If you find social media overwhelming yet feel it’s no longer an option to sit on the sidelines, you’re not alone. I am one of the most introverted people I know—I almost had a panic attack when I opened a Facebook account in high school! Yet I am so passionate about promoting natural, vegan beauty and health that I’ve thrown myself into the buzzing hive of social media and become a regular tweeter, ’grammer, and pinner. Although I’m still a newbie, and I don’t have oodles of followers, I stand by the following tips for building an authentic, enjoyable presence on various social media platforms. These strategies are not designed to get you hundreds of followers overnight—rather, they may help you pleasantly engage your dream online community.
Define your “brand.” Whether or not you’re actually selling a product or service, it helps to begin by articulating your online identity or “brand.” Since all of its participants are “consumers” of a sort, social media has a tendency to commodify individuals and their content—whatever our personal intentions may be. You might as well remain aware of this fact and take control of your “brand.” Never fear, this doesn’t have to be a soul-eating process! Think about your best qualities, your passions, your quirks—these are the things to emphasize through your online identity. It may help to make a list or freewrite. A few things I want my presence to reflect: my personal style—feminine, romantic, delicate, polished (I know, hopelessly heteronormative), my passions—glamorous, vegan, eco-beauty; healthy, whole foods, etc. I also keep a few concrete images in mind to help express my aesthetic, such as white lace, gold glitter eyeshadow, pink roses… Keep updating and checking in with your list.
Figure out your target audience. Not everyone is your ideal follower or Facebook friend. If you were at a large party, which circle would you gravitate towards? The politically vocal group debating animal testing requirements in China? The folks in the kitchen preparing innovative vegan versions of popular party food? The chillaxed people watching the game? Of course, it’s swell when we’re connected with everyone at the party (and groups do overlap), but thinking about a specific target audience can help you more deeply engage a set of individuals.
Post meaningful, helpful content. Mark Schaefer, author of The Tao of Twitter, explains that “authentic helpfulness” is the most misunderstood aspect of successfully socializing online. It’s easy to forget that it’s not all about us. Remember your target audience? What quotes, articles, and ideas might they find helpful? If my target audience is green, vegan beauty bloggers, I may share a link to “5 DIY Recipes for Organic Lip Balm,” even if I didn’t write the article. Also, people often crowd-source solutions to their problems; if you have a sincere suggestion, share it with them—even if it doesn’t lead them directly to your blog/product. Genuine relationships bring warmth to social media—and make it more useful for everyone involved.
It’s okay to start small—and you don’t have to do it all. If you’re completely new to social media, start by picking one platform, and develop your presence there until you’re ready to join another. Moreover, don’t feel that you have to have a presence everywhere—being everywhere simply because you feel obligated will result in spreading yourself too thin. Think quality over quantity. Even though I recovered from my initial anxiety about joining Facebook way back when, I’ve never been crazy about it, so I don’t force myself to spend a whole lot of time on it. It wouldn’t be heartfelt.
Keep it up! Post content regularly. This will keep your followers engaged while helping to attract new followers. Try tweeting or pinning at least once a day. While there are certain peak times of the day/week to post, don’t worry about this if it will make things more difficult for you. If you’re trying to follow a tweeting regimen that’s too difficult, you’re less likely to tweet at all. (The same is true in dieting!)
Anything you post reflects you. Be kind. Be consistent. Be polished. I always return to my favorite bit of advice from Eric Bieller (The Twitter Effect): “Every piece of content you produce on the web is an asset. Each status update, blog post, comment and video is part of a whole which defines you as a person on the web… ask yourself, ‘Is this how I want to be remembered?’ ” In other words, don’t say anything you’ll probably regret in 24 hours (it won’t go away). Write to others in the way you’d like to be written. Respond when directly messaged/mentioned. Proofread, and then proofread again. Take a deep breath, and share with love.
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Photos: Mary Hood, Joeshoe via Flickr