Why Instagram trumps Vine

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In the world of technology, in order to stay relevant and profitable, your brand has to adapt. Today, social media giant Facebook unveiled a highly anticipated video feature on Instagram, a strategic move to satisfy audiences who are seeking innovative mobile technology. It’s a much needed defense tactic against rivals such as Twitter’s mobile application Vine, which has amassed a large following for its six-second videos, and Snapchatwhich enables videos and photographs to “self-destruct.”

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive at Facebook, believes that mobile is the best way for his company to remain profitable. In Facebook’s 2012 annual report, the company stated: “We believe that mobile usage of Facebook is critical to user growth and engagement over the long term, and accordingly are prioritizing mobile product development.” The Menlo Park, California-based company has tripled the Instagram workforce since the photo-sharing platform was acquired last year, and during the launch event Zuckerberg hinted, “We’re really just getting started with this product.”

The recent announcement is evidence that Instagram’s video application trumps Vine’s current offerings, allowing users to record and share 15-second videos with the option of selecting custom covers and one of 13 signature filters, as well as boasts image stabilization. But unlike Vine videos, Instagram videos do not continuously loop.

Brands have learned that uploading videos online is a powerful way to deliver advertising. Consumers watch videos for two reasons: First entertainment, and secondly information.  With projections that streaming video will harness more than 70% of online traffic in the next few years, it’s clear that video consumption won’t dwindle.

If you’re looking to try your hand at creating an online video, here why Instagram video trumps Vine:

It’s user-friendly

The selling point of Instagram is its ease of use. The app takes seconds to learn and is so simple to use.

It’s reach and integration is unrivaled

Instragram let’s users share video on Facebook and Twitter, as well as embed videos on a blog or website. These capabilities offer brands the opportunity to extend their reach to a larger audience and integrate marketing efforts over several platforms. This far outweighs Vine’s appeal since Instagram currently has over 100 million users. The product update is likely to send the user count up.

Less restrictions

While Vine only gave users six seconds of video, Instagram video boasts 15 seconds of recording right out the gate—and the videos don’t loop. In addition, Vine was only available for iPhone users until earlier this month while Instagram launched its video option immediately on both platforms. Trust, socially savvy customers won’t forget those details.

If you have yet to secure your brand identity on Instagram, now is the time to do so. Craft a strategic plan for utilizing the technology and start shooting.

5 Social Media Networks to Watch

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Few social services have enjoyed as much success as sites like Facebook and YouTube.  However, there are thousands of social media sites in existence and their popularity truly depends on the country.

Socially Ahead’s S. Lynn Cooper has curated a list of five social networks to watch. Like Instagram, many incorporate visual images with the goal of connecting people beyond the digital realm. Other services remind us of LinkedIn, bringing users together through professional networking. Regardless of which ones spark your interest, let’s explore which ones will become the future of social media.

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Conversations

HootSuite has launched Conversations, a tool that brings social networking into the workplace.  Forget e-mail chains, members can collaborate in real-time by posting on message boards similar to Facebook.  The great thing is this tool is not limited to the immediate team; in fact, others can be invited to join the conversation. Need to pull in legal or marketing, one click and they are brought into the dialogue.

Vine

When you hear the word vine, most would think of something that grows from a tree. Not anymore! If you have yet to hear about this mobile application, then it’s time we get you up to speed. Powered by Twitter, Vine is a video-sharing app that allows users to create six second videos using their smartphone. You can upload them and share the videos on other social networks like Twitter and Facebook. If you have a product-based business and a sprinkle of creativity, Vine can become an excellent content marketing vehicle for your brand.

Chirpify

What if your followers could purchase your product or services by simply tweeting? Enter Chirpify, a social media network that allows your brand to sell directly to consumers on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. When followers, who must have Chirpify accounts, reply with the word “buy,” they score the item. No need for you to send them to your website for processing, Chirpify does it all for you for a nominal transaction fee.

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Medium

To simplify what Medium is think Twitter and Blogger combined in a simple layout.   Unlike Twitter, which caps you at 140 characters, Medium gives you the flexibility to express your thoughts just the way you like.

Quora

Quora is an information sharing and gathering platform that takes the form of crowd-sourced questions and answers. A combination of other platforms such as LinkedIn Answers and Wikipedia, users can vote the answers they deem the most helpful, allowing the most knowledgeable to obtain status in the network.

5 Surefire Ways to Make Your Website Work for You

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Having a website is essential to a business’s marketing strategy. Almost every business whether business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B), and even non-profits, need an online presence to reach the global marketplace. Surprisingly, many small businesses lack a website that will convert to leads. Regardless if you have a social media presence, operating without a website can hurt your chances at sustainable online success.

Gone are the days where all it took was a URL, flash graphics, and an expensive advertising campaign to boost traffic. The reasoning behind this shift is largely due to a change in consumer behavior. Today’s customer desires to devour information when they want and how they want to, without the involvement of a sales person. Also, prospects don’t want to be advertised to, but instead educated on how your product or service benefits their life.

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Create a user-friendly website

Your website’s appearance and ease of navigation are a direct reflection of your brand. That’s why it’s critical you ensure that your website is welcoming and easy to read and use. Before going live, gather a group of trusted individuals to conduct usability testing, or hire a firm.  Carefully review the feedback that you receive and incorporate those pointers into your site.

Incite excitement and response

In order to keep consumers active on your site, you must be able to effectively converse with them using language that is relevant and comfortable. Turn on your imagination and liven it up with powerful keywords and headlines.

Optimize your website

In order for search engines to find your brand, you will need to include your most powerful keywords (in various pages) throughout your website—your copy and headings, combined with photos and graphics. Use distinctive page titles and meta tags, and concentrate on your most important keywords. Make sure it’s easy for search engines and your website’s visitors to navigate through your site and any external links such as your social media channels.

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Build an email list

Make sure your mailing list sign-up form is featured prominently, and on every page of your website, if possible. Let your visitors know by signing up for your mailing list that they will receive exclusive offers, discounts, freebies and announcements. People like to feel like they have an inside track with a brand.

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Convert your traffic

Traffic conversion is a committed process for building relationships and affinity with your target market. When done properly, it provides the opportunity for your brand to achieve its ultimate objective of acquiring and retaining customers. In order to optimize your website, so your prospects will be compelled to learn more about your products and/or services, and feel secure purchasing from you, make your site eye-catching and ensure it contains strong brand messaging.

6 Ways to Keep Your Brand Hack-Free in Social Media

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There’s no question that social media is an ideal venue for marketing and sales. But along with the rewards come threats, due in part to the fundamental qualities of cyberspace: easy access, ambiguity, and global reach.  Because the online world has seen little formal policing, it’s perfect for the “hijacking” of brands. Brands such as NBC News, Jeep, Burger King and USA Today have fallen victim to hacking, exposing the vulnerability of these platforms. While I cannot assure you that your social media accounts will not be hacked, here are some tips to minimize your brand’s risk of being victimized.

Use social media tools

HootSuite, an online brand management service, can provide your organization with the ability to allow multiple employees to monitor, engage and manage your accounts without giving them access to your social media sites’ passwords. HootSuite Teams allows you to control access to social networks and profiles, as well as change permissions any time to remain consistent with your business needs.

Implement a strong social media policy

If you haven’t already, develop a social media policy and review with your employees what is and is not appropriate to post online to ensure that you safeguard confidential information. Also, require employees to log into social media accounts via one computer rather than allowing them to access them from a public venue such as a hotel or conference center.

Are you in the know?

Keep up to date with warnings from news outlets about tactics employed by spammers and hackers. Never click on links that contain suspicious messages or that are from sources that you do not know. Consider setting up a Google Alert, utilizing keywords such as hacked, spammer or hijacked.

Enable two-factor authentication

Sites including Facebook and Google+ show your active sessions. As a general security precaution, you can enable these features to ensure no authorized person is logging into your accounts.

Change passwords often

A password should be hack-proof yet something that is simple enough to remember. Powerful passwords combine upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers. Change the password as soon as an employee leaves the company or if you suspect that security has been compromised.

Have a contingency plan in place

It’s imperative that everyone on your team who manages or evaluates your brand’s social media accounts knows what to do if your account is hijacked. The plan should be in writing and reviewed with the staff quarterly.

S. Lynn Cooper is a Washington, DC-based digital strategist and communications expert. Cooper is the founder and director of Socially Ahead, a strategic communications agency that specializes in the creation of social and digital strategies and campaign management. Follow her on Twitter at @sociallyahead.

If You Are Who You Say You Are: 4 Useful Online Verification Tools

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Use these tools to prevent from getting Manti Te’o-d in business

A few weeks ago, the world was introduced to the term “catfishing” due to an internet hoax involving Notre Dame football player Manti Teo’s pseudo relationship with a 22-year old woman, who he thought  died of cancer last year. While “catfishing” normally takes place in a personal relationship many businesses have defrauded individuals online as well. The Internet presents a lot of potential revenue opportunities—and a lot of risks.

Knowing that you are dealing with a real individual and/or company minimizes these risks while protecting businesses from both fraud and identity theft. While many websites, and even emails, are designed to look professional and secure, there are often indicative signs that can help you identify ones you want to avoid. Take precaution by using these reliable verification tools online:

BizId

BizId is a service provided by global credit information group Experian. BizId provides reliable commercial information and reduces approval time in order to stay competitive. Through a single transaction, BizId searches multiple databases to authenticate a business and up to two business owners while helping meet compliance requirements.

ZoomInfo

Job-centric search engine ZoomInfo aggregates people and company information in one location.  Their information listings on people, harvested from across the web, include people’s employment history and current job title and whether or not they’re seeking employment. Should you get too many search results for a person’s name, filter them by geographic location.

Google

You can’t talk finding information online without mentioning the big G. For well-known brands and individuals, you will get great results by just typing the name into Google’s search bar, but for civilians, common names or names with double meanings, a few advanced Google techniques can help narrow down the field of results.

  • Enclose the name of the person you’re searching for in quotations when you enter the name into the search box (i.e. “John Doe”).
  • Include other relevant words, like the person’s profession, employer, location, or screen name (i.e. lawyer or Washington, DC.)
  • If the person you’re searching for is likely to appear on a particular web site; search only that site using the site: URL operator (like site: sociallyahead.com “John Doe”).
  • To search people by appearance, look for them on Google Images to get a quick visual—especially useful for those with common names, or to determine the gender of a person you’re meeting for the first time.

LinkedIn

Over 200 million professionals around the world use LinkedIn. You can quickly review their profiles, which will include educational background information and work history, as well as their connections. When reviewing, you should see if you have any similar connections. If so, reach out and request a recommendation on this person. If you do not have connections, LinkedIn offers a paid service called Reference Search.

Do you know what Google knows?

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Google has launched a new ‘Account Activity’ dashboard that allows people to review their online activity. This tool requires users to sign up and upon doing so it will keep a log of user activity performed on all Google’s products. In a blog post, Google explained that this tool will provide users with a password-protected monthly report of their activity.

As Google is quoted, “Knowing more about your own account activity also can help you take steps to protect your Google Account. For example, if you notice sign-ins from countries where you haven’t been or devices you’ve never owned, you can change your password immediately and sign up for the extra level of security provided by 2-step verification.”

With this tool, users can know the number of emails they have been sending and receiving and with whom. Their search queries as well as the time they spend logged in from different devices. The dashboard has Gmail, Latitude and search but more services- notable Google+ will be incorporated soon.

Why this is worrying the search industry?

Google may convince users to sign up for all its platforms and allow the search giant to use the social data for search and maps, but this will not benefit webmasters and search professionals at all.

Google has now started encrypting search data (keywords) of the users that are logged in. This means no referral data for SEOs or webmasters, except advertisers. This move by the search giant has been opposed strongly by the search community. Recently, Firefox also announced its plan to switch to Google Secure Search by default further dimming the chances of the webmasters and SEOs to access referral data.

How will the SEO industry be affected by this?

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