How to know if you suck at social media

I’ve never talked about the kinds of questions I get asked most frequently: “When should I post to Twitter?”, “What should I post to Facebook?”, and my favorite: “Are photos okay to publish?”

If you’re not intimately familiar with social media, I get that it might look more like a homework assignment than a place to chat with people. But that’s all it is — “a place to chat with people”. Here’s how to know if you suck at social media:

  • You think of your followers as “users to engage with”.
  • You think of your channels as a “brand” and not what it probably is — you sitting at your desk in your pajamas.
  • You follow more people than you could reasonably ever read or listen to.
  • You use apps like TweetDeck to “plan out” your “social media strategy” and auto-tweet or publish pre-packaged messages.
  • It takes you 45 days to put together a tweet.

What and when to post

I can’t really tell you what to post to social media. Everyone’s different. But that’s just it — everyone’s different. So my advice is simply this: Say something when you have something worth saying.

If it’s not worth saying, don’t post it. If it’s repetitive or the same thing you said yesterday, don’t post it. If it’s boring, dull, or reads like a crappy advertisement, don’t post it.

Don’t auto-post stuff either. NPR did an interesting study on this:

During the five days of manual updating, there were 142,219 visits to NPR’s website from @nprnews tweets — a 45 percent increase from the average (98,213) of the five weeks leading up to the experiment, according to NPR’s Google Analytics data. Links tweeted by @nprnews were clicked on nearly 100,000 more times than links shared automatically the week before, information from its bit.ly account revealed. And the account gained 5,010 followers — about 14 percent more than the week before.

If you sit down at the start of the month to treat your Twitter account like you do your bills, you’re doing it wrong. No one wants to read pre-packaged missives about you or your business. Be timely, react to the world’s events and its surroundings. It’s a tweet, not a movie years in the making. Auto-scheduling posts may work for some kinds of content — like for accounts that post historical information, and maaaaaybe blog links, but as we learned from NPR, people notice those things.

Don’t post what I call “filler” either. If I wanted to read quotes from Ben Franklin or Maya Angelou, I’d follow accounts that tweeted that. But I don’t. Because I’m busy and I don’t need to be “inspired” by how awesome Ben Franklin was. The same goes for other little self help junk. Just because it’s Tuesday and you didn’t say anything on Twitter yet today doesn’t mean you have to struggle to find some useless missive to post. Maybe it’s just a boring Tuesday and you’re doing boring things. That’s okay. Especially if you do boring things like finance, insurance, or other heavily corporate stuff.

You’re probably too scared

Being effective and interesting online is just like being effective and interesting in person. You have to say things or hold opinions that challenge the norms, are funny, or are otherwise very different from other people. If you introduced yourself as saying, “Hi, I like cake”, that’s lame, isn’t it? But if I said, “Hi, I bake cakes in the nude for a living and I have this blog where I post photos…” well, now we’ve got something, don’t we?

About the author

Justin Harter

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