Country Arts WA’s social media tips
Social media can be a bit of a wild west, but if your main concern is the wild west of regional Western Australia – then we’ve got some home grown experience to hand over to you.
This guide was last updated in July 2019.
To help you navigate the ins and outs we’ve boiled down our social media advice to four essential components, and served them up below. We’ll also continue to update this guide to ensure it stays relevant, so check back in every now and then when you’re making your social media plan.
Images and Videos
If you go check out your page’s top posts of all time today, you’ll notice something pretty quick. Most of them probably have great images or videos.
“A picture tells a thousand words” is an adage that has never been truer than today – as we’re bombarded with texts, emails, signs, posts, articles, tweets – and the way to cut through that noise is with an emotive, high quality picture.
There’s to advantages to images: Firstly, pictures are much more likely to provoke a strong emotional response from social media viewers quickly – and that means they’re more likely to like or share the post. This is great for you because it means your message gets out to a wider audience, as your fans echo it out for you.
Secondly: Facebook’s brain loves your pictures (especially your videos) and hates your words. The number of people that see a post (which Facebook calls “reach”) is generally far higher for posts that contain a picture or video. You can try and cheat the system a bit by putting text in your pictures, but even that can trigger Facebook’s brain to starve your post of the attention it needs. The best combination is a short bit of text, maybe a link, and a striking, emotive image or short video – try not to put text in the image where possible.
Bonus Tip: Good videos – videos can be a little tricky to get right, but there’s a couple important things to remember. Most people watch Facebook with the sound off, that means if you want people to know what’s being said in your video you need to caption it. From my experience, Facebook also seems to give a little bit of a boost to videos once they have captions. You can do this from the “Subtitles & Captions” menu of Facebook. Once your video has uploaded click the button to auto-generate captions, then you can edit them to fix any errors (and there probably will be quite a few, the auto-generator is not a huge fan of Australian accents). Also, remember to select a good thumbnail, which is the image that viewers who don’t have auto-play enabled will see to entice them to watch the video. If you don’t see a good frame from the options Facebook gives you, you can upload your own image (recommended size: 1200 x 675 pixels).
Pick your Platform
You can’t be everywhere at once. If you’re a regional WA not-for-profit or artist, your resources are likely already stretched enough without having to deal with social media. That’s why you should only pick the places where your audience is, and that you have the resources to tend to.
Facebook and Instagram are likely going to be the best choices for most regional arts orgs. Instagram has a slightly younger, slightly more female audience and requires a picture for every post. It’s also pretty hard to link people to different web pages from your Instagram, which can limit it’s effectiveness if you’re trying to bring people to your website or sell tickets. Facebook has more overall users (a wider potential audience), does allow you to post links and can be better for busier folks because it has better post drafting and scheduling tools – but it is losing popularity with younger generations.
If you are using Facebook, Groups are becoming an increasingly important part of the platform. As well as on your page, we absolutely recommend you post occasional plugs for your work in local group pages – using your personal account if that’s something you’re comfortable doing. These groups require you to join them first, and can have tight rules around promotion or sometimes be toxic places, so check things out first. However, if you are able to use them every now and then it’s a great way of getting local attention (examples: Tom Price Discussion Board, Newman Community Discussion, Geraldton Noticeboard, Albany Mums Chat).
Twitter has a more male audience, but isn’t quite as popular in Australia as it is elsewhere in the world. We honestly haven’t used Snapchat all that much – but from our research it’s most effective with very young (school age) audiences and can be difficult to maintain a long-term audience on.
Avoid creating accounts on every platform just to post the same stuff everywhere, that hurts your authenticity. They key thing to remember is that you shouldn’t be on all of these at once. If you can do one platform well, stick to just that one – only expand when you have the capacity and content to do so well.
Tagging and Hashtags
Tagging is a good practice everywhere, but hashtags are only really important for Twitter and Instagram. If your primary concern is Facebook you won’t need to worry about hashtags.
Tagging uses the @ symbol and brings someone into the conversation by telling them that they’ve been mentioned. On Facebook typing the @ symbol followed by the name of the person or organisation you’re trying to tag should create a drop-down menu that lets you select who you want to tag. On Twitter and Instagram there’s no drop-down of suggestions, so you just have to type their exact profile name (which can be found on their profile if you don’t know it off the top of your head).
Hashtags use the # symbol and the mantra to live by is “not too popular, not too unique.” It can be tempting to use the hashtags everyone else is using, however, if they are too common your post will get lost in the crowd. Hashtags are sort of like categories or key words for your post – they help people search for your posts, and signal to viewers that you’re engaged in a discussion. Instagram posts can have up to 30 hashtags, but the best posts tend to have around 8.
Keep a schedule
The best way to build a social media audience is to post as regularly as possible. Please note – that doesn’t mean as often as possible! A few times a week is fine if you’re strapped for time, at least once a day is ideal, a few times a day is great if you can manage it, but you’ve got to maintain a decent standard of quality and you probably have a million other things to do.
To make this a little bit easier, Facebook has great scheduling tools:
If you click the down arrow next to the grey “Share Now” button you can select “Schedule”, which takes you to a tool allowing you to decide when you want the post you’ve created to go live. Take a look at when your fans are using Facebook over on the insights page, plug your content in for times that match their habits and you’ll be rewarded with a lot more likes and shares than you might otherwise be used to. For me that means I post nearly everything between 10-11am and 3-4pm. You’ll get a feel for your own fans as you make different posts at different times.
Videos also have a seperate scheduling option called “premiere” which creates a post immediately telling all your fans that your video will be released at a certain time (decided by you). Users can choose to be notified when this happens, and then watch it live with other users. This is an especially great way to broadcast a big announcement twice (once for the announcement of the video, and again for the publication of the video) or get your community interacting in the chat of a longer video.
So, what about Instagram? That’s a little trickier. There’s a few options like Later or Hootsuite. Different apps handle it in different ways – but usually require a computer to be left running, and someone to hit “publish” on the post when the time comes. This is all to say, it isn’t easy and honestly it’s not something I recommend unless your organisation is incredibly large. Instagram users generally want more spontaneous, personal content – so use it for that. Post a great story when it happens – you don’t need a lot of words, just a few good hashtags and a plug line. It’s very hard to get people to your website or product from Instagram anyway, so it should mostly be used for building the story around your organisation, which you then leverage in emails or on Facebook to get your audience actually doing the things you want them to.
Bonus Tip: Scheduling shared posts – So, you’ve got a handle on scheduling posts, but what if you want to share a great post someone else has made at a time when your audience is actually going to see it? Well, you can get the URL for any post on Facebook by clicking the time it was posted. Intuitive? No. Useful? Yes. Once you’ve clicked the time, copy the URL in your address bar and paste it into the post creator to generate a share-post. You should probably delete the big ugly link once the share has loaded in, and type in your own organisation’s message.
Keep it Casual
For many, the trickiest part of social media is ensuring your account sounds like a person, rather than a brand or organisation.
People are bombarded with so much marketing that they tend to automatically tune out obvious marketing messages. To get through that barrier you’ve got to be a little bit fun and conversational. Ask questions in your posts, respond to people in the comments, don’t be afraid to crack a (tasteful) joke. It can be hard balance this while staying professional and trying not to sound forced – but it’s worth trying, because the alternative is often not being heard at all.
Bonus Tip: Keeping them around – So you’ve gone to all the hard work of creating a great, casual, fun post that a bunch of people have liked and shared – don’t let them get away! By clicking the number which shows how many likes and reacts you’ve received you can see all the people who have reacted to the post, and invite them to like your page! There’s no real downside to just inviting everyone on this list! If you’ve said something a little more controversial you can even sort these users by how they reacted, so in that case maybe invite the “love” reacts, but not the “angry” reacts.
It’s also important to acknowledge that the social media landscape changes all the time. Good advice today might be terrible advice a month from now, depending on trends in how people use social media – and how the big websites change their rules. We’ll give you a great place to start, but there’s a world of experts out there online. Have a Google around for tips and tricks – try some out – and most importantly do what works for you. We’ve found that all the advice in the world can’t match up to personal experience when it comes to working out what will get the most eyes on your social media page.
Once you’ve got your head around building your posts, the next challenge is planning them out. Luckily we’ve got some great advice on that in our Community Presenter Guide.
We’re always here to help regional arts in WA, so if you’ve got any questions you’re welcome to send them through to email@example.com