Last Updated July 16th, 2018

When Viral Marketing Works Too Well

When Viral Marketing Works Too Well

If you were paying attention to the news or social media at all around July 12, you probably heard about Build A Bear’s “Pay Your Age” day. Hordes of parents with children showed up for this amazing deal, waiting for hours for the bargain. Stores had to close their doors because the crowds were too big. Officials cited safety concerns in many places.

It was a huge case of viral marketing that worked too well.

Honestly, that they didn’t consider the crowd situation well enough surprised me. As soon as I heard about the deal, I knew the crowds would be unmanageable, which is why I didn’t tell my youngest about it. I knew she’d desperately want to go, and I am not the kind of mom who stands for hours in line for a toy.

All this was to promote their program that kids can get a pay your age birthday bear. The company also offered $15 vouchers to make up for the mess. Not the same as paying your age for most people, but not a terrible deal.

This kind of problem can hit you as an online business too. Going viral is a goal most bloggers and online business owners have. Not everyone is ready for what can happen.

My Experience With Too Much Website Traffic

I’ve been hit with an excess of traffic once myself. It was quite an experience. The timing was such that it was more difficult to deal with than it would have been at any other time.

You see, I had just moved. My site had been hit so hard that my host had shut it down for overusing the server.

And I didn’t know until the cable company connected my internet service.

In this case, it was a link to my site in an article that was shared on a few big sites. All at once, I had far more traffic hitting my site than my hosting plan allowed.

There were comments on the articles questioning my legitimacy because my site was down. Somehow I might be trying to scam people because my site was down. I’m not sure how that works, but some people were concerned.

Fortunately, my hosting company was very willing to work with me on a temporary upgrade to deal with the sudden increase of traffic. The increased income was worth the trouble.

Why wasn’t I prepared?

The interview I had done for the article had happened months before. I didn’t know where or when it would be posted. In fact, I had given up on anything happening with that interview. So naturally, things happened right when we had to move for my husband’s new job.

That’s how things work, isn’t it?

It was also my first huge surge in traffic. I’d never experienced anything like it before. I learned a lot about the kind of traffic that’s available in this niche that way.

Going viral is often hard to prepare for, no matter how hard you’ve worked at it.

thumbs up

What Is Viral Marketing?

People always talk about going viral. Most people can name things they’ve seen go viral.

It’s not just big companies that go viral. How many people remember “the dress?” Mentioning the dress can still make some people groan over the whole fuss about what color it was. I’ve seen a few other attempts at going viral over colors that people disagree on, but nothing like that.

The goal of viral marketing is to spread information by word of mouth. Many companies aim to get viral campaigns going over social media, as many people share freely on social media.

How the marketing campaign spreads doesn’t matter, so long as it spreads widely. You don’t see many campaigns aiming to go viral over email these days. This probably has to do with the frustration many people have over forwarded emails. They can get difficult to read as they get repeatedly forwarded, diminishing the effect over time.

Viral marketing campaigns can be entertaining. They can offer an exceptionally good deal.

Viral marketing does not have to spread out to everyone. You only need your marketing to spread to your target audience. People who will never be interested in what you have to offer are not your target for any kind of marketing.

Going viral will be different for every marketer. If your niche is small, you don’t want a viral campaign that appeals to the world.

Example:

Let’s say you’re selling a blogging course, as many bloggers do. You’ve had some success with your blogging, and you want to share your techniques with people interested in starting their own blogs.

While you may think of blogging as something anyone can try, the simple truth of the matter is that you need better targeting than that. Who do you think will be interested in learning to blog from you? Pick your niche.

Your target audience will probably relate to the kind of blogging you do. They’re the people you can give the best advice to. There are some differences, after all, in blogging about parenting versus running a blog for a charity.

If you’re trying to go viral, target the audience you know. A successful parenting blogger already has some ideas on how to attract people to that subject. You will probably have more luck attracting people in that niche who would also like to start a blog than in attracting people who aren’t in that niche. You already have a reputation and a following in your niche, which gives you a head start.

Target the people trying to start a blog for a charity, and they’ll see you as just some parenting blogger, not a real authority on their needs. An attempt to catch their attention and get them to buy your course will probably fall flat.

Going Viral Is Not Always Deliberate

Much as you might want control over when you go viral, it’s not something that happens on command, nor can you avoid it at times. Word of mouth marketing of any sort is impossible to control.

Just imagine having a business where you make something, and without advance notification, it gets featured on a huge site. You get slammed with business, plus criticism for not having enough of your product.

Yet all you did was run your business as usual. The discovery and word of mouth chatter wasn’t due to anything unusual you did, aside from offering an interesting product. Hopefully, you can make the most of it if that ever happens to you.

Is Viral Always Good For A Business?

Viral marketing attempts can go sour. Going viral in the wrong way can be damaging to your business. Too great a focus on going viral can be one of the biggest social media mistakes you can make. Viral marketing is only a part of your social media strategy. It shouldn’t be the whole thing.

Just think about how “switching” to IHOb went for IHOP. That attempt at going viral resulted in significant mockery for them. They also got attention to their new burgers, which may be a benefit, but overall most people weren’t impressed. But if getting people to talk about the switch was the goal, it worked. People now know IHOP has burgers, even if they didn’t like the marketing campaign at all.

On the other hand, it was a lot of fun for other restaurants to mock the switch:

Sometimes a company will go viral for something they did wrong. Think about some of the recent videos you may have seen of people being kicked off their plane flights.

Viral videos can also impact individuals. The video of the woman calling police on the little black girl who was selling water in front of her apartment ended with the woman resigning from her job.

Sometimes companies react well to negative viral videos. Starbucks closed their stores for a day of retraining after a video of two black men being arrested at one of their locations went viral. Starbucks has been very open about the changes they’ve made to hopefully avoid such racial profiling in their stores in the future. Hopefully it sticks.

fireworks

How To Prepare For When Viral Marketing Works

If you’re trying to figure out viral marketing, you need to consider what happens when it works out. You don’t want to be caught unprepared if things work out.

For an online business, that means high quality hosting. I’m currently using A2 Hosting, which I like quite well. I haven’t had the chance to test them on high traffic levels yet, but they have upgrades available, so if the plan I have right now isn’t enough, I can move to something better.

If you’re serious about going viral, the time will come that you will need a virtual private server or dedicated hosting. If you’re earning money, these become a good investment and will be vital to your success.

Unless you’re completely comfortable with controlling the server on your own, you would want managed versions of these types of hosting.

Any host will shut you down on a shared server if you’re using more than your share of resources for a period of time. That’s so that your traffic surge doesn’t take down other sites. You would want them to do that to any other site on your shared hosting if it were your site being taken down by a surge on someone else’s site.

A good hosting company will help you move your site FAST if you get clobbered by traffic. But they may or may not contact you to let you know that you need the upgrade if you want your site up.

If your marketing is going well, it will be worthwhile to stay on higher level hosting, rather than bumping up when the rush comes.

Make Sure Your Product Is Ready

One of the big mistakes Build A Bear made was in not having their stores and products ready. They knew there would be a surge of traffic. They vastly underrated how huge the surge would be.

Whatever your product may be, if you’re trying to go viral, make sure you have enough for the potential demand.

This is relatively easy if your product is downloadable. All you need are servers powerful enough to take the traffic.

It’s much more difficult if you’re offering a physical product. You may have to explain to disappointed customers what your production times are, or even refuse orders if you don’t have a way to increase product production.

There’s no point to trying to go viral if you don’t have a product, even if that product is simply the content on your site. Make sure you have a solid way to monetize your traffic if that’s the case, of course. You don’t want to pay for more powerful servers if you can’t earn anything.

Being caught unprepared is how viral marketing can go too well for a small business or blog. If you’re trying to go viral, make plans for if you succeed. Even if you aren’t trying to go viral, consider what you would do if you suddenly had more traffic to your site than you can currently handle.

It won’t hurt to plan ahead so you can move quickly should the situation arise.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 10th, 2018

Do You Have Your Pinterest Business Account?

Do You Have Your Pinterest Business Account?

How’s Pinterest working for promoting your online blog or business? Are you having a lot of success with it? Even if you aren’t sure how much you’re going to like Pinterest for marketing purposes, I strongly suggest setting up a Pinterest business account. It has a lot of advantages that you’re missing out on if you don’t bother with it.

A Pinterest business account in many ways is not that different from a personal Pinterest account. Your pins look the same to others. Pinning works exactly the same. It’s free. It’s the little extras that business accounts get that make it worthwhile to either switch your account over to a Pinterest business account or start an entirely separate Pinterest account for your business.

What’s The Difference?

It can be difficult to understand why you should make the switch to a Pinterest business account when you can’t see an immediate difference. It won’t give your pins preferential treatment or anything like that. So why bother?

The difference comes in what only you can see in your account. The tools you can use with a business account can help you use Pinterest in a much more effective way.

Take the profile or board widget, for example. You can use it to share your recent pins on your website. This could be useful in drawing more attention to your pinboards, hopefully to encourage more shares of your material on Pinterest and eventually drive more traffic to your site. After all, building your traffic is what it’s about if you’re a business.

The big deal, however, comes from the analytics you get with a business account. There are aspects that make relatively little difference, but some of the features of Pinterest analytics are essential to understanding how well your pins are performing on Pinterest. We’ll cover that shortly.

How To Convert To A Pinterest Business Account

It’s fairly easy to convert a new or personal Pinterest account to a business account. It only takes a few moments, in fact.

If you’re starting a brand new Pinterest account to use for business, go to Pinterest for Business and click Join as a Business. Follow the instructions there to set up your new account. It won’t take long. Pinterest needs a few details about your business and the person managing the profile.

You will also want to provide a link to your website and verify your ownership of it. Pinterest provides simple steps to do this.

If you plan on using your current Pinterest account, you can use this link to convert your account to a business account. Once again, it’s quite simple to do, and you will want to verify your website, just as you would if you had made an entirely new account.

If you have the Yoast SEO plugin, the simplest way to verify your site with Pinterest is to go to the Pinterest tab of the Social menu of that plugin, and add the meta tag provided by Pinterest right there. This way you don’t have to mess with your blog’s HTML, which makes some people nervous. Pinterest provides instructions to verify your site other ways, but this is the easiest if you have Yoast SEO installed on your WordPress blog.

yoast verify pinterest

Should You Use Your Pinterest Business Account For Personal Pins?

If you’ve been using your personal Pinterest account for your business pins as well as your personal pins, you may want to consider whether you should continue to do the same when you move to a Pinterest business account.

Keeping your business account strictly business has the advantage of focus. Followers of your business account will know exactly what kinds of pins to expect you to share. This can be an advantage, as it also helps Pinterest to know what kinds of pins you’re sharing.

On the other hand, it can be easier to keep your Pinterest account super active if you do all of your personal and business pinning on one account. So long as you keep your boards well organized and optimized, this may not be the worst thing… so long as your personal pins don’t make your brand look bad.

Some of your personal pins may be interesting to your business followers, of course. This depends on your niche. If you blog about parenting and family life, for example, no one is likely to mind seeing your recipe pins as well.

If you’re truly concerned, but don’t want to have multiple Pinterest accounts to keep track of, you can pin your personal pins only into secret boards. This way you can still see the things you like while logged into your Pinterest business account, but your followers won’t see anything you don’t want them to see.

Enable Rich Pins

If you want Pinterest to show as much information as possible about pins from your site, you must activate Rich Pins. Once again, if you have Yoast SEO, this is simple.

Go to the Facebook tab of the Social menu of your Yoast SEO plugin. Make sure that ‘Add Open Graph meta data’ is enabled. Save the changes.

yoast rich pins

Now go to this page on Pinterest to validate your site for Rich Pins. Give it a link to a single blog post. Click Validate, and see if it worked. That’s all it should take. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to follow the documentation and try to figure out what went wrong. Most blogs shouldn’t have any problems at all.

Making The Most Of Analytics

Pinterest analytics are the big reason most bloggers love their business accounts. It’s a huge help to know how your pins are performing. Just make sure you’re looking at the right statistics.

Monthly Viewers

I consider the Monthly Viewers statistic that Pinterest puts right up there something of a ‘meh’ statistic. It helps you see if your pins are being viewed more, but views are nothing.

Most especially, views aren’t action. You want action.

The one good thing about seeing your monthly views go up is that most likely your other statistics are doing better as well. It’s not a lot of information, but it’s a little and can help alert you to changes that you need to look at.

Monthly Engaged

Monthly Engaged is the other statistic Pinterest puts right up in front of you. It has a little more meaning than Monthly Viewers, but not a lot. It simply means that someone interacted in some way with your pin. You don’t know which way with this statistic, but it’s still good to see this number get bigger.

To learn more, you need to click on the Analytics dropdown menu you see on you business profile, and take a look at the different sections.

pinterest analytics dropdown

Overview

The Overview section of your analytics gives you a quick look at what’s going on with your account. When I look at mine, for example, I see a drop at the moment. This is likely related to the Fourth of July holiday that we just passed as of this writing.

Events like that will cause significant drops in your traffic that have little to do with the quality of your marketing. They’re something to be aware of, but so long as your traffic recovers in an appropriate time, nothing to worry about.

There may also be seasonal drops. Many people find that they get less traffic from Pinterest in summer as a general rule.

A drop in traffic may be cause for concern if you don’t know why it happened. Take some time and find out what has changed so you can figure out how to fix it. Maybe you’ve been doing a little less pinning, or maybe your site is getting less traffic overall, leading to fewer pins. It’s good to know that you have to look, so you can figure out the problem.

Profile

The Profile section of your Pinterest analytics allows you to examine how your pins are performing. You can see how your top pins and boards are performing.

It’s a huge help being able to see which pins are getting clicks or being saved by other pinners. These are the actions you want to see. Lots of impressions are nice but only mean so much if you don’t get clicks and saves to go with them.

You can also check out your all time best performing pins.

These stats will not be limited to pins from your site. This can be frustrating when that’s what you’re most interested in, but also helpful. You might get ideas for topics you need to cover. Clearly your followers like that content – now make it your own and make it better! No copying, and give credit where credit is due.

People You Reach

The People you reach section gives you a little information about the number of people. It’s in the process of being replaced by the Audience Insights report, which is far more useful.

Website

The Website section allows you to see activity from your website on Pinterest. For example, you can see how often people have used the Pin It button on your website (you do have that, don’t you??).

This can be very similar to the information you get in the Profile section, but you will see data only for pins for your site. If there are a lot of other pins showing up in your Profile’s data, this will clear things up for you.

Audience Insights

As of this writing, Audience Insights is not in full release but looks great.

You can see the categories and interests of your audience and their affinity for various interests. I can see a lot of potential for this in terms of deciding what to blog about, and from there what to pin.

You’ll also learn about the demographics of your audience, where they’re from, and the kinds of devices they use to visit Pinterest. This is a lot more information than was available previously, and you should make the most of it. You can even learn about what the Pinterest audience as a whole is interested in.

Make The Most Of Pinterest Scheduling Tools

If you’re serious about using Pinterest for business, you should at least consider using Pinterest scheduling tools. There are people who prefer manual pinning methods as well, but I prefer scheduling, and I can tell you why.

Simply put, scheduling means even when life throws a great big obstacle in your way, your pins keep getting posted.

I’ve been dealing with a horrifyingly huge problem in my life. My father died.

That’s awful for just about anyone, but this case was complicated. I won’t go into too many details, as we’re hoping for legal action on the scam he fell for that completely messed up his finances, but suffice to say the whole thing has been a mess, and I’ve learned things about my father I wouldn’t want to know about anyone. And the finances weren’t even the worst mess we had to deal with.

I’ve lost many days of work time dealing with this situation, as have my sisters. But because I’m using Hootsuite to schedule my pins, they’re still being posted. All I had to do was keep up with reciprocating on the group boards.

Hootsuite has a fairly adequate Pinterest scheduling tool. I think it could be better. But it’s there and I use Hootsuite anyhow, so that’s what I have right now.

What I like about scheduling with Hootsuite, however, is that it’s easy to vary both the images and what you say for each pin. Pinterest is developing a preference for a greater variety of images per blog post and unique descriptions for pins, rather than recycling the same thing over and over. The way the Hootsuite scheduler works, it’s not that hard to switch things up regularly.

My next plan is to start using Tailwind as well. Most pinners who schedule love Tailwind, so far as I can tell. I’ve been too busy to give it a proper chance, but once things get better, I’ll test it as well. I understand its scheduling tool is far more powerful, which sounds great.

When you’re serious about using Pinterest to market your blog, you need the consistency that a scheduling tool can offer. Handling the entire thing manually takes a lot of time out of your day that could be better used elsewhere.

If you want to learn to make the most of Pinterest, don’t forget to consider taking a Pinterest course. Learning how to make the most of Pinterest is much easier if you get advice from someone who has gotten great, consistent results.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated June 11th, 2018

Which Social Media Sites Should You Be Marketing On?

Which Social Media Sites Should You Be Marketing On?

There are a lot of social media websites out there. You could spend hours each day on marketing on them, but which social media sites will give you the best results?

That depends on you and your target market.

Social media websites will rarely do you any good at all if you don’t put some effort into it. If you just sign up and drop your link in, you probably aren’t going to see much benefit from any of them. Occasionally,  a business will have some success on a social media site they weren’t even trying for because visitors keep sharing them, but that’s an exception, not the rule.

Which Social Media Sites Have The Right Demographics?

Every social media site attracts a somewhat different demographic, and this is what you need to look at as you figure out which social media sites to use. I’ve pulled some demographic information from Pew Research Center to get you started, but you may decide to look deeper.

To make the most of this information, of course, you need to know what your target market is. How old are they? What gender? What are their interests?

social media sites

YouTube

YouTube is huge. You may think of it as a video sharing site, but it has its social media side too. 73% of American adults use YouTube. 94% of 18- to 24-year-olds use it, making it a great option if you’re seeking a younger audience.

In other words, video is huge. If you can add video to your marketing mix, you have the chance to reach a lot of people.

Facebook

Facebook is the other big one. 68% of American adults use Facebook. It’s widely used by most demographics, although people are frustrated with Facebook’s privacy issues.

Snapchat

If you’re looking at a younger audience, 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat. That’s a lot. Snapchat offers ways for businesses to advertise on their platform. Snapchat can be extremely effective for advertisers, offering twice the visual attention of Facebook, beating out Instagram and YouTube as well.

You can use Snapchat to build your business free as well, of course. You have to understand the limitations of the platform and tell interesting stories to attract followers.

Twitter

Twitter attracts only 24% of American adults but jumps up to 45% of 18- to 24-year-olds. They increased the maximum tweet length to 280 characters a while ago, which is a huge help to marketers.

Pinterest

Many bloggers love Pinterest. The visual style is highly appealing, and for the right business, the demographics are great. It only gets 29% of American adults overall, but 41% of women. Pinterest is particularly popular for crafting and recipe websites, but many other niches do well there.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great choice if you’re targeting college graduates in a professional capacity. 50% of Americans with a college degree use LinkedIn, but only 9% with a high school diploma or less. LinkedIn is very much focused on professional networking, so it’s probably not a good choice if your business doesn’t relate to that. B2B can do well on LinkedIn.

Instagram

Instagram presents special challenges to marketers, as you cannot put live links in your updates. You can have one in your profile, but that’s it. Still, Instagram attracts 35% of American adults and 71% of 18- to 24-year-olds. Some marketers do very well with Instagram.

You can view more details of the demographics from the Pew report through this link.

Where’s Your Target Market?

Demographic information is only helpful if you know enough about your target demographics. They aren’t always what you think they are.

If you know your competition, you can take a bit of a shortcut and see which social media sites they’re having success with. Take a look at their social media buttons. Many sites show how many shares they’ve received on individual posts and pages as a form of social proof.  This can help you decide where you want to focus your efforts as well.

Visit their social media pages as well, especially for social media sites such as Instagram, where you can’t otherwise see how well they’re doing.

Using this data from your competition is not the only thing you should do, of course. It’s just a starting place. You can experiment with other social media. You might find a place to focus where your competition is not.

Seek out references to your best keywords on the different social media sites. Don’t do this by just typing your keywords into a search box. Learn how to use hashtags to search them and see how often your keywords are used that way. Take a look at the content you find this way and the accounts it’s attached to. This can give you both inspiration and people to follow on those sites.

How Do You Use Social Media?

How you use a particular social media site depends on which one you’re using. What works well for one may not be the best way to build a network on another.

How often you should post on which social media sites varies tremendously. Some do poorly if you post more than once or twice a day, while others need frequent posts if you’re to do well at all. I’ve pulled data from this Coschedule post on how often to share on social media. I also looked at when social media users are most active through SproutSocial. The best times may vary somewhat by niche as well as by social media site. Don’t forget to consider the time zones of your target market when posting.

dream big

On any social media site, being overly promotional is not a good idea. People aren’t there to have things sold to them. They’re networking because they enjoy it, to build their own business, to get good information, that kind of thing. If you do nothing but say “buy, buy, buy,” they’ll unfriend you as fast as they can.

Instead, give quality information to bring people to you. If you sound like an expert and they need what you have to offer, they’ll decide to do business with you.

One thing that is valued by most social media sites is consistency. Don’t keep changing your post frequency. Your fans and followers will come to expect a certain number of posts per day from you, even if it’s more than the usual for that platform.

Most social media platforms love hashtags. They help people find your content. Even Pinterest likes hashtags now.

While you can learn some things just by reading online about the social networks you prefer, you will probably get faster results if you take an in-depth course. Sign up for one only if you have the time to put what you learn into practice. There is absolutely no point in paying for something and then never using it. A good course will help you avoid making too many mistakes with your social media.

These are, of course, affiliate links to the courses, but they are ones I consider to be good choices and have good reviews.

YouTube

The key to YouTube starts with making great videos, but that’s not where it ends. Your videos must be discovered by viewers, or it all means nothing. You need to learn how the YouTube search algorithm works and which techniques will bring your videos to the first page of YouTube so that they’re seen by potential viewers.

Course recommended: A Million Subs In A Year: YouTube Marketing and YouTube SEO

Facebook

You have so many options to market your business on Facebook. Starting a Facebook Page for your business is a must, but many businesses find starting a Facebook Group is even more powerful.

Most people suggest posting on your Facebook business page no more than twice a day, with once a day being ideal. This is especially true for promotional posts. If you’re being social and fun, you can probably get away with more, but be extremely careful that you do not post excessively or your reach will decrease and your fans will view your posts as spammy.

Businesses on Facebook often complain about how algorithm changes make it hard to reach their fans without paying for ads. It’s a legitimate problem. Facebook changes their algorithm often, and that can be a real headache. Paying for ads can be well worth it, however, once you know what you’re doing.

In general, you want to post on Facebook on weekdays from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with Wednesdays and Thursdays performing best. Saturdays, evenings and early mornings have the least engagement.

Course recommended: Facebook Ads & Facebook Marketing MASTERY

Snapchat

I have not used Snapchat myself, and know very little about it. Hubspot recommends posting a Story only once or twice per week on Snapchat. Then spread your Snaps out through the day. You should also consider that not everyone has the sound turned on when they use Snapchat, so including text in your Stories is very helpful.

Course recommended: The Complete Snapchat Marketing Course

Twitter

Twitter is one of those places you can post a lot. 15 times a day is recommended, with several retweets of someone else’s content. Some recommend up to 50 or more tweets a day. Tweets disappear quickly as new tweets appear, giving each tweet a short lifespan if no one retweets it.

Don’t batch all your tweets into a short time frame, of course. Spread them out. Twitter does best on weekdays, with Fridays being the best around 9-10 a.m. Mornings are better than the afternoon in general, and weekends don’t do as well, with some exceptions.

Twitter has recently become more picky about the reuse of content. It used to be that you could use a scheduler to post the same tweet over and over again for as long as you liked. These days, Twitter views that as spam.

They prefer that you either rewrite the tweet in a new way each time you share a link to the same site or retweet your original tweet. Twitter is looking for more original content. This makes using schedulers such as HootSuite more difficult but not impossible. You just have to put a little more time into your individual tweets.

Course recommended: Twitter Marketing: 2 Minutes A Day To 10k Twitter Followers

Pinterest

Pinterest marketing can be a lot of fun, so long as you don’t fall for the time sink. Give it half a chance and you’ll probably find an interesting recipe or something to catch your eye.

There are a few key things you must do on Pinterest. The first is to create some keyword rich boards for the content you’ll pin from your own site. Make sure you add them to an appropriate category and give them a good description. You will want to follow relevant pinners and build up your own following.

Make sure your create your account as a business account to make the most of Pinterest. This will give you access to analytics and the ability to make your pins into rich pins.

Joining group boards on Pinterest is an excellent way to get your pins out to a wider audience, but be picky. Niche boards are usually far more powerful than “pin anything” boards, even if the “pin anything” board has a larger following. Pinterest prefers to see your pins categorized properly.

Pin a lot. Recommendations run from about 15-30 a day according to the Coschedule post, but I’ve seen many pinners swear by a higher number.

Recently, Pinterest has stated a preference for a variety of descriptions on pins. This makes scheduling more difficult, as tools such as Tailwind allow you to quickly schedule a bunch of identical pins. You have to do extra work to vary things. Make sure you create multiple pinnable images for each post. You never know which will take off best until you test them. Vertical images with a 2:3 ratio do best.

Pinterest currently gives priority to the first five pins you do each day, starting at midnight UTC. Pinterest activity peaks at about 9 p.m.

If you want to know when your best time to pin is, use Tailwind. Tailwind’s SmartSchedule will post pins at the time that is best for your industry, and by when it sees that you get the most engagement.

Course recommended: Pinterest Marketing: Using Pinterest for Business Growth

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is another of those sites that does not tolerate a lot of posting from businesses. Posting once a day is plenty.

If you want to do more, join LinkedIn groups and interact with people there. Be careful how promotional you get. You need to be seen as a quality resource. Be the trusted professional you want to be seen as, not the person who’s only interested in the next sale.

LinkedIn engagement is better Tuesday-Thursday, with Wednesdays from 3-5 p.m. being the best.

Course recommended: Linkedin Marketing: B2B Sales & Lead Generation From Scratch

Instagram

Even with its disadvantages, I know a lot of marketers love what they can do with Instagram. You should only post once or twice a day on Instagram, although a few people report doing well with more, even 10 times a day. Be careful about how often you post, and see what works for your audience.

Being heavily promotional is not likely to work on Instagram. As always, provide value. You can use Instagram to give a little behind the scenes look at your business as well as to promote.

Weekdays do better than weekends on Instagram, and you should post first thing in the morning. Later posts can do well going into the afternoon.

Course recommended: Instagram Marketing 2018: A Step-By-Step to 10,000 Followers

How Many to Use?

You can’t do a good job of using all social media websites, not even if you only stick to the big ones. There’s too much to do.

You’ll be better off if you can pick a couple to focus on. Get good at marketing on them.

Dividing your efforts dilutes them. There’s a balance between being available on a variety of networks and being unable to keep up.

As with any other sort of marketing you haven’t tried before, start by using just one social media site. Figure out what you’re doing. Get some fans, friends, followers, whatever they’re called. Get comfortable.

Even though each site takes a slightly different approach, you can take some of what you learn from each site and apply it to the next one while continuing with the sites you’re already on. You’re learning how to bring in business with a possibly more personal touch than other forms of marketing may have been for you.

Social media marketing isn’t something that comes naturally for everyone, but it’s a big help for bringing in traffic and business if you use it right. Give yourself some time and really pay attention to the learning process. You might find it a lot of fun as well as profitable.

Should You Automate?

Within reason, automation of your social media efforts is a great idea. It’s too hard to keep up otherwise.

I use HootSuite to automate many of my posts. It works with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. Its Pinterest tools are not as powerful as what Tailwind has to offer, so you may want a subscription to that as well.

What you cannot automate is the social side of social media. You need to interact with people appropriately, retweeting interesting tweets, for example, or replying to comments. Spending a few minutes on social media is a great way to handle those parts of your day when you know you have limited time to get something done.

You also need to be aware of current events when you automate. If a big event happens, make sure you don’t have any inappropriate posts going out at that time. A reference that is perfectly innocent at other times may be taken as offensive if something has gone wrong.

Do not try to automate your following of other users. Take some time to find them.

I also do not recommend using software to follow and then unfollow anyone who doesn’t follow you back. I know many bloggers worry about their following/followers ratio, but it’s really not that big of a deal in most ways. Follow people because you want to see what they post. Many social media sites now see a high rate of following and quick unfollowing as a sign of spam.

How Long Does It Take To Know Which Social Media Sites Work?

We all want fast results with social media. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But that’s often not the way things go.

Social media results take time, just like anything else. Don’t compare yourself to the people who have tens of thousands of followers. Most of those have been at it for years.

Work on improving what you’re doing instead. You can get ideas for what works by watching the people who are successful at social media, but in the end, it’s up to you to stand out. If you’re nothing but a copycat, you’ll never stand out.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated April 18th, 2018

How To Use Pinterest To Market Your Blog Or Business

How To Use Pinterest To Market Your Blog Or Business

How hard have you tried to use Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog or business? It seems like a lot of people are having amazing success with it, but maybe it isn’t going that well for you. It’s incredibly frustrating. You’d love to use Pinterest to market your blog or business. What does it take?

The first thing I will warn you against is an excessive focus on going viral. If your content is good, and your pins are attractive, viral pins will come in their own time, so long as you’re also working on your Pinterest marketing.

Besides, the traffic from viral pins can peak suddenly, then disappear. You want consistency. You want to build regular traffic. Viral pins can help with that, but they aren’t everything.

Start With The Basics

Whether you’re just starting out with Pinterest or have been pinning for some time, there are some basic things you need to take care of before you do anything else.

If you haven’t created your Pinterest business account, do so now. This will give you access to analytics, which is a huge help in discovering how your pins are doing. It’s free. You can convert your personal account or start a new one to use entirely for business purposes.

Make sure you verify your website with Pinterest. Pinterest will give you a code for this.

A business account can also pay for sponsored pins, which can be a help in bringing attention to your pins. You don’t have to do this, but it’s worth considering.

Next, apply for rich pins. You will need some code on your site. If you’re using WordPress and have the Yoast SEO plugin, this is super easy. If you’re using WordPress and don’t use Yoast, I strongly recommend adding it. It’s helpful in many ways.

In the Yoast SEO section of your WordPress admin, you will see a social section. Select the Facebook tab and enable the Open Graph metadata setting. This will give Pinterest the information it needs as well.

turn on open graph

Once this is done, you need to validate one of your URLs with Pinterest. Choose any blog post and put it into Pinterest’s Rich Pins Validator. If everything comes up fine, you can tell Pinterest that you used HTML tags, then click “Apply Now.” If everything has gone right, your pins will now show up as Rich Pins.

Rich pins show more information from your site. They can pull recipe information if you share recipes, or article titles and a bit of text from articles.

Figure Out Your Best Pinterest Keywords

In many ways, Pinterest is more a search engine than a social website. This makes the right keywords in your profile, boards, and pins vital to your success. Take some time early on to figure out your basic Pinterest keywords.

Start out with your best keyword for your business. Put it into the search box on Pinterest and see what comes up. It should look something like this:

find keywords pinterest

See those colored boxes with words in them? Those are words other Pinterest users include in their searches for that term. You want to use these words in your profile, board descriptions, and pins whenever they’re relevant.

Do this often. You may find it worthwhile to check Pinterest keywords for most of your posts, especially when coming up with a description as you pin them.

Make The Most Of Your Profile

How does your Pinterest profile look? Is it clear to people who visit it what your business has to offer?

Take advantage of the space Pinterest offers to create an appealing description of what followers can expect from your Pinterest profile. If you do this well, it may also attract people to visit your website.

Use some of the keywords you discovered in the section above for your profile, but keep it interesting as well.

Pinterest now has a feature where an image of your pins goes diagonally across your profile page. Take advantage of this.

pinterest header

If you don’t have a board that has just pins from your website, create one now. You’re going to use this board to display your pins on your profile.

Click the little edit button on the image of your pins that go across the top of your profile. This will allow you to select which board is used for this image. Select the one that has only your pins. Save your changes.

change pinterest header

That’s all it takes. Now you don’t have to worry about which pins show up there. You’ve chosen to make it all yours.

Optimize Your Pinterest Boards

It may not be immediately obvious when you create a board that you can give it a category and description. You can, and it’s helpful to do so. This will give visitors to that board an idea as to what you pin there.

Go to your board and click the edit board button. This will give you a little popup to change the settings.

You can give the board a description. Make sure that you use some of the keywords you researched. This may help it appear in board searches.

You can also give it a category and a board cover. The board cover is a pin that will show as a larger image on the page that shows all of your boards.

If you want a consistent look to your profile page, you need to create board covers for all of your boards. Many bloggers like to create board covers that are consistent with their branding elsewhere. This is not something I have done so far personally, but many recommend it.

You can upload a custom board cover as a pin and link it to a relevant section of your website. You can create one that is at least 600×600 pixels. Board covers are square, but you can use a rectangular image if you want. Just consider which section will show up.

The idea behind branded board covers is that it gives your profile a more cohesive feel.

Finally, decide what you’re going to do with boards that aren’t relevant to your brand. You can delete them or make them into secret boards if you like. If not, at least make sure that they are beneath your business boards. You can drag and drop your boards on your profile to arrange them the way you would like them. Think about what will work best for your visitors.

Optimize Your Pins

Applying for Rich Pins is only the first step to optimizing your pins. There are a few other things you should do.

Start out by knowing the currently preferred image sizes. These change occasionally. As of this writing, Pinterest recommends pin images be no more than 600 pixels wide and will cut off pins longer than 2.1 times the width, which is to say longer than 1260 pixels long. Their preferred size is 600×900, but there are plenty of times when a longer image makes sense.

Longer pins will still show the full length when clicked. Many bloggers find that they perform better than other pins.

Create great descriptions for your pins. These will help them be found in searches. Remember to research your Pinterest keywords when creating your descriptions, and keep them accurate to the post they’re linked to. Don’t mislead your visitors – people hate that.

You can even have your preferred description show up when visitors to your site pin that image. In your blog post, use the Text editor tab rather than the Visual tab.

In this tab, the code for your image will be something along the lines of:

<img class=”aligncenter” src=”yourimageurl” alt=”alt tags for your image” width=”500″ height=”765″ />

You want to add a Pinterest description. This is done by adding data-pin-description=”your description here” so that it looks like

<img class=”aligncenter” src=”yourimageurl” alt=”alt tags for your image” width=”500″ height=”765″ data-pin-description=”Your pin description here.” />

Once you’ve done this, the description you put in the data-pin-description section will show up if someone clicks the image to pin it.

This won’t guarantee that your description will be used by everyone, as visitors can change the text as they like, but many will leave it as is.

You can go further by using data-pin-url=”URL you want the pin to lead to. Usually the URL of your post” data-pin-media=”URL of a different image you want pinned rather than the visible one. Very useful if you want smaller images in your post” and data-pin-id=”ID number of the post on Pinterest after you have pinned it.” These give you still more control over your pins. You can also control which images in your posts can be pinned to Pinterest.

Should You Brand Your Pins?

Many people strongly recommend keeping your images similar, so that they are all clearly a part of your brand. This makes it easier for people to recognize one of your pins when they come across them.

This can be as simple as using the same colors or fonts on all of your pins. Some people use very similar images on all of their pins as well.

The problem is that this gets very repetitive. Your pins are easily identified, but are they easy to tell apart?

This is where it becomes a good idea to make multiple pins for each post. You can have your strongly branded pins and have your pins that stand out.

It’s also easier to test pin styles when you have multiple pins for each post. You can compare and see which performs the best. If you find a new style performs better, you might even decide to change your branding to be closer to that style.

Pin And Pin And Pin Some More

If you aren’t pinning a lot, and pinning regularly, your pins aren’t likely to be discovered.

This also means you should pin content from other sites. You will see all kinds of advice – people telling you that the best results come from pinning 80% your own content and 20% of others, 50/50 yours vs others, or even 20% yours and 80% others. You’ll also hear that you should post 20 pins a day, 30-50 a day, or even over 100 pins a day. The advice varies widely.

I’ve never stressed about numbers. I pin a lot of my own, but also share pins from the various group boards I belong to. Most group boards require that you repin at least one other pin when you pin something of yours to the board. That ensures that I have a mix.

Group boards are a huge help in getting your pins out there. Request to join as many relevant ones as you can find, so long as they have a good number of followers. You won’t get much exposure if the board only has 100 followers, after all.

As much as possible, pin to relevant boards. Your pins will rank better if they are regularly pinned to relevant boards, rather than to general boards.

You will find a number of group boards that accept all niches. Some of these have excellent followings. You may find it worthwhile to try a few general boards, but don’t pin to many of them. Keep that focus so that Pinterest knows what your pins are about.

Manual Pins Or Scheduled Pins?

I’ve seen a lot of debate over whether manual pinning or scheduled pinning works better. There are some great tools out there. Tailwind is the most popular, I think, followed by Board Booster. Their features are slightly different, but each one allows you to schedule your pins, which can be a huge time saver.

Many people say they have seen huge traffic boosts from using these tools. At the very least, they make it much easier to be consistent with your pinning.

However, some people think you get more traffic if you pin manually. This is the method I currently use. It is often difficult to be consistent, but I keep working at it.

I track my pins using a spreadsheet. My boards are grouped by category, one sheet per category of board. This allows me to date when I do each pin. I mark when I’m using more than one image per blog post, as I don’t want to pin the same post on a board too close together, even if the images are different.

pinterest spreadsheet

I indicate group boards by putting their names in bold. This way I know which require repinning, and how many. Most only require a single repin, but some expect two or three for each pin placed on their boards. I always do at least a single repin – the more active the board is, the more attention pins on it will get.

Take a Pinterest Marketing Course

You may want to learn a lot more about pinning than I’ve shared here. A Pinterest marketing course can help you learn more than the basics. They’ll all start with the basics, to make sure that you aren’t missing obvious things, but go into more advanced techniques from there.

I recommend this Pinterest marketing course on Udemy. It’s well rated and has been updated recently. Read the reviews to see if it’s the course for you. You will learn a lot more about how to use Pinterest to market your blog if you take a good course.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated April 11th, 2018

15 Common Social Media Mistakes Home Business Owners Make

15 Common Social Media Mistakes Home Business Owners Make

Social media can be hugely beneficial to your home business, but you can also make huge mistakes with it. Mistakes won’t always be serious, but some may spread farther and stick around far longer than you’d like. Offend the wrong person, and your offense may be spread to many other people, and you can’t count on a net benefit from getting your name out there. As much as you can, you should avoid making serious social media mistakes.

I don’t mean little mistakes such as not posting often enough. Most people won’t notice that much if you rarely post – you just won’t get the benefits of posting regularly. I mean mistakes that get the wrong kind of attention or waste your precious time. Knowing which social media mistakes are common can help you to make a better social media plan.

Mistake #1: Friending or Following EVERYONE

A big list of friends or followers looks nice on your social media accounts, especially if they return the favor. The problem is when you aren’t focused on following the right people. If you just find a list and start following, you’ll probably follow a lot of junk accounts. They might follow you back, but they won’t become customers and will probably just clutter your feed.

Be picky. Follow people who are relevant to your business or are just plain interesting. Your list of followers won’t increase as quickly, but they’ll be higher quality and more fun to deal with.

If you’re looking for people to follow, look at who follows your competition. They might be interested in what you have to offer as well.

Mistake #2: Failing to Admit Mistakes

We all make mistakes, but if you make a mistake on social media, apologize or correct it the same way. It might be as simple as an incorrect link, or something more serious such as sharing inaccurate information. Take just a moment to correct yourself so that you aren’t just leaving the mistake out there unfixed. Admitting you’re wrong can sting, but it also can help to build trust.

Deleting your mistakes is always a possibility, but people do notice and may not approve of how you handled things if you delete something with no explanation. This is especially true if you insulted or angered people. If the mistake was merely funny, most people won’t be too upset with you.

Be willing to learn from your mistakes. We all make them.

Mistake #3: Being Rude

It’s easy to be rude online, even unintentionally. If you read much online you’ve probably seen it. There’s no tone to the written word, so a poor word choice can deeply offend someone else.

Then there’s the all too common deliberate rudeness. I don’t just mean the sort trolls use. I mean the rude way some people disagree with each other online. Name calling really isn’t necessary in an argument. You’re better off using facts and relevant opinions about the subject at hand, not harsh and possibly unsubstantiated statements about the person you disagree with.

If someone sees a social media post you’ve made as rude, don’t argue with them. You’ll do far better if you apologize and explain what you meant, being more careful in your word choice. Some people won’t accept the apology or explanation, but others will.

Mistake #4: Fail to Build Relationships

Social media is about building relationships, not pure marketing. Let your human side show at least some of the time. Reply to people. Participate in conversations. Be real.

As someone who is both shy and an introvert, this has always been a challenge for me, even on social media. It’s not always easy to join in the conversations. Do the best you can. You may find that it works for you.

Mistake #5: Ignoring Customers

If you want to look like a responsive business, you have to respond. This is really helpful in social media, which many people favor as a way to contact a business or comment about them. Keep an eye out for posts about your business name, and especially for any directed at you. Respond when you can, the sooner the better. This is doubly important when someone has a problem with your business.

Mistake #6: Using Too Many Abbreviations

Abbreviations are sometimes necessary in social media, especially on sites such as Twitter where you have a limited number of characters per post (although they now allow more characters than they used to). Unnecessary abbreviations can be annoying, KWIM? They can also obscure your meaning for those readers who don’t understand a particular abbreviation.

Mistake #7: Poor Grammar and Spelling

Most of us use poor grammar and spelling some of the time. It’s all too easy to make mistakes, especially if you have autocorrect on. Read your posts before you send them out to make sure that you’re saying what you meant to say and that it can be easily understood.

That said, don’t stress when you make mistakes in spelling or grammar. We all do it. Some people delight in calling such mistakes out, but they rarely contribute significantly to the conversation otherwise.

Mistake #8: Sharing Other People’s Posts as Your Own

People say and share some really neat things on social media, and being the originator of something interesting can get you some good attention. That doesn’t make it right to take someone else’s idea and pretending you started it.

Many social media sites make it easy to share where you got a particular item from. There’s the retweet button for Twitter, or the RT abbreviation if you want to do it your own way. There’s the share button on Facebook that shows where you got a post from. Pinterest allows you to repin interesting items. All these give credit to the source.

Most will also allow you to add your own comments when you share someone else’s post.  This way you can give credit while sharing your own thoughts.

Of course, you can share similar ideas that you’ve seen elsewhere, just make sure that the idea is better and uniquely served in your own words. You can build a great reputation online by sharing the work of other people if you do it honestly.

Mistake #9: Failing to be Relevant

This mistake happens most often either when you’re in a conversation or when there’s something big going on. Perhaps you’re participating in a social media event and you break in with something completely off topic. People aren’t going to appreciate that.

It’s also a risk of automating your social media posting. To a degree, this isn’t a terrible thing, but if it leads to inappropriate posts, you may have a problem. Think about what you’re posting if people are talking about major tragedies or other major events. If you share something online completely irrelevant to it, or worse, disrespectful to those involved, how will that make your business look? Pay attention to what’s going on before you post, and consider pausing automated posts if they might be inappropriate at a particular time.

Mistake #10: Overposting

You may only have so much time each day in which to do your social media marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to share all your posts at once. You can use Hootsuite or other services to schedule your posts for later, and check on responses briefly as necessary. A flood of posts from your account doesn’t look as good as you might hope.

The right number of posts per day varies tremendously from platform to platform. Facebook Pages generally perform best if you post only a time or two per day on your page. Twitter and Pinterest can handle quite a few more posts every day.

Mistake #11: Being Overly Promotional

When you’re using social media to promote your business, of course, you have to be promotional. Just remember that the point of social media is to be social too. Not everything you post needs to be a way to earn money for yourself. Sometimes you should post just to be a person or a good resource.

Have a little fun. If getting personal is appropriate to your business style, get personal. A look behind the scenes of your business can be a great way to bring in an appropriate amount of personality to your social media. Discuss your work routine. Share a picture of your home office. You can even share a little about your family or pets if that suits your business personality.

Mistake #12: Getting Too Personal

The personal touch is a good thing for many businesses, especially when you’re the only person running it, but there should be limits. Keep your personal and business profiles separate. This allows you to share things with family and friends that you don’t need to be associated with your business. You can still share appropriate personal things on your business accounts, depending on the kind of personality you want to show.

This is especially helpful on sites like Facebook where you’re more limited in the number of friends you can have on your personal page. It’s better to have people interested in your business follow your business page.

It can be difficult balancing the personal side of your social media sometimes. Remember that you aren’t besties with your social media followers, at least not most of them. They do not want to read about all the details of your personal life. Occasional anecdotes are fine.

Mistake #13: Expecting Too Much

Social media most likely won’t be the making of your home business. It can help build traffic, it can help build your reputation, but it’s just one factor in your business, not a miracle.

It takes time to build a loyal social media following. It’s a lot of work, and then the platform changes the rules and your posts may not reach your followers as well as they used to. I’m looking at you, Facebook, but you aren’t the only one!

Keep working on your preferred social media platforms if you want to see results. Despite what some people say, we won’t all see amazing results in just a few months. You will need to test different things to figure out what works best for your home business.

Expecting too much also comes in the form of trying too hard to go viral on social media. Constantly trying to create the next big thing annoys your audience. Viral is not a constant thing.

Mistake #14: Failing to Make it Easy to Share Your Content

Make sure it’s easy to share the content you have on your website. People will tweet, like, pin and otherwise share interesting content without buttons to make it easier, but more people will do so if it’s easy. Social sites usually provide code to make this easy, and there are plugins for WordPress if you have a blog, such as Shareaholic. Most will keep count of how many times your content has been shared, a wonderful social proof for your website.

Make it easy on yourself too. Use social media tools such as HootSuite, IFTTT, and the WP to Twitter plugin to automate parts of your social media marketing efforts. You still need to get in there and interact with others, but these will help you handle the routine side of things.

Mistake #15: Using Too Many Social Media Websites

There are a lot of social media websites out there. You can’t participate on all of them, and you really shouldn’t try to. It will take too much time and too many resources to do so.

Instead, focus on the bigger ones and any specific to your niche. Have a social media strategy. See where you get the most return for your efforts. If one site isn’t working for you, another may work better. Be picky. You only have so much time you should be spending on your social media efforts. Use it wisely.

Don’t let your social media mistakes keep you from using social media to market your blog or business. Making mistakes is a part of the learning process. As you figure out what works for you on each platform, you will get better results that will make it worthwhile.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.