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.

4 Ways to Successfully Launch a Product on Facebook

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Thousands of new businesses are launched every day around the world. Brands with drive and abundant ideas turn their understanding of a market problem into an innovative product or service. But there is a lot more to launching a new product than a great idea—and a market in need of a solution, you have to figure out how to generate buzz and get people to buy into it.  There are many social networks to choose from and with millions of brands using Facebook to launch products; We will provide you with details on how you can use the network to launch your product:

If you build it, they will come

First things first: to get the most out of Facebook, brands should focus on building a target audience. Start by defining who your audience is and develop a strategy to guide them to your fan page. Releasing consistent content packed with useful information in conjunction with contests, powered by Facebook ads, will ensure that you get the consumers you’re seeking.

Ben & Jerry’s is a brand to watch when it comes to Facebook fan pages. The famous ice cream brand not only has a well laid out page, but excellent fan engagement. Ben & Jerry’s profiles fans with their products which lets consumers know that they’re highly valued by their brand.

 

Research and develop
If your brand currently has a significant following, use Facebook to soft launch your product. Invite users to test your brand and provide feedback as volunteers. Make sure to reward them in some way once your product or service fully launches. Remember these people can become your evangelists, especially since you gave them the opportunity to be a part of the process.

Lay’s has been able to harness the power of Facebook in their Lay’s Do Us a Flavor campaign. It has not only provided research and development of what potato chip flavor they should release next; the brand has also generated millions of dollars in sales by peaking people’s curiosity.

 

Activate your fans

Well planned contests and giveaways not only increase the number of likes, they engage your target audience and provide valuable customer information. The campaign needs to have three key elements:

  • a way for your fans to interact with not only the brand but with each other
  • a clean design/copy
  • an enticing prize

 

Looking for some inspiration? A great example is Gillette Venus Embrace DIY contest. The contest urges crafty women to embrace their inner “do it yourself diva” by completing several challenges. The winner wins a trip to Los Angeles.

Embrace technology

Thanks to the brilliant engineers at Facebook they have given brands a significant advantage. By launching Facebook ads you can create a targeted campaign based on a user’s city, state, or employer.

Visit the Facebook ads page and begin inputting the demographics information of your potential customers. It will let you know how many Facebook users you can reach, and assist you in launching a cost-effective campaign based on your budget.

 

Why Your Social Media Strategy Isn’t Working—and How to Fix It

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According to Nielsen, 70% of active adult social networkers shop online, which is 12% more likely than the average adult Internet user. With millions of users online, brands continually flock to social media networks to garner consumers yet have been discouraged by the lack of results and questioning the validity of social media marketing. Rather than become disillusioned with social media, because there’s no denying the millions of people buying and conversing online, the question remains: What is the best way to reach them?

We have outlined five reasons your brand’s social media strategy isn’t working, and what you can do to improve it:

Great expectations

Social media is not a cure-all, end-all solution for marketing to one’s target market. If you think that by setting up a profile on a network and constantly spewing marketing messages that you’ll attract thousands, if not millions, of customers immediately, you’re sadly mistaken. It’s, however, an enduring solution in combination with advertising and public relations to increase exposure, promote and eventually garner sales.

Lack of company buy-in

In order for social media to be effective for your organization, everyone has to buy-in, from executives to support staff, or it will not reach its full potential. Your chances of having a successful social media campaign is increased if senior management actively uses it and allows the brand to have multiple voices. The executives of your company are not the only champions; in fact it is feasible to come up with a list of influencers in all departments that can provide content and insight in the form of a social media council.

Undefined goals

With any marketing effort, you must clearly define what your intentions are for using social media. Do you want to get exposure for new product or service? Improve brand recognition? Increase website traffic? Once those intentions have been identified you must question what success looks like.

Untrained staff

To avoid social media crises and potential disasters every company should invest in social media training and guidelines. Do not pawn off social media activities on the “young” professionals. Just because they know how to use the technology does not make them equipped to become the global communications arm of your brand.

When creating your social media team, you should seek someone who has a strong capacity for communications and marketing; the tools can be taught to via training programs in- person or online. Showing employees the best practices and way in which your brand should be showcased online can be an exceptionally valuable business tool.

Not enough engagement

If you’re not responding to your fans questions or comments, they’ll seek a brand that will.  Social media has shifted marketing as we know it. It’s no longer a one way street, but a two way street which requires communication and collaboration. You will achieve greater results when you respond in a timely manner, highlight your customers using your product or service and share valuable information with them.

Keep in mind if you are not fully committed to social media then you will not achieve the results you desire online. Once you have a social media strategy with realistic goals and targeted content, the rest is relatively simple.

4 Ways Colleges Can Take Their Digital Presence to the Next Level

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 21.6 million students were enrolled in American colleges and universities in 2012. With today’s youth constantly texting, tweeting, Tumblring, posting statuses on Facebook and updating Instagram, among other social networking sites at a rapid pace, schools need to engage with applicants and current students regularly. It’s clear the days of shiny brochures, flashy websites and in-person campus visits are no longer enough to attract high-caliber students.

Colleges and universities should embrace social media as a means to build relationships and create emotional connections with prospective students. Here are some methods academic institutions could take to bring their social media presence from outdated to fresh:

Get Buy-in

In order for social media to work effectively, key players must include students. Coordinate discussions with current students since they are avid users of social media and can provide insight about student activities and what influenced them to attend. Also, consider hiring a consultant to analyze the various methods utilized by faculty members and staff. That’ll help when you’re creating a robust campaign.

Engagement is Essential

So, you’re institution has Facebook, Twitter…now what? Well, if nothing else, a social media coordinator or manager must ensure the university or college is engaging with the current followers, as well as prospective ones.
Students will make a snap judgment about the college if the pages are not updated frequently, or if inquiries are left unanswered.

Make it a habit to check your pages daily and respond to requests within 24 hours. Keep a log of these inquiries and forward information to appropriate departments for follow-up.

Go Viral

Many students cannot afford to visit the campus, so why not create a series of videos featuring current students and faculty? It will allow prospective students to feel as though they stepped foot on campus for a college tour. The video series can address tours, the application process, financial aid, as well as provide sneak peeks into classes in session. Make sure these videos are no more than five minutes in length and don’t be afraid to inject personality in them.

There’s An App for That

Many colleges are taking advantage of the mobile revolution by building applications for Android and iPhones. A report from the Pew Internet Project found that 78% of people ages 12 to 17 have a cellphone, and more than 50% of those phones are smartphones. These statistics show that most young adults are perusing the web via their mobile device. Hence, it makes sense for universities to design an app where students can get information about the school, course offerings, admissions status and financial standing.

4 Tools to Help You Become a Savvy Social Listener

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Are you listening??

On a typical day, peruse through your social media streams and see how many brands are touting and seeding their content, products and/or services, but not necessarily listening to what their audience wants.

Most brands don’t do nearly as much listening on their networks, primarily because they only view social media as place to promote their offerings. Social media listening is a key element for building relationships, keeping up to date with trends, supporting your community and eavesdropping on your competitors. We will provide you with the top tools to seamlessly snoop (but in a good way):

HootSuite

This social media management tool is quite dynamic. When it comes to listening, you can create streams to monitor your competitor’s feed, particular keywords or hashtags, and identify tastemakers who are talking about your brand.

  • If your brand sells sporting goods, now that NCAA March Madness is upon us, set up a Twitter stream that monitors hashtags such as #NCAA, #MarchMadness or #basketball. Listen to what others are saying not only about the tournament but about sporting equipment, clothing and accessories.

Cyfe

Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard that helps users monitor and analyze data found across all your online services like Google+, Constant Contact, Salesforce, Facebook, WordPress and Twitter, to name a few, from one location.

  • Utilize the Google Analytics widget to identify what content is pushing the most engagement from your community.

Topsy

This free social media monitoring service locates and measures the most important conversations among hundreds of billions of tweets instantly. With Topsy, you can analyze Twitter usernames, keywords or web domains over various periods of time— day, week, month, or year.

  • Filter tweets by displaying “influential only” (pro version). This option will only display the most influential tweets, and the accounts they were tweeted from, so you can contact these key influencers (if appropriate) to help shape and influence their conversation about your branding. 

Google Alerts

These email updates, which automatically notify users when a specific keyword or phrase is mentioned online, allow you to stay on top of any conversation involving your business, industry or areas of interest.

  • Sift through various alerts pertaining to your industry. They could be used as blog articles, Facebook fan page discussions or helpful resources.

Brands that get to know their clientele, respect and trust their competency, and listen continually to how individuals are utilizing their products or services will have a far greater chance of developing and retaining their customers.

What tools do you use to listen in on social media? Let us know in the comments section

5 Social Media Pitfalls Brands Need to Avoid

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Social media is helping brands build awareness and engage with consumers. A successful business relies heavily on efficient communication which in turn helps establish partnerships and allows the company to market its product and services to consumers efficiently.

Professional communication involves ethics and etiquette. While most businesses strive for excellence, not all have netiquette (online etiquette) down pat. Here, Lynn Cooper highlights five tricks of the trade to help you steer clear of common social media pitfalls:

Don’t be pushy

Many of us have experienced the overly aggressive salesperson in a retail store, and walked away from the situation annoyed, confused or startled—and, most importantly, without the product he/she was offering.

The online equivalent is constantly promoting your offerings and sales through social media. Fans and followers dislike it, and you may be able to tell by your dwindling follower/friends count.

Avoid spamming people

This one’s common sense:  Spamming other users’ comments, inboxes, groups and pages will only have people dislike you and ban you from posting on their pages. If you would like to have your message posted on someone’s feed, be courteous and ask for the group administrator’s permission.

Keep your business off the street

Using social media for business means just that. Hence, be as professional as you would in real life. Expressing your disdain for cohorts, clients and competitors on a public platform will only result in you looking petty, and may cause others not to do business with your brand.

Be prompt

Research has shown that more than half of social media users believe that communicating with a brand via social media is a preferred method of communication as opposed to more traditional means like phone calls and mail. Show your customers that you really value you them by responding to their queries in a timely manner, which today is through social networking sites.

Absence on social media is a no-no

Imagine walking into a restaurant and no one is there to greet you. What would you do? Would you stay or leave?

This scenario also applies to your social media profiles. Make sure you keep your profile and feeds current. If you do not have original content to share, then source others such as news or partner organizations.

Follow these simple rules and you will avoid upsetting others and your business will appear positive and professional online.

Have you witnessed any of these social media offenses? What are some of your best practices? Share your thoughts and comments below.
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.

Social Media Networks Are Not Created Equal: How to Choose the Right Platform for Your Brand

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Which Social Media Networks Should You Use?

As business owners, it’s important to be aware that not all social media networks are equal. Each network has its own audience, and the content you want to share on one may not be as relevant as it is on another. Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram, it’s important that you’re sending your loyal and potential customers the right message and providing them with the information they actually want. So, how does your brand choose the best social network? Here, we outline how to choose the best social networking platform for you.

Goals

Approaching social media with a specific goal in mind can assist businesses in determining which platform is best for their needs. Whether it’s generating more sales or leads or managing reputation, each network can serve a different purpose for your business. For example, you may find that Facebook works best at raising brand awareness, Twitter assists with reputation management and LinkedIn may fulfill lead generation. Basing your decision off the needs of your campaign will make it much easier to determine which social networks are best equipped to get the job done.

Demographics

Before you decide to utilize a particular social network, be familiar with who is using the network. We hear many social media success stories from businesses, however, that doesn’t mean that the network they are using will be right for you. A vital part of content success is learning the types of individuals that engage on each particular network. Your Facebook demographic may be very different from those of your Twitter followers. Therefore, the content that is posted should not be the same.

Analytics

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, Google Analytics is an excellent tool to determine the reach of your content on various networks.  Google Analytics lets you look at social media referrals within the traffic tab, which provides an itemization of the number of visits driven from each network. As you click on each network, you can review which pieces of content were shared and drove visits from the network to your brand’s website.

Competition

All good marketers know that gathering data on your competition can be an invaluable asset to any online marketing campaign. In no way do you want to become a copycat, but, by following their networks, you can see what is working and not working in your particular market.

5 Tips to Improve Engagement With Video-Sharing App Vine

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With the recent release of the Twitter-owned service, see how your brand can create engaging content

Vine

Imagine garnering one of the best sales teams in the country, having them refer new clients to you every day without having to pay them one red cent. By incorporating the power of video in your digital strategy, you can increase your brand awareness and sales significantly. Recently, Twitter acquired a new mobile video service called Vine. Vine lets you create and share short-form videos (6 seconds or less) just like tweets (140 characters or less), the brevity of videos created on this platform allows users to get more creative with content. Here are several ways you can use Vine to increase online engagement:

Convince

Videos are more persuasive than written content. In fact, studies conducted at Harvard have shown that videos can increase behavioral changes significantly. By shooting a customer testimonial showing how they have personally benefited from your product or service may be more effective than you running a sales promotion.

Get Personal

Supporters want to know the people behind your brand. By personalizing your brand using video, you are able to build relationships with your target audience and ultimately convert more business. Create short content clips at team meetings, corporate announcements and events.

Inform

When you create video content that educates your target audience about aspects of your business, you become the face of the industry.  Keep in mind, Dr. Oz may not be the best surgeon in the world, but he has established himself as a medical thought leader by engaging with his audience on video.

Compel

Do not miss the opportunity to ask your viewers to take some type of action at the end of your video.  Ask that they visit your website; share the video or sign up for your newsletter. If your video is persuasive, you’ll most likely have their undivided attention so take full advantage of it!

Exhibit
To stand out from the crowd, think beyond a single video. To increase your visibility, create a series of short content videos that are published regularly. You can showcase your products individually or  ask your internal team entertaining questions. Not only will this create synergy around your content, it will also allow you to build brand identity.

13 Ways to Use Google Search like a Pro

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We’ve been told time and time again to “Google it” and let’s face it with the fast paced society we live in we use the search engine several times a day. But, chances are that you are probably still using Google search in its most basic form. Guess what! Below are 8 super simple tips for you to implement. We suggest that you bookmark this post of Google search tips, so you’ll then have the tips on hand!

  1. Explicit Phrase:
    Let’s say you are looking for content about social media marketing.  Instead of just typing social media marketing into the Google search box, you will likely be better off searching explicitly for the phrase.  To do this, simply enclose the search phrase within double quotes.

Example: “social media marketing”

  1. Exclude Words:
    You’re searching for content about strategy, but you want to exclude any results that contain the term mobile.  To do this, simply use the “-” sign in front of the word you want to exclude.

Example Search: strategy -mobile

  1. Site Specific Search:
    Often, you want to search a specific website for content that matches a certain phrase.  Even if the site doesn’t support a built-in search feature, you can use Google to search the site for your term. Simply use the “site: somesite.com” modifier.

Example: “social media training” site: http://www.sociallyahead.com

  1. Similar Words and Synonyms:
    Let’s say you want to include a word in your search, but want to include results that contain similar words or synonyms.  To do this, use the “~” in front of the word.

Example: “social media” ~professional

  1. Specific Document Types:
    If you’re looking to find results that are of a specific type, you can use the modifier “filetype:” For example, you might want to find only PowerPoint presentations related to internet marketing.

Example: “social media” filetype: ppt

  1. This OR That:
    By default, when you do a search, Google will include all the terms specified in the search.  If you are looking for any one of one or more terms to match, then you can use the OR operator.  (Note: The OR has to be capitalized).

Example: social media marketing OR online advertising

  1. Phone Listing:
    Let’s say someone calls you on your mobile number and you don’t know who it is.  If all you have is a phone number, you can look it up on Google using the phonebook feature.

Example: phonebook: 202-656-0949 (note: the provided number is the number to Socially Ahead’s office, you can use any number you like for your search).

  1. Area Code Lookup:
    Strange incoming number to your phone? No need to fear,just enter the 3-digit area code and Google will tell you where it’s from.

Example: 202

  1. Numeric Ranges:
    This is a rarely used, but highly useful tip.  Let’s say you want to find results that contain any of a range of numbers.  You can do this by using the X…Y modifier (in case this is hard to read, what’s between the X and Y are two periods.)  This type of search is useful for years (as shown below), prices, or anywhere where you want to provide a series of numbers.

Example: British Prime Minister 1930…1990

  1. Stock (Ticker Symbol):
    Just enter a valid ticker symbol as your search term and Google will give you the current financials and a quick thumb-nail chart for the stock.

Example: GOOG

  1. Calculator:
    The next time you need to do a quick calculation, instead of bringing up the Calculator applet, you can just type your expression in to Google.

Example: 7821 * 7.50

  1. Word Definitions:
    If you need to quickly look up the definition of a word or phrase, simply use the “define:” command.

Example: define: socially

  13.  Currency Converter

If you are traveling or doing business in another country, you can easily look up the   exchange  rate by entering your nations currency and putting a ? with the other country’s currency abbreviation .

Example: 1 USD = ? PKR

Hope this list of Google search tips proves useful in your future Google searches.  If there are any of your favorite Google expert power tips that we’ve missed, please feel free to share them below in the comments.

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Socially Ahead, a strategic communications agency specializing in the creation of social /digital media strategies, online communications, training, staffing and web content production with offices in Washington, DC and New Jersey.  Socially Ahead focuses on helping brands and individuals navigate social media and online space to build better connections.