How-To

How To Become A Social Media Black Belt

Opener

There is no doubt that social media has become a ubiquitous presence in today’s world. It is no different in the jiu-jitsu community, in which social media is used to document your journey, announce accomplishments, and generate support and fans. Of course, you already know this. Do you know, however, if you’re using your social media like a black belt?

Here are 10 tips to take your social media game from white belt to black belt (or at least brown belt). While the examples I use are with the jiu-jitsu practitioner in mind, these are tips that can easily translate into other lifestyles, professions and interests. 

1. Create an Identifiable Brand
Your personal brand makes a statement about who you are and how you want to be known. Not just a nickname, it is a broader concept that incorporates your expertise, personality, passion or interests, or role or position within a particular community. While many martial artists have focused their brand around a nickname – which creates exceptionally strong brand recognition – this doesn’t work for everybody.

Keep in mind that your personal brand should be unique, but it should also be an honest reflection of yourself, and should consider your individuality and the way you interact with others. There are numerous resources on the web for creating a personal brand, but a good simple strategy is to brainstorm some ideas, create a list of words or phrases that describe that idea, and determine how well those align with who you are. And it never hurts to get an outside opinion. As your brand is going to be used by others to identify you, you want them to easily make that connection.

This is probably one of my favorite Instagrams to creep on, and an excellent example of an identifiable brand. A simple glance at @pizzajitsu’s Instagram and it is obvious that he is all about two things: jiu-jitsu and pizza.

This is probably one of my favorite Instagrams to creep on, and an excellent example of an identifiable brand. A simple glance at @pizzajitsu’s Instagram and it is obvious that he is all about two things: jiu-jitsu and pizza.

2. Mix It Up
Variety is the spice of your social life. Maintaining variety in your social media posts does three important things. One, it keeps your “core group” of followers interested (the avid likers and sharers of your content). Two, it increases engagement within your broader group of followers. For example, maybe some followers are not jiu-jitsu nerds, but they are interested in your cross-training regime or what you ate last night. And three, it creates engagement with new followers.

A good strategy for maintaining variety is to periodically skim back through your last 5-10 posts and assess whether the content is starting to look alike. If it is, shake it up a bit with some inspirational quotes, reposts of cool techniques, or pictures of your cat. Also, consider content in terms of categories – such as mat time, food, workout, quotes, personal life, etc. – and try to avoid having multiple consecutive posts be in the same category. Your posts should be like puzzle pieces that together create the greater picture of who you are.

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3. The Window into Your World
We get it… you love jiu-jitsu/MMA/[insert activity here]. So it’s understandable that 90% of your posts are going to be about your passion. What that 90% should not be is a monotonous drone of the same pictures, text, or emojis.

Think of your social media as the window into your passion, and allow your followers to see all of the different elements that define it. Get a shot of the mat strewn with cast-off belts. Recall a clever or funny phrase from your professor or training partner. Document a “eureka” moment regarding a specific technique. Get up close and personal with your new cauliflower ear. Capture spontaneous moments of laughter, exertion, or mat shenanigans. Granted, it’s difficult to always have your phone at hand, but you can give it to someone who isn’t training and have him or her take some shots. Just expect the possible selfie-bombing you might find in your image library later.

This up-close and personal image of taped fingers is so common a sight on the mat, it can easily be overlooked as an interesting shot, but to outsiders it gives a fascinating peek into the jiu-jitsu world.

This up-close and personal image of taped fingers is so common a sight on the mat, it can easily be overlooked as an interesting shot, but to outsiders it gives a fascinating peek into the jiu-jitsu world.

4. Be an Authority
There is a reason why experts and celebrities have thousands to millions of followers: they are authorities on life, or at least the kind of life many of their followers wish to achieve.

To do this, you have go beyond the “what”, and show or explain the “why” or “how”. For example, instead of posting a picture of your acai smoothie with “Nothing like an acai smoothie to start the day! LOL,” tell your audience how you made it. “Breakfast of jiu-jitsu champions… one package acai, 1 cup almond milk, 1 banana (cut into pieces with a 200 year-old samurai sword).” Instead of reposting something, repost it and give your own personal insight or opinion. Instead of posting a video of your flying omoplata, tell how many hours of drilling it took, or the super-secret trick to making it work 60% of the time, every time.

I love this caption not only because it gives you excellent authoritative information regarding the image (homemade turmeric shots), but it’s an insightful glance into his particular jiu-jitsu journey, delivered in “real talk”.

I love this caption not only because it gives you excellent authoritative information regarding the image (homemade turmeric shots), but it’s an insightful glance into his particular jiu-jitsu journey, delivered in “real talk”.

5. Be Responsive
It is obnoxious when someone speaks at you, instead of to you. The same principle applies to social media. “Social,” by its very definition, requires an interaction. While a post made by person A, seen and liked by person B, does qualify, it’s very “one-way”. A more effective strategy is to engage in two-way interactions, in which both sides are actively communicating with each other. This might sound like a no-brainer, but to make this translate into greater engagement, you have to add some depth into your communication.

For example, if someone comments on your Instagram photo, instead of replying back with a “Thank you @jiujitsufan1234” or a thumbs up emoji, take a second to check out their page and reply with something that speaks to them directly. This creates a genuine connection, which then makes it more likely that @jiujitsufan1234 will like, comment on, and share your future posts, and encourage others to follow you. Of course, if @jiujitsufan1234 gets a little too chatty, you can still rely on the thumbs up emoji to signal the end of the conversation.

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6. Interact with Your Network
It’s not “all about me”. It’s easy to fixate on your own profile – finding and creating posts, monitoring your likes, responding to your faithful and growing fan base – but don’t forget to initiate interactions yourself  too. The power of social media is the ability to interact with anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. This makes the potential to grow your social network limitless, but it requires effort.

For example, instead of machine-gun-liking all of the posts on your home feed, comment on them or respond to a comment made by someone else. Search for or click on interesting hashtags to see related posts. Repost something that appeals to you and bolsters your brand identity. Check out who else liked or commented on an interesting post, and comment on their posts. Initiate an emoji or meme war (“@jiujitsufan1234, I see your Captain Picard meme, and raise you a Keenan Cornelius GIF”).

Of course it’s easy when you have talented artists as fans, but Kit Dale does a great job of recognizing his follower-base.

Of course it’s easy when you have talented artists as fans, but Kit Dale does a great job of recognizing his follower-base.

7. Keep it Classy
Unless your brand is intentionally offensive (ahem, Uncle Laranja), it is generally a good idea to maintain a level of class in your posts.

In today’s hypersensitive world, it is impossible to keep from offending someone, but you can consider how the majority might respond to your post. That’s not to say you should avoid posting an unpopular opinion, as long as it is honest and aligns with your brand identity. As you accumulate a large following, you should also consider your position as a role model or authority within your network. What you say or post in the public sphere will be seen, potentially shared, and could have unintentional consequences. If you have sponsors, you should consider your role as a representative and ambassador of their brand, and whether your post could jeopardize that relationship. When announcing an achievement, tag those who played a part in your success.

It is also classy – and good social media karma – to attribute your picture, repost, or quote to the original source. Give credit where credit is due… and consider potential copyright issues. For example, you should not assume that crediting a particular photographer allows you to use that image, especially for your own commercial gain.

The ultimate example of a social media “keep it classy” fail. Remember kids, think twice if you’re about to say something that could be taken as offensive... even if you think you’re “off-record”.

The ultimate example of a social media “keep it classy” fail. Remember kids, think twice if you’re about to say something that could be taken as offensive… even if you think you’re “off-record”.

 

Megan always keeps it classy. Here, she didn’t achieve her desired result, but she honestly detailed her loss (losing 0-13 isn’t something many would reveal) and ended on a positive note “I’m happy I went.”

Megan always keeps it classy. Here, she didn’t achieve her desired result, but she honestly detailed her loss (losing 0-13 isn’t something many would reveal) and ended on a positive note “I’m happy I went.”

8. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Does this even need to be explained? Just do it.

Don’t be lazy. (*Note: Not a jiu-jitsu related one, but this is far more entertaining and makes a stronger point.)

Don’t be lazy. (*Note: Not a jiu-jitsu related one, but this is far more entertaining and makes a stronger point.)

9. Hashtagging Done Right
The trick to using hashtags effectively to build your social media engagement is to think of them as “signals” that link your content to larger discussions. You want to create strong signals that directly relate to the specific content of your post, so that others in the social media universe can find and engage with your post.

A few considerations:
• Create a unique and identifiable hashtag for your brand. This allows others to link content to you, your brand, or your message. Sometimes these can even become trending or native hashtags.

• Identify and use native hashtags. If you’re joining a conversation, see what hashtags are being used. If you start a conversation on a similar topic, you can then recycle that hashtag to capitalize on existing social media momentum.

• Use relevant hashtags. If you post about your cat, unless said cat is sinking an RNC on your neighbor’s dog, do not use #jiujitsu. Choose hashtags that make sense for the content of your post.

• Do not spam. Using every conceivable hashtag you can think of to link your post to every conceivable topic or conversation, for the sole purpose of obtaining more visibility and followers, is called “spam”. It also looks really tacky and displays a lack of social media savvy.

• #Do #not #hashtag #every #word. See how silly that looks?

• Have fun with your hashtags. Hashtags don’t need to be boring. Aside from creating strong signals, they can also be intentionally misused to add some color and context to your posts (#ingLikeABoss).

Because this has everything to do with #jiujitsu… A tacky advertising strategy.

Because this has everything to do with #jiujitsu… A tacky advertising strategy.

 

Hashtagging done wrong... how these “on fleek” eyebrows have anything to do with armbars and RNC’s is anyone’s guess.

Hashtagging done wrong… how these “on fleek” eyebrows have anything to do with armbars and RNC’s is anyone’s guess.

10. Timing is Everything
Too infrequent? Too often? Too early? Too late? There is a lot of research dedicated to the “science of social media timing” – such as what hours of the day, or days of the week, are best to post what, on which social media.

For Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, a good rule of thumb is to post at least three times per week, and no more than three times a day. Less than that and the strength of your engagement tends to weaken. More than that and it becomes more difficult to maintain variety and consistent interest in your posts. In regard to timing, consider when your audience will be most active on their computers or mobile devices. For many, lunch hours and right after work are hot times to be active on social media during the week. On the weekends, activity is more dispersed throughout the day. Additionally, consider whether your post demands “timeliness”. Is it something that should be posted the moment that it happens, or can it wait for a more opportune and high activity time?

On that note, big life events are grounds for breaking the “too often” rule. For example, if you’re participating in a major tournament, your followers will likely be interested in a blow-by-blow of the day, as long as it isn’t every second in the bullpen. Then again, that could also work, in a single stop-action point-of-view video post. If you exercise some creativity in your posts and maintain variety, you can certainly get away with posting numerous times in a single day without experiencing a drop-off in engagement.

An example of an exception to the rule. This is obviously an old photo, but rather than let it gather dust in the recesses of his Facebook, Kristian recycles it, and with the caption “Every day is leg day” gives it a timeless quality.

An example of an exception to the rule. This is obviously an old photo, but rather than let it gather dust in the recesses of his Facebook, Kristian recycles it, and with the caption “Every day is leg day” gives it a timeless quality.

Finally, measuring the success of your social media strategy can be relatively simple, such as monitoring the numbers of likes and comments, and whether there are any new faces in the crowd. Or it can be more sophisticated, by using the in-built analytics dashboard or an external analytics tool to identify posts that capture more interest, analyzing why that is, and revising your strategy accordingly. Whatever your goal may be in regard to your social media presence – whether you hope to get the attention of important people, or you simply want to have more followers than your cousin Tony – using these tips will help you achieve greater, and more quality, engagement through your social media.

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