53 Percent of Instagram Users Follow Brands…

A recent infographic (posted below, credit to adweek.com) by Global Web Index found

53% of Instagram users follow their favorite brands and 44% use Instagram to conduct brand research.

The natural first thought is it go full throttle and start making Instagram your new best friend based strictly on the infographic, but a word of caution is in order.

I firmly believe Instagram is a great platform and small business owners and solopreneurs would be remiss if they weren’t at least using it to some degree.

However, the results, like those of any study, should be looked at with some additional scrutiny to determine how much effort or focus should be put into the platform.

Defining ‘Brands‘.

I’m not looking to actually define what a brand is but determine what was considered a brand by the respondents of the survey.  For most, mention brands and we immediately think if Coca-Cola, Old Navy, Porsche….. what we consider to be nationally recognized name brands.  Your business and even yourself, if you’re a professional, are brands.  One of social media’s core roles for your business should be to make your name recognizable and a ‘household brand’, if even on a local level.

But, if we were to logically assume the brands followed were those national brands, do those same numbers correlate to local brands?  Do local brands see the same or similar percentages?

The Demographic.

The study did look at the active base of each network from 16 to 64, but Instagram’s core user is under 35. According to GWI’s email regarding the study to the SocialTimes about 70% of Instagram’ users are under 35. but that number is actually 90% (as of 6/16/2015 according to expandedramblings.com. Here are two very significant statistics from the same report that should affect how you should interpret the results:

30% of all Instagram accounts are inactive (7/2/15)

70% of all Instagram users are outside the US (9/20/15)

After discounting the inactive accounts, with so many users outside the US and the vast majority under the age of 35, how many in your target market are using the platform?  Of those, how many are active daily and seeing your content. Further reduce that figure by the percentage likely to follow you or engage with your content you will start to get a  better picture of how truly effective Instagram will be for your brand.

B2B or B2C?

The study, at least per the infographic doesn’t tell us if the users are businesses following other businesses or consumers follow businesses. Given the core user base, it’s probably safe to assume they’re individuals following businesses.  Instagram, while having value for those engaged in business to business sales, it’s probably safe to say Instagram is a far better channel for business to consumer brands.

Should You Be Using Instagram?

Again, I am a firm believer of the social site so I’m not recommending you abandon it or reconsider getting started.  I maintain accounts for both myself and Tactical Social Media.

My concern and what I want to get you to recognize is that every study and report should be looked at a little closer before you shift your focus or put too much stock into it.

And if you are using Instagram and questioning how to make it work for you, take a look at my strategy.

Your Turn

Are you on Instagram? Why or why not?  If you are (post your profile so I can follow you), have you see results either in terms of engagement or traffic?

 

GWI Instagram Brands Infographic

Maybe We Should Call It “Unsocial Media”

Too often people using social media as a tool to build an audience to pitch or as a broadcast platform rather than as a relationship tool.  Social media is a powerful tool when used right….but it takes time (sometimes lots of it) to generate that ROI.

5 Signs you’re unsocial and doing it wrong!

  • You’re only posting your own content.
  • You’re sharing content from others but not commenting or replying first – It’s great you’re sharing and it’s better than complete self-promotion but it’s still broadcasting. (Read: Why I Don’t Use Twitter’s Retweet Button by Bridget Willard)
  • It’s all business.  Yes, it is a business account but I not only recommend you post personal content, I recommend it.  There’s a reason business deals are made on the golf course, at the bar or over 2-hour martini lunches (do they even do those anymore?). You learn quite a bit about someone when they’re having fun and relaxed.
  • You don’t respond when spoken to (or you take too long) or acknowledge when someone mentions you. Ignoring people isn’t social. It’s just plain rude.
  • You use social media for cold calling.  This one is prevalent on LinkedIn and Twitter and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves!
Social media isn't supposed to be a broadcast platform. It's supposed to be social! Click To Tweet

 

Nothing bothers me much more than following someone on Twitter or connecting here and then getting “a buy/download/ attend my….” Tweet or message (and don’t get me started on the automated direct message thing!).

A few weeks back a very unsocial Twitter conversation started with receiving a download request via Tweet within 30 seconds of following a brand:

Why wouldn’t you want fitness combined with personal safety? Download……

My immediate response (and yes, not using their handle first made this public):

Wow! XXXXXX Followed you and secs later you’re asking me to download stuff from your site. .

The remainder of the conversation had me thinking they understood:

They tweeted an apology and stated they thought I might find it a good, useful app…

I do XXXXXX Think it’s a great idea.  builds relationships; Relationships drive biz. 

‘Social’ builds relationships; Relationships drive business. 

Thanks! Didn’t intend on being unsocial, just want to get the word out about our … tech! Downloading is up to you!

Sure thing XXXXXX. Great app for hikers, cyclists too. Getting the word out effectively comes down to how you craft the message.

You’re right! We appreciate the input!

I even helped them by crafting a tweet and sending it out to my audience with their handle and link!

Sadly, a look back at their posts for the day showed a constant unsocial stream of tagging individuals asking them to download their app.  Really?

Needless to say, I deleted my tweet.

Whatever happened to building relationships and being social?

Are we so focused on making a quick buck? Do we see our fans and followers as merely ‘targets’? Are they just a means to an end….money in our pockets?  Are we really that unsocial?  I’m beginning to think we are.

I know they will likely get some to buy their app as a result of the practice, but it’s short-term gains.  Business runs on relationships.  Social media is an incredible tool for building relationships.  Use it right and you’ll see a return on your time and money.  Use it right and you’ll have customers for life.

Do social right and be social!

FYI:

1.  I will call you out (and unfollow you) if you spam me with a DM or tweet me to buy /download/visit/ attend something of yours simply because I followed you.  I follow because I looked at your profile and liked what I saw.  What you have to offer by way of your tweets (or products/services) interests me.  If you want to sell to me, fine.  Just buy me a drink first.

I get enough direct solicitation via email, direct mail, TV, radio…. I don’t need or want it on Twitter, Facebook or any other social – or is that ‘unsocial’ – channel

2.  If I give you advice, you’re welcome to do with it as you please. Tell me I’m right, then resort to your old ways….UNFOLLOWED.  They obviously had no intention of doing anything different and simply paid me lip service.

Measuring The Effectiveness Of Social Media…

….is not and will never be easy. Determining how your time or financial investment is paying off isn’t black and white.  Short of a sale where you’re informed you were found on a social site or a social media post prompted the sale or call, you may never know how your social media activity impacts the bottom line. (I won’t say ‘if’ as I know it does when done right).

But what if we look at how we measure social media success based on its core role – community and relationship building
rather than as a sales channel? We’d have to focus on what best builds those relationships and that community – personality and fun. Who really wants to start a friendship with Oscar The Grouch or the grumpy old neighbor? We gravitate to those who are upbeat, engaged, inviting, friendly and fun.

Fun, actually how much fun you’re having, it would seem, might be a great way to determine the successfulness of your social media efforts.

I love Carol Stephen’s (be sure to follow her on Twitter at @Carol_Stephen) ‘gamification’ take on how social and fun are intertwined – or should be!)

How much ‘Fun’ you’re having might be the best measure of ROI for your social efforts.

 

So Are You Having Fun?

Psst! I am. You can see just how much at the end of this post!

Too many small businesses owners see social media as a chore – a must do activity – instead of a ‘want to do activity’.  I think we’re flooded with everything we should be doing that social is no longer natural, no longer fun. It’s forced. That further overwhelms us and increases our resolve not to do it or reinforces our lack of enjoyment in doing it. As a result, we outsource all of it.  Either way, the real value of social media is lost.

If you feel forced to post or engage, it will show through. It’s as easy to see as when talking face to face with someone in a bad mood. Our emotions do show in our posts and responses. That certainly won’t help you build or maintain relationships.

Outsourcing? I’m not against all outsourcing of social activity but you have to admit paying someone to engage and build relationships on your behalf isn’t really authentic.  Remember the movie scene where the boy recites a poem to the girl in the window?  She thinks it’s coming from his heart when in reality he was simply saying what his friend hiding in the bushes told him to say.  At some point, the truth always comes out and you’re sure to lose more than you gained.

Paying someone to engage and build relationships on your behalf isn’t authentic.

So how do you have more fun?

 

Change The Way You Approach Social Media

Easier if you’re just getting started but if you’re already at that ‘overwhelmed’ point, slow down and regroup.

Frame your social activity the way you would approach joining a new networking group.  Most of us feel intimidated, uncomfortable, out-of-place when showing up the first time.  We tend to be quiet and reserved.  We listen and watch.  We’ll introduce ourselves and we’ll do the 60-second infomercial, our elevator speech, but usually it’s stressed or unnatural.

Over time we start to see the ‘flow’ of how the group works. We warm up to others and they to us.  We begin to relax. We start more conversations. We’re quick to jump in, to introduce ourselves. Over time we grow more comfortable, our elevator speeches (by the way I hate this term since it makes them seem so rehearsed and mechanical – something opposite of what they should be for real impact) become more animated and natural.

After a few weeks or months (in case you’re more introverted and need that time), we’re quick to introduce ourselves to new guests and to start conversations.  We start having fun.

What changed?  We’re now among friends.  We’re more comfortable with our surroundings, in terms of how things work and the people around us. We’re relaxed. Our actions are natural and genuine. We now truly like what we’re doing.

Case in point: I remained involved in a group in AZ for several years, including after I closed my business because I was able to have breakfast with my friends! I measured the ROI of the membership cost on what I personally got out of the group. Since good relationships are priceless, I think I made out pretty well!

If you approach social media in the same way, you’ll see social as not simply a tool you need to use, but one you enjoy using. The ROI is not solely about dollars and cents, but something more intangible and infinitely more valuable.

Oh. I almost forgot!

So how much fun do I have on social? Here’s one exchange between myself and Adam Fout of Blue Steele Solutions (one of those awesome relationships I have thanks to Twitter).

Twitter conversation with Adam Fout; How much 'Fun' you're having might be the best measure of ROI for your social media efforts.

I love my time spent online, especially Twitter.  I’ve built some great relationships which are priceless in and of themselves.  I also know, over time, those relationships will lead to opportunities and ultimately increased revenue.  It simply starts with being social and having fun.

If you’re on Twitter, follow me at @rnissenbaum.

Are You Missing Out On Web Traffic By Not Using Twitter?

While Twitter is one of the best social channels a small business owner can leverage, far too many I speak with want little to do with it.  That’s an absolute shame.

When I look at the effectiveness of a social media strategy, I’m looking to see how much web traffic is being driven more than page growth or post activity.  Those numbers are valuable, but in the end, your relationship building, page growth, and likes, comments and shares have one end goal – increased sales. Since most social posts don’t usually convert directly, they, along with your activity elsewhere on these social sites, need to drive traffic to an external lead generation point – your website.  Of course, you still need the traffic to convert but that’s the role of your website and sales teams, not your social pages and profiles.

How well a social channel does at driving traffic to your website depends on a number of variables, but all things being equal, or at least similar, Twitter is one of the best social platforms for that purpose.  Since I have active and engaged profiles on each of the six major social sites and I post similar content, it’s easy to see just how well (and easily) Twitter works.

So how well does Twitter work?

 

Social media referral traffic drive to tacticalsocialmedia.org over a 90 day period

 

  • Twitter drove more traffic as reported by Google Analytics than the other 4 big sites.
  • Twitter drove as much traffic as organic search over the same time period.
  • Twitter was actually the 2nd highest source of web traffic during the time frame measured.

 

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#123517″ class=”” size=””]Twitter is an amazing platform for converting social engagement into leads.[/perfectpullquote]

 

What’s even more impressive:

  • Twitter had the lowest percentage (58.04%) of 1st-time visits meaning it drove the most repeat traffic (and if they’re coming back, you know your content is on the mark and your tweets are crafted properly).
  • Twitter had the 2nd lowest bounce rate (Google+ was tops in that category)
  • Twitter had the most pages per session and the highest measurable onsite time (Not a valuable measure in and of itself but notable for comparison purposes)

 

Google Analytics report showing how well Twitter drives website traffic, 2015

 

To be fair, Twitter’s conversion rate for goals I have set was minimal BUT anecdotally, it drove the 2nd most business (behind LinkedIn). The low numbers could be due to the goals I am measuring and/or how Twitter users chose to reach out to me when they decided to purchase. Twitter users may simply have chosen to come back by going directly to my site rather than through Twitter. With direct traffic being the second highest source of website views, the lowest bounce rate and the highest conversion rate at close to 17%, the latter is certainly plausible. 

Direct traffic is a good indication of effective branding.

Unless someone knows your site URL (generally through traditional marketing, networking or social activity), they wouldn’t be going directly to it. In my case I haven’t done any traditional advertising and do (as of now) minimal networking.  The majority of my branding is done via online activity (and I’ll add – none of it paid).

What makes Twitter’s ability to drive traffic even better?  The ease of using it.

 

How Easy Is It To Drive Traffic Using Twitter?

The beauty of Twitter is in how little posting, and therefore time and effort, it takes to drive traffic. You still need good content and to learn how to craft your Tweets to attract attention, but master it (heck, just moderately excel at it) and you’ll be surprised at how well it works.

Over a 90 day period, I post just 514 Tweets from content on this site (the smaller light blue circle).

 

Twitter traffic report: Twitter Card data from May 20 to Aug 19, 2015

 

Those tweets earned 44,617 impressions and 53 link clicks (the smaller circles)! My following at the time?  Roughly 2400-2600; a relatively small number by standards.

 

How Little Work Was Actually Involved?

Think about it.  Only 514 tweets over 90 days. That’s less than 6 per day!  Since my content was already written, all I did was leverage my previous work. My tweets came directly from work I already did.  Posting time? My Tweets were scheduled via Hootsuite‘s bulk scheduler reducing the actual time spent posting to maybe an hour one afternoon per week! (Not sure how to do this?)

Here’s a better graphic showing just how much value I received from only a handful of Tweets.  You can clearly see the number of impressions relative to the number of tweets.

 

Twitter traffic report: Twitter Card data from May 20 to Aug 19.2

 

Disclaimer:

Simply posting a handful of 100 -140 character snippets from your blog posts probably won’t drive the traffic you need but it will get you on the right track.  I’m actually tweeting 15+ times per day.  It’s the additional posting, the sharing content of others and being social, which has helped increase my following and build the great relationships which have contributed to my results.

Yes, it does mean more time posting, but since there is no stress on me to find or post content, I spend more time reading, engaging, being social and having fun.  That makes it easy and enjoyable to find a few minutes at various points during my day to Tweet. It’s actually time I look forward to having.  As an added bonus, it has made finding content almost effortless too! (Things tend to fall into your lap when you’re not really looking.)

The bottom line

Twitter is phenomenal for building relationships, creating visibility for you or your brand and driving traffic to your website.

If you’re not using it, why?

Facebook Is Still A Viable For Lead Generation!

Updated July, 7, 2016:Facebook is a viable social channel for B2B

 

The original article below provides an excellent example of a Facebook post directly responsible for a lead.  To show this is not an isolated example, I caught (through social monitoring) a post I wrote and published for the same client on March 29th of 2016 generate a lead more than 3 months later!

 

What makes this example an even better testament to the value of Facebook:

  1. The link shared was NOT from my client’s website.
  2. The original post was not ‘boosted’ or part of a paid ad.
  3. The original post had very poor initial reach.

Facebook works.

 

Original article:

Yesterday I posted an article to Facebook for a B2B consulting client, Darling Geomatics. Do You Need Proof That Facebook Is Still Viable #PTFISV

It included a quick snippet, a link to an article run by the Sierra Vista Herald written about a particular project they recently completed and a thank you.  The post itself was completely non-promotiona.  No CTA. No “how could this help you?” Just a simple informational post.

After allowing the post to ‘run its course’ for a few hours, it was strategically (and inexpensively) boosted through targeting.  Just 20 hours later it has:

  • 44 likes
  • 2 shares
  • 5 comments
  • An organic reach of 404
  • A paid reach of 2851
  • Has generated 2 new likes

AND…….

  • It resulted in a request for services:

Do You Need Proof That Facebook Is Still Viable? #PTFISV. Facebook is still a viable channel for lead generation.

 

Keep in mind that this is for a local business with only 355 Likes prior to the post!

 

Why did this post work?

That’s hard to assess and on quite honestly know why. I’m not sure I could even duplicate it on purpose. It could simply have
been the right post, the right targeting, and some dumb luck.  The point though – social and specifically Facebook – can and do still generate direct leads and sales when used properly.

Without question Darling Geomatics’ approach to how they use Facebook  creates the foundation for such successes:

  • The strategy for the page (and all of their social profiles) is branding and to be informational and educational around their services, not promotional.
  • The content is quality.  Consistency and regularity may be critical but quality content still trumps both if you have a loyal following.
  • Following: It’s not bought. It’s been earned through what they post and their reputation. Page growth is primarily driven by offline channels.
  • Paid advertising (boosting) is limited and strategic.
  • Tactical engagement (how and when they engage)
  • It was posted based on the optimal time according to their insights and my experience monitoring when they see their best engagement, NOT at a time the ‘experts’ say is optimal.

 

Does Facebook generate leads for you?

Most overlook the platform, though, based on the notion it’s not where the decision maker is active.  There are 2 issues with the thought process.

First – you’re focused solely on the decision maker. Ever wonder who influences the decision maker? It could be a lower level manager, the office manager or even his or her spouse. Back in the day, to get in the door, I ‘sold’ the office manager. I let them sell the person controlling the checkbook. I focused on the influencer.

Second – Facebook, more so than any other platform, is a social destination. It’s where people go to hang out, keep up with friends and family and look for referrals/advice. Small business owners are present on the social media site. They’re employees certainly are.

 

A few final notes

  • Make sure you have a monitoring system in place or having a reputable firm doing it. Once a lead comes in, your timing in how it’s handled can make the difference between getting and losing the sale.  In this case, the comment was initially acknowledged and responded to within 38 minutes.  That allows time for a follow-up later without the client thinking they were ignored.
    .
  • While you should not look to social channels as a sales tool and not every post will perform this well, a good strategy, smart posting tactics (that do not revolve around ‘expert’ generalizations) and monitoring works.

Do You Need Proof That Facebook Is Still Viable #PTFISV #BeTactical

The 2015 Facebook Algorithm Change

Back in April, when Facebook updated its algorithm back in April (2015), rather than simply post what changed, I decided to break down what each change in the latest Facebook algorithm meant for brand pages. I stated at the time that “(f)or some brands, this latest Facebook algorithm change will be a major benefit” for brand pages who post good content, drive interaction and engagement with their fan base and are truly social will see big gains.”

Did your brand benefit from the latest Facebook algorithm change, Tactical Social Media; #BeTactical

My question two months later?  Did your brand actually benefit?  There is more than enough anecdotal evidence in my personal feed alone (backed up by page insights) to make some general conclusions regarding the impact of the latest change.  Brand pages who posted good content drove interaction and engagement with their fan base and were truly social saw big gains from April’s Facebook algorithm change.

I spent a good deal of time recently scrolling through my personal feed tallying posts and looking at the content and ‘publisher’.  Combined with the activity I’ve noticed on close to two dozen pages I manage/admin over the past couple of months, what I am seeing is a clear win for brand pages.

Recap: The three significant Facebook algorithm changes

 

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Posts about friends liking or commenting on a page’s content will be pushed down the news feed.

The Anecdotal Evidence:  Just looking at my personal feed, posts about what my friends like and comment on is all but gone.  I ran through 25 posts (my feed is defaulted to ‘recent stories’) just yesterday afternoon and found only 1.  It was the first time in several weeks I can recall seeing stories about friends liking or even commenting on content from others.  I have seen more shares, however.  I posted previously that the removal of ‘like and comment’ stories could hurt brands (liking your own content, leveraging a few friends or ‘core fans’ to like posts for visibility was a short-term tactic many employed to get visibility) and this has proven to be the case.  The flip side – shared content is now more likely to be seen, even if it’s shared by someone who is constantly posting!

I do want to add for several pages I manage, comments on posts DO have a positive impact on reach.  I tracked a few posts over a 24 hour period, then commented as myself and tagged another individual to comment as well. Within a few hours, post reach tripled.  To avoid the possibility that the posts were already viral, relevant or otherwise ‘Top Stories’ I purposely posted at off times based on page insights and in some cases, content was truly irrelevant to the brand’s audience.  Most of the posts saw an initial reach of single digits or low double digits.

Since post reach is only a measure of how many see a specific piece of content in their feed either Facebook is choosing to show comments and likes at random, is counting views in the ticker as feed views, or quite possibly, Facebook is toying with ‘influencers’ and comments and likes by certain individuals affect what you see in your feed (similar to how your connections and influencers in Google+ affect SERPs).

 

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Facebook will allow multiple content from individual publishers to show in your feed.

The Anecdotal Evidence:  In that same string of 25 posts I found one instance of multiple posts from the same author. This morning, with the next 25 posts I looked at, there were 3 by one author.  Over the past two weeks, I have consistently seen multiple content from individual publishers.

What makes what I’m seeing more impressive?  In many cases, it hasn’t just been multiple content from individual publishers.  It’s been multiple content from brand pages!

 

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Trying to balance the content you see in the right mix.

The Anecdotal Evidence:  This one can be a little harder to quantify as I’m not sure if ‘content mix’ referred to brand vs individual, content type (video, link, image) or a combination.  I can tell you my feed is still more heavily video posts, but I am seeing more links and text only posts than previously.

Interesting note –  I’ve seen overall video views decrease for pages with smaller fan bases since the latest Facebook algorithm change.

With respect to individuals vs brands, I think Facebook has done a better job of showing a mix.  While I can run through my feed at any given time and only see a handful of brand page posts (2 in 25 as I am writing this) I have seen brand posts dominate my feed.  Remember that 25 post reference above? Fifteen of those 25 posts were from brand pages!

I’ve run a few tests purposely posting when I know certain fans are online and without prompting they’ve been liking that content.  Without question brand page posts are much more likely to show in feeds since the April Facebook algorithm update.  What I found most telling – I now see content from my own pages in my feed!

The Insights

Of course, anecdotal evidence only tells part of the story.  I pulled insights for posts on the Tactical Social Media brand page activity for January through April and then again for May through mid-July.

Tactical Social Media's Insights BEFORE the latest Facebook algorithm change in April of 2015; #BeTactical

There is a very noticeable spike in activity at the end of April, and while that level wasn’t sustained in later months, there was a noticeable increase in post engagement after the latest algorithm update.

Tactical Social Media's Insights AFTER the latest Facebook algorithm change in April of 2015; #BeTactical

To be fair, there are still plenty of low points (I do experiment with my own posting tactics) but there was clearly an increase in overall post engagement since algorithm update.  What stood out was the jump in posts seeing more than 10 points of engagement.

With only 149 fans on the page at this point and only a few increases per week, page likes didn’t contribute to the numbers and as I have generally only posted once daily over the past 6 months, the increases aren’t attributable to frequency.

The April 2015 Facebook algorithm change is a ‘win’ for brand page owners.

My Take

While this is not a real study by any means, the April 2015 Facebook algorithm change is a ‘win’ for brand page owners.  It isn’t, however, a return the ‘post it and they’ll see it days’ of the past.  I mentioned purposely posting content at odd times and of irrelevant content to limit reach – well, reach WAS limited.  While the change helps, “Brand pages who post good content, drive interaction and engagement with their fan base and are truly social will see big gains.”

Benefiting from the update still requires:

  • Posting timely, relevant and shareable content (#BeTactical)
  • Driving interaction and engagement, and being engaged (#BeSocial)
  • Posting timely – it’s critical you regularly monitor your insights to find the best times for you to post)
  • Posting consistently

.

The Latest Facebook Algorithm Change, April 2015: Facebook Organic Reach = (Quality Content + Post Timing) x Post Frequency + Engaged Fans; Tactical Social Media: a Tacoma, WA / South Sound Social Media Consulting Agency

Facebook Organic Reach = {(Quality Content + Post Timing) x Post Frequency} + Engaged Fans
Where Quality Content = Content x (Relevant + Timely + Sharable)
Where Engaged Fans = Active Fans / Total Fans

What’s Your Take?

Are you seeing more page stories in your personal feed?  Have you seen any increase in post reach?  Do you think the April 2015 Facebook algorithm change has helped?  If not, could it just be your content or posting strategy/tactics?

Content Monitoring vs Brand Monitoring

A few weeks back I published an article on LinkedIn (updated here last week) asking people to stop monitoring for brand mentions.  Clearly, I don’t want you to stop.  You need to pay attention to what others are saying about you, when they’re saying it and where.  More importantly, you need to be aware that conversations are taking place about you and your brand yet many of them never mention your name.  Brand monitoring is only one aspect of your brand reputation management efforts.  If you aren’t monitoring for content mentions, you’re missing a critical component.

In my LinkedIn post, I pointed out the need for monitoring your content as a tool to catch theft and plagiarism.  I routinely monitor for phrases, keywords and article titles as well as my name, ‘Tactical Social Media’ and my branded hashtag #BeTactical. As a result, I caught an outright case of unauthorized use of my content and was able to take down the blog post and shares on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  Since neither I nor my brand was mentioned in the post, content monitoring was the ONLY way I could have found it.

Content monitoring goes a step further, however than just catching theft.

Why You Should Be Monitoring For Content in Social Media

Content Monitoring – Insights and Opportunities

Insights:  If you’re content monitoring, you gain valuable insights into what content is being shared. Content monitoring, combined with Google Analytics and social sharing metrics, provides a very clear picture of what content is best received, where it’s shared from (I contribute to a number of sites), where it’s being shared to, what’s driving viewers back and what other’s are saying about it.

With content monitoring, I know exactly what content to write on for future articles (though I still like to write as much on what I feel is important), what points to explore further and even if I need to rethink some of my ideas.  Insights gained help me tailor what I write based on the audience of a particular site or social channel.

Opportunities:  As I said earlier, not everyone will mention or tag you or your brand when sharing your articles.  Content monitoring prevents lost opportunities.  The fact that someone is shared your content is important.  They read it and liked what you had to say enough to pass it into their audience.  You want to leverage that fact.  You already have their attention.  You want to keep it. One of the best ways to do that is simply acknowledging them.  That’s hard to do if you don’t know they’ve shared or interacted with it in the first place.

While I would have caught shares of my article this morning even if I wasn’t content monitoring.  (It did hit for my brand as well as the blog title (‘Leveraging Facebook Authorship‘), the only reason for that happening was due to an anomaly.  For this article, I included the brand name as part of the title for SEO purposes.  I normally do not as character length is limited.  What I would have lost missing this?

My article was initially shared twice on Twitter, once by Jose Javier Garde and once by Personal Branding, then reshared 5 more times.   In the end, the first share by Jose Javier Garde was favorited 12 times and ReTweeted 6 times.  That’s great exposure for my content.

#BeTactical: Start content monitoring! Not everyone will mention or tag you when sharing content.

I was able to favorite each of the initial shares and Tweet out a couple of ‘thank yous’.  While not saying ‘thank you’ isn’t necessarily being unsocial or unappreciative – the fact is most don’t – doing so makes you stand out.  Jose knows I appreciated his sharing my content.  That makes him more likely to follow my blog, get on my mailing list, follow my social profiles and share my content in the future.  That’s a huge relationship building opportunity as well as future visibility.

That simple thank you to Jose, however, actually generated some great exposure of its own.  It was favorited 9 times and ReTweeted 4 times!  Content monitoring generated some phenomenal visibility and huge relationship building opportunities.

#BeTactical: Start content monitoring! Not everyone will mention or tag you when sharing content. Without content monitoring, you'll miss valuable opportunities.

The Take-Away

In this case, and in several others I catch daily, while there is a huge upside to knowing my content had been reshared, not knowing wouldn’t have hurt me…at least financially. But what if the content shared was preceded by something negative? What if someone had tweeted a link to my content and stated the ‘author clearly doesn’t get social media’?

While I firmly believe you should respond to all interactions on your content (if they took the time to interact, the least you can do is acknowledge it), not responding to negative posts/reviews leaves your reputation at risk.

If you’re not content monitoring, why not?  

 

Too Focused On Brand Mentions?

We’re so consumed with monitoring for brand mentions we forget it to focus on the bigger picture.

Monitoring your brand for mentions is important.  Your brand reputation depends on it.  You need to know what others are saying about you and you need to know when others are saying it.  It’s not just about catching comments or posts in a timely manner.  It’s more than just being available for customer service.

One major area often overlooked – monitoring for unauthorized uses of your images and content.

Are You Content Monitoring?

I monitor for brand mentions and content in a number of ways so, when an article I wrote for Social Media Today on the April 2015 Facebook algorithm change went viral a few months back, I caught an outright case of theft very quickly.  Someone had plagiarized my article in its entirety and posted it to their blog giving credit to the site’s owner for writing it!

Of course their website wasn’t the only place it appeared.  I found links on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.  It was actually Google+ where I first found it and traced it back to the source.

It took me heading to social media to get the ‘author’ and business to remove links (on Twitter and Google+) to it.  A few posts and discussions resulted in a quick removal of the posts and the original on the web.  I’ve seen several issues like this get messy, but I’d been through this before, knew how to handle it publicly (those posts and discussions of mine were carefully worded) and I had some additional leverage if needed.

Facebook was a different story.  For all of the grief Facebook receives from business owners, one area they win big – protecting copyrights and trademarks.  Simply head to their IP Help Center.  The quick link to their reporting form – file a copyright or trademark violation on Facebook.

How well does Facebook handle copyright and trademark infringement issues? I filled out the form and within an hour had the automated email response below.

For all of the grief Facebook receives from business owners, one area they win big - protecting copyrights and trademarks. Simply head to their IP Help Center. The quick to their reporting form - file a copyright or trademark violation on Facebook. Brand reputation management; Content monitoring & brand mentions @RNissenbaum, Tactical Social Media

It took less than 24 hours to remove the content.  Kudos to Facebook.  I mentioned I’d been through this before so I’ll add I was previously able to remove entire pages and groups for trademark violations.

Facebook copyright and trademarket infringement report follow up letting us know within 24 hours the content was removed! Brand reputation management; Content monitoring & brand mentions @RNissenbaum, Tactical Social Media

No, I don’t want you to stop monitoring for brand mentions.  I want you to start content monitoring as well.

If you’ve had your own experiences, I’d love to hear them.

Rethinking My Own Instagram Strategy

While being on every social media platform isn’t right for every business (I’ll leave that discussion for later), for us that isn’t necessarily an option.  If we’re going to advise a client on how to leverage a platform, I’d better be active, engaged and building a following.  That can be easier said than done.  Instagram, of all of the big platforms, has been our Achilles heel.

 

The Challenge

With original content being a critical part of Instagram, that adds to the challenge for many.  That was part of our own struggle – until I decided to approach things from a new angle.

While you can post to Instagram at any time, it was designed to be, well, instant.  Snap a picture, add a catchy phrase and a dozen or so hashtags (it seems that 11 is the magic number).  While the latter 2 are no problem, I’m not and have never been big on taking photos.  I’d rather be experiencing than stopping to document.

Yes, that means nothing to pull out and look back on later, but even with hundreds of old photos, it’s rare that I ever look at them (unless it’s to use for a post).  The memories are in my head.  It’s the experiences I value most and how I perceived them, not the photo.

I realize I’m not in the norm here but I suspect there are others like me.  All of this, of course, leads to an issue.  If I’m not taking images, how do I leverage Instagram?  Then add in the complication that, with Instagram being a visual channel like Pinterest, how do I leverage that for a business that has little visual impact?

I could upload images from my blog posts (and might very well in the future – Instagram has the ability, like any other social site to drive traffic) but that’s only one image type.  A good content strategy requires more than just one content source.  Let’s face it.  No one would follow Tactical Social Media (and those who did certainly wouldn’t engage) if that was all I posted.  Hence the need for a more tactical plan for my Instagram strategy.

I needed something that would provide me an incentive to stop and take pictures (I’m already doing that more in taking daily photos of my daughter – for her benefit later more than mine) and an idea of WHAT to photograph.

We all fall into the trap of posting all business all of the time.  Even if your content isn’t promotional, you’re likely posting too much advice, too much news and too little about YOU.

I’m often asked by clients, “How do I connect with people?  How do I get my personality to come through in my content? That’s simple.  Be personal.  (If you’re not sure how to accomplish this for your business or you need a plan for how to be social – yes, it seems to be an issue for some.)

My New Instagram Strategy

Unlike the rest of the Tactical Social Media social channels, which are geared to driving traffic and being informative with our social side filtered in, the Instagram page will predominantly be focused on the personal side.  I want to get back to what social media was originally about – being social.

Rather than focus on ‘business’ images, I plan to focus on who we are from family to travel, from our personal interests, likes, and desires to our community.  I’ll continue the #signs and #marketing posts but I will predominately be posting more personal content, (#OurSocialSide, #BeSocial) first and  business second.  I want to use it to get to better know our followers and for them to better know me/us. I’m excited and hope you’ll follow my new and improved Instagram channel.

What’s your Instagram strategy?  

Is it working for you?

Social Media & Employment Equality

This is a re-publication. This article was published to Social Media Today by Robert Nissenbaum, having originally appeared on his personal blog in December 2014

I normally write from the perspective of teaching how business owners need to think about leveraging social media to drive branding, sales and ultimately revenue. I want to switch that up a little and tackle another aspect of social media usage: how businesses use, or maybe shouldn’t use social media with respect to their employees and potential employees.

Social Media, workforce equality, employment screening. Image source: http://www.agent-x.com.au/comic/your-true-profile/

 

Social Media’s Role in the Employment Process

It’s been fairly common, and there have been a number of articles recently on employees being fired or suspended (including this one from Norton Healthcare) due to social media posting, but I am particularly thinking about social media as it applies to employment practices. What prompted the thought was a LinkedIn article I read on Title IX by Bill Wagner after hearing from a friend looking for work.

Title IX is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972 and most commonly referenced with regard to its role in providing equal opportunities for women athletes in high schools and colleges. It was originally written to prevent gender discrimination in and educational programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. While gender couldn’t be used to discriminate in hiring practices, Bill mentioned in his article “It is generally accepted that a college education leads to a better paying career and more consistent employment.” The thought being that without the education (The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not cover gender discrimination with respect to education) women simply would be less qualified and therefore not hired on that basis, not their gender. Title IX, whether you agree or not that it has been successful or even positive, has been a critical cog, just as Affirmative Action has been, in driving workforce equality.

So how does this apply to social media? Social media and modern technology have the ability to undermine the workforce equality created by Title IX, Affirmative Action and similar laws. Prior to the rise of social networking sites employers had limited access to your personal information. Employers are restricted from asking a number of questions on an application or an interview. At least in the initial decision-making process, the most they could gather would be gender (unless you had an androgynous name) and possible age based on school graduation dates. The initial selection process came down to your experience and credentials.

The interview phase would reveal more but the risk for a discrimination suit becomes more likely depending on the number of candidates in the interview pool. By then the right skill set might override a personal mindset anyway. If you fall in love with an idea and then find a few flaws, you’re likely to overlook those flaws. See the flaws first and the idea dies immediately.

Social media and technology now provide employers the ability to see the flaws first. It should be common knowledge that what we post and how we respond affects our reputation. Many employers will admit to screening online profiles as part of an application process (and even after you’ve been hired). What they’re typically looking for is activity that would impact their reputation or yours (assuming you weren’t truthful on that resume). Most do a good job of keeping private details private – there have been plenty of lessons posted on what happens when you don’t.

While checking out your Facebook profile may not seem discriminatory in the employment process, what you have posted, especially with respect to Instagram, now the second place major social network where all images are public by default, can be used to discriminate. These posts and images reveal far more than just our gender. They can help better pinpoint our age (especially for those of us getting older), our ethnicity, our sexual preferences, whether we have a family or are starting one, our religion, our financial status….all small pieces that can enter into a first impression and a hiring decision even before seeing our qualifications.

I’ll add another thought to ponder. Video is a great way to stand out in a crowd of applicants. I have known individuals who submitted resumes online with links to a video on why they should be hired as well as YouTube videos tagging prospective employers. I think this is a great use of technology and social networking BUT….what if the employer requests, or in the case of a recent job announcement I saw, strongly recommend a video be sent to secure that interview?

While I fully believe the employer’s motive was to find the best person (public presentation was part of the job description and what better tool to weed out those that couldn’t present than a video) the underlying thought – a video reveals even more than the photograph. Now your dialect and several other factors are presented.  That makes video applications more open to affect hiring decisions on a basis other than qualifications.

Does social media affect employment decisions and workforce equality?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But it’s worth a discussion.  What’s your take?

Thanks again to Bill Wagner for the inspiration and collaboration.