Love-Hate Between Social Media & Journalists

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Dubai Newsroom image by Broadcast Design International

“Journalists are a cynical bunch — we don’t like crap content and social media is full of it. Add the shameless self-promotionists, and the sheer mundanity of so much of the content, and it’s a pretty unattractive mix,” said 2015 John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University Cordelia Hebblethwaite who most recently helped launch BBC Trending. Journalism and Social Media: It’s a Love-Hate Affair

“I hate social media,” David Clinch, Global News editor for Storyful admitted. “It’s painstaking, it’s hard to learn, and hard to work with. But it’s like wild horses — once you tame it, you can have huge success.”

Finally, those who share my sentiments to a tee. So why do people in the news profession use social media? Just for starters social media can assist any news person in getting story tipoffs, research on experts, obtaining crowdsourced images, listening for trends and problem areas, following a specific beat, and finding interviewees. Among news people, Twitter is known as the biggest news social source followed by Facebook interest groups.

There is no secret to social media. It’s just about using some of the common basics mentioned above and combining with good old-fashioned journalism as well as some handy tools.

Let’s take a more in-depth look into how several specific news professions can add additional value to their reporting efforts through some helpful tips and tools.

American-Journalist-Chart-1

(Courtesy of The American Journalist In the Digital Age: Key Findings)

Foreign news correspondent

With more than 2 billion people actively using social media each month, its value to a foreign correspondent is a no-brainer.

When they want to know what’s trending on Twitter around the world or in a specific country or city, they can use Trendsmap. TwXplorer or Tame can help manage the constant stream of tweets on any correspondent’s timeline. When the stream of tweets is unmanageably fast, Tweetdeck’s filter button and advanced options can exclude words, filter out retweets, only view tweets with images, or see just the most popular tweets.

Verification can take a lot of time where Storyful holds its own. Correspondents can source news-related content from social media using a number of proprietary tools and then do the legwork of verification and clearance for use. Storyful specializes in international news and have recently moved into licensing viral videos and identifying trends on social media. They have a couple of free services – Facebook Newswire– which highlights newsworthy content on Facebook, and the Open Newsroom where journalists and researchers are invited to help verify content, and share information. They also have a free Chrome extension, called Storyful Multisearch, which scans across Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram and other sites.

According to How journalists used social media to cover the biggest news events of 2014, here are some of the unique ways foreign correspondents used social media last year:

  • The World Cup – Correspondents covering the biggest social media event to date were active on Twitter, using it to report on both sports and stats as well as the surrounding social commentary in Brazil. As part of their coverage, AP photojournalists throughout Brazil used Instagram to highlight “offbeat, behind the scenes views of soccer’s premier event.” Fusion, a news and entertainment cable network focused on millennials, using live-blogging as well as the “honeycomb,” a social aggregator built on Fusion’s soccer site that allowed them to surface social media content based on location and influence. For this coverage, two to three Fusion editors at a time mined and tracked all 12 stadiums where the tournament took place based on certain key elements like hashtags and the influence of people in the stadium.
  • Ebola – Covering the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history was challenging because of a slow and minimal social media presence in locations where the outbreak is strongest. However, public health sites like WHO and BBC Africa were strong Twitter influencers. BBC Africa also launched an ebola public health information service on WhatsApp that provided audio, text message alerts and images to help correspondents and citizens get the latest public health information. The Guardian’s News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson made news after his Vines showed snapshots of the situation, which packed an emotional punch despite their short length.
  • Ferguson Protests – Fusion’s Director of Media Innovation Tim Pool is one of the first to use drones and wearables to live-stream breaking news events from Occupy Wall Street and demonstrations in the Middle East. He routinely broadcasts his stories via TwitterInstagramLiveStreamVine and YouTube to his tens of thousands of followers.

While he was covering the protests, Pool even coordinated a Reddit AMA (“Ask me Anything”) which garnered almost 600 comments.

  • Conflict in Gaza – New York Times’ Jerusalem correspondent Jodi Rudoren used her Facebook page to spur discussion and debate throughout the Gaza conflict.
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(Photo by Hyosub Shin / AJC Staff Photographer)

Local beat editor

Many large newsrooms are investing in a digital specialist to train traditional beat reporters and editors to use social media in a higher capacity. Most of this training involves knowing what tools are available and how to use them such as Adobe SiteCatalyst for analytics.

At the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the most innovative is the “Hot Topics” team, which constantly keeps track of what’s happening and identifies stories that will linger for a few days or weeks. For example, during the Department of Veteran Affairs scandal, the Hot Topics team devoted reporting resources to covering it from a local angle and looking into any need for investigation. The size of the staff doesn’t allow AJC to have a full-time VA reporter, but the flexible team allows AJC to match daily assignments with what readership is expecting to see. It’s a different way to think about beats and a lot more teamwork involved, especially while smartly managing shrinking newsroom resources. AJC editor: ‘I can’t have people stuck on beats’ without audiences

Twitter lists are a great way of following a specific beat such as Tweetlogix. One of the good things about lists is they allow you to keep an eye on accounts, without actually following them. Topsy allows you to quickly trace the origin of how a hashtag started.

Here are some other valuable tools local beat editors use to maximize their resources and time (15 Tips and Tools for Using Social Media as a Reporting Tool)

  • One of the most important things to remember with social media is that nothing is verified. The Verification Handbook is a fantastic guide for all things to do with social media verification.
  • CrowdTangle focuses on monitoring and navigating through Facebook including every news organization in the US and lists arranged by news category and highlights the posts that are doing substantially better than expected.
  • Gramfeed is an easy way to search Instagram by location, keyword, or hashtag. One of the great things about Instagram is that so many of the posts are geo-located, making it one way to find people posting from the scene of a news event (e.g. an earthquake or demonstration). One of the most useful tools for finding social media from a specific location is Geofeedia.
  • As a journalist you can get a free upgrade to a premium LinkedIn account after taking a short web tutorial. This gives access to send “InMail” to people you are not connected when trying to get in touch with a potential contributor but can’t find their contact info listed anywhere. An advanced search allows looking for an expert on a certain topic which can be refined by location, field, or company.
  • Dataminr is a breaking news alert system based on Twitter, specifically designed for journalists. The algorithm detects tweets which are gathering momentum fast – at a very early stage giving early tip-off on stories. Dataminr has been working with news organizations around the world to refine the service, and there are many examples of their alerts “beating” standard news agencies. Some beat editors rave about Dataminr while others complain about the number of false positives.
  • SAM is useful for news teams working on social media content, as you can share your work, and add notes.

TV Cameraman

On Sept. 11, NBC News staff cameraman Jim Long, based in Washington, D.C., sent a tweet asking his followers a simple question: “Where Were You?” He received hundreds of responses from people all over the world on Twitter. Long retweeted many of them, noting that everyone has something to say and a story to share, aided now by social media. Where Were You?’ A Simple Question Leads to Social Healing on 9/11

There are many freelance TV cameramen, and one of the best ways to get good assignments is to market yourself via social media. Philip Bloom started a blog writing camera reviews, tutorials, latest shooting gigs and what he learned every day. He used the platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr among others. His efforts have made him so well known that today his site drives more than a million visitors a month. He even worked on a high budget Hollywood movie (Red Tails) after Lucasfilm hired him for his expertise with DSLRs. Go Freelance, Make A Life, Write A Blog

Okay, so maybe we don’t hate social media so much after all seeing as it gives news people an added dimension to morph traditional storytelling into an innovative and creative form. Social media also gives news people the unique opportunity to work collaboratively together or individually to distribute news content in a way that creates a special experience for social media audiences.

References

Cook, K. (Nov. 14, 2014) Working as a freelance camera operator

Gebauer, J. (Nov. 25, 2015) Go Freelance, Make A Life, Write A Blog

Hebblethwaite, C. (March 16, 2015) Journalism and Social Media: It’s a Love-Hate Affair

Hebblethwaite, C. (Nov. 4, 2014) 15 Tips and Tools for Using Social Media as a Reporting Tool

Kirkland, S. (June 20, 2014) AJC editor: ‘I can’t have people stuck on beats’ without audiences

Turnbull, M. (Aug. 13, 2014) Foreign Correspondents, their importance and their future.

Weiss, J. (Dec. 19, 2014) How journalists used social media to cover the biggest news events of 2014

More Than Meets the Eye to Social Media Management

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What is social media management? Having a point person for all matters relating to social media–especially coordination and oversight on content development, strategies, execution and analysis.  At my last job I was the only communications professional and by default the social media manager (SMM).  Unfortunately, we did very little in the way of social media, mainly because of the nature of our business as a government contractor where selection is based solely on past experience coupled with best price. Once a contract is awarded by the government, there are stringent restrictions in place to publicize this information which almost boils down to being more trouble than it’s worth.  As far as the readings, videos, lecture, I was fairly familiar with the makeup of SMM.

What skills should they have? In my current job, we do have a SMM amidst 40+ communicators.  Being in this uniquely, heavily-populated communicator environment, she primarily interfaces with us, while the team serves as client and customer liaisons. However, she still has to be extremely knowledgeable of the wide-array of clients we represent to ensure each message is tailored for that particular, unique customer’s mission, objectives and goals. All in all, these clients collectively service almost 10 million military health care customers around the world so our manager also has to have a global perspective of social media.  In this circumstance, a deep experience and diverse skill set (writing, editing, etc.) is critical because of the high volume and visibility of our social media program that relies on congressional funding. As Bullas (2015) reminds us, the manager also has to have attention to detail and be technically, analytically and creatively skilled. One of my personal favorites is more a trait than a skill and that is “enthusiasm.” If you’re just going through the motions or doing what you’ve always done before—I suggest a new line of work!

How can social media managers find clients? By seeking interface among those whom you and your team/organization already know and building and extending your network from this point; and advertising and promotion within the core market, demographics and personas you are seeking. What I learned from the lecture that I never really considered before is that after you meet a client and set up your initial meeting, arriving prepared with a draft scope of work by outlining the deliverables within a realistic deadline. I also agree that it’s a wise move to have the sample contract and pricing available to expedite the work for a number of reasons.  Among them are showing your resolve and capabilities to swiftly begin work. Most people are also very busy and the easier the process, the better for all involved.  This proactive approach also decreases the chance for a client to change their mind. I also see how a client contact report is very important, especially if you work for an organization so that others can be aware of contact status to ensure no overlap in efforts, as well as a good system being in place when eventually moving on.  There is nothing worse than having no record of prior customer calls from your predecessors when assuming a new position. I also agree with Cisnero (2014), “The first thing you need to do before venturing onto social networks is to make sure you have a solid website and content marketing strategy.” I believe that in this highly-competitive business you have to have a website that will knock your potential client’s socks off that will distinguish you from the pack.

What are the key components to a social media plan? Needless to say no two social media plans are alike, but the common elements include determining budget and manpower available to strategize and execute the plan, background, goals and objectives, determining key messages and statements, target audiences, channels, frequency of messages, analysis, and timeframe duration. I’m also a big advocate on delivering a good presentation as being the keystone in securing new work or potential expansion. One of our readings mentioned (Wilson, 2014) “In order to create a plan you need to have a clear understanding of your market and the general social media trends.” This cannot be stressed enough.  Even though you may know social media, if your potential client sells Buffalo wings or car tires, you need to immerse yourself in those markets and culture beforehand to really create a successful plan. Too often I see ineffective “machine-gun” scattered social media based on surface knowledge of the industry. Sure, you will have some trial and error but having current, deep insights can really be the difference in achieving superior algorithm results. The social media plan really is the nucleus to your efforts and should not miss a beat in giving the entire prospective of your client’s social media landscape. In addition, Bese (2015) suggests including what your competitors are doing right and wrong, customer service, and SEO tactics. In conclusion, there are many variables to be considered and included in a plan.  In my observation one of the most critical is realistic deliverables, and clearly defined calls-to-action—all of which should be achievable and measurable.

 

Applying SMART Goal social media marketing objectives

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Specific: I find that it’s imperative to be “specific” when it comes to goals and especially objectives.  Not only is this extremely important to those developing and following a marketing plan, unless you “specify” exact goals and objectives, it makes it nearly impossible to engage and track the communication plan.  A general marketing statement would be something like, “attract more visitors to website.  A specific statement would be, “During each quarter during calendar year 2016, increase visitors to health.mil by 5%. Making your goals and especially your objectives specific–translates in eliminating confusion about whether or not you’ve accomplished the goals via your objectives.

Measurable: Not being able to measure goals certainly makes it next to impossible for me to provide viable reports to my supervisor as well as other stakeholders. Also, I can’t make any conclusions that a program is successful unless I have set measurable goals.

Attainable: Continuing from the “measureable” topic, it’s no use setting a goal that would be too hard to reach. Sometimes you’re going to undershoot, or even overshoot goals but hitting that sweet spot will come in time.  The key is that you’re at least attempting to make realistic improvements. You also have to take into consideration what type of budget, resources, manpower and time allotments you have to support the plan. I recommend to always beginning a goal on the lower side until you can see how the operational tempo is working in lockstep with goals and objectives so you can make needed adjustments.

Relevant: This is where you need to be heavily involved and informed on overall business goals. It does no good to have a lofty goal that really has little impact on you company’s bottom line.  This is where your reputation and relevance to the executive team can be a make or break.

Timely: This is just ensuring that goals need to have a time frame associated with them to leave no room for ambiguity. It also enforces accountability. I think I mimic what many other communication managers do and go with quarterly as well as overall annual goals and objectives.

Channels to use in building a strong online personal brand?

personal-brand-basicsThat completely depends on the main characteristics of the personal brand.  Needless to say all the big overarching channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr) can pretty much benefit any brand.  However, for the different professions that generally churn out popular/talented people, there are many grassroots’ promotional community channels established and available.  For professional athletes it would be much different of a target audience than those who follow established actors/actresses. Plus each sport is broken down even further into different teams that attract specific fans.  Just recently I was vacationing with my college lacrosse-player nephew who recognized a guy at the amusement park who happened to be one of the top lacrosse players in the world.  How did he know this? By very specific stovepipes of information available online, many of which are rightfully fueled by personal brands.

One the other hand, people who are into artists–brand communication venues and forums can also vary from one spectrum to another depending upon which genre you are following such as painters, poets, screenwriters, journalists, singers, musicians, comedians, modern dancers, ballet, sculptors, etc.  Luckily, there are so many grassroot-level communities to support and cater to every possible fan-based hobby, following, pastime, and profession. Facebook is definitely one of the easiest methods of following a personal brand.

One last thing about fan-based personal brands.  All these folks have one thing in common–they are popular for varying reasons (money, fame, talent, good looks).  I don’t subscribe to regular professionals being lumped into the same stratosphere. Even though I know everyone is theoretically classified as a personal brand, I don’t see putting much effort into building a super profile for run-of-the-mill professionals.  Besides our coworkers, family and friends visiting more out of obligation, what’s the point.  Even when I put a lot of effort in my online brand profile (LinkedIn) when looking a new job it helped me very little and I’ve heard others say the same.  Sure, I think many employers may do a quick “google” check on you, but that’s more looking for the negative so in this regard it is imperative to keep your online nose clean.

As far as some of the worst things a personal brand can do,  6 Worst Personal Branding Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Them (June 2016) , mentions :

1)      Being fake and insincere

2)      Being a people-pleaser

3)      Acting without thinking

4)      Favoring quantity over quality

5)      Focusing Exclusively Online

6)      Not Strategizing

Case Study: Free Brand Promotion YouTube Maximized by User-generated Content

1 wordpressI selected International Doritos Taste Test  based on the fact that I really like Doritos and am semi-fascinated on the topic because I’m curious of what flavors of Doritos are only available internationally.

The video was put together and promoted by BuzzFeed Yellow which is branch of BuzzFeed that specializes in finding funny, interesting videos and sending daily to subscribers, of which they have about 6.5 million.

The video is approximately 4.5 minutes in length, published in Aug. 2014 and has a little over 6 million views. I also selected this video because it had a good amount of comments (4,569)

What the video shows is about 5 different pairs of friends that are taste-testing these different international Doritos versions.  The crux of the entertainment value is how each set of people react with each other when taste-testing.  The first flavor was “pickle” with one of the more poignant reactions being, “I’ve had pickles that tasted less like a pickle than these chips.” The next flavor is “mustard and bacon” with a typical response, “the bacon smell is so satisfying that I don’t really even need to try it.”  The next was “gourmet brie cheese” with one of the responders saying, “Well, this looks fancy. I’m going to start serving it at all my dinner parties.”  The next flavor “pizza” had the most negative responses because most thought it didn’t live up to expectations. The last flavor was “Chipotle:Hardcore” which seemed to garner the most positive response based on packaging, flavor, spiciness,  and the only one that was shaped differently. Top of Form

Bottom of Form

 

 

As far as a good cross section of some of the more interesting comments:

  • “mexico’s doritos rules!!!”
  • “I find the name intense pickle to be pretty funny;”
  • “They should’ve tried the Incognita Doritos. They are amazing.”
  • “I’m a canadian and I have never seen dill pickle Doritos”
  • “Yo remember when Doritos made like Hamburger, Taco, Pizza, and other like common fast food flavors in the US?

 

There were also a fair amount of comments that made no sense such as, “I saw you at the car radio concert,”

or “Did anyone else think of Chris Evans while watching this?”

 

All in all, even though this was not a Doritos-sponsored promotional video, it was a good positive piece for Doritos based on the collective reactions among the taste testers and those who made subsequent comments.  In all actuality it is outstanding free advertising for Doritos.  Taste testing different brand food products on YouTube has become a craze over the past several years which is great if you happen to be one of the more beloved products that everyone can relate.  The few negative reactions are far outnumbered by the fun positive ones. This is definitely a great example of how someone else can do a video on your product with generally always good results.  There are certain products that I would imagine would never suffer such as Cheetos, Fritos, Lays Chips, Oreos, Hershey’s, Ben & Jerrys, etc.  They all have one thing in common: snacks that really aren’t healthy but certainly taste good!

 

Which Brand Rocks Contests on YouTube?

maxresdefaultLay’s potato chips scores big on maximizing their YouTube presence when it comes to customer engagement in the form of contests as well as other’s indirectly promoting their product.

Here are the five videos I feel best round out the Lay’s brand presence on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjfH8wJ0zqM

Lay’s — Wouldn’t It Be Yummy?

I challenge anyone not to watch this video Lay’s put together and not only think it’s fun and entertaining, but has that jingle you can’t get out of your head. It’s sheer genius because it also offers customer engagement in the form of a million dollar contest.  Now that’s catering to the customer the right way! Out of the 787 comments, most are short and succinct such as:

  • “WOW THEIRS CHIPS IN MY BAG OF AIR” (sic)
  • “Gr8 another song stuck in my head”
  • “I love this commercial. It would be nice if it was an ad again…”
  • “you took my ideas like the double cheese burger and the spaghetti and meatballs”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNyT2odQbPI

Exotic Potato Chip Blindfold Guessing Game

Unlike the former video that was corporate sponsored, this video is much more subjective to the brand and cleanly based on a blind taste test with other chips.  YouTube is a breeding ground for using as a backdrop for all kinds of taste testing.  It’s an easy event to put together because all you need is a food and some subjects.  The fun and entertainment value is captured when people have extreme responses.  When it’s negative it’s generally funny.  Positive responses are a great customer testimonial to the biggest degree.  This was a very popular video with more than 3 million views. Some of the 3,370 comments included much more random comments that made no sense:

 

  • “I’ll take a potato chip…….AND EAT IT” guess what reference…”
  • “Death Note(Light vs L)”
  • “The cool Pig death note lol”

 

About 20% were positive in general even though many don’t point to Lay’s specifically.  The bottom line is that watching people try chips will generally make a person hungry for chips…all positive.

  • “Anyone else find the rustling of the bag and the crunching satisfying”
  • “Theres coffee chips?? gimme some”
  • “Weezy yzeeW i haven’t tried that! My fav is the biscuits and gravy”
  • “I got hungry because of this. now I want to eat some chips”
  • “Does anyone know if the Mango Salsa ones are still available?? I had them once and i loved them. I can’t find them at any stores now”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DNlXIPAykg

mod POTATO CHIPS Mod! (Garry’s Mod)

This video is a little kooky and for the gamer community where they made a modification that has the subject walking around with a potato chip bag and using chips as a weapon. “Watch as we explore a large shopping center as we do all sorts crazy things like throwing Potato Chips at one another, slaying dinosaurs, and even blowing up cars with them!” The video yields more than 3 million views and 3,612 comments. Needless to say there is little to no mention of Lays but because Lay’s is the number one potato chip brand world, it would be a plus for Lay’s when chips are being used in a generic context because this would conjure most thinking of Lay’s by default increasing the free advertising potential.

  • “how did he die man–he got hit in the face with a bag of potato chips”
  • “i love what it says on the back of the potato chips ” just eat it its fricken delicious 😀
  • “i was eating a cheese burger watching this then i said ”man i want chips now” XD

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLB5-8CcRi8

Top 10 Potato Chip Flavors

Even though this video was one of the lowest viewed with just over a million that “WatchMojo.com” sponsored, this was an outstanding success for Lay’s because out of the top flavors, Lay’s was mentioned:

#6 Jalapeno and Cheddder

#5 Ketchup

#3 Sour cream and onion

#2 Salt and Vinegar

#1 Barbeque

 

At the end of the video they even drew attention by showing a clip of Lay’s commercial featuring Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head  where they are in a closet eating the chips. There were also some Lay’s mentions in this video movie clips like “Half Baked,” as well as the television shows “Madmen” and “Trailer Park Boys.” Other products only wish they could experience the same kind of success as a YouTube video such as this. Many of the commenters also brought attention to those chips that are their favorites with many Lay’s mentions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TX8C_BiQgmA

Lays Potato Chip Challenge, Lay’s Do Us A Flavor Contest by HobbyKidsTV

 

I attempted to find a video popular video with Lay’s brand mention that wasn’t a taste test but couldn’t find one.  It appears that test testing is the big draw on YouTube to snacks and chain restaurant food. However, this video with 1 million views was a little different and put together by a family featuring a taste test of the four new flavors of 2015. What makes it entertaining is the three young kid reactions and the mom also garners fans. Out of the 266 comments, most were nonsensical, but many made suggestions for other challenges such as pizza, chocolate, cereal, ice bucket, smoothie, etc.

 

Summary: Overall, the biggest disappointment is that Lay’s didn’t engage in any YouTube response.  Because these responses are primarily positive, this would be the perfect scenario to banter with the Lay’s fans.  Doesn’t make sense to put so much thought and energy in providing top notch customer centric contests that opens the gate wide open to fun social media conversation with no one minding the store.  Looks like the marketing team is on top of things but the social media team needs a few lessons in maximizing “on a silver platter” opportunities.

The Finer Art of Managing Multiple Social Media Channels

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HootSuite is the most popular social media management tool to collaboratively execute campaigns across multiple social networks from one dashboard. Folks tend to gravitate towards Hootsuite because it tracks conversations and measures campaign results while managing unlimited social profiles (pro version), enhanced analytics, and advanced message scheduling. Buffer is like a virtual queue you can use to fill with content and then stagger posting times throughout the day without worrying about micro-managing the delivery times. With IFTTT you can essentially connect any major network or channel together to automate sharing on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and enhances Buffer and Hootsuite even further. SocialOomph can auto-follow any new follower on Twitter and is touted as increasing social media productivity. Tweetdeck monitors and manages Twitter feeds with filters. Tweepi is a unique management tool for Twitter that lets you flush unfollowers, cleanup inactives, reciprocate following interesting new tweeps. Social Flow predicts the best times for publishing content to capture peak attention from target audiences and also conducts an analysis of social signals to help identify where marketers should spend money on promoted tweets, posts and sponsored stories.  SocialBro helps better target audience engagement by identifying key influencers and optimal tweet times. Argyle Social allows you to merge social data with sales and marketing numbers to identify and engage with more prospects, leads and build stronger relationships with social media actions. Out of all, one of the newest with most potential is DashBurst which shares a variety of different content including any media while creating boards to curate and showcase interesting content.

Creating posts for the native languages of each channel

  • Combine visuals with hashtag campaigns to boost numbers and adding a contest is a triple threat!
  • Thank followers often and encourage fans to leave comments about personal experiences during various current events.
  • Use compelling visuals to humanize your brand like behind the scene photos that create a sense of community.
  • Blogs are a great tool to share links and widgets, as well as embedded pins, tweets and posts, which help spread your visual content across multiple networks. The more easy your content is to share, the more users will engage with it.
  • Pose questions on a topic that will interest your target audience and add an eye-catching image, and the more entertaining/funny the better.
  • Run a photo caption contest—not for anything big, just something a winner would appreciate. You could always get a T-shirt made with the picture and their caption in a size and color of their choice.

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Which social media ads are available for each channel?

For brands to get in front of a target audience they are having a tough time gaining ground, they sometimes have to resort to paid messaging.   Facebook and Twitter, as any other ad-supported media properties, have targetable mass audiences that you can reach. Don’t forget to measure against specific marketing goals for business impact which requires a more thorough analytics approach.  Whatever channel you use keep in mind that consumer media habits have become a mashup of devices, platforms and content. This can actually be used as an advantage to plan and execute programs that work across each channel and content should be geared towards the unique strengths and nuances of each social platform in your mix.

Good niche networks

There are many new niche networks that are trying to devoid themselves from the bigs bad reputation for too many ads, lack of privacy, collection of data, keeping track of online activities, etc.  New networks, like Yik Yak, offer users more privacy by allowing them to post to other users nearby anonymously, or Ello who promises to never sell users’ data. Smaller networks, like Behance, SoundCloud or Foodie, biggest challenge is gaining a big enough user base. Niche networks based around a particular interest, rather than people, have the ability to thrive. Because many of these niche networks are new and just appear, you have to be on the lookout and aware of growth.  Niche networks are also becoming very privacy oriented because of the public outcry for more privacy.  Keep this in mind and try not to ask for too much unnecessary info when it comes to soliciting personal information.

Which brands are doing it best?

I looked to AdWeek and who were this year’s Shorty top awardees given to those that were the best on: Twitter – NBA (Links to an external site.); Facebook – Un Illustre Inconnu (Links to an external site.); Vine – Lowe’s (Links to an external site.); Instagram GoPro (Links to an external site.),Expedia (Links to an external site.); Snapchat – The Maze Runner (Links to an external site.); Pinterest – Jetsetter (Links to an external site.); Tumblr – Game of Thrones (Links to an external site.); YouTube – GoPro (Links to an external site.)LinkedIn – Wells Fargo (Links to an external site.); Google+ Closer (Links to an external site.)

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Let’s Generate Social Media Leads!

week 6 1A main priority for just about all business social media programs is finding high-quality leads that generate sales.  I thought this was a good time to delve into some effective, maybe lesser-used techniques to connect with potential customers. One thing connects these—they are generally more work and that’s why many sway away.  I guess the old adage of “nothing good comes easy” is alive and kicking within the social media discipline.

Podcasts and webinars are a method of generating leads.  According to 5 Unexpected Ways to Generate Leads Online (Links to an external site.), even though the ability has been around for over a decade, it’s still a relatively lesser-used tactic but a good hedge bet based on approximately 2% of a person’s day spent listening to various audio sources. Needless to say that number is much higher for young adults which many consider a target group worth investing. A well-planned and executed podcast can not only help build backlinks and improve company search engine rankings, but listeners can quickly turn into high-quality customers. At my current job where we cater to the military health community, webinars are one of our best tools, which makes perfect sense seeing as medical doctors are a sought after commodity by most people’s standards seeing as we are all affected by health issues.

While many organizations immediately run to Facebook and Twitter accounts in an effort to generate some sort of beneficial social media buzz, these are choppy discussion channels.  Skype, Google+ Hangouts, and some online business communities are more formatted for open discussions in real time. Open webinars that allow for question-and-answer sessions are considered ‘very useful’ by 92% of webinar attendees (Links to an external site.). They build trust, share visions and expectations and get to know people that can become good customers. Only 32% of marketers believe that they are effectively executing enough content. Again, it’s time-consuming work.

Converting leads on social media

It’s most certainly a challenge to not create “why your company is so great” copy. What is effective content? Landing pages should be simple, useful, specific, aesthetically pleasing and solve problems for potential leads. An overly complex page that takes too long to load and even longer to understand won’t even register a second glance from most visitors.

In connection with the social media funnel, ideally to turn people who have never heard of your brand into loyal customers, we need to move them through each stage of the conversion process.

The first step to almost any funnel is to increase awareness by posting in enough social media streams to make an actual difference. One of the quickest ways to exponentially increase social reach is to get a post shared. According to The 5 Steps to a High Converting Social Media Funnel (Links to an external site.),

They recommend “actually mentioning other popular companies and thought leaders in your space and build on that relationship so that when they’re looking for content to share you stay top of mind.”

As the popular networks continue to decrease free social media reach, we marketers on restrictive budgets need to find creative ways to reach our audience without having to pay for ads. Real-time marketing uses popular current events or trends in order to boost relevance and increase overall reach. I thought one of the best examples is during the 2014 Grammy’s when singer Pharrell came out on stage with a strange hat.  Arby’s seized the moment and gained over 77,000 RTs and faves.

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Who else is doing it right?

One company doing an extremely good job at engaging with its customers is Royal Dutch Airlines which changes the header image of its Twitter profile every five minutes to tell customers how long they should expect to wait before hearing a response. The airline also managed to reach 100% engagement rate, an astounding feat for such a large company.

GoPro encourages users to share their photos on Instagram and to tag the company in order to win the “Photo of the Day” contest. The best part of this contest for GoPro is that each time a contest participant takes a photo and tags their GoPro, the participant’s followers will be exposed to the brand as well.

Krave cereal ran a test (Links to an external site.) and found that customers exposed to multiple promoted tweets are 12% more likely to have an intent to purchase.

GNC found that many were asking questions about health and GNC products on social channels. By actively engaging on social, GNC was able to increase inbound sales from social media by 25%.

CrazyEgg founders would speak at any and all marketing events (Links to an external site.) that would have them. Not all the events matched up perfectly with the product, but the marketing plan drove 100,000 new users in just two years,

Underlying Foundations of an Effective Social Media Strategy

12-steps-to-social-media-marketing-success-infographicA good-simple starting point to building a fruitful social media plan is to use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound) outline as a guide. However, to populate the SMART outline you must first have all the data and information at your fingertips to make intelligent strategy determinations.

The underlying foundations of the strategy

Primarily based on researching and knowing our audiences, this back information avails to us topics and interests our buyer personas are most social about, as well as what problems we can possibly solve for them based on their complaints or pain points.

This segues us into a solid path in selecting the right social media channels for our brand mainly based on which social networks our customers are using.  Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are naturally good brand ambassador platforms for most key audiences. Pinterest and YouTube can be a good medium to use for graphically enhanced posts. Instagram, snapchat and periscope/meerkat would probably be the least effective for most customers in creating awareness and engagement because capturing fun to share images is generally more social in nature.

Measurability is an extremely important goal

It’s imperative to identify key performance indicators (KPI) to measure progress towards accomplish in quantifiable terms. A social media marketing playbook is a good thing to write centering on selected social media channels while detailing KPIs, audience profiles, brand personas, campaign concepts, promotional events, contests, content themes, and even a crisis management plan. Metrics reporting should also be designated as weekly, monthly, or bimonthly, depending on your goals and desired outcomes.

To increase followers and engagement

Have tactical timelines in place that note each element along with the responsible blog/social media channel engagement person/customer service rep, milestones and timelines. The editorial calendar goes hand-in-hand by noting scheduled tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts, Pinterest pins, and other social media content relevant to newsworthy topics and events. One thing that many miss the mark is treating all social channels differently and not posting the same message to each. Reanalyze your plan on a regular basis. If something in your plan isn’t working, switch it up or do some testing to determine what your audience responds to better. Another strategy is to create and join groups/forums to expand reach relevant to your industry. This allows you to provide helpful and informative advice or to start relevant discussions that can help generate interest in your brand.

As far as what to post

I am a big fan of the more visuals the better because we are a visually attracted and stimulated society. The Social Media Examiner addresses how to engage better with visual content because it’s easier to understand, can tell a story and evoke emotions more easily than written posts. 11 ways to increase social sharing and fan engagement with images. (Links to an external site.)

Just as a reminder, the primary reason to be on a forum is to participate in other people’s discussions. Answer, chime in and let the community guide the discussion and don’t just shamelessly promote your content. Q&A sessions are also a great way to inform the public about new products, services, and promotions.

Alleluia! Pope Gives Tips on How to Write a Blog NOW! #BlogTips

week 4 popeOkay, his holiness didn’t really but just wanted to use a dramatic tweet entrance on the first lesson in blog success. If you don’t have a clever, attention-gaining blog hook, chances are you’ll fall as short as a leprechaun in an NBA butt-kickin’ contest trying to finagle people to your site.

Sure, might be ill-advised to under deliver—but you definitely have to bait that hook with something flashy in this uber- competitive, frenzy-filled, internet free-for-all if you want any measure of success. Oh, your first paragraph or two should pretty darn skippy as well.  Yippee!!!!!! (Okay that last was a bit over the top but work with me here—we’re talkin’ blog sensationalism and definitely the occasion to go big or go home!)

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Hook readers with an engaging and seemingly irrelevant photo and then follow up with your supported key argument.

Mashable (Links to an external site.) reports that more than 150,000 unique domains are added each day, making the expansive Internet a virtual worm hole for bloggers, podcasters, webcasters, and Internet marketers. As marketers we’ve been pummeled with “content is king” and blogging is where you need to be. Okay, the destination is clear, but how do we get noticed before our typing fingers start looking like disfigured snausages?

Here’s an off-the-cuff tip you probably haven’t heard before, “Crowdsource some comedians to punch up your brand’s blog.”

What? Is she serious? Absolutely because good humor is extremely hard for anybody to write. While you’re at it, use their clever wit with social media posts.  I’m not talking trying to subcontract Amy Schumer or Jim Gaffigan. Up-and-coming comics have one thing in common—they like to eat! This can be an inexpensive, untapped source that’s begging to be unleashed. Needless to say—pay according to what you use, which gives them even better incentive to rein in their wit with quality offerings to match your brand’s needs.

What other unique blogging nugget usually hit the mark?

Stop being self-serving. I know that’s kind of tough for a brand but you got to try.  As Guy Kawasaki, famed author and AllTop editor-in-chief says, “Follow the National Public Radio method — feed good content most of the time and the one time you want something, people will be receptive to your pitch.”

Three more points and I’m outta here.

Have a couple snappy images, make it conversational and keep it short!

week 4 gator