4 Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Local TV News Reporters

This post was initially published on BostInnovation on July 28, 2011. To read the original post there, click here. Today – thanks to social media, smartphones and other new digital communications platforms and tools – what the savviest of consumers are asking of their favorite brands is almost as much as they’d expect from

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The Importance of LinkedIn Recommendations

Given my outgoing personality, my obsession with the latest news and the fact that I’ve always been an early adopter of new communications tools, it’s no surprise that I’ve been enamored with social media from the get-go. I can’t tell you how excited I was to launch my own blog in early 2004, where I’ve written nearly

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10 Ways to Succeed as a Copywriter, Parts 1-10

If you’ve been reading this blog for the last few months, you know I’ve been writing a series of posts on copywriting. Similar to the approach I took with my series on social media, I’ve looked at copywriting from a 30,000-foot level, focusing on the principles you need to be mindful of if you want to

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10 Ways to Succeed in Social Media, Parts 1-10

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know about the  “10 Ways to Succeed in Social Media” series of posts I started writing on January 13 of this year and recently concluded on April 5. But what you wouldn’t know is how much I’ve been looking forward to stringing these posts together into one

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The Importance of Character in Social Media

By now, most people involved in marketing, advertising and PR have put aside any skepticism they may have had about social media and are using such online communications vehicles as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reach out to and engage with others. They’re finally realizing that – as I’ve said before here on this

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How to Plan a Social Media Strategy in 12 Steps

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shutterstock_145891007Unless you’re a popular celebrity or a big, iconic brand, a lot has got to come together in order for you to succeed on social media. Not only do you need to have an engaged, loyal audience and something valuable to offer them, you need to be able to maintain a strong social presence by sharing timely, relevant content on a non-stop basis.

There’s no rest for the weary on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other such online communication channels.

If you make the development of a solid strategy a top priority, however, everything else should fall into place. A comprehensive strategic plan articulates the action you’re going to take during the course of your campaign. It explains the who, what, where, when, how and why of what you’re going to do on social media.

No one plan fits all, of course, but to not have one carved out from the outset is like attempting to walk across a high wire without a safety net below. Proceed at your own risk.

So to minimize the chance of falling short of your expectations, here are a number of steps you can take to put together your own social media strategy, one that you and your colleagues can follow with the utmost confidence.

1. Establish a team.

Such a broad range of skills are required to succeed in social media that it only makes sense, budget permitting, to have a handful of collaborative, cross-functional stakeholders on the case. Marketing. Sales. Creative. Analytics. The more representation you have from all corners of the company, the better.

2. Agree on your objectives.

Are you using social media for thought leadership? Branding? PR? SEO? Or do you intend to increase sales? Develop a list of goals you want to achieve and an accompanying timeline. Make sure every member of your team is on the same page from the get-go, including how you’re going to define success down the road.

3. Understand your audience.

In direct marketing, it’s understood that a bad offer to a good list works better than a good offer to bad list. Same in social media. If you’re not connecting with your constituency, you’re wasting your time. Know what makes your customers and prospects tick. The last thing you want is to have your tweets, updates and messages falling on apathetic ears.

4. Research the influencers.

It’s one thing to have a large quantity of fans, followers and friends. It’s quite another to have a quality audience, a select number of people who have the clout to help spread the word on your behalf to their own respective networks. Identify those who wield the greatest influence in your space and forge mutually beneficial relationships with them.

5. Study the competition.

Something too few brands take advantage of is the opportunity to monitor what others are doing on social media, especially those in similar circles. Don’t hesitate to examine the behavior of those who are trying to attract the same customers. What are they doing better than you? What can you learn from their strategies and tactics?

6. Develop your content.

Tap into a library of continuously refreshed content to flaunt not just your knowledge, expertise and unique sales proposition, but your personality as well. Work off a creative brief. Leverage all pertinent assets. Show off your brand in words and pictures. Today, every company is a publishing company.

7. Consider paid activity.

If you’re lucky, it may happen, but you can’t bank on even your best content to go viral. There’s just too much competition for eyeballs, not to mention the fact that social media algorithms aren’t working in your favor. Sometimes you have to put your money where your posts are and turn your owned media into paid.

8. Identify your channels.

Don’t think you have to be on every single channel to be successful. Don’t fall prey to the fear of missing out (FOMO) and spread yourself too thin. Establish a presence where your content has the best chance of being seen. If that’s on half a dozen properties or more, fine. But if your audience is only found on Facebook and Twitter, don’t lollygag elsewhere.

9. Choose your tools.

While there’s a seemingly infinite array of tools at your disposal that will not only support, but amplify your social media efforts, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between them. There are tools for everything from curation, publishing and editing to listening, monitoring and measurement. There are tools to help you attract more followers and tools to help you create compelling graphics. Deciding which ones to use is an ongoing chore in and of itself.

10. Deploy your tactics.

Planning is one thing. Execution is another. This is where the rubber meets the road. Don’t take your foot off the pedal. Share a strategically sound mix of quality, relevant content – some of it promotional, much more of it conversational. Take advantage of real-time engagement opportunities and respond to others promptly, all the while keeping the human side of your brand front and center.

11. Monitor your activity.

If you expect to succeed in social media, you can’t just set it and forget it. You need to immerse yourself in the scene as often as possible. Pay close attention to your audience’s reactions. Are they commenting on your content? Do they like it? Do they share it? Thank loyal constituents for their interest and time.

12. Measure the results.

When all is said and done, the bottom line is what counts. Are you realizing your goals? Is the ROI acceptable? Have you seen an uptick in connections, engagement, chatter, traffic, leads and sales? If not, make adjustments. Test and learn well. Fine-tune your strategy until the results not just meet, but exceed expectations.

Note: This post, “How to Plan a Social Media Strategy in 12 Steps,” was originally published on ClickZ on October 7, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on October 15, 2014 here.

10 Ways for Health Clubs to Flex Their Social Media Muscles

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More than 50 million people belong to over 30,000 health clubs in the United States. They join these clubs to get in shape and stay healthy, to play sports and socialize, to pass the time and relax. When they’re working out, they’re essentially a captive audience to club owners and staff, there primarily for the exercise, of course, but in the right place and mood for chitchat and conversation.

What about all the time when they’re not at the gym? How do health clubs stay in touch with their customers when they’re not on the premises? How do they keep them coming back for more action and fun? How do they ensure that they’re not both out of sight and out of mind?

Enter social media. Just as they’re willing to make a commitment to a membership, many people are glad to cozy up to the clubs they belong to on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like. After all, as fans and followers, they feel a special bond to their third place, their destination of choice if they’re not at home or the office.

Today, health clubs, fitness centers and gyms are using social media in a variety of ways to not only attract the attention of prospective members, but to remain engaged with their existing customers. Here are 10 different ways they’re flexing their muscles on these online communication channels – and how your facility can, too.

1. Contests. Almost everyone is up for a challenge or competition, especially those who are already motivated enough to work out on a regular basis. Put a prize up for grabs and watch your engagement rates soar. Encourage participation. Ask for fan input. Show people how much you appreciate hearing from them by rewarding them for their feedback.

Example: Wellbridge Athletic Club – Harvard Square on Facebook

2. Inspirational Images. The goal of any post on social media should be to appeal to the audience’s interests. If you can strike common ground with your customers and prospects, you can earn their trust. After all, like minds stick together. Memes. Graphics. Visuals. Add a few words of inspiration to a strong image of any kind and you’re in your audience’s wheelhouse. You have a chance of going viral.

Example: The Bar Method Miami on Instagram

3. Tips. A hard sell doesn’t work on social media. People don’t want to be promoted to by your account. They want to be informed, entertained and educated. They want your knowledge, expertise and advice. Share everything you know about injury prevention, weight lifting, cardio exercises, running, stretching, nutrition and more. Treat your fans and followers to a ton of terrific tips.

Follow Fitness Formula Clubs’s board Fitness Tips on Pinterest.

Example: Fitness Formula Clubs on Pinterest

4. Recipes. Food plays well on social media for a variety of reasons, but mainly because it’s such a universal pleasure. Who doesn’t like to eat? Pictures of food can be particularly colorful as well, so they stand out in a cluttered news feed. Healthy eating? Now that’s the perfect combo for this particular audience, people who can certainly appreciate good food, but who know that food that’s good for you…well, that’s even better.

Example: CRUNCH on Facebook

5. Profiles. With so many clubs competing for attention, sometimes the best differentiator are the employees behind the scenes. Showcase the human side of your brand. Put those who work for you front and center. Introduce them. Interview them. Include them prominently in your social media stream. Remember that people do business with people, not brand names and corporate logos.

Example: Youfit Health Clubs on Instagram

6. Polls. Do you ask your social media audience for feedback? When’s the last time you asked them a question of any kind? If you show an interest in what those on the receiving end of your communications have to say, not only will you boost the level of engagement you have with them, but you may even receive feedback that you can actually use to make your business better.

Example: Balance Health Clubs on Facebook

7. Promotional Offers. While there should be far less promotional content in your social media stream than informational, educational and other types, that doesn’t mean you can’t tout your products and services on a regular basis. At least 10% of your content should be driving traffic to your business, maybe more, depending on your audience’s receptivity to such offers. Test for yourself. Incorporate discounts and deals into your messaging and see what sticks best.

Example: Commonwealth Sports Club on Twitter

8. Customer Service. Using social media to answer customers’ questions and keep one step ahead of their requests for support is a great use of these channels. As opposed to a phone call or live chat, it’s often a quicker and easier way to put out a fire. Prepopulate your streams with answers to FAQs. Enlist a variety of listening tools – such as Radian6 <> – to identify brand mentions and respond in a prompt, friendly fashion. In this day and age, real-time, social customer service is what’s expected of brands.

Example: Waverly Oaks Athletic Club on Facebook

9. News and Information. Think of yourself as a publisher or broadcaster with each social media channel representing a near instantaneous way for you to get the word out about what’s going at your club. Hosting a road race on the weekend? Talk about it. Changing your hours of operation for the big holiday break? Announce them. Hiring a new fitness instructor? Introduce her. Don’t be shy with your updates. Stay top-of-mind with your constituents.

Example: NY Health & Racquet Club on Facebook

10. Philanthropy. Your facility may be involved in a number of different fundraising campaigns already, but you may not be publicizing such benevolence. Are you connecting with those local nonprofits that have a social media presence themselves? Are you leveraging online fundraising sites such as Firstgiving, Crowdrise and Fundly to raise money among your network? Don’t hesitate to announce your cause marketing efforts to your social media connections. Doing well by doing good is the best of two worlds.

Example: The Atlantic Club on Twitter

Note: This post, “10 Ways for Health Clubs to Flex Their Social Media Muscles,” was originally published on ClickZ on September 9, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on September 16, 2014 here.

10 Questions to Ask Your Social Media Audience

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Engagement rate. It’s one of the most important metrics in social media. After all, you could have a boatload of fans and followers, but if only a few of them are engaging with your content, they’re worth next to nothing to your brand.

What you want from your social media audience is a lot of positive chatter and buzz. You want likes, shares, comments, mentions, retweets and replies. The more interaction between you and your constituents, the greater the chances are of them doing business with you in the long run.

Of course, there are many different communications strategies and tactics for capturing people’s attention and triggering a response of some kind. You can make a lot of noise and be interruptive. You can get creative and stand out among the clutter. You can pay to play and put yourself in front of more eyeballs. But as any sales and marketing pro would tell you, probably one of the easiest and most obvious methods of engaging others is to show an interest in what they have to say by asking them to share their opinions with you.

Here are 10 good questions you can ask your connections in the world of social media, each of which promises to go a long way toward increasing your engagement rates across the board.

1. How was our performance?
It’s one of the best questions any brand can ask its customers, clients or guests. It shows you value their patronage and welcome their feedback. Thank them for their support. Ask if you’ve met their expectations. If they have anything negative to say, you’ll have the chance to turn things around. Any praise you receive is akin to a testimonial that could help you bring in more business.

Example: The Harp Boston

2. How can we help?
Wondering what to say in that next tweet? Ask your audience how you can be of service to them. They’ll appreciate the random words of kindness. Pay close attention to any legitimate criticism, though. After all, according to a recent Lithium Technologies study which you can read about here, over 70% of consumers expect brands to respond to their complaints on Twitter within an hour. So don’t hesitate to be proactive on social media. Make yourself available – even on short notice – to your customers and prospects. Respect the immediacy of these channels.

Example: 101.9 AMP Radio

3. Who wants to win a prize?
Contests. Sweepstakes. Giveaways. Provide people with a chance to win something and you’ll get their attention. It doesn’t have to be an expensive prize, either. You’d be surprised how much demand there is for even the simplest swag, trinkets and tchotchkes. A free t-shirt is like a carrot on the end of a stick. It’s incentive to take action.

Example: ESPN

4. What do you think?
Many people relish the opportunity to express themselves in public. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. It’s human nature. Take advantage of this urge to rant, rave, gloat and glorify by taking a poll of your audience. Ask them anything. They’ll appreciate the fact that you care more about their thoughts and interests than your own self-gain. They’ll be glad to have the forum.

Example: Mohegan Sun

5. Did you know?
Another way to elicit a response from someone is to pique their curiosity. Challenge them with a question they’ll feel compelled to answer. Tease them with a piece of trivia that’ll make them think twice. Tie the content back to your brand and even better. Any new knowledge you can impart to your audience is bound to be appreciated.

Example: Hewlett-Packard

6. Have you seen this yet?
A question such as this is best accompanied by a photo. You’re giving readers a peak behind the scenes, suggesting that they really don’t know what they’re missing until they’ve not only seen, but actually tried what you have to offer.

Example: Eagle Mountain House

7. How do you use us?
Crowdsourcing is a way to not only get some constructive feedback on your products and services, but a mass of nice content as well. Consumers are flattered when brands repurpose their pictures and messages. It’s a mutually beneficial scenario.

Follow L.L.Bean’s board Your L.L.Bean Selfies on Pinterest.

Example: L.L. Bean

8. Are you watching?
More and more people aren’t content to merely watch a TV program or live streaming event. They’re compelled to use a second screen – their tablet, smartphone or computer – to simultaneously take in the social media chatter about what they’re watching. This is a chance for you to engage with some of your most passionate fans while they’re especially excited about your programming. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Example: Big Brother on CBS!

9. What’s your favorite book?
Pick a universally popular topic and pop the question. It’s that easy. USA TODAY’s example below is just one idea. Ideally, your question will be associated with your brand attributes. But if your goal is to simply engage with your connections, any topic will do. Books. Movies. Music. Sports. You name it, they’ll respond to it – hopefully.

Example: USA TODAY

10. What motivates you?
Getting personal with your audience – especially if you’re talking about their interests, not yours – can lead them to open themselves up to you. Think like a good psychologist. Your job is to learn more about those on the receiving end without appearing cheesy or contrived. Asking them what motivates them is one way to increase engagement.

Example: Jazzercise Inc

Note: This post, “10 Questions to Ask Your Social Media Audience,” was originally published on ClickZ on August 12, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on August 19, 2014 here.

10 Reasons Why You Should Use Vine to Build Your Brand

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If your bandwidth is limited, the best social networks on which to set up shop and share are probably going to be sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, four of the most popular players in the field today.

But if time is not an issue and you really want to make a splash in the social media waters, you should try making videos with the mobile app, Vine.

Sure, with more than one billion unique users visiting the site each month, your potential audience on YouTube is going to be gargantuan. And with over 150 million monthly active users on Instagram, you’d be hard pressed not to experiment there as well, even if your videos can only be up to 15 seconds in length.

If you want to socialize with all the cool kids, however, you can’t overlook Vine, where more than 40 million registered users are telling their stories in short, continuously looping six-second videos.

Vine is much more than a shiny, new social toy. It’s got a lot more going for it than novelty. Vine presents brands with an innovative, surprisingly powerful way to take advantage of the fact that visual content performs well on social media.  If you ask me, there are many reasons why you should use Vine to build your brand. Here are my top 10…

1. It’s easy to use. I’m not going to tell you that anyone can create a masterpiece in six seconds, but I will say that you don’t have to be a cinematographer to record a decent video on Vine. All you need to do is hold your finger on the screen to record and take it off to pause. It’s that simple. You can record straight through uninterrupted or use the stop-motion feature to shoot your own impressively animated shorts.


Example: Samsung Mobile US

2. It’s quick to digest. With such a glut of commercial messages competing for your audience’s attention, a succinct visual message that can be quickly scanned on the go is about as convenient as it gets for them. It’s mobile. It’s social. It requires next to no effort at all to experience and enjoy.


Example: Trident Gum

3. It’s spur of the moment. The simplicity of Vine makes it possible for you to capture news as it’s happening without any preparation whatsoever. It’s ideal during live events or when you want to involve others in the action and share an exciting firsthand experience not just on the channel itself, but on Twitter, Facebook and even your own blog.


Example: Boston Red Sox

4. It’s convenient. A free mobile app, Vine goes wherever you go as long as you have your smartphone. All it takes is six seconds. Then press share. Vine is the power of real-time – not to mention real simple – videography in the palm of your hand.


Example: American Air

5. It’s instructional. Many users have already discovered what a great platform Vine is for show and tell. From cooking to card tricks, gardening to bartending, they’re sharing their secrets for doing what they do best, positioning themselves as thought leaders, valuable resources and brands consumers can trust.


Example: Sephora

6. It’s entertaining. No question about it, brands and average users alike are experimenting with Vine, recording everything from comedy routines to sports highlights, reality shows to pop culture news, puppetry to live action shorts. They’re showing off their lighter sides and amusing their fans in these GIF-like videos with sound.


Example: Oreo Cookie

7. It’s engaging. If you think Vine is simply a broadcast channel, think again. From liking to commenting to revining, there’s plenty of back and forth among users of this app. One brand, Nissan, even went so far as to incorporate Vine footage created by fans into an ad campaign for its 2014 Versa Note.


Example: Nissan USA

8. It’s a creative medium. Vine brings out a little Steven Spielberg in all of us. Because you have such a short time on Vine to get your message across, you may find yourself being particularly resourceful and imaginative. Simplicity plays well, but some of the most successful videos on Vine are ones that are thought out in advance, choreographed, scripted and cast like they’re Hollywood films.


Example: Klondike

9. It’s promotional. As offbeat and quirky as it may seem to the uninitiated, Vine is actually an ideal channel in which to conduct business. Win your followers over with enough genuinely interesting looping video clips and you’ve earned their loyalty. Run contests. Show off your team. Take viewers behind the scenes of your work place. Include as much sizzle as steak in your Vines. Don’t hesitate to turn up the marketing heat.


Example: Taco Bell

10. It’s measurable. Not only do you see how many times people have liked your Vines, you can now get a count of how many times each of them has looped as well. Along with comments and revines, these two metrics provide you with a fairly good gauge for your clips’ popularity.


Example: MTV

Note: This post, “10 Reasons Why You Should Use Vine to Build Your Brand,” was originally published on ClickZ on July 15, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on July 22, 2014 here.

10 Ways to Build a Social Media Audience

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In direct marketing, it’s long been said that a bad offer to a good list will perform better than a good offer to a bad list. The point being that without a decent audience, you may as well forget about it. You may have a great product or service, but unless you have a long list of people who are at least prospective customers, even the best marketing efforts in the world probably won’t be able to sell it.

That’s how it is in social media, too. You can spend a ton of time and money in creating content that absolutely rocks, but if you aren’t reaching enough people, your efforts will be in vain and you won’t have a chance of going viral. You’ll be like the proverbial tree that falls in the middle of the woods with nobody around to hear it. The return on your investment won’t be anywhere near satisfactory. You’ll be left wondering why you’re hearing nothing but crickets while your competitors are hearing the sound of the cash register going “cha-ching.”

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to accumulate a large enough number of followers and fans to make all your activity on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like worth it. Here are 10 ways for brands to build a social media audience that is loyal, engaged, and responsive.

1. Point People in the Right Direction.
Unless you’re a celebrity or are lucky enough to have an iconic brand name, you can disregard the notion that if you build it, they will come. People won’t even know you exist on social media unless you point them in the right direction. Wherever possible – on the wall, in the lobby, on the counter – use signage offline to drive your constituents online.

Vineyard Vines
This sign in the window of the Vineyard Vines store at The Shops at the Prudential Center in Boston draws attention to their presence on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Shout It Out Loud.
Anyone in your organization who’s on the speaking circuit should be incorporating into their presentations the fact that your business has a social address. They should strike while the iron’s hot. Caught up in the moment, a live audience has an urge to connect with whomever is on stage. Tell them where your brand lives on social media and invite them to join you there.

3. Arm the Troops.
Divide and conquer. There’s strength in numbers. Identify those employees who have strong social followings themselves and encourage them to passively recruit on behalf of your organization. Provide them with talking points. Reward them for their thought leadership. The more employees you have spreading the word about your brand’s social activities among their own personal networks, the quicker you’ll grow your audience.

4. Drop Names.
Why would you even thinking about mentioning someone else in your own content stream? Well, for starters, it’s simply good form, especially when you’re citing the author of a third-party article that you’ve chosen to share. Tagging others is also a good way to pique curiosity, attract new followers, and trigger mutually beneficial engagement.

Boston Park Plaza
This tweet from the Boston Park Plaza hotel includes several Twitter handles and one hashtag.

5. Showcase Your Social Streams.
Get much more mileage out of your activity on social media by embedding this content elsewhere. There are numerous widgets available from either third parties or directly from channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and even Pinterest that make it possible for you to export your timelines and display them somewhere on your website. Not only does this put your content in front of a broader audience, it increases the likelihood of establishing more lasting social connections among your constituency as well.

Whole Foods Market
The homepage of the Whole Foods Market website includes some of the supermarket chain’s social media feeds.

6. Put Others First.
Don’t be a brand that only talks about itself. You know the ones. They spend far too much time being promotional as opposed to social. No one is saying you can’t toot your own horn on Twitter, Facebook, and the like. I am saying, though, that one of the best ways to attract new fans, followers, and business in general is to be known for helping others in as many ways as possible. Your turn will come.

Sullivan Tire
This tweet from Sullivan Tire provides followers with a good tip about checking their tires’ air pressure.

7. Make a Ridiculously Good First Impression.
Are your profile and cover images the right size? Have you written a clear and convincing description of your business that’s infused with keywords and hashtags? Did you link back to your website and other social properties? Is your logo featured prominently? Do you respond promptly to questions, comments, and mentions? Do you thank those who share your content with their own constituents? Are you the host with the most gratitude for his or her fans, followers, customers, and prospects?

8. Host a Chat.
Build a faithful community of like-minded followers and fans by interviewing popular guests on both Twitter and Facebook. Like a talk show or panel discussion, a chat is simply two or more people talking about a topic of broad appeal. Promote the event in advance. Use a strong hashtag. Take questions from your audience. Employ an experienced moderator. Become known for bringing people together for education and entertainment at your expense, not theirs. You’ll be the center of attention.

The Today Show
This post on The Today Show’s Facebook page promotes a live chat with co-anchor Savannah Guthrie.

9. Give Something Away.
People practically come out of the woodwork to participate in contests. But while offering something for nothing is almost a surefire way to attract a large following, the prizes you’re offering should be aligned with your brand attributes. This helps increase the likelihood that any new connections are qualified prospects, not those who are only in it for the swag.

Will Leather Goods
In this Instagram contest by Will Leather Goods, participants can win two bags of their choice from the brand’s website.

10. Pay to Play.
Last but certainly not least, there’s paid media. In fact, many brands find that allocating a good portion of their marketing dollars for advertising on social media is a necessity, not an option, if they want a bigger audience. With so much competition for eyeballs and engagement, promoting your content and accounts to prospective new followers and fans is a smart way to stand out among the clutter and win over the masses.

Coastal.com
This sponsored Facebook post by Coastal.com includes an offer to “get your first pair of glasses free” as well as an invitation to like their page.

Note: This post, “10 Ways to Build a Social Media Audience,” was originally published on ClickZ on June 17, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on June 25, 2014 here.

17 Vine Videos of 125 Places to Get a Bite to Eat in the Boston Area

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PicMonkey CollageAnyone who knows me knows how much I love to explore the nooks and crannies of Boston with my wife, Barbara. Walking around town is one of our favorite things to do together.

My friends and family also know how much I love social media. Using the Internet to connect and communicate with others has been a passion of mine long before it became a thing for practically everyone.

Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. You name it, I’m on it. And that includes Vine, an app which allows its 40 million users to easily record six-second looping videos and share them with the world.

How do I use Vine along the course of my travels? In a number of different ways, all of which you’ll be able to see if you take a look at my account here. This (below) is just one way I use Vine, taking a few seconds here and there to capture some footage of the countless restaurants and food spots that dot our city’s streets. Which place is your favorite? Take a look…

10 Types of Visuals to Boost Your Social Media Engagement

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As a writer by trade, it’s not easy for me to utter these words, but I’m not going to lie: On social media, a picture is worth a thousand words.

It’s true. Content may be king, but visuals rule. All the latest studies and statistics suggest that images on social media command more attention than text alone.

If you want more likes, comments, shares, retweets, and clicks, you want to include pictures with your social media posts. You want to be more visual.

As Carla Gates says here on her 3 to 5 Marketing Blog

“Images used in your social media (and by definition, your blog content) are far more attention-grabbing than text or plain old links, more likely to be shared, evoke emotional reactions in viewers (and emotion SELLS), and can portray a lot of information quickly and more efficiently than text.”

Not to mention the fact that both Facebook and Twitter have redesigned their platforms recently to place much more emphasis on images. So you really have no excuse whatsoever not to be going picture crazy on social media right about now.

Chalk it up to the Pinterest effect.

In the process of optimizing your social media presence with visuals, of course, you need to be mindful of choosing the right sizes and dimensions. Other than those specifications, though, you actually have a lot of great options. For example…

1. The Product Shot. Every business and brand has a product to display. Whether you’re selling ice cream or insurance, software or footwear, you have something tangible to exhibit in your social media stream. Don’t just talk about what it is you have to offer your audience. Show it off in pictures. The more, the better.

1. The Product Shot
Example: Best Buy on Facebook

2. The Team Picture. Did you play organized sports growing up? How many team pictures do you have from back in the day? That’s the idea here. Only, don’t feel you have to wait for a special occasion. Take pictures of your colleagues on a regular basis and share them with your audience. People do business with people, so do everything you can to humanize your brand.

2. The Team Picture
Example: American Idol on Twitter

3. The Spotlight on Your Fans. Everybody likes attention, especially from someone they look up to and admire. Shine the spotlight on your followers and fans. Give their photos a much bigger stage by repurposing them on your own social channels. Retweet them. Tag them. Make it all about them, not you. Give them their 15 minutes of fame and they’ll give you more loyalty in return.

3. The Spotlight on Your Fans
Example: Boston Red Sox on Twitter

4. The Peek Behind the Scenes. Provide your constituents with something they can’t get anywhere else, whether it’s exclusive photos, a big reveal, or something they wouldn’t see otherwise. Take them backstage. Invite them into your inner sanctum. Show them how your products are built. Give them a look at what goes on behind closed doors. You get the picture.

4. The Peek Behind the Scenes
Example: Downton Abbey on Pinterest

5. The Action Shot. While a team picture may be posed, your action shots are of you and your fellow team members actually doing what you do best. It’s doesn’t matter whether you’re speaking at a podium, swinging a baseball bat, or sitting in front of a computer writing the great American novel, it’s still a performance. Capture your people in the act of doing their jobs and share it with your audience.

5. The Action Shot
Example: U2 on Instagram

6. The Graphic. Creating your own visuals from scratch is a great way to add variety to your stream and call more attention to your posts. Use PowerPoint, Photoshop, PicMonkey, and other such tools to add special effects and text to the images you share. You could even go so far as to create your own infographics. A combination of data, words, and pictures is one of the best ways to increase your engagement and reach on social media.

6. The Graphic
Example: Nordstrom on Facebook

7. The Spontaneous Shot. One of the best benefits of using social media for marketing is the power it gives you to connect with your constituents in real time. Capitalize on the extemporaneous nature of these channels by sharing impromptu, candid shots of you and your team in the moment. What’s happening now is far more credible and commanding on social media than old news or posed pictures.

7. The Spontaneous Shot
Example: MTV on Facebook

8. The Moving Picture. No, I didn’t forget about video. In fact, most businesses and brands consider it a must-have ingredient in their content marketing mix. YouTube, Vine, Instagram – each of these channels presents an abundance of opportunities for creating original footage which can eventually be cross-promoted across the social landscape. Don’t worry about going viral. Worry about one watch at a time. If people like it, they will share it. And you’ll have a hit on your hands.

8. The Moving Picture
Example: Maxwell House on Twitter

9. The Collage. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a small handful of them is, well, perhaps priceless. Take advantage of Twitter’s new mobile feature and upload up to four photos in a single tweet. Or you can use one of many good photo-editing tools available – such as the aforementioned PicMonkey – to cobble together the quintessential collage.

9. The Collage
Example: General Electric on Twitter

10. The Selfie. Last, but certainly not least, there’s the type of visual made famous by Ellen DeGeneres at this year’s Oscars ceremony and most recently Boston Red Sox superstar David Ortiz at the White House. There’s the selfie. Thanks to these two celebrities, the ubiquity of the front-facing camera on smartphones, and people’s seemingly insatiable desire for attention, the selfie is an incredibly hot trend you don’t want to ignore.

10. The Selfie
Example: The Today Show on Instagram

Note: This post, “10 Types of Visuals to Boost Your Social Media Engagement,” was originally published on ClickZ on April 22, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on April 30, 2014 here.

Smile, You’re on Social Media

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EllenWhen Ellen DeGeneres pulled together some of Hollywood’s biggest superstars for a group shot at the Oscars this year, it may have been a moment of spontaneous fun, but the resultant tweet of this selfie will go down in social media history.

Having been retweeted over 3.4 million times at last count, this one epic tweet from @TheEllenShow easily surpassed a tweet of President Barack Obama’s as the most retweeted ever.

Statistics aside, this tweet served to underscore a point that social media practitioners like me have been preaching to businesses and brands for a long time. Lighten up.

You heard me. Take your work, not yourself, seriously. If the likes of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey can strike a pose for a rather silly selfie at their industry’s most prestigious awards ceremony, you can afford to let your hair down every once in a while, too.

In fact, if you really want to be a success on social media, you can’t afford not to be extemporaneous and extroverted, transparent and true to whom you are in real life, not just your corporate persona. Anything less and you’ll get lost in the clutter, overlooked and ignored for your self-promotional messages, business jargon and corporate speak.

It’s the importance of the social in social media that far too many marketers, especially those in the B2B sector, still underestimate. Like trying to force a square peg into a round hole, they’re trying to repurpose the same strategies and tactics that may be working just fine on other channels. They’re trying too hard.

Those who get social media know that it’s far easier to simply be themselves on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like. It’s far more effective, too. They know enough to be more impromptu than contrived, more conversational than scripted. They know that anything they can do to reveal their authentic selves will pay off more often than not.

That’s not to say they don’t have a solid social media plan in place, a plan steeped in the best practices and strategies associated with marketing and social commerce. Before doing anything, they do everything they can to learn the makeup of their audience, assess their competition, create new content, brainstorm ideas and identify the channels on which they’ll be promoting their products and services.

But not only does this plan include a comprehensive editorial calendar for sharing news, information and offers, it includes plenty of opportunities for real-time marketing and constituent engagement. It includes a mandate to be as candid as possible and to put a big smile on the brand.

After all, like any good sales person knows, people want to do business with someone they like and trust, someone who’s down to earth and who has a good sense of humor. Don’t be the brand who hides behind a logo and pretends to be omnipotent. Be humble, open-minded and responsive to your audience’s needs.

Jet Blue
For instance, take a look at how much fun JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue) has on Twitter. Despite being at the beck and call of a demanding public, they couldn’t be any more chipper, convivial and conversational on this channel. Cracking jokes, singing people’s praises and extending warm wishes to one and all, they’re as warm and welcoming an account as you’ll find on Twitter.

Contant Contact
Then there’s Constant Contact on Facebook. Not only do they go out of their way to provide a wealth of educational resources to their audience, they do so with pleasure. So much of what they share is informational and inspirational. So much of what they say is helpful and cheerful.

Marketing Profs
Finally, there’s Marketing Profs on Instagram, a feed that “celebrates all things marketing.” Check it out. You’ll see a nice collection of photos from their many special events, conferences and activities, including a handful of great people shots, too. And they always look like they’re having fun.

What about you? Are you having a good time on social media? Are you smiling on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like? Are you ready for your prime-time selfie?

Note: This post, “Smile, You’re on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on March 25, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on April 3, 2014 here.