Up Periscope

Beyond Likes and Retweets: Why It’s Important to Convert Customers

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 09, 2014

You’ve mastered the art of curating a beautiful Facebook page, built a robust audience on Twitter and know exactly how to tell the story of your brand through pictures on Instagram. Great. Now what?  While you might be tempted to rest on your laurels, continue to update the social channels that have become the staples of your social media strategy, capture some analytics, and call it a day, there’s more to be mined from your tweets and posts. Stop short of capturing some vital information and you might miss out on the most important business opportunity that social media can provide.

Social Media is a Gathering Place

Think of your social networks as a gathering place for potential customers--like a town square. You’re out there with your sandwich board and people are high-fiving you all day and stopping to talk to you along the way. But for customers to truly experience all that your brand has to offer, they need to step off the street and into your store. More than that, they need to become part of a community of enthusiastic customers that have meaningful interactions with your brand on regular basis.

A like, a share, a retweet, or a favorite are all forms of casual engagement. Think of them has the high-five in the town square. People are happy to see you again (or meet you), sure, but it’s a connection that’s characterised by how fleeting it is. If you want to cultivate that relationship, you need a more reliable way to get in touch with them that moves beyond social media. Considering that last year 44% of email recipients made a purchase based on something that landed in their inbox, capturing email addresses is a perfect place to start.

Sign Me Up

As part of your regularly scheduled content, share links that encourage followers to stay in touch with you through email. You can do this by directing them to a quick survey, or by capturing email addresses from purchases they make after using your online store. You can also link to web forms that encourage customers to sign up for your newsletter. Newsletters aren’t just a way to generate excitement around new products. They’re also a way to share things like news about a big move, or articles that shine a light on what you think about your industry.

Keeping Connected

If Facebook’s recent changes around organic reach prove anything, it’s that you can’t take your audience on social media for granted. You may have built a big audience, but your ability to reach them isn’t necessarily guaranteed. That’s why it’s essential to move past the “town square” to a place where you can communicate on your own terms, without intermediaries deciding how and with what frequency you can connect. Social channels come and go, and while some have become a cornerstone of digital marketing efforts, they’re subject to change. Don’t assume that you’ll always be able to reach people in the way you want. Convert early and often so that you can leverage the connections you’re making.

How do you capture email and keep the conversation going beyond social media? What other ways (on and offline) do you try to convert customers into becoming a bigger part of your brand’s experience? Share your thoughts below.  

5 Lessons from Managing Social Media for Fortune 500 Companies

Alison Kawa - Wednesday, April 02, 2014

1. The engine is already running.

Before you showed up, talented people were doing their jobs well, sometimes for decades. They have a lot of industry knowledge. There have usually been other projects that had similar requirements involving many of the same team members. It is your job to figure out if the way things currently get done will achieve your goals. If not, you need to incorporate team feedback to develop a very simple process that saves time and effort. You then need to motivate everyone on the team to participate so your process actually works.

2. Big brands need to move as fast as they responsibly can.

Posting a personal Facebook status update isn’t even in the same universe as posting on a company page. Large brands can be agile on social media, but they need to play by different rules. The organization has a brand image to uphold, a customer base to please, and a legal department to obey. Big companies have to pace themselves to avoid making mistakes and endangering their reputation, all while still being responsive to customer needs.

3. “I am the Gatekeeper. Are you the Keymaster?” -Ghostbusters

There will be a lot of stakeholders for every project. Some are there to participate, some only to observe, and some will pop in at the last minute when you need them for a crucial element and then pop back out again. From the beginning, you need to know what role everyone will play so you can ask the right person the right questions. Having an understanding of the teams around you will also enable you to combine efforts and benefit from the experiences of other projects.

4. Priorities differ greatly.

You were hired to do social media as your sole contribution to the organization. The people you work with on a daily basis are juggling dozens of different projects and responsibilities. Be very clear what you need and when you need it so you don’t waste your team’s time. Once they know their deliverables, members can prioritize according to their own schedule. They’ll be more receptive to working with you in the future, so projects are more likely to get done on time.

5. Social media should be social.

In large organizations it’s often so daunting to produce and approve content that some marketing departments will just be satisfied they were able to get anything published at all. Your number one priority after actually getting content approved and published on time is to make sure it’s engaging.

Your job is not to publish information, but to tell a story. Let prospective customers know you have the tools and expertise to help them, and that you’re listening.

Out of “Reach”: Dealing with Facebook’s Newsfeed Curation

Social Sonar - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Last week we posed the question "Is too much filtering killing social media?" We looked at the way Facebook and Twitter are putting systems into place to filter the glut of information that fills up newsfeeds and concluded that while some parsing of information is needed, there’s a big difference between having the process being user-driven and having it predetermined by social networks. While Twitter’s approach represents an optional way of sorting favorite tweets from friends, Facebook’s approach is a strict clamp down on the organic reach that business pages can expect to have when communicating to fans.

If you’ve been holding your breath while watching your organic reach dwindle over the past year, it looks like the situation is about to get even more dire. According to some reports, Facebook is working to slash the organic reach of business pages to as low as 1%. What does that mean for you? If you have close to a thousand fans, you can expect to reach about one hundred of them through organic reach (that is, without paying Facebook money to promote your post).

Is everything lost? Should you opt out of Facebook in protest? Not so fast. Unpaid reach may not be what it used to be (and that’s definitely disappointing), but don’t throw in the towel just yet. It’s time to get creative, refine your social strategy, and put these steps in place to make sure you reach the largest audience you can.

1. Avoid desperate and empty calls to action. Are you out there begging for likes and sharesFacebook is onto you. Ditch calls to action that are just about growing your followership. Good calls to action include things like “Click this link to find out how you can support our cause.” Bad calls to action sound like “Please like this picture of my dog so he can win this online puppy pageant."

2. Include quality links. Facebook’s filtering system prioritizes news items from trusted sources. Sharings news from reputable sites is more likely to help you reach more members of your audience. 

3. Tag important people and places. This is tricky because only personal profiles can tag people in images you post. Still, tagging is a great way to increase the amount of people who see your post. If you are Facebook friends with people on staff at your business, use your personal profile (not your busineess page) to tag their personal accounts. While you can’t tag people directly, you can tag other business pages, so when you find items to post that relate to other organizations with large audiences, make sure to tag them. That way, you can reach their followers as well.

4. Find stuff people love to share. Ok, this is easier said than done, and it’s always been true, but it’s more important than ever to find content that your audience loves to share. When someone shares an item you post, it opens it up beyond your own followership and makes it available to a different audience outside of your normal reach. Keep track of what’s trending and anticipate what your audience craves by looking back at old posts that have been good at driving engagement.

Feeling bitter about Facebook's filtering system? Get started with a new plan to double down on your efforts today. You may not have the same organic reach you had before, but by being creative and putting these practices into play, you can avoid losing your fanbase entirely. What do you think about the new organic reach policy? Should marketers step up their game? Or should Facebook scale back its attempts to drive businesses to pay to promote posts? Share your thoughts below.

Is Too Much Filtering Killing Social Media?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

There’s just no way to absorb all the content that comes at you through social media. You follow friends, brands and causes you care about and even expect to get most of your news through social sites. That adds up to an almost unstoppable onslaught of information. It’s a fact: there has to be some kind of filtering system to parse out what you actually see. Otherwise, all the information that you subscribe too can quickly become white noise.

Out of Your Reach

If you’ve been noticing your Facebook Reach numbers take a dip since last year, you’ve already felt the effects of what filtering can do to your presence on social media. Remember the old days when all the content your Facebook friends posted appeared chronologically and in real time on your timeline? That system is long gone and in its place is a new algorithm that takes into account variables like continued engagement (likes, shares, comments) to determine what shows up in your newsfeed.

You may also have noticed that Facebook is prompting you to boost your Total Reach by asking you to promote posts. In part, Facebook is interested in extra revenue from businesses paying to amplify the reach of specific posts. The move is also an attempt to steer newsfeeds away from being overrun by memes and highlight quality content like news articles and blogs that provide more value to readers. 

Et tu, Twitter?

Twitter by contrast, remains pretty unfiltered. Tweets from everyone you follow show up in your newsfeed in real time--if you miss them, you miss them, but at least they’re all there. Twitter isn’t immune from the idea of promoted tweets, but the success of what you post isn’t driven by money in the same way that Facebook has proposed on their network.

Still, Twitter is experimenting with some ideas around curating, including a “Fave People” feature, which filters out content from selected friends, brands or organizations you follow. The main difference here is that users choose who gets filtered into a separate “Fave People” stream, instead of deferring to a preestablished equation to do the work for them (whether they like it or not).

Some users bristle at the idea of having someone else decide what’s relevant to them because it seems too arbitrary and out of touch with their actual interests. Others might not even notice that a selection process is at work behind the scenes. In the middle of it all are businesses trying to navigate changing rules that affect how they communicate with their audiences. What do you think about both of these approaches to filtering? Should curating be user-driven? Or should decisions about what constitutes quality content be handed down from the top (as is the case with Facebook) if they minimize some of the white noise on social channels? Share your thoughts below.


Using Your Values to Define your Social Strategy

Social Sonar - Thursday, March 13, 2014

At the core of every endeavor is a mission statement, and that mission statement is built on values. What does your company value? What got you started on the crazy adventure of running a business, organization or campaign? The answer to those questions shapes everything you do on a daily basis and can naturally tie into your social strategy too.

One of the signs that you’re not spending enough time on your strategy is a lack of cohesion in “voice.” What does that mean? Content is all over the place and copy sounds like it comes from a multitude of authors instead of a single, confident source. If this scatter-brained approach sounds a bit like you, it’s time to revisit your values and build your approach to social media from there.

How can the mission of your business or organization naturally dovetail with your digital marketing efforts? Here are some examples.

Transparency

Looking to peel back the curtain and let folks see what’s going on behind the scenes? Social media provides access and dispels secrecy. You can have open and ongoing conversations about changes in staff that might make your followers nervous or a move to a new location that could have some fans bummed out. If part of your mission is to be open and accessible, sharing news and information about yourself is a natural extension of that directive.

Customers First

Is part of your mission to deliver the best customer service experience possible? Social media has become a go-to destination for fans with customer service questions. A robust approach to monitoring and handling requests in a timely way is a vital part of a sound social strategy. That means making sure you have enough dedicated staff hours to keeping an eye on all of your social platforms and being ready to deal with things like undelivered packages or misplaced orders. 

Increasing Connection

Maybe you’re networking to organize around a social cause, or maybe you just want a way to stay in touch with the many people who visit your store every day. Social networks allow an unprecedented level of connection. If part of your mission is to break out of your silo and engage like minded individuals, businesses or organizations around you, working on social media is a dynamic tool to help you live out that goal.

Those are three big directives that can start to shape the framework of how you approach social media, but don’t forget that the values you practice in person everyday should also be reflected in the way you work on social media. Do you have an office culture built around expressing gratitude towards your co-workers? You can extend that into your social strategy by thanking customers and followers too. If part of your organization’s ethical philosophy involves protecting the privacy of your staff members, that could mean staying far away from content that shines a bright light on employees. If, above all, you value stirring the pot, taking shots at authority figures or subverting the normal order of things, your social strategy should be a direct reflection of that irreverent spirit.

So which comes first--the chicken or the egg? Without a strong sense of your values and mission, it’s hard to build a social strategy that accomplishes your goals. If your social strategy is ailing, it might be a sign that you’re not sure exactly what it is you’re trying to communicate to the rest of the world in any medium. Take on the task of defining your values and a social strategy that feels more authentic to you and your followers is sure to follow.

What Kind of Conversations Are You Having on Twitter?

Social Sonar - Thursday, March 06, 2014

Are you a data nerd? You might already be in the habit of tracking engagement on big social platforms like Twitter. In an effort to make things more of a two-way street, you may have set up a system to compare the amount of information you broadcast to the amount of posts that actively invite followers to participate. But is this binary view of content enough to represent the variety of interactions you have online? One new study says no.

In an interesting new set of findings, the Pew Center for Research reports that there are six different kinds of Twitter conversations happening online. Online chatter may seem random and chaotic when you’re engaged in it, but these six conversational archetypes shed some light on the overall patterns that give Twitter communities structure.

How can you include some of these new findings into your overall social strategy?

1. Take a look at the diagram that visualizes the six types of conversations. Which one do you think most closely resembles the conversations you typically have?

2. Take stock of the different models. Which ones represent broadcasting (information going out on a one-way channel) versus engagement (an ongoing dialogue with the opportunity for followers to reciprocate)?

3. Identify the types of conversations that your organization almost never participates in. Is this a natural extension of your business’s philosophy, or a missed opportunity for rethinking how you communicate?

4. Which model (or combination of models) best helps you achieve your social media goals? For instance, if your goal is to become a go-to destination for news in your industry, you might want to focus on content that results in a “In-Hub and Spoke” model.

5. Put the call out to other members of your team, whether they work in communications or not. What kind of conversations do they typically see your business engaged in on Twitter? This could lead to some revelatory information about the role and purpose of your organization on and offline (Do you exist to strike up polarizing conversations around social issues? Act as a support for questions and requests? Or something else?). 

Curious to know how the folks at the Pew Center were able to capture all this information? Take a look at the full study here and learn more about their methodology. What do you think about this approach to thinking about Twitter conversations? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Is Social Media Really Making You Stupid?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ten years into using big social media platforms like Facebook, is it fair to step back and ask if all this online chatter and social networking we’re participating in is making us stupid? That’s the question posed by the Journal of the Royal Society Interface in a new study that looks at social connectivity online and how we analyze the content we share through platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

The main thesis is this: On the surface, it looks like we’re all experts on a bigger variety of subjects than ever before. Our publishing personas seem to reflect an unprecedented depth and breadth of knowledge based on the content we share. But in reality, the content we share is quickly shared without great foresight or analysis.

It’s that lack of analysis and propensity to share in a more instinctive way that leads to misinformation spreading like wildfire. People are willing to look at a headline and a picture, reshare it and broadcast it to their network, and let it run its course without taking a moment to properly vet its veracity.

According to the study, part of the reason why it’s easy for misinformation to spread online has to do with the human propensity to copy. This can be a boon and a bane for people relying on their community to reshare the content they publish. On one hand, the instinct to copy means things get shared more quickly and more often. On the other hand, it means that things can get passed around without too much consideration.

So have we become guilty of trading headlines without delving more deeply into the story? Are most of our exchanges too superficial to be truly meaningful? Is all of this conspiring to make us dumber and more unproductive? Not so fast! Here are some key things to remember about social media and the way it impacts how we think.

Everyone Uses Social Media Differently

Social tools are a means to an end. Saying that everyone trades information indiscriminately on social networks is too big of a generalization. Sure, some people will post headlines from The Onion thinking that they’re true, but not everyone has a poor understanding of satire.

Social Media Connects Users with Experts

Look at the connection between Twitter and digitally savvy journalists. It’s one example of users gaining unprecedented access to direct conversations with experts in vast array of fields.

Demographics Tell a Different Story

If you think social networks are oversaturated with selfies, cat pics and other musings from self-involved millenials, you might want to rethink a few stereotypes. On social networks like Twitter, the key descriptors are "young, mobile and educated."

Everyone’s a Critic

From the moment something is published online, a multitude of voices can respond and critique it. People are actively engaged in ongoing conversations, sometimes around issues that they’re passionate about and many times with other professionals in their fields. That kind of engagement spurs people to construct persuasive arguments even as they’re exposed to views that challenge their existing beliefs.

Some People Think the Web is Wiring Us to Be Smarter

Not every researcher, scientist or talking head that takes on social media or the Internet as a target of study believes that it’s making us dumber. Some researchers argue that the opposite is actually true and that the way our brain interacts with the web is fundamentally changing the way we think for the better.

How do you feel about the way social media has made you think about information and connections in your own life? Do you find yourself guilty of getting “click happy” and sharing content before you’ve tested to see if it’s valuable and accurate? Do you think social media could actually help you become a more dynamic thinker with a wider range of perspectives? Share your thoughts below.

Marketing with Music: Using Spotify for Your Social Strategy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Spotify is more than just a music streaming service or online radio: it’s a social network based around the simple idea that it’s fun to share the music you love with people you like. Originally launched in 2008, Spotify has managed to amass over 24 million active users. It’s growth and influence on the music industry has been so big that there’s even speculation about the company going public in the near future. What does that have to do with your business? Using Spotify as a tool for marketing can open up creative and unexpected ways of reaching your followers. Here are a few things you can try out for yourself.

Play DJ on Facebook

As we mentioned before, Spotify can be seamlessly integrated into Facebook. If one of your goals for 2014 is to deliver a greater variety of content, why not add music to the list of what you share? Sharing your favorite jam for a rainy day or your guiltiest musical pleasure is a great way to let people see more of your personality.

Learn More About What Your Fans Love

What musicians do your fans love? What songs do they play the most? You can learn about the tastes of your followers and how to cater to them by following them on Spotify. Sharing a musical preference indicates more than you might think, creating a unique bond with your fans and fellow music connoisseurs.

Have a Musical Throwback Thursday

If you’re not brand new to the world of social media, you’re probably already familiar with Throwback Thursday. Instead of sharing an old picture of yourself, find an old school tune to share with your audience. If people associate your newsfeed as a place to rediscover some of their favorite music every week, you’ll find your fans checking back in and engaging with you more often.  

Let Your Audience Choose the Music

Planning a live event? Do you play music at one of your stores? Engage with your fans by inviting them to help you create a playlist on Spotify. It’s a way to help bridge the gap between your online efforts and the promotional efforts you’re carrying out offline. It also involves customers in helping to curate and customize their own experience.

Feeling trepidation about trying something new? Just remember that music should be like all the other content you shared: directed towards your specific audience’s needs and interests and varied enough to keep people engaged. As with everything you share, be ready to take stock of what’s working and what isn’t. What’s getting liked and shared by your fans and what’s falling by the wayside? Keep track of everything so that the next time you schedule content, you can roll out something something that rocks their world.

3 Indispensable Keys to Great Content

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Working in the world of digital marketing today means managing information across a variety of platforms and creating a lot of different content. The competition for the attention of audiences has never been fiercer, and sustaining the attention of your followers can feel like an insurmountable task at times. Are you confident in the kind of content you’re creating? Here are three indispensable elements of great content to make sure you’re delivering what your audience is hungry for.

Longevity

Can your content live on a day or more past the the moment you share it? Will it be relevant to your readers months down the road? How about years from now? It’s important for the content you share to be timely but when it comes to blogs and vlogs in particular, it’s important to also think in the long term. Everything you publish develops into an archive of your best ideas and practices, so think about sharing content that isn’t just important in the moment. Thinking this way will bring you closer to nailing down your brand’s overall philosophy and vision.

Value

Are you sharing something valuable? Or just racking up an impressive word count as you type away? Creating valuable content means knowing what your audience is looking for and then becoming the best place for them to find it. Think of your content as a resource bank--an important reference point for your customers to learn something important about you or your industry. You don’t have to cover a topic in its entirety (in fact, that would easily overwhelm most readers), so rely on links to other reliable sources to round out the information you’re sharing. The more value followers see in your content, the more likely they are to follow you consistently. A blog with really valuable posts could even turn into a book deal

Shareability

This ties into the other two cornerstones for great content because if your content can deliver value over a long period of time, it’s more likely to be shared by your followers. But there are few easy things you can do to ensure your content is prime for sharing across social networks. Writing a catchy headline is just as important as developing the body of your content. It’s the first thing readers see and often determines whether a casual perusal will turn into a deeper read. Can the main ideas of what you’re trying to say be distilled into 140 characters or less? Can you sum up what you’re trying to say in a single image? If not, you might want to take a look at your content to make sure that it’s direct enough to make a quick and lasting impact.

How do you define great content? Tracking the performance of what you share on a regular basis is a great way to refine your approach. Step back, see how many times people engage with a particular item, and then recalibrate your approach to give your audience even more of what they’re looking for.

5 Easy Ways to Get Visual with Your Content

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Are you still holding back when it comes to taking on one of the biggest social media trends? If your Facebook updates only contain text, you’ve never Tweeted an image and you’ve sworn off networks like Tumblr, your social strategy is already at risk of becoming stale. Visual media has been on the rise for a while now, and the notion that visual information drives engagement is a tried and true one. Putting videos aside for just a moment, image-driven content is a way to get your online communities buzzing about you. The best thing about it is that it’s easier than it looks! Here are some suggestions for getting visual with your content that won’t break the bank or eat up too much of your time:

Crowdsource Visual Content with Photo Contests

Looking for an easy way to showcase your fans and share more visual content? Running a simple photo contest lets you kill two birds with one stone. Ask fans to participate with a prompt that encourages them to get creative. If you run a pizza parlor, you could ask them to show you the wackiest place they’ve enjoyed a slice. If you’re promoting a hair salon, ask them to show you why they desperately need a makeover. You can track submissions by asking users to submit images with a specific hashtag. Then, pick a weekly or monthly winner for a giveaway (that could include something as easy as a gift card or something more involved like a yearlong membership depending on how generous you're feeling).  

Visualize Information

You’re an expert on your industry. After years of shaping your business and getting it off the ground, you have so much information to share. Blogging is one great way to get your message out there, inspire your peers and assert your place as an authority in your field. But if you’re looking for a visual way to condense and present your wisdom, infographics are the way to go. Shape larger narratives into a flow chart or visualize big data into digestible portions by creating an infographic that highlights the major themes of what you’re trying to communicate. If you’re put off by the idea of taking on a major design project, don’t worry. There are online programs that’ll help create something great without having to invest tons of money or time with overly complicated design tools.

Take Pictures at a Live Event, Then Get Social With Them

If you’re planning a big in-store event, product launch or just a great party, make sure you have a camera at the ready. You can set up a photo area (think prom night photo ops with a fun backdrop--cheesy poses are optional) where you can play paparazzo and snap away at your guests. You might even have them hold up a placard that features your Facebook or Twitter handles. That way, when you create photo albums of the event and share them on your social networks, your brand’s contact information will be heavily featured. You could even set up a laptop or tablet so that you can immediately upload photos and encourage users to tag themselves right then and there.

Respond with GIFsand Emoji

Here’s something reserved for the super savvy: responding to your fans with visuals instead of text. It’s not always appropriate, so tread lightly when it comes to communicating with GIFs or emoji. If your brand is playful, young and a bit irreverent, it doesn’t hurt to embrace what’s become part of the Internet’s visual shorthand. One casual scroll through a site like Buzzfeed is all it takes to see that there is huge storytelling potential when it comes to using GIFs. Don’t forget, every GIF has a story, so it’s important to understand the context and origin of every meme you perpetuate. You wouldn’t want to use a doge GIF when a grumpy cat is really what the situation calls for, right?

Retweet and Repost Images

Customers may already be doing some of the heavy lifting for you, taking pictures of themselves enjoying a product of yours, visiting one of your stores or creating fan art inspired by your brand. Retweeting and re-posting positive comments about you is great form when it comes to staying engaged on social networks, and resharing images is even better because it puts user-submitted content front and center.

If you’ve been hesitant to jump into a visually driven platform like Tumblr, Pinterest or Instagram for fear that you don’t have enough material to share, think about rolling up all of the suggestions above into one pool of visual content. The longer you spend on developing your visual storytelling, the more you’ll get a sense of the kind of narrative you’re trying to build. Once you get the ball rolling, you can curate and edit by stepping back and gauging what your followers are hungry for.

How do you try to add a visual dimension to your content? Do you shape your social strategy around image-driven material, or are there times when you rely solely on text? Share your comments, thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.