Social Media Tips and Tricks #1

Hi All! I have been super busy, but there is such an awesome online entomology community of blogs and commenters, I know you aren’t starved for bug info.

I wanted to pass on some tricks I’ve learned to make your entomological social media efforts more efficient. These tips are not in any particular order, and the numbering doesn’t represent priority.  I’m sure that people will chime in with additional suggestions in the comments. 

Hopefully this will help you spread the gospel of bugs more effectively!   You might also find reading things I’ve written about social media in the past helpful–they are linked at the bottom of this post.  

Look for a series of posts on this topic over the next few weeks.  Why yes! This is part of my evil secret special plan for my BugMediaEmpire™.

Tip #1: Don’t be a fire hose.

I occasionally see folks post about 20 links in quick succession. That makes total sense if you are posting things as you’re sitting and reading; but it isn’t as effective as spreading your posting out over an entire day.

If you post 20 things at 10am, and I’m stuck in a meeting from 10am to Noon? I might never see any of what you posted.   The rest of the world is posting too, and piling on top of my Twitter and Facebook streams.

Don’t even get me started about the crazy way Facebook decides for me what I should see. GRRRR.  There is a fair amount of data about how long a post is “alive” on Facebook.  Basically, after 3 hours, your post pretty much ceases to be shown in the news feed unless it gets a lot of early Likes and shares.  This makes the timing of a post on Facebook especially important.

Corollary Tip 1.1: don’t post about every damn thing you eat or wear, unless your topic focus is food and shoes.

Tip #2: The best time to post should be driven by your audience’s schedule, not yours.

Most people’s posting is driven by when they have free time at the computer.  That may or may not match up to when your readers are online.  But how do you know when the best time to post is?

You can find out when people are looking at your blog using Google Analytics, but that may not tell you when people are looking at your social media streams. Blogs take longer to read, and I’m less likely to look at them during work hours, for example.

You can ball-park your timing by paying attention to when you seem to be getting the most Likes, RTs, or Reshares.  It’s a lot easier to use one of many websites out there that help you sort out what times people are reading based on traffic data. A utility like Topsy, for example, will give you specific traffic information for keywords.  Lunchtime and from 3-5pm are generally the peak times people are mentioning “entomology” on Twitter in this particular sample, but you can also see that it varies from day to day, and that the effect is relative to the keyword.

Should you use the word “insect” or “entomology”? Depends on how specialized your audience is.

If what you are posting includes a link, you can monitor your traffic that way too.   Bit.ly is not just a URL shortener, but it also tracks how many people click your link, and where they are.  There are also paid social media analytics like EdgeRankChecker that produce amazingly detailed data, but since I am a broke-ass academic, I don’t use them.

The easiest way to manage all of this, especially for multiple social media streams, is to automate your posting, and use a tool that will post your info at peak times.

Tip #3: Use an auto-posting utility to manage your social media streams.

I have 5 primary streams of social media content for the BugMediaEmpire™ that I actively manage: Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook (personal page), Facebook (official blog page), and Google+.  I also have Pinterest and YouTube pages, but I don’t do much with them other than create insect-themed song playlists.
Professionally, I manage several university Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as FB pages, blogs, and twitter feeds for multiple non-profit organizations.

Um. Yeah.  My name is Bug Girl, and I’m a social media addict.
Anyway.
The point is, I’ve got a lot going on.
A common question I get is “When do you sleep!? You are always posting things on Twitter and Facebook!”

I sleep a lot, actually; I just get up in the morning and set out a day’s worth of posts while I’m drinking my coffee.  That way I can post something at Midnight EST for the West Coast crowd, or at 6am when the UK is going to sleep.  That also lets me post things when I’m at work and forbidden to access many off-campus websites.

I personally use Hootsuite; there are a bunch of other scheduling tools out there.  Please do suggest your favorites in the comments!

Here’s what my post stream looks like on an average day. This is actually just 3 main topics, repeated several times for different media streams.  I also let Hootsuite decide when to Retweet (RT) people if it isn’t time sensitive, so we both get to share the optimally timed love.

Does it work? For the most part, yes. I do seem to get more Likes and RTs using the autopost timing feature. Unfortunately, the free version of Hootsuite is rather opaque about just exactly HOW it is coming up with this data.  I’m sure if I had the paid version, it would become clearer.

The scheduling in advance feature is especially useful for the university and non-profit accounts that I manage. I can set out a whole semester’s worth of tweets and Facebook posts, or schedule reminders for a grant deadline months in advance.  All I have to do is occasionally look in to make sure no one is posting nasty spam, and add a few timely news items or photos.  Much, much less work.  DON’T TELL MY BOSS.

So there you go, half of my secret to being omnipresent online. The other half is using online tools that allow me to organize what I read in more efficient ways. That’s the topic of my next tip post!

Caveats and Disclaimers:

  1. If you decide to use some of these auto-schedule or other social media management tools, be aware that you are giving them the keys to your digital kingdom.  You give these applications the ability to post under your name everywhere.  Make sure your passwords are very secure.
  2. Each one of the tools I’ve tried has some small aggravating glitches.  Hootsuite, for example, will post to a G+ business page, but not to a personal account. It doesn’t have a way to autoschedule and select a date months in the future (although you can do that manually).  On the other hand, all the tools I’ve mentioned here are FREE. Which pretty much makes them perfect.
  3. There might be a downside to using these third party applications to auto-post. Because of the way in which Facebook determines what you see, auto-posted items using third-party APIs may to be at a small disadvantage compared with posts done manually.  It’s not clear how future Facebook changes will affect this in the future. I can say with confidence that Facebook will change the way that they display information soon, and it will piss us all off. Again.

Other things I’ve written about Social Media:

Lice on a Bird: Convergent Evolution in action!

A really nice example of how to communicate some fascinating evolutionary biology.  Illinois Natural History Survey ornithologist Kevin  Johnson describes his research on the history of feather lice.  Anyone who works with birds knows they are lousy–as in, usually covered in lice.

But how did all those lice evolve? Did they share a common louse ancestor, and then diverge as their bird hosts diverged? Bird winglice  from a parrot look a lot like bird wing lice on a duck–but those are very different and unrelated hosts. What does that tell us about the history of lice?

You can read the paper this work is based on here:

Johnson, K.P., Shreve, S.M. & Smith, V.S. (2012). Repeated adaptive divergence of microhabitat specialization in avian feather lice, BMC Biology, 10 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-10-52
 

(Looking for a text transcript of the video; you can get most of the content text here)