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The 4 Things You Should Never Share Digitally (with Wince-Worthy Examples)

Alison Kawa - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

If the web had a tagline, it would be, "The Internet is forever." On Thursday, May 8, 2014, Snapchat settled with the FTC over concerns about deliberately misleading consumers into thinking their information was secure and private. "According to the FTC's complaint, Snapchat made multiple misrepresentations to consumers about its product that stood in stark contrast to how the app actually worked."

It's hard to understand how people believed Snapchat was secure in the first place. Like anything and everything sent over a wire or through the air, digital information can be intercepted. The fact that software also exists to recover Snapchat messages from your phone long after they have been deleted by the app should have been a clue that nothing is safe.

What this trial really illustrates is the fervent wish that people don't want to be held accountable for their questionable content choices. The bottom line is, don't publish anything you wouldn't want future employers, political opponents, or family members to see. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

1. Stories you haven't fact-checked.

I would like to live the rest of my life without ever again seeing the "inspiring" (and totally untrue) tale of the bald eagle who rips off its beak during a mid-life crisis in order to grow stronger. Sharing stories like this not only spreads misinformation, but makes you look uneducated.

Familiarize yourself with popular satire sites like The Onion, Private Eye, and NewsBiscuit and don't share their links without a disclaimer. If you're still not sure about the source, search for the topic on Snopes, a website debunking urban legends, Internet rumors, email forwards, and other stories of questionable origin.

2. Hateful comments.

Even if you have the privacy settings as high as you can set them, and you believe all your Facebook friends agree with you 100%, you will still find your darkest sentiments exposed if you share them. Just ask super-racist Donald Sterling, whose own girlfriend turned him over to the press. As your mother always said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

3. Sexy talk.

The recipient of your cheesy pun about breakfast meat may think it's clever at the time, and may even be turned on if you're lucky. After you part ways, people seeing it on the Internet will have a field day. Save yourself the embarrassment and reserve dirty talk for unrecorded in-person encounters.

4. Nude pictures or images of your genitalia.

Anthony Weiner Sexting Scandal SummaryIf you don't want your boss or mother to see it, don't take it. It will end up in front of the wrong eyes. Guaranteed. Need I remind you of the aptly named Anthony Weiner scandal or this poor son who was tricked into seeing nude photos of his mother by a jealous ex.

Like real life, everything you do on the Internet can (and usually does) have consequences. Gone are the pre-digital days when people could walk away from an uncomfortable conversation before you went too far. Now the whole world is your audience and they never forget. Do your future self a favor and think twice before you post.

Have more suggestions or digital horror stories? Share them with us in the comments.

8 Ways To Keep and Entertain Friends on Social Media

Social Sonar - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It used to be that all it took to make a new friend was a few hours in the sandbox and a shared peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Flash forward a few decades and things have gotten more complicated--and only half of the problem is having become a full-fledged grown up. We play out increasingly larger chunks of our social interactions online. In fact, some relationships take place entirely on social networks. Tangled in with electronic missives from friends and family are attempts by brands to build ongoing relationships with their customers. So how does your business figure out how to keep and entertain friends once you’ve made them? Here are eight tips.

Leave the Selfie to Somebody Els(i)e

Instead of sharing your own selfies, create a campaign to encourage fans to share theirs, like this inspired “undead yourself” campaign aimed at Walking Dead fans.

Create Interactive Content

Quizzes, polls, and open-ended questions are few ways of easily creating interactive content. Try it yourself: craft your own quiz (from Interact) and share it on social.

Don’t Respond Badly to Criticism

Don’t create your own public relations crisis by responding poorly to negative comments. Even big companies like Nestle forget this and end up mired in bad publicity.

Don’t Be Annoying

It’s important to know how much and how often people want to hear from you. During busy times (like the holiday season), be aware of how many people unfollow you. It might be because you’re posting too much.

Show Them You’re Listening

If 90% of your followership is telling you they want longer hours at your store, show them you’re listening by pushing closing time back just a bit. Responding to comments is good form, but integrating feedback is even better.

Post Original Content

Your fans and friends are following you for your unique point of view. Leveraging the power of memes and viral content can be good in small doses, but generating your own material is the best way to personalize your brand.

Give Them Breaking News

Make your followers feel like they’re part of an exclusive club. Break news about special deals, new store locations or a brand new product to them first so they feel like VIPs. 

Showcase Fan Content

Invite your friends and fans to show you how they interact with your brand every day. Check out this campaign from the North Face, where loyal fans were encouraged to share their love for outdoor exploration through pictures. 

How do you keep your online friendships strong? Share your strategies for building strong relationships with followers in the comment section below.

Does Facebook Owe it to Nonprofits to Fix Organic Reach?

Social Sonar - Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Here’s something to consider while debating whether Facebook’s moves to limit organic reach are justified: Facebook wants big brands to pay to play, but should nonprofits and groups promoting social causes be hurt in the process? With more than 1 billion users using Facebook  through their mobile devices, Facebook has an audience that no sane marketer could ignore. It makes sense for big brands like Nike and Coke to for over some cash to reach your newsfeed, but what about nonprofits and online activists that use the network to promote their causes? Should they be throttled by Facebook’s changes, too? After all, many of these organizations are strapped for cash as it is, and losing a free tool with incredible potential to reach others can be a big blow.

The revolution may not be televised, but the past decade has shown that it’s often tweeted. Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms have become important places for people to share information, even when their own governments try to suppress information from reaching traditional media sources. Given that it’s so important to promoting social causes, does Facebook have a responsibility in sustaining a space where that kind of dialogue can continue to happen?

Here’s what Facebook could do to level the playing field for nonprofits:


Create a Verification Process for Nonprofits

Facebook could create a verification process for nonprofits and social causes that distinguishes them from big commercial endeavors and boost their organic reach. Facebook gets brownie points for promoting the kind of open, social platform it began as (and promoting social good), and nonprofits that have spent years building up an audience are able to reach them again.

Scaled Reach

If nonprofits and social causes can’t return to previous levels of reach, why not scale it? 2% reach isn’t enough to run an effective social media campaign, but 50% gives nonprofits a fighting chance to wield some influence again.

Offer a Few Promoted Posts a Month for Nonprofits

As it stands now, any post you want to promote will cost you. You can boost your reach this way, but without a big budget, you may soon find that social media is taking too big of a bite from your budget. Facebook could over a few promoted posts a month for nonprofits and pages that promote social causes.

Do you think Facebook owes it to nonprofits, activists and other groups promoting social causes to loosen the reins on its constricting news feed algorithm? Should users be able to see more from the pages they choose to like? Share your own ideas and suggestions below. In the meantime, make sure you check out these tips for working within Facebook’s current iteration of organic reach.

How to Keep it Pithy on Social Media

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Brevity is the soul of social media posts. At least that’s what these scientific guidelines, which outline the “ideal length of everything online,” claim. While many social platforms already require writers to be as pithy as possible (Twitter’s stringent and limited 140-character limit comes to mind), it turns out that the most engaging content is even more concise than you might think. For instance, did you know that the ideal length of a Facebook post is less than 40 characters?

Don’t Try to Cover Everything at Once

A great post can consist of a short description, an image and a relevant link that directs followers to learn more. Avoid the need to be all-encompassing with the information you deliver. For example, it’s better to link to details for an event instead of trying to cram all the information into a single status update.

Convey Information Visually

Use visuals to “show” instead of “tell.” An upcoming event that's “fun, and exciting” will seem much more appealing when you promote it with a picture showing people what they’ll miss if they don’t RSVP. If you’re dealing with big numbers, avoid technical explanations and break things downgraphically.

Break Things Down into Smaller Posts

Sometimes you have a lot to say, but that doesn’t mean you have to say it all at once. Break down big swaths of information into smaller, consecutive posts. Check out this string of Tweets from Tim Tebow (remember him?) where he responds to being cut from the Patriots.

Let Your Links do the Talking

A short status update can tease content from a longer blog. If you just wrote an article about what leadership means to you and your business, you don’t have to sum up your philosophy in a single Tweet or update. Instead, introduce the topic in an enticing way by writing something like “Why supervisors are the least important people in the room.” A catchy headline is more likely to gain attention and clicks. Don’t spoil the reader’s experience by selling your conclusions up front.

Find Shorter Words, Ditch Extra Ones

Is there a shorter way to express what you’re trying to say? Picture Ernest Hemingway as your editor. The author is notorious for his direct, vigorous and concise style. Use an online thesaurus to find shorter versions of words. Comb through your writing and parse out extra qualifiers like adjectives and adverbs that might not be adding too much to your updates. If you’re describing something a new product as “beautiful, gorgeous and eye-catching,” for instance, it’s easy to see how just one of those words would get the point across. Even better? Sharing a picture so that followers can see for themselves.

How do you avoid getting too verbose on social media? Have you compared the engagement of longer posts versus shorter ones? Track your posts for a week or more to see how tightening your copy makes a difference. Feel free to share what you find in the comments below.

The Tweet Beat: Twitter's New Layout

Social Sonar - Thursday, April 24, 2014

Can you believe it? Twitter isn’t even ten years old and it’s already going under the knife for a little nip and tuck. The platform is getting ready for some cosmetic changes and you’re due to start seeing updates soon. If you’ve bemoaned the fact that Twitter’s layout doesn’t give you enough room to customize, we think you’ll be excited about this new iteration. If you hate change and always liked Twitter for its more streamlined approach, you may not be in love with what’s in store.

The new design isn't ready to spread its wings and leave the nest jsut yet, but you may have already been prompted at login to check out the new interface. Some users have already made the switch over, but changes are being slowly rolled out to give you time to become familiar with features. Here are some things to keep an eye out for.

Embedded Images and Video

Users won’t have to rely on dropdowns to view a full image or video. Instead, they’ll be able to see media directly in their feeds. What does that mean for you? Keep creating and sharing compelling visuals. Twitter has always been about pithy messaging, but there’s no doubt that photos, video, and other visuals drive engagement. That's especially true now that media will be directly visible in users feeds. 

More Room to Show Off Your Brand

There’s more room to represent your brand in Twitter’s new layout. The biggest and most obvious change is a banner up top that’s entirely customizable. It’s not unlike a cover photo on Facebook or a banner that you might upload to your company’s LinkedIn page. You’ll also notice that your own profile picture is bigger and set to the left, along with your headline and bio. It’s a good time to create a strong visual that represents you well, because it will leave a lasting impression on people who visit your Twitter page.

Highlight Specific Tweets

Tweets come and go so quickly. That’s always been the nature of Twitter’s messaging system, but with the new design, you’ll be able to hang onto the tweets that matter most. Users will have the option of pinning important tweets to the top of the page, so if you have a great comment from a customer, or a tweet about an upcoming event, you can leave it there for more followers to see.

If some of these changes seem familiar, it’s probably no coincidence. Many users have complained about Facebook’s changing algorithm, which has severely limited organic reach. Twitter’s update could be a savvy move to capture fleeing users who are already familiar with Facebook’s look and feel.

Curious about more changes and features? Check out this article for more information. Looking for some inspiration on making the best of the new layout? Here are 40 Twitter accounts that are already using the new profile.

What do you think about the changes? Are you excited about the possibilities? Or are you already pining for the old layout? Share your thoughts below.

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.