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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12 Social Media Posts That Are Funnier Than Yours

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shutterstock_218873764It may sound like a cliché, but it’s absolutely true. Laughter is the best medicine.

Laughter is good for your health because it’s known to lower blood pressure and stimulate the release of endorphins, a powerful set of hormones that can actually get in the way of pain and may even lead to euphoria.

Laughter is good for business, too, because if people are smiling, they’re usually less guarded and more agreeable.

Of course, marketers who know this go to great lengths to develop campaigns that are infused with a strong dose of humor. In seasoning their ads with reasons to snicker and snort, they’re putting customers and prospects in the mood to buy without employing anything even close to a hard sell.

You might say they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

That’s why so many brands are going out of their way to let their hair down on social media, taking great pains to reveal their lighter sides. If the cool kids have a sense of humor, then so do they. No brand wants to be perceived as uptight, old-fashioned and out of touch.

It’s too bad more brands didn’t take themselves so seriously on social media, especially B2B brands, which even in this day and age remain reluctant to as much as crack a smile.

Yup, as long as they’re in good taste, funny posts win on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and perhaps every other social network but LinkedIn, which is probably a little too buttoned up for laughs. Here are 12 good examples…

1. Ben and Jerry’s

Besides mouth-watering shots of its frozen treats, this legendary premium ice cream brand’s sense of humor is one of the key ingredients of its engagement strategy on Instagram, as indicated in the puns used to call attention to Chunky Monkey, just one of its many popular flavors.

Call us nuts, but we’re bananas for riddles. Name that flavor!

A photo posted by Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) on

2. Hanes

A nice example of thinking outside the box, Hanes flaunts its creativity with this shot of a T-shirt that looks like it was gored by bull horns. It’s edgy for a relatively conventional brand, but well within the bounds of good taste.



3. Bissell

This well-known manufacturer of vacuum cleaners and floor care products has been around for forever (well, since 1876), but this user-generated-content (UGC) campaign has 2015 written all over it. Good for them. And good for animal welfare, too. They’re donating $1 to the BISSELL Pet Foundation (up to $50,000) for every post.

4. Lowes

This Vine includes six seconds of hilarity as well as words to the wise from Lowes, the giant home improvement store chain. First and foremost, it’s entertaining, but it’s also very educational.

5. Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’s Donuts wasn’t alone in newsjacking this viral, washed-out photo in late February. Apparently more than 10 million tweets mentioned #TheDress. This post is a great example, though, of the fun this iconic brand has on a regular basis not just on Instagram, but all over social media.

Doesn’t matter if it’s blue/black or white/gold, they still taste delicious. #thedress

A photo posted by dunkindonuts (@dunkindonuts) on

6. Citrix Go ToMeeting

Leveraging the kind of catchy, provocative hashtag you might see as a trending topic on Twitter, this clever tweet shows an otherwise serious brand going out of its way to make you laugh out loud.

7. Coors Light

Beer brands are notorious for incorporating humor into their marketing, advertising and social media activities, and this post, a newsjacking nod to #EmployeeAppreciationDay, is no exception.

8. Charmin

When it comes to bathroom humor, Charmin may have cornered the market. Seriously, this toilet paper brand knows how to work the crowd on Twitter with a continuous series of puns, double entendres and zany one-liners – tagged #tweetfromtheseat – such as this one about the Apple Watch.

9. Microsoft Dynamics CRM

As both a way to capture your attention and underscore the importance of its “real-world” sales solutions, Microsoft Dynamics shares this short, comical parody video of a sales superstar in action.

10. Ellen DeGeneres

With over 40 million followers, Ellen ranks 10th on the list of Twitter’s most popular accounts, outranking the second TV host/comedian on the list, Jimmy Fallon, by over 18 million followers. So if you want to learn how to tell a joke in 140 characters or less, learn from the best. Follow @TheEllenShow. http://twittercounter.com/pages/100

11. CBS News

So much bad news is reported by not just the local, but the national TV networks, it’s not only refreshing, it’s riveting to see when one of them files a funny story such as this one about a “koala car-jacking.”

12. Old Spice

This classic brand of grooming products for men is yet another funny account to follow on Twitter. Many of their tweets are bold, irreverent and more than just a little bit amusing, like this well-crafted, well-timed tweet on Presidents Day.

Note: This post, “12 Social Media Posts That Are Funnier Than Yours,” was originally published on ClickZ on March 24, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on April 7, 2015 here.

What I Write about Social Media in 140 Characters or Less

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I live and breathe social media. I blog about the subject. I give presentations about it. I help clients with it. And occasionally I write about it in 140 characters or less on Twitter. For example:


Social Media: 15 Ways You’re Doing It Wrong

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Facebook was founded in 2004, Twitter in 2006. Even Instagram’s been around for almost five years. So you can’t say this stuff is new anymore.

For some strange reason, however, more marketers and brands than not are still struggling to make heads or tails of social media. Whether they’re surprisingly misinformed or just plain lost, they’re wasting their time and missing the boat. They’re failing to take advantage of what may just be the biggest revolution in communications since the printing press.

To say that’s unfortunate would be an understatement.

After all, done right, social media marketing can be a big game changer. It can be an incredibly effective way to attract the attention of your target audience, engage with them and curry their favor. Far too many go into it without doing their homework, though, their false assumptions and inexperience undermining any chance they have for a successful social media program.

Are you making these same mistakes? Are you doing it all wrong despite your very best intentions? You most certainly are if anything that follows sounds even remotely familiar.

1. You don’t have a plan.
The last thing you want to do is overlook the first thing you should do. Take pause before launch to map out the route you’re going to take on social media. Identify your target audience. Research the competition. Determine your objectives. Choose your tools. Develop your content. Then act accordingly. Eat. Sleep. Tweet. Repeat.

2. You’re working alone.
While no one is saying you can’t be a hit as a solo act on social media, your chances of success are much greater if you belong to a team. There are only so many hats one person can wear well. Strategic direction. Writing. Design. Marketing. Branding. PR. Web development. Analytics. You name it. You’ll make a much bigger impact if you divide and conquer.

3. You’re not a writer.
Of course, you’re not writing the great American novel. Far from it. But the importance of quality content can’t be emphasized enough. Even in 140 characters or less, punctuation, grammar and word play reign supreme. Think like a good journalist or copywriter. Better yet, hire one.

4. You’re spread too thin.
While it’s good to be in more places than one on social media, don’t get carried away with the notion. It’s better to be active on one or two channels than to be conspicuous in your inconsistency on a handful. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Fish where the fish are. Strike a happy medium between quality and quantity.

5. You’re a one-trick pony.
Of course, what might be even worse than being all over the place is being painfully predictable. Putting out the same kind of content in the same place day after day is of little interest to those on the receiving end. It’s boring. It’s monotonous. It’s an easy way to lose an audience.

6. You’re not posting in real time.
One of the biggest distinguishing characteristics of social media is its real-time nature, the fact that it makes it possible for users to connect with one another instantaneously. Canned content written and scheduled in advance will only get you so far. You’ll have greater influence on your constituency if you share extemporaneous news and commentary on at least an occasional basis.

7. You’re not being yourself.
Don’t try to fake it till you make it. Keep it real from the get-go. Transparency and authenticity are not an option on social media. Offer your opinions, not just the facts. Win friends and influence people with refreshing candor. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Put a face on your brand every step of the way.

8. You’re not listening.
Don’t be the account that only talks about itself. Don’t be a self-centered know-it-all. Pay attention to what others are saying not just about you and your brand, but about their own products and services, too. Mine the media for knowledge and expertise as much as mentions, questions, criticism and praise. Thank people for sharing your content and don’t forget to return the favor.

9. You’re erratic.
Whatever you’re doing on social media, do it on a regular basis. Disappear for even just a few days and you’ll be testing the loyalty of those who follow you. Your content stream should serve as a virtual extension of you and your brand, leaving an indelibly consistent, not scattershot, impression on your audience.

10. You’re careless.
Written communications is far more informal than it was back in the day. But that doesn’t excuse you from making typos or blatant grammatical mistakes. Some colloquialism and slang is called for on social media. But so is some measure of decorum and professionalism.

11. You’re no fun.
A good sense of humor goes a long way on social media. Accounts that are spirited, playful, irreverent, even mischievous (in a good-natured way) tend to be popular. Don’t hesitate to share a few laughs with your followers and fans. Social media works best for brands that take their products and services, not themselves, seriously.

12. You’re as bland as milk toast.
It’s much better to be safe than sorry on social media, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out on a limb once in a while and express your creativity. Be colorful, not controversial. Bold, not brash. Avoid arguments at all costs and always take the high road. But show you have more than just a pulse, show you have a personality.

13. You’re not sharing any pictures.
It’s no secret that visual content on social media commands attention. It really doesn’t matter what kind, either. Stock images. Candid shots. Video. Instagram. Vine. Complement your words with pictures in any way, shape or form and stand out amid the clutter.

14. You’re not paying to play.
You may have the most compelling content imaginable, but you still may not be seen by enough people on social media. Organic reach is down. Attention spans are short. The best laid plans can easily go astray without putting at least a small budget behind your efforts.

15. You’re ignoring the numbers.
Branding is important, but like any other form of marketing, social media marketing is all about the results. Establish your goals and develop a methodology for measuring your performance. As Stephen Covey wrote in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.”

Note: This post, “Social Media: 15 Ways You’re Doing It Wrong,” was originally published on ClickZ on February 24, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on March 3, 2015 here.

20 Types of Selfies to Ask Your Audience to Share

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It was the word of the year in 2013, and last year it reached the tipping point. Yup. The selfie is more than just a thing now, it’s kind of a big deal.

No, really, the selfie is more than just a fad, a superficial exercise in narcissism. The selfie has gone from a silly little trend to a mainstream phenomenon, something almost everyone has embraced, from astronauts to athletes, Ellen DeGeneres to Tom Hanks, the president of the United States to the Pope.

Sure, the selfie is still mocked and subjected to ridicule by laggards and luddites, critics and curmudgeons. But most people get it. Most people see the selfie for what it is, a fun way to capture the moment up close and personal, and share it with the world.

If a picture is worth a thousand words on social media, the selfie may be priceless.

And smart brands know it. Look at Purina, Old Navy, Samsung and World Wildlife Fund, just to name four. Then there’s the advertising campaign that Shiseido, a Japanese cosmetics company, recently did with Lady Gaga, featuring 50 different selfies of the global pop star. Very cool.

How can you take advantage of this revolutionary, new way of taking pictures? How can your brand jump on the selfie bandwagon and capitalize on this craze?

Simply encourage members of your audience to take selfies that are associated with your brand in some way, shape or form. Their job is to tag you, include a hashtag ascribed to this marketing initiative (contest or not), and share their selfies on such social media channels as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Your job is to thank them for their efforts and display their contributions on your website or some sort of social media wall.
It’s a win-win proposition. They get recognition from a brand they love. You get engagement with your most passionate fans.

Here are 20 different types of selfies to ask your audience to share on social media…

1. Group selfies. Forget the solo shots. Squeeze as many people into the frame as possible.

2. Funny selfies. Challenge contributors to show off their sense of humor.

3. Cause-related selfies. Even if you’re not a nonprofit, you can do well by doing good.

4. Scavenger hunt selfies. Participants don’t just have to find the prize, they have to snap it.

5. Celebration selfies. Rally caps. High fives. Victory dances. Perfect for spectators and players alike.

6. Tourist selfies. Where in the world are your followers and fans?

7. Photo booth selfies. Treat your guests to a unique self-portrait experience.

8. Product selfies. It’s like show-and-tell – without the tell.

9. Pet selfies. No words.

Post by MTV.

10. Fitness selfies. Gym goers aren’t shy.

11. Mirror selfies. Pause to reflect and say cheese.

12. Store selfies. Never mind coupons. Accept selfies instead.

13. Game selfies. Ask fans to show you where they’re sitting.

14. Celebrity selfies. Like an autograph, only better.

15. Sunrise and sunset selfies. Color your selfie beautiful.

16. Weather selfies. Like storm chasing, only easier.

17. Photobomb selfies. Surprise!

18. Family selfies. What’s more awkward than an awkward family selfie?

19. Team selfies. That’s the spirit.

20. Selfie Stick selfies. Picture perfect.

Note: This post, “20 Types of Selfies to Ask Your Audience to Share,” was originally published on ClickZ on January 27, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on February 4, 2015 here.

5 Ways to Use Social Media to Make a Huge Impact in Real Life

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As ubiquitous as social media in this day and age, more people are turning an apathetic ear to what brands have to say rather than hanging on their every word on these channels.

That shouldn’t come as a shock to you, though.

After all, like direct mail, email, print and broadcast, social media channels are far from immune to audience fatigue. Regardless of the medium, customers and prospects grow tired of a barrage of the same old marketing messages. They become skeptical, jaded and impatient over time. They turn off and tune out.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to reinvent the wheel and take your social media program to the next level. Contests. Paid advertising. Bigger staffs. Better strategies. Those are just a few quick ideas.

But what about taking your online activities offline? What about connecting the dots between the inanimate computing device and real life? What about engaging people wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, in the physical, not the virtual, world.

Here are five ways to bridge the social media communication gap between online and off, tactics that promise to go a long way toward establishing a mutually beneficial dialogue between you and your constituency.

1. Hold a Scavenger Hunt.

If you have something to give away, make a game out of it and use social media to point people in the right direction – on land, not the Web. That’s what @BostonTweet does on Twitter. Every once in a while, he tells his 100,000+ followers he has tickets to some such event, and takes a pic – including identifiable clues – of where he’s hidden the free prize. First come, first served. A scavenger hunt is a great way to not only engage and reward the most loyal members of your audience, it may attract new connections as well.

Example: Boston Tweet

2. Have your Own Orange Room.

Do you watch NBC’s TODAY show in the morning? Then you’ve probably seen the Orange Room, where the likes of Carson Daly, Tamron Hall and Dylan Dreyer take a few minutes to address the latest trending stories on social media. Not only do they give members of their traditional TV audience this unique online perspective, but they also give occasional shout-outs to followers, fans and, of course, celebrities who have weighed in on social media on a particular hot topic.

Example: TODAY Show

3. Set Up a Selfie Station.

2013’s word of the year was all the rage in 2014. And that’s putting it mildly. From Ellen’s (@TheEllenShow) epic group selfie at the Oscars to the Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz’s with none other than President Obama, almost everybody was getting into the act. So don’t worry about hiring a professional photographer. Set up a selfie station at your next special event. You’ll give your guests the opportunity to make fun memories for themselves. They’ll give you props on social media in return.

Example: Screen Actors Guild

Congratulations @sofiavergara! #sagawards #sagawardsselfie

A photo posted by SAG Awards (@sagawards) on

4. Build a Social Media Wall.

There are many reasons to display a steady stream of content on a big screen. If we’re talking about a conference, concert or sporting event, it’s a convenient way for those in attendance to stay informed and entertained. It’s also a nice way to give contributors a few seconds of fame. A wall of tweets, posts and pics calls attention to the so-called “backchannel,” the online chatter among spectators during the event itself. It’s a unique feedback loop, a very cool meta experience for members of the audience. More people than not will be inspired to socialize the moment if they know their words and pictures are going to be up in lights.

Example: Postano

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/240501/cleveland-cavs-install-social-media-displays.html

5. Use a Vending Machine.

If you want to be a huge hit, do what the Boston Red Sox did recently and trot out a vending machine to engage your fans. To help promote ticket sales for the 2015 season, they installed one at both The Shops in Prudential Center and Faneuil Hall Marketplace, enabled by Twitter and Instagram, respectively. People waited in line to find out what they won from the team thanks to their posts tagged #TheGiftOfSox. Bobble head dolls, autographed souvenirs and tickets were just a few of the prizes given away.

Example: Boston Red Sox

Note: This post, “5 Ways to Use Social Media to Make a Huge Impact in Real Life,” was originally published on ClickZ on January 6, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on January 13, 2015 here.

Six Brands That Are Killing It on Instagram

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Having recently turned four years old, Instagram’s user base of just north of 200 million may pale in comparison to Facebook’s 1.35 billion, but the engagement rate for brands on this visually oriented app is hard to beat in the social media ecosystem.

In fact, pretty much anyone who uses Instagram knows just how superior the ratio of likes and comments to followers on it is compared to other comparable online communities. Instagram makes it easy for businesses and consumers alike to share high-quality photos and videos with one another whenever, wherever.
What’s not to like?

Maybe that’s why such a tech behemoth as Microsoft didn’t just dip a toe into the Instagram waters, but jumped in with both feet last month, announcing they’ve hired a photojournalist who “will travel to multiple contents to show how artists, inventors, scientists and entertainers are using Microsoft technology to do more and achieve more.”

Instagram. It’s not just for cute puppies and grumpy cats anymore.

So which brands have not only established a solid presence on Instagram, but are kind of a big deal there? That number is countless, of course – or at least subjective, as success on social media is often in the eye of the beholder). Some may be there for branding purposes, while others may be counting on actual leads. But focusing on engagement levels and the number of followers alone, here are six brands that, if you ask me, are killing it on Instagram…

Starbucks
With more than 21,000 stores all over the world, Starbucks clearly has a diverse range of material at its disposal to take pictures of and share. Which is just what you’ll see on their Instagram account – a celebration of an iconic brand’s products, not to mention a testimony to just how passionate customers are about this third place between work and home. From different stores tagged #WhereInTheWorld to people from all walks of life with their lattes, cappuccinos and smoothies in hand, everyone everywhere seems to be enjoying the Starbucks experience.

Let it merry! Let it merry! Let it merry!❤️ #fromwhereimerry #redcups

A photo posted by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks) on

National Geographic
You might say there isn’t a better fit for Instagram than this legendary scientific and educational institution renowned for the spectacular photography in its magazine. The numbers would certainly support your argument. With over nine million followers, more than any other brand, and almost five thousand posts, National Geographic is all in on this channel. Their pictures are incomparable. Their captions are illuminating. Following them on Instagram is like going on a guided tour of the world.

GoPro
If you like the feeling of living on the edge, you’ll love this account. Seriously, you’ll get your fill of vicarious thrills here. Makers of those small HD cameras that are so wildly popular among extreme sports enthusiasts, GoPro does a nice job leveraging user generated content (UGC) on Instagram, featuring plenty of both pictures and videos submitted by their zealous fans. Skiing. Surfing. Sailing. Skydiving. If it’s an adventurous activity, there’s a good chance it’s captured here.

Photo of the Day! Another day in paradise. Photo by @BurakTuzer paragliding above Ölüdeniz Fethiye in Turkey.

Zdjęcie zamieszczone przez użytkownika gopro (@gopro)

Timberland
No one has to tell me about the popularity of their classic leather boots. I have two teenage sons, after all. Besides, Timberland’s been around for a long time. Who hasn’t heard of them? But I was pleasantly surprised to see just how well this brand works the scene on Instagram. We’re talking about some very cool pictures of not just boots made for walking, but of a large variety of shoes and outdoor wear being modeled amid some very picturesque settings.

Intel
Okay. So there appears to be far less B2B brands on Instagram than B2C. Such a shame. Instagram presents them with a perfect opportunity to let their hair down a little and show they’re human, not just corporate monoliths. That’s not to say that B2Bs are totally missing from this channel, however. One brand in this category that caught my eye is Intel, one of the world’s largest semiconductor chip makers. Not that they have a lot of posts. But with more than 25,000 followers, they’ve got a decent audience for their pictures of gadgets, doodads, electronics and various technological apparatuses.

What are you thankful for? #thanksgiving

A photo posted by @intel on

The Ellen DeGeneres Show
If you want a good laugh or just a reason to smile, you want to follow this account. Whether she’s posing for a selfie with one of the guests on her show, sharing an otherwise personal moment or cracking a silly joke on #ClassicJokeFriday, every post here will make you feel good all over. Taylor Swift. Bill Clinton. Sofia Vergara. Celebrity shots are common here. But so are some very random impromptu moments. Like the mega-talented superstar herself, this account is a lot of fun.

Note: This post, “Six Brands That Are Killing It on Instagram,” was originally published on ClickZ on December 2, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on December 9, 2014 here.

Lessons Learned from 10 Terrific Tweets

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shutterstock_12954058 (2)There’s both an art and a science to writing for Twitter. To stand out from the crowd, you want to be creative and clever, but you also need to be smart and strategic in order to drive a high level of engagement.

It’s not easy for even the best copywriters to strike such middle ground in 140 characters or less.

But many brands today manage to capture the right voice on this online communication channel, in many cases enhancing the impact of their words with equally compelling visuals. They’re able to come across as entertaining as they are educational, as personable as they are promotional.

Culled from a custom timeline (which you can see here) I’ve been curating on Twitter, here are 10 terrific tweets that would appear to go more than a long way toward commanding the attention of followers amid even the most cluttered Twitter streams. Read them. Enjoy them. And learn from them.

1. Ask a question.

One of the best ways to capture the attention of your followers and increase the level of engagement with them is to ask a simple question. Tie it into the use and enjoyment of your products and services, though. That way, you’re also getting good feedback and potential glowing testimonials.

Example: Tim Hortons

2. Provide timely information.

Twitter is rife with commentary and opinion, especially during a breaking news cycle. So why not deviate from the norm and share some good, old-fashioned common sense? Educate your audience. Arm them with facts, figures and information they can put to immediate use.

Example: Unicef

3. Give people the stage.

Highlight content other than your own in your social streams. Recognize your constituents’ contributions. They’ll not only appreciate their work being placed in front of a larger audience, they’ll feel like rock stars.

Example: The Ritz Carlton

4. Include a Call to Action.

Don’t be shy. Make a bold statement. Be abundantly clear what action you want readers to take by using Twitter Lead Generation Cards <> to embed a Call-to-Action button. It’s a good way to separate the tire kickers from those who are seriously interested in what you have to offer.

Example: Holland America Line

5. Be conversational.

A bevy of brands are providing customer service on Twitter. But not all of them are reaching out to potential customers quite like Staples is in this tweet. Don’t hesitate to let your hair down. Be colloquial and catchy, if that’s what it takes to connect with your constituents.

Example: Staples US

6. Motivate your followers.

Almost anyone can do this on Twitter. Say things to lift people’s spirits and move them to act on their own behalf. Self-help affirmations play well in just a short sentence or two. If there’s an association with your brand, even better.

Example: Degree Women

7. Support a good cause.

Do good by doing well. Donate a portion of your proceeds to a well deserving nonprofit organization. You and your constituents get to feel like you’re making a difference, while the beneficiary of your largesse gets a nice financial boost. Everybody wins.

Example: Lucky Strike Boston

8. Offer a choice.

Don’t give people a chance to say no. Have them tell you which of two or more choices gets their vote. Don’t give them an easy way out. You may not be able to control the conversation on Twitter, but you can certainly steer it in the right direction.

Example: Hess Express

9. Celebrate the weekend.

What can you do to identify with the largest possible audience? What does almost everyone have in common? Anytime you can address something of near universal appeal, your content has a far better chance of falling on interested ears.

Example: Avis Car Rental

10. Illustrate your point.

Twitter, like most other social media channels, has become a much more visually oriented medium. You might say a picture is worth a thousand words there. Accompany your text with supporting imagery. Reinforce your messages with bold, colorful graphics that practically jump off the screen.

Example: USA Today

Note: This post, “Lessons Learned from 10 Terrific Tweets,” was originally published on ClickZ on November 4, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on November 11, 2014 here.

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.