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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.  

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.

Marketing with Music: Using Spotify for Your Social Strategy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Spotify is more than just a music streaming service or online radio: it’s a social network based around the simple idea that it’s fun to share the music you love with people you like. Originally launched in 2008, Spotify has managed to amass over 24 million active users. It’s growth and influence on the music industry has been so big that there’s even speculation about the company going public in the near future. What does that have to do with your business? Using Spotify as a tool for marketing can open up creative and unexpected ways of reaching your followers. Here are a few things you can try out for yourself.

Play DJ on Facebook

As we mentioned before, Spotify can be seamlessly integrated into Facebook. If one of your goals for 2014 is to deliver a greater variety of content, why not add music to the list of what you share? Sharing your favorite jam for a rainy day or your guiltiest musical pleasure is a great way to let people see more of your personality.

Learn More About What Your Fans Love

What musicians do your fans love? What songs do they play the most? You can learn about the tastes of your followers and how to cater to them by following them on Spotify. Sharing a musical preference indicates more than you might think, creating a unique bond with your fans and fellow music connoisseurs.

Have a Musical Throwback Thursday

If you’re not brand new to the world of social media, you’re probably already familiar with Throwback Thursday. Instead of sharing an old picture of yourself, find an old school tune to share with your audience. If people associate your newsfeed as a place to rediscover some of their favorite music every week, you’ll find your fans checking back in and engaging with you more often.  

Let Your Audience Choose the Music

Planning a live event? Do you play music at one of your stores? Engage with your fans by inviting them to help you create a playlist on Spotify. It’s a way to help bridge the gap between your online efforts and the promotional efforts you’re carrying out offline. It also involves customers in helping to curate and customize their own experience.

Feeling trepidation about trying something new? Just remember that music should be like all the other content you shared: directed towards your specific audience’s needs and interests and varied enough to keep people engaged. As with everything you share, be ready to take stock of what’s working and what isn’t. What’s getting liked and shared by your fans and what’s falling by the wayside? Keep track of everything so that the next time you schedule content, you can roll out something something that rocks their world.

3 Indispensable Keys to Great Content

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Working in the world of digital marketing today means managing information across a variety of platforms and creating a lot of different content. The competition for the attention of audiences has never been fiercer, and sustaining the attention of your followers can feel like an insurmountable task at times. Are you confident in the kind of content you’re creating? Here are three indispensable elements of great content to make sure you’re delivering what your audience is hungry for.

Longevity

Can your content live on a day or more past the the moment you share it? Will it be relevant to your readers months down the road? How about years from now? It’s important for the content you share to be timely but when it comes to blogs and vlogs in particular, it’s important to also think in the long term. Everything you publish develops into an archive of your best ideas and practices, so think about sharing content that isn’t just important in the moment. Thinking this way will bring you closer to nailing down your brand’s overall philosophy and vision.

Value

Are you sharing something valuable? Or just racking up an impressive word count as you type away? Creating valuable content means knowing what your audience is looking for and then becoming the best place for them to find it. Think of your content as a resource bank--an important reference point for your customers to learn something important about you or your industry. You don’t have to cover a topic in its entirety (in fact, that would easily overwhelm most readers), so rely on links to other reliable sources to round out the information you’re sharing. The more value followers see in your content, the more likely they are to follow you consistently. A blog with really valuable posts could even turn into a book deal

Shareability

This ties into the other two cornerstones for great content because if your content can deliver value over a long period of time, it’s more likely to be shared by your followers. But there are few easy things you can do to ensure your content is prime for sharing across social networks. Writing a catchy headline is just as important as developing the body of your content. It’s the first thing readers see and often determines whether a casual perusal will turn into a deeper read. Can the main ideas of what you’re trying to say be distilled into 140 characters or less? Can you sum up what you’re trying to say in a single image? If not, you might want to take a look at your content to make sure that it’s direct enough to make a quick and lasting impact.

How do you define great content? Tracking the performance of what you share on a regular basis is a great way to refine your approach. Step back, see how many times people engage with a particular item, and then recalibrate your approach to give your audience even more of what they’re looking for.

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.

Learn to Stop Worrying and Love SEO

Social Sonar - Wednesday, January 08, 2014

SEO is dead. SEO is alive and well. SEO is evolving. Which philosophy is your marketing approach based on? Look up “Search Engine Optmization” and you’re bound to find any number of blogs debating whether traditional modes of boosting your visibility through search engines have disappeared completely, changed fundamentally or retained some of their tactical value. 

No matter who you believe, one this is certain: there is a lot of anxiety over the best way to approach web visibility and search engine ranking in 2014. Marketers shouldn’t be surprised though. Big changes have been brewing for over a year, with search engine giants like Google looking for a more intuitive and efficient approach to delivering results to users.

One of the developments that’s stirring up controversy amongst SEO experts is last year’s release of Google Hummingbird. Hummingbird is an updated algorithm that employs features like conversational search to make searching for information easier and more like everyday speech. Important features like PageRank, which haven’t been officially discontinued, are receding to the background and might eventually stop being a part of the equation.

Does this mean you should abandon old approaches to SEO? If you’re used to rattling off a bunch of keywords in the attempt to capture the attention of Google’s algorithm, then yes. Part of Google’s strategy has been to create search methods that exclude gibberish from content farms, which used to produce high ranking material that failed to truly satisfy a searcher’s query.

What can you do to secure a space at the top of search engine rankings? Without altering the actual architecture of your site, there is still a lot you can do by simply being a better blogger. Establish yourself as an authority on your topic and make your platform an important voice for your industry. Google’s approach to delivering results favors quality sites that contain links to other healthy sites. Make sure that each post is like a resource bank that redirects people to more quality content. If you’re already focused on creating the best content for your readers, this should really take care of itself!

A good approach to SEO in 2014 goes hand in hand with good writing. Counting keywords may not be as important as it used to be, and this might comes as a relief to many. Step outside the prescribed formula of meeting keyword quotas so you can really say what you mean with your writing. If you’re avidly blogging about your business, keywords should naturally occur without too much hand wringing about whether it’s “enough.”

Most of all, remember that making sure you’re easy to find online is just part of your overall marketing approach--a piece of a dynamic puzzle. Your offpage efforts to direct traffic (either in real life or through social media) to your homepage shouldn’t be ignored in the pursuit of chasing keywords.

Keep an eye on search engine trends, but don’t don’t be a slave to rigid schemes. As companies like Google move to more organic ways of delivering results, great content will float to the top and irrelevant junk will sink to the bottom. Where you end up has less to do with a single rubric for success and more to do with creating a page that users love to visit for its great material.

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.

Social Media Lessons from Queen Bey

Social Sonar - Thursday, December 19, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the year in pop music was all wrapped up, ready to be committed to the annals of history forevermore. Then, out of the blue (ivy?), an album everyone was waiting for but no one actually expected mysteriously materialized on iTunes with zero promotion. It was the album drop felt around the world: a self-titled album from Beyonce Knowles featuring fourteen songs and seventeen videos that fans could enjoy all at once.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone, even a superstar like Beyonce, could pull off a move like this in a world without social media. Consider this: all that Beyonce needed to announce the release of the best kept secret in the music industry was a single Instagram post. The rest took care of itself. That single post didn’t just nearly crash iTunes, it almost took down the rest of the web with it as well! Check out this animated map showing how quickly the announcement sent social networks ablaze with chatter.

Ok, so most of us will never reach the heights of a star like Beyonce (try as we might) but that doesn’t mean we can’t glean something from her maverick marketing approach. Here are three takeaways you can use to improve your own social strategy. 

Let Your Fans Show They’re Crazy in Love 

One of the most brilliant things about Beyonce’s plan (besides the fact that she was able to keep such a massive undertaking completely secret for so long in an era of constant surveillance and information leaks) is the way she leveraged her built-in fan base. Every bee in her “Beyhive” played an important part in getting the message out--and, when called upon by their queen, they did not disappoint.

Who Run the World? Visual Media

Dropping an album with accompanying visual media for every song is a move that really taps into the way consumers experience entertainment today. From mobile screens, to tablets and desktops, visual social media is an unstoppable trend.

Sharknado, Imma Let You Finish

Sharkando, you had a great run, but it looks like Beyonce and her surprise album have taken your title for 2013’s buzziest social media topic. Beyonce’s social takeover is further proof that if you can dominate interactive channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you hold the world’s attention.

Teasing is Good, but a Great Surprise is Irreplaceable

We’ve written about the art of the tease on social media before, but sometimes it pays to keep your secrets as close to your chest for as long as you can. In an era where nearly everything gets spoiled thanks to overzealous fans and prying bloggers, there’s nothing more surprising than an actual surprise. Working on a big project? Rolling it out slowly is one way to go, but dropping it all at once in all its glory might have an even bigger impact.

Are you basking in the halo of Queen Bey yet? How else do you think this clever move has upended traditional expectations about marketing and harnessing the power of social media? Share your reactions in the comments below!