hints and tips Archives - Harris Social Media

Four ways to make your content marketing EPIC

on Aug 20 in business, content marketing, hints and tips, social media, strategy, trends posted , by

charlton heston spreading arms in epic movie moses

ep·ic [ep-ik] 3. heroic; majestic; impressively great:


Ooh, I do love a good meme. So when my mom told my girlfriend to enjoy an “epic” birthday, that, I thought to myself, is a great word. And I love acronyms too. So in the spirit of sharing my thoughts and experience here are four ways to help make your content marketing E-P-I-C.
letter e woodcut

E is for Engage

If you can’t engage users in your content, don’t bother. Why is engaging your audience so important? Because at the heart of content marketing is the social signal. And the social signal is important because it is a key measure in the latest iterations of Google’s search algorithm. That is, all else being equal, content with higher social engagement (such as comments, shares and likes) will rank higher in search results. So first and foremost, your content must engage the audience. If not, you are certainly wasting your time. You’re also wasting the time of any content user who is kind enough to spend time looking at your material.
By engaging, you must give your fans the opportunity to interact. What is the point of social media if you are not engaging your audience in a two-way conversation? That means allowing comments on your blog, and social channels (including YouTube!). If you don’t allow comments, ask yourself what you’re afraid of? If trolls flame your social page, nine times out of ten, they’ll get a smack down from page fans. And remember, the bottom line is that you have control. Worse comes to worse, you can delete a negative comment. (I usually wouldn’t advise that, since a negative comment may actually alert you to a problem with a product or service. But you have no obligation to tolerate mindless bashing.)
Interactivity also means that you allow users to share your content. Social channels make this easy, but you can move things along by asking users to share. Also don’t forget to include a share button on your website! Designers think it’s enough to add social icons, but it’s easier for a user to bookmark or share a page if you provide one-click functionality right there on the page.
letter p illustration
Whether the goal of your content marketing is to generate leads or simply raise brand awareness, your content will always reflect your organization. So content must always reflect the professionalism of your team.

P is for Professional

Professional doesn’t mean that your blog, video or photos need to be slick and aloof. At the least, though, content should meet a minimum standard. It’s easy to figure out where to set that standard. Look at competitor’s content. Can you do better? If so, that’s your minimum standard. In practice, that means, for example, that your website meets design best practices including accessibility and coding standards.
Also a minimum standard means that text content is aligned with your audience, which usually means being grammatically correct and free of spelling errors and typos. Likewise, photos should be well-composed, appropriately sized for the medium, and given context with a caption.
Professional content also means that it is relevant to the audience. My dad told me that when he was in the Royal Navy, three topics were banned in the officers’ mess during meals: sex, religion and politics. So unless your brand is centered on those, it’s best to usually avoid them. Some things just don’t need to be shared. Even LOLcats are great fun, but are they relevant to the conversation you want to have with your audience? Talking of fun, professionalism doesn’t meant that content can’t be fun or funny. But humor and levity are spices best used judiciously in your content marketing dishes.
letter i woodcut

I is for Innovative

So much content. So few eyeballs. Well, there are a lot of eyeballs. But there is also a lot of competition. To rise above the noise, you must be creative! Innovation in content is probably the most challenging aspect of content marketing. But there are a few ways to help the creative juices flow. First, don’t be a one or two pony show. Facebook and Twitter are fine, but there’s a world of awesome channels that will stretch your imagination and inspire new ways of delivering your message.
Pinterest will force you to think about new ways to depict your content visually, whereas Tumblr offers a way to blog via video, images and podcasts as well as writing. Microvideo such as Vine and Video on Instagram, and mobile chat apps such as Kik, impose limits that encourage totally new ways to present content. Marketers are struggling with ways to leverage the appeal of ephemeral content channels such as Snapchat, but there may be untold opportunities for those that crack those particular nuts.
If you’re stuck for new ways to present your stuff, brainstorm! If you’re a team of one, remember that you can tap into your audience for ideas and inspiration. Another approach is to Google “next big thing” (and set up an alert) to make sure you don’t miss the latest developments in technology or media that will help you deliver your message in new ways.
But it’s not just about technology. Remember the Blend-Tec guy who sacrificed an iPhone in his high end blender? (This was in the days that the iPhone was the must-have device.) That video went viral, not because YouTube was new, but because he found a shocking (but SFW) way to deliver the message about his product.
letter c diagram

C is for Consistency

I worked with a client whose Facebook page had a feature: Photo of the Week. Yet, when I analyzed the timing of the posts, there was practically no instances where a photo had been posted two weeks in a row. The posts seemed random. The client thought that Photo of the Week was a good idea, but did not understand that it would mean to most users that a photo would be posted, well, once a week.
Inconsistency can reflect poorly on your product or brand. Why? When you are delivering social content you set up expectations – expectations of timing and quality. If those expectations are not met, fans will at best shrug and go on to the next meme de jour. Worse, they could troll your page, leaving you spending time on damage control rather than generating leads and inspiring loyalty.
Consistency, then, means meeting your fans’ expectations and keeping promises. It means providing quality content that is engaging, that to a minimum professional standard, and that is inventive and imaginative. It really means providing EPIC content.
I hope these suggestions will bring some epicness to your content marketing strategy. As always, I can’t include every hint and tip, so if you have any thoughts, I’d love for you to share them in the comments or just drop me a line.

15 helpful tips to grow your LinkedIn group into thousands

on Sep 05 in hints and tips, linkedin, social media, social networks, tools posted , , , by

huge crowd crossing a bridge

(Image courtesy of NASA)

After LinkedIn’s revamp to its groups and bringing teenagers onto its platform, competition for eyeballs is going to increase dramatically.

Here is a 15 step guide to starting and enhancing your group so that it will grow—hopefully into the thousands. These tips will help you get started with your LinkedIn group. They will also help established group managers boost their group’s numbers.

These techniques are based on my own experience with my Biodiversity Professionals group, started in November 2010. The group is close to more than 10,000 and still growing.

Set up

1. Pick a great name

LinkedIn gives you five chances to change the group name. It’s best to get it right first time. Choose a name that’s relevant and easily recognized. That’s why brands shoud create a Company page. A Group page is for creating a community, not for raising brand awareness. To pick a winning name, think about the focal topics of the group, and about LinkedIn users. Most LinkedIn users are professionals looking into expanding their network. A good name might include “Professionals,” or “Network.” In any case, keep the name to two or three words max.

2. Choose the right topic

Make sure the topic of your group is going to resonate with LinkedIn users. (See LinkedIn user demographics.) To connect with your target audience, apply the Goldilocks principle: consider a topic that is not too specific nor too broad. A very broad topic will mean that you’re competing with a lot of other groups. For instance if you call your group “Social Marketers”, you’ll need to battle for attention among more than 5,000 other groups. On the other hand, “Marketing Statistics Experts”, would not be a specialty for more than a few users. So a topic such as Social Media Analysts might work well. You’ll also have more success helping your group grow if you have some basic expertise in your topic. If you can respond with authority on posts, you will build the group’s credibility. If you’re on thin ice, reach out to experts who are able to respond with some gravitas.

3. Provide some branding

LinkedIn’s new group page format now allows you to feature a nice big (640 x 200) banner or “Hero image” at the top of the page. Do not neglect the opportunity to replace the generic blank graphic! At the very least, use stock photos and screen shots if you don’t have a design budget. There are a bunch of free graphics tools if you don’t have Photoshop.  Even easier to use, Cooltext enables you to create an attractive logo from a menu of preset graphics and templates. Another easy technique is to use a word cloud generator, such as Wordle. Create a text document with your topic keywords. Repeat keywords with a frequency that reflects your focus. Choose your color scheme and font, and hey presto, instant great looking banner!

4. Optimize description

When you set up a group you need to create a summary about your group and a full description. Craft these carefully! The summary serves as the page description that appears in Google Search results, so it will be key to ensure your page does well if people are searching in Google. Use the longer description to give members a thumbnail sketch of your group’s interests, goals and activities. This is where you entice members to include your group as one of only 50 that LinkedIn allows them to join.

5. Create a welcome banner

The page banner is a slider, but only the first slide features your hero image. After that, content is determined by the items in your list of Manager’s Choice posts. (Click the Search tab to access the Manager’s Choice list.) To create a welcome message for the slider, first post a welcome message to the Discussions. Then set the order of Manager’s Choice items so that your welcome message is first in the list. When your banner image slides over, users will see the welcome message next. You can create additional posts that help users with the group, such as etiquette when posting.

6. Create an automated jobs feed

Remember your audience! Many LinkedIn users are networking to look for jobs. Your group’s Jobs tab provides a place to discuss and post jobs. The tab gives you the option of creating an automated jobs feed that pulls in job opportunities from across LinkedIn. Click on the Jobs tab, and click Edit in the Create a Feed box. Choose keywords that align most closely with your group’s topics. You might need to fine-tune the keywords to get the most relevant jobs. You can also customize the feed by selecting various filters such as countries, junctions, industries and experience. Be sure to let users know about your jobs feed in your messaging. You can also create a post and make it a Manager’s Choice so it appears in your banner area (see #5). If you try to put more than ten discussions in your Manager’s Choice list, you might encounter bugs with the list. Keep it to ten or less and things should work fine.

7. Create a URL shortener

A URL shortener is useful to post information about your site in Twitter. To get a link to your group’s About page, click Manage>Send Invitations, and you will see a box labelled “Link”. (See #9 for tips on sending invitations.) Use Bitly to create a user-friendly URL that helps users recognize the URL’s topic. The best thing about the URL shortener is that you can use it to track the number of clicks. So you could create variations on a URL and then track it to specific networks and webpages. For example, post bit.ly/mygroupA only to Twitter. Post bit.ly/mygroupB only in emails. Post bit.ly/mygroupC in the comments of influencer blogs. Then you can compare which posts get the best response. Hootsuite (free for up to five social accounts) provides a URL shortener with various analytics tools.

8. Post some initial content

Before you put effort into promotion, seed your group’s Discussion page with some initial content. The easiest way to start is simply to post links to information and news that will interest your group. Be sure that the content is relevant and useful. To find up-to-date content, you can set up Google Alerts and Twitter streams.

gold star with text tipPOWER TIP! Be sure to optimize your own profile before going wild with promoting your group. Users will check out your profile. If it sucks, they might be a bit reluctant to join your group, especially just as you are trying to get it off the ground.

Promote

9. Reach out to your network

Once your group is primed and ready for action, now is the time to begin promoting. The first step is to use the “Send Invitations” feature, under Manage Group in the Manage tab. However, group invitations cannot be customized. My advise is don’t use the generic messaging. Send invitations one-on-one to your network. This is your network, so speak to them about your group, why you’re inviting them, and how they can contribute. Always personalize the message!Here’s an example:

“Hi <Contact Name>, I hope you don’t mind a message out of the blue! It’s just that I am so excited about this new LinkedIn group I created. It’s called <Group Name>, and it features news and jobs for professionals like you. It’s also a great opportunity to contribute to relevant discussions about <Group Topics>, and your opinions are sure to be valued by group members. Just click the link to join. Thank you so much! Regards, <Your Name>.”

10. Post on other social networks

Once you have a few members in your group, start reaching out on other social networks. Twitter and Facebook are good places to start. Google Plus also has an audience that may be interested in professional networks. My biggest successes have come with posting links on Wikipedia. You do need to be careful, since Wikipedia editors are very strict about external links and will quickly delete any links that smell at all spammy. It helps if you’re already an established Wikipedian. Otherwise, get an established Wikipedia editor, if you can, to help you post a link to an appropriate page. (Contact me if you’re interested in this option.) 

11. Use message templates

Automated messages are sent to a user when they request membership, or they’re approved. I am not a huge fan of automated generic emails, and neither are your group members. Message templates (under the Manage tab) are a good way to personalize those messages, and to set the stage for building a relationship with your group members. For example, you can customize the welcome message. If you don’t, the default LinkedIn confirmation message will be sent instead.

Manage

12. Approve members promptly

If you have a closed group, you need to approve members. Don’t let this job linger! By approving people quickly, you maintain their initial interest. New members appear in the feed on the top right of the page, along with new discussions. By approving members regularly, users can see that more people are joining, and will be more likely to participate in the group.

gold star with text tipPOWER TIP! The profile that you approve the last appears in the the Latest Activity box first, so you want to make sure that your most recently approved member has a nice photo or a good profile, improving the group’s credibility. This also helps to push lower quality content off the prime real estate of the Recent Activity box.

13. Moderate gently

When moderating posts, again exercise the Goldilocks principle: don’t be too strict or too lenient, just about right. If you are too strict, you might put off users who overshare, which might work against you when other users aren’t posting much. Some activity is better than none! Also, some users may not be familiar with etiquette. If posts tend to be spammy, create a Discussion with appropriate guidelines and make it a Manager’s Choice, so users can see what’s expected. In any case, unless posts are totally inappropriate, you can move posts to appropriate tabs.

14. Thank frequent contributors

The backbone of your group and its key to success are the users that most often contribute quality content. Take a few moments to thank them with a personal message. They may even appreciate being thanked in a Discussion (be sure to ask!). These “ambassadors” can help in other ways, such as sharing your own content with other groups and social networks. Bottom line: social media is about building relationships. Use that

15. Send announcements sparingly

One of the best things about the LinkedIn groups is that you can email all members with the “Send an Announcement” feature. But remember that some members might have opted out of receiving the announcements. To avoid more opt-outs it’s a good idea to send only important announcements with relevant information. In other words, don’t spam your group! One way to get buy-in is to post a Discussion asking for news and other items that will be of interest to the group. This way, you can embed your own news, links, etc. in the message, while also serving the needs of your carefully nurtured community. If you follow the advice above, you have every chance of growing your group into thousands strong. I’d love to hear of any other thoughts or suggestions that aren’t mentioned above, or of your own experience with any of these suggestions.

More helpful hints and tips

 

  • Starting your LinkedIn group page

 

LinkedIn groups for beginners

LinkedIn Groups – How to Encourage, Entice and Engage

LinkedIn Groups for PR: A beginner’s guide

Top 10 Reasons To Start A LinkedIn Group

 

  • How to engage LinkedIn users

 

Engage the experts: winning content strategies for LinkedIn Groups

How to engage your LinkedIn followers

 

Big brands offer small businesses Google Plus opportunity

on Jul 19 in google, hints and tips, social media, trends posted by

Uh, oh. It looks like big brands are not 100% behind Google Plus.

According to a couple of recent surveys, top 20 online retailers in the UK and the US have a lackluster presence on Google Plus. Some of the big brands post rarely or not at all. Other brands post a lot, but have very low levels of user interaction.

According to the numbers, 19 of the top 20 UK online retailers had Google Plus pages but only 13 posted content on a regular basis,” and “US retailers are even less bothered about Google Plus than their UK counterparts, with just 12 of the top 20 US online retailers updating their pages on anything like a regular basis.”

So how should smaller brands respond? Should you abandon Google Plus if big brands won’t put their faith in the channel? If you’re not on Google Plus already, should you just stick to a cookiecutter Facebook and Twitter strategy? I think not.

Instead of assuming that big brands know best, recall that most of them are slow adopters. Most people reading this were probably on Facebook and Twitter before big brands jumped on the bandwagon. So it will be with Google Plus. But that’s beside the point. The lack of big brand engagement signals an opportunity for smaller businesses to develop an audience while the big brands play catch up later on.

Being an early adopter gives you the advantage of providing value and connecting with your audience without being drowned out by the blaring firehouse of big brand messaging. In fact, now is the time to put more effort into Google Plus: optimizing your profile, curating quality content and having meaning conversations. And that’s what social media is about, right?

How not to create a tagline

on Jun 13 in branding, business, hints and tips, marketing, statistics posted by

Apple's Think Different tagline with rainbow apple logo

Leading brands such as Apple invest huge amounts of resources in developing taglines.

Marketers place a great deal of importance on taglines. But why? Marketers know that the tagline can define the brand and even become synonymous. Think of Nike’s “Just Do It” or Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “Finger Lickin’ Good” or Ford’s “Quality is Job One”. The tagline can be a vital feature of a brand’s identity.

So choosing a good tagline is not a trivial task. But how do you choose one? To answer that question, let me share a story with you. Recently, I developed several choices of taglines for a client (who shall remain anonymous). I put choices in front of the client and the team was close to reaching consensus. At this point, the organization’s leader ruled that we should accept a completely different version.

It’s always disappointing to have worked on something, only to have it discarded without additional consultation. But in my opinion, the chosen tagline was simply not appropriate for the organization. My primary concern with the tag line was that it was too long. It was 11 words and 15 syllables long. Typically, a tagline needs to be short for two reasons. First, it must be easily memorized. Second it must be short enough to be included on tchotchkes, sales materials and other promotional items, usually alongside the logo. The chosen tagline just seemed too long.

But could I back up my gut instincts with real data? To find out, I analyzed a list of taglines of 325 leading brands on Eric Swartz’s Tagline Guru website. (This collection of top taglines is listed here, used with permission.) Swartz’s list of taglines was not randomly chosen, but were from a list of those nominated in a survey of most influential taglines.

Data Analysis
I conducted two analyses to detect patterns among these leading taglines:

  1. Characterize statistics for the number of words and syllables to determine the typical length of a successful tagline
  2. Compared word and syllable counts for the top 100 and top 10 taglines (as determined by the online survey reported in the Tagline Guru website).

Results
Figure 1 shows a scatter plot for the total number of words and syllables in the analyzed taglines. Of course, we expect a correlation since a tagline with more words will have more syllables.

scatter plot for the total number of words and syllables in taglines

Figure 1. Total words versus syllables for 325 leading brand taglines.


The purpose of this plot is to show that the number of words and syllables cluster within well defined limits, as shown in Table 1.

  5th percentile 95th percentile
Number of words ≤ 2 ≥ 9
Number of syllables ≤ 3 ≥ 12

Table 1. Percentile distribution for the number of words and syllables in leading brand taglines.

That is, nine-tenths of the taglines have between three and eight words, and between four and twelve syllables. Figure 2 shows the distribution of number of words in taglines visually. In this frequency distribution (which appears to be log-normal), we can see that the number of words clusters toward the lower end of the scale.

Frequency distribution bar graph of frequency of taglines with different numbers of words

Figure 2. The number of words in leading brand taglines shows that four words is a typical number, while few taglines have more than eight words.

Another important result is that the number of syllables in the top ten taglines was significantly less (t = 2.71, p = 0.007, assuming equal variances: F = 1.12, p = 0.35) than the number of syllables in the other 315 taglines (Table 2). (Note that the t-test assumes that variables are distributed normally, which is clearly not the case as shown in Figure 1. Therefore, data were log-transformed to comply with this assumption.)

  N Mean St Dev
Top 10 taglines 10 4.8 2.25
Other taglines 315 6.987 2.97

Table 2. The mean number of syllables in the top 10 brand taglines is significantly fewer than other leading brand taglines.

However, neither the number of words in the top 10 taglines nor the number of syllables per word differed significantly from the other taglines. Also, these differences were not found when the top 100 taglines were compared with the others.

Looking at the sample of taglines together, we see that most taglines have a total of more than three syllables. Six syllables is the most common number for a tagline (Figure 3).

Bar graph of total words versus syllables

Figure 3. The distribution of total syllables in a tagline indicates that most taglines use several syllables.

Conclusion

The take home from these findings is that creating a tagline outside these limits (less than 2 or more than 9 words, or less than 3 or more than 12 syllables) may be risky. Very few taglines created by major brands exceed these ranges.

That is not to say that taglines should never be outside these ranges. For example, the top ranked tagline of all time is “Got milk” with two words and two syllables. Mastercard’s tagline “There are some things that money can’t buy. For everything else there’s MasterCard.” with 18 syllables and 13 words, is ranked 17th of the top taglines. But both these are outliers from the other taglines.

This analysis shows that there are word and syllable limits within which most leading brand taglines fall. As a rule of thumb, marketers ought to stay within these ranges. But the rule is not set in stone. If you are very clever (and perhaps a bit lucky) you can create successful taglines outside the norm.

The key point is that understanding the brand (meaning the perceptual construct of the audience) is the most important aspect of creating a successful tagline. Yes, the data provide guidelines for number of words, syllables, and syllables per word, but these must be considered along with extensive research of the brand, deep understanding of the mission and vision of the organization, team work and collaboration, and creative, original approaches that set the brand apart.

So will this advice get the client to change his mind? Time will tell!

Want more?
For more advice on how to choose (and not choose) a tagline, visit Eric Swartz’s site:

One Easy Way to Turbo-Charge Your Social Media Influence

on Apr 12 in branding, business, gamification, hints and tips, social media, trends posted by

How can you become the 800-pound gorilla in the social media cocktail party? (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)With so many social media hints, tips, tools, and apps it’s tough to keep focus. Should you tweet today or focus on Facebook? Maybe you should post on Linkedin, or Google Plus? Sometimes it just seems too much and you end up doing nothing.

So how do you become the 800-pound gorilla in the social media cocktail party?

Empire Avenue is a great way to motivate yourself while building your social media audience and increasing your influence.

Essentially, Empire Avenue simulates a stock market, in which you buy and sell shares in other users. It’s pitched as a game, but it is far more powerful. Unlike Farmville or Battlestar Galactica, it’s not just about playing for the game’s sake. By playing, you expand your social media connections and increase your engagement. The payoff? You start to rise in rankings in other social channels. For more info, check out the Wikipedia article.

Business and brands can benefit by incorporating Empire Avenue into conventional step-by-step strategy. It also has simple metrics that enable you to gauge the effectiveness of your social media efforts.

Right now, Empire Avenue is the best attempt at gamification of social media activity. It’s free and has been open to the public since July 2010. I had stopped playing Facebook games since they just seemed like a time sink, and I didn’t see a whole lot of benefit. So I was a bit reluctant to start Empire Avenue — uncharacteristically, since I’m usually an early adopter.

Empire Avenue gamifies social media engagement.
But pretty soon after starting the game, it has worked for me. Here’s a screenshot of my Klout score since I started playing Empire Avenue. It went from a little over 48 to more than 51 in less than a month. This may not seem like much, but each incremental increase in your Klout score is exponentially harder to get, so it is significant.

 Roger Harris’s Klout score impacted by Empire Avenue activity.

So if you want to increase your social media influence, Empire Avenue is a fun and interesting way to do. And you can find me there of course. http://www.empireavenue.com/rharris

Hootsuite’s tweaks for tweets

on Jun 24 in hints and tips, social networks, tools, trends, Twitter posted by

Hootsuite logoHootsuite just keeps getting better and better. 

It calls itself “The professional Twitter client” and today it went several steps further toward reinforcing that position. The company rolled out a new version of its app, called Hootsuite5 (see blog post). Aside from a a touched-up dashboard, improvements include:

  1. Extensive use of HTML5, which runs quietly behind the scenes to bring yummy goodness such as drag and drop, geo-search and quicker switching between tabs and streams. Anything that improves user experience is a good thing.
  2. Themes to customize your dashboard’s appearance. Not such a big deal but definitely keeping up with the times.
  3. Publish photos to your Facebook wall. This won’t manage your Facebook albums, but it means that when you post a link you can include an image, just as you would posting directly onto Facebook.
  4. Retweet options include using the traditional RT, which Hootsuite incorporated in the early days, or now using Twitter’s built-in retweet option (which sucks IMO). According to the company’s blog “HootSuite users can choose whether to Re-Tweet with initials “RT” or to use the Twitter native auto-Re-Tweet tool.” However, I couldn’t see how to RT in the way you used to with Hootsuite. Now, the function is like Twitter’s. Here’s how:  “Click the Owl > Settings > Preferences > Uncheck “Use Twitter Web retweets” (Thanks to @Hootsuite_Help for clarifying.)
  5. Access your Google Analytics data. Hootsuite now integrates your Google Analytics data into its dashboard. Great time saver, since you don’t need to login to Google to get your latest stats. But wait, there’s more! You can overlay your tweets from various Twitter accounts to evaluate which tweets are providing the most traffic to your sites. This will be a great tool for marketers. 
  6. Attachments! This is getting almost like email. You can include an image or other file as an attachment to your tweet (or hoot). The attached file is automatically linked with a shortened URL.
  7. More goodness! Hootsuite has speeded up the interface, and provided easier access to support, and Japanese users can now use the app in their own language (not so useful for me, I confess).

These improvements are sure to keep Hootsuite as leading application for those looking to streamline management of their Twitter outreach. It certainly came out tops in a recent online discussion on LinkedIn.

If you use Twitter to do more than update your timeline on what you’re having for breakfast, I strongly recommend Hootsuite. To get the most out of it, read Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite.

Hootsuite adds link preview feature

on Jan 06 in hints and tips, tools, Twitter posted by

One criticism of the browser-based Twitter management application Hootsuite is that you cannot see the website URL that a shortened URL links to (i.e., in the bar at the bottom of your browser window, the link simply shows up as the URL you mouse over). So you have little idea of the linked page’s content without actually clicking the URL and visiting the site.

PROBLEM: Mousing over the URL shows only the linked URL in the browser bar. You can only guess at the linked content.

To be fair, this criticism applies to Twitter itself. In any case, Hootsuite has added a feature that magnificently addresses this problem. Tweets that appear in your feed columns with URLs now have a little plus sign next to the URL. Mouse over the plus sign and a popup appears with the title, website domain and an excerpt from the first few words of the linked page. This is much better than just a cryptic URL. Neat!

SOLUTION: Mouse over the plus sign next to the URL in Hootsuite and a pop-up previews the link

Hootsuite has gone beyond the call of duty here. This update provides an invaluable tweak to its already excellent interface. 

Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite #10: Optimize performance using statistics

on Dec 03 in hints and tips, tools, Twitter posted by

Here is the final (yay!) of 10 blog posts on using Hootsuite to become a Twitter power user. For details about Hootsuite, including a screenshot of the dashboard, see the introductory post. Here’s today’s recommended step:

10. Optimize performance using statistics
Hootsuite’s statistics are one of the best ways to become a Twitter power user. The stats provided are based on the URLs you tweet using Hootsuite’s URL shortening feature. The stats only work with the shortened URLs, but they provide a way for you to see which URLs you post get the most clicks. Here’s how to get started.

  1. Post a bunch of tweets using the Hootsuite URL shortener (see 10 steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite #2: Shorten links)
  2. Click the “Stats” button below the columns.
  3. You need to wait a while for people to click on your links a few times. Select the relevant profile from the drop-down menu. A time-series chart shows the total number of clicks for any given day. 
  4. You can select a date range to view the chart for data over 24 hours, seven or 30 days or a specified time period. When the time series chart appears you are presented two more options, to view click stats by region or by popularity.
  5. Click “Show Referral and Regional stats to see sources of clicks by country or referring website.
  6. Click “Load Popular Tweets From Twitter” to see which URLs were the most often clicked in the given time period.

Stats screen shots

Time series of number of daily clicks on linked tweets

 

Number of clicks on links by region and referrer

 

Number of clicks on linked URLs by popularity

How to use the stats

You will soon see what topics are most often clicked by your followers. By honing in on the most popular topics, you can provide your followers the most value. This is especially useful if you have a blog and want to gauge the response to Tweets referring to your own blog posts.

Congratulations if you have actually read all 10 Twitter Power User posts! You are on your way to becoming a Twitter power user!

Here are all the previous steps to becoming a Twitter power user:

Step 1. Schedule Tweets

Step 2. Shorten links

Step 3. Use multiple profiles

Step 4. Track multiple feeds

Step 5. Using Hootsuite Search

Step 6. Update multiple online profiles

Step 7. Embed columns into your website

Step 8. Manage multiple users

Step 9. Use RSS feeds to post from any Web site

For more information, you might find the following websites useful:

 

Lessons from biology: Five steps to succeed at viral marketing in social media

on Nov 25 in business, hints and tips, social media, strategy posted by

In a marketing campaign today, a manager wouldn’t dare to propose strategy that did not include some element of “viral” marketing. 

Search for “viral marketing” on Google and you get more than a quarter of a million hits. Over the past four or five years, searches for the term have remained constant (except for a curious drop around the holiday season).

Search trends for the term “viral marketing” from 2004 to 2009

But what is viral marketing? For that matter, do you actually know what it means? What is a virus, for example? 

As a biologist by academic training, my instinct is to tease apart the concepts and see if I can find appropriate analogies. The idea is that by better understanding the term, we can find ways to better apply the underlying principles.

A virus is a protein packet that contains DNA. It injects the DNA into living cells. The injected DNA then takes over the cells’ copying machinery and forces it to produce more copies of the virus’ DNA and protein. The cell bursts open and the new viruses go off and infect more cells. Simple. Brilliant. Devastating (think of the common cold or bird flu).

So what can your social media campaign learn from this biology? How can your efforts be simple, brilliant and devastating? Here are five steps to help you succeed at viral marketing in social media:

1. Identify your DNA. What is the key message you want to spread? Think of DNA as a meme: a packet of information that can be reproduced and then passed on. Formulate your message as a mission to boil down to essentials.

2. Keep it simple. Ensure your message is as simple as possible. Viral DNA is much simpler than that of a cell’s. That’s why it works. Twitter’s 140 characters work because they force simplicity. Do the same.

3. Identify your audience. Viruses are often specialized to very specific hosts. So make sure you know who will be “susceptible” to attack from your DNA. For social media, this means knowing which bloggers, social networks and Twitter users are the most popular.

4. Figure out your method of attack. Viruses are able to overcome or circumvent a cell’s defenses. How are you going to overcome your audience’s “defenses”? (Which may be a spam filter, for example.) Having a unique offer or special tailored content might work.

5. Evolve. Viruses are successful because they constantly adapt to new hosts (e.g., bird flu) and evolve (sorry, creationists). If things don’t work look through your approach and see what you can change to try things differently.

With these five steps, you will see the viral effect start to work. From the little injection of your meme’s DNA, it will spread to other hosts who will in turn infect others. That’s the power of viral marketing. But you need to have all the pieces together. Lose sight of the biological analogy and chances are you’ll miss one of the five essential steps. Include each of the steps and your campaign will be simple, brilliant and devastating.

Hootsuite improvements and bugs

on Nov 24 in hints and tips, tools posted by

“Grrr,” I thought last night as I tried to log on to Hootsuite to schedule some tweets for later today.

But all was forgiven this morning when I logged in. Woohoo! Nice new shiny Hootsuite. Well not new exactly, but the app has added a couple of useful new features. 

Tracking ongoing conversations

First, Tweets with retweets now have a button “Show Conversation” that shows related tweets (with RT) below the initial tweet. Once you’re done reading through the tweets, you can click “Hide Conversation.” Nice.

 

Selecting accounts with a click

Second, Ping.fm has been added to the accounts to select from when choosing which to Tweet (this used to be managed in the background by setting up Ping.fm (see Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite #3: use multiple profiles)

 

The bug

And the bug. It’s not a big deal, but needs to be fixed. The column for “Pending Tweets” shows a missing image icon instead of the account’s icon.

 

Kudos to Hootsuite

Another change is that columns now have the Twitter logo, but I’m not quite sure how that works. But overall kudos to Hootsuite for improving the (still free!) application. These are more improvements that reinforce its position as the best browser-based solution for managing your Twitter accounts.