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How To Be Successful On Social Media (According To An Actual Social Media Coach)

August 30, 2022

Social media has been such a ubiquitous part of brand building and fan finding for years now that it's almost hard to remember what it was like before that. You know, before terms like "engagement rate" could translate to full-blown careers. 

As far as we've come from the nascent days of Xanga pages, the MySpace Top 8, and "poking" people on Facebook, social media is still in its infancy in the grand scheme of things. Which is just bonkers considering how much social media turns the content creation world on its head time and time again

And that's exactly why every content creator needs somebody like Skye Garcia in their corner. 

A digital native who grew up thinking she'd be a film editor and found her passion at the intersection of content and education, Garcia runs social media strategy company Managed By Skye to help individuals and companies navigate the ever-changing tides of career-creating content platforms (with an emphasis on TikTok and Instagram). 

RootNote spoke with Garcia to learn more about how and why success on these platforms matters — and when you might need a social media coach to help you along.

Understanding The Social Media Landscape

If there's one thing to take away from where we're at with social media nowadays, it's that everyone can succeed. "I do believe there’s a place for everybody on social media," Garcia tells RootNote. "I think there’s a niche for everybody. There’s some type of audience for everybody."

So, you know. Keep that in mind the next time you think it's all just too overwhelming or that what you specifically want to achieve doesn't align with what you're currently seeing on a social media platform. 

But there's also no denying how you build an audience changes year to year. And much of that comes from shifting tides in the major platforms — all of which are geared towards keeping viewers on their apps and engaging with content. Even Garcia's initial focus was planning feeds and static posts before short-form video took over.

"I grew up in the age of social media just blowing up, so I saw algorithms change, I saw platforms change, then TikTok came up in 2020," Garcia says. After working for herself and with agencies, and with clients ranging from independent artists pushing new singles to apparel companies like Gym Shark and apps like Tinder, Managed By Skye is here to make social media success make sense. 

The Wrong Way Of Thinking About Social Media

Garcia runs a personal TikTok account geared towards helping content creators of all kinds better understand the platform. Not only is it a great place for her to practice what she preaches, but it's also a great place to see just what kinds of questions content creators are asking — and just how many of them are going about the app with the wrong mindset.

"A lot of people just don't know about the industry," Garcia says. "And these basic questions that we know we're going to get and already know the answers to — the people asking them just don't know, you know?" 

Many of them are obvious culprits, too. Questions like, "How do I get more followers?" are often the byproduct of believing the wrong things about what makes a social media following valuable. 

"I get to educate a lot, which I love," Garcia says. "Especially using real-world examples, like, 'This person has 1,000 followers on their account — and in the grand scheme of things, 1,000 followers may not be a lot — but they were able to make this much money with a brand deal or get this many pre-saves on their song.'" 

It's all about shifting the mindset from thinking about numbers to thinking about people. The same can be said for a question that surged with TikTok's popularity: "How do I go viral?"

"Virality is the same thing," Garcia says of the misconception. "It may feel good for two minutes, but then it's like, 'What happens after?' Unless your only goal is to like, maybe see yourself on TV for a second, virality is not a goal."

It All Starts With People

The first step to social media success is recognizing that every like and follower isn't just a metric. It's a person. Whether your goal is to build an audience you can leverage for brand deals or create an audience for your own products, music, or content, it all starts with people. 

And that's why you shouldn't think about how many people your accounts attract, but what kinds of people. "It's not about the amount of followers you have, but the quality of followers you have," Garcia says. "And that's a strategy you need to think about from day one — or at least the day you get serious about social media." 

Garcia's own TikTok account is approaching 300,000 followers, most of whom come to her for content creation tutorials and tips. "Even before I had an audience — when I had 2 people following me — I thought about what would somebody in my shoes two years ago want to know now about TikTok?" Garcia says. "This new platform that everybody is scared of — what would I want to know?"

And putting yourself in your audience's shoes means you're going to relate to them more. Which means you'll probably find yourself more excited to make content for them and they'll be eager to dive in. This method translates no matter what you're doing.

Garcia worked with an artist to help promote new and upcoming music. It's a tough task, as any artist can tell you. They started by creating content around not just the song, but what kind of relatable things the song reminds you of: movies, feelings, scenarios. Structuring content around the type of people you think will relate most to what you do. Thinking about your music in terms of larger pop culture phenomenon or emotional, relatable moments.

"Now the followers she's getting versus the followers she had are WAITING for her next song," Garcia says. "Same thing goes for educators and course creators. People want to buy what you're offering. They're waiting for your next thing to come out."

The Psychology Of Social Media

It's important to think about the psychology of social media — both as a creator and a consumer. Most social media companies make money by selling advertisements. And as the old saying goes, "If the product is free, you're probably the product." 

So naturally, Instagram and TikTok want to promote content that keeps people on the platform. But it also wants to keeps them commenting and engaging so the platform can better identify what ads to send to them. This isn't naturally antithetical to your goal of ultimately turning your audience into fans who trust you and follow you off platform. It just means that trust needs to start at top-of-funnel places like social media platforms.

That's why creating content that inspires a conversation is so important. Fans are made in the comment section.

But knowing that social media platforms want content that makes users engage doesn't necessarily help you understand the psychology of what keeps your audience coming back and engaging. That's where you need to be intentional. 

"If you're just coming to the platform with general content and not a niche, it's going to be really hard," Garcia says. Part of her work involves doing TikTok account "audits" for content creators, and it's a common refrain. "I have to be hard on people just posting general content, like, 'Ok you're posting about six different things,'" she says. "You're posting about coffee adventures and your outfits and mental health and wellness tips; if you want to make money off the platform or get brand deals, you can't post about 5 or 6 completely different topics." 

Garcia says successful creators in the "general" niche — and they're rare — are typically the ones worried about gaining hundreds of thousands of followers in order to land brand deals. But the good news is that if you're "niched," you really don't need to worry about those numbers. "I've seen really big companies hire what we would consider small creators because they're niched," she says.

TikTok and Reels Tips Everybody Can Follow

While it's important to think about your specific audience when it comes to things like when you post and how much you post, there are a few key universal tips for what matters right now. 

1. Think Sustainably

Avoid things like "30-day posting challenges" or growth hacking within a finite set of time. You want to build habits that are sustainable and can help you maintain and grow your account without leading to burnout. 

"We're all guilty of it in certain aspects of our lives — when you get really motivated to do something and then you give it everything you have in the moment instead of spreading it out over time," Garcia says. 

So, you know, stop that. 

2. Titles At The Top

This is one Garcia says everybody could do better, from brand new accounts to people stuck in the hundreds of thousands of followers. Put your titles and important text at the top of the post.

"Everybody reads from top to bottom," Garcia says. "We read books from top to bottom. Why are you putting your text down at the bottom?"

Maybe when TikTok was still new it was easy to ignore these kinds of details, but now the platform is inundated with content and more than one billion active users. You need to catch eyes and follow user psychology. Another title tip? Use colors and variation.

"I use three different fonts on my titles," Garcia says. "And make them multidimensional with different colors that maybe match your outfit or represent your brand. Not every piece of content is going to be groundbreaking, but you can make everything visually appealing." 

3. Social Media Is A Search Engine Now, So Use Keywords Accordingly

People are using social media as an alternative or supplement to Google for searching now, which means keywords helps content get discovered. Whether people are looking for good recipes, workout regimens, tech tips, or music playlists, they're using social media for way more than endless scrolling now.

So that means you've got to be extra intentional with what kind of text you use in your videos. 

"I think it's going to be really important in the next six months," Garcia says. "Making sure those words are in your content, not only in your caption and hashtags, but also in the actual words you're putting on the video. As the platform gets more saturated you have to have a way to be searchable and discoverable."

Oh, and ditch using trending hashtags if your content isn't specifically about that trend. And don't use things like #foryou and #fyp — they don't help you in any way. Only use words that relate to your content and represent you, your brand, your music — whatever you're trying to get more eyes on.

4. Don't Try To Grow Your Social Media Faster Than You Can Grow The Rest Of What You Offer

Another reason Skye Garcia cautions against trying to aim for social media virality is that so few people are actually ready to leverage it in any way. Plenty of people want to focus on growing their engagement and quality following but don't have a deeper level for people to engage.

They don't have music ready to continually offer. Or they don't have a way to sell their creations. Maybe they're a coach without a course or email list and all these tips and advice aren't leading to connecting with people further down "the funnel." Unless you're a major brand that has been running paid ads for years, you're probably just not as ready to leverage social media visibility as you think you are.

That's why social media may be the entry point to new fans, but it shouldn't be the first thing you're focusing on as a business. And another caution against focusing solely on rapid social media growth.

"What's the foundation of your business?" Garcia says. "Do you have 10 songs on the back burner to be able to push after something takes off? Do you have an album ready? More than likely not because you started the journey trying to grow something unsustainably — you have to grow your business at the same rate as your social media but if all you do is focus on growing social media quickly, you have no time. It's not just an overall burnout on social media, but on the whole business."

How To Know It's Time For A Social Media Strategist

Social media coaches and strategists are kind of like niche therapists in a way. Everybody could use one — if for no other reason than to serve as a sanity check. 

"When you're thinking irrationally or acting on impulse and want to post four videos because it's Monday and you can, then you have me to put you in check and be like, 'No, you're going to spread those out over time,'" Garcia laughs. "Because if you post those four videos and none of them perform, you're going to be upset. You go about your daily life and then come back and see they all have 100 views, versus spreading it out over the days and then understanding if something didn't work you can try something new. If you post everything all at once you don't have the opportunity to adapt and change. You need to try to have an understanding of what is or isn't working and why." 

But it's also about validating creators and helping them manage the mental toll. Sometimes you need somebody to tell you, "Yes, that was a good idea and it should've blown up, but it didn't — so here's what we'll do now." Coaches and strategists can relate to these struggles more than anybody.

"It can be a lonely process and a very confusing process," Garcia says. "Creators — especially music artists — are very hard on ourselves. You can easily think, 'Oh that song just sucked.' No, it didn't suck, it just didn't reach the right people and that's ok. Let's figure it out together."

Most importantly, it's about understanding your boundaries and how much it affects your mental health. "If you can't detach your social presence from your worth as a human being, it's time to look outside of it," Garcia says. "Be self aware. Ask yourself if you have the ability to do it. If you don't, that's fine — it just means you need somebody on your side to help you with it or be that presence for your brand or business. And for somebody to remind you that just because something doesn't perform, it's not the end of the world."

Taking It In Steps

If you decide to take a more serious stab at social media and want help, you don't have to immediately jump into working with a social media coach one-on-one. It can be invaluable, sure, but it's not a commitment to take lightly. Plus, if you're a total newbie, it's easier to get the fundamentals down at your own pace.

Managed By Skye, for instance, offers several tiers of education and interaction. The first is a simple TikTok account audit (on sale as of publication for $79). It's a one-time process turned around in 72 hours. "If you're at a place where you don't want to invest in a course but you want me to look at your account and give you some feedback, that's going to be an audit for you," Garcia says. You can also book a one-off call with Managed By Skye.

The next step up is access to an exclusive course Garcia is creating. She says that course is usually for anybody with zero to 1,000 followers who needs to develop better social media habits. "Things like not converting, having really inconsistent views — when you need help with the basics of editing and the psychology of short-form video on social media," Garcia says. "If you're ready to take social media seriously but aren't making money off it or being consistent yet."

The final tier is live, monthly mentorship and strategy. That's for people who usually have at least 10,000 followers, have maybe already made some money from your accounts, but want to scale and grow a high quality audience and develop community. "That's when we're talking and strategizing together specifically for you and not just in a general sense," Garcia says. "When the strategies that apply to everybody aren't enough because you're past that threshold, so we need to be very creative and current with what's happening — which is why it's a live mentorship." 

The Key Takeaways

When it comes down to it, social media mastery is an ever-changing art. But it can — and should — be fun if you're creating content you truly resonate with. When you've cultivated a passionate following, every post is rewarding even if it's not "viral."

There's a place on social media for everybody, and if you have dreams of being your own boss in the content world, you'll almost certainly need to be on these platforms. They will probably always be one of the easiest top-of-funnel ways to find fans. But it's also just that — one component of the very top part of turning somebody from a stranger into an advocate.

What matters on these apps evolves, and you will almost certainly be frustrated by changes. Things that worked in the past may not work in the future. But you don't need to chase trends to be relevant. You just need to be very honest about what you're creating and put yourself in your fan's shoes. 

And lastly, if you're at the place where working with a strategist is feasible, it's an expense that will pay off multiple times over as you continue to build and monetize your digital presence.

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