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If social media confounds you, let me break down the top six steps that worked to build my platforms. These are not strategies or tactics but ways to connect with your audience authentically.

Gaining followers and increased, active engagement were an unexpected and welcome outcome of these steps. Click To Tweet

When I opened my Twitter account in April 2012, I did so because my editing job at the time required it to increase our reach. I didn’t know what I was doing. At the time, I didn’t even have a Facebook account. Four years later, with 13k+ Followers on Twitter, 10k+ Followers on Instagram, no Facebook page but a loyal following of 600+ friends, family, and fans on my personal profile, and an active Facebook group—I guess I got the hang of it pretty fast. Nobody is more surprised about that than introverted little ole me!

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The Green Beauty Insiders group was founded by Cindy Bokma and me in 2014 and now has over 1800 group members.

Please don’t think I’m trying to brag. I’m the last one to gloat (ask any of my friends). BUT, when something works for me and I see that it’s not working for everyone, I want to help out.

Learning how to run social media is a hot topic and a challenge for many—particularly for peers of my generation who haven’t quite mastered the art of the RT (that’s a ReTweet for the uninitiated).

So I took a look back at the unintentional formula that worked. Really, this was a happy accident that I’m supremely grateful for because having a great following helps me share quality content that people will actually see. A large following gives people a voice and builds credibility whether it’s for your brand, your blog, or any other business or platform. Plus, it is FREE advertising. You can’t beat that.

Running social media accounts is a huge time commitment. Once you invest that time in the beginning, it will eventually run like a well-oiled machine that you don’t have to tend to as much. Trust me. I never noticed how much time I was spending on Twitter or Instagram because it became a form of creative expression that fuels me.

Social media = free advertising. For a new brand, that's priceless! Click To Tweet

Most tips that I’ve read start with “be yourself” which is actually decent advice but a little vague. What does that actually look like? Let me break it down for you.

 

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Tip #1 Engagement: Give compliments and ask questions

When the newspaper I was working with trained a group of us in Social Media 101, the first piece of advice was: develop your online persona. Ok, great. I had no clue what that meant, but I got my feet wet anyway. How did I do that, when I didn’t know what I was doing? It was the perfect opportunity to connect with other people who are doing it right!

Yup. People in general love being helpful and social media is all about engagement, so I started asking questions. I’d hit “Reply” to Tweets and ask groups what has worked for them on Twitter. I’d tell them that I’m a newbie and didn’t know what I was doing. And guess what? They were all over that! They loved being able to help me out.

So my first tip is to keep connecting with people in whatever way you enjoy.  If you are on Instagram, leave comments on the photos that knock your socks off. Let people know you dig their stuff. Make them the experts who can show you a thing or two. Who doesn’t love that?

Increased social media engagement means reaching more people with your message. Click To Tweet

Tip #2 Share

Start sharing quality content, even if it isn’t your own. The overriding goal of people today is to be visible—so indulge them. It will not hurt you, it will boost your profile in their eyes. Sure you can tweet/post your own stuff, but don’t stop there. If you see an article about something that speaks to you or is relevant to your platform, share it AND credit the author and source. Not only are people grateful that you’ve shared their stuff, but they will be more inclined to share something of yours too. I’ve made real life friends by sharing other people’s posts.

If someone tweets you, try to share something of theirs too. A ReTweet (RT), Regram, or Facebook share is always appreciated. Make sure to tag and credit the source. My rule of thumb is to be generous. It comes back to reward you when it’s authentic.

Tip #3 Hobbies & interests fuel connections

Sure, you’ve got an agenda to push and an ulterior motive for being on social media. Most people do—even if it’s merely to see and be seen.  Set it aside (at least some of the time) to be a real person and remember that you’re engaging with real people on the other side.

Use actual interests to build connections. If you’re selling a skin care brand but you also love to garden or fly airplanes, share it. People are attracted to authenticity, and they want to know you’re a real person too, not some auto-bot that’s posting for you.

Tip #4 Step outside of your zone

I’m not talking about your comfort zone. I’m talking about noticing other people and what they’re doing. Take notes when someone seems to be doing something that you like and wish you could do it yourself. By observing what I like, I learn how to make it my own and give it my own twist. But I don’t always know what that looks like until I see it. In order to see it, I’ve got to step out of my own four walls and start being an observer of other people. Identify your style and run with it.

Tip #5 Have fun

My goodness! Social media isn’t a drag and if it is, get off. Don’t bother.

If you’re a people person but not comfortable engaging online, social media is actually wrong for you, so get someone else to run the accounts. I’m really serious. It may not be the best way for you to build your business because a Debbie Downer or Negative Nelly isn’t someone most people will want to work with. From the other end of reading posts by people who hate social media, I can tell you, it’s a drag and it will drag down your message. It totally turns me off.

Positivity goes far but that doesn’t mean you always have to be happy. An occasional rant or down day won’t be a deal-breaker and will also be a way for your audience to identify with you.

But my attitude on social media has mainly been about having fun and meeting great people—so don’t take it so seriously! You can make tons of mistakes and still get it right after a while. Memories are pretty short-lived. Just keep going and make it enjoyable. Take it lightly. There are way more serious things in life to get upset about and social media is not one of them. Perspective, people.

This is the one social media tip to never forget. Click To Tweet

The one tip I never forget!

This one is a biggie. I NEVER forget that on the other side of my screen there is a real person, and I genuinely care about people. When I’m online, even though I’m staring at a computer screen, I am always aware that I’m typing a message to another human being who has feelings. Maybe this person had a bad day. Maybe being online is their escape. Or maybe they’re feeling lonely. My attitude is to NOT take on their bad day or to personalize ANYTHING. Remember: it isn’t personal. If someone unfollows you, forget about it. This isn’t about you, it’s about them. I’ve got enough on my plate than trying to figure out what I may have done wrong. Don’t bother. You may never know. Keep being kind and compassionate and instead of one unfollow, you’ll have five more follows in exchange. Don’t sweat it.

I hope these tips have been useful! What do you struggle with the most on social media? Let me know in the comments.

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