Tagged tips

The January Social Checklist – 9 simple things you need to do NOW for 2012

by Jonathan Barrick

2011 was a tremendous year in the world of social communications. We saw the emergence of several new big players in social networks like Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. We also saw massive increases in the use of social by businesses, and a dramatic shift in the way we all interact online.

2012 is undoubtedly poised to continue down this path, and now is the perfect time to make a few simple but powerful tweaks to your online social presence. Here’s a handful of tips that can help you get off to a strong start in 2012!

1 – Consistent profiles

Make sure all of your personal profiles across all the social sites you use are consistent. It should be easy for your Twitter followers to identify you on LinkedIn at a glance, and across all other networks that you participate in. In addition, doing this will also tighten up how you present your personal brand.

2 – Reserve your usernames

You don’t need to use every new social site that starts up, but you never know which ones are going to be huge, so get in early on every site you hear about and register your account. This way you make sure to reserve the same username across all the networks out there, just in case. Again, the key is consistency.

3 – Get the apps

If you don’t have all the apps for all the networks you use, get them now. Easy access to your networks and real-time monitoring are crucial to making sure that you’re not missing anything.

4 – Set up your alerts

Google Alerts, TweetAlarm, and other notification services are extremely valuable to keep you in the know when the conversations turn to you or your company. And don’t forget that you can also use them for any topic that you’re interested in or passionate about. It doesn’t have to be all work all the time.

5 – Link to everywhere from everywhere

You should be able to get to any of your networks easily from your profiles. Some make this easier than others, but at the very least you should make sure that your main ‘hub’ of activity is linked to all your profiles, and all your profiles link to your main hub.

6 – Make a list of ‘Superstars’

We all have a group of individuals that we consider to be the best of the best. If you haven’t already done this, create a special list dedicated solely for those people on your favourite networks so that you can easily browse through the latest stuff posted and shared by your ‘superstars’.

7 – Register for key events

Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up for those events that you really want to attend. Register now, and make the commitment. The last thing you want is to miss out on an event that could be a great opportunity to learn and network with other awesome people.

8 – Plan out your essential reading

Check your ‘Superstars’ list for any upcoming books they may be authoring, or anything they may recommend that suits you, and make sure you add them to your reading list for the year. This also counts for blogs that you may stumble across as well. Make sure to keep your list up-to-date as you go!

9 – Choose your key metrics

Identify a handful of metrics that you will track throughout the year that will give you ACTIONABLE information you can use to improve. Everything you do has an impact, but being able to identify WHAT that impact was, and what it means for your brand or business is the key to making positive changes and adjustments as you go.

There you have it! A few simple tips that anyone can use. Hopefully you found at least one or two things here that can help you in 2012, and beyond!

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

4 Simple Steps for Starting A Social Media Presence

by Jonathan Barrick

You have the key, and there’s gas in the tank. You just need to start it up.

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YES – there are still businesses that haven’t yet made a move in to the world of social communications. It may be hard to believe, given the sheer volume of discussion about social media happening everywhere, but it’s true. For every socially-savvy business out there rocking the world of Twitter and being fascinating on Facebook, there are dozens more who are struggling to figure out what they should be doing, and where they should be doing it. There is a large portion of business owners who KNOW they need to be participating, and yet take one look at the vast array of social media tools available to them and think “Where do I possibly begin?!?”

It is for those people that it’s so crucial to provide simple, effective approaches to getting started in these communication channels so that they get off on the right path from the beginning.

Step 1 – Search for discussions

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Social Media is all about generating conversation and interaction between your business and its communities. Rest assured, that no matter what product or service you may provide, someone somewhere is talking about you. You just need to search for them. Use search tools like SocialMention as a compass to point you in the right direction, and to get an idea about where the action is occurring. This tool will tell you on what sites the conversations are happening, and also an overview on whether they are typically happy, angry, or neutral about the topics of discussion. Once you’ve found where people are talking, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2 – Read the content

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Now that you’ve found where the conversations are happening, whether it be on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, or somewhere else, the time has come to listen intently to every word. Before you can start posting your thoughts, it’s crucial to understand how these communities are talking to each other, and about you. Jumping right in with a ‘BIG SALE THIS WEEK!!’ message might be the worst possible thing you could do. You want to COMPLEMENT the conversations and CONTRIBUTE to them, not shout over them with slogans and your daily specials.

3 – Determine what value you bring

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As mentioned in Step 2, in order to be well received by the community, you need to complement the discussions taking place, and contribute to them. How you do this depends entirely on what value you bring to these conversations. Most people follow brands and companies for one (or a combination) of three reasons:

Entertainment – Videos, photos, blog posts, links that amuse or impress, etc.
Education – Helpful tips, tricks, advice, troubleshooting, etc.
Exclusives – Deals, specials, or giveaways not available anywhere else.

If you can’t provide any of those, you’re not looking hard enough. The simplest way for most new businesses to contribute to the conversation without having to give discounts, or pretend to have a sense of humor (especially if your business doesn’t) is to be a helpful expert. Take the knowledge contained in your business and share it with your community.

4 – Share, and share, and then share some more

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Once you’ve found the value you bring to your community, let it loose. Don’t hold it back, but give it freely and openly. Become the expert on your topic. Share the awesome photos you’ve accumulated over the years. Give your communities a special appreciation discount code. Every time you share, you generate value you didn’t have before. Every time you make them smile, you’re generating positive brand awareness. Every time you answer their question, you take away the opportunity for a competitor to do the same.

So there you have it. A simple 4-step approach that can be used for any company, anywhere to get a handle on how they can approach social communications. The real clincher to this strategy is Step 3 – Regardless of the channel you choose, you need to provide value. If you’re not giving your community something they wouldn’t otherwise have, in a format that makes them want to see it, all you’re doing is advertising to them. If they get the sense that this is what your social media content is all about, don’t be surprised if their fingers move to that ‘Unfollow’ button before you even have a chance to say ‘hello’.

The most important thing to keep in mind when participating in social communications is ‘Am I helping myself, or my community?’. The answer to this question is much easier to determine than you’d think. Just look at what you want out of the companies that you personally follow, and realize that your business’ community is no different. Keep that mindset, and you’re already on your way to social success.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

4 ‘Share’ Button Tips – Choosing the best buttons for the job.

There are as many types of ‘Share’ buttons as there are Social Media sites, so how do you pick the right ones for your site and avoid the clutter?

There’s no denying that you need to have share buttons on your site or blog. They are an absolutely essential feature, and are crucial for anyone who wants to encourage sharing of content in an easy way that’s familiar to your users/readers. But there are SO MANY options out there, how can you effectively choose the right buttons without cluttering up your pages?

Each SM site provides code for their own button designs, and often there are multiple options that are different sizes, shapes, colours, etc. In addition, there are mutli-source sharing button options that pull in virtually every possible share option in to one expandable button, like those from AddThis or AddToAny.

Should you use only a couple of the most popular buttons? Or maybe just go with a multi-share button that covers every option? Or just go with the one share location that you WANT people to use? Well, there are a few good rules-of-thumb that I’ve put together that might help you choose which ones are really the best choice for your particular application and audience.

1 – Size, colour and shape

Visually, your share buttons should both blend in with your site, and stand out enough to be easily noticed. Sound like a contradiction? Perhaps, but think about it this way: the ignition on your car could be a tiny slot concealed to blend right in with the dash, but that would make it hard to locate when you need it. Or, you could make the ignition super-easy to find by using a big red button the size of your fist, but that would look out of place and silly.

• Your share button should be sized to be proportional to the other elements on your site.
• Your share button should be the right shape for the location of the button so that there’s a decent amount of space around it, without being too close to other elements or sticking it in the middle of nowhere on your page.
• If you have a dark background, use a lighter button. Light background, darker button. Just like text, dark-on-dark and light-on-light = bad.

2 – Location, location, location.


Example: Mashable is great at placing their share buttons in an easily accessible spot, and makes them scroll with the page so they are always visible.

Where you put your share button is just as important as how it looks. I’ve seen some web pages with the share buttons at the very bottom of the page, lumped in with things like the privacy policy or the ever-useful site map. Other times I’ve seen it scattered in multiple places on the same page. Ideally, you want your share button to be easily accessible, but not intrusive. In sidebars, below product title headers, or at the end of blog posts are all great locations that make it clear what information you’ll be sharing.

• Very rarely do you need more than one set of share buttons on a page.
• It should be clear to the ‘sharer’ what content will be shared.
• If your share button isn’t easy to find, it won’t get used. Don’t throw it at the bottom of your site.

3 – Single-site share buttons vs. multi-site share buttons.

This is where things get tricky. It really depends on the type of content on the page, and the type of users you are attracting. If it’s a blog, for example, you’ll likely want a multi-site share button so that readers can share it in any way they want (Tweet, Like, StumbleUpon, Re-blog, email, print, etc).

If it’s an individual product, then a pair or a trio of individual site share buttons (A ‘tweet’ button, a ‘like’ button etc) may be the best way to allow users to simply indicate that they endorse that particular product. In addition, those individual site share buttons usually come with a ‘counter’ to display how many people have liked or tweeted the page. If your users appear to have an affinity to one particular social media site, Facebook for example, providing them a native share button for their preferred site may encourage them to share more.

Also, there are combo-buttons that typically feature Facebook ‘Like’ and Twitter ‘Tweet’ buttons with counters, as well as a multi-site ‘Share’ button that ties in all the other sites. These are great all-round solutions since they combine the best traits of each option in to one share tool.

• Multi-site share buttons are excellent for educational/informational materials that users would share in many different outlets.
• Single-site share buttons are simple, easy ways for users to share that they ‘like’ or approve of a particular product, service, or singular piece of content.
• Combo buttons provide the best of both worlds.

4 – Familiar trumps freaky.

Do a Google search for ‘social media icons’ and you’ll get countless options of funky, sleek, crazy, and cool social media icons made by graphic designers that you can use on your site. The only problem is that the majority of these really only appeal to other graphic designers. The vast majority of your users will simply be looking for the ever-familiar Facebook ‘F’ or Twitter ‘T’ icons in the official colours used on those sites. Even a passing glance will generate instant recognition of what it is and what it does. Using an icon for your button that looks like a bottle cap or a lab experiment beaker may get the occasional user to think ‘wow, that looks neat!’, but hardly encourages your average user to click on it.

• Always use the official logo, colours, and appearance whenever possible for your share buttons.
• If your share buttons look different from everyone else’s share buttons, you may lose potential sharers because they don’t recognize them.

Overall, what you really need to look at when deciding how to setup your sharing options is what really fits with your site or blog. This is one instance where the Keep It Simple Stupid mantra really should be kept in mind. Just like all things in web design, people like simple navigation over complex, clean design over cluttered, clear calls to action over hidden links, and ease of use above all else.

Don’t forget that all of these buttons and widgets will come with analytics so that you can easily monitor how they are performing, and how users are interacting with them. Be sure to check these regularly, for they will reveal fascinating insights that you can use to help refine your ‘sharing’ strategy to encourage more and more shares.

Here’s a list of share button resource links that you can choose from when incorporating share functions in to your site:

Multi-site Share Buttons:
http://www.addthis.com
http://sharethis.com/
http://www.addtoany.com

Single-site Share Buttons:
http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like/
https://twitter.com/about/resources/tweetbutton
http://www.linkedin.com/publishers
http://www.tumblr.com/docs/en/share_button
http://www.stumbleupon.com/badges/landing/

4 Questions to Ask Anyone Trying to Sell You Ad Space

You can never know 100% for sure if something is going to work before you try it, but their reactions to these questions may help uncover if they’re offering you a real solution, or just trying to make a buck.

As the marketing manager for a B2B company, I get solicited. A LOT. Industry trade magazines, pay-per-click ad providers, online directories, and trade show organizers are but a few of the kinds of people calling me asking for a piece of my precious marketing budget. The thing is, I’m no pushover. Never have been. But in today’s business climate, there’s no way you can afford to throw dollars at every marketing option that calls you up. The vast majority of them simply don’t work, and even those that are worth your time and money only work if you use them in a way that makes sense for your business.

So how do you determine which options are worth a dollar, and which ones you should tell to kick stones? I wish there was an easy way, but the truth is that it can be very difficult to figure out. Effectively evaluating marketing options in today’s world requires you to look deeper than the traditional criteria of ‘page views’ and ‘circulation’, and examine the information that few of those solicitors are able or willing to provide to you.

I’ve put together 4 key questions that I use as the starting point whenever I get solicited by someone trying to sell me space in a magazine, online directory, or trade show. I’ve also noticed that there are certain ‘red flags’ that seem to consistently appear when dealing with some types of solicitors that can be early warning signs to tip you off that you’d best be cautious moving forward. I’ve included these after each question.

Let’s take a look at the questions now:

1 – First thing: What’s the range of costs?

This sounds really, really obvious. And it is. What you should be aware of is that very rarely is actual cost discussed up front. Most of the time, they’ll open with a ‘what is the #1 problem facing your business?’ kind of question that forces you to think of a negative aspect of your current situation, and give you the impression that they can help solve your problem. This is intentional, as it tends to disarm us a little bit, and leaves us more open to their suggestions. Solicitors who are confident in their product/service and can prove a real benefit/ROI will have no problem letting you know cost right up front. After all, if you don’t have flexibility in your budget to accommodate their product, then going in-depth just wastes your time and theirs.

Red Flag: If you answer a call from a solicitor, one of your first questions should of course be ‘What is the cost range for all your different options?’. If they answer with something like: ‘before we talk about that, let me ask what your goal is?’ or just flat out won’t tell you immediately where their prices start and where they end, be very wary.

2 – Who’s the REAL audience?

This goes for all types of marketing options. Magazines, directories, trade shows, you name it. Typically the solicitors will make available very basic stats that don’t really reveal much about who their actual audience is. For example, lets look at the infamous ‘circulation’ information for magazines, which outlines how many copies go out to their ‘readers’, and what kind of businesses they are sent to. The thing is, these commonly-used stats can be very deceiving. They may simply be pulling the information based on the name of the person on the address label, like the owner of the business that it is sent to. But who’s to say that this is the person who actually reads it, or even receives it in their hands? Especially in larger businesses that receive many MANY different pieces, only the most crucial pieces ever get opened by anyone. The rest? Either gets junked or ends up on the coffee table in the lobby. Make sure they can prove that their recipients are also actual readers.

Red Flag: If the solicitor can’t quickly back up their claim with readily-available hard data and testimonials from actual audience, and vaguely cites their own ‘internal’ surveying data, chances are they are making some pretty broad assumptions about who actually reads their rag.

3 – Can I do a short-term trial?

Contracts abound in the marketing world, and you’ll often find yourself staring down the barrel of a big fat commitment before you even know it. Smart solicitors who truly believe in what they are selling will be eager to have you try it out before you make any major commitment. If they don’t suggest it first, make sure that you do. Sometimes they’ll offer to do a short-term trial period at the same rates as a long-term program. Occasionally you may even find they’ll offer a free trial, depending on what kind of service they provide. Companies that openly offer a short-term trial are displaying not only confidence in their services, but also flexibility to your needs.

Red Flag: Sometimes the very suggestion of a trial period can offend some solicitors. If you find their tone or demeanour changes dramatically for the worse after suggesting a trial basis, you may be headed for a very inflexible and rigid relationship further down the road.

4 – Give some examples of your success.

Prove it. That’s ultimately what we all want to know. Ask them to provide stats showing what other advertisers have seen as a result. Have them show you data and testimonials from other advertisers/exhibitors that are similar to you. What works for one won’t necessarily work for another, but at least you’ll have a general idea of what kind of businesses are generating results. This is easy to do these days. Web tracking makes monitoring conversions and success nearly effortless. They should be able to tell you things like the number of referrals they’ve generated for specific types of businesses, as well as provide qualitative testimonials from companies similar to yours.

Red Flag: Any web directory or online ad provider should be able to give you buckets of reports that illustrate how their advertisers have benefitted from their services. If all they are able or willing to show you is ‘hits’ or ‘page views’, RUN AWAY.

Ultimately, B2B marketing people like us are trying to do the most we can with limited resources of both time and money. If they’re trying to sell a product or service to you, they need to realize this. Selling ad space to people like us really all boils down to a simple two-part strategy: Be to-the-point, and be able to back up any claims. If they don’t waste your time with a lot of preamble and vagueness, and they can prove to you that you’ll see a real, tangible benefit, I’m sure that you’ll be much more successful by doing business with them.

Bonus Red Flag: When they won’t let you get a word in.

This one really gets me riled up. The thing about providing effective service is that you need to listen to your customers. In my experience, you can’t really do that very well if you won’t let your customer finish a sentence. I’ve been solicited by countless salespeople who inexplicably decide that the perfect time to begin their next sentence is right in the middle of the one I’m currently speaking. It’s maddening, because I’m TRYING to let them help me. I’m TRYING to communicate my needs so that they can figure out how to help solve them. In a nutshell: If you’re the one trying to sell someone something: Know when to shut up and let them talk. if you encounter a salesperson who seems to follow this pattern, flee.

Getting a Head Start Through LinkedIn: Networking Tips for College Students


I recently had an opportunity to speak to a group of up-and-coming marketing interns at the local college who are going through the same course of study that I completed ‘back in the day’. As I sat on the discussion panel with two other marketing-program alumni, talking about what is expected of interns during their work terms and offering advice and tips to help them get the most from their experiences, it struck me that one thing that must be mentioned to this group was LinkedIn. After all, LinkedIn is a crucial tool that allows professionals to network, share ideas, learn, and build their reputation as well as seek out career opportunities of all types.

So, when my next turn to speak came around, I brought up the topic of LinkedIn, and asked for a show of hands for any who knew what it was. Out of a group of 25 or 30 students, only two hands rose in the air. TWO. That’s less than 10% of the group that were aware of the biggest professional social network in existence. I was simply astounded.

Suffice to say, I promptly unleashed a large batch of reasons why they should get their LinkedIn profile up and running as soon as they got back home. The benefits for students to get themselves setup on LinkedIn are just as numerous as the benefits for any professional out in the world today. Here’s a few of the key ones that I feel students can start to realize almost immediately:

1 – Always keep your experience and references complete and up-to-date.

Your LinkedIn profile is like a resume on steroids. It is constantly evolving, and allows you to incorporate much more information than what is feasible in hard-copy form, such as things like Twitter accounts and links to blogs. While we’re not quite at a point where you can strictly direct people to your online profile, I can easily see resumes created in Word or Acrobat to go the way of the dinosaur in the near future. After all, why shuffle around files or attachments when a simple web link can accomplish the same thing, and much more? But in the meantime, maintaining a LinkedIn profile allows you to easily pull out applicable experience and information for the job you’re looking for, and put together a targeted application in virtually no time.

2 – Engage in discussions and learn more from industry professionals.

Want a job at Nike? How about Coke? Or one of the major agencies? Find their reps profiles on LinkedIn and see what groups they belong to. Join those groups and start asking questions and participating in discussions. Hearing about the latest trends and industry effects allows you to take the core concepts and ideas that are in the curriculum and textbooks and apply them to the current state of things in the real world. The business battlefield is now changing faster than ever, and talking to the soldiers who are out fighting in the trenches right now will be crucial in developing an effective career strategy.

3 – Build up your network.

Though they may only be fellow students right now, they’ll all be professionals in your field someday, so making meaningful connections with the superstars in your class can have major benefits in the long run. Also, any teachers or professors that you have a good relationship with can be a great source of referrals and references for you. Connecting with them on a professional level is a huge plus. In addition, if you go to any seminars, shows, or events where prominent businesspeople are present, make sure to connect with them if you can. Let them know that you’re a rising star, and that they should be paying attention to you. Lastly, don’t forget to connect with any professionals you meet or work with at any internships or work placements. If you do a good job with them and keep in touch, they can be excellent contacts to be called on in the future.

4 – Learn proper modern business communications early.

You can’t act the same way in business as you do at the college bar on Friday night. The sooner students learn this, the better off they’ll be by not posting incriminating or embarrassing things that can deep-six their careers before they even begin. The professionals you’ll find on LinkedIn networks have no time for joking around or unprofessional behaviour, so it’s a great way to get conditioned for how to communicate in a business environment. Respect everyone’s opinion. Proper spelling and grammar are important. Don’t let texting become your default communication style. How you talk to your buds on Facebook doesn’t jive very well with the Fortune 500.

5 – Begin forging your personal brand.

Every individual is their own brand, and LinkedIn is an excellent tool for letting the world know who you are, and what you’re all about. Your specialties will come to light through your experiences, and you will probably find that it will help you discover where your real aptitudes are, and assist you in enhancing them. Your ever-expanding LinkedIn presence helps develop your reputation as a professional in your field, and eventually as an expert. The earlier you start, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. LinkedIn’s benefits also stretch in to your overall web presence, and the job postings on LinkedIn are proving to be far more valuable than those on traditional job posting sites. It allows you to connect directly with individuals at certain organizations that are of interest to you. Finding that ‘dream job’ may still be hard, but with LinkedIn you have a greater number of paths available to you that you can use to find your way to your career utopia.

When you first start out, you’ll want to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is complete, and follows the best-practices used by successful LinkedIn users. Here’s a few quick tips to help you get your profile setup in a good way:

Use a professional looking picture. No beach pics, bar pics, party pics, baby pics, or anything else other than you looking like you are a smart, savvy, intelligent person. First impressions are huge.

Make your headline about YOU, not your current job. Anyone can look at your profile and see where you work and what your title is. Your headline should talk about what YOU, as a professional, are all about.

Shorten your public profile URL to http://linkedin.com/in/yournamehere. Here’s a link to the instructions on how to do this. Having a custom URL makes it easier to share your link, and is also a piece of your personal brand.

Personalize your network requests. When you ask someone to connect with you, make sure to include a personalized message with your request. Professionals find it extremely frustrating to get a generic LinkedIn request that tells nothing of how you might actually know the person. Let them know who you are, how they know you, and why you are connecting.

I hope that these tips are found to be helpful. I sure wish that I had a tool like LinkedIn back when i was going through college. Even though I’ve since connected with a great deal of people I would have back then anyway, I can’t help but wonder where life would have taken me if I’d had this amazing tool at my disposal. Just one of those ‘what if’ things that I’ll always be curious about, I suppose.

Apprehensive about using Foursquare? Don’t be, and here’s why.

Location-based social media is huge, but what if you’re one of those people who just doesn’t want to share where you are all the time? Well, fear not! You can still have fun AND stay private.

I first heard about Foursquare early last year, but I didn’t really give it much thought as something that was ‘for me’. At the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around the whole issue of privacy, and why people would be so willing and eager to broadcast their exact whereabouts all the time. I guess I thought of all the same apprehensions that most of the naysayers have about it: “Open invitation to stalking/robbers/perverts, etc”. But like most things that generate a fear-based response, this was just due to my not really not understanding how it actually works.

When I went to the UnGeeked Toronto conference last fall, Katie Felten gave a fascinating presentation/discussion on Foursquare, and answered a lot of questions about what it’s capable of, how it works, and why Foursquare users love it so much. Katie’s discussion removed some of my negative assumptions, and I recognized that Foursquare did have it’s benefits, but ultimately I still wasn’t ready to give it a shot myself.

Then the other day, I had a simple, obvious realization: What if you just don’t add any friends? Foursquare will only broadcast your location if you specifically tell it to, and even then only to those people that you have added as friends. That’s the beauty of these new tools. They can be as social as you want them to be. There’s no requirement saying that you HAVE to add every one of your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers, or everyone in your address book as soon as you create your account. You don’t need to add anyone unless you choose to. Your Foursquare experience can be completely private, if you want it to be.

So, if you want the benefits of Foursquare, including deals and discounts at all kinds of local businesses, you can do so without anyone knowing where you are or where you’ve been. Create your account, skip the step where you add friends, and when you check-in just stay ‘off the grid’ (Foursquare slang for toggling the ‘share with friends’ switch off when you check-in). Just reap the benefits, and have fun while doing so.

So, I created an account, and began exploring it personally. I was immediately impressed by the quality of the ‘specials’ that were available in my local area. 10% off at a local clothing store, free song download at Old Navy, 15% off purchases at American Eagle, free appetizer at local restaurant, 40% off bicycle service at Mountain Equipment Co-op, etc. And all you need to do to earn these discounts is check-in at those locations. You don’t need to share any other information other than show your server/cashier your phone proving that you’ve checked in.

Not only that, but even without any friends added, you can also begin collecting Foursquare badges. These are simply fun little virtual badges you collect for doing certain things such as visiting lots of coffee shops, checking in at 10 different places, going to a gym, etc. They just add a tiny little incentive to get out and explore a bit more of your town.

Now, I’m sure that the Foursquare advocates out there will likely comment that it’s more ‘fun’ when you add your friends, and that a little friendly competition can help you get out there and experience all kinds of new things, and they’re probably right. But for those people out there who like the idea of scoring rewards for loyalty, or for being in the right place at the right time, but don’t want to lose their sense of privacy, there’s no reason that they can’t use Foursquare in their own way.

Your experience with location-based social media can be what you want it to be, and doesn’t have to be what other people tell you it should be. If you eventually get to the point where you feel like adding a few friends and maybe sharing a bit more, then great! If not, that’s great too. As long as you’re having fun with these new tools, that’s really all that matters.

4 Simple Tips for Integrating Print & Social Media – Making it Easy

by Jonathan Barrick

When it comes to listing your social media contact info on your brochure, do you simply say ‘Find us on Facebook’? You’d better hope your customers are very patient while they comb through 500 million users.

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We see Facebook and Twitter icons and logos all over the place now. They are very nearly as common place in advertising as phone numbers and email addresses, but what I’ve noticed is that a large number of companies stop short with JUST the logo of the Social Media site that they participate in. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do anything to help the user actually find you on those sites. Since the search functions on Social Media sites can pull up dozens of suggestions for any business name or search term, simply putting the logo of the site somewhere on your brochure can be counter-productive.

Businesses must realize that by doing this, they’re essentially saying “If you go on this site of 500 million users, I’m in there somewhere.” Not to mention the added level of complexity that exists if your business is a single location in a chain. What if there are 5 or 6 different stores from the same chain on Facebook? How easy is it for your users to identify which one is yours? What if corporate head office is listed there, too?

You can see the problem that this presents when you take the time and effort to connect with your customers, but you don’t go those last few steps to ensure that it’s really you that they find when they go looking. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to make yourself easier to connect with.

1 – Use a custom URL, and minimize it.

Most social networking sites, like Facebook and LinkedIn, will allow you to customize your URL so that you can shorten it and make it easier to fit on to brochures and business cards. For example, you can easily go from something like this page I found:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ford-Dealership/109108405778479

to a much cleaner example from another page:

http://www.facebook.com/ford.sales

Another tip to minimize the text is to simply remove the ‘http://’ from the URL, since we are all so used to seeing web addresses, it’s hardly a stretch to realize that ‘facebook.com/ford.sales’ should be typed in to the URL bar of a web browser.

To create a customized URL on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/username/

With Twitter, you can follow two ways of approaching this. You can either list your Twitter username: in my case @j_barrick, or your direct URL to your tweets: http://twitter.com/j_barrick. Again, you can use the simplistic: twitter.com/j_barrick and make the URL even cleaner and still make no mistake of which Twitter user is the real deal.

2 – Stick with only your top sites.

You may be tempted to list every single location online where your users can find you, but once you get past Facebook and Twitter, the widespread user base drops off dramatically. You might have a Flickr page, or Tumblr blog, or Myspace page, or several others from the myriad collection of social media sites, but that doesn’t mean you should stuff your materials full of every possible site. As a general rule of thumb, just list the few key sites that you’re most active on, or that you have the largest community. Again, this is all about making it easy on the reader.

3 – Don’t forget your main web address.

Unless you’ve got a VERY specific reason for doing this, don’t leave your regular www. web address off of any of your materials. I’ve seen several instances of companies running ads that are designed solely to drive traffic to their Facebook pages, but unless you’re running a completely dedicated campaign with Facebook traffic as your ultimate objective, this may not be the best course of action.

After all, your website should be the main hub of all your activity. Users should be able to go anywhere you are online from your website, so that would be where you’d list all the ‘other’ locations we talked about back in Tip #2, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to  get people to visit your main online home. It can encourage them to check out more of you in other locations.

4 – Avoid ‘stylized’ logos. Stick with the instantly recognizable ones.

If you have picked up a magazine or newspaper in the last 12 months, then you know what the Twitter logo looks like. Same for Facebook. The simple, clean but easily identifiable ‘T’ and ‘F’ icon logos in the official colours are unquestionable about what they represent. But if you start to incorporate ‘fancier’ ones, (maybe they look like stamps, or buttons, or shiny metal), then you run a much greater risk of the general populace not recognizing them.

Example:

Use logos like this: image not like this: image in print materials.

The goal here is to ultimately drive people to see what you’re doing on these sites. If they can’t make that immediate association to the social media site brands that they are familiar with, they will be less likely to make that effort.

Bonus Tip: Business Cards

Your business card had better already have your company web address on it, but why not add your Facebook or Twitter URL as well? It’s simply one more way for your users to connect with you, which is the entire purpose of the business card to begin with! This info belongs on your cards, so the next time you print a batch, make that addition.

So overall, I think you can see that simply throwing an icon on your print materials doesn’t really accomplish anything other than ‘Yeah, we’re on Twitter’. If you really want to encourage people to check you out, then you need to make it as easy as possible. You would never put ‘Find us on the Web!‘ without listing your web address, so why do that with your Social Media?

End Note: There is another technology being introduced that intends to do a better job of integrating print and web, and that is the QR code. I haven’t touched on that in this article for two reasons: 1 – It’s a bit more advanced in terms of it’s usage and how to integrate it in to your business goals, and this article was intended as the ‘basics’ of putting SM contact info in to print, and 2 – it is still in the early adoption stage, and until every person has a smartphone, and everyone has taken the time to download a QR code reader app for their smartphone, QR codes will continue to be a very specialized way to reach a unique target market. In summary, not enough people know what they are or have the understanding and technology to utilize them effectively.

Top 5 Tips to Get in to the Twitter Pool Without Drowning

imageKnow someone who should be on Twitter, but is a bit apprehensive? Here’s 5 tips to help them get their feet wet.

Twitter is intimidating for new users. Back in June 2010 (which is eons in the past, for Twitter), there were an estimated 65 million tweets being posted per day. PER DAY!?! I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, that’s an impressive figure, and it’s even totally out of date. How many daily tweets are there now? No idea, but it’s surely many more than that.

So, now that everyone is saying that you have to be on Twitter, where do you start? How do you step in to a community of 90 million users and not get completely swept away? Well, there’s two strategies, just like swimmers entering an ice-cold lake: The brave just dive in and deal with the shock, the timid move in slowly and adjust a little bit at a time. Here’s a fun fact: Twitter retention is about 40%, with most users who quit leaving within the first month. Why? Hard to know, but it may have something to do with the lack of any standard way of being ‘introduced’ to Twitter. Everyone has their own idea of what users should do first, and it never works the same for everyone.

But I believe there are some basic tactics that new users can follow, regardless of their reasons for joining. I’ve decided to compile what I believe to be the top few tactics that might be helpful to those timid Twitter swimmers who know they need to be there, and want to see what’s happening, but aren’t quite ready to plunge headlong in to the unknown. Here we go:

1 – Choose one interest to start with.

    This might seem simple, but it can be incredibly daunting. There are Twitter communities out there for any topic you can imagine, and I mean ANY topic. Want to connect with other people who use Twitter for their small-business? You can find them.  Want to connect with other people who dye their cats fur? You can find them, too. It’s a good idea to not spread out too fast all at once, since you will quickly become overwhelmed with ‘stuff’ to sort through. Choose one main focus to start, and see what’s there. You can always add other interests once you get the hang of things.

2 – Identify a handful of key influencers.

    For every topic, there are those Twitter users who it seems like EVERYONE follows. A Twitter user in Marketing? They probably follow @mitchjoel or @unmarketing. A pop music enthusiast? They probably follow @coldplay or @ladygaga. Choose a few really popular users that fit your topic of interest, follow them and see what they’re posting. Not only will you likely find their posts incredibly interesting, but it will help get you adjusted to the way tweets are written, and how other people interact on Twitter.

3 – Find a few users that make you laugh.

    Have a favourite comedian? Or perhaps an actor/actress that you can’t get enough of? Follow them. It will give your Twitter feed a ‘break’ from the monotony of one topic on a regular basis, and it will help you see Twitter not just as informative, but entertaining as well.

4 – Retweeting to show that you exist.

    Posting a fresh and original tweet is great, and I encourage you to do it whenever the mood strikes you, but if you have no followers, you quickly feel like sending out your own tweets is pointless. (Note: Yes, I know that it’s not pointless, but when you have no one reading them, it sure FEELS like that) Retweeting stuff that you find interesting allows those tweets to appear in searches that other people conduct for the original tweeter, as well as any # hashtags that appear in the tweet. This is a good way to introduce yourself as someone on Twitter who has an interest in those topics, and wants to share that information with the rest of the community. It’s a good way to earn your first few followers.

5 – Answering questions & giving feedback.

    Have an opinion on something someone just tweeted? Don’t hesitate to let them know. I’ve noticed that the Twitter community is not only very receptive to feedback, but we tend to crave it. I love to know what people think of my content, especially if they have something new to add to the conversation. It helps everyone see different perspectives, and gets your own creative juices flowing. A single comment can be the spark that generates a whole new series of tweets.

Well, there you have it. Hopefully those tips help make Twitter seem a bit less scary. It’s always comforting to have some kind of plan in place when you start something new, and social media is no different. I believe that following these tips for your first steps in to the Twitter universe will get you in the groove quickly and effectively. It’s always good to keep in mind that Twitter is not a competition, nor is it a race. Don’t focus on how many followers you have, or how many people have retweeted you. What’s really important is if you’re getting some value out of your experience. As long as you feel like it’s beneficial for you, then you’re doing it right.

Also, if some of the words in my post seem like gibberish to you heres a collection of Twitter Definitions and Terminology:
http://hellboundbloggers.com/2009/04/23/twitter-definitions-for-newbies/

I’d love to hear your opinions on these tips, or if you have any of your own that have worked for you, let’s hear from you! Or maybe you’ve got a great ‘what not to do’ example that you can share, let’s hear those too!