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The 4 Things You Should Never Share Digitally (with Wince-Worthy Examples)

Alison Kawa - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

If the web had a tagline, it would be, "The Internet is forever." On Thursday, May 8, 2014, Snapchat settled with the FTC over concerns about deliberately misleading consumers into thinking their information was secure and private. "According to the FTC's complaint, Snapchat made multiple misrepresentations to consumers about its product that stood in stark contrast to how the app actually worked."

It's hard to understand how people believed Snapchat was secure in the first place. Like anything and everything sent over a wire or through the air, digital information can be intercepted. The fact that software also exists to recover Snapchat messages from your phone long after they have been deleted by the app should have been a clue that nothing is safe.

What this trial really illustrates is the fervent wish that people don't want to be held accountable for their questionable content choices. The bottom line is, don't publish anything you wouldn't want future employers, political opponents, or family members to see. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

1. Stories you haven't fact-checked.

I would like to live the rest of my life without ever again seeing the "inspiring" (and totally untrue) tale of the bald eagle who rips off its beak during a mid-life crisis in order to grow stronger. Sharing stories like this not only spreads misinformation, but makes you look uneducated.

Familiarize yourself with popular satire sites like The Onion, Private Eye, and NewsBiscuit and don't share their links without a disclaimer. If you're still not sure about the source, search for the topic on Snopes, a website debunking urban legends, Internet rumors, email forwards, and other stories of questionable origin.

2. Hateful comments.

Even if you have the privacy settings as high as you can set them, and you believe all your Facebook friends agree with you 100%, you will still find your darkest sentiments exposed if you share them. Just ask super-racist Donald Sterling, whose own girlfriend turned him over to the press. As your mother always said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

3. Sexy talk.

The recipient of your cheesy pun about breakfast meat may think it's clever at the time, and may even be turned on if you're lucky. After you part ways, people seeing it on the Internet will have a field day. Save yourself the embarrassment and reserve dirty talk for unrecorded in-person encounters.

4. Nude pictures or images of your genitalia.

Anthony Weiner Sexting Scandal SummaryIf you don't want your boss or mother to see it, don't take it. It will end up in front of the wrong eyes. Guaranteed. Need I remind you of the aptly named Anthony Weiner scandal or this poor son who was tricked into seeing nude photos of his mother by a jealous ex.

Like real life, everything you do on the Internet can (and usually does) have consequences. Gone are the pre-digital days when people could walk away from an uncomfortable conversation before you went too far. Now the whole world is your audience and they never forget. Do your future self a favor and think twice before you post.

Have more suggestions or digital horror stories? Share them with us in the comments.

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.

Does Facebook Owe it to Nonprofits to Fix Organic Reach?

Social Sonar - Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Here’s something to consider while debating whether Facebook’s moves to limit organic reach are justified: Facebook wants big brands to pay to play, but should nonprofits and groups promoting social causes be hurt in the process? With more than 1 billion users using Facebook  through their mobile devices, Facebook has an audience that no sane marketer could ignore. It makes sense for big brands like Nike and Coke to for over some cash to reach your newsfeed, but what about nonprofits and online activists that use the network to promote their causes? Should they be throttled by Facebook’s changes, too? After all, many of these organizations are strapped for cash as it is, and losing a free tool with incredible potential to reach others can be a big blow.

The revolution may not be televised, but the past decade has shown that it’s often tweeted. Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms have become important places for people to share information, even when their own governments try to suppress information from reaching traditional media sources. Given that it’s so important to promoting social causes, does Facebook have a responsibility in sustaining a space where that kind of dialogue can continue to happen?

Here’s what Facebook could do to level the playing field for nonprofits:


Create a Verification Process for Nonprofits

Facebook could create a verification process for nonprofits and social causes that distinguishes them from big commercial endeavors and boost their organic reach. Facebook gets brownie points for promoting the kind of open, social platform it began as (and promoting social good), and nonprofits that have spent years building up an audience are able to reach them again.

Scaled Reach

If nonprofits and social causes can’t return to previous levels of reach, why not scale it? 2% reach isn’t enough to run an effective social media campaign, but 50% gives nonprofits a fighting chance to wield some influence again.

Offer a Few Promoted Posts a Month for Nonprofits

As it stands now, any post you want to promote will cost you. You can boost your reach this way, but without a big budget, you may soon find that social media is taking too big of a bite from your budget. Facebook could over a few promoted posts a month for nonprofits and pages that promote social causes.

Do you think Facebook owes it to nonprofits, activists and other groups promoting social causes to loosen the reins on its constricting news feed algorithm? Should users be able to see more from the pages they choose to like? Share your own ideas and suggestions below. In the meantime, make sure you check out these tips for working within Facebook’s current iteration of organic reach.

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.  

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.