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 Trends To Watch (And Use!) In 2014

This should be an extremely interesting year in social media.  Knowing what’s coming in social media is pretty much like predicting the future – you won’t ever be exactly correct all of the time, but you can make some pretty good guesses that are pretty likely to work out.  Here are some of those guesses.

Cross-Platform is Key

Facebook is still the big dog, of course, but others are getting bigger, and getting bigger fast.  Whereas 70% of social media users have a Facebook account, 50% of them diversificationalso have a Google+ account, and that number is still going up.  In fact, Google+ now gets the highest number of monthly visits, at 1.2 billion.  Ignoring Google+ used to be an option, but to do so now would be a detriment to your business.  In terms of sheer growth, Pinterest is considered by most to be the fastest growing platform, closely followed by Instagram, which has activity levels (i.e. checking frequently and overall time spent) just shy of Facebook.  If you have a business that can capitalize on any kind of image, these will also be key areas to tap in the coming year, especially because survey after survey shows customers are highly influenced by (and more likely to pass on) posts with pictures.  In fact, one recent study showed that in 2013 social media posts with images actually drove more revenue that standard display ads!  Tools like Hootsuite, IFTTT (if this then that), or Buffer can make it easier to manage the generation of content on multiple sites, but it still pays to know and understand the unique characteristics and benefits of each service.  Each major platform has its challenges and benefits, but the key takeaway here is that 42% of all Americans currently use multiple social media platforms regularly, so you need to broaden your presence into as many of those as possible.

Go Mobile

Over half of Facebook users and 35% of Pinterest users now access their accounts solely through a mobile app.  The numbers for other platforms are smaller but show the same trend.  Perhaps even more importantly, over 60% of Americans now own a smartphone in particular, a jump of 15% in just one year!  There’s no reason to think this trend will slow down soon until saturation is achieved, so the bottom line here is that if you want to get your business and your content out there, you absolutely must orient toward mobile.

Content is King

content-magnet

Social media has evolved to the point where following a person or company simply for the sake of following them is no longer enough.  There needs to be a compelling reason for the follow now.  Your social media posts need to provide either entertainment value, utility value, or (preferably) both.  Once you have a substantial body of work built up, pay attention to the posts that got the most interest and engagement, and try to understand why…then do it again.  And don’t be afraid to change it up every now and then – even the most useful content provider will get stale from time to time, so throwing in some inspirational quotes or just-for-fun off-topic stuff can help keep things interesting. Above all, you must be willing and able to tell a story.  Brief standalone nuggets of information are fine, but don’t exactly inspire loyalty.  A good story, however, sucks people in and compels both interest and a desire to come back again and again.  And that brings us to…

Engage!

engage-gears

If there is one trend to capture in the coming year, this is it.  You must listen to, understand, and engage with your customers.  One recent survey shows that just 6 hours

invested per week created a noticeable increase in traffic for 74% of respondents.  Over half of these respondents acquired new customers by directly engaging with Facebook followers, and over a third gained new customers by engaging with Twitter followers.  Don’t look at social media as a marketing platform, but rather a way to engage your customers on a conversational level with the intent of building relationships and satisfaction.  These things will ultimately generate repeat business, positive word of mouth, and growing social media presence for your brand.

Jobs to Watch

The rise and popularity of the social media industry also means there is a whole new set of jobs available for talented people to fill.  One great example is analytics – having a mountain of data doesn’t do much for you if you don’t know how to interpret that data into actionable solutions.  Search engine optimization (SEO) specialists and social media strategists are also likely to be in high demand in the near future.  If you have these skills or are willing and able to learn them, you might find yourself riding the wave of these social media trends in a very literal sense!