social media manager

Social Media: The Small Business Approach

In order to be a successful Social Media Manager, it’s important to obtain a thorough client profile before creating content and establishing a social strategy. In order to best represent a client, you need to understand their brand. What are they trying to say, and who are they saying it to? While this tends to be the typical procedure when starting with a new client, we aren’t often thinking about the social needs of non-clients.

What are businesses who manage their own social media accounts doing? What is their strategy? Strengths? Weaknesses?

I interviewed Level 2 Crossfit Certified Coach Matt Martin, owner of Crossfit Rocksteady in St. Louis, MO, to gather more insight into how someone without social media “expertise” is managing their brand, and if a social media agency could compliment his marketing needs.

Q: What social media platforms do you have?

M: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, and a website with a blog.  

Q: How often would you say you post on these platforms?

M: I try to do a minimum of once a week, averaging about twice a week. At the same time I try not to overwhelm - I don’t want people getting on there and saying “oh, here’s another post from them…” The blog gets updated every single day.

Q: Who manages your social pages?

M: I do. My wife Tasha helps me out here and there, but I’m usually the one doing most of it.  

Q: What are your primary goals and/or objectives?

M: Some of it is client retention. I like to have posts of what we’re doing now so they can see it, and they usually share that with their friends which will hopefully turn into a new lead or member. I will try to do some that are just informative or related to the fitness field in some way as well as fun posts.

Q: Are you reevaluating those goals or objectives? How often do those change?

M: Not reevaluating those often, to be honest. I think because I’m the one who does the most of it I just think, what’s something cool I can post or share, put it out there and leave it. Some things change such as the informative posts or the real-time content such as members in the gym hitting personal records.

Q: What is your greatest struggle?

M: Managing time to create content. It takes a ton of time to run the gym, it can take several hours a day just to properly clean all the equipment. Taking time to write engaging content goes on the backburner.

Q: What is your greatest strength?

M:  That we don't overwhelm people with too many posts. Also, the types of posts are more fun and not so salesy or pushy. We're having fun here, but also providing some valuable information and we want to have people come in based on that.

Q: Do you run ads?

M: Yes about $60-$100 a month on Google, and $100 a month on Facebook ads, $100 with the primary objective of getting new members. This would include ads such as specials that are running for new members to join.

Q: How well do you feel these ads perform?

M: It's hard to track. I’ve started asking people on new member sign up forms how they heard of us and a decent amount of people have said they’ve seen us on social. I wish I had a better system for that. Because I don’t spend a lot, even if I get one person I’m happy with the return. At a previous gym, we spent a lot of money monthly on ads and didn’t see a growth in membership so I’m hesitant to repeat that.

Q: Would you ever hire a social media agency? Why or why not?

M: I have in the past, and I would consider doing it again. As of now, my wife does graphic design so she helps a lot with zoning in on what looks good in a post and who to target. The previous agency I worked with required a 6-month minimum contract, and after months we weren’t getting any new members. They set up a landing page for people to sign up and it didn’t work properly so they were never able to accurately provide “click” information. I think if they had just owned up to their mistake and talked about a strategy moving forward I would’ve been more okay with it. For now, I’d rather put that money towards more equipment.  

Q: What would need to change for you to find a social media agency beneficial?

M: Down the road if there was increased budget and time, or getting more staff to alleviate my workload.

By understanding the processes of business owners who manage their social media platforms independently, we gain a lot of insight into what brand holders think is important and successful. This can be beneficial when trying to compete with other brands and/or build your client base. It’s also useful to know what areas these business owners struggle in and how a social media agency may just be the best solution to those problems.

Crush That Writer’s Block

As we now have a couple of weeks of the new year under our belt, we wanted to take a look back at one of our most popular blogs posts from 2017.  Sarah talks about how to deal with Writer's Block; perfect to start your year off strong!

At some point, it happens to all of us. You sit down to write, but the words just aren’t there. It happens because writers aren’t machines - even machines need an oil change and tune up once in a while. When you have a million items on your to-do list, creative time can easily fall by the wayside. It’s one of the most important aspects of a social media manager’s job.  Anyone with a deadline for journalistic or other forms of writing has likely experienced writer’s block.

Here are some handy tips and tricks to help you stay focused and keep creating awesome content daily.

1.     Write at different times. If you usually write in the afternoon, try writing in the morning or evening. The change in time may be enough to create a fresh outlook. For me, evenings are great for getting some uninterrupted work done. Tasks from the day are behind me and I can focus on jotting down content ideas, catching up on some reading or to research new trends. For the early-bird, the hours before starting your work day might be most productive. Break your habit and experiment to see what works best for you.

2.     Change of scenery. Moving around in your office can get you out of a stale mindset and allow you to gain a fresh perspective in new surroundings. Try changing up locations twice a day. When the weather cooperates, try bringing your computer or notebook outdoors. Fresh air has a way of changing your mood and outlook, which is good news for your next project!

3.     Try something different. Sometimes it’s possible to be too familiar with a topic. Agency life can mean working in the same industry, with the same clients for years. After awhile, it becomes easy to get stuck in a rut. Try looking at your topic from a different perspective and research new ideas or trends to keep it fresh and interesting to read AND write.

4.     Take a break. Short breaks are a great way to stay motivated. As research has shown, we’re actually more productive when we break up our work routine throughout the day. Barring an immediate deadline, there is usually some time to step away from your assignment and come back to it with a fresh set of eyes.

5.     Crank up the tunes. Sometimes office chatter can be too much to bear. Music can provide some much-needed relief to those little conversations and “quick” meetings that can easily break your focus and concentration. If you find you have difficulty listening to music as you write, try queuing up a playlist that doesn’t have lyrics.

6.     Do the dishes. Your brain needs to relax before coming up with creative insight. Staring at your computer screen might end up being counterproductive. Try stimulating those creative muscles with routine tasks. Tidy your work space. Fold the laundry. Wash the dishes. Above all, relax.

7.     Talk it out. In order to beat your writer's block, try seeking inspiration from others around you. Bounce your ideas off friends and colleagues, or ask someone to brainstorm with you. Just having someone to talk to can often lead to creating ideas you never thought possible, helping ending your writer's block-induced creative drought.

There’s no doubt about it - writing is hard work. Don’t become a tortured genius. Experiment. Find out what works for you. Write where and when you like. Be as crazy as you like to be. Just have with it fun!

True Life: I am a Social Media Manager

It's that time of the year when everyone is on vacation, so we decided to give our blog writers a much deserved time off and repost one of our top performing blogs of the year. We hope you'll enjoy it, and have a great rest of the summer!

For whatever reason, it seems as if the most commonly asked question when meeting someone for the first time is, “What do you do?” I usually respond, “Well, I am a Social Media Manager (SMM).” This is usually followed by the person responding with, “Oh! You get paid to sit on Facebook and Twitter all day?” Sound the record scratch! While this is partly true, marketers and numerous brands/companies know that this is just scratching the surface. While social media is an ever-evolving industry, it is obviously so much more than just “posting to Facebook and Twitter.” In any given day, I wear many different hats.

In a typical day, I converse with clients and coworkers, create engaging and valuable content, analyze analytics of ad campaigns and content, research and plan future posts and campaigns, and monitor the different networks for engagement and mentions on behalf of my clients.

I recognize that the social media world is confusing for business owners to navigate when they have been focused on their trade for much of their career. Social media for businesses came quick and has turned into a whirlwind of an industry. The thing that some business owners may not understand is that being an SMM is a real, full time position that goes far beyond posting current specials and commenting when someone likes their status.

Creating and analyzing ad campaigns are two of the largest responsibilities for a SMM in more ways than one. Building campaigns properly to get traffic, engagement, and to hit goals, is crucial. My clients have entrusted me with their money and expect that I will use my industry knowledge to gain them results. Once the ad is created, I’m not on coast-mode. I optimize throughout the month to make sure it’s delivering, and if it is not, I tweak it.

I review this information and create content with the goal of resonating with the type of people that are responding to the different posts and ads. My clients provide me with photos and specials they have going on to align with their advertising goals. I also keep an eye on local events that may attract people to the area because my clients are in the hospitality industry.

When I’m not focusing on ads or creating content, I’m monitoring the different social profiles that I manage. I engage with the followers and answer any questions that get directed to the brands. This is one of my favorite parts of my job. It is exciting to see when my content has been a success and the positive feedback that my clients receive. It is also beneficial for me to see when content doesn’t generate any form of engagement. This lets me know I need to try something else in the future.

All in all, I am in a field that is constantly evolving and requires a lot of detail, research, and thought. I consider myself to be a part of the small percentage of people who are paid to do something they are truly passionate about. Like everything else, it is not always rainbows and lollipops. There is responsibility and even liability of speaking on behalf of a brand. I look forward to this challenge, amount of responsibility, and sense of purpose I am embarking on as a newly hired Social Media Manager at Thin Pig Media.

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Style. Shoot. Eat.

One of my first jobs in photography involved shooting food for a company of restaurants. Throughout the years, I learned a lot about food styling and choosing the right props. If you’ve ever needed to take some food photographs or think this is something you might want to try, here’s a few quick tips for you to get started. 

1)     Practice, practice, practice.

I know this isn’t something many of you want to hear, because it takes a lot of time, hard work, and effort to practice, BUT I promise you this is THE only way you’ll hone in on your own style, craft, and skills. Whether you’re using a DSLR, digital camera or your phone, it’s important to play around with different settings ahead of time so you understand the best way to way to use your tools. Not all photos need to be taken on a fancy camera, the best camera is the one you have with you.

2) Research and Planning

Many food photographers and stylists will tell you that you have a very short window of opportunity to get the shot once the food hits the table. To a certain extent they are correct. Hot dishes in particular are going to look their best when they are still hot and fresh out of the oven. That doesn’t mean, though, that the food’s first appearance in front of the camera has to be once it’s fully camera-ready. All you need is some planning and good time-management.

If you’re photographing for a client, take a look at the menu ahead of time to assess items which will photograph well. Consider dishes with lots of colour, texture and height for maximum “wow” factor. 

You should create a shot list to ensure you are going to capture all of the items on your client’s wish list and are going to cover all sections of the menu (starters, mains, desserts, etc.). Determine where you want to stage the shoot before the dish arrives and then choose multiple angles to shoot when it does. If multiple dishes arrive at once, decide the order of the photoshoot based on the temperature of the dishes. Salads will generally look the same in photos whether the photo is taken in 5 minutes or 20 minutes. Ice cream, on the other hand, is just a bit more time sensitive.

3) Lighting is everything!

Sometimes you’re just stuck with a crappy weather day and there’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you have to shoot at night or in a dimly lit restaurant. Natural light is usually best for food photography but direct natural light can also give you really hard shadows. You can mimic daylight or have someone provide more light (with the flashlight on your phone) or less light (with a sheet of paper or diffuser) if you have to. Experiment and find the best light you enjoy working with.

Pro-Tip: Take a day to just play around with your camera and a bowl of fruit- take that bowl of fruit around your house or studio during different times of days and shoot at different angles, make note of the time of day that produces the best quality shot in your opinion. It’s art and it’s personal so have fun with it. If you decide to go with the overhead angle, watch out for unwanted shadows!

4) Vary the camera angle

Just like human subjects can be photographed from more flattering angles, the same goes for food. It’s important to remember that the concept you see in your head might not always make the best photo. That’s one reason why I almost never shoot a dish from only one angle. Get the shot you think you want, but then take a few minutes to recompose and take another. Variety is important, particularly if you are shooting for a client. Clients like choices. Also keep in mind that different angles will be better (or worse) for different types of shots. Photographing rows of cupcakes from an angle just above them, for instance, can create interesting leading lines through the frame. Shooting a collection of ingredients, on the other hand, can often benefit from an angle directly above them. As with any other type of photography, choose your angles carefully. It is your choice of camera angle that creates a sense of depth, perspective, and scale. Choose wisely. Remember that an added benefit of shooting food is that it won’t get bored or frustrated with you while you take your time getting everything just right.

Pro-Tip: Add a human element. Adding a hand stirring a pot or holding a plate allows you to show scale and adds a human element which is often more appealing and real to viewers. 

5) Strength in numbers

Finally, one of the most important things to have during a food photo shoot is a group of patient friends who are willing to help move cutlery around, assist with providing more lighting (usually with the flashlight app on their phones) and sit around and wait (and wait.. and wait.. and wait..) until you’ve captured the perfect shot! As a thank you for their full co-operation, they’re often awarded with a table full of tasty dishes - which is usually more than I can consume on my own!

 Photo of previously mentioned awesome (and patient) friends in action :)

Photo of previously mentioned awesome (and patient) friends in action :)

I’m definitely one of those people that takes a photo of my food before I eat it, especially if it’s particularly nicely presented. I feel I owe it to the chef who took such great care in preparing it. I often just use my iPhone6, but when I do have my camera I will take some time to set it up before I eat it and take a few shots.  The best part of food photography is eating your subject afterwards. So have fun and experiment all you want. Practice makes perfect. Last pro-tip: The more you go out to eat, the better your photos will be!

10 Easy Meditation Methods for Working Remotely

If you regularly work remotely, on the road, or from home, you know it comes with some sweet pros and some unexpected cons.

As remote professionals we put our heads into email, internet, social media, and digital marketing virtually every day. We're inundated with messages, requests, demands, and calls to action — almost always with increasing urgency.

When we work from home, we often don't get the mental relief and positive energy that come with in-person coworkers. When we work on the road, we don’t have friends and family to fill our cup after work. We structure our own tasks & schedules, which often requires more brainpower than having our workload structured and dictated by a supervisor.

Perhaps most glaring of all, we simply have a hard time turning OFF.

As a result of all these factors, remote pros are more prone than 9-5ers to feeling disorganized, stressed about their schedule, and mentally buzzy from digital saturation and personal isolation.

A consistent meditation practice helps all of this. It decreases mental chatter, stress, and anxiety. It increases energy, focus, and the ability to self-soothe. Your meditation practice is a way of cultivating inner peace, growing it in small pieces over time like a gardener tending to their plants each day.

Do you think there’s more potential to the efficiency and joy in your work/life balance?

Do you want to maximize your work time so you have more brain space for the rest of your life?

Do you feel out of balance or overwhelmed or stressed?

Hey, good news. Meditation is a perfect solution to these quandaries.

Virtually every major religion & spiritual practice encourages some kind of meditation, whether it's in the form of intentional silence, prayer, yoga, Tai Chi, or even the art of drinking tea. They're all slow, daily mindful practices which cultivate a deeper sense of presence, connection, calm, and vitality.

The main goal over consistent days and weeks is to ease your mind down from its nonstop thinking, which in turn increases your awareness of your own body, settling you into a relaxed state of flow.

You'll still be thinking, but not so loudly or quickly. That’s what’s so helpful for both maximizing your workday and being able to turn off when you’re done.

Many people never follow through on meditation, for a few common reasons: the misconception that it's attached to a philosophy or religion; personal discomfort sitting alone with your thoughts & feelings; having tried it for a few days but stopped before it got easier and the benefits became clear; or maybe you just don’t like hippies. No judgment!

These are totally valid opinions and experiences. And sure, there are other ways to get similar benefits. But the way I think about it, everyone can enjoy meditation. The only essential elements are breath and patience. Other than that, we just have to find the right methods and variations that work well for us. Here are just a few of the many methods and variations that can help you get started:

  1. Guided Meditations

  2. Vipassana Insight Meditation

  3. Kundalini Meditation

  4. Mantra Meditation

  5. Mindfulness Meditation

  6. Metta/Lovingkindness

  7. Visualization

  8. Object Focus

  9. Walking Meditation

  10. Meditating In Public

Do you have another method or style that has worked for you? Have any questions about meditation? Comment below!  

Photo by Isabell Winter