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BY MARY LINKEVICH
If you’re a 40-something-or-older like me, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the world of social media. But at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, where I manage communications and grants, our hikers, hawk watchers and other visitors look to social media for information about us. That means learning the ropes is a necessity.
I spent countless hours scouring the ‘net for best practices in using LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest. Each platform requires a unique approach and yields different results. Here’s a little of what I’ve learned:
For organizations like Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, LinkedIn is at the bottom of the list because I’m not actively seeking professional relationships and my ability to hire freelancers is slim to none (darn that budget). Think of this as an online resume and professional networking forum, a place to shamelessly tout any and all accomplishments. For writers, this is an ideal place to search and “link up” with editors, and there are numerous private groups you can subscribe to, such as LinkEds and Writers.
- If you’re marketing skills or a product, then set up a profile. Be as complete as possible and keep it current. When you complete a project, post it as an accomplishment.
- Link up with businesses or professionals with whom you wish to build a relationship.
- Ask appropriate people to “rate” your skills. Reciprocate with your own “thank-you” rating.
- Post job openings. It’s worth having a profile set up just for this, so it’s ready when you are looking for new employees.
- Find me at Mary Linkevich or Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
At Hawk Mountain, Facebook is second only to our website, and I spend the most of my carefully-managed time here. Birders turn to our page for weather and flight conditions. Our Facebook page links to Twitter, so our followers are updated at both sites.
- If you don’t have a profile, then set up an account today. Consider creating both personal and professional accounts.
- Add additional administrators to help update the page for your business.
- Post links back to your website, but post infrequently to avoid inundating your followers with information to the point they are annoyed.
- Use Facebook “insights” to help tweak your approach.
- Keep it professional. Avoid personal posts, but do share articles relevant to your organization.
- Post information about your organization on your personal page, too, to reach more people.
- Find me at www.facebook.com/mary.linkevich or at www.facebook.com/HawkMountainSanctuary.
Think of this as an online bulletin board. Pinterest continues to be female dominated, but if attracting this audience is important to your business, then jump in.
- Establish yourself as an expert on topics that support your brand and create boards in your area of expertise. Include content you or your organization has produced, but also material from credible sources your customers will enjoy. At Hawk Mountain, our female customers are savvy, conservation-minded outdoors women, so my boards include Learning Outdoors, Nature Crafts, Mountain Wear, Campfire Cooking, and Great Reads (including Hawk Mountain publications and that of our partners), as well as Raptors in Flight and The Sanctuary.
- Create a business account using an email different from your personal address, even if you have to set up a new gmail account just for this purpose.
- Find me at www.pinterest.com/marysue72 or at www.pinterest.com/HawkMountainPa.
Of course there are more forms of social media, and each could run its own column. So here are a few best practices that can be applied to any platform.
- Focus on visuals and variety. Great images always get top response.
- Focus on quality over quantity. Look for “good” followers, not just all your personal friends who may not share your interests.
- Engage with other outdoor communicators and learn from watching what works and what doesn’t.
- Don’t forget to be human. It’s really NOT all business, and to connect with new audience members, you do need to connect on a personal level.
- Don’t be scared. Just jump in and test the waters when new outlets become available and then stick with what works; drop those that don’t help you meet your goals.
- Model best practices and learn from those you think do a great job and you enjoy following. This isn’t stealing, it’s just smart.
-Mary Linkevich is a full-time information, communications and grant manager for Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, a nonprofit outdoor nature center and research and training facility. You can contact her at email@example.com.