they could do easily and cheaply themselves online. I’m often working with clients on just untangling all the ‘advice’ (sales!) they’ve been offered to show them what it all really is so they can make a decision about whether it adds value for them.

If you are looking to do social media for your business then I think there are many things to take away from this. Yes, it is a skill you can learn. It might be a skill you want to outsource. Don’t be blinded by someone telling you what you ‘need’, if you really do need it they should be able to explain exactly why to you in a way you understand.

And question. Ask where the value is. Everyone I know, who is doing great work, is more than happy to tell you. I would be more worried if I couldn’t answer this question, not whether you’ve asked it.

What Did You Buy on Instagram Today?

What Did You Buy From Instagram Today?

Social Media Explained with DonutsI’ve always loved this picture explaining social media through the medium of doughnuts. As you can see it is a little out of date – FourSquare has since pivoted its business model – but I’ve often thought that adding ‘doughnut eating’ as a skill on LinkedIn is a sure fire winner!

For a long time Instagram was, to me, just a load of vintage/filtered pictures. It has always had a cult following and when Facebook paid $1bn for it back in 2012, we all knew it was here to stay.

Fast forward to today and I couldn’t imagine my personal social media consumption without it. I definitely check and post most days and using Instagram is something I do personally, as well as to build my own personal brand.

As I mentioned in my last post, I love a good virtual coffee. I think this definitely informed my choice of format for my podcast – Follow Me: Social Media Perspectives. I’ve not dedicated enough time to it as I would like in the first quarter of this year, so expect more on it soon. In the meantime my thoughts about Instagram were sparked by something Jacqueline Jensen, my guest in Episode 2, and I were chatting about when we recorded together.

Are There Ads on Instagram?

One of the things that we chatted about was our shared love of Instagram. Jacqueline uses it to document her wonderful travels as she lives and works remotely. I have gravitated towards the platform after gradually reducing my personal Facebook use. Something she said really struck a chord with me ‘I don’t mind being sold to in my Insta feed.’

This has had me thinking ever since. With Instagram’s mobile-first platform the newsfeed is one long scroll. In order to place ads into the feed they have chosen to go with a format that looks a lot like any other post on your feed.

Couple that with the fact that advertising on Instagram seems to be very targeted. I often see ads in my feed from accounts that are so close in look and feel to ones that I already follow. The tiny ‘sponsored’ text under the account name – usually where the location on any other post would be – is often the only way I can tell whether it is native to my feed or not.

There are more direct, formulaic ads coming through in my feed recently. These do stick out more and are clearly more along the lines of the more spammy ads people dislike on the Facebook feed. This is a real shame and I think could become a problem in the future.

But for now the ads seem pretty targeted. Back to Jacqueline again ‘it’s usually something I would definitely buy anyway.’ Instagram has always seemed to be set apart from other social channels and they’ve continued this trend by treading lightly when it comes to ads.

The rise of the influencer

Alongside this kind of subtle advertising there is something else going on in the Instagram feed. One of the key trends on recent years: the rise of the influencer. And I would add to that: the rise of the micro-influencer.

If you think about the things you buy, what influences those decisions? Word of mouth sells. You want to see what you are getting and hear a real person that you identify with and trust try it out.

That person often used to be a friend. You would complement something they were wearing ‘Oh, this old thing? It’s X brand.’ You might comment on a book they are reading or a service they use. ‘I’ll send you the link.’

This kind of influence takes place in dark social, a term to describe social sharing and recommendations that you can’t measure because you can’t see them happening. It is the idea that if a friend sends you a link on WhatsApp, you trust them so you click the link. If the link were somewhere on a social feed, or in an ad, you might scroll by thinking it wasn’t worth your time.

So far, advertising on Instagram seems to model this word of mouth feel. It looks like something you invited onto your feed, so you have an added level of trust before you’ve even read the caption.

To take this one step further, influencers are looking to make the gap between scrolling on past a brand link and clicking straight on it that bit smaller. If you think about who you follow on Instagram I’m sure bloggers/lifestyle blogs and small niche brands make up a proportion of your follows alongside friends and family.

You start to see these people as friends too. The platform encourages us to all mirror the same chatty way of captioning. Photos have an instant intimacy as a window into someone else’s life. So if someone is in your community, is on your feed, I think you are more likely to take their recommendations.

Your community on Instagram, the people that make up your feed, have been invited into your world by you and their influence really does have weight.

When is an ad not an #ad?

I’m sure we’ve all seen a post on Instagram with the little #ad at the bottom. The first time I saw it I had to go back and read the caption again – what about it was an ad?

There’s a great piece on #ad by Mother Pukka, an Instagram favourite. As she rightly points out, as long as these posts are signposted, getting your style advice from someone you follow anyway, alongside posts about their bin collections, makes sense.

As we’ve just discussed, these are the people you’ve invited into your feed. So more often these days brands are reaching out to bloggers with a large or niche following and paying for #ad posts. I have to say I don’t find them too worrying. Provided that paid-for content is properly signposted, I’m happy to see ad spend going to bloggers like Mother Pukka.

Another side to this advertising trend is something that we all respond well to: insight and honesty. Having someone not just model a new bag, shoes or the latest gadget but chat engagingly on Stories, show us the unboxing, give top tips and how tos, gives us a sense of just how these products will fit into our lives. That’s always a sure fire winner when we’re considering whether to make a purchase.

I’d have to say that one of the only places where ads really are not working for me on Instagram is in Stories. Having my Stories feed interrupted by a (usually) loud and not at all subtle ad doesn’t encourage me to keep checking my Stories. I’ve taken to clicking on Stories individually and not going on to the next in order to make sure I don’t come across too many.

I’m also not sold on the ‘Swipe Up’ feature currently being trialled on verified accounts. Gary Vee is using it to sell merch as well as to link to content in other channels. I find it a bit too jarring, with Instagram having been such a contained world (with its ties to only uploading from mobile, making it difficult to provide links except in your bio etc.) to suddenly have frequent links to other places.

Monetisation vs Brand Awareness

The other key thing to note here is where the money paid for this advertising is going.

Where ads appear in our feed, or between Stories, Instagram is the winner. Monetisation of platforms is the way they are kept free to access. People pay Instagram to get to our feed.

In turn Instagram will make more money the more targeted the advertising they can offer. The more they know about you, the better targeted the ads will be. Their growing data on their users is also what gave the company its $1bn price tag – the value of their data is what Facebook paid for.

Data driven advertising like this is a win/win. As we mentioned earlier, well targeted ads don’t feel like ads and companies are paying to get directly into the feed of someone more likely to click and buy.

On the flipside brands pay influencers directly for ads on their feed. This puts influencers in control and the increasingly inventive ways that I’ve seen people bring #ads and brand awareness to their feeds can be great fun.

So, what did you buy today on Instagram?

So what have we learnt from this quick round up? Advertising is certainly more subtle on Instagram than other channels. People don’t feel so marketed to, which means they are still engaged with Instagram in a way that contrasts to Facebook feeling increasingly quite ad heavy.

And does it work? Well, I’m the first person to shun a direct ad but I follow and have bought from countless small and ethical businesses I’ve found through my Instagram feed. Whilst I still scroll past ads in general, I have to admit I do take recommendations regularly from those that I follow as well as buy from them. It feels nice to be in the know, part of a community that supports small business and each other, that marketing works on me and I have the pile of cute stationery to prove it!

What are your thoughts on advertising on Instagram? Where do you think it’s going and do you like/dislike its place on your feed? It would be great to hear your thoughts.

2017 Year of Video

2017: My Year of Video

Late in December I saw that my online friend and all-round nice guy Paul Thomson had challenged himself to do #365daysofvideo in 2017. His aim is to record video of some kind every day in 2017.

My first thought on this was — eek! That’s a lot of video!

But as with the best ideas, after that it got me thinking.

I’ve recently launched my own video podcast; Follow Me: Social Media Perspectives and I did my first vlog the same week. Actually starting my YouTube channel and posting my first few videos was a big deal for me and I felt like it was the start of something big as well.

More thinking. It’s not like I could join him, right? I mean, video content every day in 2017? That’s a crazy idea. Right?

December wore on. I was still thinking about it. Planning my next few video podcast guests and scribbling notes for new vlogs.

When I started doing video content late last year I had just one thought: this is my MVP. I’ve never edited a video myself, despite having project managed editing many times. I’d written scripts and questions, invited guests, set up filming days but me and my own skills and equipment had never been pressed into service.

When I thought about all the reasons that I didn’t want to do video after the initial and most natural thought everyone has — eek! Is that really what I look like?! — it came down to the quality of my videos. I knew that I didn’t have the equipment or skills to go straight in with a polished final edit.

But then my internal monologue of doubt started to listen to what I tell my clients. Everyone has to start somewhere. Quality content always shines through. Think of this as a first go, you are building from here, every time you do this is a chance to improve and grow.

Suddenly it didn’t seem to daunting. Just playing around and recording the ideas that I had seemed to work. I was pleased with what I had said. I contacted my first podcast guest to pitch her the idea, and she agreed. I was off!

So when I thought about video content every day in 2017, I was suddenly thinking — why not?

As of today, Saturday 14th January 2017, I have published video content everyday. For me, I’ve chosen to include all video content in my challenge, including Instagram Stories and Snapchat. I have learnt so much from just messing around with these already that I know I’ll use for my vlogging and podcast.

I’ve recorded my second podcast episode, which I’m so proud of. Recording one could have been a one-off, but no, two makes it real! I’m going to edit it this weekend and release it next week.

So, I’m off to a good start. I think. It was only yesterday that it got to the end of the day and I realised I’d not made any content and recorded a hasty message on my Stories. Every other day I’ve found nice things to record or document, retold a little story or shared a client challenge from work.

I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m keen to have you all along for the ride. You can follow me on Instagram or Snapchat as @thatlaurawinton and subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

6 tips for your first video podcast

6 Practical Tips for Your Very First Video Podcast (With a Guest)

In the last two weeks I’ve recorded my first video podcast and vlog.

Here are 6 things that I learnt. I wanted to pass them on here so you don’t end up with outtakes like this — although to be fair I’ve warmed to the outtakes since I recorded them.

1. What Can Everyone See Behind You?

I recorded my first video where I have all my video calls — from my dining room table with the window behind me. I wouldn’t recommend doing this.

As the light changes so does the light in your video — which makes editing it together from different points difficult.

When I tried a first go at my vlog the week after I tried to film a little insert when I was editing. It looked awful as the light had changed so much I could have been recording from a different location. Not good.

After that I moved to the study upstairs where there is plenty of light but none of it is behind me. That way I just look well-lit and not like I’ve been recording all day in a never-ending vlog session.

2. Can Anyone Hear You?

I’ll let you into a little secret. My first video podcast, with Kat Loughrey, is not the first recording that we did.

Kat was so generous with her time and we arranged a Zoom call to record the podcast.

When we were done I was so disheartened to find that what we had recorded was just unusable.

The format I used for the podcast was to record an online conference call using Zoom. Whilst there were a few crackles on the line before we started and while we were recording, I didn’t expect the recording to come out so badly.

I was very lucky that Kat was so understanding and we recorded it again the week after the first attempt. We were both agreed it went far better the second time around, I think we were both more relaxed about it and enjoyed it more.

Have a quick test of the recording quality before you start. Just record and playback a minute or so to check that what you can hear is what is actually being recorded to avoid any crackling or other sounds problems.

No one wants to see frozen screens and hear the audio jumping around. Make sure you have the highest quality for telling everyone your favourite stories, tips and tricks.

3. Who is your guest? Check the (little) details!

I had said Kat’s name out loud a few times but once I said it out loud in front of her I wished that I’d asked her instead of guessing.

Check your guest’s name. Check what they want you to call them and how to pronounce it.

Check their bio. I had read up on Kat from her website and social profiles but actually I should have asked her how she’d like to be introduced.

You know why you’ve invited a guest to join you but your take on what they do might not match up with theirs. Ask what they want you to mention and which projects they are keen for you to highlight.

4. Where is this conversation going?

Think about what you want to talk to your guest about. I sent Kat over a set of questions that I wanted to ask her.

There were a few topics that I thought would be interesting for us to talk about and that I was keen to cover. I also wanted to make sure that Kat knew where the conversation was going and could come back and suggest things she would like to talk about.

We ended up with a long list of questions that I realised we would never get through when we recorded. That didn’t matter. I wanted to make sure there was plenty for us to discuss and we could see where the conversation went, rather than sticking rigidly to just a few questions.

5. Embrace your outtakes.

I didn’t really think about how I would edit the video. I did think I wouldn’t do much editing but it hadn’t occurred to me how I would approach those moments when nothing went to plan.

Watching the video back when I was editing I cut out a little snippet of me tripping over (all) my words. It made me smile. So I used it as a teaser for the episode while I finished editing it. And then as an introduction.

It is nice to see where you went wrong. I didn’t think every single thing would go according to plan and sharing the moment when it didn’t go so well felt fun and honest.

6. Nail your shout outs! Who are you actually referring to?

In my first vlog I wanted to mention a few articles that I feel show the value of content, which was my chosen subject.

At the start of the vlog I managed to namecheck Rand Fishkin and his ideas around 10x content with no problems.

Later on in the recording, however, I had wanted to mention Aaron Orendorff and Nadya Khoja and their great content adventure with “How to Attend a Conference (And Take it Over) Without Even Being a Speaker.”

My fandom came across with the words — I’m paraphrasing but it really was basically this bad- ‘so there was this guy and this girl who went to a conference.’ ARgh!

There are a few problems with this. 1. It’s embarassing. 2. It’s unnecessary — write yourself a note with the name and title of the article before you hit record!

But most of all it leaves you with no way of reaching out to say ‘hey, guess what, I mentioned your amazing article.’

Having seen a great recap of a video from Lewis Howes where he gives links straight to the moment in the video that talks about a certain topic, I had thought of doing something similar. I thought a quick link, starting at the mention, tweeted to those I’d mentioned would be a great little virtual high-five all round.

But then using the words ‘that guy’ doesn’t make for such a great shout out. I shelved that idea for next time, when I’ve remembered to write myself a note of exactly who I’m mentioning!

So, there you have it. 6 things I will not be repeating, laid out for you to go through and action so you don’t have the ‘d’oh’ moments that I did.

I hope you enjoy producing your video content. Please leave me a link in the comments and I’ll be sure to check it out.

Follow Me: Social Media Perspectives Episode 1

Follow Me: Social Media Perspectives — Episode 1 with Kat Loughrey

I’m so pleased to share my new video podcast with you all.

I’m always having such great conversations with people about social and content. I find new stories and perspectives so refreshing and inspiring so I’ve started my own podcast to capture them.

Follow Me: Social Media Perspectives will feature a different guest each time to share their insights into their niche, how they create content, how they use social and what the future might hold.

My first episode is live now on my YouTube channel. It was a total pleasure to have Kat Loughrey join me to talk about content and social in her work, the startup scene in Berlin and freelancing. Check it out and subscribe for future episodes:

Kat helps startups and creative businesses revamp their brand online, create meaningful content and grow their community authentically. She is based in Berlin and took the leap to freelancing two years ago. She’s working with CloudPeeps, Freelance Friday and more. Catch her in the Buffer, NomadList and Berlin Startup Slack communities, CloudPeeps and Freelance Friday FB Groups, or just contact her directly via her website or Twitter.

In the podcast she mentions her articles with great tips for freelancing on the CloudPeeps blog. You can check these out here:

How to move overseas as a freelancer – a checklist

5 tips for managing clients across different time zones

Thanks so much for taking the time to check out the podcast. Leave a comment to let me know what you think and what you might like to see in future episodes.