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Put the #social back in #socialmedia

Using social media to promote an organisation, its operations and events is a primary way to get a message out these days. A quick search for almost any school, business or organisation will turn up their Twitter and Facebook pages, which can have advantages over other media as it can be immediate and brief, and is independent of journalism. Latest findings from Canterbury Christ Church University, however, indicate that while social media use is widespread in the field, up to 40% of PR workers are not truly engaging with other users.

Promoting and reposting happens a lot, with PR workers using social media platforms to connect with  loyal and potential customers alike. Tweets and Facebook posts are effective promotional tools as they arrive within a feed of personalised, invited materials, so people are generally quite receptive to their content. It is an informal seeming way to project the image and operations of a business. But if users are not engaging with the people seeing their posts, and commenting or asking questions, the true potential of the medium is being underused.

Social media is a conversation. There is a to and fro, and give and take. When effectively used, conversations had or ‘overheard’ can stick in viewers minds for years. As well as posting, responding should be an integral part of any social media plan. Showing your value them enough to engage will increase the loyalty of your followers, and help spread the word about your work. Consider asking your audience questions to encourage engagement, and remember, humorous and interesting content always as the potential to go viral.

If you are using social media, remember that people (including mainstream media) consider it a communicative channel. Ideally, you will be treating every approach to your social media page as you would any phone call to your office. Responding in a timely manner demonstrates your respect for your clients, and will help your organisation grow.

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instagram

Connecting with your target audience via social media used to be an afterthought for many businesses and non-profits. Now, it’s an indispensable tool that you must wield effectively in order to remain relevant. The difficulty now lies in deciding which social media networks to use, given that there are literally thousands currently in existence with new ones seemingly popping up every week.

After all, you have a life, and even if you hire a full time social media manager, they have a life too. Your budget is likely limited as well, so it pays to do your research and make certain that you invest your limited time and budget on the networks that will give you the best return.

Many individuals and businesses have already turned to well-known, established sites such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter to connect. Instagram is less well known than these sites, but is gaining in popularity. One reason that over 200 million people use the site actively is that it makes it easy to share stories and interact with others visually.

Images have the power to stir our emotions and make it easier to make connections with those who view our content. Since Instagram is designed to emphasise visual content, it’s perfect for those businesses and non-profits that need to quickly establish an emotional, personal connection with their followers.

Some obvious benefits of creating a heartfelt connection with your followers is that it can make it easier to create trust and build your reputation. It also makes it more likely that you will be successful when presenting a call to action for donations and volunteers as well as sales.

Instagram is also easy to use once you get started, and fun. It’s especially suited to mobile users who are busy and on the go, as you can download a simple smartphone app to make taking photos and videos a snap.

10 Tips for Using Instagram for Your Business

When using Instagram, two phrases that you may wish to keep in mind are: “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression” and “a picture is worth a thousand words”. These old adages are especially true when you first create and set up your Instagram account.

  1. The mosaic that others will see when they first visit your account is made up of your top 7 most popular images. For new accounts, the mosaic will default to the first 7 images that you post to your account, so take some care when making your selections, as these images form the backbone of the impression you will make to visitors.
  2. For best results, choose clear, high resolution images, and aim to strike a balance between posting images that are humorous or insightful and content that relates directly back to your work. The site also includes filters and tools that make it easy to crop, and alter your images which can totally transform the appearance and meaning.
  3. You will attract more attention to your posts by using popular hashtags. While Instagram has a limit of 30, you don’t have to max out your limit. Many users limit themselves to a brief comment followed by 5 to 7 hashtags, so that the content remains visually appealing and easy to read. It’s also a good idea to use a combination of trending hashtags along with ones that are specific to your brand, so that you get a good mix of existing followers and new visitors to your account.
  4. You want to be careful to not overwhelm your fans with too many posts throughout the day. Studies show that the optimum times to post on Instagram are between 5 to 6 p.m. on weeknights, and 8 p.m. on Monday night. Adopt a regular posting schedule so that visitors are more likely to return to your profile looking for new content.
  5. Regardless of when, or how often that you post, ensure that you quickly follow up with any visitors and fans that like or comment on your posts. Visit their profiles and like and comment back to start conversations and help build your following.
  6. The visual nature of Instagram makes it the ideal venue to increase interest in your brand by hosting photo contests themed around your business, or special events. You can also use images to “count down” to special events, sales and grand openings for your business.
  7. In addition to posting photos and other images, Instagram makes it easy to make and share short video clips up to 15 seconds in length. Keep your audience interested in your content and tap into trends by mixing things up and re-posting clips that are popular as well as posting your own short videos that relate to your business.
  8. Be certain to link your Instagram account to your business Facebook page and Twitter account. This gives you another way to connect with existing followers and possibly tap into their personal networks. It also makes it easy to share images and captions across multiple platforms, which will solidify your branding and marketing efforts. You can even embed your short Instagram videos onto your website or company Facebook page. Just keep in mind that your Instagram posts will only appear as a link on your Twitter tweets, while remaining the same in appearance on Facebook.
  9. Just because Instagram works a bit differently than other social media networks, don’t forget to use analytics and measure your results so that you can tweak your approach and find what content, posting schedule and number of hashtags works best for you to reach your target audience and build your following.
  10. You can also gain insight into how other businesses are using Instagram to build their brand and increase their following by reading the Instagram for Business blog. This part of the site contains both helpful recommendations as well as corporate case studies where you can gain ideas for what may or may not work for your business and situation.

Instagram is not the oldest or most widely used social media network, but its influence is growing, especially among mobile users who are grabbing an increasing share of Internet traffic. It’s free and easy to use and has the ability to convey meaning and information visually. All of these features make it the perfect network for nearly all individuals, businesses and non-profits. The site’s start page invites users to “capture and share the world’s moments”. So why not get started capturing images of your world and use it to share your own unique story?

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There are so many social media ‘gurus’ out there and, equally, so much information out there about the ‘right’ way to manage your social media accounts; what to post, when and where – that it’s enough to confuse you to the point of inactivity.

Part of the problem is that there is no real ‘right’ way and much of what you do post on social media, how you manage your status updates and tweets, and what you include is dependent on your community of likers and followers.

Each market audience, in each industry will respond very differently from the next when it comes to what’s shared on each profile. It will also depend on what purpose you have set your page or profile up for, and why individuals are on your page in the first place. Is it for freebies? For information or advice? For friendship and support?

Once you establish what the purpose of each profile is, it makes it a little easier to determine what to post on social media. If you’ve worked out the purpose already, well done!

To reduce your stress and not worry about what to post next, it’s a great idea to set yourself up some sort of schedule for posts. Much like an editorial plan, work out your goals and the steps you need to get you there. Ideally, your social media schedule will be a component of the steps you take towards your ultimate goal.

Even with a schedule there are even more rules and suggestions about the best time and what to post, although some of this will be a little trial and error for you.

Some of this information can be found on this very helpful article over at Small Biz Technology, which touches on some of these rules and also provides a simple, sample posting schedule for social media.

The best thing you can do is, first, read this article, create a schedule, stick to it and monitor what works and what doesn’t, then review it monthly and change it up as necessary.

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Social MediaI recently wanted to update my Facebook status after having a super bad day. I desperately wanted everyone to know what I had been through but at the same time I didn’t want to come across as “oh poor me” because we all know how annoying that is.

So I actually sat down and strategically planned what I was going to say. But I asked myself why, if I wanted to get something off my chest, I don’t just say it straight

It’s funny that we feel the need to say something other than what we actually mean, all the while expecting everyone else to read between the lines. Just look at what happens on Facebook.

There are those of us who just come right out and say it honestly, no mucking about, and often end up getting themselves in more trouble than it is probably worth. Then there are others who make posts which say one thing but reveal another.

As a recent article on NineMSN says, our Facebook statuses might actually show more about our emotional state than we realise.

When you see Sally post that she is curled up on the couch, relaxing with a pizza and a movie on a Friday night, do you think she is really happy about that? Or does it mean that she is so bored and lonely, hoping like hell that someone will soon call with a better offer?

Or your old school mate Paul, who updates with a pic and blurb about his ‘fun tropical holiday, with beers and girls on the beach’. Well, he’s not just updating you on his current movements in case you need to call, rather, he is desperately wanting to show that he’s on an expensive carefree holiday, and indirectly saying “Look at me, Look at me… my life is so much better than yours!”

What impression are your Facebook posts really giving to your followers?

Check out the slideshow at NineMSN to see if you recognise yourself.  You might just be surprised!

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Social media conept in word tag cloud

While many of us are aware that it’s simply a matter of “good manners” and “common sense” to be careful what we say and how we say it when we are dealing with others in person, these unspoken social norms seem to get tossed aside by many of us when we use social media or make other internet posts.

One of the many reasons for this phenomenon is that we aren’t face-to-face when we make a post on our Facebook wall or send out a tweet, so we don’t see their body language to know when we are entering dangerous territory by talking about a topic we shouldn’t discuss.

Also, the written word is notorious for causing misunderstandings because the reader can’t “hear” the correct tone or intention of our words since it is written rather than spoken. It’s even easy to feel insulated or anonymous when we are online and posting things to our “friends” and “followers.” So, many of us end up posting or tweeting things that we would never say “in person and in public.”

Whether you are talking to a friend or client in person, or are just making a comment on a website or sending out a social media post, you should always keep in mind that tone and intent can be hard to read. Remember that there is no such thing as anonymity anymore and that you are still using a public space. What you say or otherwise post can and will be shared, and possibly even used against you, as these posts are considered in the “public domain.”

At the very least, you may accidentally hurt someone’s feelings through something that you post or share online. At the worst, you can make the wrong impression and lose out on the opportunity to expand your business, lose your job, or even wind up in a court proceeding.

So, the next time you feel like mouthing off with an off-colour joke on your wall, participating in a flame fest about this or that politician or consider posting that not so funny picture of you and your friends getting hammered on New Year’s Eve, think before you click, and don’t “tell on yourself” to the “whole world.”

Have you ever posted something you have later come to regret?

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When your staff members use social media such as Facebook or Twitter while they are employed by you, who actually owns the accounts, especially when they may be used to advertise or promote your business?

There is a lawsuit underway in the USA which might have an impact on the answer to that question.

In summary, an employee was posting to a Twitter account which became very popular and amassed 17,000 followers.  The company name formed part of the employee’s username.  When the employee left the company he was asked to continue to post the occasional tweet to these followers which he did but under a slightly different name, removing any reference to the company.  After 8 months the company sued the former employee for $340,000 as they were of the opinion that the 17,000 followers were a customer list and ownership of the list belonged with them.  In addition, the action by the company intended “to protect the customer lists and confidential information, intellectual property, trademark and brands.”

The implications of this lawsuit may be much wider as it will establish a precedent relating to the ownership of social media accounts.

Other issues that may need to be considered include:

  • Why was the account set up in the first place i.e. purely for social engagement or to actually attract new business.
  • How do you ascertain an actual value of the tweet or Facebook update?
  • Many companies encourage employees to use tweets or Facebook as a way to maintain contact with their supporters or fans so how do you value that?

If you have a staff member tweeting or posting on your behalf, you need to work out your ground rules early.  A contract or agreement will give you some protection until the law is clear.

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Everyone is using Twitter or Facebook lately.  In fact these streams of social media are so popular that businesses are setting up their own pages so they can be seen by more customers.

Social media is very useful but it also exposes your business to the eyes of the world.  One wrong comment and your business could be ruined.  Look at what happened recently when Nestle set up their own Facebook page.  If you haven’t heard about it you might like to read the summary on Smart Company.  One person and a few words really had an impact on the business.

Do people use social media to represent your business?  You need to put some controls around the usage by creating policies and guidelines.

The Smart Company article says, “”Some people think putting up a Facebook page is quick and easy and you can just leave it, but that is an extremely dangerous way to approach it because it needs to be considered at a higher level. You need to think about whether you will delete comments, if a legitimate criticism is made, then think about how you approach it, think about how you deal with conversations and so on.”

As a business you need to develop a policy that covers what you will say, what you won’t say, how you will promote your business, how you will interact with customers and above all, is ready with  crisis management processes all planned out.  Finally, be careful who you allow to represent you online.  They are your public face so it needs to be correct and well mannered.  Make sure that all your staff are aware of the policy and know what they can and cannot do.  It could save your business from a lot of trauma.

Here’s to treasurer software

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