Social media, how does this thing work, anyway? Part 3

One of the most basic of social media rules is “Be consistent with your posting.” IOW, don’t be me.

Social Media for Beginners, Part 3

Let’s wrap this up! We started with a basic overview of social media and then went over a few basic rules. Today, I’m going to go over a few specifics for 4 platforms: Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Social media is a tool. You need different tools for different tasks. For hobbyists and people just starting out, I recommend you focus on one tool and build from there. Once you start getting fabulously successful, you can even hire a virtual assistant to handle the other tools. But don’t buy the lie that says you have to be everywhere at a certain level all the time. Decide what it is that you want to accomplish, and pick the tool that will best help you do that.

Bonus April Tip: Social media is not the boss of you! It is soooo easy to get caught up in the relentless, never-ending cycle of social media. We are constantly connected and think that if someone asks/comments/demands, then we are obligated to answer right now. Balderdash. If your blender started bossing you around, you’d kick it to the curb. If Facebook or Twitter (or the demanding yahoos on the other end of Facebook or Twitter) start bossing you around, tell it/them/Zuckerberg to step off. Social media is a tool to reach your goals. If the hammer gets bossy, smack it on something really hard a few times. (Or just scale back/quit that particular platform.)

Ahem. So how exactly should you use these tools? Well, in a manner that helps you reach your goals. And that presupposes you have a goal. If you don’t, take some time to figure out why you’re on social media and what you hope to accomplish. Maybe you’re an artist or writer and hope to connect with an audience. Maybe you feel like you have a message to share or wisdom to impart and need to find some impartees. Maybe you make cool stuff or teach cool stuff or just post hilarious puns. But if you don’t know what you hope to do and who you want to reach, you won’t be able to use the tools effectively.


If you sell a product, you really ought to be on Pinterest. I’m not saying you have to be. You’re the boss of you. But in my non-expert but not uninformed opinion, Pinterest really is the best place to sell things (and even services and ideas, etc.) Pinterest is the place for practical. It is primarily a search engine. Pinterest users generally go to the site 1. looking for ideas (Where should I go on vacation? What color should I paint my bathroom, and Hey! Look at that cute shower curtain!) or 2. looking for solutions (I need a gluten-free, dairy-free birthday cake that doesn’t taste like sand. Save me, Pinterest!)

All social media is about the image to some extent (except maybe Twitter), but Pinterest is probably the most heavily influenced by image. (Yes, Instagram, I see you.  I stand by what I said.) Unlike Google, Pinterest is an image-driven search engine. Type in gluten-free, dairy-free cake, and you’re probably going to pick the one that is most visually appealing to you. (Caveat: I’m probably going to pick the most visually appealing one that doesn’t look like it’s made by a professional baker because I want something I can actually do. So your food photos don’t have to look like they’re from the cover of Professional Cupcakes R Us, but they should look appetizing.) I’ve found Start a Mom Blog a good resource for general Pinteresty stuff (being a mom not required!) and Alissa Meredith an amazing resource for promoted pins, which is Pinterest-speak for ads, and other Pinteresty stuff.

Basic Pinterest Guidelines

  1. Pin your own pins to your boards and group boards, but also pin other good, relevant content to your own boards and share group board pins. Have at least one board that’s just your stuff.
  2. Use descriptive pin images and descriptions and use hashtags in your descriptions. Pinterest just rolled out hashtags, so you’ll need to do some searching to find which ones work best for your niche.
  3. Join group boards that are A) relevant to your niche B) have no more than 50 contributors and C) look like they are well moderated. If there are a bunch of irrelevant pins on the board, it’s a trash board. Stay away from boards with hundreds (or thousands!!!) of contributors and boards that are general. If you’re a crafter, you don’t want to be on a “Holidays” board with 500 contributors. You want on “Christmas Crafts” with 50 contributors.
  4. The CURRENT thinking (and this almost certainly change) is that more isn’t better. Pin 10-20 times a day with your first 5 pins being your own pins. The Pinterest algorithm is called the Smart Feed. Pinning your first 5 prioritizes your own pins in the feed. Or at least feeds them to Pinterest first. (Listen, everything dealing with algorithms is guesswork and intuition. But it seems to work for me.)
  5. If your Pinterest profile starts taking off, you might consider making your personal/non-business related boards private. You can still pin to them; they just won’t appear on your public profile. But definitely move those boards to the bottom of your board list and have your product/business boards at the top of your Pinterest page. Unless your niche is kids’ parties, stick “Johnny’s Birthday Party” board at the bottom of your page.

A lot of the above is contrary to what you’ll see in Pinterest courses and other blog posts. When BoardBooster went down in flames this summer, I did some research and decided to adopt this strategy for my client. We went from meh growth to yowzer! almost immediately. Just cutting the dead weight of bad group boards gave us a big bounce. Pinterest is aiming for quality content over quantity, and you should too. (Some posts that informed my decision are here, here, here, and here. And if you didn’t read that in Robin Williams voice, I don’t even want to know you. Kidding! Mostly.)

I think he missed a spot.


If you are looking to connect with people one-on-one (say, for example, if you’re a proofreader), I think Facebook and LinkedIn** are probably your best bets.  Within Facebook, groups are the best way to connect with specific audiences. If you’re just blasting out your info to the wider Facebook world, you’re just a tiny raindrop in the midst of a hurricane. There’s too much volume for your drop to make much of an impact, but Facebook groups can help you home in on the niche you want.

Make a Facebook page for your business. One of the main reasons for this is that you can put the Pages app on your phone and set it to get immediate notifications. Then you’ll be alerted to any business and it won’t get lost in the buzz of your private social media posts. This is especially important for messages. Pages will ALWAYS notify you of messages, but if someone who isn’t your friend messages your personal profile, you have to go into your filtered messages to see it. So you’ll either have to constantly be checking in or you’ll miss the connection.

BONUS: Facebook is now allowing pages to join groups. Not all pages are going to allow it, but if they do, it’s something to consider. I’m still working out the pros and cons and waiting to see how it works out. Stay tuned!

Rules for Facebook groups

  1. You are in somebody else’s digital house. Read the pinned post/rules of the group and FOLLOW THEM. Not only so you won’t get kicked out, but also so you don’t get a reputation among the people you’re trying to reach as a jerk. It is very easy to get a bad digital reputation and very hard to redeem that reputation. And people can mute with a click of the mouse and you’ll never know it.
  2. Establish yourself as a member of the group before pitching.  Groups are primarily created to create community, not for people to shill stuff. Unless it’s the Facebook Shilling Group. Be helpful. Thoughtfully answer questions. And scroll through the thread to ensure someone hasn’t given your answer. (Although you can always like and affirm that answer. That’s being supportive, too.)
  3. For the love of all that’s holy, DO NOT COMMENT “following” on a post. Utilize the drop-down menu on the top right of the post and turn on notifications or save the post. You clutter up the feed and bury actual useful information. In fact, if you’re uncertain about the basics of Facebook, spend some time on a tutorial. Google “how to search a group” (or whatever) before asking the group members. You want to look like you know what you’re doing even if you don’t.
  4. If it’s allowed and if it’s the appropriate venue, offer your product or services. Many groups have regular threads that allow people to post their stuff. Utilize those. If you see a need and think your product or service would be a good fit, approach the admin. But if they sell blue widgets and you think you’re going to market your indigo widget in the group they’ve spent time and effort creating, fuggetaboutit.
  5. Even if you can’t market directly, groups that fit your niche may be your best bet in finding out where you can market, and it’s a great way to network. Just don’t be the guy who messages the members of the group pitching your product. It’s probably against the rules of the group, and it’s creepy.

Start your own group!

If you want/need to develop a community — for example if you sell a class or offer an on-going service like design or health advice, a Facebook group may meet that need.

  1. Facebook groups require moderation to avoid become stinky pits of gross monstrosity, so expect to spend time moderating every day. If your group takes off, you can ask some trusted group members to help. If it REALLY takes off (and is leading to sales!), you can hire someone to moderate it. (If you don’t have the time/desire to moderate a group, do not start one. There are other options. Know what’s a good fit for you — and what isn’t.)
  2. Have a purpose! Don’t just say, “Groups are a great way to attract clients, so I’m going to start a group and sell my stuff to the group members!” Nobody joins a group solely for the purpose of buying crap. What is your audience interested in? If you’re a crafter, then maybe you want to start a group related to design or style of the types of items you decorate. If you are in the health and fitness field, a group is a great way to offer tips, encouragement, and accountability. Finish this sentence: “My Facebook group will help my audience _____.” If the only thing you can come up with is “buy my stuff,” then your group won’t work. Because a group is about building community.
  3. Do pitch, but don’t let your pitches overwhelm the group. Members should think, “This is the awesome group where I talk to like-minded widget lovers and incidentally where I got this cool widget!” You may decide to offer a discount for your group members or a special deal. That’s a great marketing strategy, but the primary purpose of a Facebook group is to develop community. Focus on that.

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Non-group Facebook

Sigh. Facebook. Zuckerberg. Sigh.

Not all that long ago, Facebook encouraged businesses to pour their efforts into building their audiences on Facebook. So lots of small businesses and solopreneurs did. And then Facebook started throttling the reach — unless you pay*. And then they got slammed for malfeasance and general stinky behavior with regard to ads, so they started this “we’re all about building community” thing. And now, I won’t say you don’t need a Facebook page or that it can’t be useful, but it should only be a (small) piece of your social media strategy. A few tips (but not rules, because on Facebook, there are no rules!)

  1. Be consistent. You don’t have to post a lot — in fact, the current consensus is you shouldn’t. But whether it’s once a day or three times a week, consistency is key. (Across all social media, actually. Both the people and the algorithms need to know you’re around.)
  2. Be useful. Don’t just post self-promotional material. Promote other people. Offer other relevant material to your audience. Engage and encourage.
  3. Interact. Post things that encourage discussion. But then you gotta hang out in the comments and discuss! But consistent with rule #1, you can do a weekly or monthly discussion and plan on being available at a set time. Which ties into …
  4. Go Live. Facebook (Curse you, Zuckerberg) has a preference for video and a bigger preference for Facebook Live.  I just watched a great tutorial on some basic principles.  The basics are: Keep it short (use a timer!), keep it on topic (have an outline!), leave them wanting more (If there are tons of questions, answer a few but then say “I’ll address the rest of these next time or in my email — sign up!”)


Instagram is the platform I’m personally playing with lately. (Follow me!) A lot of people do well with it, so play with it and see what you think.

  1. Instagram is the glossy magazine of social media, so the picture MATTERS. Good light matters. Good framing matters. Yes, even if it’s a picture of your messy house or your goofy dog or your crazy kids. It’s not just “my goofy dog” but “an interesting picture of my goofy dog.” If you don’t like to take pictures, you probably shouldn’t mess with Instagram. (As a promotional tool for your business.  If it’s just for your personal use, you do you!) Your pictures absolutely do not have to be professional, but they shouldn’t be dull. (Yes, dull is relative. Just ask yourself “Why would a stranger be interested in this?”)
  2. Be consistent with your posting. (Sensing a trend here?) If you convert your Instagram to a business account, you’ll get analytics, which will help you decide the best time of day for posting. The consensus is that about once or slightly more a day is good. I don’t know how you do “slightly more than once” without hitting twice, but that’s the data.
  3. Have a good way to link to your content. Instagram allows you a single link in your profile and you can also link in stories. Have your website, email signup, or online store in your profile. Services like Link In Profile allow you to add a link to your post which followers can access via a (wait for it!) link in your profile. A free workaround is to create an Instagram Pinterest board and put that link in your profile. Then just pin your Instagram image with the link. BRILLIANT! I should do that.
  4. Stories are brief images or videos separate from your Instagram page, but you can save them to your feed. You can link to outside sites in your stories, which is great. But they disappear in 24 hours, which is less great as a link.  I’m still exploring stories, so… more to come?


Here’s the irony: Twitter is my go-to source for information and to chat with people. But I’m still not 100% convinced on its usefulness compared to other platforms. I think it can be useful, but I worry that it would be too time-consuming to give a good return on investment.

But here goes.

My really tentative suggestions for Twitter

  1. Twitter is social media, so be social. Retweet, like, and reply to other tweeters. Follow hashtags relevant to your niche to find like-minded folks to interact with.
  2. Don’t send people from Twitter to other social media platforms to read your post. If you just lurve your Facebook post, screenshot it and post it on Twitter or create a Twitter thread. Which Twitter now allows you to do all at once!
  3. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on Twitter, it’s totally cool to push content crafted for Twitter out and check in once a day to reply to responses. You’ll still get the “newsfeed” effect that many people use Twitter for. (Note: crafted for Twitter means a status 140-280 characters with a link that goes to the final destination, not through another social media platform. Tweets longer than 140 characters get cut off in the feed, and users sometimes have to click to see all of it, so bear that in mind.)
  4. You can post a lot more frequently to Twitter than Facebook or Instagram and not overwhelm people’s feeds, but it’s still possible to go overboard. I’ve read numbers anywhere from 10 to 20 times a day. 20 seems high to me for promotional stuff. If you’re conversing, that’s different. But if you’re just tweeting, I’d say 15 is a good ceiling. Twitter no longer allows you to just repost the exact same tweet, so you’ll have to change it up or retweet yourself. I think retweeting yourself is awkward, but that’s me.
  5. Be sure you’re doing more than just tweeting your content out. At minimum, push non-you content out alongside your own even if you aren’t actively retweeting other people.
  6. You don’t have to be on Twitter at all. Or anywhere else. Remember: Social media is not your boss; it’s your tool!

Phew. There you have it.

This is interminably long and there is so much I didn’t cover. I probably should have made each of these their own posts in the series. But you get what you get!

Let me know what you think! What’s your favorite social media platform? Which one gives you the heebie-jeebies?

Bonus question: If I were to continue to write on social media, what topics would you be interested in. I promise not to be so wordy. Pinkie swear!


*You can do paid ads, but you need to know what you’re doing or hire someone who does before you do that. If you’re reading my little series for insights, I’m gonna say you’re not there yet. But start reading up! It may happen faster than you think.

** I know I mentioned it, but I… really don’t know LinkedIn. It’s something I need to get up to speed on, but here are a couple of resources from a source I trust: Linked In Riches and Vengreso.

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