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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.

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.

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.

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.  

How to Avoid Stoking your Customer’s Rage on Social Media

Social Sonar - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

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.

Respond Quickly

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.


4 Common Pitfalls of Social Media

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” We don’t know if Einstein ever envisioned a world of digital information dominated by social media, but he may as well have been talking about marketing in the era of Facebook and Twitter. If you’re not embracing all the marketing tools the web has to offer, you may be playing it too safe. If the idea of making mistakes has you shying away from social media, check out these four common pitfalls.

Trying to be Everywhere at Once

Are you on every social media platform imaginable? It’s a good idea to have a presence on multiple networks, but don’t spread yourself too thin by thinking that you have to be everywhere at once! Instead, think about your target demographic and then discover which platforms your target audience is using the most. This article from Nonprofit Quarterly offers a great breakdown of some statistics surrounding social media and the types of users that can be found on each network. If you know information about your target audience, such as age or income, you can zero in on the social channels that these users are most likely to be engaging through.

Jumping In Without a Plan

Just like any other aspect of your overall marketing plan, your social media strategy needs to follow a plan. Social media is an incredible dynamic tool. Different organizations and businesses will harness its power in the way that best suits their needs. Before you start publishing and engaging with fans, ask yourself, “What can I do through social media that I’m not already achieving through other marketing approaches?” Some of your goals might include growing awareness around your brand, providing round-the-clock customer service online, or boosting revenue from your online store during the holiday season. Check out this list of the 12 Most Attainable Goals on Social Media to get the ball rolling.

Being a Broadcaster

Many marketers accustomed to traditional forms of communication may easily slip into this common pitfall. The old dynamic of publishing as a one-way street doesn’t work with digital marketing, so look for opportunities to improve engagement whenever you can. Using social media is as much about creating a space for customers to talk about you (and to you) as it is about you broadcasting information them. As part of your social media plan, you might consider setting some ground rules around how much of your content constitutes broadcasting and how much of it is geared towards maximizing engagement.

Measuring Too Much or Too Little

We’re living in an era where many decisions are built on big data, and many social networks have built-in tools that can give you great insight into the habits of your fans. Learning that most of your Facebook followers are from out of state might make you change the way you approach your business. Monitoring the type of content that garners the most engagement might also shape the kind of information you publish and ultimately help you grow your online following. But getting too bogged down with numbers can be detrimental to your overall strategy. On the other hand, tracking and logging every “like” and “retweet” is unlikely to yield any gains. Focus on tracking the outcomes that are most closely linked to your overall marketing goals and you’ll find it easier to parse out useful data from the white noise.

Are you a veteran when it comes to using social media to grow your business? Or are you just starting to dip your toes in the water? In either case, there is always something to learn! Share your own stories of pitfalls you’ve encountered below.