Have No Fear

Have No Fear
By Michael Stahl

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic. – Anonymous

I had no choice. I was greener than a New England forest in July; not just wet behind the ears, but facing a drowning by ignorance. I had to figure it out and trust that the answers might eventually reveal themselves through retweets and analytics.

What posts would “work?”

As I wrote in my last entry, my social media manager baptism was by fire—a four-alarm blaze actually, for Narratively’s most popular story to date was published on my first full day on the job. (It was a “Where are they now?” kind of story on the kids from the film Kids that actually crashed the main page.) Hootsuite more resembled the Matrix upon Keanu’s first viewing, and I found myself blindly favoriting, reposting, and retweeting anything I thought remotely worthy. When the smoke lifted, I actually had to begin plotting and strategizing, a much slower and drawn out process compared to the chaotic clicking of that day one.

Some norms for the social media networks of Narratively, like plugging the feature, had already been established by my predecessor, but I was still free to “make it my own.” And with the prospect of up to five Facebook posts a day needing to be concocted, I had plenty of opportunities to fail, even when I was finding “success.”

For instance, I posted a silly captioned photo of a guy being asked what his favorite thing about New York City was. His answer was “The giant Toys-R-Us.” It got plenty of Likes and Facebook told me the reach was relatively high. I posted it because it was funny and it was about Narratively’s hometown, but, before long, I began to realize that pictures of that nature didn’t belong on their particular social media (nor did so many exclamation points). In this world of Lolcats, it’s easy to slip into a routine of go funny, go loud all the time. But, with every post, you are shaping the brand of your client, so the tone is of optimum importance.

Over the course of time, I began to realize that simple, powerful photos worked best. This became apparent when I posted a photo titled “New York City” that I found on Tumblr. It was actually a picture of a red dress, air-drying on a fire escape attached to a deep purple-bricked apartment building. It reached more than double the number of the Toys-R-Us meme, as did the photos of old New York City from when it still looked like “a John Carpenter movie,” as I captioned. Why were these outperforming so many others? Probably because good, serious photography was one of the things Narratively does well anyway, so their followers were already looking in their direction for such content, even on social media. So, I was perpetuating their brand, while still trusting my own eye.

When you’ve a new client, the proper tone takes time to nail down. Make this clear to them when you pitch yourself and your services. Sometimes the analytics will tell you when something has fallen flat, but, really, the reach or Likes of an individual post shouldn’t tell you much. Your strategy should come about based on extensive statistics that span weeks and months, not to mention discussions over coffee with your employer. It is their responsibility to communicate with you how they want to be branded and, hopefully, they will be supportive as you go through the rigors of trying new things that will, initially, inevitably, render but mixed results.

Michael Stahl is a journalist, social media manager and strategist. Hailing from Astoria, his articles have appeared on the websites Narratively, Medium, Musee Magazine, The Books They Gave Me, and Sugar ‘N’ Thunder. You can find all of his work and contact information on his website www.thedefacedwrittenword.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl.

Photo Credit: Sanctuary photography via Photo Pin | Creative Commons