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Better Blogging Made Easy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 24, 2013
You don’t have to be a master wordsmith when it comes to blogging, but readers will appreciate it when you make an effort to share your best writing. Lots of us are born with the gift of gab, but committing those ideas to ink (or in this case pixels) is another story entirely. We’ve all prematurely hit “publish” and later looked back to spot a typo or two--or even worse, realized that our ideas are interesting but unorganized and hard to follow. If you’re intimidated at the prospect of sharing your thoughts online, don’t be scared. There are a few simple things you can start doing today to make sure that your great ideas aren’t undercut by your approach to writing.

Create an Outline

If you’re anything like us, you have a lot of ideas to share. Creating a short outline before you start writing can help your posts become more organized. Think of main ideas you want to touch on and then develop points that support those main ideas. Think of an outline as a handy roadmap that will help you avoid unplanned digressions and keep you and your readers on course. 

Stay Away From Jargon

Unless you are writing for other professionals in your industry, it’s best to avoid highly technical jargon. Not everyone may know what an “electronic engine immobilizer" is, but if you run a business related to cars, your followers are sure to be grateful for the explanation. Remember, not everyone is immersed in the culture of your industry, so don’t make people feel excluded from the conversation.

Err on the Side of Brevity

When you’re editing your blogs, look for opportunities to be more concise. Are there places where you’re being redundant? Can you replace a long phrase with two or three words? In our attempt to sound knowledgeable, we often lay on more words, turns of phrases and rhetorical devices than we need to. Trimming the fat can be hard because it often leaves your ideas exposed. Can they stand on their own? If not, it may be worth reworking your post.

What are your best practices when it comes to writing? Do you have advice from a favorite English teacher etched into your memory? Share your tips for better blogging below.

Social Media and the Art of the Tease

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What motivates customers to follow you on social media? For some, the promise of having firsthand knowledge about new projects and products is too good to resist. Followers love having a direct line to you so that they can be the first to know about big changes that your brand is rolling out. Creating teases and previews on your social media platforms can be a great way to create a feeling of exclusivity and special access for your customers.

Be Mysterious....

Don’t give it all away at once. Instead, create a social media campaign where you slowly roll out small updates that culminate in a big reveal. You can build anticipation this way and encourage your followers to engage with each other to guess what it could be.

...But Don’t Play Hard to Get!

Mystery is great, but you don’t want to prolong it unnecessarily. You could end up turning the attention and interest of your audience into frustration. The hype game can be tricky this way. Make sure you have something really special to reveal at the end so that your followers don’t feel spurned.

Use a Variety of Media

You can crop photos to reveal only a portion of what you’re about to premiere, use small snippets of video or write cryptic clues. Vary your message to make the mystery that much more titillating. As you start getting attention, you can be coy with your responses to comments, letting customers know they just might be on the right track.

Is there a downside to teasing new developments? There absolutely can be. If you don’t follow through with your plans, you may find yourself surrounded by once-eager, now-empty-handed followers who are ready to move on from you. Do your best to preview plans that are already in motion and that you are sure will be completed. As phases of new project are completed, share staggered updates through social media. That way you won’t become a victim of your own hype.  

What big projects are on the horizon for you? A venue change? A brand new product? Maybe an entire re-branding? Whatever it is, use social media to give your next unveiling the attention it deserves.

Learn More About Your Followers With New Facebook Graph Search

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Facebook’s latest update is a more intuitive and personalized kind of search engine. With dozens, hundreds or thousands of interactions happening constantly, it’s impossible to keep track of the mountain of information that your business accrues every day. With the new graph search option, it’s easier to find out where your followers live, what kind of shows or movies they enjoy and even what kind of posts they’ve engaged with in the past. But what does that mean for your overall social media strategy?

Where My People At?

If you’re the owner of a pizzeria based out of Brooklyn, New York, you’re probably interested in growing your fanbase only as far as you can deliver. How do you make sure you’re targeting the people nearest you? With graph search, you can now pinpoint how many of your fans are local. If your service isn’t limited by a geographic location, you can see which areas are prime for expansion.

What Do You Like?

Are you curious to know what else your followers are into? This might be really valuable when it comes to cross promotional campaigns. If you discover that your customers are also big fans of Grumpy Cat, maybe it’s time to post a few more memes featuring her. You can discover more about the interests of your followers this way and tailor your content to encourage their engagement.


What’s My Demo?

With graph search, you can also pinpoint vital niche markets. You may suspect that your target audience exists in the overlap between millennial Harry Potter fans and beer enthusiasts, but up until now, there was no way to be sure. By pinpointing that precious overlapping slice of space where two big fields of interest intersect, you could be zeroing in on the most important demographic to your business. 

One of the great things about the search is that you can type in full phrases instead of just a string of search terms. That means you can find the answer to queries like “people who love mangoes and Rihanna.” Ready to try out graph search for yourself? Facebook is rolling out a beta version this week, so keep your eyes peeled and expect the option to show up soon on your own Facebook account.

Through the GrapeVine: Three Lessons from the Death of a Social App

Social Sonar - Monday, June 24, 2013

Last week saw the launch of Instagram Video, an expansion of the popular photo sharing app that lets users tell stories with up to 15 seconds of video instead of just static images.  The response was huge. In just 24 hours, users posted more than 5 million videos. As expected, Twitter’s own video application Vine has suffered as a result of Instagram Video’s popularity, so much so that #RIPVine became a trending hashtag on Twitter. Although it’s not clear if Vine will make a successful comeback, its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in the social media sun does illustrate some interesting ideas.

Easy Come Easy Go

Today’s hottest social media platform could easily be tomorrow’s social media graveyard. Things move quickly online and it’s important to keep up. Having a dedicated user that is up to speed when it comes to online trends is essential. You don’t want to be the only person still trying to make Friendster happen after everyone has moved on!

Video is Big on Mobile

Both Vine and Instagram Video show that users are craving video on mobile, even if it comes in short snippets. Listen to your customers. What can you share about yourself through video that you haven’t shared before? Even in 15 second intervals, the storytelling possibilities are endless. The best tool for becoming an amazing video producer may already be in your hands! You don’t need fancy equipment or trained professionals to get started, so be your own videographer starting today.


Users Rule

The ebb and flow of popular online platforms is now squarely in the hands of users. Users decide when an application has run its course. When it comes to social media applications, people may be fickle at times, prompting fast changes, but they also have their eye on the next thing that will maximize their participation and take the next innovative step technologically.

Are you an early adopter of Instagram Video? What’s the most creative use you’ve seen for it so far? Share your comments below.

Dig Yourself Out From the Social Media Rabbit Hole

Social Sonar - Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Do you ever get online and immediately feel like you’re hit with a giant wall of noise? Driving your social media strategy forward in an efficient way can be hard when there are so many distractions. How do you make the best of the time you’ve allotted to work on content you plan to publish? Here are three tips to make sure you stay on course instead of disappearing down the internet rabbit hole.

Create a Resource Bank

The internet is a wide, expansive world filled with lots of avenues to explore. That can be a good and bad thing. Trying to find something that catches your eye and feels worthy of sharing can be a long and fruitless task if you don’t know where to look. Don’t surf out to sea without a clear target. Instead, create a resource bank. Collect URLs of websites that you know offer the kind of great content you’re looking for. When you sit down to schedule your next batch of posts, you’ll have a head start.


Use Google News Alerts

What key terms or words generally come up when you talk about your business? Creating aGoogle Alert (or several of them) is the best way to stay on top of what’s going on in your industry, all without having to leave the comfort of your own e-mail inbox. Do you find yourself drawn to news from the same source over and over? You may have found a new link for your resource bank! If you feel overwhelmed with alerts, try refining your search terms. If you’re too general, you might be casting your net too wide and saturating yourself with information.

Business or Pleasure?

Avoid the temptation to check your personal channels while you’re working on social media for your business. This can be tough, but it’s a good way to make sure you don’t get drawn into answering e-mails or following up on Facebook messages from old acquaintances looking to reconnect. Staying away from your friends’ Twitter feed or timeline also removes the temptation of clicking on links that lead you down the path to distraction. We’re all one cute kitten video away from wasting a lot of precious company time, so enforce a moratorium on baby armadillos, hedgehogs and handholding otters as much as you can. Worried about missing out on viral content? Don’t worry, if it’s truly viral, you are bound to run into it somewhere else, especially on big pages like Reddit or Buzzfeed.

How do you stay on task when you’re working on social media? Do you take on responsibilities yourself, or do you pass them on to a dedicated user? Whichever way you approach it, remember that finding good content and publishing it on time means organizing resources, dedicating attention and blocking out distractions.

Towards A More Talented Tweeter

Social Sonar - Wednesday, June 05, 2013

If you’ve taken a belated plunge into Twitter but still find yourself adrift in a digital sea with no rutter to lead the way, it may be time to refine your tweeting skills. Having a presence on a social media platform is only half the battle. Knowing what to do once you get there is what really separates you from your competition.

#Use Hashtags

If you’re not using hashtags, you’re missing out on some of the biggest conversations on the web. Some of those conversations may even be about you! Hashtags are a way for users to connect with each other and easily search for content on Twitter. Use this handy symbol to reach out to users who might be looking for you.

Searching for hashtags is just as important as using them when you tweet. Look for hashtags related to important industry terms and you can add your voice to an ongoing conversation. A trending hashtag gives you a peek into Twitter’s hive mind and lets you know where the most important conversations are. It might even inspire topics for other platforms like blogging. 

Retweet After Me

You can think of a retweet as a digital high-five. It lets someone know their post was interesting enough to be republished. Your followers will appreciate being featured on your feed, and when you retweet users, they’re more likely to do the same for you. That gives you more exposure and introduces you to a host of new potential followers.

Retweeting retweets can get a little tricky. It’s best to avoid this practice to make sure you don’t fall into an infinite loops of tweets.


Be Direct

We’re not talking about the fact that with 140 characters pithiness is a priority, although that’s certainly the case. We’re referring to direct messaging, a feature on Twitter that not enough users take advantage of. A direct message feels more personal than a public tweet, so use it when one-on-one contact is preferable. Have a customer dealing with a sensitive and private issue? That's a perfect time to use a direct message.  Knowing the difference between a public tweet and a private message is important, so make sure you familiarize yourself with direct messaging.

Just like any other medium, tweeting comes with its own built-in advantages and limitations. The more creative you are in dealing with the parameters of Twitter, the more users will appreciate your unique style and flair. Using all the tools at your disposal makes you savvier, helps you stay relevant and puts you on course to building a stronger, more confident presence online.

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.


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 Politics of Talking Politics on Social Media

Social Sonar - Wednesday, May 08, 2013

They say it’s always smart to avoid two topics during conversation: religion and politics. But the truth is, social media has become a huge platform for people to share their personal views about a slew of different perspectives, political or otherwise.

When it comes to taking on politics and social issues, however, what you write, tweet and post on your personal accounts may not always be what’s best for the social media outlets that represent your business. While you may personally feel strongly about current events and issues of the day, does it make sense for your small business to get political?


For some organizations, the answer will be obvious. Take a look at your central mission. A non-profit that promotes gender parity in the workplace, for example, should absolutely use their social media soapbox as much as possible. You’ve got an incredible opportunity to mobilize people, engage them in a way that gets them to think about issues in a new way, and turn followers into strong advocates for your cause. The website Movements.org has some great online resources, including how to mobilize followers and raise funds through social media.

If you’re a business that deals with other kinds of services, the answer to whether or not you should delve into politics is not as clear cut. If you’re a small restaurant, sports shop or electronics stores, for example, your mission is to appeal to a broad demographic. That may mean having to bite your tongue on questions that may be too polarizing. The last thing you want to do is stoke a fire on your business’s Facebook page or Twitter feed. 

Still, finding a cause that your business or organization can rally behind might not be a bad idea. It shows that you’re an active members in the community and that your business has a mission beyond making a profit. If you’re shopping for a cause, attach yourself to something that isn’t divisive.

A street cleaning project is a good example of a cause you could support without the fear of ruffling too many feathers along the way. Endorsing a political candidate, on the other hand, can easily become a case study in delving too deply into controversial territory. Instead, find a broader message that's still positive, like encouraging everyone to get out and vote no matter who their preferred candidate is. 

So, next time you have the urge to publish that political rant online or share your views on a contested election, remember that the temporary glee you get from broadcasting your perspective may be great, but the ultimate effect might be alienating and counterproductive. When in doubt, focus on supporting issues that all of your followers can get behind so no one feels left out, even if it means letting your own opinion take a backseat for just a while. 

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.


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.


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.

Tax Season Wrap Up: Beware What You Share

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 17, 2013

As if running a small business weren't hard enough already, the IRS is focusing in on small-business owners this year. What could that potentially mean for you? While the chances of getting audited are pretty low, less than 1 percent, no one is completely exempt. Any suspicious activity on your tax returns could mean an increased risk for audit. If you've got unusually large deductions in your recently filed taxes, for example, you may already be raising a big red flag for the IRS.

So what does any of this have to do with social media? Well, if you've written off certain expenses throughout the fiscal year, you want to make sure that the story told by published activity on your social networks corroborates it. If you're the kind of user who regularly checks in or updates your status, you've already created a digital trail. Does this match up with information you've stated on tax return? An audit could reveal discrepancies.

Although it's not totally clear what kind of digital information the IRS could potentially use against you when it it comes to being audited, it's better to be safe about what you share. Some possible avenues for keeping yourself protected could include limiting the dedicated users from your business you allow to share information through your social networks. It's also a good idea to draw up guidelines or contracts stipulating what people should and shouldn't share through company channels.


As bigger companies expand to social media outlets to connect with potential investors, the role that sharing so called “material information” online could have is undergoing constant revision. For instance, Netflix recently used Facebook as a channel to share information about viewership. It's a pioneering move that opens the doors for other businesses to do the same.

But just as sharing information about your travels and expenses in an open forum could come back to haunt you around tax time, you should also be wary about sharing material information. Sure, it could be a terrific way to attract people interested in having a stake in your business. On the other hand, you need to assure that it's accurate, up-to-date and that it doesn't misrepresent facts about your business.

It seems that the takeaway lesson here is that while increased transparency is an in incredibly beneficial part of being on social media, it's always important to identify sensitive company information that could cause more harm than good.