If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a love/hate relationship with social media. I hate the way I am sucked into it. I’ve lost hours, days and maybe even weeks browsing this timeline or that inanely not knowing how I got there or when I started. BUT, as a blogger (and a journalist too) I rely on it for finding work, promoting my blog and connecting to other freelancers.
PS – all the pictures in this post are 100% unrelated. They are basically on my camera roll with nowhere else to use them 😉
Pin me for later!
The amazing Sara Tasker wrote recently about being a ‘Webtrovert’ and it was a total lightbulb moment for me. I’m an introvert by nature (and no, that doesn’t mean I’m shy or unsociable) but I have found a wonderful community on Instagram, and find myself chatting to Insta-friends daily. I’ve even met up with some in real life. I look forward to posting on Instagram, connecting with people, checking out my Explore page and finding new accounts to pore over.
Because of this, I have a fairly steady referral stream to my blog from Instagram and those who come from IG stick around a whole lot longer than those who come from Facebook.
I do think social media is important when you blog, at least to promote it. When you are truly engaged, it’s even better. So if you hate Twitter with a passion, don’t use it for the sake of it….pick something else.
Note: I’m including Pinterest in this post despite the fact it is a search engine, and NOT a social media platform because it is another tool you can utilise to promote your blog.
I use the full gamut of social media platforms but with varying diligence. I post to Facebook twice a week, Instagram once a day, Twitter several times daily and Pinterest a gazillion times every damn day.
But I do it all in one hour on a Wednesday morning (sort of).
How? I schedule. People – you need a content plan, and you need to schedule! Otherwise you’ll spend your life on social media and go batsh@t crazy.
THE PRACTICAL STUFF
I’ve used lots of free scheduling tools, and paid ones too – here are my faves:
I LOVE using Buffer to schedule Twitter & Facebook posts. With the free version you can schedule about ten posts, but for about £7 a month you can schedule an unlimited amount, look at your top performing posts and quickly re-post them, and review some basic analytics.
My favourite feature is the power scheduler, where you can schedule four posts in one go (super handy for your own blog posts).
For Instagram, I use Planoly to plan content, curate my grid and respond to comments. I prefer Mosaico to be honest but it’s not available on Android. It’s worth noting that you cannot auto-post on Instagram, you always have to press publish in the ‘instant’ you want it posted. But you can save stacks of time planning ahead of time.
And my ultimate tool for scheduling Pinterest pins is Boardbooster which is a scheduling tool of dreams. You can schedule and loop (where the tool deletes poor performing pins and re-pins others on a ‘loop’).
If Facebook is your thing and you really wanna grow it, don’t schedule posts. Do them in the moment (and ideally make them a video or live post!) because Facebook hates scheduled posts by a third party app and penalises them in the algorithm, meaning they get seen less. Gah.
On another note, Facebook also hates links within your post text. I know, I know…..post the link until you get the link preview (usually with a thumbnail image) then delete the link, add your text and post. The image will retain the url so anyone who clicks the image will head on over to your post. Phew.
Also, I have a very talented VA while I’m on maternity leave, although I’ve retained my beloved Instagram.
You don’t always need to waste time creating a whole new post for each platform. Sometimes you can repurpose content instead, which is what I do a LOT. I always start with my blog content, and then essentially repurpose it for everything else – that way, you are always leading people back to the source!
All I mean by re-purposing is to take an original piece of content (a blog post perhaps) and re-use the words or pictures, tweaking for every platform you then repost it too. For example, you might reuse an Instagram picture in a Pin, adding words and tweaking slightly. Or turn your blog post about social media into a tweet with one top social media tip, linking back to the post.
One of the easiest (ahem, laziest) ways to do this is with IFTT.
IFTT (if this, then that) is truly a game changer. When I discovered it I went mad using recipes (as they were previously known) like mad and went a little too far.
WHAT IS IT? It’s basically a resource library full of clever little ‘applets’ which, when triggered, mean you can do super clever things on social media. Like automatically post your Instagram pictures as native Tweets (with your picture still visible).
There are honestly thousands of applets (recipes) so have a play around, you’ll find hundreds that can make your life a whole lot easier.
What’s your favourite social media platform? And where do your biggest traffic referrals come from? It’s potentially the same or, like with my Instagram example, you get the best engagement from one.
Either way, use these two metrics to decide where to put all of your eggs, so to speak, and get creative. I always promote my blog posts in Instagram, within a post, in my bio and on my Stories too. I even did a cheeky Instagram Live.
Facebook prioritises video content, so create a little video or do a Facebook Live stream. On Twitter you can use Periscope (basically live video streaming) and on Pinterest I really encourage you to get involved with groups, like Mappin’ Monday (travel).
I know it sounds counter-intuitive but it’s best practice to get into sharing other content aside from your own. There are stacks of resources that will give you an ‘ideal’ ratio of sharing….’three of theirs to one of your own’ or whatever.
But, unsurprisingly, I think that’s BS. I also don’t think it’s a good idea to share a set group of content in a prescriptive way. By which I mean to have a list of bloggers whose posts you share, regardless of whether you’ve read and liked them or not.
You’re a blogger, so I’m almost positive you read stacks of content across various diffetent topics right? I love reading stuff from The Pool as much as I love reading the latest from The Travel Hack and I devour anything by The Bloggess (including her hilarious books).
I share these with abandon, but only if I’ve actually read and enjoyed the posts. I do this using Feedly, which keeps all of my fave content in one place, then sharing my fave posts with the Buffer extension for Safari.
SIMPLE. Or is it? You tell me. Have I missed anything?
You know when you have all the ideas in your head, but you can’t seem to action them? When you have something on your to-do list errrrrrry damn day, every damn week and maybe even every damn month and you can’t tick it off? When you just feel stuck? Yep, that’s me right now.
Okay you guys, I’ve got a confession to make. I don’t really worry about SEO.
If, at this stage, you think: ‘Why the holy crap are you telling us to worry about it then?’ I totally get it. It directly contravenes my obsession with not telling you to follow any kind of prescriptive rule based advice and, honestly, it’s not my favourite topic to talk about either.
And now, let’s get into the fun stuff. Because that’s really what amateur photography is all about right? Having a play, looking for fun stuff to take pictures of, messing it up, trying again and making it look pretty.
I’ll hold my hands up right now and tell you that I’m not the best at any of these things. Every few months I look back at the pictures I was once super proud of and cringe at the shoddy editing, crappy framing and hammy placement of bits and pieces I thought looked great. But actually looked terrible. And a little try-hard too.
BUT, you have to try these things to find your style and all that and even when I kinda hate my gallery, I still don’t delete anything because I like seeing how I’ve progressed. A gem of a lesson told to me by the Insta-wizard Sara Tasker.
Early on in my photography journey I discovered my biggest weakness: composition. I am truly awful at composing a beautiful shot. Okay, that’s not strictly true actually. I’m quite good with the details in a bigger scene. So, if I’m at a famous landmark, like the Taj Mahal or whatever I will find a gorgeous detail and take an interesting shot showcasing it in a different way.
But ask me to take a picture of a group of people, or a landscape, or a fast moving street scene, or a nice still life in my flat and I become catatonic resulting in a fairly hideous shot.
But I know a few tricks, these are the basic rules of composition and you’d do very well to learn them if you, like me, lose your sh*t trying to arrange a gorgeous picture.
There are lot more ‘rules’ than these and if you want to go deeper into any of them I’d recommend having a good old Google, but these are my quick reference guide. Sometimes I don’t follow any rules and that’s cool too, you gotta go with your gut 🙂
The Rule of Thirds
Imagine your screen is divided into three lines horizontally and vertically, nine little squares. You don’t actually have to imagine this as your DSLR screen has nifty little lines in your viewfinder, and you can tweak your display settings to show you it on your smartphone too.
The idea with this rule is to position the subject of your photo along these lines, or at the intersecting points.
Ooooh I J’ADORE this rule, it’s my favourite to look at. In fact, most of us like to look at this too — our eyes are naturally drawn to lines, so it makes sense to utilise this in your photography.
Roads in a forest, especially tree-lines are obvious choices, or a path through a winding mountain. Think outside of the box too — train tracks are always gorgeous, especially when you get down low at the same level as them.
This is a trickier one to explain, mostly because I’m pretty terrible at utilising it myself. I’ll try my best though.
If the subject of your photo is the positive space in the frame, then everything around it is, yep, you guessed it — the negative space. It’s basically as simple as that. Except….it isn’t.
Have you ever looked at something in real life and thought: “Wow, so gorgeous. I must take a picture!” only to take the picture and find it falls flat? It’s just dull and doesn’t capture what you saw AT ALL? Working with negative space can alleviate that.
Instead of focusing on the subject – focus on the space around it. Perhaps while keeping your subject off-centre/across grid lines you can see some gorgeous shadows somewhere? Or perhaps there’s an incredible series of unintentional shapes in the background of your picture? That kind of thing. When you look at a slightly more interesting flatlay shot, you can see how the photographer is working with the negative space around the subject without feeling pressured to fill the entire frame with ‘stuff’.
Fill the Frame
By this, I don’t mean that you need to fill the entire frame with random stuff. What I mean by this is look at the edges of your frame, and aim to fill them with something interesting, something that’ll ultimately draw the eye to your subject.
This is best understood with landscapes where mountains, or trees frame the edges leading your eye into a beautiful lake in the middle perhaps.
OMG this is my FAVOURITE part of the photography process. I LOVE editing. The things you can do in post-production are magical, and honestly I encourage you to learn the basics then go mental – get really outrageous to see just how far you can go…..then obviously pull it back so your pictures look nice, and not like a hideous photoshopped mess.
And nowadays there are so many free editing suites around, especially for your smartphone, that you can get some really stunning results super quickly and easily. No courses, or technical knowledge required (although that helps).
This is about 79p or something crazy, and it’s amazing. You can edit contrast, exposure, sharpness and even add grain (but don’t do that please!)
A Color Story
From the A Beautiful Mess gals, this is a super cool app, although I don’t use it lots to be honest. It comes with some amazing paid extra features with things like bokeh, light leaks…..the list goes on.
Adobe Lightroom CC
To me, nothing beats Lightroom for superior photo organisation and general amazing-ness. It’s my preferred way to edit and it’s SUPER simple. You can buy the entire Creative Cloud package or pay for it monthly.
Adobe Photoshop CC
I used Photoshop a lot when I was a staff writer, as I had to create jazzy composite shots, pixelate naked body parts and draw red circles and point arrows at crocodiles in the water (to add shock value).
But outside of that I don’t use it much at all. It is great for creating photo layouts for your blog though, and for getting rid of annoying tourists from a beautiful beach shot too.
This is a really simple, free tool for very basic editing. You can crop and resize your blog pictures in here which is handy — and there are a few paid add-ons too.
I don’t think I can explain this in any other way than through the wise words of my Insta-Fam. This is what faffing means to them…..
I’ve been reading a really awesome book by Brene Brown, which you may already know, called Daring Greatly. In it, she talks about the power of vulnerability and the nightmare that is shame. If you think I’ve gone hugely off topic, stay with me……
I’ve realised with all my recent blogging posts, I’ve constantly qualified the things I’m trying to teach with “I’m no expert” and “these people know far more than me” and while yes, that is true, it doesn’t make my knowledge any less valuable. I’m basically just scared of putting myself out there, because someone might say – “you’re talking crap, look at your writing/blog/photography….it’s crap.”