How to Choose the Best Social Media Platforms for Your Business

So you realize that you need to be social. But where do you start?

It can be overwhelming. There are numerous platforms and every social media advice website will tell you something different. Here is what it comes down to – you need to evaluate your brand message and your marketing goals and find platforms that match the “persona” of your business.

“But how do I know which platforms match my business?” Luckily, I am here as a social media expert to break it down the main platforms for you.

Via Flickr by marcopako

Via Flickr by marcopako

Facebook. Many say Facebook marketing is as dead as paper marketing, which, if you follow my posts, you know is not the case. It is good to have some Facebook presence no matter what your business is (however retail, restaurants, and local businesses do the best). It’s a numbers game – there are over 1.2 billion active users as of January 2014. You can’t ignore that big of platform. Granted, Facebook’s algorithms make it hard for your messages to reach that platform, but if you do a little bit of research you can greatly use organic reach Facebook to your advantage.

Via Flickr by mkhmarketing

Via Flickr by mkhmarketing

Twitter. With the right hashtags, you can do anything on Twitter. Yet the best businesses on Twitter are the opposite of the best businesses on Facebook. This is because retail, restaurants, and local businesses have a dedicated customer base while other businesses have more casual relationships with the audience. This is where Twitter comes in. Twitter allows you to connect with other businesses, prospective customers, and industry enthusiasts who will promote you for free – as long as you use the right hashtags. I insist the majority of my clients get both a Twitter and Facebook. They are the two powerhouse platforms you can’t ignore.

Via Flickr by Link Humans UK

Via Flickr by Link Humans UK

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is THE platform for B2B marketing. Yet LinkedIn can be tricky. You need to have one employee be the “face” of the company, meaning they create, manage, discuss, and make connections on the company’s behalf. It can be tricky to outsource your LinkedIn marketing. Usually it is best to do in house after researching the best way to use LinkedIn as a connector tool, not as a spam marketing robot.

Via Flickr Zack D. Smith

Via Flickr Zack D. Smith

Google+. I admit, I have a love-hate relationship with Google+. There is a lot to be desired and I don’t see its use as a social media platform – outside of its affiliation with Google. With Google’s search engine rules, having a Google+ page is practically a must. With a Google+ page, you get higher search engine rankings and more credibility in Google’s (AKA – Internet God’s) eyes. If you rely on high search engine rankings for your business, get a Google+ page.

Via Flickr marioanima

Via Flickr marioanima

YouTube. YouTube is more of a supplemental platform for your marketing plan. Only certain brands are good for YouTube. If you have the opportunity to make instructional videos, product reviews/highlights, or “commercials” online with your product or service, then YouTube is a great platform for you. Just make sure your videos are professional and high quality!

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Pinterest. Pinterest is a great platform if your business is highly visual. If you have high quality product photos or offer services that are eye-catching, get your boards started! The pinning platform is best for craft, home decor, home improvement, wedding, food-related, and retail businesses.

Via Flickr Play Among Friends

Via Flickr Play Among Friends

Instagram. Like Pinterest, Instagram is great for highly visual businesses. The difference in Instagram – you need to be very interactive as well. On Pinterest, you can get away with throwing up content without a whole lot of interaction. On Instagram, you have to be involved. You have to know the best filters, know the hashtags, and know your audience as well as constantly communicating with your audience.

Via Flickr by manoftaste.de

Via Flickr by manoftaste.de

Blog. Bottom line – blogs are important for pretty much every business. Blogs are your opportunity to showcase your knowledge about your industry. The golden rule is to never write an entire blog post as self-promotion. You should always blog to give away “free samples” of information to your audience so they want more.

Originally posted on LinkedIn

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Suprising Instagram Facts that will Change Your Marketing Plan

Instagram is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the social media marketing landscape. Much of its success is attributed to its photo-centric approach that makes it easy for users to interact with brands. However, there are some surprising facts about Instagram that might change your approach to your marketing content.

Via Flickr by danpeerflix

Via Flickr by danpeerflix

There is No “Best Day” for Posting

Posts on Instagram happen 24/7. Much like Twitter, this means there is no best day for posting. Metrics will only tell us that most photos are posted on Thursday, that photo sharing and interaction is most effective on Saturday and Sunday, and that most weekend photo posts receive interaction on Monday.

Photos are Better than Video

Instagram released a 15 second video option to compete with the similar Vine platform. However, videos are created and shared very little on the platform. Only 4% of brands have begun to use video on Instagram and users are perfectly okay with that. The 55 million photo uploads per day are a testament to the success of photos over video. If you want to implement video marketing, stick to YouTube and Vine.

Filter Popularity is Not Necessarily Good Marketing

Instagram is very unique because it allows users to edit their photos with filters before posting, changing the meaning and intention of the photo. While many brands use Lo-Fi, X-Pro II, and the popular #nofilter hashtag for their photos, these do not equal the most engagement. In reality, the filters that get the most engagement are Mayfair, Inkwell, and Normal.

More Hashtags are Better

In social media, there is a general rule of thumb that you should use no more than two hashtags in a post. More than that makes you look like a social media novice. When it comes to Instagram, however, more hashtags create better interaction with your brand and allow more people to discover you on the platform.

Comments are Rare

For every 33 likes, there is only one comment on Instagram. This shows marketers that the platform is not a good place to hold conversations with your followers and customers. Instead, you need to integrate Instagram with other social media platforms that allow conversation, such as Facebook or Twitter.

The 5 Basics of Instagram Marketing

Instagram is a social media platform that kind of came out of nowhere. Now with the update allowing users to create 15 second videos with any filter they want, Instagram is becoming a powerhouse social media network that marketers cannot ignore. Here are five basic things you need to do to leverage the benefits of Instagram in your brand marketing plan.

Via suendercafe

Via suendercafe

  1. Make content authentic and high quality. All photos you add to Instagram should look and be real. Instagram is an opportunity to let customers take a unique, behind the scenes look at your company. All photos should also inspire a reaction, such as interesting, attractive, memorable, engaging, or emotional.
  2. Content streams. Make sure to decide exactly what kind of content you are going to post and schedule it in a calendar. This can range from behind the scenes images, events your company attends or hosts, or close ups of products with beautiful filters. While some content should be snapped and posted in the moment, most of it should be carefully planned.
  3. Post often. When you make your posting calendar, make sure to post consistently and often. This will help keep your brand noticeable in streams and will entertain your followers a great deal more.
  4. Build relationships. Engage with your followers and thank them for liking photos or sharing photos they take of your brand on Instagram. You should also ask followers if you can share their content on your own social media channels. This can turn into a contest where you ask followers to post a beautiful picture concerning your brand and reward them by featuring the best on social media. You can have your followers vote for the best picture so that the poster can win a brand-related prize.
  5. Hashtags. Hashtags are a great way for people to find your brand and to join in on internet conversations. However, you need to only choose hashtags that are relevant to your brand and give more context to your updates. You also should come up with a hashtag that is unique to your brand and post it on all of your content. Soon your followers will use this hashtag in their own photos to spread brand awareness.

Have you started using Instagram in your marketing plan yet? Let me know what tricks or techniques you have used that were successful in the comments or on Twitter @HS_Writing!

How to Incorporate Instagram Into Your Social Media Marketing Plan – Part 2

On nearly every social media platform, photos are the most popular kind of content. This is why platforms, such as the Instagram app, that are centered on photos are becoming an important part of marketing plans.

There are millions of users on Instagram and more companies are starting Instagram campaigns to take advantage of this huge customer pool. Brands can get quick messages and photos to their audience in creative and engaging ways. In my previous post, I began advice about incorporating Instagram into your marketing plan. In this post I will finish up, covering hashtags, geo-tagging, profiles, and expanding your brand.

Via Flickr VisitElPaso

Via Flickr VisitElPaso

Use hashtags specific to your brand

Popular hashtags on Instagram are not the same as they are on Twitter. On Instagram, they change so often that they do not do much good. Instead, it is better to make your hashtags specific to your brand, photo, and promotion instead of clutter-y looking popular hashtags. There are many benefits to creating, using, promoting, and monitoring your own hashtags:

  • It is easier for people to find photos related to the brand
  • It makes it easier to figure out who is devoted to the brand beyond likes and comments
  • Encouraging followers to use your own hashtags makes it easier for them to share photos and spread awareness across multiple platforms, like Facebook
  • Hashtags can give you ROI relative to the users engaged in a certain campaign

You can also use group and contest hashtags to get more recognition.

See-ming Lee

See-ming Lee

Geo-tag photos

The geo-tag feature on Instagram is amazing, especially now that users can transfer location information to other platforms including Facebook, FourSquare, Twitter, and Flickr. Since it incorporates multiple platforms, it gets all of your communities involved on a bigger level.

  • Geo-tag helps you promote your participation at events
  • Restaurants and retailers can use geo-tag to promote their location and products
  • Customers can take pictures in your store or of your products and geo-tag them

A photo map of all your Instagram snapshots appears on your profile as well.

Via Flickr Tatiana12

Via Flickr Tatiana12

Use profiles

Use the newer profiles, established in 2012, to tell the story of your company. Instagram photos look great in a collage and give great insight into your brand. Your profile is another great way to give your followers a behind the scenes look at your business. Make sure to balance fun images with business images. Have a call to action on your pictures directing people to your website and other platforms as appropriate with the photo.

Via Flickr Jason Howie

Via Flickr Jason Howie

Don’t only use Instagram

Instagram is great for your social media marketing plan, but it should not be the only platform you use. Instagram works best for marketing when used with other social media sites, especially visual-based sites such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook. Your Instagram posts can be shared on these sites to spur more discussion, comments, shares, and brand awareness.

Which brands do you feel use Instagram effectively with their other social media profiles? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @HS_Writing!

How to Incorporate Instagram into Your Social Media Marketing Plan – Part 1

On nearly every social media platform, photos are the most popular kind of content. This is why platforms, such as the Instagram app, that are centered on photos are becoming an important part of marketing plans.

There are millions of users on Instagram and more companies are starting Instagram campaigns to take advantage of this huge customer pool. Brands can get quick messages and photos to their audience in creative and engaging ways. There are a few things you can do to incorporate Instagram into your marketing plan.

Via Flickr Play Among Friends

Via Flickr Play Among Friends

Involve the Community

Start getting involved in the Instagram community by liking and commenting on other people’s photos, especially if they mention your brand in some way. You can also involve the community by creating contests where they take pictures with your product or brand, host scavenger hunts, or offer Instagram-exclusive promotions to get your brand more awareness.

Via Flickr by Robert Scoble

Via Flickr by Robert Scoble

Give a Behind the Scenes Look

This is a great way to give your brand authenticity. People love behind the scenes looks at what is going on. It makes your brand seem more human and involved in providing an excellent customer experience.

Employees should be following the brand and commenting on photos. You should also encourage them to submit their own photos at work and tag them on Instagram. This will help spread brand awareness and give your business a positive image since your employees like work and support the brand. Make sure there are certain rules about posting, but don’t be so restrictive that employees can’t be creative.

Via Flickr by ragesoss

Via Flickr by ragesoss

Get Creative with Your Photos

  • Use editing and enhancement tools, such as Picstitch, Photoshop Express, Picfx, Diptic, Lenslight, and Slow Shutter
  • Experiment with your photos to foster creativity
  • You don’t have to fill the whole box; 4:3 photos with white on the empty spaces will stand out in a feed while still looking good on Instagram’s layout
  • Text only photos can stand out, but should be used sparingly

Look for Part 2 released next Saturday! In the meantime, like this post and let me know what you think in the comments.

4 Ways to Market Your Brand on Instagram

There are four tried and true ways to successfully market a brand on Instagram without users realizing they are being marketed to. Since Instagram is a community of artistic and creative people, you can experiment and find the marketing plan that works best for you. However, these are four existing marketing ideas that brands have successfully used.

Via Flickr by See-ming Lee

Via Flickr by See-ming Lee

  1. Use hashtags to spread brand awareness. Start a hashtag campaign with a specially chosen keyword that fits with your brand identity. Then ask users to post a picture on a certain topic with the hashtag keyword. For example, if you were McDonald’s, you could start an Instagram campaign telling users to post pictures of them eating McDonald’s in exotic places with the hashtag #imlovinit. The winner could receive free Big Macs for a year, or something similar.

    Via Flickr by kurafire

    Via Flickr by kurafire

  2. Give a behind the scenes look. There are many things about your company that many people do not get to experience at their jobs. Post behind the scenes photos with cool filters and frames to make them more Instagram-y. Show the set up and night of an event. Or show the Nerf gun war your office just had. This allows Instagram users to be more connected to the brand.

    Via Flickr by BrentOzar

    Via Flickr by BrentOzar

  3. Show off products in different and natural ways. Show your products in everyday use by your employees. Or have people submit their own photos with your brand name in a hashtag. This is a great idea if you have an actual store people can visit. Have users post pictures of them in your store, using your products, and tell them to tag it #storename. These photos can be shared on your Facebook, Twitter, blog, and website. They are a great way to tell the story of your company.

    Via Flickr by remysharp

    Via Flickr by remysharp

  4. Ask users to post their own Instagram pictures of your brand. Similar to number three, you can have people post their own Instagram pictures of your brand. This can be done in a campaign format, where you remind users to post photos of themselves using your product for a month, then cut back on it. To get maximum user engagement, say that the best filtered photos will be featured on the website. This is perfect if you have a clothing eCommerce store. Have users wear your clothing and submit extra photos along with their Instagram comments on the page of the eCommerce site that sells that piece of clothing.

What are other creative ways to market your brand on Instagram? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @HS_Writing.

2 Things You Need to Do to Raise Brand Awareness on Instagram

Instagram has often been called Twitter for those who can’t read. While this sounds negative, it is actually innovative. Instagram took the popularity of Twitter and made it more creative and user friendly. Users can take a photo with their smart phone, apply beautiful effects to it, and share it online. This makes it a perfect tool for a business social media plan.

Via Flickr by AleksGrynis

Via Flickr by AleksGrynis

Brands are being pulled into Instagram without trying, since many of its users are taking photos either of or with their brands. Name brands like Starbucks using Instagram’s love of their brand to their advantage. Other businesses can begin to incorporate Instagram into their social media marketing to see higher engagement from their customers.

In order for a marketer to successfully raise brand awareness, there are two things they need to do on Instagram:

Via Flickr by suendercafe

Brand their Instagram content

  • All content shared needs to be authentic. It should be of real people and real things, giving users a unique look at your brand or company. This helps give your brand personality that Instagram users can connect to.
  • Build a calendar around content streams. It should include behind the scenes images, business events, and unique views of your product in a realistic environment. Never put up stock product photos; show the product in its natural setting or how it is used. Mix in the moment content with planned content.
  • All content needs to be interesting, engaging, attractive, emotional, and memorable. Every post should have a purpose to create a certain response in the Instagram user.
  • Consistently post this content. This will help your brand have a strong word of mouth reputation and will keep followers interested in your content.
  • Use hashtags that are relevant to your brand or post. Allow the hashtags to provide a context to your posts. Carefully choose a few staple hashtags that are unique to your brand.

Via Flickr by Photos by Mavis

Build user engagement with the brand

  • Build a relationship with users. Search for users, engage them, and thank them for sharing positive images associated with your brand.
  • Ask users before sharing their positive content with your brand’s media channels. This will make them feel valued by your business.
  • Use a unique hashtag on all of your posts. Over time, users will use this hashtag when posting their own content related to your brand. Encourage users to use your hashtag by holding an Instagram photo contest.
  • Engage users who are sharing negative feedback about your brand. Solve their problem or grievance for them. Always answer questions and supply customer service over Instagram as it comes up.

Via Flickr by suendercafe

Whenever you are on Instagram for your brand campaign, always remember to:

  • Involve your customers so they do the work of sharing your brand for you
  • Give your customers content they can connect with that also aligns with your brand
  • Focus on the experience or emotion your photo project; keep marketing minimal or subtle
  • Share photos that capture the spirit of your brand

What are other ways businesses can get creative with marketing their brand on Instagram? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @HS_Writing!