The A to Z of Social Media

The A to Z of Social Media
by Cassie Noble Beyer

Courtesy of Handmade Business

Once seen as a passing fad or a fun toy, social media is now pervasively ingrained in our culture. It's integrated in the marketing strategy of every major business, and small businesses are embracing it more and more--even those operating out of the home.

Luckily, artists can build a presence across multiple social media platforms without paying a cent. While a social media strategy can be complex, it doesn't have to be. The first step is simply to get out there!

AUTOMATION-write when you want, while keeping a predictable posting schedule. Some social media platforms allow you to set up posts ahead of time and then schedule times when they post.

BLOGS-offer the most versatility, allowing you to post images, videos, and as much text as you wish. They allow you to show off your work, tell your story, and personally connect with readers on your terms.

Social media isn't just about promoting your artwork. It's about promoting yourself. Customers are interested in the artist as well as the art, and this is the perfect media through which to express you.

CALL-TO-ACTION-encourages readers to do something: click a link, visit your online store, sign up for a newsletter--something. This keeps the reader engaged with the material. A common method is to have one type of social media, such as a Twitter post and provide a link back to additional material, such as a blog post.

DEMOGRAPHICS-some social media platforms, including Facebook, provide demographics for your account. Understanding your audience helps shape your social media marketing campaigns.

ENGAGEMENT-is the interaction between you and your readers. They shouldn't feel like their comments are simply being ejected into the void of the Internet. Responding to comments, thanking people for sharing your material, and even sharing something of that person's in return can make for a great experience that keeps them engaged. Interested readers are more likely to continue sharing your work, which in turn, brings in potential new customers.

FACEBOOK-by far the most popular social media platform, Facebook allows many things a blog does: posting images, videos, and text--although you have less control over the formatting. It has over a billion active users--all potential followers if you can just get your material in front of them.

Your personal account and business account can remain entirely separate, although you'll probably want to invite friends and family to ''like'' your business page. Then they can share your pages, and their friends will know about you.

If they ''like'' you, you end up in their newsfeed. The problem is people have so many things in their feed they can't possibly see them all. Because of this, it's best to post several times a week for the best chance of being seen.

GOOGLE-no search engine wields nearly the influence of Google. Every time it changes its sorting algorithms, industry experts take notice.

Constructing your social media to place higher in search results is called search engine optimization, or SEO. A lot of it, experts insist, is simply to provide quality content, plus place some keywords in specific places such as titles and headings. This is most relevant in blog posts, which allows both formatting and a quantity of text. If you attempt to game the system, uncomfortably stuffing a page with keywords, Google will downgrade the page.

Google also hates stagnation, which is why a blog can be so important in addition to your website as it regularly produces new content.

HASHTAGS-are a way of categorizing posts on Twitter, so they can be associated with similar posts in searches. A potter might tag his posts #CeramicArt so people searching for that tag will find his or her post. There's balance to be found between overly generic and overly specific. If someone searches for #art, your tweet will be lost in a sea of results. But label something #ClownsInBlue, and it's highly unlikely anyone is going to search it.

INSTAGRAM-like Facebook and Twitter, which traditionally are very word-based, Instagram is entirely based on pictures. You take photos on your cell phone, adjust them within Instagram, and post them for others to see. Instagram is now the second most-used social media platform after Facebook.

Instagram, like Twitter, generally has a more casual feel to it. ''Facebook is our main platform for official announcements,'' explains Heather Cooprider of Houston Llew Spiritiles, ''whereas Instagram is more of a ‘backstage' or informal take on Houston and the studio.''
Quote by Heather Cooprider

JUST DO IT-Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest are free and easy to set up. (Blogs can take a little more time, depending on platform and preference.) At some point, bite the bullet and try one. You can always move on to something else if it doesn't suit your needs. Give it some time to see how it works and how you might better integrate it into your overall marketing strategy.

KEYWORDS-are the most important words in a blog post. They should be descriptive of the entire post so Google can properly return the right pages when people search for keywords relevant to what they are looking for, and should be used naturally within the page's content.

LINKS-are anything clickable that take you somewhere else. Your social media should be full of them, giving your readers the ability to reach a blog post, an online store, a source, or more information about you or your product. Google also takes notes about the inbound number of links to your pages, so linking between pages is a good way to rank better.

MAKE FRIENDS-every social media platform has its own way of forming a community. On Facebook, you ''friend'' a person and ''like'' a business. On Twitter, you have ''followers.'' These followers are the ones who often bring in new business. They like what you post, and they repost it. Someone else sees the shared material and follows it back to you, seeking more information.

The first way of making friends is inviting your personal friends to like your business account. On Twitter, follow some accounts similar to yours, as people often investigate newcomers to their accounts.

Quote NEWSFEED-it is the part of your social media account where you see the posts of the people you are following. Boost posts to increase audience engagement.

ORGANIC REACH-reflects the number of readers who find your material without paid advertisement. On Google, good content can still get you good placement without paid advertisements. Businesses on Facebook on the other hand, are finding it harder and harder to get their material in front of people who like them without paying for additional reach.

PINTEREST-allows users to pin images from around the web and organize them into categories. Then, others can view them and re-pin them for themselves. A popular image can easily be pinned hundreds of times by different people, and they can put their pins in a convenient spot to return to later. Putting your own images on Pinterest with some helpful keywords lets other users find and collect your images.

QUALITY POSTS MATTER-whatever kinds of social media you use, make every post a quality one. Make sure words are spelled correctly, and have the post share something with purpose--even if the purpose is humor. Images should be in focus. People read through newsfeeds very quickly. Yours needs to catch their eye, or they're just going to move on to a well-filmed video of kittens.

REALLY COOL STUFF-whatever you post, make it something remarkable and something your readers will appreciate enough to share with their own followers.

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT-there are a variety of social media management tools that help manage what can become a complex network of social media platforms. They allow you to survey all of your accounts in one place, and help you share material between them--greatly reducing your social media workload.

TWITTER-was originally designed to send short, casual text messages. Today, tweets can include images, and studies find posts with images get more views than those without.

USER-GENERATED CONTENT-when people respond to your social media that becomes user-generated content. This can include material they post to your Facebook timeline or comments they make on blog posts. These are your most engaged followers.

VIDEO-social media was originally primarily focused around words. Then, images became an increasingly large selling point for posts. Video is the next ''new'' thing. Demonstrating artistic techniques is a popular use for the medium.

When and what to post--there's no consensus on how often you should post, but once a week is good for a blog, once a day for Facebook, and several times a day is appropriate for Twitter.

Every post doesn't need to be an original creation. You can show the artwork of others you like, share tutorials you've found, and include things that inspire you. You might include quick notes about the day.

XING-(formerly known as Open/BC-Open Business Club) is a social--oriented network for business professionals to connect, collaborate and find employment. It is used by members in over 200 countries, with the largest population of German-speaking users.

YOUTUBE-is an easy way of getting videos onto the Internet. You can login with your Google account, upload your video, and then embed a link to it in your social media.

ZERO-there are zero reasons not to try your hand at social media!

You may be feeling the pressure to join the social media world, but never forget its only part of your operation. Make sure the business continues to smoothly flow as you experiment with the world of social media.