Social Media Best Practices: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I don’t always have time to do what’s “best” for my social media and my blog. Sometimes, I don’t post because I’m busy doing other stuff. Sometimes my morning goes badly and the words don’t come like I wish they would, or the photo light is bad (the photo I usually post anyway, but the words are a deal breaker). Sometimes I just feel overextended and overexposed. For me, a key to designing my blogging and social media plan is giving myself permission to break it sometimes. If posting is making me feel less human, or if it’s making my work suffer or making my relationships suffer, I think skipping a day or two of posting is smart.


I have a little bit of freedom to do that because I’ve already built a following, and because I’ve already proven my overall consistency. That’s some good news about social media, that the pounding-the-virtual-pavement, posting-all-the-time period doesn’t have to last forever. Once you’ve built a following, you have to work to maintain it — but you don’t have to work as hard as often as you did at the beginning.


But I don’t just maintain my following — I teach other people how to build theirs. I’m teaching a workshop this Saturday (if you’re in Birmingham, click here for a ticket), and I’ve also been asked to speak at a few events the past couple of months. So in July, I decided to work it just like I tell my students to. I wanted to follow the best practices that I teach, even the rules I often give myself permission to break. What are these ideal strategies? Here’s what I’m talking about:


Social Media Best Practices

  • Blog every morning (well, every weekday morning)
  • Promote blogs on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+
  • Check Analytics
  • Respond to all comments
  • Tweet at least three times daily
  • Instagram at least three times daily
  • Interact with at least six new social media accounts each day (three on Instagram and three on Twitter)


I did this for a month, and I had some results I expected: my traffic and followers went up, and my long-time followers seemed pleased that I was blogging more. (This followed a pretty long dry spell of blogging, so that was probably part of it.) But I also had some unexpected results, and I wanted to share those, too. So, here you go: the good, the bad and the ugly of social media best practices


Promoting every day on Facebook actually hurt my Facebook posts.


The algorithm Facebook uses is a complex and mysterious thing, like a Dan Brown book or a Nicolas Cage movie. Nobody seems to know exactly how it works, but I’ve noticed that the first few posts I share after being fairly inactive on FB tend to do well — like they notice they’ve lost me, and they want me back. But after a few days of sharing only posts from one blog (I’m not sure if it’s because it was the same blog over and over, or if they somehow know it’s my own blog), my FB likes plummeted. I know this isn’t just because people didn’t like the posts, by the way, because I have a handful of people who I know will always like the posts that they see, just because they’re super-nice to me. (My dad, for example.) When even the most loyal people don’t like a post, I have to wonder if it’s being shown to anyone.


Blogging every day made me a serious (and possibly insufferable) blogger.


I try to keep the tone of my blogs a little bit light. I write a lot about civics, economics and responsibility, so if I don’t include some humor, things get pretty bleak. For some reason, when I blogged every day, I found myself skipping the chit-chat and drilling down into big issues immediately. When I do that, I get preachy and stop connecting with people. It’s not a good look. I’m sure I could find a way to blog every day and avoid this voice if I really tried, but the better option for me is probably just to post every couple of days instead of every single day.

Checking Analytics every day is demoralizing.


I don’t know why I was doing this, because I tell my students not to be driven by Analytics … I guess because most social media teachers say to do it, so I wanted to give it a shot. To be clear, the trend in my Analytics was definitely upward. Overall, the work I was doing gave me a big bump, and Analytics are a good tool to see if what you’re doing is working. I do use Analytics — but I usually don’t check them every day, because sometimes you can do all the right things for a post, and it just doesn’t perform. Maybe it’s because Facebook’s algorithm is being a skunk that day, or maybe it’s because not everyone is as interested in Mindy Kaling as I am (bad example, because that post did surprisingly well). But changing strategy because of one day, or even a few random days, of low-performing posts is usually a bad idea.


Responding to every comment set a precedent I cannot maintain.


I hate that I don’t respond to every comment, or that I don’t catch every post about me (I especially hate when I miss positive comments about The Localist book) — but I just don’t. Usually, I see the comment when I’m in the middle of some other project, and it makes me happy, but I don’t respond right away. This is the only way I can get any work done, because I need to maintain focus when I have it. But it means that, more often than not, I forget to go back and respond to that comment. It probably makes my followers feel underappreciated, and I don’t like that. But responding to every comment didn’t really work for me, either. It took time I did not have, it got me into big discussions and even arguments that I wasn’t interested in.


Reaching out to “strangers” on Twitter and Instagram really worked.


Finally, a positive result! My friend Kelly (find Kelly at @spindlephoto) had been pushing me try this, and after resisting her for no good reason, I finally tried it. Every day, I used keywords and hashtags to find people with similar interests on Twitter and Instagram. When I found a post I really loved, I commented on it. This practice is more time-consuming than I thought (sometimes finding a tweet that I not only like, but also feel like I can leave a legitimately helpful comment on, took forever), but it definitely increased my followers. More importantly (to me, anyway), it helped me use Instagram and Twitter to explore instead of seeing the same stuff I’ve already subscribed to. That made those tools seem new and exciting again, and feeling excitement about social media is one of the best ways to convey excitement and interest to your followers.


Well, we’ve come to the end of possibly the longest blog post I’ve ever written. But I’ve been thinking about social media a lot lately as I prepare my workshop for Saturday’s Birmingham event, so I wanted to share the results of my little social media experiment with all of you. If you want to learn more about how I craft and manage my blog and social media, click here to buy a ticket to my workshop. Either way, think about experimenting with some of these practices on your own blog or social media account. You might not change your ways forever (I didn’t), but learning new things about posting is almost always good for your messaging and for your following.


Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.

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