Social media is not as easy or brainless as you think it is. Especially when you’ve spent a fair amount of time on it for things that you’re really passionate about. The more you use it, the more you want the workflow—the experience—to be better.
This is a run-down of troubles and hacks across various social networks I’ve had to deal with over the last few years. A partial reason I could keep our PWDO community talk at Social Media Day 2014 relevant.
It’s ironic that this is longer than blog posts here that are related to my actual job, but I figured (a) this might help someone and (b) me posting about web design stuff has taken the form of this unpaid social media manager gig to get ready for the Form Function & Class web design conference and these articles to keep tabs on the latest design “trends”, so you can go look over there too.
Or just ignore the walls of text and enjoy the graphics. I mean, how awesome is the artwork below? Click through for closeups and the whole series:
The most annoying thing about Instagram is not overusing filters, or spamming posts with every hashtag “related” to your subject (it’s the new keyword stuffing “SEO tip”), or having to crop or pad images so they fit into a square. And these things are already pretty darn annoying.
It’s the fact that its API doesn’t allow any 3rd-party to post updates for them. Until that changes, the simplest way to do cross-posting across all the “essential” networks in one fell swoop, including Instagram, is not via Hootsuite (because of the API limitation), but IFTTT. Set up triggers to post from Instagram with a specific tag or without, and you’re good to go.
IFTTT is almost this geeky hacker thing that’s the spiritual successor of Yahoo! Pipes. It may seem intimidating but it’s really simple: “if this happens, then do that”. It’s the concept of programming in its most basic, relevant version.
Typeform is the most gorgeous form submission service out there, and keeps me wondering why people put up with Google Forms (actually: answer found below). And it’s not just beautiful in an aesthetic, subjective sense, because interactions are designed so you can stay on your keyboard and move from one question to another without having to reach for your mouse. They also dim the adjacent questions so you don’t get overwhelmed filling out everything—you can take things one step at a time. My wishlist for Typeform is more integration with webfont services.
Zapier does the same thing as IFTTT, but follows a freemium pricing model by limiting the number of “zaps” you can do per month. I use it to push entries from Typeform to Google Spreadsheets, since almost everybody’s logged in to a Google account for much of the day, whereas with Typeform you’ll have to log in every so often.
I appreciate how you can do email blasts from inside Eventbrite. I also liked their new design for 1-click registrations but as of July 2014 they’ve scrapped it, which is a shame. If you don’t need too many customizations Attending.io is a beautiful alternative for free events.
For paid events, the fact that Eventbrite payouts are sent only after the event is a dealbreaker.
If you don’t care about Instagram, Hootsuite is pretty solid for cross-posting already. If you post photos on Facebook though, they only turn up as links with thumbnails and that’s not very enticing to click.
Right now, you can only schedule Google+ posts in Hootsuite or Buffer, but of course like Facebook you’ll lose the ability to tag pages from there. If you go the IFTTT route, you’ll have to add a Google+ page to a Buffer account and set it as a default posting option. Then you add more publishing times in the settings, which is a pain to do (e.g. posting every 30 mins means adding 48 schedules). However, you can also only queue 10 posts per day on the free plan.
Vanity URLs in Google+ are pretty strict: you have to request approval instead of checking username availability. You can actually post to groups as a page, unlike in FB where only personal profiles can do that. It’s a little weird but I consider it more convenient.
While it’s easy to push that Instagram image everywhere, square image posts in the Facebook news feed in your desktop don’t look that nice (tall posters look even worse). A landscape-oriented image with an aspect ratio closer to 4 × 3 looks better, or at least for me. Social media image sizes are a whole other topic that many have people covered elsewhere, so just Google it.
It’s great that Facebook has scheduled posting now, and that you can edit the texts and thumbnails in link previews. What I’d love to have is some sort of linking between Instagram, Twitter, and FB username accounts, i.e. if I tag some @username on Instagram, it should be the corresponding @username on Twitter and fan page on Facebook. That’s asking a lot from these walled gardens though.
If you have a site whose source code you can edit, study the Open Graph protocol, add relevant descriptions and thumbnail images for the OG tags, then run your URLs through the Debugger. This also clears Facebook’s cache for that link in case you made any recent changes.
I really miss Missing e and its ability to queue or reblog with one click. Yes, you can do 1-click reblogs now, but Missing e lets you add tags without bringing up the post editor, or set default tags. That’s just one from dozens of its features, but this is an one example of the struggle between what users want, and what companies think users want. Anyway, XKit seems to be the new hotness.
Still on the topic of compromise, I also wish that group blogs / sub-blogs could follow back. Sure it’s convenient not having to log in and out to switch users, but you’re losing a big chunk of the loyalty factor if the following won’t go both ways.
Now that I think about it, Tumblr’s queueing system works much better than Buffer’s: all you have to do is specify the number of posts you want to publish per day and between which hours, then it’ll compute the schedules for you.
If you want to cross-post to Twitter, be conscientious enough to edit the text to fit 140 characters. Facebook cross-posting? Almost as badly-formatted as an ow.ly link.
Speaking of short links, if you don’t want to spend on a second domain so you can keep your branding with those URLs, try Bitly for Feelings to add some personality.
If you’re using IFTTT, Twitter is the only place you have to worry about character length. Like Facebook it’s also worth optimizing your site for Twitter Cards. It’s also nice that you can now upload multiple photos per tweet and even tag people, but when you’re cross-posting from a 3rd-party service, that option flies out the window.
As you’ll realize, publishing things everywhere at the same time is not always the answer. The most popular solution is not necessarily the best.
Maybe it’s good enough for some people to write a huge chunk of text and let it truncate on Twitter, or to share only an Instagram URL and not upload it as a picture on Twitter, or not even bother with other social networks except Facebook.
But if you care about improving the content consumption experience of your audience, you will try to do something about it, even if it takes more time. Wouldn’t you want the people and companies you follow to do the same thing?