Saturday, March 17, 2018

Keeping afloat in the social media ocean: how to post great dog content on your media feed

So you want your dog training school to have an active social media presence – a feed full of useful and informative posts, not a bunch of pictures of cute puppies (as much as we all love those). How do you find those meaty posts to share with your audience and give them food for thought? The internet is a big place these days, and finding that first doorway into the active world of dog science and behavior writing can be hard.

Social media apps

Maintaining a feed packed with shares about the most recent and interesting dog science is something I have done for fun as well as for pay, and I have a few suggestions to get you started in the right direction.
  • To share a lot, you have to read a lot! There is no getting around this one absolute requirement: you must follow a long list of interesting people. This list must be dynamic, because bloggers come and go, so maintaining a healthy list of them involves continually adding new entries. Start with Zazie Todd’s excellent and slightly overwhelming list of the Pet People to Follow in 2018. When someone on your new list shares something from someone you haven’t heard of, check them out. If you’re not sure, default to following them. You can always unfollow them later.
  • Check your feed frequently. When you're following a bunch of people, interesting links will rapidly scroll past and be lost in your timeline. When I was being paid to maintain content in a dog science laboratory’s Twitter feed, I checked Facebook and Twitter three times a day at least. (I will admit that with my smart phone I often did it more often than that, but three times was my minimum.)
  • There are, however, some tools out there to help you keep the fire hose of posts under control. Nuzzel is an app that curates your friends lists on Facebook and Twitter and generates the list of links that those friends shared today. It prioritizes links shared by multiple people as those most likely to interest you. This app has been invaluable to me during dry spots when I was having trouble finding good dog posts because everyone was posting about recent crazy happenings in American politics.
  • Another great app is Buffer (and there are others like it). This app lets you schedule your tweets so that you can browse and collect good content all at once, but parcel out sharing it over time. This keeps your audience from being overwhelmed by bursts of content and then losing interest during dry spells. (Although one morning I was catching up on sharing information out of my Twitter feed, and noticed one person responded to my sudden deluge of shares with the tweet “@dogzombieblog is on fire this morning!” That was a good thing. But not if you can’t maintain it!) This app is particularly nice because you can set a schedule and just pile your tweets on the stack for it to share out over hours or even days, without telling it when to share each one. Facebook lets you schedule individual posts, but you have to plan when each individual one will happen, rather than having a set “three times a day” schedule to fill up with posts.
  • I usually just share links without comment – this is much faster and can make the difference between my feeling I don’t have time to share a moderately-interesting post, and just doing it. On the other hand, if you do have time to comment, it can lead to more engagement with your audience, which is a good thing.
  • Always look at a post before sharing it; never share based on the title alone. If it’s from a new source who you don’t know well, you should read the entire post to make sure there isn’t something buried deep inside it that you don’t want to share. (I’ve often been surprised halfway through reading a post to encounter advice to use force on a dog.) If it’s someone I trust, though, I do sometimes share after just skimming, if it’s on a topic I already understand well.
Have fun! If you share stuff that you find really interesting and engaging, your audience will feel the same way. I share a lot of science, but I do share funny stories or cute animal photos from time to time. I try to make them unusual, though – for example, photos of canid puppies that aren’t dogs, like wolf, dingo, or hyena babies from ZooBorns. Recently I mixed it up by sharing a post about plant behavior. (Plant! Behavior! It’s not dogs, but surely dog behavior folks must find it interesting!) Don’t take it all too seriously – it’s part of your business, but it’s also a way to meet new friends and learn some cool new stuff about dogs.

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