Hilary's Social Media Tuesday Tip 002: Your 13-Second Hashtag Tutorial (Plus a Bonus!)

Hey guys! Back again with another Tuesday Tip! Today we're talking about hashtags and reach. If we're creating content for business we certainly want to reach as many people as possible. Are hashtags the way to go? Should you always slap on a hashtag just in case it helps expand your audience? It's important to know how hashtags work on each social platform. Here's a quick run-down of what you need to know.

1. Twitter. Hashtags can be very effective for growing your audience. I would encourage you to really only use them when they're highly appropriate for a certain audience. And more often than not add them on at the end. Because #nothing is more #annoying than a #tweet that looks like #this. #amiright?

2. Instagram. This is the place where you can really feel that hashtag freedom--especially if you put your hashtags in a comment below your caption rather than right in the caption. To each his own but I'm comfortable with seeing a good 9 or 10 hashtags if they are purposeful.

3. Linkedin. Leave your hashtags at home people because they don't do anything for you on this platform!

4. Facebook. This one is tricky guys. Hashtags do work on Facebook but they don't actually expand your reach. Facebook's algorithm actually punishes posts that include hashtags. So avoid, avoid!

And a bonus that didn't fit in my 13-second video:

5. Pinterest. Hashtags are only clickable in a pin description. Don't bother with them on boards or in your profile bio. Words without hashtags are just as searchable as words with hashtags on Pinterest. So unless you're creating a special hashtag just for your brand and you want consistency across Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, it may not be worth bothering.

I hope you've found this brief hashtag tutorial helpful. If you have any other hashtag questions feel free to throw them at me!

3 Surprising Things You Can Learn About Goals from Facebook

During the company's third-quarter earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg let the world in on his three, five, and ten-year plans for Facebook. Yep, Mark fully anticipates Facebook being around and relevant in ten years. His plans for the social network are specific, calculated, and gutsy.

What You Can Learn About Setting Goals from facebook

Mark zuckerberg

Mark zuckerberg

Take a cue from Zuckerberg and make your own three, five, and ten-year plans. Here’s what I noticed about his plans.

3-Year Goals

Zuck said,

“Over the next three years, our main goals are around continuing to grow and serve our existing communities and businesses and help them reach their full potential.”

Zuckerberg’s discussion of Facebook’s three-year plan centered around what’s currently happening and proving their approach is working.

What are you currently invested in regarding your career, relationships, and finances? Do you want to have anything to do with where you currently are in three years? If you don’t see yourself in the same industry, in the same relationship, or spending money in a similar way in three years, now’s the time to make those changes.

What’s working well in your life? Invest more there. For Zuckerberg it’s Facebook Groups and Instagram. For you, perhaps it’s the company you work for or your newfound love of biking. Take note of the aspects of your life that you want to cultivate long-term and focus your efforts there.

5-Year Goals

For Zuckerberg’s five-year plan he said,

“Over the next five years, our goals are around taking our next generation of services–Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Search–and helping them connect billions of people and become important businesses in their own right.” Zuckerberg continually uses the language “our goals are around.”

That begs the question—do you know what ideas your goals are around? What do you value most? This may not be your primary focus right now, but it will be in five years. Maybe in five years your goals are around getting a book published or starting a family. What can you do now to make solid investments toward that future?

Zuckerberg also mentioned plans to continue building on what the company is currently doing. He mentioned that just last month they finally completed the acquisition of Whatsapp. Facebook’s five-year plan has a lot to do with what’s happening at Facebook right now. The same is true for your life.

10-Year Goals

It’s pretty impressive that Facebook even has a ten-year plan. Ten years ago when Zuckerberg was a 20-year-old, could he have possibly “planned” where Facebook would be now? No matter how much the technology landscape can and will change, he can’t simply throw up his hands and say “well, there’s no way to plan for or predict the future that far down the road!” That’s business suicide. The same goes for you. You need to start dreaming and envisioning who you want to be in ten years today. It’s OK to be somewhat general and to center your vision on certain ideas you value. That’s kind of what Facebook is doing.

This is what Zuckerberg said:

“For the next 10 years our focus is on driving the fundamental changes in the world that we need to achieve our mission, connecting the whole world, understanding a world with big leaps in AIs, and developing the next generation of platforms, especially in computing.”

Facebook’s ten-year plan is focused on values-based decisions and “fundamental changes.” Zuckerberg envisions putting a lot of focus on one of his projects that will have a lasting legacy: internet.org. According to Zuckerberg, the internet.org app “provides free data access to a set of basic internet services for health, education, employment, and communication.” What will your legacy be? Begin thinking about this now.

Your goals and priorities probably looks pretty different than Zuckerberg's.  But approaching your career, personal life, and life’s purpose in a similar way will help you make decisions today that put you closer to the life you want to be living in the future.

Can you envision where you want to be in five years? What could you do today to contribute to that future? 

A version of this article first appeared on Levo League

6 November Articles You Might Have Missed: HSL Creative Around the Web

HSL Creative Around the Web: November
HSL Creative Around the Web: November

Happy Thanksgiving HSL readers!

November has been an incredible month around here. I (Hilary) got to attend the Internet Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina earlier this month. I got to hear from some of the leading digital media and marketing minds in the country. In addition to that, as you can see, I got to write quite a bit! Things have also been progressing with the social media class I teach at SNHU and with the social media work I do with Spotco. I'm writing this today from New York. Over the next few days I'll be seeing several of the shows I work on...On the Town tonight and This is Our Youth on Friday. Very exciting!

Here's where I've been published around the web this month:

Medium Why Two Careers are Better Than One

Levo League What You Can Learn About Setting Goals from Mark Zuckerberg

Forefront Magazine Protecting the Shield By Building Players' Brands

The HSL Creative Blog  How to Write a Blog Post That Actually Gets Read

The Clutch Guide 7 Cool Weather Races to Run in Central Virginia

What has November looked like for you? I'd love to hear the highlights!

How to Write a Blog Post That Actually Gets Read

How to write a blog post that actually gets read
How to write a blog post that actually gets read

Picture this: a friend shares an article on Facebook. The title sounds interesting so you click on it. About a paragraph in you realize it sounds familiar. Wait--this post was circulating around the Internet a solid year ago. And you clicked on it then too! Here it is making the rounds on news feeds all over again. Has this happened to you?

This is a prime example of why blogging is arguably the most effective online marketing tool a company can use. A well-written, engaging, informative post can live on and attract new readers (and maybe some who've already read it once), new site visitors and potential customers for months and even years after it has been written.

So how do you write a compelling post that gets shared again and again?

How To Write a Blog Post People Want to Read

1. Make it digestable. Keep paragraphs short; three or four sentences are perfect. A reader should be able to glance over the entire post and not feel bogged down in any given paragraph. They should feel like they can read the entire post in two minutes or less.

2. Keep it between 300 and 700 words. Shorter is not always better but longer is almost always worse. There is no more distracting technological medium than the web so make sure your posts are concise so the user actually reads it from start to finish. If it’s not incredibly sharp they will move on to the next article before finishing yours.

3. Include an image. Photos draw readers into the story you are telling. The image should help you tell your story better. You can get stock images online or grab your smartphone and take them yourself.

4. Make the purpose of the post clear from the start. Being coy does not work in online writing. If you do not make the point crystal clear in the first few sentences you’ve lost your readers.

5. Don’t throw away your headline. The most important part of the post is the headline. Make your title compelling. This is your chance to draw your reader in with a tantalizing question or a promise. Pay attention to the kind of headlines that catch your eye online and adopt similar habits.

6. Get comfortable in your voice. Your blog posts need to sound like you at your most polished, well-organized, and confident. Include personal stories. Be authentic. Your blog will resonate with people when you write with honesty and candor.

7. Finish with a question or call to action. Give your readers an opportunity to respond whether it’s by answering a question or clicking through to your website. Never simply end a post with a concluding thought. Give your audience an opportunity to engage. That is the beauty of this technology: the two-way conversation.

Blogging is one of the greatest opportunities to create lasting content on the web. When done well, blogging is an incredible tool to use to establish credibility, build a personal brand, and increase web traffic.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to blogging?

6 Lessons to Learn from the Resurgence of Surge

Coca-Cola company
Coca-Cola company

Did you catch the news about Surge this week? If you’re a child of the 90s you may remember the lemon lime flavored highly caffeinated soda that was marketed to thrill seekers and teen boys by the Coca-cola company. The drink disappeared from super market shelves in 2001 but thanks to a grassroots social media campaign, Surge is back. Well, maybe not at your local gas station, but you can order a case of it on Amazon.

A Facebook group raised $4000 to buy a billboard near Coca-cola's headquarters in Atlanta, GA. The billboard said: "Dear Coke, we couldn't buy SURGE, so we bought this billboard instead."

The response to the news of the resurgence of Surge was pretty overwhelming. Amazon sold out of the sugary drink twice on Monday. Coca-cola’s move with Surge is a pretty big one: it’s the company’s first product launch that relies solely on social and digital media.

This whole story of how rabid fans got their voices heard via social media and got the sugary energy drink they so longed for to be made available again got me thinking…

What is there to learn from the resurgence of Surge?

1. Millennials have grown up to be the first digital native generation that has real spending power. Not only do they know how to grow a movement via digital media or use Kickstarter to fund passion projects, but they are also beginning to make decent money themselves. Children of the 90s are no longer just whiny, selfish millennials.Millennials are beginning to have the spending power of established adults with the digital prowess of teenagers. Pretty lethal combination.

2. Listen to brand loyalists and get creative in meeting their requests. As my friend and mentor Ben Stroup says: “say yes until you have to say no.” Coca-cola isn’t spending millions bottling Surge and putting it in every grocery store and gas station. That's way too big of a gamble. But they can say "yes" by making it available on Amazon to the super fans who are willing to pay a little more for it. They’re paying attention to a passionate niche market instead of writing them off. Coke isn’t planning to sell Surge in stores again, but if the Amazon wave goes well, they just might. How can you wow your audience in a creative way and say “yes” to them in a creative way? Niche market brand loyalists have power. Don’t discount them.

3. Capitalizing on nostalgia is a thing. How many retro t-shirts have you seen sold at Target or Old Navy? New Kids On the Block and the Backstreet Boys have combined their powers to become one giant boy band nostalgia ride. The technology we use now has transformed our culture. People look back on the pre-Facebook, pre-smart phone, heck--pre-iPod days with fondness. How can you access this nostalgia in your business? What can you do to delight your audience by tapping into familiarity?

4. Pay attention to what your audience likes about a product or service. Some things need to stay the same to be effective. Would fans buy Surge with such gusto if it had a snazzy new 2014 design? HECK NO. They are drawn to the fact that it is the exact same sugary beverage with the exact same logo it had when they were a teen and life was much less complicated. Innovation has incredible value but some things are valuable because they have not changed.

5. E-commerce makes what was once impossible, possible. There was a time when selling a beverage to a niche market was just too expensive. But e-commerce is a game-changer. Niche products and e-commerce are a match made in heaven. As Coca-cola put it: e-commerce provides the “democratization of demand.” What speciality products or services could you make available through e-commerce?

6. Sometimes things have to be minimized, made rare, or go away altogether to get appreciated. What does this mean for you? Should you post less on social media? Increase your prices? Be a little less available? Surge was discontinued because it wasn’t the popular success Coca-cola wanted it to be. Now it’s been gone for 13 years and a passionate (albeit small) vocal group have missed it and brought attention to it. Rarity increases value. How can you apply that to your business?

The resurgence of Surge indicates that niche markets matter, voices can be heard and thanks to technology companies can delight their customers in more ways than ever before. How will you use it to wow your audience?

HSL Creative Roundup: August

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 10.15.04 PM

August is winding down and quite frankly I'm ready for pumpkin EVERYTHING, how bout you? It's been an incredible month of writing, rehearsals, going to weddings, running and of course analyzing our social media practices. This month I had fun curating a list of my favorite places in Lynchburg for the Clutch Guide blog. I had a female college freshman in mind when I was writing it. What do I wish I had known about the Hill City when I first moved here? Boom. I created this list.

I also spent some time on the blog chatting about the different ways I work with other businesses, thought leaders, artists and nonprofits. My purpose is simple: I want to help other people reach their goals by supplying a plethora of services within the writing and social media realm. So here are 10 ways off the top of my head that I do that every day.

And finally I couldn't help but analyze the crazy impactful viral marketing campaign that has raised over $80 million to combat ALS. Here's where I explained why it worked so well.

I hope you've had a great month as well!

6 Reasons Someone You Know Did the #ALSIceBucketChallenge

In the name of ethical journey I feel it is my duty to share that I did this to myself.
In the name of ethical journey I feel it is my duty to share that I did this to myself.

Did you see an ice bucket video this week?

How about tweets or Instagram photos about #Ferguson?

What about the Downton Abbey philanthropic photo response to its historical snafu?

You probably saw at least one of these--if not all three.

What do these three social media viral moments have in common?

A purpose beyond simply entertainment, attention, and 15 minutes of fame.

Let’s start by analyzing the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. Why did it work?

1. Whether watching or participating--it’s fun. Watching friends’ reactions the moment after cold water is dumped on them is priceless. And continues to be as long as people you actually know and like are participating. I’ve enjoyed watching the varying levels of theatrics that occur as people mentally prepare for the deluge and after it's been poured.

2. It’s a strange equalizer. Ok, so you’re not nominating Steven Spielberg like Oprah did. But this #ALSIceBucketChallenge is an opportunity for people to act out being the celebrity of their own social network for a day. How often do you and Jennifer Lopez and Bill Gates and Lady Gaga all do the same thing in a given day? It’s like a strange game of “celebrities, they’re just like us.”

3. It’s doable. The #ALSIceBucketChallenge is a fairly uncomplicated endeavor. What you need: a bucket, ice water, a friend with a camera, and the ability to name three friends to do it next. This mode of philanthropy may be mildly inconvenient (getting wet when not taking a shower can slow your day down a little) but difficult, it is not. Mark Zuckerberg can do it and oh yeah, so can you.

4. It’s for a good cause. Who doesn’t want to be a helper, giver, public servant, hero? Whether it seems obvious to you or not--this is a way to get the do-gooder euphoria without having to do very much (nope, you didn't dig a well in Africa, you poured water on your head). A lot of times philanthropy sounds like it is something for people who have all the time in the world or all the money in the world. But to participate in this, all you need is water, a bucket, and a camera (and hopefully a little cash to donate).

5. It’s goofy but has merit. Few adults would jump on the bandwagon of teenagers pulling pranks and posting them online (Planking? Hitting each other? Trying to drink a gallon of milk? Please stop.) But somehow the lure of a good cause (and the fact that nobody wants to wimp out on a worthwhile dare--especially if Matt Lauer was brave enough to do it) and your silly prank has gone viral.

6. People love their friends and doing good (and getting a little credit for doing good.) This is why Facebook has 1.23 billion active users--people want to connect with loved ones. The Ice Bucket Challenge pairs bonding with friends with doing something philanthropic and fun (and showing it to the world). So people get a trio of highs: shared experiences, doing something good for someone else and showing the world they are generous/fun people.

Whether or not you’ve embraced what some are calling “slacktivism,” the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has spread an astounding amount of awareness for the debilitating and fatal disease as well as raised millions of dollars. None of that would’ve happened without social media.

Bottom line: social media is THE way people are connecting with their communities and networks. They are sharing what’s important to them and hopefully beginning to realize that we can all make a difference--no matter the size of our platform.

So did you take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Were you a skeptic? Did you change your mind?

10 Social Media Resolutions to Adopt This Year

The new year is upon us and with it is the opportunity to turn around some of our bad habits regarding our health, time, money and even social media. Yes, staggering numbers of people around the world have social media profiles but many of those people don’t have any kind of social strategy.

Social media just becomes one big time zapper when we don’t have any intention behind it.

So here are ten suggested social media resolutions for the year ahead.

1. I will know my privacy settings and make sure I’m sharing with the appropriate audience. As of last year 13 million people in the US had never touched their privacy settings on Facebook. That means you may be one of those people who is sharing content that is public for any identity thief, bot or creep to see. Get familiar with your privacy settings on all your social networks.

2. I will decide my intent for each social media platform I’m on whether it is growing my business network, staying connected to old friends, or increasing my platform as a thought leader.

3. I will only post content that is useful, uplifting or fun. Enough of the snark and the angry political posts. In many ways what I post on social media will be my legacy long after I’m gone. I want those messages to be inspiring. I will not use social media as a platform to be condescending, hurtful or whiny.

4. I will not overshare on social media. Whether it’s a family argument, details of an illness or my nephew’s bodily functions, I will not share anything that will gross out or embarrass anyone on social media.

5. I will not take myself too seriously on social media. Social media is the place to show the human side of my business. It’s also the place where I can share news about my business with my personal acquaintances. I will balance each business-esque post with other posts that show that I’m a human just like you.

6. I will be open to trying new platforms but I will stay focused. I will spend the bulk of my precious time focusing on one or two platforms that have proven to give me return on investment for my business but I will stay up to speed on popular apps and platforms. There’s nothing like being the last of your friends to log in to MySpace.

7. I will engage with others and respond when people communicate with me. Every comment on every photo posted to Facebook doesn’t necessarily merit a response but if someone wants to dialogue on Twitter it’s not beneficial to ignore him or her. Responses are a great way to show people you value them.

8. I will use social media to connect to leaders in my field and people who I admire. Social provides an incomparable opportunity to connect with thought leaders and great writers. This is an opportunity not to be wasted.

9. I will use apps like Buffer and Pocket to aggregate and share content that is useful to people who follow my accounts. So much interesting and helpful content is pumped through social media every day. With the right tools I can share the best of it with my tribe.

10. I will make private content more private and public content more public. I’ve decided to make my Instagram account private and be intentional about sharing photos through Twitter and Facebook when I want to share them with people I both know and don’t know. On the other hand my Twitter posts continue to be public and I’m hoping to increase my presence there by 30% this year.

Social media is all about being intentional with your time and the messages you send out into the world. In 2014 consider the value you want to add to society through your social media presence.

So here you have 10 suggested resolutions for the new year.

Tell me, what would you add to the list?

Introducing our newest eBook: Social Media for Live Experiences

In 2013 I've gotten the opportunity to dive into one of the most fascinating areas of my work: utilizing social media to enhance live events. Earlier this year I completed my master's thesis that analyzed a famous Broadway Twitter campaign and all summer I managed the social media accounts for Endstation Theatre Company's Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival. So I got the opportunity to learn about the integration of social media, mobile devices and live events in an academic context and then a real-life highly practical context. Now I want to share with you what I've learned. I've teamed up again with Ben Stroup Enterprises to write Social Media for Live Experiences. This six-chapter book is a quick read that walks you through marketing a live event (whether it's a play, a church event or a conference) by connecting with your audience through social channels before, during and after the event takes place.

Social media is changing the landscape of communication. How will you utilize it?

5 Easy Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Business’ Social Media Presence

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 8.58.45 AM

It’s a given that your business needs to have a social media presence. And you’ve probably got one. But what can you do to make it just a little better today without spending a lot of extra time and energy? Here’s five tips you can implement today to improve your company’s social media presence.

1. Ask questions. Social media is about starting conversations. When was the last time your business to consumer brand asked a question of your audience online? Even on a business page, you don’t have to be “all business.” You can recognize a current event or national holiday and ask people about their plans. ie: "Anybody out there got a case of the Mondays? Comment on this post and come in before 9 AM for a free drip coffee. We want to make your week a little better."

2. Put a face with a name. When it comes to a social media presence for a small business a logo is good but a face is better. Go ahead and put an image of the owner or an employee as the profile picture for your business’ social media account. This brings accessibility and a personal touch to your online engagement.

3. Respond within 24 hours. Have you ever tried to get answers from a brand via Twitter or Facebook only to never hear from them? Not exactly sparkling customer service. Commit to responding to messages, comments and @ replies within 24 hours. The sooner the better.

4. Add photos. With the popularity of apps like Snapchat, Instagram and even the social media giant Pinterest, there’s no denying that images are everything. Post photos from time to time that exude your company culture.

5. Show some personality. Feel free to express excitement over a new product line. Post an article that has a controversial perspective on a business trend. Do anything but be all self-promotey all the time. Contribute value to the online conversation and avoid being confused for a robot.

What about you? Do you have any easy solutions for stepping up a company’s social media game?

10 Tips to Boost Creativity the Einstein Way

Ever since I was tagged a “creative” person as a kid, I’ve been drawn to the concept and study of creativity. Twyla Tharp’s the Creative Habit is one of my favorite books. I even put it in the name of my company. I recently read an article about Einstein’s perspective on creativity. He called it combinatory play.

Maria Popova phrases Einstein’s perspective like this:

“Creativity is combinatorial: Alive and awake to the world, we amass a collection of cross-disciplinary building blocks — knowledge, memories, bits of information, sparks of inspiration, and other existing ideas — that we then combine and recombine, mostly unconsciously, into something ‘new.’ From this vast and cross-disciplinary mental pool of resources beckons the infrastructure of what we call our ‘own’ ‘original’ ideas.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks that no great idea comes out of thin air. None of us can really take full credit for anything! Great ideas come from putting pieces together. Someone else’s comment here, someone else’s example there, and voila a new idea is formed that seems obvious based on putting the other two ideas together.

HSL Creative was founded after putting several ideas together. To me, it seemed like an obvious next step.

Yesterday I toured Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. The tour guide explained that while people think of Jefferson as an inventor he was really an innovator. He took other inventions and improved them. Combinatory play at it’s finest.

Here are 10 tips to incite more combinatory play in your life. I dare you to try at least 3 this week:

1. Explore an aisle of the bookstore that you don’t usually frequent.

2. Try out a new recipe with ingredients you've never used.

3. Make plans for lunch or coffee with someone who is not in your regular circles.

4. Subscribe to BrainPickings.

5. Sit in on your library’s book club meeting.

6. Listen to a public lecture at a local college.

7.  Ask this question at the dinner table: If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do with your life?

8. Watch a TedTalk.

9. Read a biography of someone that interests you who you've not previously studied.

10. Post a question on your Facebook status.

I encourage you to carry a notebook (or just your notes app in your iPhone) with you throughout the week and jot down ideas that come to you. When you’re open to connecting new dots, you are likely to do just that.

7 Tips for Being Your Own Publicist Online

Secret's out: we are not all celebrities and big shots that have a Samantha Jones-esque worldly wise publicist looking out for the messages we are sending out into the universe. Today your social media personality contributes heavily to client and colleague and even potential employer perceptions of you. Here are seven best practices for keeping a positive image online.

1. Vent somewhere else. Feeling the need to let off a little steam? Text a friend, write in your journal, or share it with your spouse. Don't type a status update. Venting via social media may have more negative repercussions than positive ones. You may come across as someone who has poor judgment or looks as if they have no one to talk to in the real world. It's bad press all the way around. Don't do it.

2. Keep away from unpleasantries. Whether it's photos of dead animals, oversharing about your morning hygiene routine or the details of your illness--think about your queasiest friend. Would she want to hear about it? If not, then just don't mention it.

3. Don't treat social media like a megaphone. Engage with others! Respond, comment, like. Don't waste hours of your day, of course, but the truly adept social networker finds that happy balance between sharing with his or her tribe and engaging with them. It's just rude to constantly post messages online and not respond to anyone else. Online manners FTW.

4. Avoid potentially offensive or polarizing statements. You probably know someone who is relatively meek in person and then seems to be an angry confrontational jerk on Facebook, amiright? Chances are, your perception of him has been affected by what he posts. There's nothing like logging on and realizing that former quiet, coworker is a little bit racist. Avoid off color jokes, criticizing others, and making sweeping statements regarding current events. Whatever you post can and could be used against you. So, just keep it classy.

5. Balance out that self-promotion. Social media provides an incredible venue to promote work that excites you. There's no reason not to let the world know when your album drops, you have a big art show, or are speaking at a conference. Just make sure you don't only turn to the interwebs when you have something to promote. Experts say self-promotion should be 10% or less of what you post. Adhering to that rule is a good idea.

6. Observe the Grandma Rule. Great question to ask yourself before posting anything: would I want Grandma to see this post? If yes, then go ahead and post it. If no, just skip it.

7. When in doubt, less is more. People can't twist the words you never say (or, type).  Don't feel the need to post something every day. Click "send" when you have something to contribute. Our words are our legacy.

What do you think? Do you have any rules to live by as you use social media? Do you have any tips for what to avoid? Post em in the comments!