Archive for ‘Algonquin College’

March 11, 2015

Your brand content sucks. People are unfollowing. Here’s why… [Infographic]

Everybody works for a brand. It could be Big Blue or your own one-person business. Often I see articles, white papers, and case studies about how to “get” more customers. That’s the most important part, right? Maybe not. Yes, customer acquisition is essential, but what about those customers you already have – how do we know what they are feeling towards our brand? Are they loyal, or do we have a churn problem? Working at a post-secondary institution,  we talk about this all the time; the importance of keeping students in the classroom. Retention.

The same concern exists with our social media and email marketing campaigns. We have all had people unsubscribe from our mailing lists and unfollow our Twitter accounts, but we often have very little insight as to why. The good folks at Buzzsteam and Fractl recently surveyed 900 people to understand why people unfollow brands. The handy infographic below shares some of their findings. Here are three key take-aways that caught my eye:

  1. Content is still king. According to this survey, the biggest reason why people unfollow brands on social networks is due to boring or repetitive content. If your brand sells shoes, you can no longer think of yourselves as just a shoe company; you are also a media publishing conglomerate specializing in industry-specific useful content. Not just price promotions. You write, produce, and distribute articles, case studies, stories, videos, images, audio, etc. Is Red Bull an energy drink or a media house?
  2. More is not the answer. The most referenced reason why people unsubscribe to email mailing lists is the brand sends messages too frequently. This also holds true in social media as “too frequent content” was noted as the second-most popular reason for a user to unfollow on social. One email a week from a brand I follow is about all I can stomach.
  3. Engagement is the expectation. Almost 40% of the respondents indicated that they think brands are quite or very likely to engage with them after they follow the brand’s Facebook page. To me, serving content to my news feed isn’t engagement. If a brand reaches out to me personally or responds to my comments, that’s engagement. The expectation that I would be “engaged” simply by liking a Facebook page doesn’t exist in my mind.

I also find it interesting that about half of the respondents said that they would never unfollow a brand on LinkedIn. There seems to be some social network hierarchy going on here. Perhaps a LinkedIn follower would be considered more “valuable” than one from Facebook or Twitter. I’ll look for more reading on this topic.

What do you think? Do you unfollow brands because of their behaviour on social media? Are there other reasons not listed here that make you disengage? Let me know!

losing-followers-infographic

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:

 

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.

October 22, 2014

Boo-hoo my content was stolen! Who cares.

ContentIsKing3Recently, I was browsing Google Images to find some multimedia that would help visualize some talking points for the Social Media Management course I teach at Algonquin College. This is a completely regular, and useful, behaviour for me. This time, I was just looking for the words “Content is King” stylized in some way to add a bit of visual interest. Pretty blazé, I must admit. After scrolling through a few pages of image search results, I came across the image to the right, and it struck me in just the right way – I loved it.

I thought “this is exactly what I need” and proceeded to save it to my lecture folder and insert it into my presentation. Something was troubling me, though. I thought the image was awfully familiar, but just couldn’t put my finger on where I had seen it before. Then it hit me, I had created this image myself about three years ago for a blog post on davidhallsocialmedia.com about creating blog content.

My immediate reaction was to do a Google search by image to see if anybody else had used “my” content. Turns out that Google returned 8 pages of use of the identical image on a variety of different pages ranging from blogs on website development, SEO, PR, and marketing. For a brief moment, I have to admit that my proprietary-self was thinking “these people are stealing my content, and didn’t even give me credit. How dare they!” After about 60 seconds of feeling this way, I quickly climbed down off my “who do they think they are” high horse and realized that I had, in fact, “stolen” virtually every single element that made up the graphic that I “created”. Let me explain…

War Is OverFirst of all, the saying itself has been bantered around for a good 20-25 years. Exact origin of the phrase is still a bit contentious, but most people will agree that Bill Gates popularized the saying in a mid-90s essay by the same name. I didn’t even put a twist on the saying, I used it verbatim, with no attribution.

Second, the little crown I used on the “G” was not designed by me. That image is a stock shape in Adobe Photoshop. I simply tilted it on an angle and shaded it in using the colour palette from my blog.

Finally, the typeface and layout I used were inspired by (or stolen) from the “War is Over” campaign by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I’m a big music fan and thought it would be cool to pay homage to their work by visually referencing their peace advocacy of the late 60s and early 70s. Using a thick, black, sans serif font, stacking one word on top of the next, and including an exclamation point, I think the reference comes through. I even remember Googling to find the exact name of the font used.

I imagine that some people would say that I stole all of these elements to make one giant copyright-infringing graphic. They would probably be right. On the other-hand, I would wager that there would be another cohort of people that would say that, although I was influenced by these existing works, I am ultimately the author of the image and should be regarded as such. They would probably be right, too.

So after “stealing” content myself, and having my own content “stolen,” I’ve come to a few personal realizations about the whole stolen vs inspired debate.

1. It happens to (almost) everyone.

Rest assured that if you publish content online, it will probably be “stolen” at some point. I am in no way special when it comes having content “stolen”. I chalk it up to the cost of publishing content on the web. In fact, the more people who steal “my” content, the more people will see it, right?

2. You probably stole the idea from somebody else in the first place.

I really don’t consider sharing other people’s content, or creating mash-ups, stealing. If you look hard enough at any of your ideas, I’m sure most could be traced back to somebody else’s idea that you just modified, or flat-out stole (knowingly or not). What I’m getting at here is that very few ideas are actually so fresh they can be considered novel, so what right do we have to claim ownership over them? Consider your take on the idea as adding a new voice to the continual conversation, not a new flag in some sort of uncharted, intellectual territory.

3. “Good artists copy, great artists steal”

This quotation has been used, and reused, for over 100 years. It has been attributed to Pablo Picasso, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Steve Jobs, and more. At the heart if it, it speaks to the role of the creator as the steward of content rather than the owner of it. As artists and creators, it is our job to take what has come before us, modify, re-contextualize, and republish it reflecting our lived experience. Content isn’t about ownership, it’s about continuing the conversation. I had a great boss for a number of years who used to tell me, “Dave, don’t bother reinventing the wheel, just put new hubcaps on it.”…an expression that I’ve added to my vocabulary (yes, I stole this too).

4. If you want to get paid for your content, and you think your profits are being lost to thieves, you need a business manager.

I imagine that one response to this post might be “I’m trying to make a living on my content, so I have to be vigilant”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making money. If your content is good enough to generate a profit, I applaud you (mine certainly isn’t that good). The problem is that creating content and making money are two very different things. Every good content creator needs a great business manager, and very few people are adept at both. Prime example, just Google Roy O. Disney. He was the business brain, Walt was the creator. Disney wouldn’t be what it is today without Roy’s business acumen.

5. Get over yourself and consider it a compliment

If your content is worth stealing, then you are on the right track. If you make it even better, someone might want to pay you for it some day. At the very least, you can consider having your content stolen as an indicator of value; you just need to find your Roy Disney to transform that value into dollars.

What do you think about “stolen” content? Has it happened to you?

Remember, if you like this post, go ahead, steal away.

August 14, 2014

Your kids are sellouts, and they don’t even know it [Documentary]

Are you a sell out? How about your kid?

Frontline’s documentary “Generation Like” tells the story of how businesses use social media and big data to sell their wares to members of Generation Z (people born between 1995 and 2010).  It urges you to think about this topic from two angles. First, the teens’ perspective. Do they know they are being marketed to, and if so, do they even care? Wrapped in with this is the parental anxiety that exists for those parents who are not up-to-date with social media and digital technology. The second perspective is from the world of business marketing. The film gets into discussions about YouTube fame, collaborations, product integration, and content creation. It asks questions like: how much is a “like” worth? Or a friend? A follower? Or most importantly, the “share”.

This documentary primary focuses on the tactics businesses use to “empower” youth to spread marketing messages within their personal social media networks. One teen in this film spends her free time liking and sharing all the Hunger Games content she can possibly find to earn “sparks”. A currency only relevant to Hunger Games movies, that cannot be redeemed for prizes, but it’s used to keep score of who are the world’s biggest Hunger Games fans. Public recognition and a sense of belonging is used as the primary motivator for her behaviour.

GenerationLikeImageThe film also considers how these teens interact with traditional consumer brands, and if these youths are aware that they are being marketed to. At one point the film’s author asked members of Generation Z what it means to sell out…and none of them could give the traditional Baby Boomer or Generation X version of the term. In fact, they really had no clue what selling out was. One puzzled-looking teen thought that selling out means that there are no tickets left for a concert. Although technically correct, I can assure you that this wasn’t the context in which the term was being used.

The film definitely has some cringe-worthy moments. The most notable example I observed was a section near the end of the film when a mother discusses helping her 12 year-old daughter take and post photos to Instagram – her advice “if she (her daughter) wants to get the most likes, I know that all we have to post full body shots” (cringe).

I use this documentary as a piece of course content for the Social Media Management courses I teach in the Public Relations (PR) program at  Algonquin College. Students have written some fantastic reflection pieces on how this documentary has changed their view of how business and social media interact, and what implications it may have on their personal and professional (PR) lives.

You can watch the full doc, and access plenty of bonus content, on the Frontline website… Or use the video above to stream it directly from YouTube (there are more ads  in the YouTube version). Definitely a worth the watch.

 

 

January 11, 2014

The art of Re-Blogging

You’ve probably noticed recently that posts, or re-blogs, from different authors have been appearing on www.davidhallsocialmedia.com, and may be wondering what the deal is.

Re-blogging is quite simple. Essentially I am sharing a post from another WordPress blog on my site, with a few additional comments of my own. Once I find a post that I think my readers would be interested in, all I have to do is click a little button, add some text, and it’s done.

reblog-wordpress

I view it as a win-win-win situation for everyone involved:

  1. Readers of www.davidhallsocialmedia.com get fresh content from a different viewpoint.
  2. The original author is clearly credited for their work and has it exposed to a new audience.
  3. I get to share new voices and topics on my blog that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to, in turn creating a better site / collection of posts.

The bloggers that you are reading in these re-blogs are students in the Social Media Management course that I teach. Their major project in first semester is to create a blog related to Public Relations, start publishing posts, and promote their work. Originally, I hadn’t planned on re-blogging their posts, but some of the posts were so interesting / well done, that I thought www.davidhallsocialmedia.com readers would find them to be a valuable read.

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