10 Tips We've Learned About Social Media from St. Louis Design Week

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

Love it or hate it, selfies or self-promotion, social media isn’t just what the young kids are doing: It’s here to stay. And if one is in any sort of creative field, doing any sort of creative project—or just doing your thing with more to contribute than a tweet announcing that you raked leaves today—then it behooves one to learn to wield the mysterious powers of social media for good. ALIVE went to a few St. Louis Design Week events this week, and this is what we’ve learned about it …



1/ If you’re an introvert, social media can help. It’s like talking with people but also not, which means that you can form strong social media relationships with cool people, then have a solid baseline for when you finally meet in person, says digital marketer, social maven and introvert Jenn Cloud at Monday’s social media panel. This means that you can skip straight to, “So what’s next for that big project?” instead of “What high school did you go to?” when you finally cross paths with that cool creative.

2/ Know what you want out of social media before you dive in. In this crazy virtual world, it’s best to have a strategy, suggests freelance photographer Corey Woodruff at the same panel (and let’s be real: Twitter can be intimidating if you don’t have a game plan). As a freelance photographer, he has a specific goal in mind for social: “I am my own brand,” he says. “My goal is to get in front of someone. My end goal is something cool happening.”

3/ “Be your own curator,” says Woodruff. Twitter is so easy to get overwhelmed by. Following one person is so easy, and then another and another and then you suddenly have 2,000 followees’ tweets rushing by you, which totally defeats its purpose. No. 2 comes in here a bit, too: Tailor who you follow to what you want to get out of the medium, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, do a little housecleaning to get back to the basics—and then be choosy. “Throw your net out and see what you’re going to catch,” Woodruff says. What does that look like, and how does that enhance your social media goals?

4/ Go easy on the #hashtags. They #connect, but they also #clutter. “Hashtag topically,” says Woodruff, whose rule is “no more than 10.”

5/ It’s OK to take a stance, express your opinion or get a bit sweary—if that’s true to who you are. There’s a lot of “living authentically” talk and modeling in social media that can easily get conflated with presenting a picture-perfect life of artisan jams and socially conscious scones. To present a bit of imperfectness is to show humanity and, most importantly, relevance to your readers. Cloud said she “was 100-percent-everything-is-great-everything-is-perfect,” but because life isn’t actually like that, she’s now “experimenting with swearing” from a creative perspective and putting her real opinions out there. And yes, she says, it is scary. But if it’s true to her, that’s authentic.

Woodruff adds that people can “treat Facebook like a highlight reel” (maybe all the more so because of the “Timeline” aspect of posting). But “when you take a second to be genuine, it makes people take a moment,” he says, adding that at those moments, it doesn’t sound like you’re giving them something that’s not prepackaged or selling them something (even when that something is an idealized version of yourself). “Authenticity is huge,” he says.

Sometimes this can work for businesses. Randy Vines of STL-Style/STyLehouse says that if he or his brother/business partner, Jeff, have a stance, they don’t shy away from it. “We’ll lose some followers, but gain others,” Randy says. And those are the people who relate closest to your brand.

6/ Small businesses: You cannot ignore the powers of social mediaWith social media, says Randy, “you get to know us, what makes us tick. You can’t do that with a 1/16-page ad.” People want to connect with brands now that speak to them. This is how you do it.

7/ Your Instagram game is only as strong as your caption game. Clever and concise trumps all, but there is also strength in silence (aka no caption). 

8/ If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything at all. Don’t tweet for the sake of tweeting. Don’t Insta a photo if your caption isn’t quite right. Woodruff admits deleting posts seconds after hitting publish because they’re just not there. Rather, do as the Vines bros do and embrace the dry spell. You’ll rebound hard and kill it on the next post. “When in doubt, take a cool pic of the city,” says Randy. 

9/ For maximum like/follow potential, time your posts. Woodruff tracks his stats using Iconosquare and says most people engage with his mid-morning, mid-afternoon and around 8pm. Cloud adds that her clients see, in general, people interacting around 9pm—likely when the little ‘uns have been wrestled into bed. “If you’re putting stuff out there, pay attention to what’s coming back and shift accordingly,” Woodruff says.

10/ No one knows what’s going on with Periscope right now.

If you’re inspired to hop on social after all this, give us a shout @ALIVEMagSTL and hashtag St. Louis Design Week at #stldw (it will not count against your total). What are your social media rules to live by?

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