“I can’t really get myself out there. I feel like I’m bragging or overdoing it. Plus it takes a lot of time, and I’m not sure I’m cut out for the social media.”
Social media is one of the best ways to make people recognize you and acknowledge your work and brand. It’s also free! But how many of us can say we’re constantly “out there?” And is it even possible?
In this post I’m going to share some fundamental principles of “getting yourself out there,” as applicable to teacherpreneurs. I will also talk about the tools you can use to make sure social media doesn’t suck the life out of you, but actually work to your advantage.
Note: this post was updated in March 2021. Since then, I have switched my work to Instagram and shut down my Facebook group. I have also created a course Instagram for Language Teachers that I co-teach once a year with 2 other coaches.
The tips here are still helpful for Twitter and Facebook users.
Get yourself “out there” – what does it mean exactly and how much is it going to take?
As Tara Gentile put it in one of her posts, social media these days includes more than just “being on Facebook.” It’s about being social.
Being social means engaging with your audience, reaching out and providing value for it, as well as creating a platform to listen to it.
As if to confirm it, Buffer streamed a short video on Twitter yesterday where they shared 3 winning social media strategies. Those are:
- Engage on a 1:1 level (respond to tweets, questions, requests).
- Curate superb content (share links to the content you and your audience are passionate about).
- Post and share videos (live videos and repurposed videos to make yourself more approachable).
3 marketing strategies that are helping us to grow on social media. Even with the decline in organic reach! ?? pic.twitter.com/xCOxWUzqrU— Buffer (@buffer) November 6, 2016
What is your time commitment to social media?
With all this curation and engagement you wonder whether or not you’re going to have time on anything else.
I used to wonder those things myself back in the days when I was manually tweeting some content and posting on Facebook. I would actually get behind on my posting some days when I had more lessons to teach.
But it’s all changing these days with new (free and low-cost) apps that keep you sane and always engaged on social media. My secret weapons are Buffer and Canva.
- Buffer helps me schedule posts one week in advance and then provides simple analytics to see which ones are the most engaging (and thus can be rebuffered).
- Canva is an app that helps me create beautiful social media images in seconds!
I have accounts on Twitter, and Facebook + I curate a group for online teachers and coaches, and all of my social media planning and engagement for 1 week takes me 2 hours. (I schedule a minimum of 40 posts a week).
How do you curate superb content on social media?
What should you post?
When I began my attempts at social media marketing I thought it was a great way just to promote my blog posts and pretty pictures with quotes. After all, if I don’t promote myself on my social media, who’s going to do that?
A few years into it I realized that maybe I was doing something wrong. Even though my content was solid and helpful, I missed the point of social media, which is being social.
On top of that, I had this constant anxiety about not being able to produce enough content to share, so some days I just skipped because frankly, after 5-7 hours of 1:1 teaching all I wanted is to run away from my computer.
Then I read Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick’s book The Art of Social Media, and his simple formula for social media sharing saved my life and helped me promote my business in a smart way.
Guy wrote that in order to be successful on social media, the minimum of 80% of all the content you share has to be somebody else’s, and 20% or less (recently he’s been talking about 5-10%) can be your own content (blog posts, cute pictures, etc.)
What a relief!
It means that I don’t have to wrack my brain over what else I should produce! I can just share the awesome content my colleagues put out! This creates a great vibe of sharing and gives you the right to promote your own materials that people will see as trustworthy.
How do you “feed the content beast?”
Obviously, if you want to curate 80-90% high quality content that is not your own, you have to find it somewhere and do that quickly. Browsing the internet or googling your favorite keywords will consume all of your time.
You have to find ways to make that content easily accessible and readable, and fortunately there’re excellent apps to help you “feed the content beast” (as Guy Kawasaki puts it).
- Alltop is a library of RSS feeds (lists with latests blog posts) on a wide range of topics. When you sign up for an account it asks you to choose the topics you like, and then it automatically “feeds” you the latest content in those areas.
- Medium is more of a digital newspaper where you are the one to select what you want to read. The design is clean and easy to navigate, and you can share what you are reading instantly.
- Feedly is by far my most favorite one. I simply add the blogs that I enjoy reading and and then organize them into categories (ESL, teaching methods, marketing, etc.) Then all I have to do is open, read and share. It’s free, but the paid version (which is roughly $5 a month) allows you to schedule your content on buffer with one click! I’m almost sold on that one. I predict that this feature will cut my social media planning time by half.
How to share like you care on social media
By now you’re excited beyond belief and are convinced that social media isn’t going to take all of your time. So you run to your feedly account and begin clicking “share, share, and share.”
I see this all the time.
- People curating content and saying nothing about it.
- People sharing random content that has nothing to do with the audience or the curator. Machine gunning your content.
- People promoting their content until everyone is sick (including you).
So here’re my tips on how to share like you care.
Don’t just share content. Share your story.
In my previous post I mentioned that teachers are best marketers because they are excellent story-tellers, and marketing is first and foremost storytelling.
If you want to “enchant people with your content” (Guy Kawasaki’s quote again, from his other book, Enchantment), you must share a story. Try asking 3 questions:
- Why is this piece of content relevant to me?
- How is this piece of content going to help my audience?
- What insights do you have into this post that will encourage my audience to engage?
You don’t have to write a thesis to answer these questions and you don’t necessarily have to answer all at once, but it’s always good to know that the admin of the page cares enough to say a few words about this post, not just copy and paste the link.
Don’t just offer standard solutions. Take your followers on a journey.
Learning isn’t a destination. It’s a journey. Share posts that help your followers “put the puzzle” together.
Sometimes I post thematic content on a specific day. I find similar posts on a subject and I share them on my pages. The flow creates a sense of anticipation and deeper and more meaningful learning experience, a journey.
Don’t just promote. Educate.
Nobody likes being sold to. I generally “unfollow” people who use their personal social media accounts to talk about the products/courses/books they’re selling. Unless you’re some celebrity, use your business profile or fan page to talk about business.
Then, don’t expect people to click “buy” every time you yell you’ve got a promotion (remember, you can only do it in 5-20% of your posts, so why waste your own, valuable posts on advertising “coupons?”)
So what should you do? Educate your audience. Let them know about the subject matter and include even broader subjects that interest you and may interest them as well.
For instance, if you curate Grammar posts, let them not just be about Grammar rules. Look for content with extra materials, long and short, exercises, fun infographics, podcasts, on Grammar and language learning in general.
Social media is a mouthpiece that can amplify your message and get people interested in what you have to offer. To think that this tool is free and yet many teachers are at a loss when and how to use it is mind-boggling.
I want to leave you with 3 quick action steps:
- Choose 1 platform. Think of where your client might like hanging out. If that’s hard, choose the one you like. Follow other people. Learn by observing.
- Don’t overthink. I know, easier said than done, but really. More overthinking = more overwhelm = less action. Accept that you’ll make mistakes, mess up and learn by doing. Do it.
- Plan and schedule.Seriously, I have no idea how people can manage their social media and run a business at the same time. Choose 1 hour a week to schedule everything, then spend 20-30 minutes a few times a week to connect with people, answer comments, and contribute.
And … bonus: do unto others…. If you want people to share your content, comment and “like,” do it first. Promote other people’s content, connect with them, and soon they might let others know about you. Be proactive, kind and generous, and it will come back to you.
I hope this post made the social media beast a bit less intimidating. Got a teacher pal who has been stuck figuring out social media for years? Feel free to share the post. Start “doing good unto others” right now — by sharing what you’ve learned.
Elena, this is amazing!
I love this post…I think being personally available really helps engage and get to know people. Great advice…but I still don’t know how you get all your 40 posts done in 2 hours. I feel like social media is kind of a time warp (I don’t exactly want to say a black hole) but it takes much longer than I think it’s going to 😉
Hey Trisha! I scan posts, and read them all in feedly because it helps save the time (vs going to the actual site). I may not be able to read a wider range of materials because I limit my time to the ones that are on feedly (and whenever I add new ones), but I just set a time limit and then of course I re-buffer. I’ve also created a board with my most-favorite posts that I can share any time. That’s the benefit of social media — you don’t have to be original every single time, and you should repeat yourself — the more the better.
I appreciate your suggested resources – I will check out Feedly and Medium. My biggest challenge as you say is finding relevant content for my ESL audience that will build authority and presence so that someday they’ll come to me for paid lessons 🙂 You give a some strategies that I need to put into place so I have time for things beyond social 🙂
Laurel, thank you for your comment! One thing I would recommend is choosing not just the typical “How to improve your accent” articles/posts but some surprising things that might be of interest to not just any language learner but a very specific person in your audience. Say the person you would like to teach is into meditation and mindfulness, then you can share content that has less to do with language learning and more to do with the person’s interests. You can create a lead-in on your social media that works within your niche (language learning) and the content that attracts your ideal client (people who are into mindfulness). So you can post on Facebook or LinkedIn for instance, “I find that practicing mindful presence and breathing helps reduce anxiety when you need to speak in a meeting or in a classroom. Being in the spotlight is double hard for non-native speakers, so here are some tips I found that will help you” (and then add the link to a mindfulness article or maybe a podcast about dealing with anxiety). The article may not have much to do with the language learning, but you will be attracting people who are interested in something specific and who will be more likely to hire YOU because you are sharing the content that’s valuable to them. P.S. And being social is also pretty important, now it involves responding to people’s questions or DMs and sharing beyond the posts.