Tapping into the Valentine’s Day trend on social media

Taking Advantage

As business owners who want to stay relevant with current trends, you plan ahead of time to take advantage of holidays. But maybe you struggle with Valentine’s Day because you don’t see how it fits in with your business. Further, you see the advantage in using social media, but don’t know where to start in contributing and drawing attention to your brand.

First of all, have something to say. We always want to add value to the consumer’s life. This is what gets us shares. Especially on Valentine’s Day when we are competing against hundreds of other companies for consumer attention, we have to come up with something unusual, creative, and completely shareable.

Whether or not you personally want to “buy in” to all the Valentine’s Day hoopla, it’s smart business to encourage what consumers see as a day of hope for humanity.

  • Set up a series of inspiring quotes with trendy graphics relevant to your business. For example, if you own a computer store, your quote could be a cute quote on love or a corny romantic-themed joke, but your graphic should be of something like two computers running off together holding hands. Check fiverr.com to get something drawn up quick. Post your graphics on social media throughout the day. These should be completely shareable and only include your website in a discreet way down at the bottom somewhere, if at all. Selling your business to the consumer is only the remote goal of what you’re trying to do here. The proximate goal is getting them to agree and love whatever it is you’re sharing.
  • Highlight your business’ support for couples and participation in Valentine’s Day festivities by offering couples-centric discounts. Or offer freebies for those who stop by your business between certain hours. Your participation in Valentine’s Day with a discount for the public is the bare minimum of what the consumer expects. Graphics are cute, and you’ll get clicks for something shareable, but you need to cement people spending money for your product, not just have them like your page.
  • In all social media posts, include appropriate hashtags. #ValentinesDay and #Valentine are obvious ones, but other hashtags, like #WhatIsLoveInFourWords, are starting to show up. Check out hashtags.org to see what is trending from hour to hour. Appropriate hashtags would also refer to hashtags common to your target market. This post will be shared with the Valentine’s Day tags and #SmallBiz.
  • It’s probably too late for your small business to get a short video together, but if you have that kind of ability, don’t underestimate the power of the video. With Facebook, if you promote a short video – something humorous, something moving – your traffic can increase a ton because users will now see your content streaming in their feed, regardless of whether or not they click. Seeing a bit of what they are getting provides incentive for them to engage.
  • Instagram, a picture sharing site, is more heavily used by the younger crowd, so if you’re wanting to tap into this market more and use Valentine’s Day to do it, try ramping up your editorial style pics and making a social commentary on love with photos. Even if this only means taking your camera and randomly taking shots of occasions that remind you of love, romance, etc.  If it’s inspiring to you, it will probably be inspiring to others. It doesn’t matter whether it’s connected to your business specifically. The point is that your company believes in and encourages love, commitment, and hope for the future. Best of all, Instagram is free.
  • Use Valentine’s Day as a way to encourage people to engage with your business. You could ask users to post a pic from their journey to love and offer a discount code to anyone who does. You could participate in the trending hashtag #WhatIsLoveInFourWords and host a contest with a “basket” or gift card as a prize for the best one. Or do the same thing with a romantic haiku.
  • Make use of the personal story. Whether it’s an inspiring personal love story, your grandparents’ story, or your love story with whatever product or service your company produces, sharing something concise and inspiring can up your traffic. Video is the ideal vehicle for such a story, but this late in the day, a slideshare.com presentation is your next best thing. Failing that, use an article. Just make sure that the update announcing your story is pithy and will create curiosity in the consumer.
  • Service or product, have something crafted specifically for Valentine’s Day weekend. Limited edition items sold for a limited time create urgency in the user to take advantage of the moment. Use the obvious themes – hearts, flowers, romance. Even if your product or service isn’t romantic per se, having it wrapped in Valentine’s Day packaging (literally or figuratively, depending on what you are offering) or giving it a Valentine’s Day inspired name, is enough.

Valentine’s Day is coming up fast so you might not have time implement as many marketing strategies as you’d like. If coming up with content for your business isn’t doable, the least you can do is engage and participate with the existing content on the day of. Promote the business of other small businesses like your own and retweet and share the Valentine’s Day quotes, pics, and vids that put a smile on your face or in your heart.

You might not think your business has anything to do with Valentine’s Day, but that’s no reason your business can’t support love and romance.


Trends To Watch (And Use!) For 2015

Being active in social media and content generation is a must for all businesses in 2015, especiallystock-exchange-295648_640 small businesses. In order to effectively utilize those tools, it helps to be on the front side of the trend curve whenever possible. One of the biggest trends in social media in 2015 is the move toward less disclosure. While this may seem counter-intuitive, understanding the reasons for the move helps put things into context.

To illustrate, let’s look at the struggles of the biggest social media platform in the world, Facebook. Facebook grew to prominence on its enormous appeal to Millenials and youth because it allowed them easy access to the comings and goings of their friends. Last year was a watershed moment for Facebook because they actually lost users for the first time in almost a decade. It would be overly simplistic to attribute this loss to any one cause, but there can be no doubt that a big part of the reason is that Facebook use is now skewing toward older adults rather than Millenials and youth. Facebook’s struggle is the fact that Millenials don’t want to be “friends” with their parents and grandparents, and don’t want to have their online activities patrolled just like their real world activities. This is precisely the reason for the move toward less disclosure on social media.

Those Millenials and youth who cause rapid growth on social media platforms are fleeing toward other options that allow them to still connect with their friends without the older generations being privy to those interactions. Believe it or not, one of the hot new trends this year is the comeback of chat rooms. Users can enter the chat room, have their interactions, and leave, all without anyone unknown hopping in alongside them. In most cases, when the chat is done there is no enduring record of the discussion.

Another reason driving the desire for less disclosure is that social media has been widely adoptedshield-107860_640 by citizens of countries all around the world where censorship is used to quell unrest or prevent freedom of speech or expression. The need for instant communication with mass numbers of people is beautifully filled by social media, and in a very real sense, people’s lives may depend on disclosing less information about the identity of those users.

Another trend that has continue to grow is that of visual social media, especially on mobile devices. Platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat have experience massive growth and show no signs of stopping, confirming the truth in the old saw that a picture is worth a thousand words. Video platforms are coming up quickly, too. In addition to YouTube, newer services like Cinchcast and Screenr seek to make it easier than ever for anyone to create and publish their own videos about any topic of choice. As mobile devices continue to get more powerful, and as readily available broadband public networks continue to spread, the hurdles of mass video distribution have become very low.

Another big trend that appears to be emerging is that of new and creative strategies about how to use social media. For example, rather than simple brand marketing through social media, many companies are moving toward influencer marketing to make more genuine connections with potential customers. If a popular or well-known figure endorses something they use in social media, it is likely that many of their followers will do the same. Similarly, as consumers get more social media savvy, they expect more personal messaging than a typical Twitter hashtag or Facebook pay-to-play ad. A growing number of large companies use social media to interact directly and personally with customers — and have done so with great results — and small businesses will be expected to follow suit quickly. One example is airlines quickly re-routing lamp-432246_640stranded travelers via Twitter after mechanical or weather problems. Some companies, like Lego, have created entire user communities where enthusiasts can meet and interact without any direct involvement from Lego itself. However, by paying close attention to these communities and tapping into their leaders for special projects, Lego has essentially created a system of free idea generation and innovation guidance while simultaneously building loyalty through active user engagement. The bottom line is that an emphasis should be placed on creatively making meaningful connections with customers and providing real value to them rather than simply pushing information at them. Companies who are able to do that will develop a loyal and engaged following that improves their bottom line, especially as more and more social media platforms build payment services directly into their service.

There are a few honorable mentions I wanted to toss out there, too. Wearables are just starting to hit their stride, and it’s too early to estimate the magnitude of effect they will have on the social media space. Some think that social media outlets will become reservoirs of information in themselves, and it will just take the right interface to tap into those reservoirs to create a vast searchable hub of real time information. Aggregation is on the rise, as well, whether in the form of big data analytics for corporations, tools to help small businesses better understand which social media is working for them (and which is not), or being able to blast out content to multiple social media platforms in a single click.

All of these are merely guesses at this point; time will tell which of these become fixed in our society and which will not. Regardless, it is wise to do everything possible to stay on the forefront of the industry. Using social media is no longer just a fun little side gig. Instead, it should be viewed as a core part of the business’ strategy to reach, attract, and retain loyal customers over the long term.

Social Media Marketing Strategies in 2015

Social MediaMarketingStrategies 2015

If there is anything we can count on in the digital world, it’s that it changes quickly. As the speed at which information is exchanged improves, consumer response to that information becomes faster and businesses want to be the first to know, and react in kind, to the consumer response.

Analytics are and will remain important for businesses. Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest all have rolled out analyzation tools for their users. The new information will allow businesses to pinpoint which aspects of social media are drawing interest, and which are falling flat. In order to use this information effectively, businesses will have to be flexible, willing to discard strategies that aren’t working and acquire new ones, sometimes implementing strategies that are novel and creative.

Businesses have to be aware, and not just aware, but engaged with the public profiles of their employees. As businesses learned from this past year, a business, and the public profiles of its employees, don’t have a private life on social media. Everyone markets. On a public profile, employees of a company are representatives held up to consumer expectations.  Consumers have the expectation that the companies they buy from reflect their own values. Which means employees have to be careful what they post on their public profiles and how they represent the brand.

Consumers are also wanting authenticity because it’s more relatable. As video and visuals become more common, there will be an upswing in the number of promotional videos that “sell” via real customer reviews, or through telling a great story. Consumers give greater points to a company that is doing more for the community than just making money off them.  They will want to see the human, personal side of a company because it gives the impression that it’s local and approachable, versus an immense and untouchable thing that happens to employee people. Companies will find their videos going viral if they can make the consumer’s heart melt, by promoting caring rather than persuading them to buy.

But attention spans among adults are starting to change. Studies have shown that we actually read differently after a constant exposure to social media.   Businesses concerned about consumers losing their ability to “read deeply” might focus on having quality posts of a longer length. But businesses who want to tap into the consumer trend of focusing on the most pertinent information in the shortest number of words, will use focus on implementing shorter posts and more of them. Microblogging, especially, will be useful for businesses interested in shorter, more frequent, posts.

Bigger companies will rely on an approach that incorporates both the digital tech and creative aspects of marketing. This means knowing a modicum of html speak will be of huge benefit to the social media marketing job-seeker. At the same time, smaller companies will discover that social media and blogging companies are catering to the DIYers by making their interfaces more user friendly.

Regardless, some argue that the age of the blog is starting to wane as companies discover other avenues of social interaction that work better for their business, and microblogging via tumblr and twitter take over. New social media outlets that are specific to certain subsets of people will begin to become more common. Purchase of ads tailored to these subsets of people will increase as consumers begin to make use of the hobby/interest-specific social media.

Hence, business owners will have social media managers who are given specific parameters of interaction – as much to ensure that there aren’t any social media faux pas which escalate into media debacles, as to ensure that the interactions are appropriate to the audience.

Immediacy continues to be an important aspect of digital commerce and, as such, will continue to force the direction of digital technology. As social media outlets attempt to shorten the distance between idea and action by experimenting with platforms that allow direct purchase of products, we’ll see the beginning of the end of third party distributors. Consumers will no longer have to go to a different website to purchase the product, but can purchase it right from their media outlet of choice.

This in turn will lead to a rise in ad sales on social media, as well as opportunities for individual bloggers to make more through affiliate links and acting as distributors of products endorsed on the blog. Because of this, authenticity will be even more important to the consumer who may not trust a blogger whose sole purpose in owning a blog is to make money off followers.

Overall, in 2015 we can expect to see a more tailored approach to the individual consumer. With every generation that passes the exchange of information has steadily grown swifter. The speed of that exchange has made a huge impact on the marketplace, both digital and otherwise. It will continue to do so and businesses will need to be prepared to take advantage of improved social media changes. Technology stops for no man.







3 Ways for Your Business to Effectively Use YouTube

What do you think of when you hear the word “YouTube”? Do you think of cute babies laughing with their dog or silly cat videos? Those videos may make it seem difficult for your business to take advantage of a platform that screams viral videos made of things unrelated to your company. We’re here to argue that your business should make an effort to be present in order to increase your online visibility, promote brand trust and reach out to new customers. It’s important to be where people are and with YouTube boasting “more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month”, you can’t deny the powerful potential of YouTube.

1. Create a Series of Diversified Videos

Creative marketers can shine by creating a varied set of videos, in turn increasing their viewership. Posting the same style of video over and over again may cause users to click away, so we encourage creativity! A strong strategy encourages diversified video, with content ideas ranging from behind the scenes videos, presentations, client testimonials, exclusive interviews with founders, and how-to’s.

In April, YouTube announced that GoPro had the top brand channel. While the product is geared to video and images, they do a great job exploring different adventures that reach different people. GoPro has their channel set up into different playlists, including animals, surf, skate, and music, as well as product videos and tutorials with tips from the pros.

2. End Videos with a Call to Action

Success on Youtube means not only engaging viewers to simply watch a video, but by building a community and getting viewers to take action. At the end of each video, ask your user to connect in some way, whether you ask them to share the video, subscribe to your video channel, comment on the video in response to a question posed, or register for an event.

A great example of the video call to action is at the end of Kid President videos. At the end of his “Pep Talk” video, he asks the viewer to pass the video along, to share it, to like it, to comment on it, and to use the #kidpresident hashtag. After those call to actions, Soul Pancake (the business that supports Kid President) provides a link to subscribe to their channel, watch more Kid President videos, or to buy a shirt related to the video. Also, within the description of the video, they optimize the use of tags and include links to relevant websites and social media. Continue reading

The Changing Face Of YouTube

Like every business known to man, YouTube exists to make money. Gone are the good old days when digital age dinosaurs like myself thought of YouTube merely as a home video-sharing platform. When my brother-in-law tells me to look up a tutorial on YouTube on how to take apart my laptop, when I can watch a movie length web series remake of Pride and Prejudice in two to three minute clips, when beauty vloggers are becoming the face of Marshalls, I know YouTube has a much wider sphere of influence than I previously thought. It’s reality TV, sure, but with the right methodology and strategy, it can be a highly effective tool for a business.

Are you tapping in?

For those of us who have protested the ever-progressing changes of the digital age, the idea of using YouTube as a marketing tool can sound both terrifying and exhilarating. Young people with their own cooking channels and stylists shows have attracted thousands of followers with their fearless and intrepid, if simple, video work. All this, while we’ve floundered around using the classic marketing tools of flyers, cold calls, and mailers, and seeing pathetic percentages on return.

Do you YouTubeThe tried and true methods need to be revamped given the abilities of modern media outlets. The days of paper, while not over, don’t stand a chance. At least not when it comes to marketing. Paper flyers and advertisements simply don’t have the effect businesses need in order to spread the word to a wider audience.

Entrepreneurs can now reach thousands of potential customers. Some, like certain indie artists, can reach such a height of popularity from a single video posted on YouTube, that their meager following explodes into serious business and record deals.

It’s time that small business owners afraid to jump on board modern technology realize that their traction and growth can be exponentially increased by embracing all the possibilities presented us through the digital marketplace. With constant access to a wealth of information, if businesses want to be remembered by viewers, they can’t be afraid to embrace the more personal aspect of being online.

We viewers want to know that businesses are in tune with us. We want to know that they know what we want. Or we’ll take our business elsewhere.

So now that you’ve been sold on why it’s necessary to bone up on the latest digital marketing possibilities, you might be wondering, what are the basics involved with successfully engaging a YouTube audience?

Marketing strategy from across the internet seems to agree on several basic principles. There are a veritable plethora of articles on marketing strategy and easily found, so I encourage you to explore vigorously.

Nevertheless, as with any marketing or public relations strategy, the most important principal is to ensure that your video informs, educates or entertains. Seems basic, but even huge companies are only just realizing that they aren’t receiving the same number of hits as Julie Jolene the Make-up Queen who shoots make-up tutorials out of her bathroom. Why? Because they are failing to provide viewers with something they actually want.

Viewers don’t go to YouTube for an advertisement (although they’ll suffer through them), unless that advertisement is informing, educating, or entertaining.

If you decide that YouTube is a good fit for your business, don’t fall prey to YouTube mismanagement. Do your research. Figure out what would be something your customers would want to see. And then don’t be afraid that your video isn’t a studio production. The beauty of YouTube, as a “grassroots” platform is still there in all its simplicity.

The Impact of Social Media on the Ferguson Tragedy

The job of a journalist is an elite and untouchable job, reserved for only the sparkling beautiful people we feel like waking up to every morning to see on TV. Right? Only someone with a paper that says they are allowed to be a journalist can report the news, that’s the only way we can believe what is being said. Really? In the last twenty years this may have been considered true by the majority of Americans, but with semi-pro recording and uploading devices hitting critical mass recently, the tide has been gradually changing. In fact, I think in light of recent events, we can safely say it has turned.

Technology has forever changed the way journalism works. There is no greater evidence of this than in the case of the tragedy in Ferguson, MO. In the past, this mess would have been swept under the bed out of sight, for the predictable narrative of highly trained and well armed cop shoots unarmed black man in self defense. The intrepid media was quick to dismiss the story and move to more salubrious topics like the ice-bucket challenge. But that is not the way it went, and for one reason alone: the tech of today in the form of smartphones capable of taking HD video, broadcasting news reports by audio, making blog posts, Twitter hashtags and Facebook. As the MSM attempted to move on, in a casual “nothing to see here” way, their determination to ignore the over-the-top suppression of protests and arrests of journalists that apparently didn’t get the memo sparked a backlash of the people taking matters into their own hands, er, smartphones. How dare the illustrious media celebrities tell us what is news and what is not news? The public wants to know what happened! Citizen journalists armed with today’s version of the Guttenburg printing press put the story back to our attention, in all its gory glory.

In the not so distant past, we have seen some pretty creative ways in utilizing social media to attract attention to a cause like this. Photoshopped memes, like the “pepper spray” meme, depicting Lt. John Pike, a California police officer who pepper sprayed an innocent, unarmed and peaceful crowd of demonstrators at Occupy on the UC Davis campus, tend to go viral, especially if the meme makes one -LOL- The variations this meme went through wound up depicting the officer pepper spraying the Statue of Liberty, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, pregnant mothers, religious figures, and figures in famous works of art. Someone made up a Twitter account to gather it all in on spot, @PepperSprayCop. It got the message across big time, with no money down, no overpaid, overly made-up talking heads and no (apparent) government involvement.

Memes are to be feared for sure, but what is worse to an evil doer with “cover up” on the mind? Twitter has been by far the best springboard to the way in which the new citizen journalists of the Social Media revolution have influenced recent events, be it in Ferguson or anywhere else. Through the use of Twitter hashtags such as #Ferguson, #blacklivesmatter, #iftheygunnedmedown, as well as countless others, Twitter has majorly been accomplice in creating awareness of new police brutality stories and the marginalization of black communities by the big bad police. Whether or not this is all true, is another subject entirely. Reporting has never been about the truth, however, it’s been about creating a story that will stick and sell. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

As data shows that about 44% of Blacks and Latinos use smart-phones (source), the use of Twitter allows for creating a more unified and organized community to rally against police violence, political corruption, as well as the excuses and cover-ups for it. Everyone who has tried to do their duty at the voting booth knows that change does not come by throwing the old bums out and putting new bums in. It comes through real challenges to the ruling class, as well as their allies in the MSM, by organized communities that put the pressure on. This has been fostered, nurtured and turned loose in a large way by social media. Without it, Michael Brown would be but another obituary in the history of police violence, while everyone else, like the President, turns to another round of golf.

Do you (or your company) need a YouTube Channel?

The question posed in the title of this article doesn’t have an obvious answer.  If you were to substitute “facebook,” or “twitter,” or “pinterest,” the answer would be an unqualified “Yes!”  Your company needs to be on those social networks in order to simply keep up not just in your own industry, but in business in general.  It is those companies that put effort into those social networks that will get the best results from them.

That same effort needs to go into a YouTube Channel, for our answer to the original question posed above is, “Probably.”  Here are a few reasons why:

It’s precisely NOT facebook or twitter. 

YouTube is the most visual and active social media channel you can be on.  Vine and Pinterest and Instagram have aspects of what makes YouTube great, but none of those social media channels is likely to ever launch something as worldwide-mega-viral as “Gangnam Style.”  You will have an opportunity to show people inside aspects of your business – think “how-to”s or “interviews with the staff” or “behind the scenes.”  And you don’t have to post every single business day – as it’s important to do on those other networks – just weekly or biweekly is plenty for a healthy channel.

You or your staff have stage fright.

Perfect.  This is an opportunity for you to get over that.  If you’re running your own business, you’re already doing one of the bravest things on this planet.  What’s great about YouTube videos is they aren’t live!  You can take and re-take, with the comfort of only speaking to whomever is recording you.  You’ll have time to get it right.  Perhaps one of your staff shines behind or in front of the camera?  It’s a great way to give them an opportunity to expand their job responsibilities while staying on target with your brand responsibilities.

You don’t know what you’re going to talk about.

That’s fine.  We already alluded to that above, but we’ve also talked before about the myth of not having anything to say.  Buy some pizza, have lunch with your staff, and have an unmitigated brainstorming session where you write down every idea that people utter.  There will be plenty of time to get rid of the bad ideas later.  The good ones will stand out right away.  And remember, youtube is a great place to do video versions of the blog content you’ve already created, or to do an “extended discussion” of a blog post you’ve already done.  You don’t have to “double-create” content.  Additionally, you can set your channel feed so that people can see what your channel “likes” and that’s a great way to cross pollinate/get the attention of already existing channels that have a lot more subscribers than you do.

You are not a professional videographer/you don’t have a camcorder.

Depending on the types of video you are going to shoot, this might not matter.  Now, obviously if you’re a video production company trying to plug your services, you’re going to want to have lights-out production values.  But if you’re a bakery walking someone through how to make a delicious seasonal dish, or a landscaping company showing people tips for dealing with weather conditions, the content, not the production values, will be the star.  Many phones and tablets have incredible lenses on them that can also function in video mode.  Most of your digital cameras will also have a video mode.  Apart from a tripod (a simple accessory that is very helpful) you might already have the tools you need.

  You like staying in your office.

Well, we can’t really help you here.  Shooting video is a perfect excuse to get outside into the fresh air.  Given the weather conditions lately, though, perhaps your segment could involve the proper way to create and throw a snowball?

Above all, we urge you to have fun.  This is a great way to engage with your audience and lend a human element to your business.  It may be a short two minute video that your potential client sees on his/her mobile device (remember that when shooting videos – that is where the majority of people will watch videos in the very near future – so create your content with a smaller screen size in mind) that makes him/her decide to go with your firm and not your competitor.