Social Media Cheat-Sheet

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A few notes:

  • Please keep in mind when reading that I’m mildly dyslexic – I’m good with words, but not always with spelling. I’m sure you’ll cope 😉

  • I have cheekily included links to my social profiles as the titles of each relevant section. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

  • 27.06.20 Update: I’ve added a few things based on personal experiences that have not been fully tested, or based on articles I cannot remember the title of. I’ll make these obvious with a light blue highlight.

  • 04.07.20: it’s been mentioned that I don’t always follow my own advice, which is absolutely true. My professional goals with social media are to grow a small but dedicated community so my focus these days is on providing quality content, valuable to the followers I have already gained. Also, sometimes it’s hard to think of a call to action when I just want to share a video of me playing guitar, you know?

  • 11.09.20: TikTok revealed some info on how it's algorithm worked. This has been digested and included.

  • 16.12.20: added some info I uncovered about resolutions and quality settings in Twitch.

  • 20.02.21: Discovered a few things about Instagram and TikTok that I added.

Social Media Cheat-Sheet

Social Media In General

  • Remember that social platforms exist because of the adverts they sell you, (maybe your data as well, but mostly adverts). They don’t want you to open any other apps or sites because you’ll stop seeing their adverts. Almost all social media platforms will limit visibility on posts that take viewers to another site or, like Instagram, they don’t support links in descriptions. If you need to post a URL make sure you leave it as a comment to a bigger post. If you need to promote a video you’re better off uploading that video natively to a platform – that way people might actually watch it.

  • People prefer to learn things from those who are currently learning as well: they view experts as arrogant or dissociated from the actual subject matter. They want to hear from fellow soldiers, not the generals. 

  • Social networks will tell you when they have a new feature to push: right now, Twitter is trying to make Lists a thing, for example. When you open an app pay attention to any pop-ups that tell you about a new feature. If you learn to use them the site will promote your posts because they want to show off that feature, for whatever reason. Look out for…

    • Lists on Twitter;

    • Groups on Facebook;

    • Stories on Pinterest;

    • Live video on LinkedIn;

    • Reels on Instagram.

  • Social media is supposed to be social. If you’re just posting you can’t expect to grow an audience – you have to interact with others.

    • Leave meaningful comments on the content of people you want to attract and on the places where people you want to attract will be: bands that are similar to you; your business competitors; other creators who inspire you. Spam comments are very transparent so please just try to engage genuinely. If you leave a nice comment people will almost always look at your profile.

    • Use hashtags and location tags to find people you want to interact with.

    • Take note of what connections you’ve made who will interact – tag those people in comments you leave on other posts, on your own posts, etc, in order to engage people you know will actually engage.

    • Encourage others to tag friends in your work. Things like “tag a mate who always X” might seem tacky, but it works. Probably best to work out how tacky your brand is 😉Going Door To Door is great for gaining fans. My strategy for LTGuitarist is to search common guitar-related questions on Twitter and answering them one-by-one. You get the occasional follow and that person is more likely to be receptive to your future posts because they trust you.

  • Study the Unicorns – accounts which have similar content to you but who have a lot of followers and interactions. What are they posting? How often? When? What kind of content do they post? What captions do they use? What posts are doing well and which are flopping? It’s possible to borrow ideas and make them yours without stealing!

  • Tent Poles are events that are predictable either because they happen every year, (Christmas, Summer Holidays), or because there’s a lot of marketing for them, (a new Marvel film or some creep going to prison). Because they are so predictable its easy to make content about those things and the hype associated with the event itself can affect whether your content is seen.

  • Almost all social networks are image-based. Videos tend to perform the best, followed by GIFs, followed by still images. Find an excuse to post an image of some kind. 

  • Don’t be afraid to tweak and re-post content that didn’t work. Social media is fluid, people won’t notice.

  • If you can get the same user name or link on each platform then do it. It’s much easier to be found and grow across other platforms.

  • It’s worth doing a photoshoot once a year, taking enough images that you can share them gradually throughout the year in various forms:

    • Hold up blank signs which you can add text to later to promote livestreams, product launches, etc;

    • Candid-looking shots that evidence how fun you are;

    • Get a bunch of emotional faces to add to video thumbnails or as images to underline how you want readers to feel about a text post: fear, joy, excitement, confusion – they’re all good.

    • It’s better to include literally any image with a text post, even if the text post is the real draw, so it’s worth having a crap-load of photos.

Why are you on socials?

  • Consider why you are using social media and use this to inform the kinds of content you post. For example, if you’re trying to build a service-based business you don’t want to build your audience by giving away tips all the time because they won’t pay you for a service if they think they can get it for free.

Social Video

  • People usually scroll-through social apps on their phone with the sound off. You can entice some people to listen with a “Sound On” sticker, but it won’t always work. Instead, you can use text-on-screen to firstly highlight the overarching message of your video and to act as a caption for any dialogue.

  • Most video editors allow you to edit vertical footage now, (tall). You can take up more of the space on screen by creating taller videos. Even if a viewer scrolls past they’ve technically viewed your content for longer than your horizontally- or square-formatted competitors. In most cases, view time is the metric that will make your content visible to others so it is possible to improve your chances by having taller videos.

  • If you’re going to use a green screen, please learn how to use a green screen. You need even light on the background and a good amount on your face/torso. I’m sure that most viewers would rather see your messy background than only half your face because you didn’t light yourself correctly.

Podcasts & Audio

  • Audio is one of the most important aspects of social video, often overlooked and often daunting. Obviously audio quality is integral to podcasts, but it’s also crucial to any video-based medium: you have to assume that anyone watching a video could just be listening to it and approach production from that angle.

  • The growth of podcasting means it’s now easy to create and publish shows to the major platforms. The downside of this is that independent podcasters often assume the audio tech side of things is as simple as the publishing side. Consistency is key: many listeners will cope with not-quite-perfect or slightly-roomie audio as long as that’s consistent. If you make improvements you want to make them gradually – you want people to binge-listen to your show, so making them adjust their volume settings each episode is going to put them off. Even worse is uneven levels within shows: I have stopped listening to podcasts because the intro is at one level, the adverts are way louder, and the actual content is super quiet with a buzz in the background. For me, the audio quality is more important than the quality of the presenter.

  • Use headphones. If you’re streaming solo, a guest on someone else’s show or doing anything where you need to listen to audio as you talk, you absolutely must use headphones. Otherwise, you will get what is called “bleed” from the game or other audio sources. This is not something you can edit out. Wear headphones.

GIFs

  • You can make your own GIFs from previously released videos. GIPHY, for example, will let you create a GIF from a YouTube URL and will even let you link to the original URL. So if a clip takes off you can generate views on the original video because people will want to know where it’s from.

Audience Research

  • Create an Avatar of your ideal audience which includes income, gender, age, and industry. Most social networks will allow you to work out when those specific people are online and that should be the times that you post.

  • It’s possible that your current audience is different to your ideal audience. You can create content that people will like if they know who you are and post it at a time that your current audience will see it; whilst also making content to draw-in new people which you can post when your ideal audience is online.

Social Proof

  • Whether you’re promoting a business or trying to grow a following, most people will want Social Proof before even considering following you. They need some way of seeing that other people have found value from you or your product/service. If you can make an image of comments left on your YouTube videos, or nice Tweets about your service, you can post those images elsewhere as Social Proof. Here’s a few examples

    • Sharing IG posts about your product as a Story.

    • Screen-capping YouTube comments and sharing them as IG Stories or Tweets.

    • Re-Tweeting any positive mentions.

  • I remember watching an advert for a “social media expert” who mentioned that he bought a huge billboard in central New York City, then hired a helicopter and a camera crew to fly over the city and capture footage of the billboard. The advert itself was the most expensive aspect but it wasn’t the actual point – the point was that he had footage of the advert which could then itself be used for marketing purposes. The viewer would think “wow, this dude is legit because he has his face on a billboard in central NYC, I should pay for his online course”. He claims that he easily made his money back on the advertising. 

Growth Hacking & Buying Followers

  • Don’t buy followers.

  • Seriously, don’t.

  • Any tutorials or services that allow you to very quickly grow your following will fail to mention that you need to sustain those techniques in order to keep your following. 

  • Any potential collaborators or employers who, for whatever reason, need to check your online presence will pay more attention to the level interaction you have with your audience than the actual number of followers.

Platform-Specific Tips

YouTube

  • Using a Direct Address such as “you” or “your” within the first 5 seconds of a video yields 60% better engagement. (Engage Video Marketing Podcast #103)

  • Audience Retention is the biggest factor in whether YouTube shows your videos to other users. You want to keep viewers engaged until literally the last frame. Therefore, don’t make it obvious that the video is about to end: avoid “so if you liked this you can subscribe” or “well that about wraps it up”. It’s hard to get out of that habit, but this is the main way that YouTube differs from traditional TV.

  • Use your channel analytics to find out how much of your videos your audience watches. This gives you 2 bits of information. Firstly, if your audience watches an average of 3 minutes despite your videos being 10 minutes long, that’s an indicator that your videos should be shorter – around 3 minutes, in this example. Secondly, it may indicate that your video is not engaging enough to keep a viewer’s attention. You may need to experiment with new camera-angles; punching-in; overlaying images or text; B-Roll.

  • Use individual video analytics to see when viewers leave your most-viewed videos. If they leave early you can add a card to direct them to another, related video – if they’re going to leave, you’d rather they went to watch another of your videos, right? 

  • If you swear within the first minute of a video YouTube will show this to less people, even if you beep it out. So, if you have to swear make sure your expletive sound isn’t the traditional beep. (Game Grumps – several episodes)

  • There’s 3 kinds of content on YouTube, it’s worth knowing what kind of video you’re making and really pushing it to conform to these templates. This video is where I first learnt the concept but this blog explains it a bit better. Implicitly, you should aim for all 3 kinds of content.

    • Hero Content which includes news; tent-pole events; big projects; anything where the goal is mass awareness of the subject. These are intended to get a crap-tonne of views.

    • Hub Content is share-friendly and emotionally engaging. It’s made to attract new subscribers.

    • Helpful Content includes tutorials on whatever the core subject of your channel is. It’s made to keep your current subscribers engaged.

  • YouTube encourages users to have a consistent upload schedule so that your subscribers will know when to log-in and watch your newest content. 

  • One of the hardest things about YouTube is keeping to a regular upload schedule whilst retaining and improving quality. Batching content is the best way around it – set up the camera once a month and record several videos in one go. Editing en masse also puts you in a great frame of mind for finding a bunch of clips to repurpose into shorter videos that can live elsewhere.

  • I don’t have stats, but I’m reasonably sure that videos with a large-amount of text-on-screen, (especially static text that remains throughout), will be limited by YouTube. Not sure why.

  • Thumbnails with faces, especially extremely emotive faces, tend to attract viewers.

  • Don’t post text or important images under the bottom-right corner of the thumbnail because that’s where the video length appears.

  • In general, avoid large amounts of text on thumbnails. Copying the video title is a bit pointless, so why not use the thumbnail and video Title in conjunction – for example, use the title to ask a question and the thumbnail text to answer it in a way that viewers will need more info on in order to watch.

  • 12ToneVideos tells us that changing a thumbnail after publishing a video seems to reduce the new potential views. Unsure if this has been tested but I basically trust them.

  • You can add “?sub_confirmation=1” to the end of your YouTube channel URL, so that when someone visits the page they’re automatically invited to subscribe. For example: https://www.youtube.com/LiamTaylorGuitar?sub_confirmation=1

  • When tagging, be sure to include your channel name or brand name. You want your content to appear when people search for you, not just your channel.

  • Tags should include things people will actually search on YouTube relevant to your video. 

  • The first tags you include seem to be the most important ones.

  • Vid IQ make a plug-in that can help you measure the popularity of tags, and all sorts of other cool things. There’s a free version of the plug-in that I use on basically all my YouTube channels. It’s pretty helpful.

  • If you decide to remove a video, don’t delete it. If you delete it your channel will lose any views the video has gained, so you’re better off making it private instead.

Instagram Posts

  • First line of description should be a question.

  • People will often share posts because of a good caption. Some people make really compelling points under photos that are completely unrelated. That feels weird to me, but whatever.

  • Always have some kind of Call To Action which can vary depending on your goals.

    • If you have a good following you can direct people to your website: “visit my link if X”;

    • If you’re seeking a larger following you could try: “send my post to someone who needs to hear it” or “save my post so you don’t forget”

  • Use very specific and niche hashtags for posts.

  • You can get away with a new Post as seldom as monthly, provided your regularly posting Stories.

  • Because IG is so visual, it’s important to have a strong and recognizable aesthetic. People will associate your visual style with the knowledge that your content is enjoyable or reliable. Also, having a brand will make your account page look much more professional. It could be a specific colour palette, a border or an effect you put on all your images – but this should be the same whether your posting an image of your work or something more personal.

  • The more time someone spends on a post the better – rather than posting 5 separate images can you post it as 1 carousel? That will create a single, popular post that IG will want to show other people. 

  • Using more than a few tags can limit your visibility. Well, maybe. There seems to be some debate about this, but you can post comments on your own posts that include up to 30 tags to make the post more visible to others. 

  • Make sure to select a thumbnail for your video posts. By default, IG selects the first frame of your video but this might not be the best representation of your content, nor may it entice people to watch the whole thing. Even worse, if you have even a slight fade-in, it’ll appear as a blank image!

  • For any type of live event, remember that eye-contact requires you look at your webcam. Although it feels strange, it’ll look more comfortable for your audience. Try to get in the habit of occasionally looking directly into your camera, even if you’re concentrating on something on-screen. 

  • IG tend to only show people your most recent post. Posting several times in quick succession is, therefore, pointless because people will only see your most recent post on their feeds. If your most recent post is still getting likes and interaction then perhaps don’t post anything new until that subsides.

  • They're introducing Reels now, which is basically their version of Tik-Tok. Got to wonder if this will replace IGTV.

Instagram Reels

  • For copyright reasons, IG won't push your Reels to new viewers if you use your original audio. Instead, use IG's music function.

Instagram Stories

  • DMs in response to stories will determine the position of your future stories. Because there's no way for other users to know how many DMs you get, you may as well ask for DMs all the time!

  • Watch time is also important. If something is re-watchable or makes people want to pause the story

  • You can get away with a new Post as seldom as monthly, provided your regularly posting Stories.

  • Regular posts are important to viewers, weekly or monthly. Regular stories are more effective than daily stories.

  • Each Story sticker will make you visible in a new place so use Locations, Mentions and Tags to maximise this.

  • Use very general and broad hashtags for stories.

  • You can use Stories to promote posts to a wider audience. You could try getting some new eyes on older content in this way.

  • If you’ve posted a Story with the Question Sticker in the last 24 hours, IG will collect those answers and let you bring them on screen whilst you go live. But, it’ll only bring in the answers to the most recent Question; and it won’t bring up the original Question Sticker, just the answers. (Social Media Marketing Podcast – ep413)

Twitter

  • Use emojis. 

  • Recently, Twitter seemed to be pushing lists. Not sure why, but I’m sure they’ll be encouraging us to use them and one of the easiest ways to do that is for them to promote previously-created lists. Start making lists. 

  • People can see blocks of hashtags and instantly get put off. “Try #seamlessly incorporating #tags into blocks of text.”

  • You can schedule Tweets with Tweetdeck. There's also Buffer and Hootsuite that offer detailed analytics as well for a price. This is great for things like Ko-Fi or Mailing List links which you need to post often. Personally, I like to schedule Tweets about terrible meetings, annoying clients or bad students – that way I can vent about things but not in a way that is traceable to any specific issue or person. If you do this, just be sure you don’t name the person or company you complain about, obviously.

Facebook

  • Facebook have stated that they wish to focus on families and communities. With that in mind, it’s almost certain that Pages will start to die out in favour of Groups and Messenger.

  • It’s probably best to treat Pages as simple sources of information about your product or service rather than a hub of activity. There’s very little reason for anyone to visit a Page unless they want to employ you or buy from you in the short term.

  • You can start a Group tangentially related to your brand, but make sure that the subject is broad enough that people actually engage in conversation. 

  • Word on the street is that FB want to be the new YouTube. Acquiring a portion of Mixer’s streamers for Facebook Gaming will be a huge boost in that regard.

  • The typical half-life of posts is 2 hours.

Twitch

  • Viewers say they watch streams for one or both of the following:

    • The streamer is especially skilled in a specific area or at a specific game;

    • The streamer has an engaging personality; 

  • 2 thirds of viewers identify as male, one third female; USA accounts for 21% of traffic; 73% are aged 16-34. (Source)

  • According to Twitch Tracker, the most viewers are online around 8pm UTC. This is also when the most channels are active. Between 11am-5pm UTC there is usually the smallest gap between no. of channels and no. of viewers, which could indicate your stream’s chance of being stumbled-upon is greater in this period.

  • All live streaming requires a high-level of audience interaction. When you start out, it’s important to maximise any opportunity to demonstrate you’re able to do this: 

    • Any time anyone says hello you should greet them;

    • Any time anyone asks a question you should answer it as fully as possible, and even ask them for follow-up questions to keep them engaged.

  • You can prompt interaction by having a question as the stream’s title or including one in the stream info. Having a question tangentially related to the stream is great, just make sure to mention it occasionally as people will drop in and out all the time.

  • Programs like Streamlabs OBS make it easy to integrate engaging elements to your stream, including Follower Targets, Tip Jars and Chat Boxes – all of which are things that audience members can affect in various ways allowing them to feel included. Having a chat bot is a great way to make your channel look professional whilst populating the chat and keeping viewers engaged.

  • You can use this software, (and others), to change scenes to keep it visually appealing too:

    • Changing cameras: maybe swapping from your talking head to look at what your hands are doing;

    • Bringing in or hiding overlays like Chat Boxes;

    • Cutting to a still image with music if you need a comfort break.

  • Programs like Restream.io allow you to copy your feed from one source and send it to others. You can appear simultaneously on YouTube, Twitch and others. It feels like the kind of thing that would have a draw-back, but I’m not sure yet. I’m not convinced there’s any way for the platforms to know you’re doing it. I wouldn’t go name-dropping any one app though – YouTube are 100% listening to your audio for copyright reasons, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they shadow-banned broadcasts that reference their competitors.

  • The “social” aspect of this site isn’t as obvious as others – the best way to interact is to comment on similar channels while they’re live. Obviously don’t ask them to follow your channel but if you ask good questions and are friendly they will probably remember you so if you do that a few times they will check your page out and possibly follow you back. Don’t enter any chats with the goal of gaining followers, just be friendly for its own sake.  

  • Make sure you’re streaming at a resolution viewers can access. Not everyone will have a connection that can handle a 1080, 60fps stream and Twitch won’t let your viewers access different quality options until you pass a threshold that has not been made public. To be safe, set your broadcast to go out at 720, 30fps – it’s still pretty high and means someone stumbling across your feed is less likely to switch off because your broadcast doesn’t load!

  • Audio is key to a good livestream – you want to make sure you’re coming through at  a reasonable volume and that your game/project is audible when you want it to be without dominating your voice. Please see the Podcasts & Audio category for specific advice. A specific issue for Twitch is making sure that any alerts, (new followers, Bits, etc), aren’t intrusive. For example, a dialogue-heavy stream can be ruined by loud alerts. 

  • Please see the Social Video category for tips on green screens & chroma keying – Twitch streamers are the main offenders here.

LinkedIn

  • For all intents and purposes, treat LinkedIn as Facebook. For now.

  • LinkedIn is intended to be a professional platform, so memes won’t be as welcome as industry tips. That said, if your brand is meme-heavy, that’s up to you. 

  • LinkedIn is currently trying to push live video, but it’s also limiting access to it. If you can, by some magic, access LinkedIn Live before anyone else, I suggest you use it. 

Reddit

  • Reddit users tend to be hyper-aware of self-promoters. It’s worth becoming active in your industry’s specific Subreddits so that when you do need to promote your own work you have a level of trust associated with your username.

Pinterest

  • One of the few sites that has a majority of female-identifying users – almost all other sites are well over 50% male. This is a great opportunity for targeting female-identifying customers.

  • Unlike other sites, Pinterest primarily wants users to visit other sites – that's what it's for, for people who want to make a specific purchase or find inspiration. That makes it unique.

  • They recently adopted the Stories format, like IG and FB, so probably worth jumping on that!

  • The typical half-life of Pins is a few months. You can often receive views on content you posted years ago.

  • 80% of Pinterest users are on mobile, so you should avoid landscape images like video thumbnails. Go tall, or square. 

TikTok

  • One of the youngest audiences available. 

  • Video is viewed vertically. Horizontal videos can fit, but will stand out from competitors in a bad way.

  • Be aware that anything on the extreme right-hand side of the screen, or the lowest third will be covered in text.

  • You can post response videos to comments, which feature the comment on screen. It’s a great way to point out specific followers or to answer specific queries. 

  • When you open TikTok for the very first time, the first 8 videos it shows you will be based on whatever is currently popular on the platform. The algorithm will then serve you batches of 8 videos based on what you and other users interact with. Once it collects enough data on your viewing preferences it will place you in Clusters who all receive similar content. Source.

  • The app identifies similar content based on video descriptions, tags and music. It also considers your language and location settings, as well as the type of device you're using. Source.

  • I can tell you from experience, interactive posts, (i.e. video replies to comments or stitches), get by far the most views.

  • You can renew attention on a video by replying to old comments.

Discord

  • Discord can look daunting at first. Think of it as a souped-up MSN Messenger that allows video chat and has a lot of bots. 

  • Discord is great for community-building because you can create many Text Channels within your Server to engage in conversations about specific aspects of your industry or your product / whatever you’re promoting.

  • You can set up bots to post automatically to Discord whenever you upload a new YouTube video, make something public on SoundCloud, publish a new Tweet, etc. Try Zapier or IFTTT for bot automation.

  • You can set up bots who respond to specific text prompts – whether it’s posting a funny image in response to !meme or interacting with a livestream based elsewhere.

  • There’s lots of customization options to enforce your brand, including server-specific custom emojis.

Buy me a goddamn coffee.

Resources:

Podcasts

Social Media Marketing Podcast – fairly dry and jargon-ie, but a few good points in each episode.

Engage Video Marketing Podcast

Misc

Chris Do on Instagram, (@thechrisdo), posts really interesting and engaging carousels. Worth finding his talks on YouTube too but beware that any “growth hacking” ideas will need to be sustained long-term if you want to keep the audience – not something he mentions!

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