5 Ways to Kill It on Google+

Over the past few years, new information and analytics have determined that creating a presence on Google+ is a smart move for any business wanting to grow and engage with fans online. Whether you already play in this space or not, here are the top 5 ways to be successful on Google+:

1. Try embedding Google+ posts directly onto a site. 

Everyone is familiar with embedding a tweet or Facebook post onto a website, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you can also link your content from Google+. Although it’s a tad more difficult to do than other social platforms, click the arrow button in the right hand corner of a post and click “Embed post” from the drop down. The code comes in two parts — one that is added within a HTML template, the other that can be used anywhere!

How to Embed a Google+ Post

2. Use a catchy headliner.

What’s great about Google+ posts, is that each one is similar to a blog post. There is ample room to write copy, editing options to make your content count — and the ability to add a captivating headline. Because the headline is pulled into the title tag of the Google+ post and because this is what shows up in Google search results, having a good headline is very important for SEO purposes.

3. Know what and when to post.

Thanks to a lot of great research by the folks at Quick Sprout, there are five types of content that are inherently preferred by Google+ users including, questions, quotes, video, animated GIFs and of course, images. Animated GIFs often garner the most +1s, while questions get the most comments from users.

Top 5 Pieces of Content on Google+

4. Use Google+ hashtags in every post.

Thankfully, Google+ makes it super simple to add hashtags to your posts — and even goes so far as to recommend which ones to use. Put 2-5 appropriate hashtags directly in the copy or include it at the end of a post. Either way, keep an eye out for trending hashtags in order for your business to stay relevant and to create more engagement with conversations that are already taking place online.

How to use hashtags within Google+5. Know how to use Google+ circles effectively.

Google+ circles gives businesses the chance to interact with a targeted group of users or on a larger scale, community groups. Because circles are manually created, your business is can market to a list of top followers or to an entire group, depending on your strategy. Continue to build relationships with your circles to increase engagement and better determine what content is sticking and what is not.

Google+ Circles

Is your biz on Google+? If so, what do you do on the platform to be successful?

— Samantha

 

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Facebook to Kill Sponsored Posts in April

Sponsored Stories on FacebookMore news on the Facebook front: Sponsored Stories will no longer exist after April 9th, 2014.

If you’re unfamiliar with sponsored stories, they’re the posts that show up on a Newsfeed when one of your friends engages with a sponsored Page, event or application. For instance, when a fellow Facebook friend likes the RedBull Facebook page, and RedBull decides to promote that interaction, you’ll see it as a Sponsored Story on your own Newsfeed.

Although brands will be able to purchase Sponsored Stories until April 9th, such stories will transfer to other types of ads (like a Page Like ad) after the set date. In the future, all ads will include ‘social context’ where friends are mentioned in the content in order to get you to click it. A Facebook spokesperson told Mashable why the new addition of ‘social context’ to all Facebook ads is pointing the platform in a direction of phasing out Sponsored Stories:

“As announced in June of last year, we’re bringing the best of sponsored stories – social context – to all ads. Since this update makes sponsored stories redundant, we will no longer offer them as a standalone ad unit for marketers. Social context will continue to appear with all ads where eligible. Our social advertising honors the audience that people choose, so nobody will see information in social context for an ad that they couldn’t already see.”

Overall, we’re interested to see how brands will create ads in the next few months, based off of these changes. We wonder whether or not adding social context to every ad will change how fans view promoted content — and how they ultimately interact with brands.

— Samantha

1% of Sales Powered by Social Media

Black Friday Online Shopping

After one of the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday sales numbers are officially in. According to IBM reports based on all 800 U.S. retail sites, social media pushed only 1% of all online sales on Friday. In other words, just 1% of all online orders on Friday came from users who had just visited a social platform.

Shocked by the low number? Don’t be. As we’ve known for several years, it is difficult for digital professionals to directly measure a return on investment from social media efforts. According to Jay Henderson, the strategy director at IBM Smarter Commerce said “Social doesn’t have the ability so far to drive traffic or sales directly to the site. It tends to have more of an indirect influence on purchases.” Of course, most community managers would agree with this statement as the majority of social efforts are designed to build overall brand awareness and keep a business top of mind.

However, there’s no need to be nervous about your company’s social strategy! Instead, understand that users are inherently going to multiple websites when surfing the web, including yours. Just because they aren’t buying immediately after visiting your Facebook page or tweet, doesn’t mean that your messaging didn’t stay top of mind or that a product is not being bought later. In fact, this lack of tracking simply means we need to work on finding a better way to measure the initial engagement with branded materials affecting the future purchase.

The good news is that the most online conversations were about “Black Friday” versus “Thanksgiving Day.” Adobe Digital Index discovered that “Amazon was the most referenced retailer for the two-day period with 450,000 posts, followed by Walmart with 300,000 posts (Mashable).” Both companies experienced a large number of business transactions yesterday, but it’ll be a bit longer until we can figure out what our social media posts and tweets are doing on a more exact scale. 

Henderson said, “Our ability to attribute success to the influence of social media will improve over time. As long as you can show the influence that social media is having on the eventual purchase, that should be more than enough too justify the investment that marketers are making in those channels.”

Tell us: Did your brand successfully track purchases and engagement on Friday?

— Samantha

Best Metrics for Social Media Reporting

Measuring Social Media

No matter if you manage a small or large community on social media, one question always remains: What’s the most effective way to measure growth and effectiveness of one’s social efforts?

As any community manager knows, engagement and ROI is often difficult to measure. If you decide to focus on only one metric to measure success, you risk it fluctuating and negative results can occur with subsequent reports. When social platforms change, so do the way we need to measure them. Here’s what you should focus on:

1. Engagement: Although it shouldn’t be the only metric to measure, it’s definitely a good place to start. Engagement represents users (and/or current customers) interacting with your content and brand. By tracking overall engagement (comments, likes, posts, RTs, mentions, etc.) manually or with a program, you can determine how well your brand is doing within the community.

2. Sentiment: Often thought of as a difficult metric to measure, sentiment is very helpful to understand and could ultimately better your customer service efforts. “Social listening” is a hot phrase in the social world, but truly understanding what your customers are saying about you online can help you determine how your brand is currently being viewed and where you could improve within the community in the future.

3. Conversion: This metric is very important because every business wants to determine how their social efforts are translating into actual sales. Typically, social managers use Google Analytics and other tracking measures (query strings, etc.) to see how visitors find you and ultimately purchase products. Creating unique coupon codes or links to specific website pages will only help you stay organized.

4. Leads: Leads are measured because they will (hopefully) evolve into conversions for your company. Being able to predict future conversions from the tentative leads you’ll receive will help shape your overarching digital strategy. Don’t forget to also focus on measuring traffic from social media sites to help count such leads.

Tell us: How does your small business report social media? 

— Samantha

5 Social Media Tips NOT to Follow

Danger, Turn Back!

As social media strategists, we always talk about the best practices to implement — but rarely do we discuss which not to follow when executing a digital program. Here are a few tips to stay away from to be as successful as possible on social media:

1. Place all of your attention on one platform. Although it’s suggested to focus on the larger social platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to reach the largest audience, neither one is the end-all, be-all. Instead, take the time to find out where your audience is and try various platforms to determine where your business will be the most successful.

2. Have a presence on every social platform. We encourage you to try new platforms, but they may not all be the right fit for your company. Instead, choose a few that you see the most engagement on and be mindful not to spread yourself too thin. Remember: it’s quality versus quantity!

3. You should automate all of your posts. We’re all for scheduling tweets or posts to help make your life easier, but the majority of your content should be done in real time. Why? Because your company will come across as being more authentic, which will translate positively across platforms to your audiences, creating more brand loyalists.

4. Delete negative comments to protect the company. It may seem natural to delete not-so-flattering commentary about your business to save face, but it actually makes your brand look less transparent. Embrace all comments from users and react in a polite manner to increase the chance of changing a fan’s opinion, instead of pushing them away.

5. You don’t need to pay a cent with social media. Yes, many social platforms are free to use, but don’t be fooled! A successful digital strategy typically includes having a budget (whether small or large) that support an individual or team to monitor and engage with fans on multiple platforms, obtain analytics to measure ROI better and fund advertising or sponsored posts to get your message to the largest number of fans possible.

Tell us: What other tips would you recommend brands NOT to follow on social? 

— Samantha & Mike

Social Media Profile Photo Sizes

Customizing social profiles is important for any brand! Profile photos represent your company within the social space and should be clean, bold and consistent across all platforms.

Read on to find out more information on specific profile photo sizing, so you can make the most of your social profiles and learn the tips to best optimize your content!

Facebook

Facebook Profile Photo Size

Profile photos on this popular social platform are square (minimum of 180 x 180 pixels), so it’d be in your best interest to use an image with these dimensions or upload an image that is large enough that when cropped, will include the most important information, logo, etc.

When it comes to cover photos, choose wisely. This is a larger image than the profile photo, so it will be the first thing that a user sees when they visit your page. Although the minimum measurement is 399 x 150 pixels, your cover photos should be 851 x 315 pixels. Note that smaller images will stretch and as a result, will look pixilated and low-resolution.

To make sure that important information in your cover photo isn’t covered by your profile photo, note that your profile image is 23 pixels from the left side and 210 pixels from the top of your cover photo. Try uploading a JPG file that less than 100KB for best results. If your picture includes a logo and/or text, use a PNG file.

Twitter:

Twitter Profile Photo Size

Similar to Facebook, profile photos on Twitter are square — but much smaller, which means that you will need to choose a clearer, bolder picture. Although the main profile photo displays as 73 x 73 pixels on your profile on Twitter.com (and a tiny 48 x 48 pixels in a tweet), you can upload an image as large as 2MB (but will need to crop accordingly).

The header image should be 1252 x 626 pixels, up to 5MB. This photo will show up behind your profile photo, but don’t forget that your Twitter handle, bio information and URL will show over the image. As a result, we suggest choosing an image that won’t take away from the text in the forefront!

YouTube:

YouTube Channel Art Specs

FYI: The YouTube channel icon or profile photo is directly linked to your Google+ profile photo. Having said this, if you don’t have a Google+ account, you can still fully optimize your channel with custom images and various downloadable templates.

The “channel art” or cover photo will automatically scale to fit the size of the screen that it is being displayed on. Try an image with dimensions of 2560 x 1440 pixels for the best results. Note that the smallest size for “channel art” is 1546 x 423 pixels. As a result, make sure that nothing important (logos, etc.) are in this area so they won’t be cropped unintentionally.

Have more questions? Just ask! 

— Samantha

Facebook Delivers Key Data to TV Networks

TV and SM icons

The relationship between television and social media has become more relevant — and more important. Networks and specific TV shows are consistently pushing personal handles and hashtags to encourage engagement with their content. Some even launch fun contests and entice viewers to submit their own UGC (user generated content) through carefully thought-out integrations or during commercial breaks.

But how does one go about measuring the actual content being generated on social media and its direct impact as a result of television show, advertising and more?

Earlier this month, Facebook joined Twitter in the real-time news space as they announced that a select few news organizations, like CNN and Buzzfeed, would be allowed access to real-time public posts for an exact keyword and reports of the gender, age and location of those users engaging.

Most recently, Facebook began sending weekly metrics to four large TV networks, including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, as well as a few “select partners” according to The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog. Specifically speaking, the reports will stay private but will divulge in actions that take place on social media platforms during TV episodes (likes, comments and shares). On top of this, numbers will be calculated relating to how many Facebook users were behind such actions. Having these numbers will help networks get a better understand of what content is working with viewers and what is not, thus developing more highly integrated digital marketing strategies into the overall plan.

Although Facebook’s new APIs are somewhat limited, experts believe that it will demonstrate how this social media giant is trying to set itself apart from its rival, Twitter, by placing more of an importance on its large fan base.

Daniel Slotwiner, the lead of Facebook’s measurement team says, “The conversation is being generated by a group that is much more representative of the general population– that means we should have a better signal as it relates to ratings.”

TELL US: Do you tweet or comment during your favorite TV shows?

FOLLOW UP: Do you think data provided by Facebook will actually help TV networks?

— Samantha

Social Trend: Brands Increase Use of User-Generated Content

It’s no secret that fans on social media engage more with content that’s generated from friends or family. It’s only natural to have an interest in those people who mean the most to you. This is why social sites like Facebook and Twitter have algorithms to tailor your Newsfeed with content from friends who you interact with the most, in hopes that you will be prompted to like, share, tweet, etc. on a more consistent basis.

Now, this more approachable and relatable type of content is allowing brands take a big step in how they sell and advertise to the world. Instead of glossy, high-fashion shots, many brands and advertisers are aggregating user-generated images to push product awareness and overall brand loyalty.

When working on Herbal Essences, I came up with the strategy of incorporating more Instagrammed imagery onto our Facebook and Twitter pages to better relate to our young, female customer base. By using photos that looked like one our own fan would create, we were able to successfully insert the brand into a conversation that was already taking place within the social space. As a result, we saw an immediate increase in engagement.

Companies like Urban Outfitters plan to push the envelope further by including UGC (user-generated content) on their product pages to create an even fuller shopping experience. As quoted from AdWeek, “Social-generated images are creeping up on all of our marketing channels. That’s where our customers are,” said Moira Gregonis, senior marketing manager at Urban Outfitters.

Additional large retailers, including Dannijo and NastyGal, are also adding Instagrammed shots from consumers to their websites in hopes of increasing sales. “The user-generated content we pull [with the software] increases conversion rates,” said Mary Mentz, e-commerce strategist for Dannijo. “Our customers are six times more likely to purchase with [the social pictures] on our product pages.”

Although some brands wonder what they are truly getting back from highlighting fan photos, only time will tell. As for now, it’s clear that they are driving more social engagement, simply because this new (and free) content is more approachable and relatable to “real” people. Just as user testimonials help a customer down the purchase funnel, so will these highly visual images of real people in actual product!

How do you feel about brands using YOUR images to sell products?

— Samantha

Esquire’s 9/11 Social Media Fail

9/11. No matter where you were in the world, people took a moment (or more) to reflect on the terrible events that took place 12 years ago. And when it came to social media, many brands decided to run their own relevant stories or ‘thoughts and prayers’ for all of those involved. Others decided to go “dark” and not post any content in honor and remembrance of the lives lost on that fateful day.

However, not everyone handled the situation with poise, including several large brands like AT&T and Esquire Magazine. Specifically speaking, the social media ‘fail’ that came from the popular men’s magazine, Esquire, was the apparent mistake of running a story of the infamous ‘falling man’ from 9/11 — next to copy that read “Make your morning commute more stylish: Look good on your way to work.”

Esquire Magazine Screenshot

Almost immediately, people took to Twitter to show their anger for the insensitivity of the magazine’s layout. Fortunately, the brand responded with an apology for the editorial mess-up. Unfortunately, the brand did so in a manner that enraged fans even more.

Esquire Magazine Apology Tweet

Although I’m only an opinion of one, I think this was a very inappropriate way to respond to those who were upset. By using the word relax, Esquire implied that the Twitter community was overreacting. Instead, I would’ve recommended genuinely owning up to the mistake, making sure to leave all “judgmental” statements to the side.  Even though an apology was included in the tweet, the impact of it was lessened by the lead-in.

Sadly, this type of insincere communication happens all of the time on social media between brands and their communities. Whether it’s copy that could be easily misinterpreted or content that comes across too promotional in the wake of a tragedy, brands must be 100% aware of what reactions could come about from fans and what to appropriately say in the case that things do go awry.

As a former community manager for several major consumer brands, my team and I handled PR crises with much more sensitivity, as we knew how quickly brand loyalty could be washed away in a blink of an eye with one wrong or insensitive response. I hope that the community manager in charge of the tweet learned from this mistake and will do better in the future. I also hope that the team behind the magazine’s digital strategy will put in a better checks and balances strategy in times of high sensitivity, so a simple reactionary tweet like “Relax, everybody” will be reviewed before going live in the future.

— Samantha

Three Ways Brands Successfully Use Vine

When Instagram introduced their video feature, many thought Vine would soon be on its way out. While Instagram may have the advantage when it comes to number of users, we still see great opportunity with Vine, especially for brands. Vine offers a fantastic platform for brands to connect with their audience in a whole new way. Below, we have highlighted three such ways brands are successfully tapping into their Vine following.

1) Announcing New Products

New product promotion is always incredibly important to a brand. After all, whats the point of developing the latest and greatest if nobody knows about it? Here are two examples from Twitter and Puma of how to effectively promote a new product in six seconds:

2) Behind the Scenes

People love seeing behind the scenes footage. Whether it’s from the Super Bowl or the Grammys, audiences love exclusive material that the average consumer might not get. Here is a Vine from a Kate Spade fashion shoot and one from an XBOX event:

3) Straight Up Entertainment

One of the best ways to succeed in social media is simply create content people want to share. Regardless of topic, the more people linking your content, the bigger audience you reach. Here is a cool video from Urban Outfitters on glow-in-the-dark body paint and another one from Oreo, who may have just revolutionized your ice coffee:

-Mike & Samantha