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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.  

Get on the Soapbox: Social Media for Social Causes

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Non-profits, organizations for social change and independent advocators of good, lend me your ears! The time has come to step up to the social media soapbox to amplify your message, educate the populace and drive your community into meaningful action. With better approaches to blogging, e-mail marketing and social media, you can broaden your reach, invigorate your base and ultimately carry out your mission more effectively.

While it’s true that big corporations have a lot of money to put behind their big branding efforts, some of the most effective tools they have at their disposal are social ones like Facebook and Twitter, which non-profits and small businesses have equal access to. So why not take advantage of some of the best connective tools available to your organization? Here are four easy ways to get started with online organizing.

Create a Twitter Cheat Sheet

So you’re already on Twitter? Fantastic! Now it’s time to make the most of it. Creating a cheat sheet is a great way to keep track of important hashtags, influencers and key talking points. Here are some key hashtags to get you started.

Embrace Digital Development Tools

Online auctions are a great way to fundraise. Some websites even specialize in hosting auctions for non-profits. Make sure you leverage your influence on Twitter and Facebook to funnel followers towards your fundraising pages. If you’re running a multi-day online auction, create regular posts with great pictures that showcase each item. You can also take advantage of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

Reach Out to Like-Minded Organizations

There is power in numbers, so make sure you are connecting with individuals and organizations that share your values. Look for opportunities to connect with the missions of others. You’ll broaden the scope of your influence and find new collaborators and supporters. By staying regularly engaged on social media, you can find the most active conversations around issues that matter to you the most. It’s a great way to network while you also gain exposure to the philosophies and practices of other online activists. Try these approaches:

  • Check out this list of 26 major charities and non-profits making their mark on social media.
  • Host a Tweet Chat centered around overlapping issues.
  • Take advantage of person-to-person connections at events like conferences, retreats and summits. When you get home, keep important conversations going through social media.
  • Blog about a cause that's typically outside the scope of your organization, then share it with people and organizations who promote that cause. You can also offer to be a guest blogger for someone else. Don't forget to link back to your own page!
  • Use Facebook, Twitter and e-mail blasts to promote events that are being produced by other organizations. Then, when you host your own fundraisers or meetups, ask for your fellow organizers to return the favor.
  • Highlight Success Stories

    Social media is an incredible storytelling device. One of the biggest things to overcome as a non-profit organization fighting for social change is the cynicism of believing that nothing will change. To be certain, many fights worth fighting are an uphill battle. But by putting an emphasis on success stories through articles, long-form blog posts, and e-mail blasts, you can show that progress is being made every day.

    What other ways have you used social media to ignite your followership? Are your Facebook and Twitter feeds a repository for stale information, or are they filled with inspiring rhetoric that spurs others into action? Share your own experience below.

    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?

    What Is SEO And How Do You Get It?

    Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 05, 2012

    Search Engine Optimization. SEO. You may have heard those "buzz letters," but what do they mean? SEO "is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural," or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic"), search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users."  (Via Wikipedia.) 

    Basically, SEO is what helps people find you faster. How do you raise your SEO and help your customers find you in a sea of competitors? Some of it is simple -- things you may already doing:

    • Add a blog to your website
    • Add Google Analytics to every page of your website
    • Don't use excessive code
    • Make every single page unique
    • Use meta tags
    • Don't use repetitive wording
    • Include footer links on every page
    • Create separate pages for each keyword
    • Use keyword rich title tags on each page of your website. 

    However, recently it was revealed that Google's new algorithms also include social media in the SEO-raising criteria. Updates can also determine when websites are trying to trick the algorithms into raising their ranking. Therefore, you not only need a great website, you need to be a social media conversationalist.

    What else should you be doing to stay relevant in the online world? We hate to sound like a broken record, but...

    Maintain your Facebook page: Post interesting content (photos, links, etc.) and respond to questions or comments. It is truly important to have a conversation on Facebook. 

    Share tweets about your industry, not just your brand. And share interesting links and information so that others will be compelled to re-tweet and respond to your posts.

    Upload videos to YouTube (which is owned by Google). Include a link to your website somewhere in the description. An interesting video can go viral and give your brand a boost. The goal is to create content that others want to share.

    If you are on Pinterest, pin or re-pin interesting visuals. Don't just pin photos with links back to your website.

    On LinkedIn, you should join groups and participate in conversations: answer questions and post your company updates. Although it doesn't necessarily raise your SEO, it contributes to brand recognition. 

    Since Google obviously owns Google+, it is certainly a place that you may want to consider spending time if you are looking to raise SEO. It may not weigh heavily now, but as Google+ gains momentum, it may matter more in the future for those trying to raise awareness of their brand online.

    As you work to build your brand, your ranking in any search engine should organically rise as well. Which sites are you using to build your brand and optimize your search engine ranking?

     

    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!

     

    Social Media in the News

    Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

     

    1) Facebook has purchased photo-sharing software company, Instagram, for 1 beeelion dollars. In his official announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg says, “For years, we've focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we'll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.” Link to Story.

    2) On Saturday, Quebec juice maker Lassonde was forced to settle a lawsuit after intense online backlash. After the details of the Lassonde’s 7-year trademark battle with a tiny beauty company over the use of the name “Oasis” went viral, a social media uprising gave the “juice giant” a big reality check. Link to Story.

    3) Google has beaten out Apple, Facebook, and Twitter for the title of Most Popular Tech Brand. According to the poll, conducted by Langer Research Associates, a whopping 82 percent of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Google overall, while 53 percent hold a "strongly" favorable opinion of the expansive Internet company. In regards to favorability, Apple still came in a close second. Link to Story.

    4) A New Study has pegged Pinterest as the #3 Social Media Website

    Experian Hitwise has collated website visitors for the last month, and ranks Pinterest as the number 3 social media website, behind Facebook and Twitter, and just ahead of LinkedIn. Here are the top 6:

    1. Facebook: 7 billion
    2. Twitter: 182 million
    3. Pinterest: 104 million
    4. LinkedIn: 86 million
    5. Tagged: 72 million
    6. Google+: 61 million

    Link to Story.


    Who is Using Social Media?

    Social Sonar - Saturday, March 10, 2012

    MBA Online recently released a report and infographic about who is using the largest social media sites. 

    They found that 66% of adults are connected to at least one social media site.  College students, or those who have completed at least some college, represent the majority on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Digg and Reddit. Among Facebook users, 57% have completed some college, and 24% have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Some might be surprised to learn that people 45 and older make up 46% of Facebook users.

    About 57% of Facebook and 59% of Twitter users are women. Eighty-two percent of Pinterest users are women, who pin crafts, gift ideas, hobbies, interior design and fashion. Google+ reports that 71% of their users are men and about half of Google+ users are 24 or younger. LinkedIn reports an even ratio of men and women — 49% over age 45 — who use the site to connect with other business professionals.

    Check out the infographic below for other statistics.  The more you understand where your potential customers log in, the sooner you can pinpoint where you too should spend your time.  

    What's Pinterest?

    Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 01, 2012

    In case you didn't have enough on your plate, here comes another social media site demanding your attention.  Meet Pinterest

    Pinterest, an invite-only website, calls itself a virtual pinboard. The average person might use Pinterest to help plan their wedding or gather information about an upcoming trip. It relies heavily upon photos and videos, which are the most popular posts for business fan pages on Facebook. 

    Pinterest does not (yet) allow business or brand pages, however, the external links that are pinned to each user's page help connect users with similar interests and may help drive business to your website. By setting up a personal account, you can "pin" photos and links to your business' website. If other users follow suit and "re-pin" (re-post) those links, it potentially allows your brand to be spread throughout Pinterest. Like other social media sites, Pinterest just gives you another opportunity to gain exposure for your brand and interact with your customers. 

    You must understand your intended audience before you decide to request an invitation to Pinterest. The site is especially popular with women between the ages of 25 and 44, which comprise 59% of its readership. It caters to those searching for recipes, room décor, and do-it-yourself crafts. Pinterest's mission statement is: "Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests."

    You should also be courteous if you are using Pinterest. Like with many social media sites, the point is to connect with your potential customers, not "shout" hard sales at them. Pinterest, in fact, warns: "Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion."

    So, for the right business, using Pinterest may be a new and interesting way to share content. If you aren't sure, start by asking your customers where they are spending their on-line social time. Then you will know where you should spend your time too.