March 3, 2015

Does social media really influence consumer behaviour? [Infographic]

A recent survey by Eccolo Media, a San Francisco-based content marketing outfit, provides some insight into just how influential social media may be when it comes to technology purchases. Some of the results suggest that social media may not be as dominant as once thought. The handy infographic (below) shares some of their findings. A few key take-aways that caught my eye include:

  1. Social can grab your customer’s attention, convince them of a “need”, but not so great at delivering the conversion. The utility of social media is at it’s greatest during the pre-sales and initial-sales phase. The influence of social media sharply declines the closer the customer is to making the purchase.
  2. Case studies are the kings of the content world with 25% of respondents reporting that they would consult one while making a tech purchase. Check out this part of the infographic for some details about how effective the different elements of your content platform may be.
  3. Facebook and LinkedIn are in a heated battle to be seen as the go-to social channel when it comes to influencing purchases.

One variable that isn’t accounted for in this study is the amount of people who were indeed influenced by vendor posts, but either didn’t remember or didn’t even know it was a piece of vendor media. Advertising and promoted content is becoming so slick that I would bet that I saw vendor content from Samsung before I decided to buy an S5, but if you asked me if vendor media played a role in my purchase, I probably would have said no. Awareness of vendor media may be an issue here.

content-marketing-sales-funnel

February 26, 2015

Who else wants stats for ANY Instagram account?

Stats are good, right? I’m always searching for ways to look at how my content is performing, whether it be on my blog, twitter account, Instagram profile, etc. Stats provide an understanding of who your audiences are, what they like, and what are your most engaging pieces of content. While looking inward is always a great way to gather insights to improve your practice, it’s sometimes nice (and informative) to see some data on how other high performers within your industry, or your competitors, are doing.

HubSpots’ Dan Zarella has recently released an Instagram app called PicStats.com that lets users see details about any non-private account.

Once you login with your Instagram account, you’ll see stats on your own account; then you can search any other account by username. The app provides data on the usual metrics, like top likers and commenters, “like” activity, most-used filters, etc., but then it goes on to add some interesting details about how each of the following areas affects likes and comments:

  • Filter choice
  • Tags choice
  • Number of tags used
  • The effect of tagging users in your photos
  • Caption sentiment
  • Reading grade level
  • Caption length

Remember, this app doesn’t just tell you how complex your language is in your captions; it relates this complexity to the effect it has on engagement (likes and comments).

The site is beautifully laid out and visually appealing. Make sure you pay particular attention to the small grey question marks that appear just to the left of each title of the graph – this is where you get a more complete description of what the chart is showing you. Admittedly, this took me a bit to find, but once I did, the utility of the site jumped right out at me.

Here’s what the stats look like for the most-followed consumer brand on Instagram – Nike:

PicStatsZoomOutNike

Sorry for the size of the text in this image. I zoomed out to try and capture as many charts as I could to give a visual representation of the types and number of charts the site offers. If you head over to http://picstats.com/u/nike you can read all the details.

 

 

 

February 19, 2015

5 ways to get thousands of Twitter followers

GeorgeWtwitter

George W. Bush didn’t say this, I did. This is a visual representation of how I felt after responding to one of my students when asked about the number of Twitter followers I had.

This past week in my Social Media Management class at Algonquin College, one of my PR students, @MunnaAden, asked a question I had not really thought about before. She queried, “How did you get so many followers?”. A great question, but I didn’t have an answer readily at hand, so I came up with the classic “well, uh, I’ve been tweeting for a long time (since 2008), and I followed everybody back for a while (which is a bad idea).” After reflecting on that class session, I felt that I really should have had a better answer. Although there’s no sure-fire way to guarantee twitter followers, here are a few things that I have done over the years that I think played a role in the amount of Twitter followers I have.

1. Pick a niche and stick to it

The content I share focuses on only a few topics: Social media, communications, marketing, and education. Of course, these topics are complemented with some personal posts, or comments on the sports teams I root for, but for the vast majority of the time, you will be getting social media, communications, marketing, and education-themed tweets from @David_Hall. Try and think of your tweets as a service that you are providing to your readers, not an online platform for sharing every thought you have. The service you provide, just like any consumer service, should be focused, consistent, and predictable (to some degree).

The longer you tweet about a certain suite of topics, the more followers you will get. I feel that the sheer length of time I have been tweeting about my topics has had a positive effect on followership. It’s a lot easier to get eyes on content shared from a mature account than to get eyes on a new twitter profile that only has a few dozen, or hundred, tweets.

2. Follow relevant people in your industry

When I started tweeting, I was eager to see what other communicators were saying. Remember, this was back in 2008, so I was, like most people at the time, just trying to figure out exactly what the power of Twitter was. For each new marketing/PR/social media professional I followed, I gained access to their content, which was often great for retweeting. This retweeting helped me because it notified the original tweet sender that I was listening to, and endorsed, what they tweeted by sharing it with my followers. Telling people you like their content is a good way to make friends, and it can often result in a follow from the retweeted account. Retweeting great content from other accounts also helped my own Twitter presence because it gave me more great content on my account. It’s a self-reinforcing circle.

3. Be careful when following back

This one is a bit contentious, and I do not recommend it. When I first started on Twitter, I thought it would be a courtesy to follow-back any account that followed me. I thought of it as a nice little digital-hug while saying “thanks for following”. This didn’t turn out so well for me. Over the years, I have now followed or followed-back several thousands of users. As a result, my home feed is virtually useless. I now have to manage my twitter feeds through lists and keyword searches in Hootsuite to make sure I see what I want to see. This, however, ruins some of the serendipitous content discovery that I love about Twitter.

I do, however, believe that all this following on my behalf made me a great target for those looking for follow-back, meaning that the main reason they followed me in the first place was in the hopes that I would follow them back. I can’t say for sure, but I would wager that some of my followers would fall into this category.

Lessons learned: Don’t just follow back because you think it’s a nice gesture; your home-feed will be shot.

4. Curate great content

If you want to be a successful content creator, you should start by curating some great content first. Content curation becomes easier when you have purposefully done step 2 on this post. The idea goes, if you follow people who share good content, you have a virtually endless stream of relevant and shareable content delivered directly to your home feed.

Simply curating retweets won’t get you all the curated content you need, so I also have a few go-to resources when I need to find good content to share: Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner, Mashable (less so lately), Tech Crunch, PR Daily, AdWeek, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Academica, etc. Just find some blogs and newsletters you like to read and share their content.

5. Be a content creator

This is the most important step. My Twitter following didn’t really start to grow rapidly until I started this blog. I consistently created weekly content for a few years, and over that time my blog and Twitter popularity grew. Along with this weekly content creation, I also did an hour-long podcast for about 18 months focusing on social media and technology. I found that once I started creating, people really started to take notice and began to follow my account in higher numbers.

Munna, I hope this does a better job answering the great question you asked in class last week.

Update:

 

February 12, 2015

Send your sweetheart a “pin” on Valentine’s Day

Pinterest-heartLately when I look at my social media accounts, I get the impression that there are two types of posts when it comes to Valentine’s Day: 1. Boohoo, I hate Valentine’s Day, stop celebrating your love on MY Facebook page. 2. Please, please, please buy something you don’t need from our company! You’re doing it in the name of love.

The first type of people are those who encourage others to punch cats to mark the occasion or plan on doing everything in their power to block Valentine’s Day posts from their social networks. The second type of people are offering deals, promotions, and contests trying to align their product to the holiday of love. Although I love tent-pole programming/content, somehow antivirus software, family sedans and minivans, or pan pizzas don’t scream “passion” to me.

I had almost given up hope for this year until I came across a very neat little feature on Pinterest. It turns out that you can head over to their blog and send your Valentine a cute and crafty message to be posted for the world to see (or in a private message if you’re the shy type). If you’re looking for a quick gesture of love, it may be worth while to check out what custom-made pins they have to offer…Some are funny, some are sweet, some are romantic. There’s just so many good ones to choose from:

PinboardValentines

Will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day using social media? I’d love to hear what you are planning!

 

February 2, 2015

Does your blog have a mission statement?

After nearly 5 years, my blog finally has a mission statement. If you asked me about it six months ago, I would have had to admit that I had never really thought about it before. Since then, I’ve been reading Joe Pulizzi‘s latest book, Epic Content Marketing, and it has me itching to put some of his suggestions into action. It seems that the first step to becoming an “epic content marketer” is to take some time and write a mission statement for your blog, website, or wherever you publish your content. Joe details his idea in Chapter 13 of his book (and yes you should buy the book), so I thought I’d take it to heart and write the davidhallsocialmedia.com mission statement.

I tried to follow Joe’s model of writing a successful mission statement. He suggests that you need to communicate:

  1. Who the core audience target is
  2. What you will deliver to the audience
  3. The major audience take-away

So without boring you with all the internal struggle, numerous revisions, and trepidation about (finally) inscribing in stone what the purpose of this blog is, I’ll get right to what I came up with:

Mission-Statement-blog

Create and curate engaging content for Digital, Marketing, and PR professionals. Posts are designed to help us (myself included) better understand how social media connects with our profession and how it can be used to take advantage of opportunities that were never before possible.

Now the challenge is to stick to my newly-articulated mission. Many of my previous posts deliver on this mission, and I will ensure that all future posts do. I have posted this mission statement as the first thing on my about page and plan on referring to it when I come up with a blog post idea that I’m not too certain fits this blog. If it’s not covered in my mission statement, I won’t publish it.

This was a fun exercise that helped me articulate exactly why I write here. If you’re a content creator, I suggest giving it a try. What’s the worst that can happen?

Joe: If you’re reading, and you’re probably not, I’d love to hear what you think. Feedback = Awesome.

UPDATE (02/02/15):

Well, it took Joe less than 12 hours to get back to me with a little feedback via Twitter:

PulizziTweet

PulizziFeedback

January 27, 2015

3 lessons learned from writing 100 blog posts

100BlogPosts

With this being the publication of my 100th blog post on davidhallsocialmedia.com, I think it’s time to reflect upon a few lessons I’ve learned since my first post in 2011. When I started this site, I shared many of the ideas that I had about how to be a successful blogger in a three-part series about starting and writing a blog (part 1, part 2, part 3). Primarily, these were lessons that I had learned through research, and a bit of my own blogging experience. Each of these posts was written before I had a full year of experience blogging. Although (I think) that three-part series still offers good tips and information to people thinking of starting a blog, here are three more things I’ve learned after being in the trenches for a few years:

1. Consistency is key

We all know this. Post regular, quality content, and you’ll be successful. The problem is, this is very hard to sustain. I’m not a professional blogger; I don’t get paid a cent for a single word. That’s OK, because that’s not the purpose of this site. I measure the success of my site by views, comments, and shares. It took about a year of me blogging at least once each week for traffic on the site to really increase. As I continued the one-post-per-week model for another year, traffic nearly tripled.

In January 2013, my wife told me that we were pregnant. Fantastic news! I decided to focus on the immediate tasks at hand and willfully neglected my blog. I didn’t publish another post until about 9 months later (I wonder why). Most of 2014 was spent with my new son, only blogging sporadically. I loved this time, but my blog traffic certainly didn’t. This lack of new content really hurt traffic on davidhallsocialmedia.com. Now in 2015, my goal is to resume the one-post-per-week model to see what happens.

2. Build shareability into your content

FacebookThumbnail

Example of the Facebook thumbnail that requires blogs to have embedded multimedia in order to work properly.

As you are writing every post, think about trying to make it as easy as possible for your readers to share it. To do this, I focus on three main components.

First, be timely. My most popular posts are the ones that are published (or promoted) during times of the year when people want that content. If it’s Christmastime, find something interesting to connect your topic to that observance. Same idea goes for the Super Bowl, first day of school, or even shark week.

Second, always include at least one image in your post. Make sure it’s not awkwardly proportioned, too large, or too small. I also try and put it right at the beginning of the post. I do this because, yes, it’s nice to see an image above the fold when landing on a website, but more importantly, many social media share buttons automatically grab an image from your post to accompany that link when it is shared on your personal network. The most visible example of this is the Facebook thumbnail; Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ also do this.

Finally, forget Facebook; the headline of your post is your best promotional tool. It’s important to try to convey one interesting message from your post in 100 characters or less. Try and get one key fact or statement into your headline. It doesn’t have to be a summary of the whole post: just a key point, statistic, or opinion that may get people to click. During the 6-week blogging assignment in the Social Media Management course I teach in Algonquin College’s PR program, I encourage my students to think of the headline of each of their posts as a tweet.

3. Always think about your audience, but you won’t always satisfy them

You need to be comfortable with writing content that nobody likes. If you haven’t published a failure of a post, you haven’t blogged. I’ve written some blog posts that have gone nowhere. Back in 2011, nobody was interested in what I had to say about Trendsmap and finding geographically relevant tweets. Only about 50 people viewed it right after it was published, and now 4 years later, it has a whopping 160 views. According to the viewership, comment, and social sharing statistics, that post is garbage. I still love Trendsmap, so I’m good with it.

You won’t know who your readers actually are until you publish for a few months, better yet a year, and pay attention to your site’s analytics that tell you what countries your viewership is coming from, what search terms are referring  to your website, and what social media networks your viewers are finding you on. My readers, for example, are primarily Americans who work in the Marketing / PR world. This doesn’t meant that I don’t get plenty of readership from my home and native land, but it does mean that I write posts with the majority demographic in mind.

Useful content is sometimes better than thought-provoking content. I try to be helpful to my readers by posting how-tos, infographics, and resources that I have found useful in my own life. Posts of this nature, along with the timely ones, tend to get the most viewership. I do also write for myself. These pieces don’t generate great traffic, but they do give me an opportunity to think through a few ideas and try to organize them in a somewhat articulate fashion. I imagine that this post won’t be wildly successful based on views, but it’s important for me to write it. I have gone through the experience of writing 100 posts, and without reflecting on it, it would be a personal learning opportunity missed.

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