How to be a time master

Managing your social media properly doesn't happen in a matter of minutes. From drafting the right copy to making a great graphic to remembering the right hashtags to keeping up with the newest features, it can be a full-time job.

In fact, for many people (including us), it is!

The flow of updates is non-stop, even if you're faceplanted on the couch. How can you find the time to publish all day and all night? When are the right times to be posting, anyway?

Good news, everyone! There are timesaving solutions for scheduling posts in advance and knowing when your followers are perked up and ready to engage with you.

Before you start, make sure you have your trusty 🔥 editorial calendar đź”Ą on hand so your content is ready to go. 

Level 1: Facebook and Twitter

Facebook has the simplest scheduling tool that you might already be using. If you haven't been, go to your page and get ready to write a post like you normally would. You see that little arrow next to the Publish button? Click that and you’ll see “Schedule."

Use the next window to select the date and time you want your post to appear.

Not sure what time to pick? Review the basics of timing posts (and a fabulous cat gif) here.

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 6.44.45 PM.png

Wham, bam, scheduled. Easy, right?

In order to harness Twitter’s scheduling potential, you can use Tweetdeck! Tweetdeck is one of our fave (free) Twitter tools. You can manage multiple accounts and use the columns to keep up with anything you need to monitor on the reg, from hashtag searches to competitors you're stalking to rereading what you've posted in the past. In short, it’s your new Twitter bestie.

More on all the things Tweetdeck can do later; we’re just going to focus on scheduling right now. (But if you really want to know, check out a full guide right here.)

So! You see the Add New Post button on the top left of your page? Click it and you’ll see something like this:

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Write your tweet and select “Schedule Tweet” to pick your date and time. Note that it’ll schedule it in whatever timezone you’re in, so consider where your audience is located if you’re abroad. 

Level 2: LinkedIn and Pinterest

While neither LinkedIn or Pinterest have built-in scheduling features, they can be scheduled using tools like SproutSocialHootsuite or Buffer. These are social media management platforms that offer lots of benefits beyond just scheduling. Next week, we'll introduce you to each of these tools and help you think about which one is your social media soulmate; for now, here are the how to's for scheduling if you need them:

Pinterest Bonus: If Pinterest is your channel of choice, try Tailwind. It will recommend new content to you, give you tons of metrics, and make scheduling pins to lots of boards really easy.

Level 3: Instagram

Instagram really takes pride in the “instant” part of their name. So much so that you can't actually schedule posts in advance on the platform. Automating posts in this way actually goes against their terms of service, so while many scheduling tools have a "Schedule Posts to Instagram!" feature, don't be fooled: most of these tools will send you a reminder to post at your selected time, and you still have to go through the scheduling process yourself. It may be better than a calendar reminder, but you still have to hit that post button at the right time. 

If you do want something to make managing Instagram easier, start with the big three. Here are the deets on Hootsuite's Instagram scheduler, and here's the 411 on Buffer's, and here's what you need for SproutSocial. All of these let you upload your content in advance, and when it's time to post it just takes a few clicks. And they let you update via your desktop or your mobile device.

(There are a couple of tools that say they'll actually schedule posts for you, but we can't recommend them in good faith, since Instagram might shut your account down for doing it. You've been warned!)

Now that you're an expert on scheduling, how far in advance should you schedule your posts? 

We know folks who schedule their posts months in advance, but we like to stick with a few days to a week at most, so that we're regularly checking on our feeds and notifications, and so we're ready in case any breaking news throws a wrench into what we've got planned. And these days, that's pretty much guaranteed to happen, are we right?

Happy scheduling!

Clear your head

When was the last time you took a break?

Not a five-minute break, and no, not the last time you went and got a pedicure. We mean a serious BREAK -- one of those "I don't know what time it is and I don't want to" breaks, when you really let your brain zone out.

It can be really difficult to do if you're a business owner (trust!) or even just a hard worker, and especially if you're doing marketing or social media work. Things are constantly happening, media cycles don't stop, and there are always notifications popping up wherever you look. How can you take time off without losing all this marketing momentum you've been building? 

We swear, it's possible, and it's super important. If you don't give yourself time to recharge and relax, you risk burning out, and that will send your marketing crashing and burning faster than anything else could.

Here's why vacay matters:

  • It's not just about your business; your health depends on it! Stress and lack of sleep can impact your memory, alertness, reaction times, immune system... the list goes on.
  • Sure, you're an awesome juggler. But how long can you work this hard? Getting away from your desk (even just for short breaks) can lead to big bursts in productivity when you get back on it, and give you better focus, too.
  • You don't even have to go anywhere to take a mental break. Plan a staycation and enjoy your home, work on some hobbies, and Netflix sans guilt at 1 p.m. if you feel like it. It can be just as beneficial, and save you the stress of planning a trip and putting together a budget, too.

Okay, you probably know all this. Like many of our clients, you might be on vacation right now. (We see you!  )

So how do you make sure your marketing systems stay on track while you're gone?

Here's how to take a break without breaking anything.

  1. Don't wait; anticipate. Look at your work plan, go through your email, talk to your staff, and figure out if there are any crises you can imagine coming your way, both while you're gone AND immediately when you return. Anything you're going to be up at night about? Figure it out now, and decide what you can do ahead of time. This also applies to potential social media moments, like holidays or events; if you know you should be posting something on a certain day, write your posts and figure out your graphics ahead of time, so all you have to do is schedule it. 
  2. Declare your vacay status. Tell EVERYONE when you'll be gone. It shouldn't be a secret, since chances are that the folks you work with are also thinking about their own breaks, and most of your customers will say, "Great! Have fun!" But give everyone a solid heads up so there won't be surprises.
  3. Delegate like a boss. You know how this works. If you have a team, trust your team to do the work! if you don't have a staff, it's time to reach out to some colleagues or that virtual assistant you've been meaning to hire and bring in some help. Do this a few weeks ahead of time so you can get everyone set up with content and familiar with your strategy. And make sure your team knows what constitutes a real crisis, and how to get a hold of you if it's an absolute emergency.
  4. Embrace automation and scheduling. Write a few blog posts in advance and schedule them to be published while you're gone. Do the same thing with your email newsletter. For social media posts, use scheduling tools like SproutSocialHootsuite or Buffer. (For Instagram, many of these third-party tools will remind you that it's time to post, but it's still up to you to actually publish the post!) The important thing is not to just suddenly stop posting while you're gone; you have an audience, even if it's small, who will feel more than a little bummed out if you ghost them.
  5. Check on things a little bit, and then put them away. We get it; sometimes it's impossible to COMPLETELY tune out, and we're absolutely guilty of scheduling conference calls while on vacation. But try to set some boundaries; maybe set aside a few half-hour blocks to check your email and Instagram, and then put your devices away. If you're thinking about tasks or to-dos, write them down somewhere so that your list is ready the day you return. And if you have to do a call, set yourself up with a beautiful view so you can see exactly what you're missing while you're on the phone.

Speaking of beautiful views, this summer TGL is taking our own advice:

ATV face!

ATV face!

Co-founder Katie went to Mykonos, Paros and Athens recently. (Sure, she worked remotely and was on a few conference calls, but jumping on an ATV can do wonders for your productivity!) 

Team member Erin took her adorable daughter to Folly Beach in South Carolina.

Team member Michelle has been in California, traipsing around the redwoods.

And co-founder Megan has been on the most epic road trip we have ever seen, visiting 12 National Parks and camping with some spectacular views (and meals). Follow her trip via #rileyroadtrip

Enjoy that break!

The Latest and Greatest Social Media News

Facebook just reached 2 billion monthly users. We’re going to let that number sink in for a second. 2 BILLION.

Whether you're a self-proclaimed Social Media Guru™ or you're just trying to find your dream customers via the socials, it's important to keep up with the latest social media news so you don't get left behind. Take it from us!

Don't worry, dude.

Here are some of newest updates and info that you can take straight to your team. And if you've seen something new or cool recently that you'd like to share with the class, comment and tell us! We'll put it in the next Slice.

Facebook ads are getting even smarter:

  • You can now target entire families at once! Slight creepiness aside, this type of targeting is useful for starting a conversation within a household or marketing a brand specifically to each family member. 
  • And Facebook's up close and personal approach is becoming the new norm. A recently filed patent reveals that Facebook wants to understand your facial expressions to see how you react to content.
  • In less “we know everything about you” news, Facebook has also released a tool to target ads around birthdays. You can market to not only the person celebrating a birthday and having a “treat yo self” moment, but also to their friends to provide a wink and a nudge for gift or restaurant ideas. 

Facebook Live is adding closed captioning capabilities. This is huge news in terms of accessibility and allowing Facebook Live to have an even greater reach. Have you tried it yet?

Instagram is taking on Snapchat and winning. The numbers don’t lie: 250 million active users use Instagram Stories daily, while engagement with Snapchat Stories declined 50 percent during the same period. Yikes!

Business profiles on Instagram (with more than 10,000 followers) can add links to their Instagram stories. Try it out!

Snapchat is still around; you can now create your own geofilter within the app. Play around with the new tool for your next event or even just a fun marketing option when people take an inevitable selfie in your office or store.

Snapchat also rolled out Snap Map, which is a cute and creepy way to track your friends while their app is open. We have mixed feelings on this, so here's how to make sure you've turned on Ghost Mode, which stops the app from sharing your location (it's off by default, too). Once you've got that figured out, you might just want to talk to your kiddos about location sharing. Just sayin'.

LinkedIn has added the ability to add images in your comments. We don't know that many people that are leaving comments on LinkedIn, but there you go.

Pinterest has a feature called Lens, which, if you haven't heard of it, allows you to take a photo of something in the real world (like a cute leather jacket or a piece of avocado toast) and use that photo to search on Pinterest for similar images, and hopefully the exact thing you're looking for, so you can buy it or make it. It is super cool and now it's getting upgraded.

Graphics and video are important, but do you know just how important they are? This new research breaks it down. Spoiler alert: they’re really, really important. Here are some of the key findings:

  • 80% of online audiences would rather watch a live video from a brand than read a blog post.
  • Original images (such as infographics) get the most engagement at 41.5%.
  • 85% of online marketers use visuals. Don't get left behind!

Blogging Beginner to Badass

Last week, we talked about everything that goes into deciding to start a blog. (And yes, that link does take you to a blog post about blogging. #NextLevel!) 

Now that you’ve decided to take on the challenge, let’s talk about what you’ll put in those posts. Use these tips to take yourself from tentative brainstorming to blogging badassery.

Don't you want to be cranking out posts like this guy? Just, you know, preferably on a computer.

Don't you want to be cranking out posts like this guy? Just, you know, preferably on a computer.

Before you start writing that first post, do you know where you’re going to post it? If your company or organization already has its own website, we highly recommend enabling its blog feature (here’s how on Squarespace and Wordpress) instead of starting another website for the blog. After all, you do want to drive traffic back to your website! 

If you don’t have a website yet, check out Squarespace’s templates. We think Squarespace is one of the most intuitive platforms to use, even if you’re new to putting a site together. (Learn the basics here!)

Okay, so now the blank page of your blog is staring back at you waiting to be filled with your brilliance. Before you start typing, you need to know one thing: A blog post is not just any writing piece. In the world of The Internet, people are constantly skimming, maybe retaining just the facts and visuals that stand out to them instead of reading the whole piece. (In fact, people tend to read in a F-shaped pattern while scanning.)

Think about it. 

If our beloved Weekly Slice was written like a long-form essay instead of broken up with headings, links, and a kickass gif, would you be as inclined to read it?

When it comes to your posts:

  • Word it. Don’t worry, this isn’t your high school English class. But you do need to find a sweet spot in terms of your blog post length. At the minimum, your posts need to be above 200 words. While it is kinda impressive if you’re able to write everything you have to say in only those 200 words, Google might not be impressed. In fact, it labels those pages as thin and they will not do well in search results. On the other hand, don’t write a 2,500 word article just because you can. What matters the most in terms of length is that you’re saying everything you want to say in a clear and concise manner so it makes sense to your readers, and to Google’s search results. 
  • Picture it. Assume your reader has the attention span of a goldfish. No matter the amount of time you put into your words, they’re likely not all going to be read. How do you engage your readers? Instead of some fish flakes, try breaking up your text with visuals, sub-headings, bold text, or anything else that will keep your reader interested in what you have to say. Do a test by showing your draft to a friend or colleague and then asking them what you wrote. Did they get it? And throw in an image or two if you like -- just don’t steal an image from someone else.
  • Link it. Hyperlinks are the bibliography of the blogging world. Just as we hyperlink our sources in the Weekly Slice, get into the habit of hyperlinking where your information is coming from. Not only is a good blogging best practice (yay for not plagiarizing!), it can be a great way to shout-out to some of your favorite sources and partners. And links to quality content help tell Google that you’re legit.
  • Optimize it. For each post you write, think about the one or two keywords for the topic you’re writing about and use them in your title, as your tags, and ideally within the first paragraph (if it makes sense for your post!). They don’t have to be complicated. For example, a keyword for this Weekly Slice is “blogging.” We’ve included the keyword in not only the subject, but also the introduction. Follow these tips on where to include keywords in your blog post!

Don’t overcomplicate this. Sure, we could spend the day talking about blogset-up and sidebars and headers and branding and who you are and who you want to become and your dreams and ambitions and fears… But the point of starting a blog is to blog. All of that other stuff will come later.

So, let’s start by writing something and hitting publish, and then writing something else, and hitting publish, and again, and again. Make this a habit that you will stick to, and promise yourself that you’ll never start a blog post with the phrase, “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while!”

Blogging for Beginners 

So you’re thinking about starting a blog. We mean, why not, right? 35% of businesses blog at least once every month.

Blogging isn't new, we know. But it's still can be a useful way to get your expertise and your brand out to your audience, as well as draw users to your website and offerings. It gives you a way to continually update your website and think about your content, while allowing you to tell your story and show off your personality in creative ways.

But before you decide to trade in your pen and type your thoughts, make sure you understand what you’re committing to before your blogging dream turns into blogging dread.

The first question to ask yourself is simple.

Why?

Really think about what niche your blog will fill. After all, there are an estimated estimated 31 million bloggers in the US alone. Use the following questions to guide your answer:

  • What makes you unique? You would be surprised to know the amount of bloggers that cannot clearly answer this question because they started a blog just to have a blog. Take the time to sit down and brainstorm your mission, and the goal of your blog. It's not that your blog has to do something that NO ONE ELSE has done before, but you should be confident that you are blogging for a purpose.
  • Who is already blogging about it? Do a little Googling to see who else is blogging about your chosen topic, and check out how they’re doing it. Are they weaving together personal stories and recipes for healthy meals? Are they calling for political action and highlighting successful movements for others to be inspired by? Are they sharing practical tips and lessons? For example, we recently helped launch The Patient Advocate’s Chronicle, a place for those battling chronic illnesses to find practical information on health care and managing multiple conditions so they can lead fulfilling lives. When it comes to blogging about these topics, blogs are often very emotionally supportive, or informational, but not both. So what niche do you think the Patient Advocate’s Chronicle decided to carve?
  • Can you commit? If you’re blogging for your business, your goal(s) may be to grow your audience, make some money, or both. Just make sure you have realistic expectations! While a blog is a great content marketing tool, it does not follow the “if you build it, they will come” rule. You need (or be ready to build) an established following over time on multiple channels to drive attention and traffic to your blog, whether it's an email list, social media following, a podcast, paid marketing, PR, and/or good old-fashioned networking to get those eyeballs to your blog. Also, just so we’re clear, if it’s money you’re after, get ready to be in it for the long haul. Sponsors and advertisers are most likely to engage with established blogs with large followings. But you can get there!

Starting a blog can take more than you might assume, since the best bloggers make it look effortless. But you can streamline your blogging process; it all boils down to consistency and planning.

  • Plan that work. Be ready to make blogging part of your routine. Write down a few ideas for your blog content; now imagine making a list of 100 blog titles. Challenging, right? But to make your blog successful you’ll have to regularly come up with new topics week after week and month after month! Make sure you schedule time each week to brainstorm topics, write a few posts, and plan out how you will distribute that post to your audience. You could even batch process this part, and win some productivity points!
  • Put your mouse on the post button. Before you post for first time, make sure you’re ready to keep posting, whether it’s every week, every month, or whatever schedule works best for you. There’s nothing more frustrating than a blog that slowly tapers off into blogging oblivion. Be consistent about your posting so your audience knows what to expect and when. And never, ever, EVER start a post with the phrase: "I haven't updated for a while..."
  • Watch your tone. Readers, especially these days, can see straight through you if you're being overly promotional, sales-y, or fake. Bring your real self to the table and speak from the heart. It's not as easy as it sounds! This is why focusing on your mission and your purpose is so important; if you don't plan on being genuine and connecting with real people, blogging might not be for you.

Now that you’re ready to take on the Great Blogging Challenge, we'll follow up with what you need to set up your blog like a pro, craft the perfect post, and start to get noticed by the right people!