What LinkedIn Content Gets the Most Engagement?

It’s almost the end of my month-long experiment of posting an update every weekday on LinkedIn.

There’s a growing spreadsheet of data ready to analyze for conclusions and implications. I’ll share them in an upcoming blog post.

In the meantime, I found an interesting data point in a book released this month.

It’s Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.

Seth got his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, worked as a data scientist at Google, and writes for the New York Times.

He makes the case that “we no longer need to rely on what people tell us” in things like surveys or social media or casual conversations.

He  provides compelling data telling the story that big datasets of how people search for information online reveals what’s really on their minds.

Seth writes about “text as data” and how sentiment analysis can identify how happy or sad a piece of content is.

He shared the most positive 3 words in the English language: happy, love and awesome. The 3 most negative? Sad, death and depression.

And what content gets shared more often? Positive or negative stories?

If you agree that “news is about conflict” – summed up by the journalistic sentiment “if it bleeds, it leads” – you might conclude that negative content gets shared more often.

But it’s actually the reverse, according to a study by professors at the Wharton School, Jonah Berger and Katherine L. Milkman. They looked at the most shared articles for the New York Times.

And what was shared the most?

Positive stories.

As the professors said, “Content is more likely to become viral the more positive it is.”

My first reaction was happiness that my “positive comments only” philosophy for social media savvy had some data supporting it.

The second reaction was to turn to my own data from this month’s LinkedIn experiment to see if it held true.

Here I’m measuring engagement by the number of views, rather than by the number of shares.

Why?

I’m fairly new to this daily posting routine, so the first change I’ve seen over the past 4 weeks is an increase in views of my content, rather than any significant shares. And I’m finding shares more challenging to measure so far.

What were my most-viewed posts?

The first 2 posts make sense to me as highly positive content. The third made me pause. On the face of it, it seems like a negative that our brains are limited in the amount of focus they can handle.

But as I thought about it and revisited the comments on the post, I realized that many people might have found this information to be happy news. In other words, it’s okay and even desirable to NOT focus your brain all the time.

How about the least-viewed posts?

The first has to do with a fabulous new book by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on what the research and practice say about bouncing back from adversity.

But since it began from Sandberg’s husband’s death, one of the saddest words in the English language, that puts the topic in the negative zone. (I still recommend reading the book, because it’s full of uplifting advice about grit and resilience.)

The second was a special report in The Economist about how “data are to this century what oil was to the last one: a driver of growth and change.” Because “change” is not something many people eagerly embrace, perhaps this story was seen as more negative than positive.

The third was a Harvard Business Review article about what distinguishes goals we achieve from those we don’t. My takeaway here? Maybe thinking about goals we haven’t achieved brings up negative thoughts.

Could other factors have impacted which posts were the most and least viewed? Perhaps. Day of the week would have been the most likely. However, the top and bottom views were each for the most part posted on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Another factor could have been posts during the beginning of my daily posting experiment vs. those closer to the end. This certainly could be a factor. Posts later in the month are getting more views in general. From the first week of May to the last, views of my posts have increased more than 6 times.

One conclusion could be that the consistency of posting daily is increasing engagement with my content. Of course, it’s still a small dataset at this point. In the months to come, I’ll continue tracking it and adjusting my strategy. (Opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

How are people engaging with your LinkedIn content? What’s attracting the most interaction?

How to Rock Your LinkedIn Activity Feed

When you scroll through your LinkedIn feed, do you have a strategy for engaging with content?

Here are a few things to think about as you bring social savvy to LinkedIn.

How is the way you like, comment on and share content strengthening your network and building on your areas of expertise?

Do you consider how this engagement shows up in your activity feed that day for people looking at your profile?

And do you think about who you’re meeting with that day or week, who you recently connected with and who you’d like to strengthen your connection with?

With those questions in mind, here are 3 easy ways to approach content engagement.

  • Like content that fits with your areas of expertise, interest and learning. Remember to look before you like, taking care to read the post and the link.

Be sure the content is aligned with your personal brand and your employer’s brand. Make sure the visuals are appropriate too.

Generally, stick with positive content. Don’t engage with negative or snarky items. Sure, you can read them to seek multiple points of view. But there isn’t much upside and there’s plenty of downside to engaging with them in a public way.

An exception to this is to provide a different point of view. Even then, however, think twice about whether it’s worth it.

Guidelines about liking content also apply to commenting on and sharing content – and with even more more rigor.

  • Comment on content where you want to further a relationship with a connection and/or share your point of view on a topic aligned with your areas of expertise, interest or learning.

Keep it brief – 3 short sentences, max. Be upbeat. Be specific. Tailor your comment to the post, rather than writing something generic.

If you liked content, consider posting a comment. Why? Comments show greater commitment than likes and give insight into your thinking on the subject.

And there’s the rule of reciprocity in play – your comments may influence others to comment more frequently on your content. And that’s what you want in social media – engagement and interaction.

  • Share content that is most closely aligned with your areas of expertise, interest or learning. This gives one of your network connections more visibility and it serves as valuable content in your activity feed. It’s a win for your connection and for you, plus everyone viewing your content.

It takes about “20 LinkedIn posts every month to reach 60 percent of your audience.” This is a data point that Carly Okyle cited in an Entrepreneur article about LinkedIn profiles.

Sharing content from your connections is an easy way to post frequently, reach more of your audience and benefit your connections – all at the same time.

What could be better?

Why You Should Thank People for Connecting on LinkedIn

In your growing LinkedIn network, how can you strengthen your professional relationships?

For starters, you can send a thank-you reply when someone invites you to connect or accepts your personalized (always personalize!) invitation.

Not many people do this (yet), so if you want to stand out in a new connection’s mind, send a thank you.

You can test this out on your own network. Tap on “messaging” at the bottom of your LinkedIn mobile app screen and scroll through your messages.

Notice how many people sent a personal reply to your connection request. Do they stand out among the messages that simply say, “Jennifer Smith is now a connection”? Absolutely they do.

To make it easy to reply on a regular basis, set aside a few minutes each week to respond to LinkedIn requests and to send personalized requests to people you met that week or anticipate meeting soon.

Scan the person’s profile to see what you have in common (e.g., employers, schools, activity, etc). and what piques your interest. Maybe they published something on a topic of interest to you or have successfully tackled a problem similar to one you’re grappling with.

You can create a standard, 3-sentence reply to tailor as appropriate for each connection. Try keeping it in an easily accessible place, whether it’s an Evernote entry, Notes on your phone, or a Word document.

And as with all networking, it’s important to focus on the other person, rather than on yourself. Be interested in learning more about them or in helping them in some way.

Thanking someone for inviting you connect

Here’s a sample thank you when someone invites you to connect. Content to customize is in parenthesis.

Hi (First Name) –

Thanks for reaching out. Glad to be in your network.

(Comment on something you have in common or something you’re interested in learning more about them)

Look forward to staying in touch. 

Thanks,

(Your First Name)

(Any relevant contact info, like your website or other active business-related social media handles such as Twitter)

Thanking someone for accepting your invitation

When you invite someone to connect and they accept, you might think your work is done.

But take advantage of the opportunity to further solidify the relationships by thanking the person for accepting your invitation.

Here’s a sample. Content to customize is in parenthesis.

Hi (First Name) –

Thanks for connecting.

(Comment on something you have in common, something you’re interested in learning more about them, or some way you might be of help to them)

Look forward to staying in touch. 

Thanks,

(Your First Name)

(Any relevant contact info, like your website or other active business-related social media handles such as Twitter)

How should you end your note?

Research by Boomerang shows that one of the most effective ways to close an email before typing in your name is simply, “Thanks.”

Specifically, the study looked at emails that got the most responses, based on the sign off. While you aren’t necessarily looking for a response, it can’t hurt to use one of the more effective ways to close.

Just as the study showed that “the best way to end an email is with gratitude,” what better way to end a thank-you message than to say thanks?

As a result, I’ve stopped using “Best” and “Best regards” to end emails and other messages. It’s also efficient because I don’t have to decide which sign-off to use with every message. It’s always “Thanks.”

What NOT to do

Don’t pitch anything – whether it’s to ask for a meeting, for business or for a job. The purpose of a thank you is to build a relationship for the future, so simply thank the person for connecting.

Don’t send a long message. You’re writing for mobile. Like you, other people are busy. So keep it to 3 sentences, max. Edit out extra words before you tap “send.”

 

Sending connection thank-you messages is new for me, so I’ll share what I learn in a future post.

How do you thank people for connecting with you on LinkedIn?

Analyze Your Analytics to Enhance Your LinkedIn Updates

Do you want to attract more views, likes, comments and shares of your LinkedIn posts? Do you want to increase your engagement with your network and beyond?

Of course you do. And to do that, you need to know what’s working and what’s not. Then you can create a hypothesis about why, and test it.

You can check out the analytics for your posts, also known as sharing an update, to see what content is resonating with your network.

There you’ll see the number of views, along with your viewers’ main employers, predominant titles and geographic locations.

Being a week into my month-long experiment of posting to LinkedIn every weekday, I turned to the analytics to see what I could learn.

Defining engagement broadly as a combination of views, likes, comments and shares, three types of posts rise to the top.

A view of a post is defined as someone seeing your post in their LinkedIn homepage feed. (Views are defined differently for articles, which will be a future blog post topic.)

Career strategies. My most-viewed posts were links to articles with career advice – including the biggest predictor of career success and LinkedIn profile updates for every career stage.

Given this blog’s focus on social media savvy for corporate professionals, I’ll keep an eye out for articles with career strategies that make use of social media.

Big news about the company. My fellow colleagues were understandably as proud as I was to see our company named to Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2017, as well as being named the #1 telecom globally in Fortune’s most admired companies.

(This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed here are my own.)

For upcoming posts, I’ll keep my eye out for milestone news and events to share about my employer. This is where an employee advocacy program is incredibly valuable.

Leadership quotes and eye-catching photos for major holidays. This one surprised me. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving, I posted a beautiful picture from iStockPhoto along with a related leadership quote.

These turned out to be some of my most engaging posts. I’ll definitely add more of these to my editorial calendar. If I hadn’t looked at the analytics, this would have been a missed opportunity.

One thing I haven’t yet found in LinkedIn or through my research is an aggregated set of analytics. I’m creating an Excel spreadsheet to consolidate the analytics for this month’s posts.

It will include:

  • Post title
  • Post or article
  • Content type
  • Date
  • Day of the week
  • Time of day
  • Views
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Employers
  • Titles
  • Geographic locations
  • First- or second-degree networks
  • Hypothesis about performance
  • Action indicated by the hypothesis

Then I’ll have greater insight at the end of the month to see how to develop and execute an editorial calendar going forward.

What posts get the greatest engagement with your network?

And how do you use analytics to amp up engagement with your posts?

Be Bold in Growing Your LinkedIn Network

“In growing your network, you want it to be both diverse and concentrated,” personal branding expert William Arruda wrote recently in Forbes about how to cultivate a powerful LinkedIn network.

First, begin with why you’re on LinkedIn. What do you want to accomplish? How can growing your network help you do that?

Second, ask yourself this question: Who did you meet this week, who will you be meeting soon and who do you want to meet?

Third, take a few minutes every week to add to your LinkedIn network. Always send a personalized invitation, explaining how you know each other and why you’d like to connect.

As you build your network, make sure your profile presents you in the best light. Here are great profile tips from LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher and Landit CEO Lisa Skeete Tatum. They spoke this winter at the MAKERS Conference for women’s leadership.

Who did you meet this week? Did you start working with any new colleagues? How about vendors? Invite them to join your network.

What professional, civic and charitable organizations are you involved with? Invite key people from those groups to be part of your network.

Look at your email contact list, your Facebook friend list, your Twitter followers and so on. Identify the ones you want to invite to your LinkedIn network. The “grow your network” feature on LinkedIn will see who you already know based on your email address book.

At the airport recently, I ran into someone I met a few years ago at an event at my son’s school. We struck up a conversation and caught up on what was going on at our respective employers (opinions expressed in this blog are my own). To keep the connection going, I followed up with a LinkedIn invitation.

One of my professional associations, a roundtable for senior communicators, also had its quarterly meeting this week. At the end of each day, I sent personalized invitations to people I’d met. An even better strategy – one colleague sent invitations in real time during our roundtable discussion of timely issues.

Who will you be meeting soon? What’s on your calendar for the coming week or month? Will you be meeting new people? Send them an invitation in advance of the event.

When you meet in person, you’ll already be acquainted with each other’s LinkedIn profiles and you may find a great conversation starter. For example, maybe you know interesting people in common or your new connection is working on a project you want to learn more about.

Who would you like to meet? Are you working in a new area and want to learn from the luminaries in the field? Are there companies of interest you want to know more about? Are there second-level contacts you’d like to add to your network?

This is where the personalized invitation is especially important. Explain in a compelling and brief way why you’d like to connect.

Take advantage of the “people you may know” algorithm in LinkedIn. Is there anyone you’ve missed connecting with? Invite them to your network.

Lucas Buck recommends looking at alumni groups and people who have similar college degrees. He’s an area sales manager at Farmers Insurance who uses LinkedIn highly successfully to achieve his business objectives.

He spoke last fall at a networking group affiliated with my son’s school. What did I do the same day as the event? I sent personalized LinkedIn invitations to the people I met at the event, along with Lucas.

Here’s a sidenote about conference speakers. Introduce yourself and chat with the speaker briefly before they speak, if they aren’t too busy with final presentation preparation. Fewer people line up to talk with them before their presentation, as opposed to the larger group that tends to gather after the talk.

Back to LinkedIn, what strategies do you use to grow your network?

Social Savvy Strategies for Attending a Conference

Do you have a social savvy strategy for the next conference you’re attending?

This is top of mind for me this week. I couldn’t be more excited to attend the The 2017 MAKERS Conference for women’s leadership, which starts tonight.

With the recent film Hidden Figures, I look forward to hearing from Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, pictured above, and the other luminary women and men who will be speaking.

My employer is a sponsor of the conference, and I could not be more proud. (This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

Here are some ideas about making the most of your conference experience in social media.

PROMOTE

How can you amplify awareness of the conference and its goals?

  • Check out the social media plan for the conference. For MAKERS, this came in a series of pre-event emails with sample messages and great content to share.
  • Know and use the relevant hashtag(s). #BEBOLD is the MAKERS hashtag. It’s perfect because it stands out in all caps and its brevity saves characters.
  • Share pre-conference information in your social networks. In the weeks leading up to the conference, I’ve shared content in Twitter and LinkedIn.

CONNECT

How can you get to know new people you can learn from?

  • Check out the attendance list in advance. If anyone already in your network is attending, you can reconnect as well as identify new people you want to meet.
  • Be active in the event app – or in a social media group. Add your picture and key info to your app profile. Send messages to people you want to meet in person.
  • Introduce yourself to 5 to 10 new people at each session. A goal to say hello to a focused number of people makes connections meaningful and manageable.

SHARE

How can you share valuable content with your social networks?

GROW

What can you do after a conference to share the learnings, increase the impact and grow the new network connections you made?

  • Share with your colleagues. Post a summary for appropriate groups in your company’s social intranet or present it in a face-to-face meeting.
  • Take one new action. Commit to doing one thing that will make a difference. My #BEBOLD action will be the subject of a future post.

How do you make the most of a conference experience in social media?

Make the Most of Your Employee Advocacy Program

Looking for a simple way to share great professional content in your social networks?

If your company offers an employee advocacy program, download the app and start sharing content that matches your professional goals for social media.

This can be a key part of your social media savvy strategy to personally brand and market yourself successfully in social media.

But first, what is employee advocacy?

It’s “brands empowering employees to support the goals of the brand, through employee-owned social media,” says Chris Boudreaux in Social Media Governance.

My employer makes it easy to share company-provided content with Social Circle, powered by Social ChorusNolan Carleton pioneered the approach, with much success.

(This is where I remind readers that opinions in this blog are my own.)

Here are 11 ways to make the most of your employee advocacy program, promoting your company while you build your own professional brand.

  • Download the app. Make it easy to share content by putting the app on your mobile devices. You can use snippets of time during the week to review and share content.
  • Choose content categories that support your professional goals. Align your own social media strategy with the available content categories. For example, you could focus on your company’s business strategy, the customer experience, the employee experience, career strategies or community engagement, just to name a few.
  • Customize your feed for your content categories. Once you know what types of content you want to share, see if you can customize the content you see. This will make the process more efficient as you choose what to share.
  • Select the social media platforms you want to post on. Assess how the available content lines up with the platforms where you’re most active for professional purposes. In my case, it’s LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Keep looking before you link. Just as you shouldn’t link to other social media content without reading it first, you should do the same with a company-provided message. Make sure it reflects well on your professional brand before sharing it.
  • Tailor company-provided messages to your voice. You can use the company-provided messaging to share links, or you can edit it to be closer to your own voice. Just be sure that the edits you make reflect positively on your company.
  • Share your pride in your company. Let your enthusiasm for your company shine through. Whether you love the employee experience, the products and services, or everything about your organization, share that sentiment.
  • Follow your company’s social media guidelines. Make sure to follow the spirit and the letter of social media guidelines at your company. When in doubt, err on the conservative side. While you’re acting as a brand ambassador of your company, that holds you to a higher standard.
  • Target 3 or more posts each week. Sprinkle your company’s posts among a broad variety of content you’re sharing. Don’t go overboard with excessive sharing. Since it’s company-related content, post it on weekdays. Your platform may enable you to schedule sharing in advance to post at a specific time.
  • Share social content from colleagues. Keep an eye on content from colleagues who also engage in the advocacy program. Share their content if it fits with your overall goals. This promotes your colleagues, your company and you – a triple win.
  • Experiment and refine your approach. Check the analytics for each of your social platforms to see how your community is engaging with content from your company. Make adjustments based on that, and keep fine-tuning as you go.

 

What if your employer doesn’t offer an employee advocacy program? Make a pitch to your Corporate Communications team.

Here’s a key data point. Consumers see recommendations from friends as the most credible form of advertising – as much as 83%, according to a Nielsen study.

And IABC Fellow Shel Holtz shares for corporate communicators that “employees are now your most credible spokespeople.” This is based on the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Also, check out the 2016 State of Employee Advocacy report from JEM Consulting and Advisory Services.

The study’s leader Jen McClure notes that, “Most employee and brand advocacy programs are still fairly new, and companies are still developing best practices.”

How are you using an employee advocacy program to promote your company’s brand along with your own?

What’s Your Social Media Game in 2017?

It’s a new year. It’s time for a fresh set of goals. And it’s critical to think about them in novel and different ways.

In your professional life, how will you use social media to achieve your goals? How will you use social media to tell your story about your wins?

To start, think about how social media will change for professionals this year. Check out the post, along with Dorie ClarkAlexandra SamuelBryan Kramer and William Arruda for some fascinating ideas.

Then ask yourself these 4 questions to make your own social media game plan.

  • What are your company’s big goals? Is your CEO sharing the company strategy with employees this month or quarter? How about other C-suite leaders? Access any and all information, internal and external, about your company’s strategic plans for the year. Be clear on the top goals and the order of priority.
  • What are your team’s goals? How do the company goals translate into your department’s goals and ultimately your team’s goals? Where does your team help drive the strategy toward execution? What new and different approaches can you and your team try this year?
  • What are your professional goals? How do your team goals translate into your own professional goals? What do you need to accomplish this year? What stretch assignments do you want to tackle? On the development side, what do you want or need to learn? How will you accomplish that?
  • How will use use social media to achieve your goals and tell your story? Does social media play a role in achieving your goals? If it hasn’t before, could you incorporate it this year? When you achieve goals, how will you use social media to tell your story? What conferences are you attending? Where are you speaking? What are you blogging?

At this point, focus on “what” your goals will be. Don’t worry about the “how” at this point.

Why?

If you’re not sure about how to execute a goal, that can stand in the way of setting it in the first place. And just because you don’t exactly know how to do it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

You’ve probably had many “first times” in your career. What did you do when your boss asked you to take on a new project, something you’d never done before? You can reflect on and use those experiences in the same way when you get to the “how” part of actually accomplishing your goals.

A former boss came to me some years ago and said the CEO wanted to do an employee engagement survey. My boss asked me to lead it.

That was beyond my role at the time as a corporate communications leader. There was a moment of terror, but after a few minutes it sounded like a fascinating project.

In thinking through the “how,” I realized I could build on the communications-related surveying I’d done, engage with experts and partners, create a team, map out a plan, execute it, learn and adjust as we went.

With so much information available online, you can research any topic and come up with ideas. Being able to figure it out is a skill that becomes more important every day.

I’m ever inspired by a talk that business leader Mark Cuban gave at my employer’s headquarters many years ago.

Most striking were his words about client meetings and commitments. A client would ask for something, and the group would agree it would be delivered the next day.

Later, Mark and his colleagues would look at each other and say they had no idea how to do what they’d just committed to. But they had all night to figure it out. And figure it out, they did. Time and time again.

If they could do it, so could I. And so can you.

For now, take some time to set your social media goals for the year.

Here are mine:

  • Amplify my employer’s social media strategy through its Social Circle, by sharing 3 posts each week.
  • Share appropriate highlights of my work in social media, by posting something at least 2 times a month.
  • Learn about how social media is changing and evolving, by listening to 5 podcasts each week during drive time.
  • Help others by sharing and commenting on their valuable content, at least 3 times a week.

Each goal is measurable, with a number attached to it. As the year goes on, I’ll assess if this is the right frequency or if tweaks need to be made.

None of my goals have anything to do with followers. In part that’s because I can’t completely control those numbers. Sure, the goals I’m pursuing are likely to attract followers. But I’m focused on actions I can 100% control on my own.

Here I’m influenced by Gary V‘s ideas on Building a Personal Brand, a Udemy course I finished today. One of the biggest takeaways? “Consistency almost trumps everything,” Gary says.

Another pearl from Gary? This one is for combating fear of failure: “Spend all your time in the in-between space, the time between starting and stopping.”

What’s your social media game plan for the year?

Don’t worry yet about the “how” of making it happen. “How” will be the subject of many future posts.

How Social Media Will Change for Professionals in 2017

It’s a new year. A fresh start. How will you revitalize your social media strategy?

You can start by thinking about how social media will change in the coming year.

No one knows for sure what will happen, but here are some interesting trends from personal branding expert William Arruda.

And at a macro level, Bryan Kramer has a roundup of  2017 predictions in social media and content marketing. This includes one of the best in personal branding, Dorie Clark.

As a communications and marketing professional in the corporate world, I think the following changes will have the biggest impact in the year ahead.

(This is where I remind readers that opinions are my own).

Life is lived on stage. Every day when you leave your house, you’re in the public eye. You could be photographed, recorded, tagged, tweeted and snapped, all without your express permission or even your knowledge.

The upside to all this? It’s one more incentive to live a high-integrity life. To do the right thing. To make the world a better place.

In the words from the film Ocean’s Eleven, “there’s always someone watching.” Make sure you’re presenting yourself as who you authentically are and how you want to be seen.

It’s not even clear how long our own homes will be a sanctuary from the public sphere. On Thanksgiving day in my leafy town, I spotted a drone in a nearby yard. It made me rethink my window coverings.

It also made me think about feedback. I used to work with a chief marketing officer who was a fantastic speaker. He owned the stage. And he always wanted to improve. After a big speech, he’d ask me for the video so he could critique his performance.

That’s a wise move for every professional. Take some time each month to evaluate how you’re coming across in video, in pictures and in words.

When I’m giving a big speech, I record my practice sessions on my phone. That has two benefits.

The first is a way to improve my actual delivery by assessing how I look and sound.

The second is a way to memorize the speech in advance, so I can deliver it in a more natural way.

How? By listening to the recording while I’m driving and when I’m about to go to sleep (a proven method for studying and remembering information).

Images trump words. As a word lover, it pains me to write that images are more powerful than words. But it’s true. Even my iPhone keypad is suggesting emojis in place of certain words.

Every social post needs an image. Research shows that articles with images get 94% more views.

Wherever I go, I take pictures on my iPhone. I may not use them right away, but I’m building a library of images for the future.

On New Year’s Day, for example, I wanted to share a personal picture.

The year before, my family attended the Tournament of Roses Parade (with reservations about the early hour and the relatively cold weather, by Southern California standards).

The perception of frostbite aside, my camera roll was filled with pictures of beautiful, colorful floats. A photo of South Dakota’s float of Mount Rushmore caught my eye. Four great presidents. In a month when our country will inaugurate a new leader. There was my timely and timeless image.

In addition to using my own photos, I subscribe to a few image sites, iStock and Canva. They’re well worth the investment, because they make content more eye-catching and professional.

Video trumps stills. For as much as photos are better than words, they’re starting to seem almost as dated as mere words. It’s the moving image that captures the eye. From Facebook Live to Periscope to over-the-top video, the moving image reigns supreme.

This will be an area of experimentation for me in 2017. I’ll start with a few short videos in my Instagram feed. I’ll try Facebook Live. And maybe I’ll turn some of my blog posts into videos. That idea that jumped out at me in Gary Vaynerchuk‘s Udemy course on building a personal brand.

Snap isn’t just for teens. Now that Snapchat is just simply Snap, it’s unavoidable in the news and the cultural zeitgeist. It’s how my teenage daughter and I enjoy spending time together, checking out her snap streaks and laughing over the funny moments she and her friends capture of every day life.

I’m still figuring out the basics, like how to take a decent picture that won’t be obscured in all the wrong places by the filter du jour. It feels like having all thumbs, like I did when I first joined Twitter and I hadn’t fully figured out why I was there yet. More to come on this topic as this learning project takes shape.

Professionals need a plan. With so many ways to share your professional expertise, ideas and achievements, a plan is essential.

It starts with setting goals. What do you want to accomplish? What social media networks should you be on? What are good ways to curate and create content?

From there, you need a calendar. I’ve been searching for a ready-made one, unsuccessfully so far. Right now I’m using an Excel spreadsheet. As this evolves into something better, I’ll share updates in future posts.

Right now, it’s organized by date, broken into weeks and months. For content ideas, I look at upcoming:

  • Blog posts on social savvy for professionals
  • Work news and events
  • Conferences and training sessions
  • Speaking engagements
  • Hashtag holidays
  • Personal milestones

For each piece of content, the calendar includes:

  • Posting date and time
  • Content headline
  • Content summary
  • Content type (e.g., blog post, photo or video with caption, etc.)
  • Category (professional, personal or a mix)
  • Creative (photo or video)
  • Channel (which social network or networks)
  • Hashtags (especially for Instagram and Twitter)
  • Status (whether in development, posted or in the comments stage).

What changes are you making in your social media strategy this year?