Last week, we wrote about how challenging it can be to stay on top of social media and marketing trends. The relentless need to keep up with ever-changing trendy technology and social site updates may mean you end up spending more time than you'd like hunched over a screen. But knowing where to look can minimize this search time, freeing you up to focus on the bigger picture of your marketing strategy … or just pursuing your interests outside of social media. That's why we've mined the advice of ad agency pros and social media aficionados to compile a list of the best websites and ways in which you can find the information you need in less time.
The best ways to stay on top of social media and marketing trends:
RSS: RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, can make your life a little more … Well, simple. While checking dozens of websites every day would be time-consuming and tedious, RSS functions as an aggregator that allows you to scan large numbers of headlines from a multitude of websites. All you have to do is sign up for a free RSS reader such as Google Reader or Bloglines, and subscribe to your favorite blogs or websites.
Out-of-office networking: Join a Meetup or Tweetup group in your area and see what you can learn from the experts in your area. On any given night, there should be several events or networking opportunities available.
Word-of-mouth: Get together with friends from other industries and co-marketing contacts to keep your perspective fresh by learning how other businesses utilize social media and marketing strategies. Who knows? You may have a lightbulb moment that could lead to a reinvention of your own strategy.
The best websites to stay on top of social media and marketing trends:
Mashable: As an award-winning, leading site for social media news, Mashable is an entertaining, easy-to-digest way to find out need-to-know information. In fact, Time rated the site as one of the 25 best blogs in 2009. And currently it brags of over 3,200,000 Twitter followers and over 1,000,000 fans on Facebook. Add this site to your RSS reader and you'll understand the reason for its success.
TechCrunch: Another great site to add to your reader, TechCrunch focuses on breaking technology news, reviewing Internet products, and profiling startups. If you really want to get in-depth, be sure to also check out CrunchBase, TechCrunch's open database about start-up companies, people and investors.
Ad Age: Ad Age (or Advertising Age) an 82-year old magazine focused on media and marketing, is a roadmap for new trends. Judging by its longevity, it knows how to roll with change, and provides well thought-out analysis and context to the fluctuating digital landscape.
… And a few useful social media sites:
Yammer: Yammer is a workplace social networking system used for private communication within organizations or between an organization's members – Kind of like Facebook for work. So instead of sending a mass email, co-workers can Yammer a message on the latest trends or updates. Yammer can be an integral part of your workplace's learning culture if everyone makes a commitment to post relevant information on the latest technology, marketing, and social media trends.
Twitter: Follow key social media and marketing influencers on Twitter, and you'll have breaking news at your fingertips. Often this is one of the first places to mine for new information, while more in-depth analysis of breaking news follows on sites such as Mashable, TechCrunch, or AdAge.
Tumblr: A blogging platform and social networking site, Tumblr allows users to post multimedia and text to short-form blogs, and to follow other users and potential influencers. Like other social media sites, it's a great source for new, interesting developments, breaking information, and fresh perspectives.
What are some of the best ways you stay on top of social media and marketing trends that aren't on this list? As always, let us know below or on Twitter at @AccoladesPR!
*GRAPH COURTESY OF THE PIVOT CONFERENCE*
Just when you think you're on top of marketing and social media world, another must-use social media site pops up, demanding mastery. Or a trendy new feature demands your attention. Or an algorithm update requires more research and a tweak to your strategy… Basically, the list is endless, and the changes are constant. In this fast-paced, technology-centered culture, the only way to stay relevant in the marketing world is by continuing to learn. That's why this week, we're going to foster that all-essential learning process by spotlighting a few of those brand new social media features and updates.
Here are the latest social media attention-grabbers:
Facebook and Foursquare re-design business pages
In case you haven't noticed yet, Facebook recently introduced a new mobile pages layout. Businesses don't actually need to change anything, as the pages will automatically be converted to the new mobile-friendly format. The changes include improvements to functionality and ease of use, such as listing more relevant information (especially location and contact information) first; posting most-used interaction functions such as like, call, message, and share at the top of the page; featuring recent posts in the center of the screen; and providing an interface that switches between public and admin views with greater ease.
Less talked-about are Foursquare's newly re-designed business profile pages. Although they're not designed with mobile users in mind, Foursquare has the same motivation as Facebook: To provide more useful information in less time. As such, the new features include prominently displaying important information such as the business's address, contact information, hours of operation, menu, and upcoming events; showcasing photos, ratings, and tips from the Foursquare community; providing personalized insights from friends; and suggesting similar places to those you've searched, as well as places you may like to check out afterwards.
Both of these site's changes are great news for marketers, as users will be able to find, learn, and share information about businesses. While Facebook's updates are automatic, don't forget to update your Foursquare account to take full advantage!
LinkedIn launches a new contacts tool for relationship management
Maintaining and nurturing professional relationships is tricky. If you're like many marketers, you probably have a myriad of people to keep track of, including key co-marketing colleagues, journalists, media and PR contacts, salespeople, outsourced contributors, promising new talent you hope to recruit, and new contacts you've met at industry events or conferences.
LinkedIn Contacts is designed to make your life a little easier by helping you organize and stay in touch with these important people in three simple ways: Keeping everything you need to know in one centralized location by pulling information from your address book, email, and calendar; sending you notifications when you've been lax in communicating with one of your contacts, or when they have a birthday or get a new job; and by giving you access to these tools via an app on your mobile device in addition to desktop.
Although it's not available to the public yet, LinkedIn will begin sending invitations to members within the next few weeks. If you're not one to wait around, you can sign up to be on the waiting list here.
Twitter amps up its advertising features
Twitter recently announced that it will be introducing keyword targeting to its platform, meaning brands can target and tailor their advertising efforts based on users' tweets.
“It lets marketers reach users at the right moment, in the right context,” the company stated in a blog post.“Let’s say a user tweets about enjoying the latest album from their favorite band, and it so happens that band is due to play a concert at a local venue. That venue could now run a geotargeted campaign using keywords for that band with a Tweet containing a link to buy the tickets. That way, the user who tweeted about the new album may soon see that Promoted Tweet in their timeline letting them know tickets are for sale in their area.”
This update will take place on both mobile and desktop in 15 languages. Learn more here from TechCrunch.
In other news, Twitter also recently announced that it will begin open advertising, meaning advertisers no longer need to be invited to use Twitter ads or spend a minimum investment per quarter as they had to in the past. This is great news for small business owners and marketers, who can now give their organic Twitter presence a boost through the self-service platform.
What do you think of these new features? How will they make your life as a marketer or business owner easier and better? … Also, stay tuned next week for a blog post on tips and tricks to stay on top of social media and marketing trends!
South By Southwest (SXSW), one of the world's biggest film, music, and interactive conferences gathers some of the most innovative thinkers, creators, and performers for ten days a year in Austin, Texas. The social media industry is no exception – In fact, SXSW is a veritable magnifying glass for social-based companies, start-ups, and apps, the best of which provide new opportunities and ways for conference-goers to connect and converse during the chaotic global scene.
SXSW is "always going to be a launching pad," Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley says. "What better place to test your app in front of thousands of early-adopter beta testers?"
To illustrate just how much visibility companies receive at SXSW, look no further than Twitter, which arguably owes the growth spurt that catapulted it into a household name to the conference. Six years ago, the company upped the traffic to its site – from 20,000 to 60,000 tweets a day – by broadcasting tweets to SXSW attendees on big-screen TVs during the conference. Now the site has more than 500 tweets per day.
In addition to Twitter, last year major brands such as Foursquare, Glancee, and Highlight were under the spotlight for their innovative connecting potential and ability to merge social technology with location. And this year, in the well-stated words of Inc.com reporter Eric Markowitz, “... Expect social apps to continue to dominate the zeitgeist of South by Southwest, but expect the conversation to focus less on the technology's capabilities, and more on the ability for the user to control his or her data.”
The team here at Accolades PR is always interested in innovation, whether in social media, business, or technology – That's why this week we're ready to celebrate innovation in all forms, starting with a few of the biggest up-and-coming social companies that will take the spotlight at 2013's SXSW, including...
“People talk about ‘sending a presentation,’ and then just send the slides. But the slides are only half the story. We need to see and hear the presenter as well, and at the same time. Present.me is the next best thing to being in a room with the people you want to communicate with.”
Essentially, Present.me is a web service that allows you to deliver presentations as you would in person: One half of the screen is the presentation, and the other half is you explaining the presentation. Unlike services such as Skype, WebeX, and Google Hangouts, Present.me does not operate on real-time – So users can access and share the presentation hours, days, or weeks after its creation.
In their words: “Nextdoor's mission is to bring back a sense of community to the neighborhood, one of the most important communities in each of our lives.”
A free, private social network, Nextdoor can enable people to get the word out about a break-in, hire a new babysitter, help find a lost dog, trade household items, put names to the faces you see on a regular basis, or organize a neighborhood watch group.
Click With Me Now
In their words: “Click With Me Now was created out of this marketplace deficiency: the need for people in different places to share a single web experience.”
Click With Me Now allows users to simultaneously share screens and browsing experiences. In 2010, the start-ups founders, Brian Handrigan and Mark Comiso, were launching an online-only Seniors Health Insurance plan. In the midst of this, they realized there was no way for senior citizens and their adult children to review a web page together, coordinate a purchase, or communicate in a timely fashion online. Enter Click With Me Now.
Although it started as a way to bridge gaps in online health care, this tool can also be extended to a variety of industries, specifically online retail outlets.
"Whether someone is buying a personal computer, a dress, or a new car, consumers often bring a friend to get a second opinion and have someone to interact with during the trip," Handrigan said."When shopping online, however, consumers are left alone and lose this entire social aspect, leading to anxiety and shopping cart abandonment."
In their words: “Have you ever realized that we have all the world’s data at our fingertips, but we don’t know simple things about the real world around us like, “how long is the line at the coffee shop?” or “are there many people hanging out in the park today?” Koozoo asks.
Koozoo is a realtime database of visual content to which members can record and share snippets of things that may be relevant to the public, such as an empty cafe, a long restaurant line, traffic jams on the highway, or a parking space. Koozoo can also be used as a way to connect share a remarkable view with family, friends, and strangers alike.
So even if you can't physically be a part of SXSW this year, check out Koozoo – Perhaps a few innovation-embracing conference goers will have already uploaded footage of the event.
… What do you think of these up-and-coming sites? Tweet your social SXSW experiences (real or virtual) to @AccoladesPR!
As companies continue to incorporate social media into their marketing strategy, they also unearth challenges coupled with keeping a strong presence in the online community. Many companies still lack the training and resources needed to efficiently facilitate and manage conversations via social media. Those that are successful in this task are so because they treat social media as a tool for collaboration within and outside the organization. A report conducted by Forrester Research entitled “Accelerating Your Social Maturity” effectively describes the developmental stages companies go through in social media and how it becomes a part of the workflow and ultimately, the culture.
Just as companies set legal and HR guidelines, a social media policy must also be implemented to help drive home the value of a cohesive social media strategy. This policy could serve as a blueprint for representing the company brand in both B2B and B2C online communication. Nevertheless, companies just venturing into social media may have big ideas but must start small, showing careful deliberation in messaging. Be social, with P.O.I.S.E.
- Develop a content schedule or task-oriented calendar focusing on key metrics of the business
- Work with respective departments in the company to develop and ensure timely, effective communication
- Set a policy in place that helps employees grasp underlying company goals for social media
- Set a standard for the kind of content that will be posted on company social sites, but be open to useful user-generated content
- Determine the desired audience for every type of content (employee, partner, customer?)
- Locate experienced social media users within the company and work with them to help encourage usage of the platform in their coworkers. Their experience may be able to assist in integrating social media into the company culture.
- Key Players: Find out who in your industry is using social media and how they are using it
- Research trending industry terms and topics. Follow them and the people who use them most. Hashtags are a great way to start.
- Take advantage of industry lists and groups in social media. Watch the discussion and join when appropriate.
- Don’t just crash servers with your content. Bring ideas to the table by sharing pertinent and constructive material that prompts conversation.
- Listen. Sharing is caring, but caring means being a good listener.
- Quality Control. Leave room for dialogue, but remember to carefully monitor the conversation for any unexpected criticism
- Was the message clear enough? Did it get people talking? If so, what specific things were they talking about? What drove the conversation?
- If not, what was the message lacking? How can it be modified to build a conversation?
- Does the audience need to be re-evaluated? Are you hitting the right targets?
Is your company active in social media? If so, how are you managing your efforts and what sort of results are you seeing? What might you need to do differently?
Recently, Primary Research Group published an extensive report on corporate usage of popular social media sites. Specifically, the report focused on how corporations take advantage of microblogging sites such as Twitter and the tools provided to make their social media interaction more efficient.
Based on data from a survey conducted on 100 public relations directors, the report found such items as:
Almost one third of the respondents said they only use Twitter as opposed to other microblogging sites.
More than 30% felt that microblogging sites like Twitter were more effective than traditional blogging sites like BlogSpot, while 35% felt traditional blogging was as effective.
Almost half of the companies sampled regularly develop a statistical analysis that shows how the company and its products appear on microblogging services.
Does your company use social media sites? How often do you use them and in what capacity?
Every business has competitors whom they would like to outshine. A great way to do this with social media is to engage customers but it isn’t just about keeping up with the conversation. It’s about using the social platform in a way that inspires and creates a community built for a brand, by a brand and its loyal public. A good strategy integrates the latest apps and digital tools that allow users to develop a personal connection with the brand.
If The Shoe Fits…Share It!
Nike is doing a fantastic job of this with the Nike+Fuelband #MakeItCount campaign. It encourages people to be more physically active while using a wristband accelerometer to track the amount of physical activity. Not only can users can tweet or post their goals and progress on Facebook, but Nike set up a giant LED screen in downtown Austin for South by Southwest 2012 showcasing user-submitted photos via Instagram using the #counts hashtag.
Conversely, Reebok’s current social media strategy is not as dynamic. Their Facebook wall mainly consists of ‘Workout of the Day’ posts, deals on merchandise, and photos of their footwear. Interesting, but hardly inspirational. For that sort of thing Reebok is currently using the hashtag #GetAfterIt in order to generate inspirational user-generated content, but it feels like it’s lacking a specific call-to-action.
Both Nike and Reebok have a steady stream of conversations flowing on Twitter and do a decent job of responding in a timely manner. Both also have more than one account representing various targeted audiences.
Not to step on anyone’s toes but, in this instance Nike is one step ahead and gaining speed.
Where’s the Proof?
The day this post was written:
Here is the second portion of our previous blog entry
on creating effective content that is optimized for social media...
- Uploading photos to Facebook is very simple. Facebook users love photos so have fun with it and be sure the photos are at their highest quality and include a brief caption.
- Twitter users need to click on a link to view a photo so make sure it is worth the click. A tweet that reads, “Check out our newest pie, fresh out the oven!” with a link to a photo would get more clicks than a link with a tweet that reads, “Take a look at this," or one with no caption at all. That seems ambiguous and unenticing.
The Proper Response
- Most importantly, whether on Facebook or Twitter, give prudence with the photos shared because once it’s out there, it’s out there.
- Twitter is all about conversation. A strong following comes from genuine personal interactions and recognition of other users.
- Try following relevant conversations with other users and repost their content when applicable. Remember that anytime someone is @mentioned on Twitter only followers of that user and the user who mentioned them can view that post.
- Use private messages sparingly. They’re only really necessary for confidential material.
- Facebook updates can start in-depth discussions with a simple statement or open question. If it’s compelling enough, users will join the thread. This helps a particular update and company gain highlighted status in the ‘Top Stories’ section on the wall of users who follow that page. (See our post: Reaching Your Audience with the Best Facebook Content)
Social media in business is about a call-to-action through inclusion. Successful social media content, however, delivers that call-to-action through exclusivity. Users want to feel like they are a part of an elite group. They usually follow a business on social media to get something out of it whether it is a free gift, a chance to share their thoughts on a product, or just a brief mention of their name. People like to be recognized, and good social media conduct is the epitome of ‘Quid Pro Quo.’
Businesses, organizations and individuals the world over have turned to social media to stay in the proverbial loop. In fact, these days it almost seems crucial to have a social media presence, especially for businesses. Still, not everyone is adept at creating compelling social content that is quick, concise and relevant year-round.
Whether it’s on a Facebook page or on Twitter, any content posted must fit the needs of the audience. Frankly, this is the most important part of any social media strategy. The way users share content on Twitter is different from the way it is shared on Facebook. so your messages must be valuable to the group and fit the format of the communication channel.
Stimulate, Don’t Saturate
- Stand out among the flood of tweets with personal engagement and relevance such as retweets, mentions, new blog posts, contest giveaways, special offers and event updates.
- One report revealed that more than one tweet an hour actually hurts click-through ratings by more than 200 percent. Too many posts make an account seem fraudulent and drive followers away.
- Use a tool like Hootsuite to pre-schedule Facebook and Twitter updates at a later time but separate scheduled posts by at least an hour, duplicating as little as possible.
- Facebook pages must be maintained with more frequency than Twitter but without overkill. Facebook measures how many and how often users interact with a page, and how often a company updates their status so take advantage and provide at least four updates a day with new and engaging information.
- Tweets should be short, to the point and as genuine as possible.
- Tweeted links should be shortened and include a brief description. (Sites like bit.ly are great for shortening links and can often track the number of clicks per link.)
(Here is Part 2 of this blog post on optimizing social content for maximum results.)
- Spelling, grammar and punctuation are not scrutinized so much on Twitter. Use the extra space for links to new blog posts, photos, and allow for retweets from other users.
- Facebook includes a ‘See More’ link after 3-4 lines of content. As convenient as that sounds, status updates should not be a short story. Three lines or less is a good rule of thumb.
- A recent study shows Facebook posts containing less than 80 characters had increased interaction by 27 percent. The same study shows that full-length URLs on Facebook have better reception than shortened links.
The internet has changed and so have user behaviors. What was once a one-way conversation, the traditional outbound marketing model has been turned upside down by the increasing popularity of social media. While your Google search results are still important to gaining online visibility, the fastest growing brands are reaching their audience by linking their company websites with their social media pages.
Some of the best marketing happens organically through sharing on social media. If you are already posting your insights on a company blog, the next step is to add sharing icons to social media sites frequented by your audience. When a fan shares your content through their personal social media accounts, their friends and followers will also see it, helping your social media presence grow. There are plugins for most blogging platforms that make adding social media icons to your pages painless. Facebook and Twitter are the most common social media channels, but depending on your business, you may also want to add sharing icons for LinkedIn, or maybe Google Plus.
Once you have connected your company website to social media sites, you can begin to nurture leads by cross promoting with multiple channels. Allow your target audience to find you on Facebook, then lead them back to your corporate site, where they can learn more about your brand. From your website, your audience can promote your brand on social media using the sharing icons. Over time, this creates a self-sustaining cycle that eventually turns social media fans into customers.
In the Web 2.0 digital environment, successful companies are taking a strategic communications approach that includes both a corporate website and social media pages. By connecting these channels, businesses are growing their online visibility organically and developing long term customers. What are some techniques your company is using to connect your site to your social media pages?
In our last post we noted the different kinds of user generated content your consumers are exposed to on the Web, such as blogs, social media and user reviews. With so much conversation happening online, it is certainly important to hear what is being said about your brand, products and services. Successful companies are learning to 'listen' to their audience online and developing strategies around these valuable insights.
There are several media monitoring tools available to help your business listen to the conversation on websites, forums, blogs, and the major social media channels (Facebook and Twitter most commonly). Media monitoring platforms come in various packages, giving businesses many choices to fit different needs and budgets. We have highlighted a few well-known options:
- Google Alerts: This Google product is a content change detection and notification service. Rather than manually checking web pages for new content relevant to users, Google Alerts automatically notifies users when new content that matches selected search terms is published online.
- Radian6: Radian6 is a social media monitoring, tracking, and engagement platform that provides a real time view of relevant conversations related to companies, brands, and products. This tool allows businesses tap into public sentiment and make adjustments to social media strategy when necessary.
- Vocus: Vocus is a media service that monitors social media and traditional media to help companies get a wider view of the conversation across media related to their brand. This platform also comes with tools that help identify important online influencers. The variety of charts and graphs generated on Vocus help companies analyze their online reputation, as well as how competitors are faring in cyberspace.
- Cision: Like Vocus, Cision helps businesses and PR professionals monitor traditional media and social media, in a variety of packages. Cision benefits also include full access to Twitter.
- Meltwater Buzz: Meltwater Buzz provides solutions designed to fit different social media monitoring budgets and needs. The basic offering centers on social media monitoring, while the middle-tiered Engage suite makes it easy to respond and become an active part of the digital conversation. JitterJam is the premier Meltwater CRM platform that adds marketing capabilities to the basic packages.
- Spredfast: Spredfast SCRM is a 'software as a service' (SaaS) solution organized and priced around social media initiatives. Whether managing complex campaigns, or just one social media channel, Spredfast offers solutions at all stages of the social development process. Features include social media monitoring, analytics, engagement capabilities, and coordination tools to help manage activity across brands and campaigns.
Media monitoring tools help your company listen to the conversation online and make it easier to respond directly to your audience. With a sneak-peak into the sentiments of your consumers, your company can design positive, proactive digital strategies and squash misleading information about your brand. Which of the monitoring services do you prefer ... and why?