How not to suck at social media

social media travel

Is it just me, or do people tend to have a love-hate relationship with social media?

Many times when I tell people what I do over here at Young Adventuress (blogger, social media whore and coffee enthusiast) I’m met with a response that’s usually along the lines of “wow, that’s different, personally I hate that internet stuff.”

Understandable.

I even have a love-hate relationship with all my social media profiles. I love them because instant gratification rocks, I like to overshare EVERYWHERE and I have a lot of virtual friends (is that weird? actually don’t answer that). But I equally dislike the whole social media scene because it’s now my work, I hate feeling pressure to respond and reply, it can be stressful and it’s also turned into an addiction. One minute checking Twitter can lead to an hour lost watching cat videos on Youtube – or is that just me?

social media travel

However, the benefits of social media far outweigh the bad. Apart from getting to follow my dreams and getting paid to travel the world and live in New Zealand (hello, does it get any better than that?) it also connects me with cool people and interesting information around the world I might not encounter otherwise, and sometimes it even gets me paid the big bucks. Woot woot!

So if I have learned anything over the years on social media, it’s that it’s dynamic, feisty, complicated and occasionally ruthless. It’s hard to tame the beast but once you do, it’s a fun and exciting field to be involved in. You’ve been warned.

However, since everyone and their mother (not mine, thank god) has hopped on board the social media train in recent years, it has become increasingly hard to make a name for yourself and get noticed out there. How do you stick out among billions of users?

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Social media is a work in process and what’s successful and what bombs changes all the time, and what has worked for me might not be the same as what will work for other people. Please keep that in mind before virtually yelling at me.

However, scout’s honor dictates that I must answer truthfully and honestly on here, and since I get heaps of questions and pokes all the time asking me things like “how do you get more followers,” I feel required to finally answer.

So here you go, my 10 best tips for not sucking at social media. Enjoy. 

social media travel

1. Understand the value and point of different platforms

There are so many social media platforms out there, it’s overwhelming. I STILL get overwhelmed with it all, but if you are looking to build a job or profession in the social media world, not only do you need to understand them, you need to prioritize and pick your battles. 2 years ago I started a notebook with monthly social media goals and numbers, and I’ve actively worked on building them and promoting them day by day.

Participating in Twitter chats helped me out in the beginning, though now I have come to believe that Twitter is pretty useless, and doesn’t really drive traffic to my blog. A lot of bloggers like to quote TweetReach as evidence of their super powers on Twitter, but in my opinion, that stat is total BS and people only use it because it’s generally in the millions and therefore looks good on paper. Tweetreach doesn’t accurately track how many people *actually* see a tweet, which is the whole point.

For someone who really does get the whole Twitter thing, check out Jodi from Legal Nomads. She has incredible post here about the importance of curating content.

social media travel

Instagram is probably my favorite social media platform at the moment. It has more than double the level of engagement as Facebook and far more than Twitter. This means people will interact with your stuff on Instagram much more than anywhere else. It’s also been growing rapidly and used by people in my target audience (25 to 34 year olds).

While Instagram doesn’t really drive traffic to my blog, I have been able to create a community of around 20,000 loud and loyal followers who listen to my travel tips and suggestions, which is what big brands and tourism boards want to see. It’s the new big media and in places like Australia, which has the most bomb Instagram of them all, has given rise to a whole new group of “professional Instagrammers.” I’ve been honing and focusing on my Instagram for over a year now, and I am happy to report, it’s one of the main reasons I get trip offers and paid offers, which is what we all want.

For examples of awesome travel Instagrammers who really get it, check out PaulyVella, ZachsPassport, and Wisslaren.

social media travel

Facebook Pages are a deep black hole that unfortunately we are all enslaved to until further notice. Unless you run Facebook ads, your page will be show to roughly 5% of your followers WHICH SUCKS THE BIG ONE. That being said, I am cheap and thrifty, and I’ve found through my own page as well as pages I’ve built for other businesses that you can still create a good community and get people engaged without spending money.

The most important number on Facebook is NOT the number of likes but rather the “talking about number” next to it. PR firms and big companies will look at that and your demographic much more than the number of followers. I have around 10,000 fans and my “talking about” number hovers around the 1,500 mark with my most popular city alternating between Brisbane, Auckland and Wellington and 25-34 year olds – EXACTLY who I want to be listening.

There are many sneaky pages out there who run super cheap ads in countries like India and Pakistan because the “cost per click” is much cheaper and people are much more likely to click and follow. I can think of a few who have 100,000 fans yet their “talking about” number is the same as mine and their demographics are 16 year old boys in Karachi and Bangkok. Businesses and PR people aren’t stupid and check those stats, which are public. It’s important to cultivate a community that fits with your brand goals and ideal demographics. 

Check out Finding the Universe for a Facebook Page that’s done amazing things.

social media travel

Pinterest is a tool that I really really need to start using more and more. It is visual, easy, and used by totally normal people a lot. It has the potential to go viral much easier on here and is a great way to drive traffic to your website. I am kicking myself for not putting in more of an effort until now.

Check out YTravel Blog for a page that has done amazing things on Pinterest.

Google + to be honest, I don’t really get it, and from what I’ve gleaned so far from it is that it’s mostly used by photographers and other social media nerds, so I am not sure how effective it is to build an audience of people who will follow my travel advice or as a tool to drive traffic to my site. That being said, I’ve only started frequently posting on it over the past few months so maybe my initial judgement will change. I’ll keep you posted. On G+.

Check out Trey Ratcliff for someone who really “gets” Google +.

My absolute favorite travel social media platform is called Trover. All the rest don’t actually help me plan and execute a trip, where Trover does just that. I’ve written about it here, and it combines all my favorite aspects of different platforms into one, but the best part is the community on there, it’s filled with friendly likeminded travelers who are forward thinking and interested in sharing their stories. Because it’s an app by travelers for travelers, you don’t have to shift through the millions of BS content found on other platforms. Thank god.

I don’t actively use any other social media platforms so I feel like I am not qualified to have an opinion about them.

If you want to learn more about how to effectively use social media with the nitty gritty details, consider joining me over at Travel Blog Success.

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2. Don’t be boring!

Actually, this should probably have been rule number 1.

The beauty of social media is that it’s instantaneous. That means you have approximately half a second to catch someone’s attention online. Make it count.

With so many other people sharing, liking, posting, tweeting, instagramming, pinning, and commenting, it can be really hard to stand out, especially in an area like travel that is already very saturated. If you are a social media newbie with a small following (nothing wrong with that) it’s going to be impossible to get noticed if you post really boring, white bread stuff that much bigger brands and bloggers already do. Lonely Planet can get away with sharing very standardized posts like “Japan’s Best Eats” because they have a million fans and they are the number 1 travel authority (more or less). Newbies can’t afford to compete on their terms or play the same game.

Stand out. What makes your opinion worthwhile? Why should I care what you share? What are you an expert in? Figure that out and then start both posting your own content about it in an interesting way and also curate and share other content that is 100% relevant to it.

Be interesting, be creative, be brave. And for god’s sake, don’t be boring!

social media travel

3. Don’t be afraid to be honest

Along with not being boring, it’s equally important to develop your own voice and be true to yourself. This should ring as a blinding flash of the obvious, and yet, everyone seems to struggle with it.

It absolutely baffles me, but for some reason almost every travel blogger I’ve come across is convinced the way they are going to “make it” is by pretending to be a guidebook. How do I put this delicately? I hate those blogs. A lot. That is also not the point of a blog. Usually.

I also notice now with many bloggers who take sponsored trips somewhere, every single place is “the most beautiful, exciting, delicious and friendly” place in the entire world. While I don’t doubt that that might be true occasionally, my skeptical eyebrows start to go up when I see it every other week on their social media channels. Why can’t people be more honest?

In my opinion, one of the best ways to gain followers and be successful is to be honest about EVERYTHING.

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I’ve worked with enough people now (with some HUGE announcements coming soon) to learn that most of them don’t care exactly if you occasionally say something negative. In fact, they understand that your audience probably trusts you MORE if you are honest all the time. Well, this is what they’ve told me. People like honesty. I like honesty.

Just because you say Thailand is humid and stinky doesn’t mean I won’t go there myself. I will know to plan accordingly and not be caught by surprise with not enough deodorant and light quick-dry shirts. Don’t be afraid to be honest.

For an extreme example, Xiaxue is Asia Pacific’s top blogger with more than 40K visitors on her site a day. She’s also crazy, She is brutally honest in everything, picks fights with other people online, does heaps of sponsored posts, and still does really well. I’ve followed her for a while because she is SO entertaining and she doesn’t give a fuck about what people think. Also because she’s crazy, which I’m pretty sure why everyone follows her. Girlfriends doing something right though. Just maybe we should emulate in small doses.

 

4. And please don’t be a sellout

Following my own advice and being perfectly honest here, once you amass enough followers on social media, you can leverage that into making some money. And there is nothing wrong with that as you long as you do it ethically.

By ethically I mean either disclose it and make sure whoever you are working with fits with your branding and image and it’s a product you can actually endorse. My rule of thumb is to ask myself, would I buy this on my own dime? Is this something I can recommend without hesitation? Do I actually like this? Then proceed with caution.

It should integrate seamlessly into the page and not stand out and look like you sold out for a couple hundred bucks. It’s also important to space out sponsored content, otherwise you run the risk of pissing people off and looking spammy.

I get massively annoyed when I see a lot of hotel photos on travel bloggers Instagram pages. Tone it down. I feel the same way when everything that’s being posted is from a sponsored trip. It’s important that your content is original and not always sponsored, otherwise you are just a vehicle for advertising aka a sellout.

social media travel

5. Post regularly and at optimal times

I think one of the hardest things about social media is to keep up with it. I frequently feel myself being hit by a wave and tumbled over and sometimes I don’t want to get back up again. This week I’ve been absolute crap with my Twitter. Actually, I’m always crap with Twitter. It happens.

But over the years it’s important to keep up with posting fresh, new content on your social channels. As a general rule I try to post 3 times a day on my FB page. 3 to 4 times a day on my Instagram, once a day on G+, and tweet as often as I can.

Once you get the hang of it, you can figure out what times are the best times to post and when you reach maximum eyeballs. Sites like Iconosquare (formerly Statigram) can help tell you this info. For example, I find my best times to post on FB in New Zealand is at 11pm, 5am, 8am and noon – New Zealand time. That way I reach all my target audiences.

social media travel

Remember, scheduling is your friend. You can schedule out pretty much all your content everywhere in advance, except Instagram. I schedule up almost everything on Facebook in advance using the FB scheduler – it’s so easy, and I use Hootsuite for Twitter.

Also remember to be careful and don’t be spammy. Nobody likes a spammer. By spamming, I mean linking all your social accounts together. Like people who post their tweets on Facebook, shudder, that looks like shit and warrants an immediate unfollow. I think the only one that is acceptable is posting an Instagram to your Twitter, though it’s much more effective to post a tweet directly than with a link to the image you want to share, and this way has a much bigger chance of being retweeted.

Now let me share an awesome secret and introduce you the marvelousness that is IFTTT – If This Then That. On IFTTT you can create custom recipes and triggers so if you post one thing on one site, it will be shared on another site usually without any spammy links or add-ons.

This is our little secret, deal?

social media travel

6. Keep it relevant and be professional 

Once you get an idea of your brand, it’s important to stick with it and not stray too far away, especially if money is involved. You’re doing your followers an injustice.

You also don’t have to be limited to what you are interested in sharing, social media is dynamic and evolves a lot, and in order to keep bringing in new followers and fresh eyes, it’s important to switch it up. If you market yourself as a budget backpacker, don’t be posting 5 star hotel photos on your pages when you get offered a free night trying to sell it. You can’t be a budget and luxury blogger at the same time, that’s NOT how it works.

Personally I find it incredibly annoying when travel bloggers start posting about their love lives online, but maybe that’s just my bitter 26 year old heart speaking. That works if you run a personal blog and sharing that kind of information is the norm, like with many fashion and lifestyle bloggers, but when market yourself as a professional photographer and you don’t usually appear in front of the lens, it doesn’t work in the same way and you come off looking like a lovestruck teenager.

social media travel

Another pet peeve of mine are girls who’ve branded themselves as “solo female travel bloggers” and yet they haven’t taken a trip alone in at least a year. If 90% of your travel is on a group press trip or with your man, you are not a solo female travel blogger anymore. You aren’t doing yourself or your readers (or legit solo female travel bloggers, cough cough, ME, any favors). End rant.

Finally, it’s important to remember to use social media for good instead of evil and to be professional and remember you represent a large group of people – I’ll add what’s professional to you is not the same as it is for everyone, you have to find your own voice. While I have no qualms about calling out big brands who’ve messed up online, I put a lot of thought into it first because of my large following. If it’s something small, I’ll handle it quietly, if it’s something big I think it’s worth my followers hearing, I shout – like that one time Qatar Airways almost killed me.

Don’t use your following to manipulate people into getting what you want. That’s not cool, and it paints bloggers and influencers in a really ugly light. We need to stick together to move forward and to get recognition and value. Being an unprofessional jerk only pulls us all backwards.

social media travel

7. Only share the best of the best

In this digital age with so many people on social media, it’s important to only share the best of the best, especially with your own content.

This means check for typos, rephrase if you need to, and don’t put up crappy photos, please!

Travel is inherently visual. We go places to see, to experience. As travel curators and people who share for a living, it’s important to post top notch photos. If you are trying to build a following on any social media platform, sharing photos is key – don’t drive away followers with ugly shots.

By all means you don’t have to be a professional photographer, but do put a little effort into your images. This means edit every single photo you share before posting. You are a visual ambassador. Straighten the horizon. Boost the color. Sharpen the details. Fix the exposure. DON’T add an Instagram filter and is there really any point to putting a watermark on Instagram? Nope unless you are trying to annoy people.

My favorite photo editing app on my phone is Snapseed, and Lightroom on my computer. If you think your images need improving, work on improving them – they aren’t going to fix themselves. I am always trying to take better photos, and I am proud when I look back at my crappy shots and how much I have improved since.

Finding the Universe has great tips here, as well as Canvas of Light here and the Polar Route here, or even this great post on Lifehacker about mobile photography.

8. Do try and get the attention of bigger brands in a non-douchy way

One way to gain *engaged* followers is to get featured or shared by bigger brands and names (remember numbers are less important as engagement – it doesn’t matter if you have a million fans if no one is listening to what you say).

Try to reach out and build virtual friendships with brands you like, use and trust. For example, I wear TOMs a lot, you know the hipster canvas shoes. I don’t work with them (I find their religious affiliations dubious) but I love the shoes. One time I snapped a pic of my feet hanging out by the lake in Queenstown and tagged them. They eventually reshared it.

I’ve done this with a lot of my stuff, and occasionally it pays off. If you are traveling in a country with a tourism board that’s active on social media, be sure to follow them and use their official hashtags which might get you reshared. I’ve been featured on the Australian Instagram page a couple of times which has led to new followers.

Also Pro Tip, note that Instagram only shows you 80 notifications at a time – if you get a lot of notifications, like me, I don’t usually see when people have tagged me in a comment, so you need to tag a big page in the image itself as well as in the comments.

On Twitter whenever I write a post about something, I’ll share it with pages that I think match it. Like a New Zealand post will get shared with the New Zealand hastag, ect. But I certainly don’t spam out every travel account I can think of, except for Lonely Planet – who occasionally shares my stuff yippeee!

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9. Build a loyal community

Before writing this I actually questioned myself if I am even qualified to be making such a longwinded and elaborate post. I have roughly 50,000 followers across social media, which in the big scheme of things, isn’t all that much. Most of my followers are right here on my blog (if you don’t have a blog but would like to start one, check out my post on 10 Tips for Starting a Kickass Travel Blog, where I break it down step by step!)

Over the years I’ve made the executive decision NOT to push my social media channels on here, and only include them where necessary. Let’s be honest, pop-up “like my Facebook page” make me want to punch a baby and the “please subscribe to my million channels” in the beginning, middle and end of every post sounds whiny.

I go by the belief that good content and honesty will bring followers, and if you want to find me, you’ll find me.

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This means that the people who end up on my social media pages want to be there. At least that’s what I tell myself when I barrage them with weird and bizarre information I find relevant. Or overshare about, well, everything.

So while I don’t have as many followers as a lot of social media gurus out there, I do pride myself on the fact that I have quality followers who match my target audience exactly and who are really engaged with the content I am sharing. This means they keep coming back, post after post, year after year.

You have to give your audience a reason to give a shit. This fact is not lost on the people who are interested in working with me, and I make sure to point it out in my proposals too. Quality will always beat quantity. 

 

10. Don’t expect instant gratification and don’t give up

I’m often asked how to get more followers online, and I often hear complaints from people that their pages aren’t growing as fast as they would like.

My first response is focus on the engagement not the numbers, and my second response is Rome wasn’t built in a day.

It takes a big commitment to build a brand or blog on social media, you have to put in the time and the hours. In the beginning you have to keep going even when no one is listening, trusting that if you keep trying new things and working hard, your profiles will grow organically.

It’s taken me 4 years to hit 10,000 Twitter followers, 2 years to hit 20,000 Instagram followers, and 2 years to hit 10,000 Facebook followers.

It took me less than a year to average 100 comments a blog post – that’s my most important number.

Are you into this whole crazy world of social media? Are you interested in growing your following? Have any tips, opinions, or contradictions to add? Did I miss anything?

social media travel

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114 Comments on “How not to suck at social media

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  1. “Post regularly and at optimal times” – oh how crap I am at that (well, I’m bad at the other points too but this is the worst…)!! I go through periods when I’m all over the different social media platforms, and then I just disappear for a while…. I know I shouldn’t do that but other stuff just takes over… Instagram is my favourite though too, I love the community there although it’s quite separate from my blog. Excellent excellent article, I should really take some of this on board!! 🙂

    1. I love the Instagram community too and I love that it’s separate from my blog as well, fresh eyes. Just schedule stuff out, so much easier. Then come back to New Zealand and hang out with me 🙂

  2. Thumbs up. (And glad you linked to Jodi’s curation page – that’s pretty much a guide to how the smartest people are using Twitter.)

    I reckon #8 is key. It’s key because everyone starts small, and when you’re small you can’t act like a social media celebrity, broadcasting in all directions to your followers, because you *have* no followers. If you want to get heard, and you’re still creating the work that will put you on the map, you have to seek out influencers and get amplified by them – in a non-spammy, non-skeezy way. This is partly why qualityb curation is so effective, because it’s a way to get noticed and spark up conversations with the people you’d go all Wayne’s World at the feet of, if you ever had the chance of meeting them.

    If your circle of influence is modest, if your engagement is tiny and if you’re not getting heard, admit it to yourself, and make friends in high places. It’s how to climb that ladder.

  3. Great tips Liz. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with Social Media – I was only on facebook before I started my blog now I am on Pinterest, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Instagram – it is exhausting! Although I do engage on SM I mainly just focus on my content and putting out something that I am proud of. I may not have many followers at this early stage but the followers I do have enjoy reading my blog and I have received lots of encouraging comments – that is why I do it so I try not to worry about my numbers too much.

    1. then you’re doing the right thing! Comments are really important! Oh Stumbleupon, I tried and tried to use it but gave up months ago haha

  4. Great article, you have presented a very nice blend of how to use but not overuse social article. Especially the part about following and throwing like buttons in the face 🙂

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