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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.

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.  

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.


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.


5 Tips for Better Social Writing

Social Sonar - Thursday, January 16, 2014

Some people are lucky: the prose just seems to pour out of them. For the rest of us, it takes a special kind of effort to develop great writing that provides value for customers, represents our brands, and engages fans. Are you doing everything you can to create the best written content for your social strategy? Here are five tips to help you get there.

The Hardest Part is Getting Started

There’s no way around it. The most difficult part of writing is getting started. Clearing away distractions, getting your thoughts organized and setting out to churn out great content is by far the hardest part of any kind of writing. By following a publishing schedule, you can establish a helpful routine that lets you stay on task. Setting deadlines is also important, especially if you’re working on your own, without an editor. You might consider setting up reminders on a program like Google Calendar to help keep you accountable.

Write When You’re Not Writing

Just because you’re not sitting at your desktop computer or laptop doesn’t mean you can’t be writing. In fact, you might be doing yourself a great disservice by insisting that the only time to “really write” is when you’re sitting at your desk with a blank page before you. No matter how many tabs you have open in your browser, inspiration may be hard to come by if you’re not engaging with the real world. Take a small pen and pad of paper everywhere you go and jot down ideas as they come to you. Wait until your brain is teeming with ideas and then sit down to work. You’ll find that writing is much more enjoyable when the ideas seem to pour out on their own.

Edit, Edit, Edit. But Write First!

You don’t have to edit as you write. Your inner editor may want to jump the gun, but it's best to get your ideas out while they’re still fresh. Editing as you write might curb some of your better instincts. Trust that you’re on your way to creating something great and go for it! Then, take a break, step back, and return to your writing when you’ve had some time to “cleanse your palate.” Your own writing might seem foreign to you, which is a good thing--you’ll be able to judge it in a much more objective way.

Keep it Pithy

Longform content aside, social media is a place to keep things concise. Facebook posts may allow you more room to expound on your ideas, but that doesn’t always mean you should take advantage of this feature. Fans that are scrolling through their newsfeeds are more likely to ignore you if you start gaining a reputation for being too verbose. Keep it punchy, pithy and include a call to action to generate the most engagement.

Kill Your Darlings

If you’ve ever taken a writing or composition class, you’ve no doubt come across this gem: “Kill your darlings.” This perennial piece of advice has been attributed to so many authors that its true origin might be impossible to pinpoint. Apocryphal status aside, the idea behind this old adage still rings true: if your idea stinks, just let it go. If you’re working on a piece of writing like a blog and find you can’t resolve its disparate pieces into something to be proud of, ditch it. Take it as a sign that something better is waiting to bubble up.

How do you handle the parts of your social marketing strategy that involve writing? Share your best advice in the comments section below.

Free (or Cheap) Tools to Enhance your Social Strategy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Running a small-to-medium-sized business (whether it’s on your own or with a few other partners) means facing many uphill challenges on a daily basis, not the least of which is deciding where to spend your money. When it comes to an overall marketing plan, it can sometimes feel like you can’t get anywhere without some major moolah. But don’t forget that a little ingenuity can go a long way, even if you’re strapped for cash. Here's a little holiday gift just for you: some exciting free (or cheap!) tools to help you get organized, boost your social strategy and enhance your marketing approach without breaking the bank.

WorkFlowy

When it comes to brainstorming, building big picture of tasks that need to get done and breaking down goals into smaller jobs, nothing beats a good old-fashioned to-do list. The creators of WorkFlowy have created an online tool that takes to-do lists to the next logical level by making them "zoomable." You can zoom all the way out to get a comprehensive look of everything that’s on your list, or focus in to get down to nitty gritty details.

Pixlr

Photo editing programs like Photoshop are great, but they’re expensive and require a huge investment in time to master. Creating original visual content for your newsfeed is important though, so being able to quickly throw some text on an image or create a collage can come in handy. Pixlr lets you do that and more from the comfort of your browser window. Looking for an alternative? PicMonkey is another great choice.

Dropbox

If you’re still sending important documents and images through email as attachments, do yourself a favor and start using Dropbox. We’ve all had an instance of digging back from old messages to rescue a misplaced attachment only to find that it’s almost impossible to locate again. Dropbox takes the guesswork out of finding important marketing materials like images. It also allows for quick and easy sharing across hard drives and cloud storage. Looking for other ways to share important information through cloud storage? Get on Google Drive

Statigram

So you’re carefully keeping track of important analytics on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. That’s great! But what about Instagram, a growing visual and social platform that young people are flocking to? If Instagram is already an important part of your social strategy, make sure that you’re using a program like Statigram to capture relevant analytics about your followership.

Upworthy

Looking to take a pulse of the web? Upworthy is a great site for checking out emerging trends and viral videos. While it’s not a golden goose for producing your own viral content, it can lead the way towards discovering which way conversations on the web are shifting. Check it out regularly for inspiration.

What free (or cheap) online tools are up your sleeve? Which tools have you ditched in the last year in favor of new ones? Share your ideas in the comments below.