IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a pretty long blog post, so if you get tired of reading at any point, no worries…
Personal branding on social media can be a struggle. Honestly, it didn't come naturally to me at first.
Perhaps you’ve suffered from thinking “Who cares what I had for breakfast?” – or maybe you’ve just wanted to retain a sense of privacy and not share the small details of your life with the world.
Both certainly make plenty of sense, but if your goal is to leverage the power of the internet to help you build your fan base, increase exposure, and grow your income… then you have to learn how to make social media work for you in spite of your concerns.
You’ll notice that I didn’t tell you to get over it. But in an age where networking (both business and personal) has moved online, you simply cannot ignore that, without opening yourself up a bit on social media, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.
Now, to be clear, you don’t need to morph yourself into the next reality television star. But in this post, I am going to teach you how to put yourself out there as a REAL person – and if you already have a certain amount of celebrity, then you might actually end up feeling a sense of relief that your posts are no more glamorous or exclusive than the average Joe.
Look, in social media, the playing field has been leveled. There are normal people who have huge followings and become celebrities based on their internet activities. And, at the same time, there are celebrities who get online and don’t have a clue how to garner a following without the help of a professional publicist.
Social media is the height of personalization – and that comes from one person – you.
Let’s take a very real example of how this works…
Not long before writing this post, I learned about a fellow online marketer who had with a major rock star. This celebrity, who will remain anonymous for this story, has seen a lot of success, has a rabid fan base, and has sold out tons of tours… but he has a mere 192,000 fans on his Facebook page (which is a pretty low number for a celebrity of his status).
His posts on Facebook get a couple of hundred Likes, but nothing compared to his band mate’s 1.3 million followers and tens of thousands of Likes per post.
It’s a shame because he’s the lead singer – he should have no problem drumming up comparable numbers, but sadly, he hasn’t grasped what social networking is all about.
His posts are infrequent, impersonal for the most part, and sometimes even pathetic when he begs for people to Like and share his page. Nobody of that caliber of interest should be asking for a fan base.
It turns out that there’s a reason behind his lack social success. What my fellow online marketer uncovered was that this celebrity had been getting professional guidance to be “relatable” and “relevant.” Great advice, but he was never given any clear examples of how to do it… so it’s no wonder he was flailing
Once he was armed with some specific clues about how “see” the possibilities for his social posts, things started to improve. He removed the post that made him look bad, and started to develop real engagement form his audience of fans.
As you can see from this story, simply having a social presence isn’t enough. It’s how you use it that matters.
(NOTE: If you'd like even more amazing training on how to use Social Media in your business, you might want to consider joining my DIY Digital Membership Program)
That’s what we’re about to cover, as we explore 25 specific ways to post meaningful and engaging content on social media.
A Few Important Notes:
You’ll notice that nothing on this list is about promoting or selling. It’s all about being social. That doesn’t mean you can’t be promotional on social media – but you do need to make sure you have a healthy balance of personalization and promotion or you risk losing your fans before they can build trust with you.
Next, this strategy won’t work if you only post once every three weeks. People need to hear from you frequently so that you begin to put them in the habit of checking in with your pages and social accounts online.
Finally, this isn’t something someone else can do for you. You have a unique voice and style and if your fans know what that is and suddenly there’s someone else trying to connect to them, they’ll smell a rat.
Okay… ready to get started?
1. The TBT Post
TBT stands for Throw Back Thursday. These posts on social media are done weekly and are a chance for you to showcase yourself at a different point in time.
From birth to last week, a throw back Thursday post is a fun way to let people see who you used to be. It can reflect youth, family, friendships, old interests – and more.
I’m starting with TBT, because it’s a specific schedule (every Thursday) and it’s easy – just pick an image from your past and tell people about it.
Respond to or Like every comment people make on your post. Of course, as your page or fan numbers grow, staying on top of every new comment might not be possible… but while it’s growing, go for it. Comment when you want to and Like people’s contributions.
By the way, Throw Back Thursday posts don’t have to always be about you. In fact, they don’t have to be about you at all. They can be anything from another time – something you are longing for (like a speech from a politician in a bygone era), some family members you miss (like your grandmother and grandfather), or anything old fashioned that you happen to be missing that Thursday.
(BONUS SUGGESTION: If you are going to create a regular TBT post, be sure to use the #tbt hashtag on social networks like Twitter and Instagram)
Whether you are a parent or not, you can share pictures of your kids or others – including cute baby pics that are viral online with cute captions. Now, while I do share pictures of my daughter and some of the fun family activities we engage in, I don’t exploit her cuteness specifically for business purposes.
Yup… that’s right, people LOVE pet photos. In fact, pictures of cats are still among the top shared images. So, if you have any fur babies, or collect images of them, they’ll certainly get a lot of engagement on social media. Marketer Barb Ling always posts pics of her dogs (which she calls her mooses) as well as pictures of her little birds, Hacker and Tech Support. (Great names, right?)
With pets, they make great pictures. They have “looks” and habits you can post about. Even if they’re not your pet, you can post or share other peoples’ animals if you have a friend or relative whose pet you can snap a quick picture of.
It’s just a brief split second that helps you connect with someone or make them smile.
Hobbies can be anything from cooking to gardening, playing music, or even travel. We all have our hobbies and our passions. If you are involved in an activity, simply take a moment to stop and snap a picture of what’s going on and then post about it – a question, a comment, a frustration – whatever you want – share it with your audience.
This is a biggie. People post food shots of what they’re cooking, what recipes they want to make, and meals whenever they eat out. And it doesn’t have to be a fancy meal, either.
There are plenty of “burger and fries” images making their way around the Internet! Everyone can relate to food. We all have to eat. What happens when you post a picture of food is people will comment about it and ask for the recipe, share a recipe, and more!
People share a lot when you post about food. It doesn’t matter what professional niche you’re in. We all eat, and it’s a topic nearly every cares or thinks about.
Now drinks convey a different kind of camaraderie. In my neck of the woods, we have people who are passionate (that word is probably not string enough) about every kind of drink you could think of – coffee, tea, chai tea, beer, wine, distilled spirits, kombucha (okay, the list could go on and on, but I’ll stop).
Coffee, for example, is a BIG shareable post. There’s a whole culture of people who “must have coffee” every morning, and some people routinely post pics of their coffee – nothing fancy – and share the mug they’re drinking out of.
A shot of your drink out at a restaurant is nice – they usually look better than we make them at home. Here’s one of my drink shares – in a special mug my audience can relate to:
7. House and Décor
Anything in or around your house (or someone else’s) that you can post about can bring good socialization. There’s a celebrity who posted a shot of a small corner table with some personal items on top of it.
He had a handmade box his father-in-law made for him to keep his vinyl records in, a little decorative box another rock star gave him, and a lamp. It’s not that anything in it was overly awe inspiring, but it made you feel like you were there listening to a friend share something special.
You can share things like you’re your favorite armchair, the view outside, a piece of art, etc. Here’s a shot I once shared of the botanical collage my wife gave me as a wedding present:
What are you out doing? It could be seeing a movie, taking a hike, visiting a landmark – just about anything. Activities make good, shareable content because others might have similar interests – or simply might like to cheer you on in yours.
Some things you can’t easily share right away, like if you are on vacation (that might tip thieves off that you aren’t home). But you can always post those photos after you get back.
It doesn’t have to be going out anywhere, either. Marketer Brad Gosse once posted something on Facebook sharing his New Year’s Eve activity: a picture of his legs extending out of his chair, while watching TV.
Guess what happened… His audience started posting their own pictures of them doing the very same thing. A string of leg selfies in front of the TV. Just a little bonding moment for the people who chose not to go out that night.
It was cool! People not only shared their leg selfies in front of the TV, but they also started commentary about what he was watching and what they were watching.
Don’t be afraid to be silly and ridiculous!
And remember, these pictures don’t have to have you in them. You can share a picture of the activity – a rollercoaster at an amusement park, for instance.
People post pictures of themselves with their significant others, their old high school friends at reunions, fellow marketers, famous people, and more.
Have fun with your photos – perhaps with a little Photoshopping (actually, I use YouZign, which is a lot easier than Photoshop) or a shot of you photobombing a celebrity or in front of a famous location.
Selfies are something I’m capable of, because I don’t have to ask anyone else’s permission. And yes, it’s sometimes hard if you’re having a self conscious day… but do it anyway.
You can do selfies at home, with a pet, while you’re out and about. There’s a great marketer, Brian G. Johnson, whose selfies are just hilarious – he does them with quotes and puts them on Facebook to inspire others and remind us to have fun in life while striving for success.
Trivial things – small shares of everyday stuff – help your audience bond with you.
11. Inspiring or Thought-Provoking Quotes
This is a GREAT one – especially for anyone who’s nervous about social sharing. For this type of post, all you are doing is sharing someone else’s quote, so you can add a pic of yourself – or not! Either way, it allows your audience to see what kinds of things resonate with you so they can either bond with you or weed themselves out.
Now to do this, there are all sorts of tools out there. On my iPhone, I use WordSwag. On my computer, I use ShareAsImage. And there are dozens upon dozens of other options out there too.
You can also find existing memes online and share those, but traditionally, it will have someone else’s blog URL in the image – and that’s fine to me for this purpose, but sometimes, you’ll want your own URL on there.
In his book Social Poetry, Joel Comm shared a bunch of his favorite quote memes. Some had him in the picture, and some didn’t. It’s a great read!
Sometimes, I’ll simply post a quote. Sometimes I’ll post a long almost blog-length commentary with it. Here’s an example from a marketer who did this same type of post:
Notice that she asked a question at the end of her post. Now, let me show you the engagement that post generated:
By the way, if you want to see who shared your post or what they said, you just click on the share link and it will show you. If you’re short on time, post a simple quote with your blog URL.
It may not get as much engagement – 25 Likes and a comment – but it’s branding and bonding, all the same. When you post longer, more thoughtful items, people take time to respond in kind.
Health posts are personal. Not everyone wants to share this kind of stuff. But for those who can and want to, go for it. Not only does it help people relate to you, but they can be very helpful.
Maybe you’ve got a question, and want to see if anyone out there online has had a similar experience or can offer advice. It’s a great way to engage – especially on health topics that aren’t too personal, like colds or bug bites.
Obviously, some things are serious, and some not so serious. You might have a headache that won’t go away – and someone can provide a tip that helps. But even more serious health issues, like someone battling cancer, can be a topic for social media – as long as that person is on board with the idea – social media can be a great way to get a network of friends to show their support.
Your post doesn’t have to be of you. It can be of Nyquil or the thermometer… or even your Fitbit stats or your treadmill dashboard.
There’s no need to drag out every detail of your health woes or successes. You can be broad and general… like making the choice to give up sugar or chronicling your daily runs.
There’s a guy on Instagram who posts pictures of his Converse shoe collection. In each post, he shares a little bit about the shoes or tells a story about what he did while wearing them. Now, you may not be into shoes or Converse, but isn’t that a great way to engage people who share that interest?
Collections are, obviously, things you collect – and that could be 3 items or 3,000 of them. Your collection could be books, clothes, wine bottles, or anything you enjoy. Here’s an example of a collection post:
Your post could get shared by others who ask their audience the same question. Something like, “What do you collect?” and then the engagement carries on further.
People love clothes and accessories. If you’ve ever browsed Pinterest, you’ve seen how popular they are.
You might post pictures of a funny t-shirt, a tie, a hat, something worn but much loved, something new, and so on. The picture of clothing you post doesn’t even have to be something you own. You might be out shopping and see something funny or cute. Snap a picture and post about it!
15. Music, Books, Movies, and TV
This is a great share on social networking sites. People who are fans of similar things love commenting about it. You might share a celebrity picture or meme, make a comment about an episode you just watched – but always remember not to aggravate your audience by posting spoilers.
If you are commenting about a character that just got killed off, for instance, put SPOILER at the beginning of the post so people know to avoid it if they haven’t seen it yet.
Sometimes you just mention something you see in connection to a movie, book, or TV show. You can also post a quote from a show or book. Quotes from characters don’t always have to be motivational. You can ignite a discussion from any starting point.
16. Unwind and Relaxation
Personal development, meditation, and self-care shots always go over big. Again, you don’t need to be the one in the image. It can be a picture of a spa you are visiting (or one you’d like to visit), the water, the nail polish you’re about to use – anything soothing.
Some people tie this in to their alcohol, like a nightcap or glass of wine by the fire. There are a lot of leg selfies posted by swimming pools.
Don’t be afraid to post something that reflects YOU. Whether or not that means you offend a couple of people with your preferences.
Your goal with social media isn’t to falsely keep everyone subscribed to you. You want to attract people who either agree with you, or can handle your differences. There are some people who post some things that are totally the opposite of what I believe – and that’s okay.
But I still follow them – because there’s a reason I started following them – and I focus on those things and ignore the stuff I dislike.
17. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (or Boats!)
Many people post selfies or pics of them on planes or in taxis, on trains, boats or more. If you buy a new car, post about it! You’re sure to have followers who are car enthusiasts who would love to hear about your purchase.
Joel Comm bought a new Mustang that shines an image of the horse onto the ground when you unlock the doors. After he posted about it, one of his readers mailed him a 1966 keychain to go with his car.
Barb Ling, who is hilarious, posted about a new car she bought… and the very next day she posted that she accidentally bought the wrong car and had to go back for a second round of negotiations to trade it for the right one.
You don’t have to buy something new. You might post a picture of your dashboard showing what song is playing. People love discussing music! Or post a pic of the temperature listed on your dashboard and talk about how cold (or hot, or perfect) it is.
18. Sports Fans
Many people are rabid over sports, athletes, and games. So if you’re into watching sports OR playing them, post about them periodically. You might take a pic of you wearing a jersey, or even lay the jersey on your bed and snap a pic of it before you put it on (if you’re shy).
Look around at your friends’ social profiles and see what kinds of sports posts they’re doing, and what gets interaction. Here’s a pumpkin carved for Halloween that has a sports theme:
Holidays are lots of fun to post on social networking sites about. Depending on where you are in the world, lots of other people are likely observing or celebrating the same holiday as you. It doesn’t matter what religion you are or how you celebrate, people love sharing holiday stuff!
Think of all holidays where you might post something with a picture, like flowers on Mother’s Day, a Christmas tree, Easter Egg hunting, and more. I know one marketer who will find a great holiday image on Pinterest, and then try to recreate that same image herself… she then posts them side by side. She calls her Pinterest board “Pinterest Fails.”
Weather related posts get interaction. Just like food, weather is something we can all relate to. Your weather could be sweltering, icy, or sublime, and, no matter what… you can post about it and see engagement soar. Many times this will mean posting a landscape shot of some sort, like the mountains or even a beautiful sunset.
You could share pictures of the aftermath of a tornado on your street or the floods from rain. Share a beautiful sunset, or a rainy video if there’s a nice thunderstorm.
You might get out in your car and drive to a beautiful spot one day to snap a picture or two. In our area, there are tons of gorgeous waterfalls… after all, water pictures are always great to share.
It can be a close-up picture of a droplet of rain on a leaf after a light shower. A rainbow in the sky. A beam of light hitting the floor that your cat has curled up in – anything to reflect warmth, cold… or just show off the wonders of nature.
21. Local Places
No matter where you live, there’s a place or a story behind a place worth sharing with others. Your favorite spot to hang out, the bakery with the yummiest chocolate croissants, the place where they are pouring that super-limited micro brew. Hop in your car or go for a walk and start looking for things to share.
Anywhere tourists go (or places that you want others to know about), snap a picture and say something about it. It’s almost like sending a postcard to a friend when you grab a piece of local flavor and share it with others.
New TVs, computers, iPhones – anything technology has in store for us makes for a good social share.
Whenever you buy something new or see something for sale in a store, ask yourself if it would fall under any of these categories and how could you position it to share with someone else. Don’t worry about anything thinking it’s not important. There’s always someone out there who will care.
23. Funny Things, Memes, and Cartoons
This is the category where everything that makes you giggle is placed. It can be anything – things you find online, things you laugh about offline – whatever puts a smile on people’s faces is good social sharing and personalization.
My friend and fellow marketer, Brian Basilico, posts a daily photo caption contest. Here's an example:
As you can imagine, Brian gets tons of engagement.
Think of humor this way – it’s one of the top responses (if not THE top response) people give when they ask what they’re looking for in a relationship. “Someone who can make me laugh.”
You’re not dating in this case, but it’s still what attracts people to you – a good sense of humor.
Listen, social sharing isn’t difficult. The most difficult thing won’t be finding things to share or the technical aspect of putting it online.
It will simply be – your mind.
Don’t let it engage you in a battle of self consciousness. Just put it on ignore and post stuff anyway!
You can post 100% pure niche facts all day and night, and not one person is going to feel a bond with you where they instinctively trust your advice.
They have to see you be humanized, and in order to do that, you have to open up a bit.
As you’ve seen in these examples, there are many, many ways to share without putting your face in the image. And there are dozens of ways to share stuff that isn't about you in a personal way.
What I mean by that is, you’re sharing things about a local beautiful spot, but it’s not about you – it’s about the spot. You've just shared your opinion on the spot. So you’re still opening up to your audience because through your opinions, they get to see what kind of person you are and what your likes and dislikes are.
This is one of those exercises where, in order to brand in this day and age, you must force yourself to get comfortable with it.
That requires doing it, more and more often.
As you do it and the novelty wears off, it’s no longer a big deal – AND – you’re able to instantly have an “eye” for anything shareable without having to literally sit and think and struggle about it.
This is a new way of advertising.
A new way of branding yourself that wasn’t a factor in the past.
If possible, utilize multi media formats like text, audio, video, and images. Don’t think this has to be a major movie production. just whip out your iPhone, record, upload ,and share.
I hope this has given you some ideas on socialization with personalization online! Put them to the test and ramp up the efforts that go over well.