Social Media for Business: timeless tips

As another global social media week comes to a close and as many of us start getting ready for the last quarter of the year, this is the time of year when typically we refocus our energy and work to drive forward plans and ideas. With that in mind, I’ve pulled together some timeless tips that will help you succeed when using social media for your business.

A key point to remember is that it doesn’t matter what platform you use or how many for that matter, the rules of engagement apply across the spectrum and they apply to you no matter how big your company is or how long you’ve been online for.

1. Manage your time effectively.

Being active on social media can take up a lot of your time, especially when you factor in the ‘social’ of social media that reminds us we need to engage with our audience, not simply broadcast to them. SO, in order to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed, and to help manage your time effectively, focus on doing one thing well. Short or long term it’s much better to have a content rich, value led, profile on one channel than having a presence on 3, 4 or 5 different ones and hardly updating them or choosing to auto post from one to another in order to manage them.

2. Know your audience

Following on from point one: find out where (the majority of) your audience hang out online and then set yourself up there. There’s a number of ways you can do this: survey your customers to find out where they want to communicate with you, look at the latest industry reports such as this one from Ofcom, and even research your competitors to find out where they’re getting the most success.

3. Fall in love with the problem

Another way to determine where to focus your social media efforts is to fall in love with the problem you’re trying to solve. Each channel has it’s own unique functionalities that will better serve one objective to another and I’m a strong believer in the ability to onboard your audience to any channel, as long as you have a compelling reason for them to join you there. As an example, when I was working in local government one ‘problem’ we had to solve was how to support families moving from Germany to Wiltshire  ahead of them arriving. We needed to give them information on housing, schools and jobs as well as help to put them at ease by answering any questions they may have. Doing this online was a cost effective way to deliver this and would allow us to do so in a personable and direct manner. So, I proposed using Google Hangouts (a function of Google+). At the time, Google+ was the only place I was aware of where you could hold private group video chats for free so it was best placed as our channel of choice for that audience! The other way was to (solely) create web pages of information and email the link to people…from a user perspective I know what I’d have valued more.

4. Use video

No matter your channel of choice, video is becoming the focal point of content creation. Most social media sites give you the ability to create video ‘in app’ now too, which makes it accessible to everyone, no matter what your budget and experience. LinkedIn recently joined the party, Snapchat now allows you to continuously record up to a minute of video clips and Facebook has prioritised native video over links to third party sites for quite a while. Live streaming is also a format to consider, and I speak about this a lot as it’s a trend that will continue into 2018. Instagram added live streaming to their stories function at the end of last year and around the same time Twitter updated it’s app to allow users to Go Live within the app too (as opposed to using it’s streaming site ‘Periscope’ separately.) Facebook rolled out live streaming to pages from the desktop version of their site this year too.

5. Quality over Quantity

Always. Some platforms lend themselves to multiple posts a day and others not so much, but please don’t be convinced that you need to be churning out content just so you can be in people’s newsfeed. Me? I always focus on posting when I have something interesting to say or can share something that is engaging and of value to my audience. What happens when you don’t follow the Q/Q model? Your audience becomes made up of passive followers, stopping briefly at your post, scrolling past and in the end, as a result, they stop seeing your content. This is because many channels use a code that determines who sees what you post and that’s largely based on who engages with you regularly.

That’s all for now! Let me know your thoughts of if you have any questions….thank you to everyone who watched my LinkedIn videos this week too! If you missed them then head over to my profile for a peek. Hopefully we’re connected!

Have a great weekend..

Shape up your social in 2017

It doesn’t surprise me when so many start ups and business owners tell me their social media is non existent or they don’t have time for it. But what if I told you it is the single most cost-effective communications outlet you have at your disposal? Ok, some face to face networking sessions are free to attend – great, but travel is involved, business cards need printing, and you might not even have your networking strategy down! If you could dedicate even half of the total time spent attending just one of the networking events you go to each week or month to working on your social media you’ll soon come to understand that these free-to-use tools will not only save you time but will give you a platform in which to network with 50, 100, 2000 times as many people than your face to face groups. Social media, is word of mouth, on steroids.

With that in mind, here’s my top 3 tips to make 2017 the year your business goes social. Start 2017 as you mean to carry on and make sure your social media game is on point.

  1. Audit your profiles. Pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Linkedin because someone told you that’s what you needed? It’s likely that most of these are probably laying dormant, with out of date information and under utilised features. This is a good time for you to be honest about what you have time to do. Pick what you’re comfortable with currently and are having the most success with, then delete the others. There really is no benefit to you having inactive accounts everywhere. Then, spend a couple of hours updating your cover pictures & profile images, refreshing your pinned posts, completing your account descriptions & biographies and adding your website.
  2. Create a content calendar. Benefit from some quiet time after the festive period and plot the key events for the year ahead. Include local & national holidays relevant to your brand or business, industry events, awareness weeks or days, conferences & events you’re attending or offers you’re putting on. Entering this into a calendar and reviewing once a month is a great way to always be thinking about what you’ll be talking about on social media that month.
  3. Invest! If social media scares you or you don’t know your hashtag from your mention it will be more cost effective, and quicker in the long run if you seek professional support & training to bring you up to speed. You might not know where to start in terms of what channel to pick (and trust me – not every business needs to have a Facebook page!) and a professional should be able to make sure you get set up in the right places based on where your audience is, while at the same time understanding your resource pressures.

Business social media tips for the festive season.

As a start up or small to medium size business you probably understand the opportunity that social media offers. However, you can be stretched for time, finding yourself stuck in the same cycle of content production. Well, the festive season is a great opportunity for you to embrace your inner creator and get fun with social! Creativity always prevails so here’s our top tips for making the most of your social media this Christmas and New Year.

Make a festive video

There’s no doubt that video is hot right now. So if you want to get more interaction with your brand’s content, using video is the way to go. Why not try putting together a 30 – 60 second clip that shows your staff and office getting into the festive spirit? Or create a festive thank you message to all your customers – a personable, genuine touch!

Put together an infographic

Take a look back at 2016 and pull the key milestones and achievements into an infographic for your customers to see and share.

Create your own advent calendar

Make your daily content fun and valuable by posting fun facts about your business, product or service. Create exclusivity by factoring in special offers or discounts. Snapchat or Instagram are perfect for this.

Create Snapchat geo filters

If you’re out and about this winter at trade shows or conferences, or if you’re a bricks and mortar business, design a custom geo filter to get customers interacting with and marketing your brand. They’re ridiculously cheap compared to advertising on other social media channels. Plus, they’re actually easy to design now they have a bank of templates you can use.

Run a competition

Activate your fans by running a fun competition. Ask for photo submissions or even festive designs that could get used in your shop window or on your website. You could even run a Snapchat design competition! Two birds, one stone!

Optimise your page and utilise hashtags

Make sure when you’re tweeting you give your content maximum exposure by using the relevant hashtags (both locally and nationally). Check what’s trending first to see if anything is relevant to what you do. You can use ‘hashtagify.me’ to check what other hashtags to use when tweeting. If you have a Facebook page and you sell products, be sure to add your products to the new ‘shop’ section and make sure the link leads directly to a payment page. Some websites aren’t mobile optimised so Facebook introduced this feature to improve the user experience.

If you’re feeling inspired and would like support with implementing any of the suggestions above, we’d love to help you with your social media strategy. Get in touch with us today.

instagram vs snapchat

Instagram Stories Vs Snapchat Stories

Last week Instagram announced an update to their platform called “Instagram stories” and it’s safe to say everyone was talking about it. Well, nearly everyone. As usual people were quick to voice opinions and make quick decisions, many saying this would be the death of Snapchat. Why? Because, by their own admission, Instagram stories is a direct replica of Snapchat stories.

I voiced my initial thoughts to a friend of mine about whether I thought it would even take off, and wanted to wait a week or so before I blogged more openly.

So what are Instagram stories? 

If you’re not familiar with Snapchat then the fact they ripped off copied Evan Spiegel’s story telling platform won’t mean much.  Stories sit at the top of your Instagram home feed and are a series of images or/and videos stitched together over a 24 hour period to create a ‘story’ – a story about your day, what you’re doing, where you’ve been etc. Most of this content is created in real time but you can pull through pictures and videos you save to your camera roll from else where within that 24 hour period. You can then (much like snapchat) overlay that picture or video with a filter (which changes the colour) and you can add text, emojis and doodles.

The great thing about stories for Instagram is that, as a channel, it’s mostly been about sharing a single photo here and there (and editing it like crazy so it looks ultra profesh!) but now you can use stories to give a more real time insight into your life and what you get up to – without flooding the home feed of your followers with seemingly non-important stuff.

Why is that a win for Instagram? Because they’ve recognised story telling is the way forward, they have the user bare (it’s the second most popular channel in the world) and they think/hope this will keep people on their platform rather then go anywhere else to story tell (like Snapchat) It’s all very Facebook-esque thought don’t you think? Lets give our user base what they love elsewhere on here as an attempt to stop them from leaving. Does it work? I’m not sure it does. Facebook introduced hashtags and they don’t work…In my experience people like to use platforms in different ways for different things. Millennials especially don’t care that they have 10 different apps lets say, each serves a different purpose and a different need.

I do think Instagram stories will work well for brands, organisations and individuals who have a massive follower base there already and I’d be interested to know how their engagement rates on Instagram stories compare to those of Snapchat. I have a feeling they won’t, but in comparison to your standard ‘sticky’ photos/videos that sit on your Instagram profile – you’ll certainly see more engagement by way of views (due to how they’ve positioned the stories feed) – I certainly have.

Another great thing about Instagram introducing stories is the certainty of it familiarising the notion of story telling and ephemeral content (content that disappears) to those who have chose not to look at snapchat to date. I really hope that if those users have a go with Instagram stories, see how others are using it and enjoy it – it will shift their perception of Snapchat. From my experience as a snapchat trainer, too many people are avoiding the opportunities of snapchat because they have pre-conceived ideas about what it is or what it can do.

What about Snapchat?

Ok, so here’s a quick outline of the differences between what Snapchat offers and what Instagram does. Each piece of content you create lasts up to ten seconds and all snaps you send (either to your public story or 1:1 with a friend) disappear once it’s seen (your story lasts 24 hours).

There’s much more choice by way of filters, lenses (that change regularly), stickers and drawing options that allow users to be more creative when story telling. The growth rate has been phenomenal in the 5 years since it launched, much larger than any other social network out there and it boasts 10 billion video views per day. According to some reports, that’s more than Facebook itself.

It’s definitely not going to stop people using Snapchat who are already using it and having kept an eye on things in my circle of contacts on Instagram, I’ve not been seeing it used much…that may change…we’ll see.

How have Snapchat responded to Instagram stories? Just yesterday it was announced they have brought discovery app Vurb – which can only mean one thing…a search functionality. That’s exactly the right answer. Although don’t get me wrong…I’m more than ok with the lack of search function on snapchat…there’s a ton of alternative ways you can build your follower base.

I polled my twitter followers a couple of days after the new feature appeared on Instagram and I’ve also been asking my snapchat followers what they think too. Interestingly the majority of people are giving it a thumbs down. Unless, as I mentioned previously it’s been someone who has a huge following on Instagram already – in which case they’re simply leveraging this element of Instagram and seeing good interaction levels, understandably.

So, should you be choosing one or the other?

No…as with the case with all social media, it’s about evaluating who your customers are, where they hang out and then going there…if there’s potential in Snapchat and not Instagram then work hard at getting your customers to join Snapchat…or vice versa. Instagram stories is just another element of Instagram, another tool, to help you communicate and connect with your community by reintegrating a real time element to it’s platform.

For some, that isn’t what they want from it, for others it will be precisely what’s been missing.

But what it does do is highlight a shift in digital communications and social media marketing that Snapchat can take credit for – story telling is huge right now. People want to connect with people and they want it to be personable. Whether those people represent a large business or a one man band. The evolution of social media as a comms method in business has always been gate crashed by marketing – adverts, scripts and well produced pieces of content. That’s disconnecting you from your audience. I said it some months back but channels like Snapchat, Facebook Live and Periscope are stripping all that back and are putting authenticity first, and that’s why they’re so popular. Because people connect with genuine moments and that’s all you can be when it’s live. Don’t ignore it…

Curious about the opportunities of Snapchat and how it can benefit your business, be used as a viable comms tool in your organisation and establish a personal brand? Our next Snapchat 101 workshop is on Wednesday 24th August in Salisbury. 

Reminiscing about social…

When I started my career in social media management, working for a local authority, it was so very eye opening. It was exciting and it was captivating.

I dedicated a lot of time, day in, day out to get up to speed with the landscape in local government digital comms at that moment because I knew it was going to be worth it, and it was. I met some inspiring people, and saw some amazing case studies of councils pushing the boundaries on social to build meaningful relationships that put their communities first. I’d like to think I brought a sense of excitement to my team about the fact that ‘there’s so much more we can do then just post to Facebook and Twitter’ and I still think like that today.

Romanticism for social media aside, as the months went by and the use of social was growing, I was becoming more aware of promoted content and algorithms. It was proving complicated for users and boring for consumers.

After leaving the council and setting up my own business I’ve sadly become even more aware of the reliance and promise of PPC campaigns, promoted content and automation which puts me in the centre of a tough battle to sell…how do I sell my passion, creativity and understanding of what makes social media successful when agencies and companies are selling automation, scheduling and marketing tactics. Of course I could do all that, and tell people that, but isn’t it better to re-educate and remind people to put the social back in to social media? Perhaps public sector have more freedoms because they aren’t selling anything and their teams are still larger than the small businesses around the corner…so they’re open to hearing it. But they still have it tough, constant cutbacks, scrutiny and disgruntled tax payers…if you’re a business worried about bad feedback online,  you haven’t seen anything! Then again, perhaps they’re just better networked with experts, or maybe I share their values and so it resonates more. Food for thought as I find my way…

I’ve been told recently by a business advisor that ‘everyone does social media these days.’ But, do they? Are they doing it well? Are they teaching others how to do social media in a way that puts customers and communities first? I’m sure he was likely trying to suggest I find a niche, and that’s cool, but I couldn’t help walk way a little sad..that the market may well now be full of people promising quick wins and fancy tactics. Not customer focus and creativity.

I don’t like to call myself a social media marketer…I don’t particularly like the word ‘marketing’ (sorry!) but I do understand the utter importance and opportunity using social media channels offers for any business or organisation. Social media, done well, is about being  a person. One that communicates and adds value through entertaining, inspiring or educating their customer/citizen/client in the space those people  like to hangout in.

Before social media became (in my opinion) saturated with advertisements and brands, it was about connecting with others, in the moment. When something was happening in the there and then, the likelihood was that you shared it online. Those that followed you gained a sense of what you were doing as you were doing it. Scale that globally and it really is special….that you can talk to and hear from family or friends, thought leaders or your favourite celebrity, even your favourite artist at the touch of a button, gaining first hand exposure to what they’e doing in the moment, no matter where they were, is/was exciting. It brings people together.

Then the marketing came along, and the targeted marketing. Content was changing, tone was changing and authentic behaviours were disappearing.

Welcome the arrival of Snapchat. And Periscope. And more recently, Facebook Live. I’m excited again! I LOVE these channels and I know it’s already been blogged about but the fact that these are blowing up right now? Not only do they acknowledge user behaviour – mobile usage, rise of video etc but (for the moment) they’re authentic again. And that’s likely one of many reasons the younger generation are there.

It’s genuine, in the moment, and it’s real. You can’t schedule a snap, a scope or a Facebook live. There’s no script or backdrop, there’s no huge budget or at least there doesn’t need to be.

I’ve used Snapchat for a couple of years now and it feels really raw when you first get on board, like there aren’t many buttons or features and it reminds me of the early FB days when there was no ‘like’ button.

That can feel weird to some but it’s also amazingly clever – how it commands your attention. It’s full screen resolution puts me in front of that content and that content only. With ZERO advertisements (well, there’s some, but that’s for another day. It’s not a bad thing..it’s very cleverly done.)

Yep, Facebook rewards you for putting video up – you’ll get better organic reach for it. Yep the shear volume of content on YouTube and the way we consume information online is absolutely a compelling reason why we should be creating video and yes there are marketing strategies and statistics behind it all that can benefit and drive your social media efforts and help you “gain leads”.

But what underlines it all is a genuine reminder that if recognised, will excel your  strategy strategy: the ‘social’ in social media. The human element. The desire to connect with people and not simply sell or broadcast.