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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.  

7 Signs It’s Time to Revise Your Social Media Strategy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

If you think you’ve figured out the social media game for good, we’ve got some news for you--social media can be a fickle friend. Your social strategy may be great today, but shifting trends, changing tastes and the arrival of new social networks can all change that very quickly! Here are a few signs it may be time to rethink your social media strategy.


“Is Anyone Out There?”

Has your number of followers plummeted? This is a sure sign that you need to take a look at your overall strategy. Fans might be jumping ship for any number of reasons (because your content is too repetitive, too impersonal or just plain annoying). Start with some research as to why people unfollow users on platforms like Twitter.


Your Customers Feel Ignored

Do you have angry customers coming into your shop or office wondering why you haven’t answered their tweets and Facebook messages? Customers hate being ignored whether it's online or in person. It’s time to rethink your social media platforms as an extension of the customer service experience you provide!


The Party Is Somewhere Else

If things seem dead, your most active users may have moved on to greener pastures. Are you still clinging to a dead social network? If your target audience is younger than twenty, you may want to invest more time and energy on platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, where teens and tweens are flocking to.

Your Website’s Traffic Isn’t What it Could Be

If you’re tracking visits to your business’s website and things are looking either lackluster or downright grim, you may not be leveraging the power of your social media platforms as well as you could.  


You Haven’t Published a New Blog Post in Months.

Your Blogger account wants to know where you’ve been for the last couple of months! The readers who follow your regular posts are also hungry for more! If your content has dried up, it’s time to set up a better blogging schedule. A weekly schedule gives you time to come up with ideas, the chance to edit things properly before they hit the web, and enough lead time to keep publishing on time. 


You’ve Got Hate Mail.

Yikes--talk about a red flag! If you’re getting e-mails and tweets from customers who are angry about your content, you may not know your audience as well as you think you do. Remember that reaching a broad audience might mean keeping polarizing opinions to yourself.


You’re Not Focused on Visuals.

Visual social media is dominating networks, so if you’re still relying purely on text to carry your message across, it’s time to bust out the camera! Flashy profiles with lots of high definition images are sure to attract more attention, especially fans who follow you through their mobile devices.


Are you in a rut when it comes to your social media strategy? You can never go wrong with increasing your engagement, answering questions promptly, sharing more of yourself and sharing a good variety of high quality content. How have you reinvigorated your social strategy over the past few years? Share your thoughts in the comment section.


What the Fox Say: A Lesson in Viral?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Daft Punk, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke may all have had a jump start on trying to stake a claim on this year’s song of the summer, but just as fall arrives at our doorstep, a dark horse (or is it fox?) is leaping into the race to trump their efforts and rewrite music history.

The video and song in question are from a Norweigan group called Ylvis, and just like Old McDonald, these musicians have a keen interest in the sounds of various fauna. But unlike Old McDonald, whose scope of zoological sound sampling was bound to the barnyard, Ylvis goes one step forward to pose the eternal question, “What the Fox Say?”

Okay, maybe we’re being a little bit facetious here. The song hasn’t exactly rocketed up the Billboard charts, but it has absolutely dominated blogs and social media over the past week. As of this posting, it’s managed to rack up over 15 million views on YouTube. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an indisputable viral sensation.

If a Norweigan band can harness the power of the internet to raise its profile in such a powerful and immediate way, can you do the same? Here’s what we can learn about viral videos from “What the Fox Say.”

The Sincerity Factor

Treading the line between sincerity and irony is tricky, but it pays off. One way to get viewers hooked is to play with their expectations. If you caught yourself asking, “Are they for real?” while watching the Ylvis video, join the club. That mystery is a key ingredient that leads viewers to want to discover more. Did you catch the Worst Twerk Fail Ever video? Turns out it was just a gag from notorious serial prankster Jimmy Kimmel. Of course, there is a big difference between being tongue-and-cheek and being a flat-out liar. The trick is to know your audience and what kind of humor they’re primed for. 

Embrace the Absurd

Designer Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Absurdity and anti—absurdity are the two poles of creative energy.” We’re not sure what the heck that means, but exploring the absurd is definitely a way to reach people immersed in internet culture. If anyone disagrees, kindly refer those detractors to any of the Harlem Shake videos The internet is a strange place, filled with weird, wild stuff. Embrace it! Just check out two of the most influential pages on the web, Reddit and Buzzfeed, and see what you stumble across. Think of it as a daily digest of the web’s most viral idiosyncrasies.

Viral Fame is Touch and Go, but Still Important

Viral fame can come your way and then-- quick as a fox-- vanish into thin air. While it’s the holy grail of awesomeness (to borrow a little internet slang) for many marketers, it only represents a small part of what you can do through social media to reach out to fans. Still, harnessing even a little power from “the secret of the fox” can help you break out of the monotony of your usual content. Don’t be afraid to get a little whacky and meet your web followers on their level by speaking their lingo. That includes both the language you use and the visual media you create and share.

What’s your favorite viral video? Think about the things that make you come back to it over and over. Did you feel compelled to share it right away? Put yourself in the shoes of the customers on the other end of your social media strategy and you’re sure to gain a new perspective. Who knows, you might even score next year’s song of the summer. Better start planning now!

What Teens Can Teach You About Social Media

Social Sonar - Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Remember the old adage about children being “seen and not heard?” That saying may have held some weight for previous generations, but today's teens and tweens have become drivers of the way we communicate, building and participating in online cultures in ways that leave some folks in the dust.

Kids are practically born with a smartphone in their hands. Combine that with a formidable collective buying power and you have a demographic whose impact is impossible to ignore.

Young people can drive the success and failure of social media platforms, forcing them to adapt or die. Their recent mass exodus from Facebook to other places like Twitter and Instagram is one example of how shifting demographics have forced some companies to adapt (quickly) to the pace of young people's tastes and desires in an attempt to recapture them.

As a cornerstone of internet culture, teens and tweens build and contribute to massive online ecosystems, develop internet shorthand that spills over into real life and participate in social media in ways that small businesses could stand to learn from.

Getting Ahead of the Game

Teens and tweens are usually early adopters. They're one step ahead of the game when it comes to new technology and the latest social media platforms. Being an early adopter lets you stake out a space before others get there. It also makes you look like a leader who understands new trends and blazes ahead instead of lagging behind.

Connecting Real Life and Digital Networking

Young people are expert networkers. They actively seek out people to follow, stay engaged, ask questions and prioritize extending their influence online. More importantly, they realize that digital life and real life aren't separated by an iron curtain. Networks spill over, making real life connections become digital ones and vice versa.

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The upcoming generation of millennials is often accused of being the “Me” generation, but that doesn't mean that their efforts at self promotion aren't worth emulating. Teens and tweens aren't afraid to toot their own horn and you shouldn't be either. Put your accomplishments on display so the world knows just how great you are at what you do.

Joking Around

The internet is a place to let loose! Let your voice shine through by being honest. Writing for the internet doesn't require the formality that other media demands, so take the opportunity to be creative and put your sense of humor on display. People will see your brand as more personable and relatable that way.

A teen's life online may seem like fun and games, but young people are masters at learning new tools of the trade. Take a cue from teens and tweens so you can stay adaptable, curious and open to taking on new challenges. You'll be one step ahead of the competition and spearheading your way to a more creative approach to social media.

The Benefits of a Dedicated User

Social Sonar - Thursday, April 25, 2013

Does part of your social media plan include having a dedicated user-- someone whose job description includes planning and carrying out your strategy? In a small business setting it's typical, and often times essential, for staff members to wear many different hats. That sometimes means that jobs are shared or passed around as staff members become available to take them on. That approach can be great in some scenarios, but it doesn't mean everyone should have a hand in social media, or that the task should fall to whoever is available in the moment. There are benefits to centralizing your strategy in the hands of one or two people. It allows you to:

Be More Consistent

For a unified tone and approach, it's best to limit the amount of people publishing through your social media outlets. With different writing styles and varying response times to questions from customers, followers may find you unreliable or start seeing individual posts as too disconnected. For cohesion in messaging, which makes for stronger branding, a dedicated user works best.

Consolidate

Are you spread out over various social media platforms? Instead of having different users monitoring different sites, it's better for a dedicated user to have an eye on each of them. On the most practical level, it's easier to keep track of logins and accounts this way. It also allows for the task of tracking data to be centralized in one place, with one person checking in on various platforms and collecting relevant information periodically.

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Make Better Use of Time

Dedicated users translate into dedicated time. Spreading out your social media efforts amongst different staff members can mean that the time and energy spent on your strategy gets diffused. A dedicated user can use blocks of time to tackle answering questions, updating pages and scheduling new content. A piecemeal approach ultimately leaves you one step behind instead of one step ahead.

Does that mean that brainstorming about how to approach your plan should only be limited to the people who execute it? Not at all! It's great to have input from several members of your team during the initial planning phases. This allows you to tap into the creative potential of your team, gather great ideas and develop a plan that's a true representation of your organization. But as you execute specific parts of your strategy, funnel responsibilities towards one or two users who can hold it all together. It's the best way to present a confident overarching narrative that will strengthen your identity and keep your followers engaged.

Choosing the Right Social Media Platform

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It might feel like there are far too many social media platforms in the virtual world.  Here's a list of the top websites and why they might benefit you.

FACEBOOK  

Facebook is approaching 1 billion users (although that number was recently challenged due to the number of fake and/or inactive profiles).  Those with a Facebook profile generally leave their browser open for many hours a day, but most are there to connect with friends and socialize.  With so many users, this platform can be helpful in both B2B and B2C marketing.  Make sure you understand the difference between profiles, fan pages and groups.  

TWITTER  

Twitter receives approximately 144 million unique visitors each month.  Reportedly, Twitter users are multi-taskers who are easily distracted.  This platform is more open, which can be overwhelming but useful when searching keywords.  Hashtags can help you be part of a larger conversation about topics.   

GOOGLE+  

Google+ will reportedly have 400 million users by the end of 2012.  Sixty percent of their users are web developers or software engineers.  Seventy-five to 85% are men, and the most popular age range is 25-34.  Google+ is definitely rising in the ranks and may certainly take over the top spot someday if Facebook continues to frustrate users with format changes.

LINKEDIN  

LinkedIn has over 100 million users, the majority of which are there for professional reasons.  Over one million are high-ranking executives with decision making authority.  LinkedIn is best used for B2B marketing.  

REDDIT  

Reddit receives millions of visitors.  It is a social site that allows users to submit links, and then allows other users to vote those submissions "up" or "down," so that popular posts are more easily found.  The site can be useful to help create viral ad campaigns and cause awareness.  

STUMBLEUPON  

StumbleUpon calls itself a "discovery engine" that finds web content for its users.  It recently surpassed Facebook as the highest traffic referrer of any website.  To catch the StumbleUpon user's attention, use flashy photos and catchy headlines.   

YOUTUBE  

YouTube reportedly has a brand value of $18.099 billion.  As the internet replaces the yellow pages, television and radio in the advertising department, YouTube can provide you with a format for releasing visual content.   

PINTEREST  

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard.  It relies heavily upon photos and videos, which are the most popular posts for business fan pages on Facebook.  Women between the ages of 25 and 44 make up 59% of its membership.    

TUMBLR  

Tumblr is a very simple blog site and, like Pinterest, is photo/image-based (well over half of the content uploaded are images).  Tumblr offers seven options for posting content: Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio, Video.  Users can then "like" your post or "re-blog" it.  Tumblr had over 15 billion page views in January 2012.

The top two social networking sites remain Facebook and Twitter.  However, there are many other sites out there.  Ask your customers where they spend their time and consider spending some time there yourself.  Which sites do you use to promote your business?

Is Social Media Included In Your Marketing Plan?

Social Sonar - Monday, May 07, 2012

According to a survey by Forrester.com, even though 92% of those polled agree that social media has "fundamentally changed how consumers engage with brands," only 49% of marketers have "fully integrated" social media into their marketing strategy. Have you included social media in your marketing plan?

Here are four tips for successfully including social media in your marketing plan:

Choose Your Platform Wisely

There are so many social media sites. Choose yours wisely. We have discussed various popular sites in many of our blog posts and recently touched upon some smaller sites HERE. The big sites for many businesses are Facebook and Twitter. Other possible sites are YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr or Google+ (among others), depending upon your customer base. Don't waste time on all of these sites, however. Choose one at a time and test the waters slowly. 

Utilize E-mail Newsletters

It is essential to include links to your website, Facebook fan page, Twitter profile and other social media pages in your newsletter. You can also highlight upcoming specials and events. Newsletters are great because e-mails can be saved and read when your customer has a few minutes. Often posts on social media sites can get lost in a busy news feed, so reiterating certain posts in a newsletter is important.  

If you missed our previous post on e-mail newsletters, you can read it HERE.

Create Events on Facebook

Do you have an open house or other special event coming up? Create an event on Facebook! It is a fast, easy and FREE way to invite your fans to your store (make sure you include the Facebook event link in your newsletter). You can store photos, websites, or other information important for the event all in one location. You can also encourage fans to invite their friends (perhaps you can offer a discount or special for those guests who arrive first).

Read our previous post about fundraising events using social media sites HERE.

Content is Key

Whether we are talking about your website, your social media profiles or your newsletter, content is key. If you are not posting interesting and engaging information, your customers are not going to read your posts. Remember to engage your customer in a conversation rather than selling to them. Your content should add value for your audience, and should not overtly sell anything, which makes people want to share it with their network as well. You can read our previous post about the disconnect between brands and consumers HERE.  

Keep in mind that building your brand using social media is a process.  Have you officially implemented social media into your marketing plan?  Tell us about it here!

 

Is Tumblr Good For Business?

Social Sonar - Saturday, February 11, 2012

There is yet another addition to the growing list of social media websites.  Tumblr is a very simple blog site and, like Pinterest is photo/image-based (well over half of the content uploaded are images).  Tumblr had over 15 billion page views in January 2012. 

Some business owners have found that uploading flyers to Tumblr allows them to be shared easily, which spreads their content throughout the web.  However, the question we ask each time we introduce a new social media site:  Will your time be well-spent here when it is likely most of your customers are on Facebook as well?  Each business will have to evaluate this question carefully before deciding to spend time on an additional social media website. 

Tumblr offers seven options for posting content:
Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio, Video.  Users can then "like" your post or "re-blog" it.  Certain posts also allow comments.  However, many users will share or re-share content without ever responding or leaving a comment, so making your posts interesting and exciting to share is your goal on Tumblr. 

Have you ever used Tumblr -- either personally or for your business?  What do you think?  Is it worth it for businesses?