Four Social Media Misconceptions

As social media madness continues to progress, the phenomenon has acquired a bit of a reputation and like most presumed reputations, not all the assumptions are exactly accurate. Read on to ensure you don’t fall victim to some of the most common social media fallacies.

1 – It is not free. Yes, the download and signup is free, but that’s where the gravy train ends. In order to use social media properly and for the best return on any investment you may make, you need to devote something integral into it – time. And as we all know, time equals money. Businesses which think they can just sign up, post a cookie-cutter post once per day and expect miracles to happen are bound to be faced with a social media-tinged reality check when they realize their number of likes and followers are consistently staying in the single digits. Each social media platform has best practices associated with it, and it is important to familiarize yourself with them before embarking on your social media mission. Posting spam to Facebook, not interacting with other users consistently on Twitter and posting low-quality photos on Instagram, simply due to a shortage on time, are all social media faux pas that business should tenaciously steer clear of. 

2 – It is not just a marketing and advertising tool. Social media is a method of communication, a tool which enables us to connect with humans from all walks of life, humans whom business giants would have previously not been able to reach directly on such a large, yet still intimate scale. Human connection is a breeding ground for loyalty—the holy grail of branding. Human beings want to be acknowledged, validated and seen. Social media is a bridge between your business and its customers, and it’s not a second or third degree connection – it’s a direct overpass. GoPro, a wildly successful manufacturer of action cameras, is an example of using social media to build connections with its customers, and thus, brand loyalty. By using the photo-sharing app Instagram, GoPro shares daily pictures with its 9.7 million followers, submitted to it by consumers who have taken their photo with the GoPro camera. This user-generated content is completely free for GoPro, allows it to recognize and celebrate individual customers, while still promoting its business and product in an authentic manner.

3 – Contrary to popular belief, your business should not utilize any and all social media platforms available. There are currently dozens of social media apps offered to businesses, but social media is another case of quality versus quantity. When writing the social media strategy for your business, decide which apps are the most in line with what products or services you are offering. For example, a landscaping company may decide to target Instagram and Houzz (an online community which shares architecture, interior design and decorating, landscape design and home improvement) as these apps will allow the company to share photos of their work. Twitter, which is based on short, 140 character messages, is likely not a medium the landscaping company should focus it’s time, efforts, and money on, and instead stick to apps which are comprised of more visual content.

4 – You’ve mastered Twitter, Facebook is your friend, and you even have Instagram running smoothly—shouldn’t you be good to go? Unfortunately, you will likely never be completely free to rest on your laurels. Social media is constantly evolving and spawning new, unique platforms, primed for businesses to realize their potential power. Currently, the mobile app Snapchat is cited as being the fastest growing social media platform, with over 100 million active users, and increasing at a rate of 8 per cent, while other platforms have remained stagnant, such as Twitter, which has not grown in number of users since 2014, according to a survey from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. If you, like many, are lost on how to effectively use the app, which allows users to share photos and videos which can either “self-destruct” after ten seconds or be pinned to their “story”, which disappears after 24 hours, simply look to Snapchat masters such as Kylie Jenner and her makeup line Kylie Cosmetics. Jenner has used Snapchat to exclusively share pictures and videos of new products, announce when she will be releasing her consistently sold out lip kits, and also communicate with her customer base, asking them what they would like to see change and new products they would be interested in. The Kylie Cosmetic lip-kits, which have continued to sell out in under ten minutes week after week, have been posted on EBay for over 250 dollars (compared to their selling price of 29 dollars), with consumers capitalizing on a company that is so successful, it can’t keep up with demand. While Snapchat can’t be attributed as the only reason for the company’s smashing success, the constant sharing by Jenner to her 30 million Snapchat followers likely doesn’t hurt numbers. Keeping up to date on the social media trends and emerging technologies will allow your business to get an edge on the new platforms and with that, create a link to the growing audience of millennials.

The bottom line is that social media has taken on this fluffy reputation, a reputation which precedes it as being easy to manage and needing little time or effort in order to maintain. Of course, you could treat your business’s social channels with those kind of kid-gloves, or you could recognize that these platforms are a direct link to your customer that should be strategically handled with the utmost professionalism and care.

Customer Service and Social Media

Customer service has long been a pillar for all businesses, big and small. It was usually a one-on-one interaction that in large part was private. In recent years there has been a shift in how the customer interacts with a brand. They share their experience online. Today, people not only experience a brand – they communicate with it, and one of the easiest ways for this dialogue is through social media.

Gone are the days where an advertiser could push out a message and it be the only voice of their brand. Today one must embrace the conversation between you and your customers. Those who choose not to participate have opted out of a very powerful and influential aspect of their branding.

 

6 Ways to Join the Conversation the Right Way:

  • Be Visual
    If pictures are worth a thousand words, an image is a great way to get around that pesky character limit. Images within your posts are read far more often than those with plain text.
  • Be Topical and Responsive to Trending Topics
    When something big is trending – be on top of it. If you can bend a light-hearted newsworthy story to your brand without losing authenticity, it’s worth a post. Sharing usually reaches far more people than you alone could ever do by yourself.
  • Problems Are Public, Not Private
    People don’t recall the details of a problem as much as how it was resolved. There are always people that will never be pleased, no matter what you do. If the customer is being unreasonable, they will be judged by their peers accordingly. For the rest, find a way to impress and resolve. It may be the best advertising you do for your brand all year.
  • Don’t Block Them – Answer Them
    If Social Media is a conversation then deleting a post is like slamming a door in someone’s face. Unless they are being extremely abusive, keep the dialogue going until a resolution is reached.
  • Target Taste-Makers
    Taste-makers are people with large followings that can help your message get to the right people faster. Find taste-makers that share your target. Make it fun, unique and most importantly, “re-tweetable.”
  • Do Not Broadcast
    Twitter is not a medium to broadcast a promotion or investor announcements. Encourage engagement. Find ways to spark conversation with them that they’ll be interested in having.

 

Examples of Brands Doing Social Media Right

Taco Bell
Taco Bell was an early adopter of this approach and has seen significant uptake with people between the ages 18-34. Their voice online is in line with how people of their demographic speak. Using witty responses to their followers’ questions they get numerous re-tweets on a daily basis. They reach out to taste-makers around the world in unique ways that include custom Halloween costumes that play off the celebrity’s own story, or home-made jewelry with hand-written notes for the taste-maker to post on their own feed. Two thirds of their feed is done with imagery. This prompts even more engagement. Most importantly, they don’t pretend to be something they’re not. With posts like, “When all else fails, there’s always Taco Bell,” they know their brand isn’t the end-all be-all in the lives of their target. They recognize it and people respond to their brutal honesty.

Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines’ industry is permeated with safety and corporate talk. But on Social Media, they have found a special balance of responding openly to customer issues as well as posting messages that inform as well as entertain. An image that was reported in an article by TIME shows the backside of one of their jets with the caption, “Baby got back! We like big jets and we cannot lie, this 737 is ready to fly.” Some brands have more latitude than others, and Delta has obvious limitations regarding safety concerns, but even they can find room to make it interesting.

 

These are just a few brands that truly interact with their target. They have shown time and time again that Social Media is a valuable tool to build brand loyalty and to keep your business top-of-mind. Embracing the openness of communication with your customers while remaining authentic, engaging and informative is crucial to being part of the conversation. Following these tips will help you on your way to opening an engaging dialogue with your customers that builds brand loyalty and improves your bottom line.

How and Why Should a Business Use Social Media?

We all know that a large and growing number of businesses are using social media as part of their marketing. But for those of you that aren’t yet on board,
what are the benefits of investing in social media? There are multiple reasons:

  1. Social media helps you deliver better customer service. Social media permits customers to have pre-sales or support related questions
    that can be quickly addressed. This real time communication helps to make customers happy which in turn creates loyalty and positive word of mouth.
  2. Social media lets your business build its brand and differentiate it from competitors. Through social media you can effectively
    generate more awareness about your business and establish its unique personality – giving it a human voice that people will relate to.
  3. It helps you to manage your business’ reputation. Social media give you the opportunity to deal swiftly and sensitively with any
    customers’ comments or complaints. This instant feedback demonstrates high levels of customer service and diminishes any negativity. Negative sentiment can
    often be turned into a positive through the demonstration of strong customer service and problem resolution.
  4. Social media allows you to obtain real customer insights. You can quickly and easily obtain feedback from customers, which will give
    you a clearer sense of how your business is doing and identify challenges that can then be addressed.
  5. Social media will drive website traffic. Being active on social media will help you increase the amount of traffic your website
    receives. Not only do successful social media activities increase click-throughs to your site, it also improves search engine rankings.

So we understand why businesses should be using social media, but the next question is which social media platforms should I be using? And what should I be
posting on each?

It’s often suggested that businesses should be active on all forms of social media. This may be true, but unless your company has a dedicated social media
coordinator, finding the time to maintain every platform out there can be extremely time consuming.

For businesses, William Joseph recommends being active in the following:

  1. Twitter. Small to large businesses should operate a Twitter account. This is used to start, join and lead conversations and interact
    directly with customers. Postings should be made several times each day. Relevance, personality and brevity are key here to making your voice heard.
  2. LinkedIn. Businesses (especially B2B service providers) are strongly advised to possess a LinkedIn account. This platform is excellent
    for sharing job postings, company descriptions and research findings. Postings are advised to be made approximately two to four times per week. For
    businesses seeking clients, they are advised to grow their LinkedIn networks by adding as many real connections as possible. Use your second and third
    degree connections to request personal introductions for real opportunities.
  3. Facebook. Facebook is a solid platform for brand building, recruitment or client acquisition. Businesses should consider using
    advertising or paying to promote their page on Facebook, but they are advised not to make the page itself look like an advertisement. A business’ Facebook
    page should inspire conversations and share information on events, accomplishments, observations, employee profiles and the like. It is always advised that
    questions are asked to followers to spur interaction. Of all social networks, Facebook is best equipped to share responses to a post asking a question or
    sparking conversation. Posts should be made once or twice per day. There is no shortage of options for analyzing Facebook data.
  4. Google+. For businesses that already have a presence on other major social media platforms, Google+ is a recommended next step. This is
    a more formal and professional venue than Facebook where hashtags have major search value. Operating a page on Google+ has the large benefit of
    significantly increasing the business’ search engine optimization. It’s recommended that posts link often to content on the business’ website to direct
    this search boost where you want it most. Post frequency is advised to be once or twice per day.
  5. YouTube. For companies that have video content and/or wish to give an explanation or share expertise, YouTube is a great fit. Videos
    should be only 2 minutes or less and posts should be made about once per week. YouTube is owned by Google and, as such, YouTube videos feature prominently
    in Google search results. Keep this in mind when naming and describing videos and direct people looking for insight or explanations within your industry
    topics to your brand’s page.

The Visualization of Social Media

One of the things that I love about social media is the constant evolution of social media applications to please the end user. The latest direction the evolution is heading toward is a highly visual experience. The rise in popularity of applications such as Pinterest and Instagram has led to the creation of new highly visual social media platforms such as Pheed. Pheed is a new platform for web and mobile devices where people can share all forms of digital content including photos, videos, audio, and text. Popular social networking services are keeping up with the trend by changing their applications to have a much more visual presentation. Twitter has introduced a new app called Vine that allows users to create and post short video clips to be posted on their Twitter feed.  Facebook has once again completely changed their newsfeed in order to be cleaner and focus more on visuals compared to previous newsfeeds. MySpace is even back with a brand new look that uses a lot of imagery and animation.

From a business perspective this change in social media means businesses need to put much more emphasis on the visuals they use. The visually-focused social media crowd will become more engaged with your company the more visually appealing your advertising is. Nike is a company who has already caught on to the trend of visualization – head over to Nike’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, and you will scroll through pages of beautiful imagery and video clips with Nike branding. They have embraced visualization so much they have even created a website where users can upload their Instagram photos and Nike will design a shoe to match elements from the photo. From a creative perspective this is a very exciting time, now more than ever people are showing their appreciation for captivating visuals so creative and artistic people now have a larger audience than ever before.

Facebook News Feed
New Facebook News Feed
Instagram
Instagram
myspace
myspace
pheed
pheed

 

Pinterest
Pinterest

What Happens In Vegas… Stays On The Internet

I think it’s safe to say we are facing a generation of media-savvy over-sharers. Just walk into any Starbucks and look towards the gaggle of giggles as they each share their Instagramed photos of their newest coffee creations. As they pin, post, #tagg and tumble every instance of their lives I can’t help but cringe and think, is this too much information?

I think about these girls entering the professional world in a few years, a world where company leaders are either completely naïve to the online world, or, completely involved (or both, just tweet @Pontifex!) When hiring employees, their online presence is reviewed almost as thoroughly as their references are. And we have all heard the horror stories of those fired for posting something online; a derogatory comment, an inappropriate photo, or even mismanaging their own company’s online community engagement. It’s become so prevalent that there are even blogs dedicated specifically to these people.

As companies sort out their own social media policy and privacy concerns for their employees, I still think about those on the other end looking for employment and navigating this new world. Is this too much information?

Clearly it is, and people are thinking ahead.

We’ve been reminded time (#AnthonyWeiner) and time (#BrettFavre) and time (#PrinceHarry) and time (#ScarlettJohansson) again about the perils of incriminating images surfacing online and how it can seriously harm your career. Since clearly this trend is not going away… what about protecting ourselves before this happens? Well, Snapchat has solved that. Bred out of a clear need, Snapchat allows you to send photos while you’re texting, but the photo disappears after a timer runs out and if someone takes a screenshot, the sender is notified right away. I’m sure Anthony Weiner (or at least his career) would have benefited from an app like this.

But I still think back to the gaggle of girls, and wonder what’s going to happen when they enter the professional world? Making a second, more “professional” social media account is an option. However, I see this option slowly disappearing. Firstly, it’s not hard to look up either accounts, or using a people search (like peekyou.com) finding all your social media profiles at once. Secondly, social media is taking means to avoid these fake accounts. Facebook alone is reporting that 83 million accounts are faked . They have even changed some of their security settings to limit these fake accounts. Lastly, who wants to manage that many personal social media accounts?! Another option is to go through your current social media and “clean it up”. I myself have well over 10 social media accounts, and on Facebook alone I have been an active member for about 8 years! Who has the time to scroll through and change all those privacy settings? What will the gaggle do with their 10 million posts of duck face mirror pictures?
SimpleWash is an app that acts with a Facebook “Social Scrubber” app, and flags inappropriate content. It has a pre-compiled list of words that have been identified as socially offensive, or you can also add your own undesirable words. All your posts, likes, photos, comments, shares etc. are reviewed and a list is populated of the content to review, and is easily accessible to delete or change the privacy settings.

I suppose as we navigate this new and ever expanding online world, it’s best to remind ourselves, and teach the next generation, that “What happens in Vegas… stays on the internet”.

Social Media Explained.

It is clearly an understatement to say that social media is a hot topic. Social Media has been scrutinized, debated, misunderstood, used for good… and evil. It has been used by large multi-national companies to small one-person shops. And you know it has hit the mass social conscience when your parents and grandparents are using it.

Until recently, I assumed that the majority of people understood the differences between the various social media services. It is one thing to know about what services are out there, it is another altogether to know how to use them effectively.

A little while back my father, who is in the process of retiring, asked me about social media for his new consulting business. Like most people, he is on the usual suspects like Facebook and LinkedIn already, but was interested in knowing if there was anything else he could use to promote his business and tell his brand story.

I began to explain to Dad that there were a lot of social media services out there and that each one has a specific use depending on his desired response. However with each subsequent sentence I noticed an increasingly blank and confused look on my Dad’s face. Here I thought that I was giving advice and knowledge worthy of a TED Talk and I had lost Dad no more that 3 sentences in.

It was at that moment that I realized all the knowledge and experience I have makes no difference if I can’t explain social media in its simplest form to people who are not familiar with it. I was far too caught up in all the granular details, when all Dad wanted (or needed, to be more accurate) was a simple and understandable explanation.

The funny thing is… as well as I understand social media I struggled for a way to break it down to something understandable for him. It was at that point I told him that I will get back to him and went on a research mission searching for a way to describe and explain social media quickly and effectively. An elevator speech of social media if you will.

I came across a wonderful post on geek.com called “Social Media Explained with Donuts.” This was the clearest break-down of social media services and the differences between them that I could find. It goes something like this:

  • Twitter – I am eating donuts
  • Facebook – I like donuts
  • Foursquare – This is where I am eating donuts
  • Instagram – Here is a vintage photo of my donuts
  • YouTube – Watch me eating my donuts
  • LinkedIn – My skills include eating donuts
  • Pinterest – Here is a donut recipe
  • LastFM – I am now listening to donuts
  • Tumblr – Here is a story about  donuts
  • Ask.com – Can I get pregnant eating a donut?

The examples above are just a few of the more popular social media services out there but this is a great example of how to explain social media effectively and quickly. Needless to say this was a far more superior way of describing social media to my Dad.

This is now how I begin all conversations with people, including clients who are in the beginning stages of using social media.

Thank you Dad for another valuable lesson learned!

10 Rules I live by in creating a following on YouTube or any social media

The rules below are from my own experience and although the lens I look through is limited, I believe many can benefit by adapting these to fit their own purpose.

A few years ago, I finally got the nerve to buy my first motorcycle. I had ridden dirt bikes as a kid but the fire breathing monster I bought bore little resemblance to anything of my childhood. After a year of riding, I found myself increasingly frustrated when trying to describe what it felt like to “split the mustard n’ mayo” with my bike. So I decided to buy a few cameras and try my hand at shooting my own motorcycle videos.

Admittedly, at the beginning I had no idea what I was doing. Being a film nerd and making a film were entirely different endeavors. But I persevered through the learning curve. I wanted to share my feelings about riding. The best place to do so was YouTube. Facebook might be the buzz word of the day, but here, the sheer volume of content would be both a challenge and an advantage for me. I was utterly amazed to discover that YouTube users as a whole, upload 35 hours of video every minute of every day! If I were to find a captive audience, I would find it there. Considering the unimaginable amount of footage I would be competing against could easily drown me out – I would have to learn from the mistakes of others who had gone before me. The biggest mistake I saw was what happens when people were seen as inauthentic. I decided to make a list of rules I would live by when navigating the fickle waters of social media. So far, they have served me very well, and have garnered me a very loyal following.

1. Create by my own compass.
I wanted to make content for myself and no one else. I saw how the motivation to spend countless hours in front of a computer faded once one started feeling like they were fulfilling other people’s requests rather than their own. No matter much I appreciate each and every subscription, its about the work – not the subs.

2. Answer every comment and thank every subscription.
Being seen as responsive and active in the community is crucial. People are immensely appreciative when you do simple things like answer their questions and thank them for subbing. Also, it has the added benefit of creating free advertising for yourself when other people see your comment on that person’s page.

3. Watch, comment, and subscribe to others in the community.
It can get difficult to constantly keep up to date with other producers of similar content, but it creates authenticity for your online persona and secures you a place as a leader in the group. With so many people creating content, I made the choice to subscribe to only those I thought had truly stellar work. This way my list was kept to something manageable. Also, when I added someone new, they knew I was sincere.

4. Avoid showing any personal information.
Luckily, the particular YouTube community I joined was perfectly comfortable with online personas. So it did not affect my authenticity. Primarily I wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons. The last thing I wanted was to have someone showing up at my house in the middle of the night. I hide my license plate as well in my videos for this reason.

5. Treat every single person the same way you’d treat them in real life – even trolls.
Feeling anonymous can be a double-edged sword. People sometimes forget they are addressing real people, therefore it can be easy to be rude or harsher than you would be in person. It’s also difficult to anticipate people’s reactions to your work, let alone your comments. So to be safe, I try to imagine my grandmother watching and/or reading everything I produce and/or write. If she would be offended, I try another tactic. It’s important to note, she wouldn’t have to be interested in the subject, just not offended by how it was approached.

6. Treat my YouTube persona like a brand.
Just like a company or product, I tried to give myself, my channel, and my videos a look and feel that was consistent, but not repetitive. This was especially challenging for me in the beginning since I was still learning how to create content and my goals didn’t always match my abilities. Just by going back to the first couple of flicks, it’s easy to see how my brand evolved along with my skills.

7. Put my faith in the word of mouth.
Being that most of my job is about pushing out a message to others, I wanted to allow for the organic process of social media to take root and grow without my interference. I continue to do this today by letting each video I create stand on it’s own merit. If it fails to connect with the audience, the number of views will show it. One should note, that doing it this way means you need patience, but it is absolutely worth it in the end.

8. Constantly push myself to build on what I have learned.
As much as this was a way to share my passions, it was also an exercise in learning a new skill that I hoped one day I could capitalize on with my work in the Design industry. The more I learned here, the better off I would be down the road.

9. Have fun and not try to take myself too seriously.
This one seems to be obvious, but surprisingly, many people forget about it. Keeping it fun means I would keep doing it.

10. Never censor my detractors.
Part of being authentic is letting people hate you. You can’t please everyone and it is useless to ever try. Whether you are a company or a just a one-man-army like myself, it is notoriously tempting to keep the good stuff and erase the bad to keep your image pure and sparkling. But it’s so important to keep the whole mess. When people made disparaging remarks about my work, I thanked them for their input, defended my choices if applicable, and kept their comment as part of the public record of that video. My hopes are that when other people read them and my responses, they appreciate my confidence in allowing both sides of the conversation. Unlike push media, social media at it’s root, is a conversation. Limiting it in any way is defeating its purpose. Don’t forget, trolls need love too.

“Is your father a thief?…” My awkward attempt at a social media pick-up

Those who knew me in my younger days would definitely not have pegged me as a “smooth talker” in the pickup department.  Now, let’s be clear, I have never used a line like “Is your father a thief? No, then who stole the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes?” but it might have been better than the strategy I actually employed of…well…just saying nothing. However, as I’ve aged, I have improved and now genuinely consider myself to be a good conversationalist. I base this on the fact that my mom tells me I am and I once got invited to a dinner party.

But social media has thrown me completely back to my much younger, much more awkward days.

William Joseph has an ongoing calendar campaign where each month we celebrate an oddball holiday.  It is a chance for our designers and web-geeks to work on cool projects to build and show off their own skills.  For each of these months, we aim to use social media to engage the relevant community to simply share our creations with them.  This is not a sales project.  We are asking for nothing in return.  We genuinely want to find the people who are passionate about that funny day and see if they will enjoy what we have created.

Well it is my job to track down and contact these groups.  Seems simple.

Step one: search twitter and facebook to find the people and groups dedicated to the cause. Check.

Step two: make contact.  Uh…but…um…I don’t know them…how do I say hello?

So, bravely and stupidly, I just jumped in.  What a disaster.  I was awkward, cheesy, and frankly a little creepy.

For example, here’s what I posted on a facebook wall.

Hey Left Handers… Left handers day is coming up. We are developing some fun stuff that celebrates you lefties and your special day. Send me a post if you would be interested in sharing with your community.

Response? None, and reasonably so.  I wouldn’t have replied.  “Who the h@ll are you and what do you want” is the only reasonable response.

And Twitter…

Hey@LefthandrsUNITE@lefthanders@ LefthandersIntl your day’s Aug13. Check out other days at williamjoseph.com how can we help you celebrate?

Uh, you can help me celebrate by leaving me the h@ll alone, you creepy social media stalker.

Clearly, this was not the right approach.  Even though I knew it at the time it was confirmed by the engagement we got from it.  Retweets: 0. Facebook posts:0

All of a sudden I was thrown back to those terrible days of rejection.   Some people think the anonymity of the virtual environment makes engaging with others less scary.  I, however, think it’s way worse. can’t virtually blush, say something clever and slink away.  No, there is just dead internet silence.

So, what should I have done?  How do you make initial contact with someone in this new environment?  If you can help me improve my social media “pick up” skills please do!

What is the right way to contact someone you don’t know on social media?  Is it different for facebook and twitter?  Help a lonely little social media wallflower.