5 tried and tested tools for managing your social media

With so many apps, websites and recommendations out there for managing your social media these days, I’ve been meaning to blog about the top tools I use in my business. As with everything, it’s all about what works for you and with so many of these being free, it means you can have a play and if you don’t like it, try something else. Even still, start with one and as you grow or your needs change, move up and on to something else.

I’ve been working with social media as a comms, PR and marketing tool since 2011. Below are the top tools that I use and have found useful over the years:

  1. Hootsuite –  If there’s one tool you’ve heard of, it’ll likely be Hootsuite. But what’s it good for? Hootsuite let’s you plug all your social channels into one place for ease of monitoring and posting. You can post the same content across multiple channels at the same time and you can programme content for the days ahead. It’s also got a nifty tool called ‘auto schedule’ which basically saves you the guess work and research about what time of day to post and will send them out at the optional time for your specific audience. The basic version of Hootsuite is free and it comes in both desktop and app versions so you can manage it on the go. Not only that but you can access analytics and set up multiple search streams for social listening. This allows you to easily pick up mentions of your brand as well as industry relevant terms. You may even have your own hashtag, want to track who’s using it? Done! Hootsuite is truly at it’s best when used as a collaborative tool though. When there’s more than one person with access, more than one person monitoring and more than one person responding. There are great tools within the platform for making sure all tweets, questions and messages are picked up and responded to and you can also see who is posting what, and when. If you’ve got a junior member of staff you can even give them specific levels of access that allows them to draft content but not post it. Great for their induction period.
  2. Canva – Having good quality graphic design and imagery across your social media is made possible thanks to Canva! A fantastic platform great for sourcing free images, designs and templates all of which have the preset specified sizes for social media channels (the cover image, the tweet, the Instagram post). You can upload your own images and your own brand colours to use too! Many, many, small businesses use this tool daily it’s that simple to understand and play with. One piece of advice – you can easily lose a lot of time scrolling through the designs and images! Don’t get lost in the possibilities!
  3. Repost app – On twitter we retweet, on Facebook and LinkedIn we share, on Instagram you #regram. To do this manually you would need to take a screen shot and go through the process of adding a picture to your account. Be sure to seek permission and to include their Instagram handle when sharing it with your audience. It’s also nice to explain why you’ve regrammed it. If that becomes a little too time consuming for you then that’s where the repost app comes in. It’s a really quick and easy way for you to share other Instagrammer’s photos with your audience. The repost app credits the owner automatically and includes the original text that was posted with it.
  4. Wordswag – We should all have seen the memo by now that visuals are super important for all of your social media posts. Yep, all of them. However, if you feel you don’t have a hugely visual business, or struggle with what to share, perhaps you have lots of inspiring words, advice or testimonials? Word swag is worth looking up. It’s a free app so you can create your content on the go, seamlessly and very quickly. Chose your background, type in your inspiration, pick a style and away you go. It’s ready for you in your camera roll waiting to be shared with your followers on whatever platform you choose.
  5. hashtagify.me – hashtags! A bone of contention and confusion amongst many many businesses and individuals I work with. What do I use? Why should I use them? How many do I use? As a quick heads up – two in a tweet is plenty and when posting on Instagram, it’s recommended not going much above 5. When it comes to finding out which ones to start using or testing then Hashtagify is your tool. Simply type your keyword in the search box and it will display, in a cool mind map, the hashtags which are being used the most alongside that word. Now you can pick which ones most resonate with you and what you’re posting about, or use the results to drop a few.

Do you have any other tools you can recommend? Comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear what you think…

What’s the lowdown with LinkedIn?

As a student coming to the end of a three year degree and having the petrifying realization that it is time to re-join society as a fully-fledged, 9 till 5 working adult, how on earth do you even start to look for prospective jobs? That’s where LinkedIn comes in. When people talk about social media platforms, one I rarely consider is LinkedIn. Why? Because, ignorantly, I didn’t even think of LinkedIn as a social media. I have a profile which hasn’t been touched since it was created and I pushed it to one side . Guest Speaker, Greg Cooper, is a LinkedIn coach who preaches about the power and necessity of using LinkedIn to network and promote your business. Greg held a seminar at the Salisbury BBE yesterday explaining what LinkedIn can do for you. And with 22,000,00 users in the UK, I have now 100% reconsidered LinkedIn as an extremely powerful tool to reach people in your industry.

LinkedIn differs from other platforms like Twitter and Facebook, because its primary intention for your profile isn’t to sell, sell, sell – but build relationships and your reputation. Other users can send you invites and vice-versa; you can invite anyone to become a connection with you. The search feature allows you to find and build an audience of connections you can then work with. You are open to adding a whole host of personas – potential clients, customers, suppliers or influencers.

Your profile is your shop window. Starting with the very first thing anybody viewing your page will see; the profile picture. It’s worth taking some new head shots in a professional environment where you appear amenable and approachable. Mug shots or mid-sneeze photos won’t cut it! Below your picture is your strapline this needs to gain people’s attention.  LinkedIn defaults this to your job title but you can change this to a bullet pointed skills. The largest piece of writing that’s going to really define you as a person is your summary. It should be straight to the point and honest, with a list of your skills and what you do. You can put your own twist on your summary by getting creative and witty to stand out from other people in the same industry.  Another area that allows potential clients to see your skills is the recommendations section, encourage your friends or anyone you’ve worked with to add this to your page.

Once you have found have made connections with relevant people you can engage with them online by sending them relevant articles or direct messaging them. You should build up and engage in contact slowly and then you can take it offline .This is where you sell your business as you have already formed the basis of a relationship online.

Another aspect of LinkedIn that I have struggled with is how to present your page to look more enticing.  LinkedIn allows you to post articles – this is a way of adding more media to your page and also giving your audience an insight into your abilities. Make sure to include eye catching picture so your profile stands out.  There are also group posts you can get involved with – the more you reach out to people the more replies you will get and from that, potentially more connections.

In conclusion the most important thing I’ve taken away from the seminar is that you can’t be shy. If there’s someone you want to make a connection with who’s going to benefit your business – bite the bullet and send them a message! You can create a strong audience full of important contacts on LinkedIn but they’re useless if you don’t use them.  So, I’m now going to update my profile and commit to the daunting but necessary task of finding a post-grad career with my new and improved LinkedIn skills.

Lily Thorne

#Introtweet

As a millennial, I am a product of the social media generation, surrounded by peers who Tweet, Snapchat and Insta their every move. However, I am a complete novice to twitter, and specifically how Twitter can be used to maximize brand awareness, engagement with customers and even generate profit for a businesses.  But, as I’ve recently learnt, Twitter is one of the most important platforms to utilize for personal contact with your customers… Only when it’s done right!

I attended the Salisbury Big Business Event yesterday as a social media intern for Naturally Social.  The Salisbury BBE is now in its 6th year and offers varied range of business seminars and workshops, from Snapchat to Cybercrime there is something every business can benefit from.  A seminar I was most intrigued about was ‘How to use Twitter to engage with you business’ – I understand how to use Twitter just fine, but it’s the nuances and tricks on how to create and maintain a good page for a business that I wanted to know more about.

Introtweet were hosting the workshop and the first and arguably most important point that they made was that you have to engage to get engagement! If you’re sat in front of the screen wondering why you haven’t had a mention in over a week, then you need to get tweeting. But before you can start to engage, you have to have an audience to work with and it’s imperative to target the right people. The search option on twitter lets you find appropriate businesses and potential customers, so that when you are engaging, your information is going to reach your demographic. If you put an ad in the paper, it could be seen by hundreds of people but, not one them meets your criteria. However, with twitter you build your own audience by deciding the most important accounts to follow so all your information is going to reach the right people.

How, what and when are three components that are going to make your tweets stand out. Always, where possible, include a hashtag. With hashtags, it’s quality over quantity, you don’t need 6 #’s at the end of your tweet taking up those valuable characters. Make a statement you think is going to be relevant and important to your audience, and add a # at the end. This makes it clickable and interactive – you can then see everybody else who’s tweeting using the same # and get engaged. Another place for them is in your bio, this will make your profile searchable. So include relevant hashtags to your business.

Replying to tweets is what will make your audience feel valued and want to tweet again. Twitter is an instant and live platform so people don’t want to wait, if someone’s asks you a question don’t leave it a day to reply as another business could beat you to it. You should aim to reply to people within an hour.

Another great place to network and promote your business on Twitter is by using local business hours. For example, #SwindonHour is every Thursday from 8pm to 9pm where local businesses tweet there news, events or just have a chitchat- either way it’s a great place to increase your followers and get your name out there.

To make sure your tweets reach the maximum audience potential you should be tagging accounts within the tweet.  This is going to increase the chance of them re-tweeting you which means you’ll be reaching their audience too. A new feature introduced to Twitter two months ago allows users to tag accounts in images. You can tag up to 10 accounts and it won’t eat into you character count.  Not only are images more eye catching and likely to get a response but you have the potential to reach far more people with this new tool.

Finally, it’s important to keep your spontaneity and impulsiveness when tweeting. Be funny and creative, use the trending stories on the left hand side and hashtag National days that could be relevant to your company – you want people to see your personality not just your business – this is going to make you more  personable and not just another twitter account that’s trying to sell something.  You should aim for a varied range of behind the scenes personal content, industry news, relevant articles and information on your business and promotions.  It’s worth putting in the time to have a strategy every week so you’re using every tweet to its full potential. Remember, stay engaged and keep tweeting, because that’s what will make your Twitter page a success!

Lily Thorne

Person shouting down a can

Social Media and Small Biz: 5 common mistakes

It’s a wonderful thing that so many businesses and individuals are becoming more and more aware and appreciative of the opportunities that social media brings in the digital era we live in. From customer service to industry news, free marketing and brand positioning – it’s all there for us to make the most of. For many it can be a minefield to get your head around, and at times an expensive one you can’t afford when you’re very new to business so you have to find your way around it yourself. This blog post list the most common 5 mistakes I come across working with (and indeed looking for) small businesses and start ups. I’ve included some advice for avoiding them too, so I hope they are a great place for you to start when thinking about what to do and how to get it right from the off.

  1. Jumping on to Facebook or/and Twitter by default – just because everyone talks about it and tells you ‘should be on Twitter and Facebook’ doesn’t mean you should do it. The fact it, establishing and maintaining a social media presence for your business or organisation is time consuming and very much a long term strategy. Your efforts are much better placed doing one thing well then expanding as you grow. What channel is best for you will depend on who you’re trying to connect with, what you want to talk about and how (including how often) you can talk about it.
  2. Linking Facebook to Twitter (or Twitter to Facebook!) – so you’ve set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account, and you’ve realised the amount of time it can take to keep them both up to date. You’re also struggling with learning how to use each platform correctly and most of all you’re constantly stuck for what to write on them. Someone tells you that you can connect your accounts so that every time you post to one it automatically posts to the other. SOLD! Well, as tempting as that sounds please don’t do it. Refer back to point 1! Having a Twitter account or Facebook page full of links, half sentences or hashtags that make no sense is far more damaging to your reputation then simply owning the fact you only have time for one. It negates the ‘social’ in social media too…subconsciously when you’re satisfied that 1 of 2 channels will automatically be populated you’ll forget to check it for engagement (should anyone want to engage with a robot!) and thus missed opportunities and bigger yet – more damage to your reputation.
  3. Not including social media icons on business cards – this is a biggie! I started off this blog with the great news that more and more individuals accept the role that social media plays in their success but sadly, the vast majority (like 85%+) of business cards I get handed have zero reference to their social media accounts. Their mobile number and email address are there, but I don’t know how to contact you on on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or wherever you may be. These aren’t just promotional tools, these are contact methods too…and many customers (millennials for example!) will prefer to get in touch with you on line… so don’t do forget to get them added when you’re printing your next batch 😉
  4. Lack of consistency – this ties in to points 1 and 2 but by and large I always see a serious lack of consistency across business accounts. It happens for many reasons which I can appreciate, but you need to assign some set time/s each week to attend to your social media accounts…even if you can only post three times a week. Manage your audience expectation by adding this detail to your biography or about sections.
  5. Conversation (lack of) – Put simply, too many people forget that social media is about being ‘social’ and they use their designated time to just broadcast information and sales pitches about them selves. A key part to your success on social media is in forging relationships with other users. Think of it like a party. You wouldn’t just walk in to a room, demand something from everyone then turn around and walk out again. You’d look for people to speak to, introduce yourself and say hello. Listen to what they have to say and hold conversation with them. Social media allows you to then meet these people time and time again – it’s up to you then build on that initial contact, keep listening and look for the right time to offer your help/product/services.

Now go forth! Or, if you have any questions do pop them in the comments box below!

Guest Blog: Creating #IBDHour

Towards the end of last year I had to pleasure of being contacted by someone who had an idea, a thought and a passion…but needed to understand how to harness social to deliver it. Richard became a mentoring client of mine and over the course of 4 weeks we looked at goals, channels and approaches. What would be best to get him there; what could be dropped, parked or developed. One of the main things that came out of our initial meeting was the potential (and desire) for Richard to become a thought leader in the IBD / health sector. As a sufferer it was something he had begun blogging about and was actually directing some of his creative aspirations around spoken word poetry and performance.

A great way to position yourself as a thought leader in any sector is to take part in, and (better yet!) establish, twitter hours. By guiding Richard through etiquette of twitter hours, best practice, ideas and the tools that would help manage the content, his very first #IBDHour was a huge success and this month even see’s his first #IBDHour take over – hosted by a key influencer in the community. Go Richard!! Here’s how he did it:

“Hi, I’m Richard. I’m 35, a married father of 1 and I had to have my colon removed before it exploded. I’m one of the roughly 146,000 people in the UK with Ulcerative Colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

I was diagnosed in 2005, and had that first surgery just 4 months later. Since then I’ve had four more major surgeries and now have a permanent ileostomy (a type of stoma) and have to wear a bag to collect my waste.

There are lots of examples of IBD support groups and forums online, many of them on Facebook. However there wasn’t much on Twitter in the UK despite there being several active bloggers and patient advocates using the platform. And so, with Natalie’s help, I started #IBDHour.

What is #IBDHour?

#IBDHour is a monthly Twitter hour for people with inflammatory bowel disease – usually ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease. It runs on the third Thursday of the month at 8pm UK time, and started in September 2016. So far we have discussed diagnosis, where people access support, exercise and IBD, managing the festive party season and in January how to get the most from the NHS as a patient with a chronic condition. There have been steadily increasing numbers, and we get new participants every time. In February, we are having our first guest host, top IBD Blogger and influencer Thaila Skye 

Why a Twitter hour?

Having decided I wanted to move beyond my own blog and participation in other online activities to do with IBD, I thought about what I could add to what was already existing. There are plenty of existing Facebook groups and forums, and I also needed to do something that I could manage in the time available to me, so monthly was appealing. I also love Twitter – it is my favourite social media platform, and so the #IBDHour came into being. I then set up an account, and added some pages to my blog to give it a home. And for #IBDHour the point is to generate discussion, and create connections between patients.

How Does it Work?

I use Hootsuite to schedule tweets promoting the event in the run up – with a two week and one week countdown and theme reveal. I then do a three and two day reminder, and then several tweets on the day to build interest. I draft the Tweets and my own answers to the questions, and then use TweetDeck to follow the hashtag and RT all the responses. And a proper mouse plugged in to my laptop is a great help!

I’ve used Canva & WordSwag to generate graphics, and after each event I use Storify to record what happened – and then publish that link on my blog.

What have I learnt?

Since the first event I’ve been working to get the balance of questions and discussion time. I’ve found that a prompt start and finish is appreciated, and you need to keep a close eye on the mentions for late comers looking for questions (I don’t publish them in advance). Interacting with participants during and after is important too – thanking them for RT reminders for example. So although the event is only an hour a month, there is something to do each week.

It has been well received, and there is a small group of regular participants, as well as new tweeters each time – and a few lurkers.

What’s the point?

It’s hard to convey how isolating having a chronic condition can be, and anything that brings people together to support each other is a good thing. One of my favourite examples of the impact it had came from a lady called Stina, who had only recently had surgery, and she couldn’t imagine getting back to her old life. This tweet from her was a response to our ‘Exercise & IBD’ discussion:

@chicbeauty tweeting about IBD

Twitter Hours are quite easy to set up and run if you can manage the tools available to you which support them. You need to be consistent, pitch the frequency right for your audience and find the rhythm of the questions. It’s a frantic hour, but it can be a rewarding one!”

Richard Harris

http://gutlessdick.com

@doobarz – Twitter/ Instagram/ Snapchat

@IBDHour – Twitter

Hosting a Twitter hour – the man behind #WiltsHour

It’s time for another guest blog post and this month, Jamie Tuck, the man behind the ever growing #WiltsHour took 5 minutes to tell us a bit more about himself and what it’s taken to make a success of this Wiltshire wide twitter hour.

Twitter hours are a fantastic way to build  your network, spread awareness about who you are, what you do and what you know. If you haven’t joined in a twitter hour before, all you need is your phone or laptop, a twitter account and a hashtag! Set yourself a reminder before it’s due to start, sit back and start tweeting. Just remember to engage with what others are saying as well as post your own udpates!

“Natalie recently asked me if I’d considered writing a blog about WiltsHour; to be honest it’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time, and as the community has grown there might be the odd person interested in how it started.

First off there’s me, Jamie Tuck – WiltsHour’s “Mr Wiltshire” if I can claim that title! I’m also Bulldog Websites’ Social Media man. I live in Swindon with my ever-patient wife and two children who’d give the Duracell bunny a run for his money. A pretty average guy but I go from zero to tech nut in the time it takes to unlock my iPhone – I’m crazy about technology, just ask my wife (see reference to ‘ever-patient’!).

Why did I set up WiltsHour?

After quietly working away in social media for a few years I became nosey. I’ve always taken an interest in the vast array of business genres in the local area, and I already ‘attended’ several Twitter business hours under my Bulldog Websites hat. But I noticed there wasn’t anything that brought together the Wiltshire business community.

In February 2016 WiltsHour was born. I set up the Twitter page, bought the domain name for a potential website, readied a logo and set about deciding on a day and time to fit in with modern life and any type of business joining us to promote themselves. I felt Monday night was perfect after a short break over the weekend and 8pm giving enough time for the commute to be done, tea made, kids in bed and pjs on, comfy on the sofa … or maybe that’s just me – it turns out some members join us from the gym, karate class, the train, and on holiday abroad – that’s commitment!

I went on to build a website to complement the purpose of the hour – a business directory to help promote Wiltshire businesses further.

When the hour went live who knew where it would go, if anyone would bother taking part. Working on my own to drum up interest and interact with everyone who joined in, it didn’t take long to spread the word about WiltsHour. Today we have over a thousand followers and 100 business listed on the website.

 Why has WiltsHour Worked?

WiltsHour has worked and is continuing to grow because of the constant support of Wiltshire businesses and my persistent nosiness. I’m always intrigued to see what your business has to offer and to make sure everyone else knows about it too.

What have I learnt from WiltsHour?

Interaction is the key to make any project work on social media. No one wants an automated robot. People are sick of it. I’m sick of it.

I always aim to welcome new participants during the hour and chat to as many businesses as I can to make them feel comfortable with promoting their business, become my friend and find other local businesses to collaborate with, which is why I feel WiltsHour is such a great success today.

 Where can I see WiltsHour next Year?

Just seeing WiltsHour grow and helping small businesses broaden their advertising platform and attract new clients is always a massive achievement.

Please do keep supporting the hour and you never know what new services could be coming to WiltsHour soon.

Thank you Wiltshire!!

You can follow WiltsHour on twitter – @wiltshour  and remember to use the hashtag #WiltsHour”

Shape up your social in 2017

It doesn’t surprise me when so many start ups and business owners tell me their social media is non existent or they don’t have time for it. But what if I told you it is the single most cost-effective communications outlet you have at your disposal? Ok, some face to face networking sessions are free to attend – great, but travel is involved, business cards need printing, and you might not even have your networking strategy down! If you could dedicate even half of the total time spent attending just one of the networking events you go to each week or month to working on your social media you’ll soon come to understand that these free-to-use tools will not only save you time but will give you a platform in which to network with 50, 100, 2000 times as many people than your face to face groups. Social media, is word of mouth, on steroids.

With that in mind, here’s my top 3 tips to make 2017 the year your business goes social. Start 2017 as you mean to carry on and make sure your social media game is on point.

  1. Audit your profiles. Pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Linkedin because someone told you that’s what you needed? It’s likely that most of these are probably laying dormant, with out of date information and under utilised features. This is a good time for you to be honest about what you have time to do. Pick what you’re comfortable with currently and are having the most success with, then delete the others. There really is no benefit to you having inactive accounts everywhere. Then, spend a couple of hours updating your cover pictures & profile images, refreshing your pinned posts, completing your account descriptions & biographies and adding your website.
  2. Create a content calendar. Benefit from some quiet time after the festive period and plot the key events for the year ahead. Include local & national holidays relevant to your brand or business, industry events, awareness weeks or days, conferences & events you’re attending or offers you’re putting on. Entering this into a calendar and reviewing once a month is a great way to always be thinking about what you’ll be talking about on social media that month.
  3. Invest! If social media scares you or you don’t know your hashtag from your mention it will be more cost effective, and quicker in the long run if you seek professional support & training to bring you up to speed. You might not know where to start in terms of what channel to pick (and trust me – not every business needs to have a Facebook page!) and a professional should be able to make sure you get set up in the right places based on where your audience is, while at the same time understanding your resource pressures.