With the social media landscape evolving every second of the day, it can seem grueling trying to stay on top of trends and truly nail down an understanding of the current state of the social media market. But here are a few simple things you MUST start with.
The 3F rule: FIND, FOCUS and FRIEND your niche.
First things first, in order for your social media presence to gain traction and appeal to your targeted demographic you must find your niche audience. We’ve all heard the ‘find your niche audience’ phrase, but why does it matter? Finding your niche doesn’t only give you prospective clients, it builds a community of people that have something in common: your channel. Once your audience finds you, you will notice organic engagement on your posts, folks communicating with each other in the comments section, sharing your posts for their friends – and at the end of day, isn’t having a strong community what it’s all about?
Create Your Word Cloud
So how does one achieve this? It may sound cheesy, but all it really boils down to is good old-fashioned research. Start by putting together a word cloud of what your freelance business is trying to accomplish with words that appeal to your targeted demographic. For example, if I was breaking out into the world with a freelance dog training business, I would list words like: dog training, puppy training, dog lover, dog sitter, behavior modification, etc. Once you start to get a list of about 10 words or phrases, you start to get into the nitty-gritty of creating what is called the ‘hashtag ladder’ for your Instagram posts.
Find Your Tags
So where and how do you find your hashtags? From your word cloud you made before! Start breaking up the phrases into single words to find the tags more easily, and then add emojis or a second word to start really digging into what’s trending. Another crucial way to make sure you’re reaching your niche and targeted audience is by including your city initials in the tags or any relevant holidays being celebrated on that day. If you’re feeling lost on how to find out what hashtags are popular on Instagram, Twitter is also a great place to do research as well. Simply type one hashtag in at a time to see how relevant it could be. If you’re seeing posts from a couple of years ago as the most recent, then change up the phrasing a bit or add an emoji when applicable, etc. Do your research! It will be extremely useful when building your hashtag ladder.
Build a Hashtag Ladder
A Hashtag Ladder strategy is “a theory is that by having a set of 30 hashtags, ranging from easy to difficult to rank for, you can start to hit the popular results for the easy ones, gain some engagement, rank for more difficult ones, grab more engagement and so on up the ladder”. This strategy was coined in the earlier stages of Instagram where folks were stacking 30 hashtags in every post but in order to start off with your posts feeling less ‘spammy’, we like to stick with just 10 hashtags that are catered to each individual post you post to your Instagram account.
You want to start out with at least two hashtags that have been used at least 1m times, three that are in the range of 50,000 – 100,000, the next three to be within the 10,000 range, and the last two will be your business’ very unique and personal hashtags. For example, if my dog training business was in NYC and the name of it was Pup Lovers Training, my personal and unique hashtag would be #puploverstrainingnyc or, even more personal, #wearepuploverstraining. For hashtags that are at the lower end of use, you have a great chance of your post hitting the top of that hashtag page. Check out what you consider your competitors and see how you could do things differently and more uniquely.
Ok so now you have 10 hashtags that you love but you’re realizing the content your posting today won’t totally match the content you’re posting tomorrow, so what to do? Keep a hashtag bank of about 30 – 40 hashtags that you can switch out when necessary. Instead of doing the individual research every single day, have it as a biweekly or monthly task to switch out underperforming tags with higher-performing ones. It’s important to maintain the ‘ladder’ categorization since this will help you stay organized and use your time efficiently.
Define Your Voice
Once you feel confident in your ladder strategy, you’ll need to find the language and tone of your channel. Think of this like social brand guidelines for yourself – that way you don’t get overwhelmed and confused when it comes to caption writing or comment responding. Your channel’s voice will be set and this will ultimately help you across all the other social platforms immensely. Questions to ask yourself when finding your brand’s voice:
- What are three to five words that explain my brand/objective?
- What are three words I do NOT want my channel to say?
- What am I offering that is unique?
These answers will help you understand exactly what kind of messaging you want perceived and will inform the tone of voice you’d like for your channel. Do you want your channel to be playful, charming, edgy, confident? A playful tone would be something along the lines of “Having trouble with your devil, I mean cat, that you just adopted? We take on all kitties with zero upfront exorcism fees 😈🤗” vs. a confident/edgy tone of voice, “It’s no secret cats are demons, it’s our secret how we make them into angels 😈” Tailor your voice to match your audience in a unique way that feels informed but also stands out. I find that remaining as close to your own personal values increases the authenticity of your platform creating an open and welcoming vibe.
Now that your hashtag ladder and channel voice is finished and neatly tied with a bow, you can start creating content and posting it!