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The Basics: IGTV

IGTV has been somewhat overlooked since it launched back in 2018. Instagram are starting to push it more this year by introducing ads, enabling creators to monetise their videos and allowing Instagram Lives to be saved to IGTV. So how does IGTV work and how can small businesses use it to improve their social presence and make sales?

What is IGTV?

Essentially it’s just long form video on Instagram. Whereas the Instagram feed allows videos of up to 1 minute, on IGTV you can share much longer videos, much like you would on YouTube. Although when it started out it was vertical video only, you can now also share landscape video making re-purposing video content from other platforms much easier.

While IGTV does have a standalone app, it’s also baked into the Instagram app. On profiles you can tap the IGTV logo to view videos rather than grid posts and you can share videos to your Stories as you would any other post (currently IGTV videos shared to stories do not cross post to Facebook.)

Is it worth your time?

I vote yes. We all know video is popular and is a great way to connect with your audience and longer form videos perform well on other platforms; Facebook recommends a minimum of 3 minutes for videos, for example. It’s also a way to avoid posting longer videos using the carousel function; many of us have got round Instagram’s 60 second limit by cutting longer videos into 1 minute sections and sharing as a carousel grid post. Wahey for no more faffing like that!

You can use hashtags for IGTV just like you would on Instagram proper so you have a great opportunity to have your video content discovered. Additionally IGTV videos are included in the explore feed and previews can be shared to your grid.

In big news, URLs in video descriptions are clickable! That means that IGTV gives you an opportunity to link to places without needing to send people to your bio link. This is a real game changer for Instagram and a great reason to consider creating longer form video content on the platform.

Accessibility note: you currently need to burn in subtitles for IGTV videos as you cannot upload caption files.

As an aside; pre-recorded videos are a great option for people who don’t love going live but want to dip their toe in the video waters.

What to post

Of course this will depend on your business and audience but here’s some ideas

  • Intro video; talk about who you are, what you do and why. Let people get to know you.
  • Product/service highlight: explain in detail one of your products or services, who it helps and how.
  • How to: how to use your product, how to do something relevant to your business, how to do something and why your product helps with that.
  • Interviews: chat with some interesting people and share it.
  • Vlogs: behind the scenes or day in the life style vlogs remain a popular type of content.
  • Testimonials: create a fun testimonial video or ask your clients to send a video clip saying how awesome you are!
  • Meet the team: if there’s more than one of you, why not introduce your team members and have them talk about about why they love working for you or what led them to do so.
  • News and views: talk about industry news or your thoughts on related news articles.

Devilishly Handsome Productions have shared some more ideas for Instagram video marketing over on their blog.

The IGTV basics tl;dr*

While it’s not set to overtake YouTube just yet, Instagram is such a popular platform that I think IGTV needs to be a part of your Insta-plan right now. With huge viewership on Stories and ever increasing app usage, it just makes sense to share any video content you create on the platform, even if you don’t have the resources to create content specifically for it.

Starting out on Instagram or looking to take the platform more seriously? Start sowing your social seeds with my free 5 day Instagram challenge. We start on Monday 6th July and I’d love you to be there.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

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Facebook Rooms for business

a tropical forest area. Text reads "Facebook Rooms for business"

Facebook Rooms was a much anticipated feature following Mark Zuckerberg announcing it and now it’s out in the wild many of us are testing it, seeing how it works and trying to figure out how it fits into our lives. I’m specifically interested in how it will fit into community focused marketing strategies, like the ones I use with my clients.

Exactly how useful it will be for businesses will depend, as always, on your business, community and overall marketing strategy but here are some ways I can see Facebook Rooms being great for businesses.

In case you haven’t seen the announcement, Facebook Rooms is a group video calling option which will be available on all Facebook apps; Facebook and Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. Think Zoom but on Facebook. Anyone will be able to join a Room, whether they use any of Facebook’s services or not, using the link that’s provided to you when you open a Room.

Events

Whether you’re running a healing circle, a fun event, a fundraiser, online training or any other kind of event, Rooms are going to offer a great way to connect with attendees and allow them to interact with each other. There are some limitations with Facebook Rooms so if you want to be able to effectively teach, Rooms is probably not the best option just yet, but for group events which would benefit from simultaneous interactions they are likely to be amazing.

Community check-ins

If you’re running a Facebook group this is a powerful way to build community in it and connect further with your members. Whether you just drop in at random and open a room for people to hang out, allow others to create Rooms, or set up regularly scheduled group chats for members to look forward to, it’s another layer of connection for you. Remember you can title Rooms so you can make it clear that Room is about one specific theme or topic if that’s important or you’ve allotted a set amount of time for it.

You could even offer casual versions of your services through them; group coaching, mini trainings, Q&As, etc.

Market research

Planning a new product or service? Other business decisions that you could do with speaking to some customers about? What an amazing way to do market research; open a Room and ask people to give you their feedback, be brutally honest about what they love about what you do, what they’re less keen on, why they chose you, etc. Bouncing ideas off your target market is so helpful and Facebook Rooms offers a new way to do this.

Pre-announcements, special deals, etc

Speaking of Facebook groups, why not give some insider info and advanced notice to members through a Facebook Room? If you have a big launch coming, new products in the works, business changes or any other news, let your inner circle have some info before it’s public knowledge. Open a Room, hang out with your OG fans and give them some behind the scenes or super secret (but maybe not too super secret!) information, a special discount code, or other titbits to show you appreciate them.

Include your email list by sending them a link to the Room so they can join too!

Collabs and biz besties

If you’re a lover of grand plans or creative missions, Rooms are a great place for thrashing out ideas and involving others. They offer a new way to organise collaborations with other businesses or influencers, discuss your big idea, who’s going to do what, how it’s going to work, what the aims are, etc. An hours video chat can often accomplish days worth of email interactions (and I’m pro-email, so that’s a big statement!)

If you’re running a small charity, this feature also offers a great way to involve your volunteers from across the country or world with fundraising plans and events.

You can also jump in a Room with your biz besties to work through your confidences crises, business pivots or anything else that only those amazing folks who get you and your business model can help with.

The Facebook Rooms tl;dr*

To me, the key to Rooms is collaboration. They’re not about one person talking and others listening, they’re about groups interacting. They’re the digital space to share ideas and experiences and just hang out. So stop, collaborate and listen! Try them out, see what works for you and your community and then implement them, or not, in ways that benefit all of you.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

If you’d like to work with a creative, passionate social media manager to get your own social strategy together, with or without Facebook Rooms, contact me. I have space for a new client to start right now!

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Go live or die trying!

If you follow me across the internets you may have noticed I’m making something of a name for myself as that social media expert who doesn’t go live! I’m not sure if that’s really where I want my branding to go but for now, let’s run with it!

Do I think that going live isn’t a great way to boost reach and engagement on your social media? Nope, not at all. Live video consistently does well across all platforms for a variety of reasons, it’s also a great way to connect with your community, add even more value and get discovered. The thing is, it’s not for everyone and that’s ok!

You don’t need to go live for social success

As I have said a thousand times over, great content is what matters. Whether that great content is live video, plain text or something else, great content does well.

If you love going live and you come across best on video then absolutely focus on video content. Your personality and will shine through, making the content engaging.  On the flip side, if feel uncomfortable on video or going live, that will also come across in the content and, while there’s something to be said for seeing our shy-selves represented, people are generally less excited and drawn in by a quietly spoken video.

There are so many ways to connect with your audience now. Live video might be the current big trend but that doesn’t mean other methods aren’t awesome.

Great, not live, content

I’m a writer. I love writing and I also love the necessary delay that comes from communicating through writing. Hence these blog posts and my longer form social media posts, I express myself best through text and, no matter how many people tell me I come across well on video, it is never going to be my favourite method of communication. And let me say this again; that’s ok!

You can build a community and a successful business on social media using only text posts, or only image posts, or only video. You can use a mix, you can use a selection. You can build a fabulous social presence in a way that suits you. The important thing is knowing your audience and adding value through your content.

Live workarounds

There are a few options that you may not have considered to get some of the benefits of live without the abject terror of going live though so, if you’re baby stepping towards this particular precipice, here’s some ideas.

Stories

The temporary nature of Stories means you can test the waters without the fear that your nervous waffling will live forever on the internet. They also benefit from being shorter so are a great way to practice video when you get a 5 minute burst of bravery!

Premiere

Pre-record your video but release it as a premiere. This option essentially schedules the video but then releases it initially as if it’s live, along with a live chat which you can join in with.

Watch party

Upload and publish your pre-recorded video as usual and then hold a watch party in your Facebook group or Page. Similar to a premiere this gives you the live chat but you can organise a watch party at any time, not just on the release of the video like with a premiere.

The going live tl;dr*

If you love live, go live. If you don’t, all other types of content are awesome too. Find the way you express yourself best and get creating great content in any format.

Stay safe, be kind and, as always, be a human!

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

To quiz me about going live or any of your other social media queries, I’m currently offering power hours for just €25.

This is a temporary price to make it as accessible as possible to small businesses during this time. Due to the already reduced price, my other discounts cannot be used with this offer.

Book a 1-to-1

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Secrets of the algorithm

Snow covered sistletoe with text reading "Uncover the secrets of the algorithm"

Do you want to beat the algorithm? Ensure your posts get seen by all your followers? Boost engagement, double your DMs and hit a million followers?

We all love these quick fix promises. Tips that ‘guarantee’ an overnight change in your social media fortunes and, possibly more importantly, lay the blame for a stagnating growth rate at the door of The Algorithm™. The problem is that there is no quick fix. There is no secret sauce. There is no “beating” the algorithm.

The secret of the algorithm is that there is no secret to the algorithm.

The real secret is that even the likes of Facebook don’t know the secrets of their own algorithm. They set it up and the algorithm then teaches itself based on the billions of actions on the network every day. You can’t beat the algorithm; nobody knows how and it is constantly changing anyway.

Snow covered sistletoe with text reading "Uncover the secrets of the algorithm"

Everyone’s feed is different

Social media algorithms are designed to make the network as addictive as possible for every single person, so they show every single person different things based on their personal interactions with content on (and off) the platform.

Platforms are aiming to show content to people which keeps them on their platform longer, that makes them engage more on the platform. If someone has bought from you, likes your page and regularly engages with your content, they will be shown more of your content. If someone likes your page but always scrolls past your posts, they will be shown less of your content. This is partly what creates the “I’m only shown my top 25 people” style posts, you’re not but if you only regularly engage with certain people you will be shown more of their content and less of everything else.

We control our own feeds; what we consume and react to is what we get more of.

The “trial” feed

There is a theory that posts are shown to a percentage of your followers initially and, based on their response, then distributed more widely.  I don’t work for any social network so I cannot confirm nor deny that. What I will say is that if it is the case, you shouldn’t be changing your content or tactics because of it.

Shadowbanning

There is evidence for this. Certainly if Instagram considers your activity to be sketchy; liking/commenting/following too fast (i.e. like a bot), using banned hashtags or if you’ve been reported several times, they will limit your reach for a period of time.  Honey Bee Social have an excellent article about Instagram shadowbanning and banned hashtags which includes a full list of banned hashtags.

How to beat the algorithm

Create great content.

It really is that simple. Create content that is designed specifically for your target market. Be interested in their ideas, experiences and opinions. Add value, ask them questions, be more than a sales account. Offer people something and be clear about what you want. Be a human!

It’s hard work and time consuming, that’s partly why you need a social schedule which you can maintain, not a more more more attitude. Putting out content which is truly tailored to your ideal client will always give you the best chance at success on social media.

The algorithm tl;dr*

If you’re struggling on social, the first place to look is your content. Nobody wants to consider that their content isn’t great or that it’s not what their clients want but it’s far more likely than The Algorithm™ taking against you.

For advice on where your content needs tweaking and how you can improve your social content, my social media audits are just €50/platform. I also offer monthly social media management for all sizes of business, book a free, no hard-sell discovery call now to chat about your needs.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

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Vanity metrics: likes don’t pay your bills

With Instagram hiding likes, the number of questions I’ve seen about whether it’s worth it to stay on the platform and how to know if your social presence is paying off has skyrocketed. Business owners, influencers and brands alike are panicking about how other people not being able to see how many likes their post has is going to ruin their business.

I can tell you right now, it’s not. Likes are not paying your bills, neither is your follower count and, honestly, neither are your comments.

Likes are not paying your bills, neither is your follower count and, honestly, neither are your comments

Let me unpack a couple of the comments I’ve seen since the announcement was made.

Vanity metrics allow me to track competitors

Yes, you can quickly see how many likes or followers others in your industry have but that doesn’t tell you anything about how their business is doing. You can work out their growth rate and engagement rate but what use is that to you?

My own Instagram posts average fewer than 20 likes, but they see people clicking through to read my latest blog post (hi there!), or check out my services, or join my email list, or buy through my affiliate links, or book a discovery call with me.
On Facebook, the platform which drives the most traffic to my website, I get diddly squat engagement and haven’t even made it to 70 followers; go see for yourself, hit like while you’re there 😉
My posts drive actions that do pay my bills but you can’t see that by stalking my profile.

If you’re using those metrics to motivate you, use your own stats to drive you. Compare your monthly metrics to your own last month, or 12 months ago, and work to see those grow. Challenge yourself to do better than past you using your own insights based on your own followers, your niche and your business.

Comments aren’t vanity metrics

If I had to choose between likes and comments, I would choose comments, but ultimately they’re still vanity metrics, especially if they’re a single emoji or a generic “great post.

If your post is bringing in lots of real, wonderful comments from people giving feedback or sharing their own thoughts, people who are truly engaging in your content, that’s amazing and valuable, but not because they’re comments. They are valuable because they show that your followers are invested in what you’re sharing and therefore more likely to buy from you or recommend you to their friends.

What to track instead

Here’s the thing, you should still track vanity metrics; they allow you to see your own growth and give you an insight into what your audience enjoys, but don’t plan your entire strategy around them.

Focus on link clicks, profile views, saves and shares. If you have shopping enabled, track actual sales. Know what makes you money or creates leads and use those actions to judge your social success.

The vanity metrics tl;dr*

This is a great opportunity to reassess your priorities in social media and implement a new strategy which drives sales and inspires you to keep posting.

Still not convinced? Social Pip has a great post about which social media engagement is the most valuable which explains more about this with a focus on Facebook.

Personally and professionally I am thrilled that Instagram have made this decision, it is forcing business owners to take a hard look at how they’re using social media and improve their methods, while also removing a huge part of the toxic comparison culture which is damaging the mental health of so many people.

Get a free what to track worksheet and a stat tracker and advice on how to use them by joining The Forest.

For even more support and advice while you’re tweaking your own social strategy from me and other anti-capitalist, community focused business owners, Acorn, my Facebook group, is waiting for you.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

The key points about vanity metrics from the blog post

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The Basics: Stories

This month in my series designed to help you get your small business on social media, even if you can’t afford a social media manager just yet, I’m talking about arguably my least favourite social media thing; Stories.

Stories are huge at the moment with brands and individuals alike but many small business owners are scared to use them. If that’s you, either because you don’t understand how or you just aren’t digging the concept (I feel you), allow me to explain why you should at least give them a go.

What are Stories?

Birthed by Snapchat, they are now a popular feature on several social platforms including Instagram and Facebook. Stories also appear at the top of the regular feeds although placement is determined by the infamous algorithm, taught by which Stories you regularly watch and interact with.

Stories are social posts which only last for 24 hours, unless it’s a highlight (we’ll get to that). These posts can be images, videos or text and can have “stickers” added to them. Stickers include things such as hashtags, events, user tags, GIFs, polls and emojis. There is a lot of space for creativity, fun and engagement in Stories posts.

Why are they popular?

I have no idea! I do know why they’re popular with businesses; increased engagement, a way to appear at the very top of the feed, useful features like polls, questions and chat, among other things.

For me, Stories aren’t my thing. I’ve never enjoyed watching them as a consumer. I don’t even watch my friends Stories (sorry…!), so I cannot tell you how or why they became so popular with the public. I can tell you that I use them for my own business and for clients and they can be incredible for marketing.

What to post

This depends on your brand but you can generally consider Stories to be a more relaxed place to post. The 24 hour only window offers an amazing opportunity to test content, offer sneak peaks and make your followers feel like they’re in on a secret.

On Stories, your brand has loosened its tie and clocked off

Your Stories posts do still need to be “on brand,” but maybe your brand has loosened its tie and clocked off. You can achieve this by, for example, overlaying fun videos with your brand colours, or maintaining your brand voice but using GIFs to add more expression.

What are Stories Highlights?

Highlights, currently only an Instagram feature, enable you to keep Stories posts live after their 24 hour expiry time. Highlights appear above your usual feed posts on your profile page so it’s wise to make use of this feature for important info, FAQs, promotions or other details which tell people a little more about you.

You can also change the cover image for highlights, enabling you to keep an overall style or theme on your profile page.

Beware: Highlights show in chronological order. You cannot rearrange posts in a Highlight so to add something to the start, you will need to post the new content, followed by all the content you wish to be in that highlight.

The Stories basics tl;dr*

Just appearing on Stories is a great start; they only stick around for 24 hours so you can test things and fail with minimal fear. Make sure you’re using stickers to add personality and encourage engagement.

If you want extra info and worksheets to get even more out of each blog post, like this month’s how-to guide to Stories stickers, plus even more useful social media tips appearing in your inbox twice a month, sign up to the Forest.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

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The Basics: Instagram

This month in my series designed to help you get your small business on social media, even if you can’t afford a social media manager just yet, I’m returning to Instagram. I already wrote about using it for small business before I started this series, so now I want to really break down the basics.

I will be covering Stories in another post; this one is long enough as it is!

Your Profile

I recommend you switch your profile to a business profile, this allows you to connect your Instagram to your Facebook Page, use scheduling tools, access analytics/insights and run ads, among other things.

Once you’ve switched to a business profile and linked it to your Facebook page, if you have one, you need to fill it out.

Profile photo: This is the small, circular image that represents you across Instagram, including when you leave comments. Keep in mind that Instagram is especially mobile-centric and your profile picture will appear very small next to comments; a smiling face looks far better teeny tiny than a logo.

Username: Ideally this should be the same across your social profiles, preferably your business name or some variation of it. Make it as easy to remember as possible.

Website/link: Instagram allows you one clickable link and this is it. You can either change it every time you have a new blog post/video/product, etc, create a landing page on your website for social and add all relevant links there, or you can use one of the many third party tools out there.

In my opinion none of those options is inherently better or worse, so pick one and run with it! Remember that keeping a landing page or the link itself up to date can take a lot of extra time though.

Bio: You have 150 characters to play with here and I see so many businesses adding extra links in their bio which people can NOT click, please stop wasting space!

So what do you put in your bio? Who you are, what you do, who your target market is. This of it as an elevator pitch, only the elevator is only going up 1 floor and at lightning speed. Be creative; use emojis to save space and only provide the essential info.

Category: Select a relevant category for your business.

Contact options: Add all relevant contact details here; email address, telephone number, physical address and, if appropriate, add an action button to your profile. The action button will be added to your profile allowing people to take a specific action (action buttons are in partnership with other tools and depend on your location.)

Shopping: If you sell products, apply for shopping on Instagram. This will allow you to tag products and sell through Instagram, a fast growing market at the moment.

What to post

Many types of post perform well on Instagram depending on your niche. Flatlays, videos, personal posts, tips and tricks, let your imagination run wild. The key is a high quality image followed by an engaging caption. Dark, grainy, blurry images won’t perform as well. It is worth taking the time to create some graphics in a tool such as Canva, hunt down some awesome stock photos and/or set aside a bit of time every few months for Instagram photo shoots.

Captions can be long or short, but make sure the opening lures people in. I personally dislike the formulaic approach to captions but if that helps you to write captions that work, run with it.

If you’re selling products, make sure you also include products in your posts regularly.

Hashtag love

I feel like I bang on about hashtags all the livelong day but hashtags are where it’s at on Instagram. You can follow hashtags, meaning you can appear in feeds of people who are not following you but who are following a hashtag you use.

That said, using any and all hashtags is not the way to go. Use hashtags relevant to what you are posting, not only because people can report posts as being irrelevant in hashtag feeds but also because why do you want to reach people who aren’t interested in that post? Mix up your hashtags and keep saved packs of 25-30 organised by post type or topic so you can easily copy and paste them each time.

Top tip: Following hashtags is also amazing for outreach engagement.

The Instagram basics tl;dr*

Use a business profile, get your hashtag on and ensure you’re using high quality images on this very visual network.

If you want extra info and worksheets to get even more out of each blog post, like the Instagram cheat sheet for this month, plus even more useful social media tips appearing in your inbox twice a month, sign up to the Forest.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

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Instagram for small businesses

I have lost count of the questions I see about how to use Instagram as a small business. From “how do I grow on Instagram?” to “what do I post on Instagram?” and even “do I have to use those sketchy techniques to succeed?”

When I see small business owners ask this in my favourite Facebook groups I will always pose this question:

Do you want a million followers who might like your posts and scroll on? Or do you want a thousand followers who really engage with your content and will likely buy from you?

Generally that question seems to make everything become clearer for people. In a world where it’s all about how many followers you have, it reminds small business owners that quality is more important than quantity.

How do you grow on Instagram?

Find your tribe! Figure out who you want to work with or sell to and then show those people who you are and why you are relevant to them. Find and follow people who are interested in what you offer, follow relevant hashtags, get a feel for your community and then get involved in that community; leave useful comments on others’ posts and like other users’ photos.

Hashtags are so important and so many small businesses are not using them properly. I tend to see one of two things on small business profiles; posts with all the top trending hashtags added, relevant or not, or posts with zero hashtags at all. With the ability to follow hashtags, and users being able to report irrelevant posts in those hashtags, hashtags have become even more important on a platform where they were already a big deal.
The key is relevancy and researching the tags you’re using. Adding top trending hashtags will see your post lost in a feed amongst a million other photos. Use smaller, more niche hashtags to actually see your reach and engagement increase.

What do you post?

This will depend on your business but authenticity is hugely important, in 2019 more than ever, so don’t try to be something you’re not.
If you’re a fun-loving Tarot reader who doesn’t like life too seriously, share your behind the scenes laughter alongside your thoughts on certain cards.
If you’re quiet and shy but know a lot about human psychology, share a little of your story and how your knowledge has helped you as well as others.
If you’re a bit sweary but also an expert on pets, let your personality show while you share your advice, although maybe tone down the swearing a little!

Do you need to use black-hat techniques?

No!

Unless all you’re interested in is follower numbers, and even if that is all you’re interested in, I never ever recommend buying followers, comment pods, automated follows & unfollows, or other less than honest methods. For one, Instagram is continually working to block the third party apps that enable this and ban accounts found to be using these methods, but primarily because, as I mentioned before, authenticity is king.
I am proud, and lucky, to work with businesses with morals and manners, with business owners who value honesty and real followers over big numbers. I help these businesses reach potential customers who are genuinely interested in what they offer.

The Instagram tl;dr*

So how do you use Instagram if you’re a small business? Be authentic, engage with your community and leverage relevant hashtags. It really is that simple.

If you need advice, or are looking for someone to manage your social media for you, please get in touch so we can discuss how I can help you free up your time to focus on what you do best, knowing your social presence is in safe hands.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.