trends 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.

Three things brands must do before they engage influencers

on Jul 24 in branding, business, marketing, strategy, thought leaders, trends posted , , by

painting jesus sermon on the mount illustrate influencer

Jesus may well be the original influencer. Certainly the Church knew how to use him to market their product. Was Jesus the original influencer? Maybe so, and whether you are religious or not, influencer marketing is the next big thing for social marketers. If it’s not on your radar already it should be.

A post in Social Media Today highlights three influencer marketing campaigns. Such successes encourage brands and social marketers to include influencer marketing as part of their strategy.

Yes, influencer marketing is a vital mix to a marketing strategy. But it should only one part of the overall strategy. Even the best-crafted influencer outreach will fall on deaf ears if the brand doesn’t provide value, both for the influencer and for the audience. 

An influencer will not support a brand that has a crappy product or web presence. Would you recommend a lousy product or service to your family and friends? And no, neither will influencers, simply because they will be aware of the impact on their own reputation and brand.

Indeed, influencer marketing carries a risk, since influencers may be just as likely to trash a lousy product as they are to praise it.  Before jumping onto this particular bandwagon, influencer marketing must therefore be preceded by three essential steps. Look at these first, and if you can answer the questions, you are good to go! 

  1. Brand review — Is your corporate messaging aligned with business goals and your communications strategy. Do your mission and vision statements adequately represent your organization? Have you established a set of core values, and ensured your logo and tag lines match your brand?
  2. Social audit — Does your social presence past muster? Does your social media outreach comply with best practices (optimized profiles, engaging consistently and effectively)? Are you a Facebook-only operation or are you engaging across all relevant social platforms?
  3. Website audit — It your website up-to-date and socially optimized? Does it provide an interactive engaging user experience? Is it search optimized with rich content? 

Once you can check all these boxes you can start connecting with influencers. At which point an influencer is more likely to respond positively to your outreach efforts. If you can’t, your influencer outreach might cause more harm than good.

 

Why you should include Wikipedia in your social strategy – now more than ever

on Jul 23 in linkedin, social media, trends posted by

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. (Image courtesy of The Independent)Social media consultants rarely even mention Wikipedia, let alone include it as part of a social strategy. But recent changes to the site could change that.

Wikipedia is turning over a new leaf. According to this article in The Independent, Wikipedia’s new open initiatives include “a simplified user interface and a better-publicised API to attract developers.” What that means is that Wikipedia is likely to attract new audiences, both users and contributors.

Despite Wikipedia’s strict editing guidelines, editors can find ways to provide value on the site and ultimately drive traffic or build audiences. You just have to be smart and not greedy. The place to start is to build a presence on the site. If you contribute by editing existing articles, other editors can see that you are actively engaged and not just trying to add spammy links. As you build credibility, you can judicously add relevant links to appropriate URLs.

The results can be impressive. For example, I grew a group on LinkedIn to more than 9,000 members in about 2.5 years. I attribute that growth largely to a link I put on Wikipedia. Due to my work on Wikipedia (which includes several hundred edits), I now have a group of 9,000 users that I can email anytime I want.

So if your social strategy does not include Wikipedia, maybe you should think how it will. Until then, you are missing the opportunity to tap into the audience of one of the web’s top ten most visited websites.Actual growth of LinkedIn Biodiversity Professionals group from November 2010.

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?

Are all your social media eggs in one basket? – The risk of focusing just on Facebook or Twitter

on Apr 12 in business, facebook, marketing, strategy, trends, Twitter posted by

If you are focused just on one or two social media channels, such as Facebook or Twitter, you need to rethink your approach.

Ever since the demise of platforms such as Friendster and then MySpace, the social media landscape is littered with the corpses of once-great leaders. More recently, the popular blogging platform Posterous announced it was closing its doors.

The moral of this story is that brands run a risk by focusing only on Facebook and Twitter. Most of my clients come to me with just a Facebook profile. Some might have a Twitter account. Few of them have a presence on other social channels. This singular focus is a big mistake!

While Facebook and Twitter are undoubtedly the leaders of the pack, equally undoubted is the fact that other platforms are emerging to establish their market share, and trends among audiences are shifting like desert sands. It is perfectly possible for Twitter or Facebook to go the same way as Friendster, as a recent MIT analysis concludes: “It’s far from unlikely that Facebook itself will one day be a victim of a similar set of circumstances.” (An Autopsy of a Dead Social Network)

According to a new Piper Jaffrey study, popularity among teens of the leading social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even YouTube (gasp!), has declined from two years ago (reported in the UK’s Daily Mail: The social networking teen turn-off: MORE evidence chat apps are set to take over from Facebook and Twitter).

Compared to a year ago, ten percent fewer teens named Facebook as their ‘most important’ site. Teens are ditching legacy sites in favor of lesser-known chat platforms such as Kik, Snapchat and Vine.

What does this mean for social marketers? The bottom line is that embracing only the 800 pound Facebook gorilla will hurt. It’s important therefore to spread your eggs among several social media baskets. 

For instance, Pinterest is the only big social platform showing growth among teens, so it makes sense to include it in your strategy, especially if teens are an important demographic. The challenge is to spread your efforts (risk) without diluting your presence in any of your platforms. Inevitably, this means higher costs as more investment is needed to maintain an effective presence in multiple platforms.

More importantly than jumping on the latest bandwagon is to monitor technology trends and to strategize around those trends. Also, your digital strategy needs to consider if trends among teens will translate to other demographics. And how does your strategy include engagement on chat platforms (if that is even tenable)?

A comprehensive strategy that incorporates multiple social platforms really is the only way to ensure the competition doesn’t crush your precious social media eggs.

Google’s brilliant ploy to get people to pay for testing Google Glass

on Mar 29 in advertising, branding, business, geolocation, google, marketing, products, strategy, technology, trends posted by

Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin models the company’s new augmented reality device, Google Glass.As a technophile and early adopter, I am as excited as anyone else by the prospect of trying Google Glass, the new augmented reality device coming from Google in the coming months. Augmented reality apps have been around awhile. You point your smart phone at something and by mashing up geolocation and image recognition the app supplies additional information about what you are looking at.

Augmented reality is a powerful idea, and one that is taking root, most prominently with Google Glass. Google have been tremendously successful in generating hype about the product, which allows users to interact with their surroundings and the Internet with unprecedented ease and intimacy. But the new device is also a big gamble for the technology giant.

The system requires a seamless integration of hardware and software, and we don’t know yet if Google has it right, despite awesome promo videos and gigs of hype. Existing augmented reality apps are still buggy, and limited to large cities where the appropriate infrastructure can support an acceptable user experience.

The company has invested a great deal in their brainchild, and Google Glass is coming. It’s a bold and innovative move for a company that is mostly focused on software. Indeed, just as clever as the device is their testing and marketing strategy.

It seems to me that Google is applying a software testing model to their new hardware. Allow me to explain. When we buy a car or washing machine, or a smartphone for that matter, we expect all the pre-market testing to have been done. The glitches should be ironed out and we expect to receive a good product for our money. Companies invest hugely in testing products to ensure as few expensive recalls as possible.

However, with software, we have become conditioned to accept a post-market testing model. Users do much of the testing after a product is on the market and then happily report bugs, many of which could probably have been picked up in pre-release testing. With an operating system or app, we routinely and unquestioningly download the latest update, assuming it is a necessary and worthy improvement to something we have already paid for.

Google now seems to be bringing the software testing model to the Google Glass hardware. Here’s how they did it. With their initial announcement of its release, the company announced the Google Explorer program. Prospective users had to apply by posting a message on Google Plus or Twitter consisting of fifty words or less, accompanied by the hashtag #ifihadglass. If their application was accepted, the lucky applicant had to pay $1,500 to receive the device.

That is, Google has very cleverly found a way to build a cadre of testers and have them pay for the privilege privilege of being among the first among the public to use the gadget.

What is more, these users are early adopters, and most likely influencers, who are undoubtedly going to feel considerable loyalty to the company, to forgive initial problems, and to become evangelistic brand ambassadors. So Google neatly solved two problems — how to test the product in the market place while minimizing testing costs, and at the same time generate buzz among technology mavens and enthusiasts. Well played Google, well played.

But things did not go as smoothly as expected. Just a few days ago, the technology press was reporting that Google was retracting some invitations. According to reports, Google tweeted: “We’re gonna need to disqualify a few non-compliant #ifihadglass applications that snuck through.” Oops. The retractions certainly bolster the idea that Google is using buyers to pay for testing, rather than magnanimously sharing their new technology with the deserving few, as they would prefer us to believe.

Social media and e-commerce come together in social commerce

on Mar 28 in business, facebook, thought leaders, trends posted by

Hiroshi Mikitani, founder and CEO of Rakuten, the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales, poses an interesting question on LinkedIn: Does social media pose a threat to e-commerce?

He answers his question by asserting that, for e-commerce, “social networks [are] less [of] a threat” and should be seen “more as potential collaborators”. But is it right to put social media and e-commerce into separate silos? We are fast approaching an online business ecosystem in which social media and e-commerce are seamlessly integrated. Some call this model of business “social commerce”, a term coined by Yahoo in 2005. (Wikipedia: social commerce)

Simply having a social presence does not mean a brand is engaging in social commerce, but sites such as Etsy, which allow user profiles, reviews, feedback and comments offer an intensely social experience for users. And, of course, we are seeing Facebook and other large social networks exploring ways to introduce onsite shopping. Conversely, traditional e-commerce sites, such as Amazon and eBay, are trying to socialize the shopping experience. So rather than social versus e-commerce, we see a world emerging in which buying something online is as much a social experience as it is a shopping experience.

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

Foursquare versus Facebook Places

on Jan 27 in facebook, geolocation, technology, tools, trends posted by

Geolocation services may not make money this year according to a Forrester report.
That does not mean they’re dead in the water. Adoption rate is key. The question is will the advantages of geolocation outweigh security concerns. My guess is no. A few instances of stalkers following people to rob their empty homes for example, won’t deter millions from sharing their whereabouts with their social networks. As for Foursquare versus Facebook Places, I think Foursquare may rise to the occasion. Twitter didn’t disappear when FB introduced status update feeds. With FB places you have to navigate to it inside the FB app, whereas Foursquare is a dedicated app. And FB Places doesn’t have as good or established a reward system as Foursquare. FB is not going to rule the world just yet!

QR Codes for fun and for profit* – ideas and benefits for small businesses

on Jan 21 in advertising, business, marketing, mobile, QR codes, trends posted by

 

Pundits and prognosticators are touting QR codes as a “big thing” for this year. I noted the possibilities more than two years ago. The price of being ahead of my time, I suppose.

There are legitimate questions concerning the technology’s adoption rate (see What Are QR Codes And Should You Use Them?). But the overall trend is definitely up.

The benefits of the technology are easy to see. Access to web-ready mobile devices puts the Internet at the finger tips of ever more users. But it’s still a chore to use those tiny keyboards to type in long URLs. That’s where QR codes come in. Just point your mobile phone at the black and white square and voila, up pops a website. The key point is that QR codes seamlessly integrate offline with online. (See QR codes bridge real life with cyberspace.) 

Anytime you’d want someone to access a website when they’re not at a computer, is a good use for a QR code. This is especially applicable to bricks and mortar businesses.

So how can you use QR codes for fun or for profit? ReadWriteWeb summed up five ways small businesses can use QR codes (e.g., put it on your business card). Another idea applicable to most business is to link your QR code to the subscribe page for your emailing list (see Grow Your Email Marketing List Using QR Codes).

There have been a plethora of similar articles on the general benefits of QR codes for small businesses. But there are few industry-specific ideas out there. Here are some concrete ideas for what small businesses in specific sectors can do with QR codes and the benefits:

Restaurants

  • On menus to provide nutritional and other information. BENEFIT: Saves time for waitstaff to tell the customer, increases customer turnaround time.
  • On outside menus to offer specials and links to online reviews of your restaurant. BENEFIT: Encourages conversion once a prospect is at your storefront.
  • On posters and billboards in your local area to provide a map to your restaurant. BENEFIT: This can synch with the users mobile map app to provide directions to your restaurant on the fly

See this review of Herbfarm for how one restaurant put QR codes into practice  Check out Ventpix’s free app get started.

Realtors

  • On listing sign outside properties. BENEFIT: provides your listing info on a web page, uploads your contact info onto a prospect’s mobile phone and eliminates the need to keep replacing house brochures, thereby reducing visits per sale.
  • On house brochures. BENEFIT: In case the prospect does not access the QR code on the listing sign and provides more info than available on the house brochure.

Clickbrix offers a turnkey solution for a base fee of $25 per month.

Retailers

  • On instore product labels (this was implemented by Best Buy last year). BENEFIT: provides additional product info, allowing more staff time to spend on closing a sale rather than answering the same questions over and over. Opportunity to link to online coupons to motivate a sale.
  • On a billboard outside your store front. BENEFIT: Engages a prospect and can link to coupons, store and product reviews to encourage store entry.

Health professionals

  • In the waiting room to provide patients information about the practice. BENEFIT: provides another point of contact for the patient, reduces waiting room boredom, increasing patient satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Use on printed materials to link to your webpage. BENEFIT: Provides additional information about your practice and specialty area. For example dentists could provide “before and after” images of restorative work.

Authors and writers

  • On the cover of your book or next to your print article to provide additional content. BENEFIT: Adds value to your product since readers are looking for information on your book or article topic
  • On your book cover, link the QR code to an online coupon to motivate potential buyers with a discount. BENEFIT: Increase sales (what more could you want?!)

Additional resources and articles

 

* Apologies to business guru Robert Townsend who inspired the title with his axiom “…if you’re not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing there?”