Content Part 1: An Intentional Approach to Social Media— Deciding How, When, and Where To Post
When creating a new brand and business, it’s nearly impossible to ignore using social media.
While you certainly could make the decision to not use social media at all—which is, believe it or not, something we've had a conversation about, there’s no denying that people are giving oodles of their attention to platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.
So how the heck do you decide what platforms to use as a business?
And what are we doing to ensure we control how we use social media platforms, rather than letting them control us?
Why we’re not using Facebook or Twitter for Wandering Aimfully
One of the biggest decisions for us when it came time to choose what platforms we’d use, was both being in agreement of not using Facebook.
It’s a bit crazy to ignore the BIGGEST social platform in the world, right? Maybe. But...
We don’t want to spend our time in a place that brings negativity to our lives.
You could argue that Facebook had a huge part in helping kick off my entrepreneurial career. I spent soooo many hours using Facebook while running my IWearYourShirt business from 2008-2013. Growing an audience. Interacting with new people around the world. Having one-on-one conversations through chat and messenger. But just because something gets you started, doesn’t mean it’ll keep you going.
Caroline and I have greatly reduced the amount of time we spend on Facebook. Caroline isn’t as drastic as I am (big shocker there) and hasn’t completely quit Facebook like I did in 2016. However, even though she hasn’t completely quit, she spends almost no time there at all.
When you’re growing a tiny independent company like we are, you are the ones managing all the social accounts. If we decided to use Facebook for Wandering Aimfully, guess what that means we’d be doing? Yep, logging into Facebook every day. No thank you. Just because our audience might be hanging out on Facebook, doesn’t mean we have to use our precious time to do the same. We don’t like the way it feels to scroll through the FB News Feed or see random commentary from people. The benefits we may receive from using Facebook don’t outweigh the glaring negatives for us.
We’ve grabbed the Wandering Aimfully FB Page to secure our name and brand, but that’s about it. We won’t be regularly pushing posts from other social platforms through Facebook. Truthfully, the only reason we even created the page at all was because we may play around with Facebook retargeting ads for the membership in the future. Even if we do decided to test that though, we'll probably outsource that to someone so we won't have to be the ones logging in and being in the Facebook atmosphere.
WHAT ABOUT TWITTER?
We both currently use Twitter with our personal accounts. While we grabbed an @ name for Wandering Aimfully, it’ll stay mostly dormant.
We love the conversational nature of Twitter and will continue to use it. But as far as a brand presence goes? We’ll simply continue to use our personal accounts to chat with anyone that wants to talk about the wanderings and the aimfullys.
Don’t put all your eggs in the social media basket
You’ve probably heard it or even said it before... What happens when you put all this time into growing an audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and then an algorithm changes and you can no longer get your stuff in front of the following you built? As our friend Paul Jarvis puts it:
In order to play in someone’s playground you have to give them some of your power and energy. A bit of you now exists in a place where you don’t have full control. Maybe it’s agreeing that they can use anything you post in their own advertising (like Facebook). Maybe it’s that your content can only exist in their system (like Instagram). Maybe in order to add something, you need to follow a strict set of rules (like Kickstarter).
The playground we want to build is around the Wandering Aimfully website. Sure, we’ll be using some social platforms, but we’ll have the most control on our website and with our email list. That's why you'll read in following content posts that our focus will be attracting attention through our high-quality articles, rather than pouring all our time into building our audiences on social media.
You can’t pay your mortgage with social media followers.
As awesome as it feels to amass thousands of followers, we’re acutely aware that monetizing a social media audience is tough. We also know the psychological trappings that come with trying to grow an audience on social media (must. get. more. followers.). This was my entire business model and focus during the IWearYourShirt days. I was constantly chasing follower growth metrics and at the same time losing my grip on my actual put-money-the-bank-account business. We, as a collective, see people we follow get sponsorships and brand endorsement deals, but those folks are absolutely the minority.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS A NICE TO HAVE
Don’t get us wrong, we’re excited to share creative posts on Instagram (way more on that in a moment). We’re genuinely pumped for our video production plans for YouTube. But if these things went away, the core of how we attract and build our audience would still be intact.
If you’ve built a following on any social media platform, you know it’s more than just sending a witty tweet or sharing a nicely composed photo. It takes content planning, content creation, posting content, interacting with followers, and of course updating profile photos so you’re not using that photo of you from college.
All of that takes TIME. That's why it's incredibly important that we establish out of the gate what role social media will have in our marketing efforts, otherwise we could find ourselves neglecting the really important tasks in order to create and share social content.
For us, social media will always come last on our priority list. We’ll focus on our content output in this order:
- Email newsletters
- Website articles
- Podcast interviews
- YouTube videos
- Instagram posts
- Our MySpace and Friendster pages!
If we run short on time taking care of the first few things on our list, guess what we’re always going to sacrifice?
Now, that doesn't mean we're not going to try to maintain our social presence and keep up with our content strategy. It just means if push comes to shove, we have a clear hierarchy or where to put our effort.
Instagram is the social media platform we’ll focus on the most
There are two clear reasons why we’re focusing the majority of our social media efforts on Instagram:
Reason #1 - We use and love Instagram. Plain and simple, we thoroughly enjoy the experience of IG. (And, as you read above, if we're going to be the social media managers, we want to enjoy doing it.)
Reason #2 - It matches up with our skillset. We love creating visuals, writing fun copy/captions, and sharing parts of our lives and business through Stories.
Now, if you want to get into the nitty gritty of our Instagram strategy, allow me to pass the baton just for a moment onto Caroline...
Hey guys, it’s Caroline! I’m jumping in for a moment here because I’ll be carrying most of the Instagram workload. Sure, Jason can talk about Instagram, but I’ll be the one in the filtered-photo-trenches. For those of you who love Instagram too, I thought I'd share with you a bit about how I approach our content sharing strategy for the 'gram!
Our Instagram visuals
I like to think of Instagram content in two ways: visuals and messaging. Visuals are the photos/videos you're sharing (duh), but you also have the things you’re writing about in your captions to support those photos. I mention this because I view both of these mediums—the visual and written—as opportunities to communicate with your audience. What do you care about? What do you want to say? How does your content support your larger brand story?
For the Wandering Aimfully Instagram, we decided to keep the content of the visuals to these four basic categories:
Lifestyle photos of us - Our intention with Wandering Aimfully is for it to be bigger than us as a movement, but we also know that we’re sort of the face of that movement and the brand. Part of the entry point of people getting into the brand is through our personalities, so it’s important that we show that. We also think it’s important to show that we practice what we preach—we travel, we enjoy life, we laugh—we have built lives that we love and want to share that with people. (We recently did a full-day photoshoot with our friend Jen Wojcik so we'll have plenty of go-to images to share, but we're also not above an iPhone snap! It's all about balancing high quality with natural and authentic feeling photos.)
Business tips & advice - We genuinely enjoy sharing our business experience because we’ve only gotten to where we are by soaking up the lessons and stories of other people. We like to think about this as paying it forward in a way, while also providing value to those that follow us. Yes, we want to post "pretty" images, but we also want to make the lives of our followers better, as well as show them that our business experience is another benefit of joining the Wandering Aimfully membership.
Behind the scenes business processes - This could be tools that we use, snapshots of our branding process, sneak peeks of putting together our Wandering Aimfully welcome gifts, etc. The goal here is transparency and teaching business tips in a sort of “watch what we do” kind of way.
Intention and mindset - These images are most likely quotes or illustrations showing how we approach business from an intentional perspective.
Defining YOUR VISUAL Mix
You'll see we have a mix of photos, graphics (aka design elements with photos) and illustrations. I like keeping our images a mix of these things to keep it visually interesting. But you might choose that you only want photos in your feed and that's cool too. In general, I'm also very conscious of showing a balance of "business" and "life" content, because that is what our brand is all about.
Making sure your brand values are represented
If you remember from our branding post, three of our brand values are: Authenticity, originality and intention. I like to think of social media as an extension of our brand and website, so it's important that we continue ask ourselves: are those brand values being represented in how we're showing up on Instagram? For us that means balancing our professional photos with more candid/natural ones, showing our playful personalities in the captions and comments, having a clear thoughtfulness to our posting strategy and experimenting with different image styles and unique visuals.
How we plan our posts and keep our feed brand consistent
This is where I really start to geek out! Okay, so I’m a sucker for a nice consistent Instagram feed color story. What I don’t want, however, is a stale feed full of perfectly posed photos that are supposed to look natural but you know a team of 10 people carefully setup and photographed. That may work for other brands, but not ours.
It was important to me that our Instagram be an extension of our brand identity - I wanted it to utilize our brand colors, have a mixture of photography, illustration and graphic collage elements, and leave a person feeling like our six tone words were represented: funky, modern, bold, vibrant, friendly, and seeking. The way that I do that is through planning! I usually try to plan the following week's posts on Friday (or Sunday if I get busy) and this is how I do it. (I know, I know, this means not every post is in-the-moment, but this is also how you stay sane when you're a content-heavy business. We can't be worried about "what to post today" when we're trying to create new things and interact with our customers so... planning it is!)
Step #1: Start by planning your messaging for the week.
Right now since we are posting a ton of article content here on the WAIM under construction site, my primary messaging has been about whatever we're sharing here on the blog. So, that's my starting point of "what do I want to say this week."
To remind myself of the posts we have planned for the week, it's back to our trusty friend Airtable and our content calendar! One of the cool things about Airtable is I can link two sheets together, so I have a column called "Social Posts" that links over to our Insta Schedule tab. Next to each of the scheduled blog posts for the week, in the Social Posts column I add a record with a general idea of what I want my visual to be. Like this...
Step #2: Determine visuals that best express that messaging.
Once I include these ideas in the "Social Posts" column, because it's linked to my Insta Schedule tab, they automatically pop up as new rows over on that tab. This allows me to add the date they'll be posted and what posts they correspond to. That way I know exactly how many photos or graphics I need for the week.
Another thing to mention: When I'm brainstorming what visuals I want to represent our blog posts, I'm not just thinking about what visual might best express the message of the article, but also what might be most interesting to a follower. For example, if we have a blog post talking about pricing, a photo of a price tag might represent that BUT that's not that interesting. No one wants to "like" a price tag. That's why for this particular image I added the quote from the article which gives context to the image and now someone who might resonate with that sentiment is suddenly much more interested.
Step #3: Create visuals based on your grid's color story.
Now, this might be going one step too far BUT we have a lot of colors in our brand and I wanted all those colors well-represented in our feed to reinforce our branding. To avoid getting too heavily weighted in one color, I use Adobe XD to create an artboard that is a mockup of our feed and I'll put a color block for what general brand color I think could be visually represented in that post. That allows me to create my visuals with some brand parameters in mind. And then it's just a matter of using my creativity (and past image styles) to come up with a fun visual.
Step #4: Upload images to Later and write captions.
If you are a brand or small business using Instagram, I can't stress enough how great of a tool Later is. Here are my favorite features.
Calendar Planner - Once you've created your social images, you can batch upload them to your image library (which is a cool feature in itself because if you don't use an image for some reason, you can schedule it in the future and it's just there at your disposal!) From there, you drag and drop onto a calendar at the day and time you want to post your image. There, you're prompted to write your caption and you can even insert saved captions or hashtags into your posts.
Preview Grid - Another feature I LOVE as the brand consistency nerd is this "Preview" grid which allows you to see all your scheduled posts in the order they'll appear on your profile grid. If you're not happy with the color balance, you can reorder them right there on the grid and it will update your post calendar for you.
Conversations - Lastly, this is a new feature they released recently but I love it so much and it's helping me to be better at interacting with comments. Normally, I try to keep my social media use limited which is why I tend to be bad replying at comments. I don't want to get sucked into Instagram. BUT, Later's Conversations feature allows me to reply to comments from my Later dashboard, never even having to open the app! It even gives you a little preview of the person's profile when you respond to them so you can make it personal.
A note about Instagram stories
I think Instagram stories are a great way to also extend our storytelling in a different way, but truth be told this is the LAST thing on our list of priorities right now which is why you haven't seen it very much on our account yet. Looking forward to more ways of utilizing this in the future. But right now I also love using Adobe XD to build story images like this to share our blog content:
Remember, YOU control how you use social media for your business
If using social media fits into your overall plan and brings you some sort of value, then great! Use it up! But if you find yourself only using social media platforms because you feel like you should (and you secretly hate it or it makes you feel overwhelmed) then don’t do it.
We’re building Wandering Aimfully because we want to operate a business on our own terms. That means choosing where to spend our time and energy. If you’re running your own business, maybe this post gave you the permission you were looking for to stop using ALL the social media platforms and only focus on what brings YOU value.