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How to Engage With Your Social Media Followers Quickly and Authentically

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How do you feel when people comment on your social media posts? Awesome, right?

A comment or some form of engagement is usually a sign that people love your social media content. And it’s important to reciprocate and respond to these interactions.

Related: 19 Tools for Creating Engaging Social Media Videos, Images and GIFs in Minutes

But at the same time, engaging with your followers can be time-consuming. If you are a solo social media manager or a small business owner, you know you don’t have the whole day to engage with your followers.

So how can you minimize the time it takes to engage with your followers and still be authentic at the same time?

In this post, we’ll share the tactics and tools we use at Buffer to engage with our amazing social media followers quickly and authentically.

5 creative types of replies you can use

If you have been replying to comments and mentions with a thank you, that’s a great first step. But it can be easy to fall into the habit of using a few standard replies. I’m definitely guilty of that!

There are many ways you can spice up your replies, show your brand’s personality and delight your followers. Here are some that I like:

1. Questions

Instead of a simple “Thank you,” I love to engage with the person further and continue the discussion. A great method is to ask for her or his opinions on the topic.

For example, if someone commented on your social media post that links to a blog post, you could ask the following questions:

  • What is your favorite part of the blog post?
  • What’s your main takeaway from the blog post?
  • Do you agree with the idea mentioned in the blog post?
  • How has your experience with (a strategy or tool) been like?
  • Have you tried any of the tips in the blog post before? If yes, how did it go?

If they reply to your questions, that’s awesome! You can continue the conversation and build a good relationship with them.

2. Emoji

The easiest way to make your replies a little more fun is to include emoji.

As emoji become part of the social media language, most people are used to seeing and using emoji in their social media posts and comments.

It is also an efficient way to convey your tone and emotions in your replies. Unlike talking face-to-face or on the phone, it’s not easy for your followers to pick up your tone and emotions in a text reply. But with a happy emoji, your followers would know instantly that you’re smiling while replying.

Both Mac and Windows have a shortcut for adding emoji. If you’re on a Mac, an emoji app that I would recommend is Rocket. It allows you to quickly type emojis by starting with a colon (:). Here’s a demo from the website:

3. Images

Sometimes, the fastest and easiest way to show or explain something on social media is to use an image — especially on Twitter where you have only 140 characters.

We found that images are generally best for answering support questions where we have to show or point to something.

Tools like CloudApp, Nimbus and Droplr (which we’ll discuss below) allow you to add annotations to your images, making your explanation clearer.

4. GIFs

Using GIFs is our favorite way of thanking people who shared our content, gave us a shout out and more.

With the new GIF button on Twitter and Facebook, you can easily find and add a GIF to your replies.

If you would like to create your own GIFs, here’s our guide on how to create your own GIFs in minutes.

5. Videos

In 2015, the User Happiness team at Medium did a #AskMedium campaign where they answered questions with video replies. And their followers loved it!

In a blog post about Twitter’s video feature, Gary Vaynerchuck explained why video replies are great for engagement:

It’s easy to Like a comment or reply with “Thank you!” Recording a video reply — even a short one — takes a little more effort, which shows your followers how much you care about them.

6 ways to save time while engaging with your followers

While engaging with your followers is important, you likely also have many other important things to do, such as creating content, planning or running your business.

Here are six strategies to help you save time while you engage with your followers.

1. Craft your replies to common comments in advance.

Thanks for sharing this informative video!

How do you work as a social media team of one?

Do you have any tips for growing an Instagram account?

These are some of the common comments we get, and you likely have yours.

Preparing the answers to these common comments and questions can help you reply faster as you don’t have to think on your feet.

Related: How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy From Scratch

I would recommend coming up with a few variations so that you aren’t always replying with the same phrases. For example, instead of saying “Thanks for reading our blog post,” you could also say the following:

  • Yay! Thanks for reading this! (GIF)
  • You rock for reading our blog post! ?
  • Thank you for checking it out! Will you be trying any of the tips mentioned?
  • Thanks! Have you tried any of the tactics before? It’ll be great to hear how it went for you!

2. Have a handy list of GIFs, emojis and more

Besides searching for GIFs on Twitter and Facebook, I have a folder of my favorite GIFs for various types of replies. This way, I can grab and use them quickly without having to search. (There have been times when I was looking for a particular GIF and just couldn’t find it through search).

Here are some of my favorites:

Aww, thank you:

You’re welcome:

Awesome:

Excited:

You could download your favorite GIFs into an easily-accessible folder so that you can grab one quickly whenever you are replying to comments on your social media posts.

To download a GIF from GIPHY, click on “Download” on the right of the GIF and select the file type you want.

You could do the same for commonly-used screenshots and videos and also create a list of your favorite emoji in an Evernote note (or your preferred note-taking app) for quick access.

3. Use productivity tools

Using tools is another great way to help you reply your followers faster. Here are a few tools that we use:

Text Expander: Instantly insert snippets of text

With Text Expander, you can quickly type commonly-used phrases with just a few characters. For example, instead of typing “Thank you for sharing this post,” you could type “tks1” and Text Expander would automatically expand it.

If you have come up with a list of replies according to tip 1 above, you could add them to this app. You can customize the abbreviation for each of your snippets.

Other tools like Text Expander: Alfred, Typinator and Phrase Express

CloudApp: Quickly create & share GIFs, annotated screenshots and more

With CloudApp, you can capture anything on your screen as an image, GIF or video in just seconds. You can even record a video of yourself — which is great for creating video replies!

CloudApp will automatically add a link to your file to your clipboard. You can then paste it into your reply or download the file and add it to your reply.

What I love about CloudApp is that I can access its features by just hitting a few keys on my keyboard.

  • Cmd/Alt + Shift + 5: Take a screenshot
  • Cmd/Alt + Shift + a: Take a screenshot and add annotations
  • Cmd/Alt + Shift + 6: Take a screen recording (as a GIF or HD video)
  • Cmd/Alt + Shift + 8: Record a video with your computer’s camera

Other tools like CloudApp: Nimbus, Droplr and Dropbox

4. Use a social media engagement tool

Our top tip for engaging with social media followers quickly is to use a tool that’s built specifically for social media engagement.

Instead of having to log in to each social media platform and open each notification in a new tab, you can efficiently reply to comments and mentions from a single place.

Our favorite social media engagement tool is Buffer Reply.

With Buffer Reply, you can have all your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram conversations in a single inbox. It works even better if you are in a team as you can respond to conversations together.

There are also many other social media engagement tools out there, such as Facebook’s unified inbox, Hootsuite and TweetDeck.

5. Use automation to assist you

This is where a social media engagement tool can be super helpful. For example, we set up automation rules with Buffer Reply, such as the following, so that we can respond to social media conversations as quickly as possible.

  • Filter out spam and automated tweets and automatically close those conversations — so that we can focus on those that require a reply
  • Move Facebook and Instagram comments into a separate folder — so that Brian Peters, who manages our Facebook Page and Instagram account, can focus on them
  • Move tweets with our support hashtag, #BufferSupport, into a separate folder — so that our Customer Advocates can reply to them as soon as possible

Automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT can also be useful here. The way they work is that an activity in an app will trigger another activity in another app. For example, if you want to reply as soon as someone mentions your brand on Twitter, you could use Zapier to send any Twitter mentions into your Slack.

Here are more social media engagement and monitoring automation by Zapier.

6. Schedule time to engage

It’s great to jump onto any comments immediately and give a prompt reply. If it doesn’t disrupt to your workflow, you should probably keep it up!

Related: 14 Ways to Increase Your Facebook Page Engagement

But for many of us who wear multiple hats, constantly stopping our work to reply to a comment can affect our productivity (unless your main role is to reply and help customers on social media).

One thing that Brian, who manages our social media profiles, do is this: he schedules two 30-minutes time blocks every day to respond and engage with our community. Here’s how engaging with our community fits into his morning schedule:

How do you engage with your followers?

Engaging with your followers is a great way to build your brand. While the process can sometimes be time-consuming, there are tactics and tools that can help to minimize the time it takes for you to engage with your followers while staying authentic:

  • Craft your replies to common comments in advance
  • Have a handy list of GIFs, emojis, and more
  • Use productivity tools like TextExpander
  • Use a social media engagement tool
  • Use automation to assist you
  • Schedule time to engage

This story originally appeared on Buffer

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Steve Jobs Shares the Secrets to Successful Team Leadership in This Throwback Video

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Though Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died six years ago, his outsized influence is certainly still felt. A recently surfaced video interview with the late CEO — which based on his haircut seems to place him in the mid-1980s — shows him sharing his views about best practices for hiring and what makes a great manager.

Up front, he says that the greatest employees are the ones who have the ability to manage themselves. But they can only do that if the leadership at the top is clear about what they want. “What leadership [is] having a vision, being able to articulate that so the people around you can understand it and getting a consensus on a common vision,” Jobs says.

Related: Steve Jobs Systematically Cultivated His Creativity. You Can Too.

Jobs goes on to explain that one of the most important jobs of someone in his position is recruiting new employees. He notes that he isn’t necessarily looking for someone who is an industry veteran, but rather someone who understands where technology is and where it could go in the future. He also recalls a moment when as the company was growing, that he and others executives thought they needed “professional managers,” but that ultimately turned out to not be the case.   

“We went out and hired a bunch of professional management [and] it didn’t work at all. Most of them were bozos,” Jobs says with his characteristic brutal candor. “They knew how to manage, but they didn’t know how to do anything. If you’re a great person, why do you want to work for somebody that you can’t learn anything from?”

Related: What the Creation of Apple’s iPhone Teaches Us About Innovation

Ultimately, he notes that the best team leaders are the ones that aren’t angling for power for power’s sake. “They are the great individual contributors who never, ever want to be a manager,” Jobs says. “But decide they have to be a manager because no one else is going to be able to do as good a job as them.”

Do you agree with Jobs’s assessment? Let us know in the comments and check out the full video below.

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How to Keep Introverted Employees From Quietly Leaving Your Company — in Droves

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The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been around for decades. Employers use it to uncover job candidates’ personality strengths and place them in the right role. MBTI results also help identify natural leaders and great communicators.

Related: Introversion Is Not A Weakness, So Why Are You Treating It Like One?

Yet, there’s little talk about how people’s results impact their satisfaction once they’re in a job. When leaders ignore employees’ happiness, it’s hard to keep productive talent around.

Interestingly, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based publisher of the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator, CCP, Inc., conducted new research that dove into how personality impacts workplace well-being. It looked at five aspects of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments.

After surveying 3,113 participants, the company, in a September report, revealed that introverts have lower well-being in all of these areas. This isn’t all that surprising: An introvert is less likely to speak up about what’s negatively impacting him or her.

It is shocking, however, that employers aren’t being more proactive. If leaders don’t find a way to improve the workplace happiness of introverts, those people will leave and take all their unique skills with them.

Want to avoid that happening to you? Here are some ideas to help connect with the introverts in your office and better understand their wellness-related needs in the workplace:

Be a chameleon.

Many leaders make the mistake of managing everyone the same way and assuming the results will equate across the board. But there’s a huge flaw in that logic: Every person, in fact, perceives and processes guidance differently. Some need more help in certain situations; some need less. So, it’s up to leaders to customize their approach.

Leaders ignoring the needs of their introverts can hurt their overall workplace well-being. The reason: Introverted employees will feel less engaged and have a harder time reaching their goals. This may then lead to feelings of isolation and disappointment, negatively impacting these workers’ mental health.

Related: 6 Truths on Why Introverts Make Great Leaders

When managers recognize introverts’ differences, on the other hand, they can help those employees succeed, and feel more accomplished. For example, as New York-based co-founder of the digital agency Ready Set Rocket, Aaron Harvey, pointed out, introverts have trouble speaking in front of people. “If someone struggles in brainstorming sessions, simply stop by their desk in advance and ask them to be prepared with a few ideas around a specific topic,” Harvey advised in an email. “This can help them feel confident, joining a conversation that organically leads to real-time ideation.”

Consider other situations when introverts might feel that they are out of their element. For instance, consider ways in which shy employees might meet new people.

Talking with new clients, after all, probably makes them nervous. So, reduce their stress by having an extrovert they’re comfortable with tag along. Having a familiar face present will help get them through the situation.

Scrimmage employees’ skill sets.

Extroverts’ strengths are obvious. They’re good communicators, enjoy building relationships and freely share their ideas — all skills that contribute to their well-being. These traits make it easier for them to create a support system at work and to speak up about what skills they have to offer.

Introverts’ skills are more hidden, so leaders don’t always see what they bring to the table. Since introverts are less likely to communicate what responsibilities they’d like to take on, they’re left feeling unfulfilled.

Skills-assessment tools, like the MBTI, are a great solution. They reveal natural strengths and help managers assign introverts more meaningful work.

After realizing your introverts’ skills, give them more opportunities to use them. Assign tasks and projects that allow them to maximize their strengths. Fully and effectively contributing to the team will improve their feelings of meaning and accomplishment.

Arlington, Va.-based Greg Wester, senior vice president of marketing and business development at the mobile content discovery platform Mobile Posse, likes to mix it up with his employees. To help everyone on the team develop his or her skills, Wester told me, the company poses team challenges that mix introverts and extroverts.

“We’ve found that people are super competitive about winning,” he said by email. “The different types of exercises give people a variety of ways to participate, get involved and hopefully boost their well-being.”

Currently, Mobile Posses’ employees are working as teams to create themed videos. Each team has eight cross-functional, cross-personality employees. They’re all challenged to use their individual skills to create a video representing their perspective on a company core value or vision.

This approach to skill-building, Wester said, helps introverts connect with the entire team and gives them more confidence about their value in the organization.

Keep kindred spirits together.

While it’s good to have both types of personalities working together, introverts may become stressed if they’re paired only with extroverts.

For instance, imagine walking into a room where everyone is talking loudly and the words don’t make sense. The situation is overwhelming. This is how introverts feel when they’re surrounded by extroverts. It’s as though no one is speaking their language, and they feel isolated as a result.

What’s more, iIntroverts and extroverts communicate differently. To maintain well-being, introverts need to find like-minded people they can connect with and recharge their energy with.

Rick Gibbs, a performance specialist at the Kingwood, Tex.-based HR services company Insperity, pointed out that following personality assessments, introverts can find people who are like them and make healthy connections. “The process itself can help improve communication, build teams, and expand office friendships,” Gibbs said in an email. “More introverted employees will be able to identify others with similar communications styles.”

Related: How Thinking Like an Introvert Can Help You Get Ahead in Business

So think about conducting personality testing at your workplace. Then, hold a meeting where everyone can discuss his or her results. This will show introverts that they are not alone. They’ll be able to communicate better and deepen their relationships — and with them their personal well-being — at work.

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Hard Work? It's Not All It's Cracked up to Be. It May Even Be Irrelevant. Here's Why.

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From a young age, we’re raised to believe that we can accomplish pretty much anything so long as we work hard enough to achieve it. And, for the most part, that makes sense, at least intuitively. If you study for three hours while your roommate studies for one, you’ll probably do better on the test. If you spend 50 hours at work every week while your peer spends 30, you’ll stand a better chance of getting a raise or a promotion.

This idea follows us at every stage of our lives, and it echoes a cornerstone belief of Western culture: As long as you work hard, you’re going to be successful. But there’s a problem with this philosophy: Hard work isn’t always enough.

The Netflix approach

This idea is hard to accept at first, if you’re a hard worker who invests major time and effort to get what you want in life. Perhaps then, it’s best to introduce the alternative notion, using a corporate example.

Netflix (yes, the company responsible for those late-night television binges) has found success in part because it abolished the idea of hard work being the sole determining factor in an employee’s progression within the company.

Netflix formally introduced this idea in a 2009 slide deck explaining the company’s culture, but the idea dates back to 2001. Since her departure from Netflix, the company’s former chief talent officer, Patty McCord, has been on podcasts and spoken in interviews about the rather different work ethic Neflix evolved.

After experiencing financial trouble in 2001, the company made a bold move to lay off a third of its employees — not based on how long they’d worked there or how hard they’d worked, but solely on what they contribute, and how they impact the company’s bottom line. This infuriated some long-time, hard-working employees, but those who remained ended up getting more done because they didn’t have to correct others’ mistakes, or work around unnecessary teammates.

Even after that initial layoff, Netflix paid almost no attention to employees’ hard work. It allowed unlimited vacation time and flexible hours, focusing on results and innovation instead of the number of hours worked or the effort spent. This system resulted in the letting go of many employees who’d worked hard and performed well. But it also resulted in the better performance of the company (and, in many ways, in less stress for the remaining employees).

The problems with hard work

The Netflix example may seem harsh, especially if you’ve based your career around working hard. What if you too were fired after a decade of putting in long hours and genuinely trying your best?

Still, there are three main problems with hard work that an alternative culture or approach could correct:

“Hard work” doesn’t equal “results.” First off, hard work doesn’t necessarily correlate with results. For example, it doesn’t matter if you put 100 hours in to the design of your landing page; if your site doesn’t convert,you may as well have spent one hour.

Hard work isn’t efficient work. Next, consider that hard work isn’t necessarily efficient work. If it takes the person next to you three hours to complete a task that you could have completed in an hour, that extra hard work may have actually cost the company unnecessary time and money.

Hard work doesn’t encourage innovation. Finally, focusing on hard work doesn’t encourage innovation or novelty. Instead, it encourages repetition and persistence. Those factors can be good, but you also need some drive to try new tactics, incorporate new ideas and learn new things in your life.

What to focus on Instead

None of this is meant to imply that hard work isn’t valuable — only that your hard work should be reserved for when it counts the most. So, as an individual (whether you’re a professional or an entrepreneur), what should you be focusing on instead?

Efficiency. Focus on your efficiency. Instead of spending more hours, emphasize doing more with the hours you already have. For example, you could automate certain processes, delegate work beneath your paygrade or find new strategies to accomplish more within a set time frame. You can also work on eliminating redundancies in your workflow, or on abandoning tasks, meetings, and projects that eat up your time unnecessarily.

Results. Focus on results, prioritizing the work that seems to yield the highest return on your time investment. What’s really going to help you succeed? Reduce or eliminate anything that doesn’t fall in line with that vision, and don’t be afraid to make cuts.

Improvement. Focus on improving yourself and your surroundings. Instead of working hard on level one, spend some effort trying to get to level two. Invest in yourself, learning new skills and gaining new experiences, and invest in your environment by training your employees and making sure you have the best tools available for the job.

Hard work is incredibly valuable, but we shouldn’t keep thinking of it as the most important factor for success. Instead, we should see it as one of many factors that can help us, but won’t, in itself, necessarily save our businesses.

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