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December 10 2013

15:53

Social Media: Finding the Balance Between a Waste of Time and Necessary Networking

Ah yes, the all too constant struggle of networking with social media. It’s one of those necessary evils that everyone, from job seekers to freelancers to name brand companies, have to rethink constantly. This is why it is one of the most commonly discussed topics across multiple industries. We all know just how important social media is, and most of us continue to struggle between making it a successful marketing avenue and a waste of time.

As a freelancer who has struggled with wasting hours on social media and completely ignoring it for a month (or more) at a time, I have learned a few ways to help me narrow this gap between the two extremes. Now, have learned how to better focus my efforts with social media. It’s still not perfect, but I am on the road to tightening down my efforts and am already seeing results. And for those of you social media skeptics, even when I was only flailing along with social media, I gained enough clients through my exposure via Twitter and Google+ that I haven’t had to search for clients since I became active in several social platforms.

If you are a business owner, freelancer, or even an individual simply looking to build up a strong network in your search for a career, you may find the following tips to help you better take advantage of the benefits that social media has to offer. Hopefully, some of the resources below will help you greatly reduce the time-suck trap many fall into with social media. Use your own experience in combination with these tips, and like me you may find clients knocking down your proverbial door.

So, take a look at the following 10 tips and resources and get ready to re-adjust your social networking plan into one that will waste less time and build more positive results for you and your business ventures.

Schedule Social Media Time

This is one tip that I still struggle to maintain. Yet, it’s advice that social media experts give over and over again. One of my, and I’m sure others’, biggest problems with social media is letting it interrupt other daily work tasks. This is why setting aside a half hour, an hour, or any other necessary block of time for social media can be so beneficial. You can even schedule social media time every hour or twice a day. Just find what amount of time works best for you and stick with it. Keep out of all of your accounts except for during that scheduled time. Having a certain time set aside for social media keeps you focused and, consequently, more productive.

Don’t forget that some social media tasks may require a bit more time. For instance, scheduling posts ahead of time (see the next section below) may require a longer time slot than, say, responding to comments. And weekly you may need to set aside an extra block of time for catching up just in case you have extra activity that week. In the following tips, you will find quite a few resources for helping you cut back on the extra time you need for those tedious social media tasks.

Sign Up with an Auto Post Service

There are lots of different resources both free and paid that will save you mega-time on daily or weekly posts. The extra benefit of these services is that you can schedule your posts for the month at a single time, and then essentially forget about posting until the beginning of next month. You can either go with a service that only posts for one platform, or one like Hootsuite that will take care of your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media pages. I have found Hootsuite very easy to learn, and it comes with free and paid account options. SocialOomph is an excellent one that is free for Twitter. With a Premium account, you can also incorporate Facebook and LinkedIn, auto-post your blog posts, conduct emails, and more. You may want to try Post Planner if your focus is on Facebook and Twitter, since it allows you to scan what is popular in your niche and even allow you to share other’s posts in your scheduled updates.

Use Paid Promotional Options

There is a huge misnomer floating around that social media is a completely free method of marketing yourself online. However, between time-saving resources and now the promotion options provided by the top social media platforms, you really need to set aside at least a small budget for social media marketing. Facebook’s Promoted Posts are really the only way to ensure that your followers are ever going to see your updates in their news feeds. LinkedIn has Sponsored Updates, and Google+ even now allows for posts to stretch across both columns in the news feed – for free!

Now, of course, you shouldn’t pay to promote every single one of your posts. However, the really important ones you should definitely promote, and this should be on a semi-regular basis, like once a month. Promoted updates are also a good idea if you feel like you simply need that extra burst of exposure every now and then, even if you don’t have a truly groundbreaking announcement to make.

Download Mobile Apps

Make sure to have mobile apps of each social media platform you use. The purpose of apps is not so that you can waste even more time on social media, although the social media platforms certainly love this. I have found that having the apps on my phone makes it easy for me to catch up on some networking while waiting – in line at the bank, in line to pick up my kids from school, at the doctor’s office.

All of the main social media platforms now have free apps. And there are also some great apps for managing several sites from your phone, such as Hootsuite. Eliott Marrow provides an incredible list of social media apps on the Jeff Bullas blog that definitely are worth checking out.

Filter Spam from Relevant Contacts

Many Twitters users have an auto-direct message feature that goes out every time someone follows them. This is just one example of a spam-like message that warrants no need for a response. On Google+, users have the option of emailing contacts when they share a post. And Facebook of course emails you every time you get mentioned in an update. Some of these direct contacts you will certainly want to follow up on to keep your contacts happy. Plus they are a more productive way to remain active on your accounts, as opposed to just browsing through a news feed and responding to random posts.

However, they will require filtering, especially if you have multiple accounts and lots of contacts on each. On Google+, for instance, don’t worry about commenting on every single shared post. Sometimes you may just want to +1 it. The same goes with Facebook, simply Like an update unless it really calls for a comment. Just practice making that judgement call in the amount of time it takes you to glance at your email preview or notifications and keep moving.

Use Software and Apps for Finding Shareable Content

Personally, I don’t do a whole lot of sharing of others’ content, which isn’t exactly the best practice. However, I am a writer so have an overabundance of my own content to Tweet and share daily and weekly. If you don’t have your own blog or a ton of your own work to share, then a great way to find content to use in your auto-post service is with an app made specifically for this purpose.

An excellent tool for finding content across multiple channels of social media based on hashtags is Tagboard. It makes finding content fast and easy, and it’s also a great tool to use for getting involved in conversations in your niche (i.e. building connections in real time). Another great one is Swayy. This tool drops the most interesting or relevant content into a single platform, which you can then immediately share via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

One note to make: even if you do schedule content once a month or so, it doesn’t hurt to save a bit of time on the front end. If you finish scheduled tasks during your social media slot with time to spare, then you can always browse for content and save it a document for your next month’s content. Of course, if the content is timely, you are better off just sharing it the moment you find it, but many niche content can be reshared months after the first publication and still garner lots of feedback.

Spend Less Time Finding Images

We all know how vital images are for making posts stand out in a news feed. My biggest drawback to including images is how long it can take to find them. Of course, when you are in a huge hurry, you can just use the auto-thumbnail selection when posting links to Facebook or Google+. But a large image does draw a lot more attention.

You can save time finding creative commons images (those pictures that the author has marked free to share) with tools such as PhotoPin or Compfight that allow you to search creative commons Flickr images by keyword. If you have trouble finding images in the right size and don’t have a clue as to how to use an image editing tool, Smush.it is a very quick and easy way to quickly reduce your image size and resolution to improve load time.

Quickly Manage Twitter Followers and Un-Follows

Twitter is one social media platform that is highly effective for gaining exposure and building a network but also can be one of the greatest time-wasting sites. What I found to be the hardest part to manage on Twitter was my followers. There simply is no quick way to look at your followers and follow them back. This is where a Twitter tool becomes very necessary.

One of my greatest time-savers has been Tweepi. This cool, free little tool allows Twitter users to very quickly follow back other users and to even un-follow the ones that are not following you back – among other very helpful time-saving Twitter tasks. Another great social media tool that provides follow and unfollow help along with analytics and more is ManageFlitter.

Track Results

To really know if you are spending the right amount of time on the right activities in social media, you will need a way to track your results. Thankfully, there are plenty of free resources available for quite the robust tracking. Google Analytics is probably one of the most popular free tracking tools. It does take some time to really learn, but the good folks at Google have provided plenty of help for you to quickly get your analytics up and running.

Klout is another excellent way to not only see how influential you are across various networks but also to see what niches you influence. Plus, you get lots of cool discounts and freebies, called Klout Perks, when you reach certain milestones.

Socialbakers’ Analytics Pro helps you see what actions have given you greatest growth in your social media networking. But this isn’t the best feature. It also shows you what content is the most interesting for your connections – and what gets them involved the most. It works for tracking Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and while it isn’t free, Analytics Pro does offer a free trial.

Eliminate Time on Irrelevant Social Media

Not all industries benefit from the same social media sites. For instance, I have found that Google+, LinkedIn, and especially Twitter are my greatest sources of relevant connections. Facebook and Pinterest are simply voidless time-sucks, and YouTube and Flickr take too much time with little results. You may find that MySpace, Pinterest, and Flickr are your greatest sources of helpful connections. Or maybe Facebook is the only one that is worth your time.

However, this does not mean that you can simply ignore the rest. You simply need to put almost all of your time into those sites that provide you with the best results. The other ones you can simply fill out your profile and check on your notifications to make sure you haven’t had a prospect contact you. At the very least, make sure you have a full profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, even if none of these are relevant to your industry. The reason is that signing up on these big four make you more visible, both to prospects who just happen to only have an account on one of these sites and to Google and other search engines.

Have you learned some ways to help you spend your time wisely on social media tasks? Please share below!

Social media cloud photo credit: daniel_iversen via photopin cc

July 01 2013

04:51

4 New Free and Low Cost Ways to Measure Social Media Results

Do you use social media to market your design business? Are your social media efforts working? How can you find out?

Six or seven years ago, these were very difficult questions to answer.

After all, back then social media was a relatively new phenomenon. Facebook wasn’t available until 2004. LinkedIn was founded in 2003. Twitter was just getting started and Google+ didn’t yet exist.

Back then, an accurate method for measuring the effectiveness of social media participation was hard to find. If you were able to find a tool that worked, you could expect to pay a lot for such information.

Fortunately, things have changed. Social media has matured. And along with that maturity comes the ability to measure your social media results. While you can still pay good money for high quality social media analytics, there are now a lot of tools available to measure results at very little cost to you.

In this post, I profile four new tools designed to help you measure your social media results. If you like this post, you may also like 6 Ways to Use Social Media Successfully as a Designer.

measure-social-media
Image Source: Skakerman

Twitter Analytics

Recently Twitter began rolling out a new analytics feature that lets you analyze the effectiveness your individual tweets. The feature used to only be available to paid advertisers, but as of the time of publication the feature was free to all Twitter users.

To access the Twitter Analytics tool, go to the Twitter Analytics site and use your Twitter user name and password to sign in. The Home page defaults to instructions for advertisers, but don’t worry about that. Click the Analytics option on the navigation menu at the top left of the screen. You’ll see a choice between Timeline activity or Followers. Choose Timeline activity.

Timeline activity analytics basically lets you measure the effectiveness of individual tweets. For each tweet you can measure how many times other users:

  • Retweeted it
  • Favorited it
  • Replied to it
  • Clicked through to the story

So, if you’re wondering what your Twitter followers are really interested in, now you can know for sure. If you’re trying to brand your design business through Twitter by sharing relevant materials, this tool can be really handy.

The same view also displays about a month’s worth of mentions, follows, and unfollows. So, if you’re upsetting a large percentage of your followers, you can tell right away.

Google+ Ripples

Google-Ripples
Image Source: Phillie Casablanca

Ripples is a recent Google+ tool that lets you examine the reach of your Google+ posts (material that you share with others on Google+). If you’re like me, you totally missed this free feature that measures the reach of the material that you share on Google+.

Here is what you need to know about Google+ Ripples

  • You can only use the Ripples tool for information that you have shared or reshared. You cannot use the Ripples tool for material that you simply gave a +1 to.
  • The tool does not track comments unless there were reshares. It’s possible to get a lot of comments on a Google+ post (indicating engagement), and not get any reshares and so not trigger the Ripples tool.
  • Google+ Ripples only shows public reshares. If your share was reshared on a limited basis, that reshare will not show up in the Ripples too.
  • You can also use Ripples to show how post popularity spreads over time.
  • If the post was not reshared, the Ripples option will not even show up on the drop-down menu.

To use the Ripples tool,

  1. Go to your Google+ profile to see the posts that you have shared.
  2. Hover your mouse over the upper right corner of a post to see an arrow that leads to a drop-down menu for that post.
  3. If the Google+ post was reshared, the Ripples option appears last on the drop-down menu.
  4. Select the Ripples option to open the tool.

Ripples is especially helpful if you’re trying to see who was interested in a particular Google+ post. It’s also a great way to find out what material elicits the most response. Best of all, it’s free.

Klout

When Klout first came out, it was somewhat controversial. It seemed to be little more than a popularity contest. People voted you up and down in certain categories. Their judgment may (or may not) have been valid. There were also were those who worried that Klout could be easily manipulated.

If you haven’t looked at Klout in a while, though, it’s worth revisiting. Klout has matured a great deal in the last year. Klout can now measure engagement across six different social media platforms. Those platforms include:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Foursquare

Klout was started to measure social media influence. It assigns users a score between 1 and 100, with the higher scores being more influential. While the exact algorithm used to calculate your Klout score is unknown, there’s a lot more to Klout than just your score.

The other information available at Klout is quite helpful. Of particular interest is the ability to compare your social media presence across several platforms over a 90-day period.

If you click Network Breakdown in the top left of the right column on your Klout dashboard, you will see which social media tool gets you the most interaction. For example, my own breakdown shows that 76% of my interactions occur on Twitter, 15% on Google+ and 8% on LinkedIn. (I’m actually quite proud of those numbers, because I’ve been making an effort to increase my presence on LinkedIn and Google+ over the past year. A year ago, those numbers might have been quite different.)

Plus, answering questions on Klout can boost your visibility in the Bing search engine. You can read more about how Klout affects search results in this post on The Verge from Casey Newton.

Pinterest Analytics

Pinterest
Image Source: StockMonkeys.com

Pinterest is another social media tool that has added a lot of new measurement tools.

Since Pinterest is visually oriented, designers might want to pay particular interest to the recent addition of Pinterest Analytics. This is especially true if you are using Pinterest to promote your design business.

Pinterest Analytics is designed to help you track how your website is being shared on Pinterest. It’s surprisingly full-featured, considering that it’s included for free in Pinterest as long as you set up a Business Page.

To use Pinterest Analytics, you first need to verify your website. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Upload a file to your server.
  2. Add a meta tag to your index file.

You must also switch to Pinterest’s new look to use Analytics.

Once you’ve verified your Pinterest account, you will have access to Pinterest Analytics. With Pinterest Analytics, the information you can track the following Pinterest information concerning your website:

  • Number of pins
  • Number of people pinning materials
  • Number of pins being re-pinned
  • Number of re-pinners
  • Number of times your pins are viewed on Pinterest
  • Number of unique visitors to your pins
  • Number of times visitors click through to your website

You can also track the most recent pins, the most re-pinned pins, and the most clicked pins.

As you can see, that’s a lot of information. So, if you use Pinterest, don’t ignore Pinterest Analytics.

Your Turn

What free tools do you use to measure social media? Do you use any of the tools we’ve discussed in this post?

Share your tips and experiences in the comments.

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