By Gina Iliopoulos
Is an audience necessary in telling our stories? Would we write them anyway even if no one was listening? In today’s world of social media the value of the written word is often judged by how much engagement it generates from an audience. In other words who’s reading what you’re writing? When we’re gearing our words to drive engagement our hope is to reach as many people as possible. How do we do this?
Members of the online public look to leaders in the community. As garden communicators if we can connect with them and garner their support we will expand our reach dramatically. So now it’s getting a little more complicated. We’re not just writing. We’re connecting on multiple levels with both those we wish to educate and those from whom we learn. How do we do this without going crazy?
You’ve probably heard of search engine optimization. This involves using keywords and phrases on your webpages for search engines to find. Then when interested readers are searching online they find information that you have posted. Hashtags work in a similar manner with social media sites, giving readers specific phrases and topics to search for.
Let’s start with keywords. I’m sure off the top of our heads we can think of dozens of words associated with gardens, the environment, and the natural world that we often use. But consider choosing a select group of words to use repeatedly in your posts to draw people to your site. By creating a pool of words you can choose from you need not re-create the process with every article or blog post.
Having a list of common keywords is a good start. But some posts will have very specific keywords applicable only to the immediate discussion, a specific plant, garden technique, location, or event for example. The goal is to choose words that directly connect readers with your work.
For example, let’s say you are doing a series on colorful shade perennials. “Shade” and “perennial” are keywords for every article in the series. Then individual articles will have unique keywords or phrases based on details unique to each article, like “Ascot Rainbow spurge” and “Euphorbia,” or “Citronelle coral bells” and “Heuchera.”
The process doesn’t end with your blog post or article. How do you promote your work? If you publish a link on Facebook, throw a picture up on Instagram, or tweet out your most recent release then hashtags come into play. When you include hashtags you’re providing clues for your readers about your content. For example, let’s say you’ve done an article about a recent seminar. You might choose to include #learnedalot or a similar hashtag, something you use every time you report on an educational event. Readers connecting with you see that hashtag and know there’s new information to be excited about.
These are just a few simple steps to get you started. Once you get used to the basics you’ll want to search for the best keywords, hashtags, and online communities that match your goals. These are all steps to build your presence and perceived expertise – specific actions for specific social media outlets. Beyond that there are the analytics that tell you who is responding to your stories.
There are many ways to learn more from experts on social media. Social Media Examiner (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/) is a great resource. It addresses questions and concepts you may have as a beginner or an avid user. You can also subscribe for regular emails that carry a broad range of information. Check out their “Getting Started’ page for details.
So where are you in this process? Do you have your key words identified and some custom hashtags you use? We are all her e working together as garden communicators to make a difference. Share with us some of your savvy tips in the comments. I know I would love to hear what others are doing. #thanksGWA
Meet the Author:
Gina Iliopoulis first won national exposure through her work as the Midwest Gardeniere, one of a group of selected spokespersons for Miracle-Gro and The Home Depot. This role took her across the country to events, satellite media tours and an HGTV commercial series.
With her passion for and knowledge of horticultural, Gina then launched a social media program for one of the largest design/build firms in the landscape industry. Staying at the forefront of technology, Gina now works with GreenMark Public Relations (http://greenmarkpr.com/) offering a unique, progressive approach to building an online presence.