Managing the Social Media Beast with Natalie Hartford

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Today, while I’m on vacay, sipping rum punch and digging my toes in the sand (don’t hate me),my good friend Natalie Hartford agreed to come over to my blog digs and entertain you with her antics. She’s a writer just starting out in the adventure of novel writing and she’s been blogging for about a year and a half. She posts on her blog 4 days a week with posts such as my metrosexual hubby made me realize the power of clothes that fit (no matter the size), Twisted Tuesdays (with stuff like sunglasses that rock my beer! or the new trailer hitch stripper pole), and her Urban Word Wednesdays (where she teaches us words like masturcising and vajazzle) always keep me laughing! Take it away Natalie!

I am so excited to be here Elena. Thank you for hosting me and allowing me to give your readers a little taste of my style.

Today I thought I’d talk a little bit about an elephant in the room; social media. I’ve come across a couple blog posts lately where writers are talking about feeling overwhelmed and ill-prepared for the mass amount of social media platforms that are out there right now not to mention the accompanying learning curve.

Do I need to be everywhere? Should I sign up for StumbleUpon, do I need a vision board on Pinterest, how do I work Twitter, do I need an author page on Facebook, what in God’s name is Triberr, how do I blog twice a week/once a week/three times a week, read and comment on blogs, write a damn fine book, and master all this…stuff? It’s overwhelming to say the least.

Now, let’s be clear. I am not saying I am a social media expert, not by any measure. I have definitely not mastered all the platforms out there nor can I answer most of your “how do I????” questions (people, just google your tech questions…seriously it’s that easy) but what I can share with you is my approach and tactic to social media and maybe…just maybe…it’ll help take some of the pressure to be all things on all platforms off.

I am tech challenged to so if I can do, you can do it!

Keep in mind, I am just like you. I am tech-challenged. It might not sound like it but you can ask my IT guru hubby. He believes I have an electromagnetic force field around me that literally sets everything off and in all the wrong ways. He claims he’s never seen someone who has such a love/hate relationship with all things technology. But even given my aversion to electronics, I still love all things techie especially new software (even if it means swearing a lot). I love the challenge and I love learning.

Take the pressure off!

I met Elena when we both signed up for Kristen Lamb’s blogging to build a brand course in July 2011. I have to say, the absolute best advice I got from Kristen was this (embed this into your brains): when it comes to social media, as a writer, yes you NEED a presence. But, you don’t need to be on everything. Do what works for you and do that well. If you hate Facebook but enjoy blogging and Twitter, stick to that. If you prefer Facebook to Twitter, enjoy that. You don’t have to be on everything but you do need to be out there somewhere. So let the pressure to be everywhere go.

One thing at a time people!

My approach is to work at learning one social media platform at a time while asking myself “is this something I will enjoy; does it fit in with my target audience; and is this something I can/want to maintain with my already full schedule?” Most importantly, I do not start playing around with something else until I feel like I have mastered the one in front of me (no matter how shiny, change-my-world, must-have-immediately, everyone-is-doing-it, you-are-missing-the-boat, easy it sounds). One thing at a time people!

Learning a new social media platform

In learning a new social media platform, I research it like you would a new man you are dating or a new story world you are building. I scour the Internet, read every FAQs and all the help files (if there are any), search for and watch dozens of tutorials, and read tons of blog posts etc. I sign up for an account and start clicking every button, link and file to see what does what. You can’t be shy here. You gotta jump right in with both feet and take an assertive role in your learning. You can’t let the fear of making a mistake stop you from clicking every little button and playing around. Go wild. Go nuts. See what this platform is all about, what it can do, how it could potentially work for you. My experience is the more I learn on my own by playing around, the more I retain.

Is it for you?

Once I feel like I’ve mastered it (and seriously, don’t cheat yourself here), I ask myself objectively if I think this is something I enjoy, feel is useful in my overall objectives, and want to continue. If not, I let it go and move on. If times change and said platform grows in much greater popularity, I can always revisit it knowing I will have an easier time picking it up again. Time invested in learning is NEVER wasted!

Because trust me on this, as you learn different social media platforms, you start to become more comfortable and adept at trying new things with a greater understanding of how most Web-based platforms operate. This means that the learning curve gets smaller and smaller with time. Groovy!

A few of my current social media favs!

Facebook (author page vs personal page): My personal Facebook page is for people I feel I am friends with. I don’t mind them seeing my Dominican bikini pictures, my crazy status updates, or my personal pains. They know when I am home sick fighting the flu or having a tough day at work. My author page (which I will start someday soon), will be for author-only stuff; fun status updates to keep readers engaged about books, upcoming promos, blog posts etc. I will want my reading fans (who are essentially strangers) to go there as opposed to my personal Facebook account where I am not likely to accept a friend request from a stranger. So yes, I see the usefulness of having two Facebook accounts.

Blogging: I think everyone can agree that as a writer, having a blog is pretty much a must. For the first year that I blogged, I flailed around terribly. I posted without consistency in my schedule or my content. Readers would have had no idea what to expect from me day to day. How would I build a steady, loyal following with that? Think clothing store. If I went into a clothing store that one week featured high-end women’s fashion, the next week pre-teen clothing, and the next week men’s fashion, it wouldn’t be long before I’d outright avoid the store. Same with a scattered brain blog!

So, I took Kristen’s course and applied her concepts like the gospel. I implemented her technical suggestions: my own name blog URL, coordinating email and Twitter account, developed and launched a new theme and header that matched my blog voice (hire an expert if you have no graphic abilities), and ensured I had black text on white background. I implemented a consistent posting schedule (4 times a week now) and introduced theme days (which actually made finding blog content WAY easier). I think my readers now have a very good idea of exactly what to expect from me and when, which rocks. Most importantly, I embraced blogging as not only an extension of my fiction writing but fuel for it and the inspiration and fun has been exponential.

From blogging, I moved to Twitter. I signed up and started following people. I started following hashtags like #mywana #row80 and my #wana711 crew. I try to keep Kristen’s 1/3 rule in mind (1/3 tweets are information you are pushing out, 1/3 of tweets are RTs of other people’s important stuff, and 1/3 of tweets are conversational/connection). I sometimes struggle with the balance but I strive towards it.

TweetDeck: TweetDeck is an application I use to manage and streamline my Twitter account (a lot of people also use Hootsuite). I installed it and went on a watch-a-million tutorials mode. I also started playing around with it clicking buttons. My natural curiosity of “I wonder what this does…” really helps! Using TweetDeck, I now have all my important hashtags of interest in columns so they are easy to follow. That way I can jump in on conversations in real time. My @mentions and DMs (direct messages) are each in their own column so I never miss a beat when someone’s trying to connect with me or when someone’s talking about me. Just recently I learned I can connect my Facebook and other social media platforms into my TweetDeck so I’ll be learning about that next.

A few months ago, Jenny Hansen introduced me to Triberr. I gotta say, at first, I was skeptical because the learning curve to Triberr seemed a little extensive. It’s works with a different lingo and I believe when I first joined the developers were still tweaking the application so it didn’t always function properly. That being said, Triberr is a wonderful tool that helps me streamline the promotion of bloggers I love across all social media platforms from ONE PLACE. Imagine?!?! I will say the Triberr FAQs suck hard so I rely heavily on YouTube tutorials, blog posts, google, and just playing around to master this beast. I am still learning but I am totally pumped for what I think it will do for me. My next step with Triberr is to create a couple new tribes.

Next on my social media must-learn list is: stumbleupon (I have an account but I am under utilizing it) pinterest, goodreads, and google+. I also have to learn more about Klout and google analytics.

Well, that’s my approach to social media and how I use a few tools right now. I hope if anything, this post has helped ease the pressure you might have put on yourself to learn too many things at once time. And if it’s inspired you to venture outside your comfort zone to check out some new tools, then that’s just gravy!

Thank you again for having me Elena! It’s been fun wreaking havoc all over your blog digs!

Social media can be extremely overwhelming; what is your approach to managing it? What tools do you use and what do you find the most effective in meeting your objectives?**

_________________

Thank you for swinging by my blog and sharing your experience with my readers, Natalie. I know when I got started in this big crazy world of social media, it was VERY intimidating! You break it down nicely AND I love your advice of mastering one thing before you move onto another.  Also, I think we share the same ‘freaky technology’ gene. DH also swears I have a weird electro magnetic field…eerie.

If you want more of Natalie:

Visit her at: http://nataliehartford.com
Talk to me at: natalie@nataliehartford.com
Follow me on twitter at: @NatalieHartford

**(If your comment does show up right away, I swear I’m not ignoring you, I’m totally offline.)

51 thoughts on “Managing the Social Media Beast with Natalie Hartford

  1. Pingback: Mastering social media madness – Natalie Hartford

  2. Great post, Natalie! I have been struggleing with feeling overwhelmed myself. I blog and use Facebook, Twitter, and Google +. I am finding I prefer FB and Twitter, and right now I just use G+ to promote my blog because some people (gasp!) are not on FB or Twitter. And all three of them are on G+. I have been hearing a lot about Pinterest lately and it seems super fun. But I am sure it would put me over the edge right now. So I am leaving it for later. Maybe when the book I’m writing is finished and I have moved. Then a small space on my full plate might open up. StumbleUpon? I have no idea what that is. I’m not even going to start to wonder, yet.

  3. Great advice. Since I’m also tech challenged, I feel so intimidated by the social connections, but I do blog, facebook and twitter even though with twitter I’m not sure what the heck I’m doing.

  4. Natalie, this is all excellent advice and laid out in such an organized fashion. You have been such a great help to a lot of us working our way through Triberr! Thanks to you and Elena for today’s post. (Elena, I’m feeling that sun, sea and sand you must be looooving! Happy vacay!)

  5. Great post, Natalie! I love your approach to learning social media. Facebook is one thing I always question. My writing and personal stuff are merged, but I also have an author page. I just have no idea how to grow it, lol.

    Goodreads is something I want to tackle next, as well as Book Blogs. I’m still trying to figure out how to use them effectively, although I suspect it comes back down to Kristen’s rule of 1/3rd. It probably applies to all platforms.

    Thanks for sharing your approach!

  6. So many people write about managing social media, me included, but you took a look at it from a brand new angle, Natalie!
    Great advice on taking one ting at a time and only doing something you enjoy and will stick with!
    Hey, Elena, Natalie’s got you covered! She’s doing an awesome job today!

  7. Woo-hoo, Natalie! Way to rock the guest post! All very common-sense, low-key tips. I have to say, though, that it’s not always an easy matter to just google a tech question. If you run into a problem with your blog or something else, it can sometimes be very hard to find an understandable answer. I have a devil of a time sometimes with wordpress stuff, for example. I’m here right now instead of writing tomorrow’s post because wordpress is acting up (I would have gotten here later, though, LOL).

    Enjoy the Rum Swizzles, Elena!

  8. Mmm… Sip some of that rum with glee for us Elena!

    Such a fantastic post, Natalie. Social media can be so overwhelming! Posts like this would make for a great introductory manual. ;) I’m curious about TweetDeck. I installed it on my laptop and the darn thing drove me NUTS. Do you leave it on all the time or just sign in when you want to Tweet/chat? Highly likely I was doing something wrong. LOL

    I find that setting aside time to focus on social media to be extremely helpful. When my creative brain is most sharp, I generally focus on my novel…pending other deadlines. I also keep my notifications on silent on my cell, and use downtime, such as sitting outside doc offices, to catch up on Tweets, blogs, etc. Short bursts of blogging/Tweeting/Facebook time is fun—like hanging out with pals. Love it. And you’re one of my favorite buddies!

    • Thank you August!! :-)
      TweetDeck, I have it open all day/evening. When I sign-on, I basically launch my email, Internet and TweetDeck. I am not “on” it all the time but anytime something comes in my @mentions or DMs, I catch it. And I see occasional tweet go by that interest me so I check em’ out. It did feel overwhelming at first but once I got my columns up and in the order of importance to me, I’ve loved it. Way easier for reading AND tweeting.
      I’ve been toying around with the idea of only allotting so much time for social media in the evening especially. Sometimes, an entire evening can get swallowed up so a time limit would definitely help. And short bursts are ideal for SM!
      Awwwww…you are one of my fav buds as well!! Muah!

  9. Great post, Natalie! You know I consider you to be a blogging queen. :-)

    For social media, I like your learn one thing at a time approach. I’m more of a check it all out, dabble, then come back type. I like to read (but of course) about all the different programs, watch how others are using them, sign up, read some more, then start playing with it. Sometimes I’m dragged screaming towards something (hello Twitter) and end up loving it. I also think certain platforms are good for certain things. I like that I don’t have to be repetitive and post all the same stuff on Twitter as I do on FB. My next get back to it areas are Goodreads and Google +.

    • Awwww…thank you Barbara! :-)
      It sounds like you’ve got a great approach and attitude towards social media which is definitely half the battle. Keep me posted on how you like Goodreads and Google+.

  10. Oh my sweet Natalie! I so needed this reminder today. Being in editing hell all week, I’ve completely stressed myself out over reading/commenting/RTing enough for my friends. I forget that I need to take a break and just breathe.

    August – I LOVE tweetdeck. I keep it open all the time and pop in and out all day checking DMs, messages meant for me, but public (as opposed to DMs), and what I tweeted (because my brain is a sieve and I forget).

    I am also totally in love with Pinterest right now. I’m sure I’m underutiliziing it, but when I saw Jillian Dodd had a pin board for That Wedding, I was hooked. I’ve got fun boards for gardening stuff, etc, but then I have a storyboard for my book. It’s great fun to surf the net and find cool pics to pin. I think of that as fun time, not work.

    Also, I have only one FB account. Loooong ago when I first started FB I friended tons of authors and always saw it as persona/business for me. I don’t post anything negative or snarky and I keep the bikini photos locked in a safe somewhere offshore. No One needs to see those.

    Love, love, love your idea that you should learn only one thing at a time and move one only once you feel comfortable with it. When Jenny hooked me into Triberr, I was terrified, but one day I set aside some time and watched a few tutorials on it. It’s so easy! I felt dumb for putting it off for so long.

    Now, can we please bedazzle Elena’s blog?

  11. Hi Natalie,

    Great post. I primarily use Twitter, my blog, and Facebook. I have accounts on other platforms, but just haven’t had the time to really learn them yet. And Triberr is still giving me fits :)

    • Great job Traci. Take your time and go at your own pace and it’ll be a much nicer experience. I hear you on Triberr. But trust me when I say it’ll be worth it once you work through the learning curve. But I hear you on the fits! :-)

  12. Hmm? Where have I seen that picture before? lol :)

    You do make a fantastic guest poster Natalie!

    Okay, I think I’m a scatterbrain blogger. But then I’m blonde and a scatterbrain in real life!

    I get bored Real easy, so I’m trying to blog about universal topics on everyday life since that is what I’m writing about in my novels. It’s not in my manner to write about myself. My life isn’t all that interesting. Really. So I hope I’m not driving everybody crazy. Although I think I did write about something this week that people aren’t very comfortable talking about. Whoops. But It was about real life with an inspiring ending. Oh well.

    I do appreciate how you broke all this SM stuff down. I get soo overwhelmed about all of this. But I’m new so it’s just going to take some time to get it together. I do appreciate all your support Natalie. I’m kinda lost in the sea of people and you’ve been like a life preserver to me. Thank you so much! :)

    • I just commented on Jenny Hansen’s blog yesterday that I find it helpful to look at my blog as one of my BFFs. We are just sitting around, having coffee and a FAB chat. When I talk to her, I am not worried about what other people think – I’m just me talking about the weather, the world, relationships, embarrassing moments. Whatever.
      So I love your blog and talking about universal topics that interest you because in that way, you show us and share with us who you are!!! You aren’t driving anyone crazy…just have fun and keep writing what you enjoy writing and we all feel it and have a blast with you!
      Awwwww…it’s my pleasure Karen!! You rock!!!

      • And I so loooooved that comment, Nat! I agree. Now, I’m gonna blogjack this post’s comments a little because I have some links that might help with a lot of these Q’s for y’all. I feel bad I’m coming late to the party on this one, so hopefully people will come back to see the links…

  13. Natalie, I had two Facebok pages. Like you, one was for personal friends and family and the other was a page for readers and strangers to ‘like’. I began using my personal page less and less and decided a month or so ago to change it for ‘work’ too. Now people have a choice whether to like me or be my friend.

    I love twitter and hate people who either don’t converse with others and just retweet everything. Those people I don’t follow back.

    Blogging is becoming a passion of mine. Like you, Kristen urged me from blogger to wordpress and encouraged me to blog. My problem is I try to blog three times a week, but sometimes, like this week, time (and kids, family, cleaning, writing), gets in the way.

    Triberr – I was invited this week, joined, and have been confused ever since. When I have a spare couple of hours I will read Jenny’s post on it.

    Anything else, I just don’t have the time.

    This was a great post. Thanks so much. xxx

    • Ahhhh…I can definitely see that happening with Facebook Donna. Absolutely. I say that I’ll have an author page but it’ll be interesting to see how I’ll manage two accounts and if that will work for me. I definitely see the streamline worthiness of managing only one.
      I hear you on finding the balance. Blogging, writing, family, fun…it’s hard to manage it all. I do find that having a slew of posts written and ready helps. And I try to keep that stock filled for busier weeks but it’s hard to fit it all in. I was just saying to someone the other day, that some weeks are hit and some weeks are miss but if we look at our life balance over a 6 month period, we’d probably find we are doing just fahhhbulous! Don’t worry – do the best you can and enjoy that as being just perfect! Your fans/readers will understand always…
      Triberr…be patient when you embark into learning it. I suggest going on YouTube and watching some tutorials so you can see what it’ll look like. Once you get the hand of it, you’ll love it! :-)
      My pleasure!! xxxx

  14. Hola Natalie!

    I think it’s important to “master” the SM beast now… because once you’re published, you’ll already have a platform/brand and that will be one less thing to worry about when your time gets eaten up with writing the next book and promoting your first.

    When I joined the Romance U staff, I knew nothing about blogging. Learning the tech aspects freaked me out and coming up with worthwhile content for the blog made me really anxious. Searching for good content is still a challenge, but I think it should be.

    I feel so fortunate to have met all of you in Kristen’s class. It’s great to have you guys along for the ride!

    • HOLA!!! :-)
      I couldn’t agree more Jennifer!!! A SM platform will only get more and more important in the publishing world, for sure.
      Yes, content can always be a challenge but it’s a fun one. And when we hit on the great topic and have a blast writing it, it just reaffirms why we are there! :-)
      I feel so blessed as well!!! :-)

  15. Hiya Natalie (and Elena on the beach somewhere)

    Reading along your comments I was nodding until you wrote that your blog as black type on white and I thought nuh-uh Natalie’s blog type is pink. So I clicked over there real fast and guess what, you’re right it is black! All this time I thought it was pink, but just your headlines are pink. I have even thought – Natalie’s blog is written in pink and it’s still easy to read. ROFL.

    And want to add my thanks for all the triberr info too. Your links helped me soooo much. I like to get in and start clicking on things too.

    Great post, Natalie. Hope the vacation is excellent, Elena!

    • GIRL, that is such a FAHHHBULOUS compliment because that tells me my “feel” and “tone” is coming through in how you experience my blog. LOL!! I wanted sooo badly to put the font in pink but I knew it’d make it a disaster to try and read. But the fact that you “feel” like it’s pink just ROCKS my world!! LOVE IT!! :-)
      I am thrilled y’all are on triberr and learning. I know it’s rough to learn new stuff but you guys are all doing amazing. Embracing new technology and jumping right in there. It’s fantastic!
      Honestly, you’ve all be so supportive of me and helped me soooo much this past year that I am just blown away with how blessed I feel.
      HUGS!!

  16. Like you, I use the one thing at a time approach. Like you, I learned this from Queen Kristen. She is the queen of social media, right? LOL

    I just have the one Facebook account. I don’t really interact personally on Facebook, so I am now wondering if I need the author page. Hmmm. Thanks for the rundown in difference between these two. :D

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Catie – definitely learned everything from Queen Kristen. :-)
      Hmmmm…I think if you are already using your Facebook account in more of your author/professional capacity, then that’s perfect. I would want two for myself right now but only because I have soooo much personal stuff on my account that I wouldn’t want to share with strangers. But you sound in the perfect position to just keep and maintain one account so rock on! :-)

  17. Great post, Natalie! I echo Jennifer’s comment about getting this social media thing down now, before any novels hit the shelves, ebook or otherwise. It is time consuming, but can be a lot of fun, too. I’m still learning the ins and outs of a lot of this in my spare time. It’s slow going, but I’m getting there.

    Elena, I hope you are enjoying yourself! Take it easy and don’t worry about a thing! We’ve got your back! *waves*

    • Slow and steady wins the race Diana! And you know, you said a very important point “but it can be a lot of fun too”! Life is too short to not being trying to have fun at every turn and in everything we do. SM can be overwhelming and tough…but a good attitude and a commitment to having fun while learning can make the world of difference!!
      Woot woot!!

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  19. Another trick for Twitter is to set it as a text message. I have NO idea how to do this (the super fabulous Jenny Hansen did it for me).

    All the Tweets that come in with an @tamerietherton on them go to my texts and I can scan them quickly to see if I need to reply right away. That’s easier than firing up Tweetdeck on my phone.

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