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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Hell hath no fury like a loyal customer scorned, especially when that customer is armed with social media tools and ready to broadcast their rage to the rest of their network with just one click. Wading into a landscape where customers and brands are interacting at an unprecedented level can seem like walking through a landmine at times. One wrong move, and...kaboom!
So how do you avoid turning a legion of followers into a firing squad? Well, crossing your fingers and hoping that you never upset your customers is a nice wish, but it’s unlikely to happen. Here are a few tips for avoiding confrontations with customers online.
Be transparent and honest
If something goes wrong, apologize. Most customers are reasonable people, and they’ll appreciate the fact that you owned up to a mistake. Honestly explaining what went wrong will go a long way in mending your relationship.
Destroy Your Doppelgangers
Staying away from social media? You may think you’re sidestepping the issue of dealing with customers entirely, but that doesn’t mean someone else isn’t doing it for you! By staying off of social media, you might be creating a vacuum that lets a copycat impersonate you. Who knows what they could be saying on your behalf. Get online and root out your doppelgangers by becoming the official voice for your own business.
Don’t Go After Customers
Don’t get engaged in petty squabbles on social media and don’t continue to badger customers after you’ve resolved an issue. Don't take the bait either. Customers might try to lure you into a fight, but take the higher ground.
Avoid Polarizing Topics
Think of social media like the Thanksgiving table. Do you really want to bring up volatile issues like politics and religion? If your business (or non-profit organization) is built around taking a decisive stance on some issue, then you should always make your point of view loud and clear. But make sure you’re always promoting respectful dialogue. You’re more likely to win hearts and minds and lose less followers.
Social media is a real time medium. The rules of engagement for social media demand a quick response from you. If you’re not monitoring closely, you might easily miss the fact that someone is loudly complaining about you. Several people may actively be calling you out and soon enough you’ll have a full blown PR issue on your hands.
Resolve Things Privately
You don’t have to drag out your dirty laundry in front of everyone. Make use of private messaging features that you can find on most social media platforms. If someone brings up an issue that’s better resolved between the two of you, kindly ask them to direct message you, or take the lead and message them first.
Dealing with a particularly angry person can always leave a bad taste in your mouth. Sometimes, they come on so aggressively that it’s hard not to snap back. Take a deep breath, relax and listen. What they’re saying about you might hurt at first, but with some time and a truly open mind, you might discover that a complaint sets the stage for important changes you need to make.
Have you dealt with the mighty wrath of an enraged customer before? Have they put you on blast to all of their friends? Sometimes it helps to think about that customer coming into your store and dealing with you in person. What would you say to them? What would you offer to make it up to them? Share your approach to disgruntled customers in the comments section below and include some ways that you can translate that to the world of social media.
Ready to hear something really uncanny? The TV show Supernatural, about two demon-hunting brothers that drive cross country vanquishing all kinds of evil creatures, has been on the air for nearly a decade, against all odds and despite the fact that its viewership (as measured by Nielsen ratings) is pretty modest. In fact, Supernatural’s real time viewership (that is the, number of people who watch the show as it airs on the CW) is so unremarkable that if it belonged to any other show there’s no doubt it would have been staked through the heart long ago.
And yet, season after season, Supernatural rises from the dead. It’s the kind of phenomenon that exemplifies the extent to which fans have been able to leverage the power of the web to affect the landscape of television.
As NPR reports, Supernatural's secret to remaining in the zeitgeist is an unrelenting online fandom that uses social media and the web to connect and build a community around anything and everything related to the show. That includes message boards, huge “fanfic” sites, a near omnipresence on Tumblr, and continued chatter on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Supernatural isn’t alone in its ability to cultivate passion for its characters and stories on social media. The TV show Scandal became a huge hit last year, in large part because of the way viewers took to social media to react in real time to every twist and turn. In the words of the LA Times, it became must-tweet TV.
Other cult TV shows have also benefitted from the fervent love of their online followers. It’s hard to think that the NBC show Community, with its penchant for incredibly obscure inside jokes and meta humor, would still be on the air if it didn’t have such a devoted and vocal online following. What’s more, social media played a key role in ensuring the return of the show’s original creator, Dan Harmon. After a falling out with NBC, Harmon was fired, only to retake the reins last year after fans made it clear they wanted him in control of their favorite show.
Veronica Mars may have solved her last case on TV years ago, but interest in the show lived on thanks to the Internet, so much so that even though its last episode aired in 2007, a new movie is set to be released later this year. The film was crowdfunded through Kickstarter, a maverick move that would have been unthinkable before the era of social media. The reignited love for Veronica Mars and the excitement about the upcoming movie has sparked so much interest that on top of a feature film, there’s also a brand new spinoff in the works set to premiere as a web series.
Social media has become such an integral part of the TV watching experience that traditional metrics just aren’t an appropriate gauge for a show’s popularity and cultural clout anymore. Recognizing that social media has fundamentally changed the way people interact with TV shows, Nielsen launched Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings at the end of last year. It’s a move that signals an expanding role for social TV data in shaping programming, and a growing influence from fans who now have an unprecedented power in shaping what’s on their screens.
Looking at the bigger picture, these case studies in TV shows whose destinies have been shaped by social media say something about the immeasurable value of fandom, stoked by social media. It’s a kind of loyalty that persists and is rekindled over and over by virtue of people having a space to celebrate the things they love online. That’s a testament to the kind of online communities that social media has been able to foster and a sure sign that their power to affect culture at large will only continue to expand.
Some people are lucky: the prose just seems to pour out of them. For the rest of us, it takes a special kind of effort to develop great writing that provides value for customers, represents our brands, and engages fans. Are you doing everything you can to create the best written content for your social strategy? Here are five tips to help you get there.
The Hardest Part is Getting Started
There’s no way around it. The most difficult part of writing is getting started. Clearing away distractions, getting your thoughts organized and setting out to churn out great content is by far the hardest part of any kind of writing. By following a publishing schedule, you can establish a helpful routine that lets you stay on task. Setting deadlines is also important, especially if you’re working on your own, without an editor. You might consider setting up reminders on a program like Google Calendar to help keep you accountable.
Write When You’re Not Writing
Just because you’re not sitting at your desktop computer or laptop doesn’t mean you can’t be writing. In fact, you might be doing yourself a great disservice by insisting that the only time to “really write” is when you’re sitting at your desk with a blank page before you. No matter how many tabs you have open in your browser, inspiration may be hard to come by if you’re not engaging with the real world. Take a small pen and pad of paper everywhere you go and jot down ideas as they come to you. Wait until your brain is teeming with ideas and then sit down to work. You’ll find that writing is much more enjoyable when the ideas seem to pour out on their own.
Edit, Edit, Edit. But Write First!
You don’t have to edit as you write. Your inner editor may want to jump the gun, but it's best to get your ideas out while they’re still fresh. Editing as you write might curb some of your better instincts. Trust that you’re on your way to creating something great and go for it! Then, take a break, step back, and return to your writing when you’ve had some time to “cleanse your palate.” Your own writing might seem foreign to you, which is a good thing--you’ll be able to judge it in a much more objective way.
Keep it Pithy
Longform content aside, social media is a place to keep things concise. Facebook posts may allow you more room to expound on your ideas, but that doesn’t always mean you should take advantage of this feature. Fans that are scrolling through their newsfeeds are more likely to ignore you if you start gaining a reputation for being too verbose. Keep it punchy, pithy and include a call to action to generate the most engagement.
Kill Your Darlings
If you’ve ever taken a writing or composition class, you’ve no doubt come across this gem: “Kill your darlings.” This perennial piece of advice has been attributed to so many authors that its true origin might be impossible to pinpoint. Apocryphal status aside, the idea behind this old adage still rings true: if your idea stinks, just let it go. If you’re working on a piece of writing like a blog and find you can’t resolve its disparate pieces into something to be proud of, ditch it. Take it as a sign that something better is waiting to bubble up.
How do you handle the parts of your social marketing strategy that involve writing? Share your best advice in the comments section below.
SEO is dead. SEO is alive and well. SEO is evolving. Which philosophy is your marketing approach based on? Look up “Search Engine Optmization” and you’re bound to find any number of blogs debating whether traditional modes of boosting your visibility through search engines have disappeared completely, changed fundamentally or retained some of their tactical value.
No matter who you believe, one this is certain: there is a lot of anxiety over the best way to approach web visibility and search engine ranking in 2014. Marketers shouldn’t be surprised though. Big changes have been brewing for over a year, with search engine giants like Google looking for a more intuitive and efficient approach to delivering results to users.
One of the developments that’s stirring up controversy amongst SEO experts is last year’s release of Google Hummingbird. Hummingbird is an updated algorithm that employs features like conversational search to make searching for information easier and more like everyday speech. Important features like PageRank, which haven’t been officially discontinued, are receding to the background and might eventually stop being a part of the equation.
Does this mean you should abandon old approaches to SEO? If you’re used to rattling off a bunch of keywords in the attempt to capture the attention of Google’s algorithm, then yes. Part of Google’s strategy has been to create search methods that exclude gibberish from content farms, which used to produce high ranking material that failed to truly satisfy a searcher’s query.
What can you do to secure a space at the top of search engine rankings? Without altering the actual architecture of your site, there is still a lot you can do by simply being a better blogger. Establish yourself as an authority on your topic and make your platform an important voice for your industry. Google’s approach to delivering results favors quality sites that contain links to other healthy sites. Make sure that each post is like a resource bank that redirects people to more quality content. If you’re already focused on creating the best content for your readers, this should really take care of itself!
A good approach to SEO in 2014 goes hand in hand with good writing. Counting keywords may not be as important as it used to be, and this might comes as a relief to many. Step outside the prescribed formula of meeting keyword quotas so you can really say what you mean with your writing. If you’re avidly blogging about your business, keywords should naturally occur without too much hand wringing about whether it’s “enough.”
Most of all, remember that making sure you’re easy to find online is just part of your overall marketing approach--a piece of a dynamic puzzle. Your offpage efforts to direct traffic (either in real life or through social media) to your homepage shouldn’t be ignored in the pursuit of chasing keywords.
Keep an eye on search engine trends, but don’t don’t be a slave to rigid schemes. As companies like Google move to more organic ways of delivering results, great content will float to the top and irrelevant junk will sink to the bottom. Where you end up has less to do with a single rubric for success and more to do with creating a page that users love to visit for its great material.
Let’s face it. When it comes to drafting New Year’s resolutions, we’ve all been guilty of biting off more than we can chew. It’s hard not to be a little overzealous when it comes to setting goals; a new year always seems full of limitless possibilities. But lofty propositions won’t get you anywhere without a plan. If you’re resolving to improve your social strategy in 2014, it’s important to break that proposition down into bite size pieces. Here are some recommendations for realistic propositions that’ll boost your approach to social media in 2014.
Delve Into a New Platform
Are you stuck on Facebook and Twitter? While these two platforms remain an important cornerstone of a solid social media strategy, you could be limiting your reach by refusing to branch out. We recommend exploring visually-driven platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, so you can stay ahead of the game on an important trend: the continuing rise of “social visual” across the web. Curious about the social platforms that best suit your customers? Check out this study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, featuring detailed information about key demographics and the social media platforms they’re most engaged with.
Revise Your Social Media Policy
As you move into 2014, it’s a great time to take a look back at your social media strategy for the year. What were some of the major pitfalls? What were your great successes? Gather key players to have a post-mortem that takes an honest look at your overall approach, then get ready to revise your social media policy. Do you have multiple dedicated users taking on social or are you relying on a single social media manager to get things done? Don’t be afraid to adopt a new set of guidelines around the way your company uses social media. Remember, it should be a direct reflection of your brand’s identity. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, NPR has a great template here.
Set Goals for Engagement
One of the most important metrics you can track has less to do with the habits of your followers and more to do with the kind of content you’re producing. This year, resolve to measure how much of your own content is an earnest attempt to find out more about your followers, answer their questions and sustain engagement. As you start tracking what you publish, you might discover that too many of your posts are treating social media as a one-way street, instead of a place to generate conversation online.
Launch a Social-Media Driven Campaign
Social media campaigns like promotions, contests and giveaways are an excellent way to drum up excitement if you find yourself in a creative rut. Don’t be scared to try them out! This year, try creating a campaign that’s driven by social media instead of traditional marketing approaches. It’s a great way to reward loyal followers and pick up some new fans in the process. You could host a weekly trivia on Twitter, create a photo contest on Instagram, or run a promotion on Facebook. Just be sure to cover yourself for any liability by planning ahead and always stating rules and regulations upfront!
Setting goals is always easy. It’s following through that’s the hardest part! What are you most excited to try out this year to grow your social media strategy? How do you create benchmarks along the way to hold yourself accountable and make sure you’re on the right track? Share your thoughts in the comments below!