Running Contests on Social Media

You can’t win if you don’t play. It’s an old adage many a lottery player has used to defend their predilection for gaming. Despite the odds being stack against an entrant, people love games, contests, sweepstakes, and, of course, prizes. What’s a contest without a prize?

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Crafting a contest for your social media campaign is an excellent way to boost your company’s online presence. In doing so, you accomplish many things. Contests will encourage repeat visits to your page as people return to see if they’ve won. Contests can garner brand new customer interest from people who get caught up in the lure of a prize. Contests allow you to gather valuable insight into your customers’ demographics and data as you can collect zip codes or email addresses as part of the terms of entry. In order for someone to sign up for a contest, make it mandatory that they follow your business on Twitter or like your Facebook page or sign up for you e-mail newsletter. People become a lot more liberal with their e-mail addresses when the prospect of winning something is introduced.

Small businesses can set their own rules with contests. Something as simple as weekly giveaways of french fries can be a cheap way to influence customers’ to engage with your social media. Or go big and be the sports apparel store that gives away authentic game jerseys from the local sports team. Once set up, sit back and watch your list of followers grow and grow and grow.

Because of the word-of-mouth quality of social media, a good contest can spread across new networks of people like wildfire. And it the contest happens regularly, it will only encourage more and more people to return to your page regularly, too. People will begin to look forward to visiting your page.

Contests: Who doesn’t love free stuff?

The Importance of Hashtags on Instagram

Though they started on Twitter, there might not be a place where hashtags are utilized more right now than Instagram. The hashtag, a number sign followed by a #word, #phrase, or #abbreviation, connects similar posts from different users all over the world and collects them in a single place. And it has really taken off on Instagram.

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As a business, the Instagram hashtag can serve a variety of functions, from connecting with a local customer base to becoming a part of the Instagram community without seeming like just another business pushing advertisements. It’s an important tool, one that can really help you build your brand.

Place-specific hashtags, for instance, are incredibly useful. If you’re a business in, say, metro Detroit, adding a #Detroit tag to a post will connect your photo to all things Detroit. So users who browse through the Detroit hashtag will come across your photo, your business, and perhaps, eventually, a product. It can also let you see what else everyone in your community is posting about and allows you to follow desirable users in that community.

There are a lot of Instagram hashtags that are day-specific. Throwback Thursday posts, or #TBT, is a very popular hashtag where users post photos from years previous, often of themselves when they were children. It’s a great opportunity for a fun post with little to no risk of seeming spammy. There’s also #ootd, or outfit of the day, used by people to post photos of whatever it is they’re wearing, an especially useful hashtag for clothing and accessory stores.

Hashtags are also great for industry events. If you are at a conference or trade show, chances are that the event has created a hashtag for itself. While you’re out networking, take photos and use that hashtag. People will browse those hashtagged photos during and after the event, re-connecting with the people and businesses they met.

When the hashtag first took off on Twitter, few realized the power and influence it would one day wield. Today, that is especially true on Instagram. Hashtags can be fun, inclusive, and a great way to connect with your community, customers, and industry.

3 Social Media Marketing Trends for 2015

It used to be that successful businesses could get by with advertising done through traditional radio, newspaper and television mediums. Those days are gone. Now consumers want to know the company behind the brand. They want to know the people behind the company. They want to know.

People media connections abstract scheme

Actually, that’s putting the cart before the horse. Unless you have original, fresh content to market, you have nothing to give; nothing that a consumer wants, anyway. To be a success today, businesses have to have better, fresh, original content and use all of the tools that are available to socially market their brand. They need to become a brand publisher.

Here are three social media marketing trends to watch for in 2015.

More Personable

Consumers want to connect with the people who make up a brand, and social media is the way to do it. If you haven’t been doing this already, you are missing out. To compete, more and more brands are getting to know people up front. One company that has taken great advantage of social media marketing is Lifelock, Inc. Lifelock is a company that specializes in identity protection security, and it took to Twitter to publish its brand. In 2007 it established @LifeLock on Twitter, where you can get all the latest on identity hacking and interact with people who have had the life-altering experience of losing their identities.

Lifelock went on to have Twitter parties. These are online events where the company teams up with another whose members share the same interests and gives out prizes during the party. The company partnered with a woman’s marketing group, MommyPR, for example, to host the “Safe Shopping Holiday” party and offered five winners a basic one-year Lifelock membership along with a $50 American Express gift card just for attending. Marketing like this lends itself to company trust and customer loyalty, which means you’ll definitely see more of it in the future.

Mobile Optimized

The mobile device market has exploded and is only going to become more widespread. While businesses know to make sure their brand is correctly optimized for a smartphone or tablet, a huge amount of companies will go full-force and optimize their brand for mobile devices. There are now businesses specifically designed to fulfill this need and more companies are taking advantage of this service. The Web Presence Group, for example, has recognized the expanse of the mobile industry and focuses on mobile web development and text messaging optimization, among other optimization services.

More Diverse

As more social media outlets emerge, so will more ingenious ways to use them to connect with consumers even more than in the past, fresh and original content being key.

Facebook, of course, is the reigning champ of social media, and a tough act to follow with a concept that would be hard to diversify. Ello is a new social network that has been designed by a small group of artists and, unlike Facebook, has no ads and is a PBC (Public Benefit Corporation) which means it is not permitted to supply consumer information to third companies. Ello has provided a clever diversification on how social networks succeed; look for more companies to do more of that in the future.

Is Snapchat Right For Your Business?

If social media was fishing, then sites like Facebook and Twitter are the humongous nets thrown in the ocean, catching as many fish as possible. And while you may be looking for a certain fish—that target audience—you’ll also likely pick up all sorts of others, too. Which isn’t such a bad thing.

Today's latte, Snapchat.

There are other social media sites, however, that are much more specific. They’re fishing with a spear, targeting very specific audiences in a very deliberate way. You may not catch as much, but maybe you’ll get just what you’re looking for.

The popular Snapchat mobile app is one of those fishing spears. It’s a photo and video sharing app popular among teens and 20-somethings and not many people more than that. But that millennial demographic? Millennials love Snapchat. So if the target demographic of your customer base is on the older side, Snapchat is probably not worth spending your valuable time on. But, if high school and college kids are an important part of your sales strategy, then you’re going to want to at least consider utilizing the Snapchat app.

Unlike Facebook or Instagram, the content you create for Snapchat disappears after users view it. Think of an old spy movie and the self-destructing message. Because of this, users don’t expect the pretty, well-staged, filtered pictures seen on Instagram. There’s a raw quality to Snapchat that allows you to take off-the-cuff photos and videos and share them directly with your audience. Because of this, make sure your intended message is easily discernible.

That directness is a big draw, too. When posting something on Twitter, you’re posting for the whole world to see. People can then favorite, reply to, and re-tweet your message. In Snapchat, the experience is only shared between you and each user. There is no commenting, there is no ‘like’ feature. It’s notable for its intimacy.

Snapchat isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for younger people. Even if it’s not for your business, keep on eye on it. After all, Facebook was once only for college kids, too.

How SEO Can Increase Search Engine Traffic To Your Website

There are nearly as many websites as there are stars in the sky. That’s the way it feels, at least. When you think on all the different websites from all over the world, the idea of a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo! is that much more amazing. How on Earth can you type a query into a search engine and then, over the course of a second or two, that engine can parse through every single website ever made and deliver a page of results that will, more than likely, satisfy your mission.

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Search engines accomplish this through uniquely designed algorithms, complex mathematical methodologies that determine the order in which websites are presented after a search. Having a website that performs in step with these algorithms will boost your search engine result performance which, in turn, exposes more people to your website and, eventually, your business.

The science of improving search engine traffic to a website is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. While each of the major search engines have their own uniquely designed algorithms to search the web, there are rules to web design and content that boost search engine result performance across the board. The importance of SEO is obvious. Without it, a website will not place well in search engine results, thereby losing potential customers to better-designed websites that place higher on the list.

One way SEO improves search engine traffic is by designing websites that are compliant with the various algorithms. This ensures that information is relevant to a query and easily accessible. SEO is like the properly placed signage along the highway, letting everyone know that they are on the right track to your business and that your business is exactly what they’re looking for. It may not guarantee that someone is going to pull off at the next exit but it will guarantee maximum exposure for your business to passersby.

Behind-the-Scenes Content a Big Win for NYFW

Whether or not you’re a New Yorker — and whether you care about fashion or not — it’s hard to ignore the glitz and glamour that surrounds the global event that is New York Fashion Week.

Selfie before leaving ! Oscar night ! May the best win! Love Diane

A photo posted by DVF (@dvf) on

The world watches as designers, models, celebrities, bloggers, socialites and more descend upon an already crowded city, all competing for the biggest PR splash. This year, more so than in years past, the folks behind the official NYFW social assets, as well as major publications like Vogue, have put their digital efforts into overdrive, creating visually compelling content with a strong point of view. And all of the photos and videos have a common theme: snag a behind-the-scenes look at the Super Bowl of fashion.

Here are a few examples:

Snapchat

On Facebook and Twitter, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week has been encouraging their followers to join them on Snapchat with snippets like this one:  

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If you ever wanted to feel like you were there IRL, this is a great way to do it.  

GoPro

Vogue went rogue and handed supermodel and Taylor Swift’s BFF Karlie Kloss a GoPro to chronicle her adventures throughout the day — from Good Morning America to backstage before the Carolina Herrera show, it’s just a typical Monday for Kloss.

Twitter

The up-close-and-personal photos from the official Twitter are about as close as most people will ever get to the intricate beadwork and luxurious furs that have defined this year’s event. You feel like you could practically reach out & touch them.

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Speechless, indeed.

Vine

Whether it’s a super slow motion clip of a particularly mesmerizing runway dress or a hyperlapse of an entire collection, Vine packs a lot of punch in a short amount of time — the perfect solution for short attention spans. And unless you’re BFFs with Anna Wintour, you probably won’t ever find yourself in this front-row seat.

What We’ve Learned

We’re past the days of trivializing Snapchat and Vine, and brushing them off as simply child’s play. A willingness to experiment with social platforms other than the big three (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) will help brands that are already naturally visual extend their reach even further. And no matter who you are, behind-the-scenes content will always make your fans and followers feel like they’re more connected to your story.

Erica Moss is the community manager for Communications@Syracuse, an online Master of Science in Communications program, offered from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. In her free time, she enjoys all things pop culture and connecting with people on Twitter @ericajmoss.

Sources:

https://vine.co/MBFashionWeek

The DOs and DON’Ts of LinkedIn

For all of the particulars involved with the many different social media sites out there, there is probably not a more particular social media site than LinkedIn. Because it is a business social networking site, there is a certain decorum that its users expect everyone to follow.

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The pictures of your nephew’s birthday party you’d post on Facebook, the clever one-liner you came up with to Tweet, the photo of that delicious desert you can’t wait to Instagram—none of those are things your followers on LinkedIn are expecting—or wanting–to see in their feed. This is a site for networking business professionals; post something out of the bounds of accepted norms and someone will surely let you know it.

LinkedIn is probably most often used by job-seekers and potential employers, which is something you as a small business owner can surely take advantage of as you search for that missing piece of your team. But there are also many other uses for LinkedIn.

As a small business owner, you can use LinkedIn to grow your professional network and introduce yourself to potential sponsors, customers, and business partners. And don’t be shy about introducing yourself to people ‘cold’. Joining LinkedIn comes with a certain set of expectations that include being approached about business opportunities.

However, be strategic and purposeful with the people you connect with. LinkedIn is not like Twitter where you want as big an audience as you can get. It’s about meaningful connections. People can see through accounts seeking to boost their numbers.

When using LinkedIn, it’s critical to remember that this is not your typical social media site. The levity and candor that sites like Facebook and Twitter thrive on do not translate to the professional networking site. We’re not saying to come across as stiff, cold, and unfriendly, but rather pleasant and professional, direct and purposeful.

Using Pinterest for Business

Its users are more active, its content stays visible longer, and it’s the most used social media network you’re not taking advantage of. Pinterest doesn’t get talked about like Facebook or Twitter but that’s just fine by its users. They’re a passionate group, one that actively share and engage with content. And it’s content that is shared and re-shared; as high as 80% of all Pinterest content is curated.

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Signing up your business for Pinterest is not unlike most social media sites. Businesses will want a strong profile picture, a clear bio that defines who you are and what you do, and visual branding that is consistent across all websites and social media accounts.

In Pinterest, users ‘pin’ images and videos to their boards, visible to their followers. Boards are arranged by themes, like recipes, design tips, or cars. People even make their own Christmas list boards, sharing their shopping ideas with friends and family. Because of this, Pinterest affords businesses great opportunities to connect with an audience through images that are associated with their brand. Posting a well-taken photo of your restaurant’s newest desert could blow up on Pinterest, as one person after another re-pins that picture.

You’ll want to make your own content as share-able as possible, which means installing ‘pin it’ widgets on your website. This way when people who are visiting your website see something they connect with, they can easily share it to their Pinterest. When posting directly to your Pinterest account, consider adding a ‘watermark’ to an image (if you own rights to that image), that way when your pin starts getting re-pinned, it will forever be associated with your brand.

Another good tip for getting started in Pinterest for business is to be as active and as social as your followers are. Engage with people and become part of the community and not just a figure lurking in the back, trying to sell product. Pinterest is supposed to be fun and that’s what people will respond to.

How Brands Use Social Media to Enhance the Customer Experience

Social media is no longer optional for businesses wishing to grow and compete in their industry. A survey published by eMarketer last October found that 88 percent of companies with 100-plus employees currently utilize social media for marketing purposes. Despite 52 percent of companies saying it’s nearly impossible to measure ROI on social media marketing, a majority will increase spending on mediums in 2015, according to a study by Gigaom.

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Instead of measuring returns by profits, companies are utilizing social media to enhance the overall customer experience. A good customer experience means positive word-of-mouth advertising and retention of brand loyalists. The 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report by RightNow Technologies found that 86 percent of customers were willing to pay more for similar products to a company that provides exceptional customer service.

Social media is a very public forum, so both positive and negative customer experiences voiced online can impact your bottom line. The following companies have provided blueprints on how to effectively use social media to improve customer relations.

JetBlue Rapid Response

Twitter and Facebook provide customers a real-time way to complain about your product or service in front of a large audience. Airlines are particularly vulnerable to online venting since flight delays are a common occurrence. Social media gives companies the opportunity to show they care.

JetBlue passenger Jennifer Kennedy tweeted her frustration about a 40 minute flight delay with no updates being given on January 14. A few minutes later, the company responded directly to her, offering both empathy and an update on the flight. Kennedy responded with appreciation for the fast response, along with her flight number. The plane was in the air a few minutes later.

The most impressive part of this exchange was the fact Kennedy’s original message was not addressed directly to @JetBlue. The airline’s social media administrators obviously follow all activity on Twitter mentioning its name. JetBlue ultimately retained a customer and showed others how the company does its best to address all concerns.

LifeLock Cares

Facebook user and Lifelock customer Mindy Lacey allegedly had a payday loan approved in her name that she never applied for. She posted her frustrations on Lifelock’s Facebook timeline, telling the company she should be canceling her account.

Despite the post being published after midnight, a company representative responded within an hour. They apologized for the inconvenience and reminded the customer of their $1 Million Total Service Guarantee which covers these types of instances. The response concluded with another apology and the company’s toll free number so the customer could call and start the process of remedying the issue.

Granted there are a lot of people who complain just to complain. But LifeLock makes it point to address these matters publicly. A Twitter user posted a complaint about someone stealing his identity. Once again, LifeLock quickly apologized and offered the 24 hour customer service number. These instances may seem trivial on the surface. But the footprint left behind for others to see makes it worth the trouble.

Pinterest Personality

Though rarely mentioned in the same breathe as Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest is actually the second-most powerful social network available. Pinterest directs more traffic to company websites than Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn and Google Plus combined, according to a 2013 analysis by social plugin developer Shareaholic.

Pinterest provides a platform for companies to convey a friendly and fun public image. Taco Bell pins photos of corporate ugly sweater days, jalapeno eating contests and in-store birthday parties for employees. UGallery, an online art exhibit, uses Pinterest to feature individual client’s work. Girl Scouts of America pin pictures of community service projects, including their members making care packages for homeless people and children suffering from cancer.

Regular engagement on social media gives companies instant feedback and opportunities to provide good customer experiences. The returns will ultimately be in the form of better loyalty and higher retention rates.