4 Types of Social Media Strategies

With numerous platforms available for social connection—LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine, YouTube— where does a strategist even know where to begin? There are many more channels out there than what I named above, and your audience could be on every single one of them.

When it comes to channel growth, there are multiple ways to expand your brand. To keep this brief, I’m going to concentrate on my two favorite social media platforms: Twitter + Instagram.

Here are four basic types of social media strategies for follower building:

The Oprah
You get a follow! YOU get a follow! This is the type of strategy that includes giveaways and share contests to attract an audience to your channel. This includes asking your existing audience to retweet or share a certain image to win a prize.

My current favorite example of this is Tom’s #withoutshoes social media campaign. For every barefoot post using the hashtag, the company is giving away a pair of shoes (up to 1 million!). Now that’s an incentive to follow and share.

Look under your chairs, everyone is taking home a “Thanks for following!” today.

The Fat Minnie
Disclaimer: this example is about my cat. However, my social strategy got my cat over 3,000 followers. With this strategy, you actively practice follower building by following other accounts and engaging by favoriting and commenting.

This strategy is the most time consuming, but it works well if you’re building from scratch. Before beginning, do extensive research to determine your audience in order to curate specific content that will encourage them to follow and engage. For this example, that content included high quality cat photos and strategic hashtagging.

The Best Friends Forever
With this strategy, you seek to meet your audience IRL. This can be done through hosting InstaMeets or speaking/attending networking events.

I use a combination of The Fat Minnie and The BFF in my current position where I manage a brand’s social account. In addition to creating a conversation through comments, meeting with followers in real life helps them put a face to our brand name. This encourages them to engage with our channel without them feeling like they’re speaking to a product.

I highly recommend this strategy if you’re looking to build a community from your platform.

The Mr. President
This strategy is where your audience seeks YOU. This example stems from the creation of the @POTUS account on Twitter. The account broke records with the amount of followers it received in less than five hours. How many tweets did the president send? Three. How many is the account following? 65.

The President has the type of social presence, where people seek out the account to follow the content posted. With this strategy, your platform is built before you even launch an account. This would work for brands such as eBay and Bank of America, who already have a large audience outside of social.

What do these strategies have in common? They all begin with the analyzing of your audience. Who is following you? Who do you WANT to follow you? Step two is how you get there—content and engagement.

What strategy do you use to grow your audience?

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The Power of Advocacy

May is Bike Month, which draws excitement from me and fellow bikers.

As I zoom around the city on my two-wheeld, hot pink vehicle, I strive to raise awareness about safety, sharing the road and the importance of bike paths and protected lanes.

Through this, I find myself naturally informing others about Houston’s developing Bike Plan and the newly installed lanes downtown on Lamar. I invite fellow riders to celebrate Bike To Work Day with me at the celebration hosted by a local organization and the City. In summary, I’m promoting multiple events, projects and organizations simply due to my personal passion for the situation.

Houston is a city of over 2 million people, so you will rarely find an empty road. It’s important to me that I advocate for the safety and rights of both drivers and bikers.

For drivers, there are a few things you can do to make the roads safer for bikers. Look before you open the door. Do NOT drive in the bike lane. Give bikers at least 3 feet of space on the road. (I’m looking at you METRO Bus that tailed me down 19th street).

For bikers, learn how to bike safely, know what hand signals to use and how to let joggers and dog walkers know you’re coming up behind them. Follow road rules and wear a helmet.

Switching gears, what does this have to do with PR? Word of mouth marketing and personal recommendations are two of the most effective tools in gaining action and attention from a new or existing audience. Here are two examples of where this could be influential:

Audience Member #1
I’ve heard of this, but I’m not convinced yet.

This audience member has been exposed to your branding and messaging, but needs an extra push. When this comes from a trusted source, like a friend, there will most likely be action or at least a more positive reputation internally. I invite you to research how this type of marketing can be extremely persuasive.

Audience Member #2
I’ve never heard of this before, but I love it!

This audience member has no history of exposure, but is interested in what you have to offer. For example, I invite my circle of biker friends to local rides, celebrations and share news with them about upcoming lanes and new park developments. Together, we mourn what pot holes do to our skinny road bike tires and celebrate when we see action taken to fill them up.

When you build an army of advocates your message has the availability to spread like wildfire. Here are a few tips to ensure your advocates are equipped to spread your message:

1. Give them materials.
Pre-packaged social posts
Provide your advocates and volunteers with pre-written tweets and Facebook posts so they don’t feel anxiety from not knowing how to spread the message. Of course, your advocate can paraphrase or create their own posts—this gives them a starting point.

Leave behinds
Brochures tend to get thrown away and can sometimes be too much content for your audience on the go. Leave behinds are small and typically cheaper to produce. Put your most important content and contact information on this for your advocates to pass along.

2. Teach them how to tell your story. 
Host a workshop to give advocates a more in-depth perception of your brand. I participated in one with Living Water International and afterwards I could easily tell people about the different types of wells and how they align with the soil type, the sanitation program and the countries that the organization is currently drilling in. Since I am passionate about the cause and organization, the opportunity to sit in a workshop with employees was exciting to me and made me feel valued.

Personal Relationships
Another tactic to use for teaching is building personal relationships with your advocates. You both are obviously passionate about similar things, so this also opens the door for a beautiful friendship! Get to know your advocates deeply and learn why they chose to promote and be involved in your organization. This way, you can teach them how to tell a more personalized story to their circles.

Elevator Pitch
Teach your advocates to explain your organization in less than two minutes. This is beneficial if they are at an event or meeting people in passing. Knowing an elevator pitch makes people more confident when explaining an organization since they feel prepared. Be careful when crafting these so that the content doesn’t sound robotic and there is room for the advocate to improvise and include their own story.

3. Encourage them.
Thank you cards
Get personal and write your advocates a hand-written note. This shows them that you’ve noticed the efforts they put forth and appreciate how they are benefitting your organization. Engage with them when they post on social channels and continuously thank them for their efforts.

Provide your group with stickers, t-shirts or a free BBQ. Connect them as a community and send them gifts when appropriate. This will encourage them to do more and makes them feel loved. Your freebie doesn’t need to be big or expensive, it just needs to be personal.

Advocates are on this earth to create change, cause impact and spread a message. Equip them properly and they can become your organization’s most powerful tool.

How to Get Creative with Instagrammers IRL

This past month, I hosted my first InstaMeet with the help of my agency, The Black Sheep Agency. Seeking to connect and build relationships with users, we invited our online friends to meet us in person on Valentine’s Day to explore and take pictures of our city.

View the post here:

Here are a five simple steps on how to connect with your Instagram audience:

1. Follow
Follow your existing and future audience. Let them know you exist! This seems basic, but engagement without a follow isn’t always reciprocated.

2. Engage
Like their images and COMMENT. Likes can easily get lost in the crowd if your audience members are influencers. Leave detailed comments on images so that your audience can see that you are sincere.

3. Host an InstaMeet
Meet your InstaAudience in real life! This will strengthen your relationship and help them put a face to the handle. Spend time getting to know your audience and form a true connection.

4. Share
Share your audience’s content, but ask first. Repost accounts are becoming increasingly popular on the Instagram app, ask your followers to hashtag a photo that they want to share.

5. Ask Questions
Ask your audience members what type of content they’d like to see from your brand. This will be easier to define after meeting your audience in person at your event. Asking questions helps narrow down your content and makes your Instagram account more effective.

These five steps are just the beginning, there are countless tactics that you can use to create better content and a deeper connection with your audience. With apps like Instagram, the playing field is constantly changing.

The Year-Long Engagement

Last January, I started a social media project called ‘Fat Minnie.’ I was new to the world of PR, a recent graduate and looking to master every platform accessible to me. I had opportunities in the past to manage Facebook accounts and increase followers on Twitter. However, I hadn’t had a chance to experience promoting a brand or idea on Instagram.

This is ironic to me because, as a photographer, Instagram is my absolute favorite social channel. With the growing number of famous cats, I decided to put my cat, Minnie, on Instagram and see what happened.

Here are some of my posts during the experiment:
How To Make Your Cat #Instafamous
How To Make Your Cat #Instafamous: What to Post

I decided to continue the account for a year to learn more about engagement. I didn’t want my experiment to end after hitting 1,000 followers in 4 months. I wanted to learn about retention and how to keep my followers for the long run.

One year later, Fat Minnie has over 3,000 followers on her account. Her posts usually generate nearly 200 likes per photo and at least three to four comments. This didn’t just happen organically. To attain consistent engagement on my posts, I had to seek out new followers, comment on the content of others and be responsive to my existing followers. Beyond that, I had to promote my idea in person as well by encouraging people to sign up for the app and to follow my project. Social media goes far beyond your screen. 

My biggest lesson this past year is that success doesn’t end at 1,000 followers, even if that was your initial goal. Continued engagement and learning leads to something much bigger and more impactful. Throughout the year, my photography for Fat Minnie improved dramatically, my copy got stronger and my followers began to increase at a faster rate. I was even able to sell some Fat Minnie products. Do not be distraught by a slow start, you never know where you could be in a year.


7 New Year’s Resolutions for PR

1. Create a career goal for each quarter.
Goals help us achieve more than we ever thought possible. Since it’s hard to look a year in advance to create an attainable goal, create one for each quarter. Maybe it’s to get more media hits for a client or to increase sales. Decide on a goal that you can build on each quarter to improve as a professional.

2. Learn at least two new skills and master them.
Teach yourself how to use InDesign and create flyers or take a class on coding. Continuing to be a student and learn new skills helps you and your agency stay relevant and provide quality work. Plus, you might save a client money if you don’t have to outsource a photographer or designer.

3. Gain new business for your agency.
Network! Meet new people and see how you can help them. They might need help building their newsletter or refreshing their brand. Learn how to connect others and bring in a new client.

4. Help your coworkers pick up the slack.
Don’t leave the office early if your coworker is swamped with a project you can help with. Jump in and write that press release for them while they work on a strategy plan. Being a true team helps encourage fellow employees and makes them more willing to help you next time you’re in a jam.

5. No more typos.
Never publish a typo. This shouldn’t need to be a resolution, but I still see it from time to time. Go the extra mile to ensure that your work is flawless. Ask a coworker to read over it, print it out and mark it with a red pen.

6. Turn in only your BEST work.
2015 is the year to go ABOVE AND BEYOND. Spend the extra time to make sure your work is the best it can be. You will feel more accomplished at the end of the day and your company will benefit from it.

7. Reinvent the wheel.
Traditional PR is great and it gets the job done. However, 2015 is the year to reinvent the wheel. Why stick with something that simply works when there’s something that’s BETTER. Along with going above and beyond, be the game changer. Create something that’s new and more efficient.

Happy New Year! What is one of your PR resolutions?

2015 New Year celebration

Finding your Corporate Identity

Whether your business is a start-up or newly split from a parent corporation, branding and defining your corporate identity are two of the first steps you must take. With the announcement of eBay and PayPal split, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. When I was working with PayPal, we had eBay’s shared purpose printed on the back of our employee badges and were instructed to incorporate it into our projects. Now with the split, I wonder how PayPal will reconstruct its business mindset and how much it will change its corporate identity.

I had the opportunity to hear Monica Silva, Director of Employee Communications at Phillips 66 speak about the company’s split from ConocoPhillips in 2012. Silva managed the communications portion of the split and has been recognized with several external awards for her efforts.

After a company announces a split from a parent there is initially shock. Silva wanted to transform that shock into excitement of what the new company had the potential to be. Her first step was to create a company vision and values. She did this by creating a working group to research the competitors of Phillips 66 and get a grasp of what others had established. The team then established their own visions and values for the company. Next, they tested and refined the values.

To create the company’s vision and values, Silva looked for internal inspiration. She socialized with employees to see if they had a concept of what was currently in place. After testing, she decided to create three values that were easy to remember for all employees. Every portion began with “we” showcasing the collaborative culture of the company. Silva then showered the company’s new logo everywhere to show commitment and ingrain the new branding.

The next step was the launch. Silva’s team created a separate website, sent out a personalized email to all employees and mailed a letter with new Phillips 66 branded items to the employee’s homes. The items helped employees to connect the dots and learn what the new company was about. Silva also stressed attention of the use of language to ensure consistency and mention of values. It was then reinforced with a video of the company’s president sending a message to all employees that reflected the new vision and values.

To help spread the vision and values, Silva made use of key ambassadors. This included company executives, team leaders, human resources and recruiting, and the global communications team. Since Phillips 66 is a global company, they paid close attention to the spelling of their visions and values so that it felt personal to their coworkers in their England offices. For example, honor was spelt honour on the materials sent to those employees. The team sent a miniature version of the signature Phillips 66 red car to these ambassadors that contained a USB that held all of the company’s new information and copies of the new content and video. This helped stakeholders learn how to talk about the vision and values and inform others.

In conclusion, the launch of Phillips 66 was effective. When all employees have a solid idea of a company’s vision and values, it helps to align team goals within an organization. I look forward to seeing the next steps of eBay and PayPal.


Above and BEYOND

This year at PR Day I had the opportunity to hear thoughts on social media from the first astronaut to “check-in” on Four Square from space. Astronaut Douglas Wheelock (@Astro_Wheels), gave us his thoughts on learning to tweet and how he hopes to bring those of us on earth along for the adventure.

From his viewpoint, which is sometimes from the space station, NASA has the opportunity to use social media to give us a first-hand view. This last year, NASA tweeted a view of Sochi from space, giving an entirely new view of the winter olympics.

Social media also makes NASA accessible to the public. We can tweet to astronauts in space, ask them questions and learn together on this journey. Recently, one of NASA’s astronauts used Google+ to quilt from space with other participants on earth. The quilt will be sewn together and sold at a quilt festival here in Houston. Another astronaut leads workouts from space to connect with a different audience.

Social media drives support. NASA is in dire need of public support to keep their program running. The use of social media can help show us all of the possibilities for the future and the importance of space exploration.

Social media inspires. This really hits home from me, because I can think of no better word to describe hearing Doug Wheelock speak other than “inspirational.” NASA is sharing photos of Mars, the Northern lights, the moon and other solar systems. It’s really amazing how much we are able to see. NASA is inspiring us to look far beyond our front door and continue to crave discovery. Wheelock says, “Live your life with so much passion that people can’t take their eyes off you.” NASA is doing just that by showcasing their most passionate stakeholders.

Here are some tips from NASA on social media use:
1. Be relevant.
A good example of this is the photo of Sochi during the olympics that I mentioned before. Another example is the use of NASA photos during weather alerts. Have you ever seen a hurricane from space? It’s incredible and equally terrifying.

2. Engage your audience.
NASA shares a large variety of content. A photo of One Direction visiting the headquarters engages a different audience than photos of space, however NASA shares both seamlessly. NASA also uses Astronaut Campaigns to reach different sectors of people. This sometimes even lands them in the news for “Best Selfie of the Year” or “First Tweet from Space.”

3. Create brand ambassadors.
Word of mouth is huge. It can gain you a larger audience and a positive reputation. NASA wants YOU to share their stories. Their ambassadors are so passionate, they even tweeted for NASA during the government shutdown with the hashtag #ThingsNASAMightTweet. This got mentions from major news outlets and NASA employees weren’t even at work.

4. Hangout.
NASA hosts many Google+ Hangouts from space, creating very sharable content. This helps the public feel more involved with the work NASA is doing. They also engage in Reddit AMAs (Ask Me Anything) so that the public can interview them and ask things such as, “What is the food like in space?”

5. Sustain success.
Images and video last longer than text. As brands catch on to this, we see more and more of this type on content in our news feeds. NASA is strategic in creating great content for their followers. This type of content leads to conversation, participation and feedback.

So after this social media lesson, what is Wheelock’s goal for us?
To no longer see the moon as two dimensional. He longs to bring depth to us and share the beauty of what is outside our atmosphere.