13 ways to build a strong social media presence
Don’t know where to start when it comes to social media? Andrea Simpson of ArtsHub has compiled some great expert advice:
Social media has altered the way we communicate and cultivate the myriad of relationships in our lives. It’s also the space where we express ourselves to the wider world; how we shop and approach businesses, and how we market our artistic endeavours.
But recent algorithm changes, not to mention the untidy questions of ethics, security and surveillance on social media, have many wondering how to keep up with what remains an important tool in creative careers.
When scrolling through popular social media feeds for inspiration, you may even wonder, how do people make it look so easy? While some social media accounts may appear relaxed and spontaneous, there’s a vast amount of strategy going on behind the scenes. To find out how it’s done, ArtsHub asked two experts for their advice.
1. STRATEGISE AND SET GOALS
Brisbane Powerhouse’s Marketing Director, Giuliana Bonel, said the success of this year’s Brisbane Comedy Festival’s social media campaign was no accident.
‘We started the Brisbane Comedy Festival platform from scratch. It’s not something we thought of overnight – it was definitely a planned process. We started in the very beginning looking at setting social media goals and objectives.’
You need to ask yourself, what do you want to ultimately achieve? Is it interest in your artwork, or are you trying to cultivate an audience for future performances?
Bonel said always start with the fundamentals. ‘One of the most important things we did is we sat down and we went “right, what platforms are right for us? For comedy?” There is quite a few out there to choose from – we opted to have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They’re the top three.’
2. USE YOUR VALUES TO ESTABLISH A BRAND
As an artist you probably don’t want to perceive yourself as a brand, but when it comes to online marketing this is a must.
‘They need to ask, what’s my brand? What’s my tone of voice online? It’s very similar to how an organisation would look at it – what are your goals and your objectives for your plan? What are things you will feature and what are things you won’t?’ said Bonel.
Before you start posting, ponder on your values and how you want to represent yourself. Bonel forewarned, ‘As an artist you need to think what your limitations are. You might not want to get involved in a political statement – it really depends what your brand is, and what you represent.
‘Some artists are very active in that space – it just all depends on what you want, are you prepared to face the feedback online when you get it? It’s a really big thing and I see artists slip into situations that they are not prepared for sometimes – we have seen many examples go wrong in the past. You need to be prepared and have your values quite strong when things do blow up or when you do go viral that you keep your stance strong on whatever that issue may be.’
Director of Perth-based company, Creative Warrior, Amanda Maresch agreed. ‘As an artist you need to really ensure your core values are followed throughout your whole social media presence, making sure you have a really solid identity.’
3. BUILD A CONTENT BANK
Bonel also emphasised the hard work it takes to create riveting content, and that keeping a cache of content on-hand is imperative. To make things easier, the team behind Brisbane Comedy Festival created content ahead of time with a tight approval process to improve consistency.
‘We put together a plan of when we were going to post, how we are going to post, and we started really building that content bank. We were making sure we had content ready to go. The content was drafted, then approved to ensure it was in the right tone of voice. We wanted to make sure that it was fun and casual – a bit of tongue in cheek and authentic. We wanted to make sure all our posts fell into those areas. This helped us to realise the right type of post and we were able to weed out content that didn’t quite fit.’
4. THINK AESTHETICALLY
Maresch said that the aesthetic of your social media pages is crucial and well worth spending time on.
‘Colour is an important thing in terms of design. People will not recognise a logo or writing. The first thing the brain recognises is colour. Really think about your choices in your graphic imagery – especially with platforms such as Instagram for artists and galleries. So, pick a colour theme and stick with it.’
5. TIMING IS EVERYTHING
It’s important to understand that social media isn’t what it used to be. Today it is much harder to grow your community as you compete with not only other users seeking to do the same, but also algorithm changes that privilege engaging posts.
Figuring out the perfect time to post is half the battle and involves knowing when your audience is online and more likely to engage.
Maresch said: ‘You really need a calendar, even if it’s just an excel spreadsheet or a calendar that you can scribble on. You need to note when everyone is online the most. This helps you to focus your business.’
A calendar will also help you plot your posts and ensure you are not spamming your audience.
6. ANALYTICS 101
Bonel recommended spending time in the back-end of your social media platforms. ‘Once we started posting we actually looked at the analytics – the Facebook analytics and Instagram analytics – to see what engagement we were getting.’
She said you have to look at the analytics to understand whether your posts are hitting their intended target and to ensure you’re posting at the right time. ‘Looking at your analytics is incredibly important to ensuring that success continues,’ she said.
7. ALGORITHMS 101
An Instagram Shadowban sounds intimidating, and it is if you aren’t up to speed with your algorithms. A Shadowban directly affects the reach of your Instagram account – it’s when your hashtag is no longer discoverable; meaning you will show up on your followers feeds but you will not show up on non-followers feed.
‘It’s a really bad time at the moment in terms of algorithms, as they’re changing constantly,’ Maresch said. ‘You need to find a good online resource. Be aware of things like hashtags on Instagram – you really need to be aware of those things because they can really affect your reach.’ A good rule of thumb is not to use the same hashtag repeatedly.
8. THIRD PARTY SOFTWARE IS A MUST
Not many people know there is third party software for social media platforms, such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social. Software can help you plan ahead, said Maresch. ‘With software you can sit for a couple of days and plan ahead for a month or so, it’s a better way to get your strategy across.’
Bonel agreed. ‘Scheduling is a must – we couldn’t always be here at nine o’clock at night. So make sure you have time to schedule those posts during the day, so you can go home and not have to be worrying about a post. You can’t be working 24 hours a day.’
9. DON’T HARD SELL, TELL A STORY INSTEAD
Have you noticed the most popular posts are often the ones that trigger a deep emotional response? That’s because they do more than just push information at the audience.
Maresch said, ‘You need to be offering people something when they are looking at your social media feed. Be it teaching them something; educating them, or even just sometimes making them laugh.
‘Those are the types of things that are going to engage an audience, or create that following because it is a back and forth with your audience. It creates personality. Don’t hard sell your audience, people don’t want to be sold on their social media, they don’t want to see adverts. Everyone always presses the skip button on YouTube. Try to promote yourself in a friendly way, don’t ask people to buy, buy, buy.’
10. DON’T BUY FOLLOWERS, BUILD THEM AUTHENTICALLY
Interacting with your audience will cultivate a strong tribe mentality. ‘It’s not about the amount of Facebook likes you have or how many Twitter followers you have – it’s really about the quality of those followers because that is where your engagement is coming from. Sometimes you see some people with thousands and thousands of followers but their engagement is quite low, and it’s because someone might have purchased those followers – which is something I don’t recommend. You want to have that authentic engagement.’
To create that kind of authentic engagement, Bonel said you need to remind the audience that there is a human on the other side of the screen. ‘We always wanted to be engaging so they know there is someone there and they’re not talking to a computer.’
11. FOLLOW PEOPLE YOU ADMIRE
It’s true what they say – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So follow the people you admire and check out how they do it. ‘Is there someone you are inspired by on social media? Look at their platforms. Have a look at the ways they’re engaging to take some inspiration,’ said Bonel.
Maresch agreed. ‘Do a lot of research on your competitors – don’t be afraid to emulate a business that you admire. You don’t need to steal ideas off them but you can harvest some ideas for inspiration.’
12. WHAT ABOUT NEGATIVE COMMENTS?
From an organisational point of view, the team at Brisbane Comedy Festival decided to stay away from engaging in any negativity online.
‘Keep it quite neutral. We don’t engage with negativity as it just adds fuel to the fire. On the other hand we made sure that if someone didn’t have a positive experience that we always responded in a positive way – don’t start an argument that is an absolute no-no. We are about being fun, engaging and authentic – you know what occurs online stays with you forever. It’s quite a permanent thing,’ said Bonel.
But Maresch had a different take on negative comments. ‘People often hide their negative comments, and I think that’s a lost opportunity. I think people need to respond to those comments so that when others come along, they can see you are able to handle that situation and that you can turn that situation around. You are making them feel better in such a positive way. This will speak volumes.’
13. DON’T REPUBLISH OTHER PEOPLE’S CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION
Last (but certainly not least) Bonel reminded social media users to ‘never use an image without permission.’
‘I have seen people do that and it can get very awkward. It’s not your property so you shouldn’t be using it – you see people re-tweet or re-post a message but they have changed the content, that’s not OK.’