Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Relationship Building Par Excellence with Buffer

Social media has opened up the world to customers. So a relatively small company from the west coast of North America (Buffer) can be used easily by someone in Glasgow, Scotland (me).

The Buffer blog is widely read and I believe highly respected for its insightful posts on productivity, scheduling and lifestyle.

With users and members all over the world, the easy route to communication with customers would be via mass email lists with perhaps a community manager for each region. Not for Buffer.

I took part in one of their weekly #BufferChat Twitter sessions recently, which in itself was awesome. Even cooler was when one of their team members (@nmillerbooks) contacted me soon after to ask for my mailing details to send me some stickers just for taking part. My super cool letter arrived yesterday with a handwritten note, all the way from Portland, OR.

To me this is class in a glass.

Not only have they taken the time to write a note but also more or less stated that a member in Scotland (or anywhere else) is just as valued as say someone in NYC or London.

So not only will I continue using Buffer for personal use (I've just upgraded to the 'Awesome' plan) but I will also continue pushing my boss to invest in Buffer for Business.



And for the purposes of offering some advice, which I will also be trying to incorporate more into my own daily job, here are some nuggets I have gleaned:

  • Social media works so much better when it gets personal - a human voice behind a tweet is worth ten times more than any corporate identity.
  • Communicating on various platforms is essential - your Twitter persona must match your real life (professional) persona.
  • Offering your followers a platform to share ideas, such as a Twitter chat is hugely beneficial when it comes to gauging your brand reputation - i.e. if a lot of people take part, you're likely doing something right!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Upgrading our social media marketing in 2015

Three take-aways from 'The Art of Social Media'

I have just finished reading the fantastic ‘Art of Social Media’ by +Guy Kawasaki  and +Peg Fitzpatrick. I honestly, as a social media editor, couldn’t have kicked off my year with a better book.

So I want to share some of my take-aways with you on the tips I plan to use this year for my job promoting My World of Work. And also on some of the more basic but often overlooked ways social can be used to enhance how you promote your business.

I'm not going to give away the actual content (go and buy it: here) but here are three key pointers from Guy and Peg.

Using Pinterest

+Pinterest is already a wildly popular social network with its many users, there is no doubt about that. However, it might be fair to say that among businesses, particularly in Scotland, it has yet to grab attention. That is certainly the case in the public sector, where our My World of Work account was among the first pages (in our peer group) and where making money is not the aim of our business. However, whether or not your business is about marketing for sales or highlighting free services to help people, Pinterest should not be ignored.

So far our Pinterest ‘strategy’ has been to post on almost weekly basis with the majority of content being re-pins of other user’s content. This is about to change and thanks to tips in this book our content will include far more created pins. We have a ton of content on our site to share and it totally makes sense to present this to our followers in a much more visually appealing way than simple text.

Takeaway #1: If you have a blog, or a specific offer to help people, use a simple image creation tool to design a pin. Make sure to include the link to your content with the pin!

Social events

I now have a greater knowledge of Google’s Hangouts on Air service. I guess you could also use other services such as Microsoft Skype to broadcast your event but Google has the upper hand: YouTube. Oh and it's free too.

Although, YouTube video plays on Facebook are declining; on YouTube and Google+ they are rampant and YouTube as a social network continues to be a powerhouse. Hangouts on Air streams your broadcast via your Google+ page AND your YouTube page with the added option of streaming via your website. The genius part is the post-event archival to your YouTube page and hey presto, awesome social content.

This year, live Twitter updates for our events are no longer going to cut it. Again, making things more visual to our 'customers' is key and broadcasting events is the next step. That’s not to say don’t use Twitter at your events but it doesn’t have to be the only way to show the folks who can't make it what's happening.

Takeaway #2: Do you have a unique selling point and interested followers? Invest in some (relatively) inexpensive recording equipment (camera, mic, space) and start a Hangout on Air. If you don’t have a huge following on Google+, embed via your website.

Check out how I used Twitter for Scotland's Modern Apprenticeship Awards last year on my +LinkedIn Pulse article.

Blogging and social

On a personal note, I want to build my own professional reputation and blogging is going to play a large part in that. Up until now, for all the blogs I've read, I hadn't felt a clear strategy to a) write a blog and b) publicise it using social media.

The advice give in ‘Art of Social Media’ can be applied easily to pretty much ANY business in ANY industry. The key points are; know what you are talking about, provide helpful information for others and share it with everyone who cares. Do you worry that your industry is not exciting enough for social media? Let me tell you from my own experience of managing a corporate Twitter account – every single interest, profession or hobby is accounted for on Twitter. And probably Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn too.

If you want to begin or sharpen up your blogging strategy then I recommend this chapter the most; if anything for the ‘Peg It’ list.

Takeaway #3: What can you tell others about your profession that will help them improve theirs? Define that, and then write about it. That is what blogging is all about. It’s (mostly) not about directly generating sales or advertising your latest offer. Set up your blog on the relevant site and publish on a fixed schedule. And make sure you share the hell out of it via business AND personal social networks.

I've also since came across some fantastic resources by blogger +Mike Allton, which you should definitely check out here

So...go get the book or read on your tablet and let me know what you've taken from it and how it'll benefit your 2015 on social media!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Easily create great images for your social media posts

If you are responsible or take responsibility for posting to a social media page, you may have come across the many articles declaring that imagery is crucial to social success. This is mostly true, whether it’s an image for a link preview or an image to accompany your tweets.

That being said, if you don’t have the luxury of a pictures editor or an image optimised website, then you’ll have to create these yourself. And this takes time, particularly for a newbie. Sure, you could carry on posting links to Facebook with the most basic of stock images pulling through. Or precariously continue taking images from Google and Flickr. But generally these will not appear visually appealing to your fans. The subsequent danger is then that interaction tails off and the great content that you've created isn’t viewed by as many people as possible.

An easy platform

So, I am going to show you how to do it in 12 quick steps using my preferred site: www.picmonkey.com. For this example, I am also going to use what I personally label “The Buffer Model” as I base my design on the images the Buffer blog uses with it’s tweets.

A note on PicMonkey. I was once also a complete novice when it came to creating images for social media. I relied (oh, the days) on Microsoft Picture Manager to make basic edits to photographs from our work’s image library. A colleague (h/t Transatlantic Blonde) alerted me to this free website/app and suddenly our social visuals were better by roughly 100%.

There are other sites too, most notably, the Guy Kawasaki endorsed Canva. By all accounts, Canva is a beautifully designed site in itself and has an almost limitless catalogue. However, I have yet to sink my teeth in and at the moment am happy with my PicMonkey Royale account.

12 steps to better pics

So here goes...oh and first, you'll need to know the image size guidelines for each of the main social networks. Sprout Social handily keep this page updated with all you need to know.
Let’s use a Facebook link based post as an example and this title of this post.

1. Open the PicMonkey website and hover your mouse over ‘Design’ on the top nav

2. Without clicking, this will drop down a range of preset options - choose ‘custom’

3. You'll get two boxes to enter your dimensions for width and height

4. For this example, I’d type 1200 x 627 (I like using the maximum dimensions for clearest results

5. You will then be presented with your white canvas and a list of tools down the left hand side

6. Here I am going to colour my canvas pale yellow (fff198 to be exact)

7. I then want some background textures, so naturally I go to the Textures option on the left nav (a wee cross hatched icon). You'll see a whole bunch of options. Bear in mind that the ones with the crown symbol on them are only available to Royale users. I pay for this service because it’s awesome and it's inexpensive.

8. I love the ‘Clouds’ texture, particularly the first option. It looks good and I don’t mess with saturation or the fade level.

9. Now I want some text overlay so rather obviously I choose the ‘t’ symbol on the left nav, which again opens a whole range of options with the same rule applying to Free/Royale choices.

10. I’m going to use four different fonts here to jazz up the pic a bit and for this example, I use Sue Ellen Francisco, Pencil Pete, Special Elite and One Trick Pony.

11. Because I’m using a textured background, I need my fonts to be bold and stand out against the clouds so where necessary, format the text to bold and/or choose the blend mode as ‘screen', 'hardlight' or 'multiply' but play around and see what works for you.

12. I usually middle my text alignment and then increase the size so that it will be readable on smaller screens. 

And that's pretty much it.

It’s a matter of preference on how much extra you want to add to your images but it is worth remembering that no one is actually going to see your image at this size. It will likely be on a smartphone or tablet so don’t get carried away with detail nobody will notice.

For an image based post, follow the exact same steps using the altered dimensions relevant to the social network you are using. I don’t claim that this example is perfect and certainly, Buffer as an example, do this way better. However, for folks who need something to boost your visuals on social but are short on time and budget, this is hopefully a solution to get started.

Mess around; perhaps create a collage or edit an existing photograph. If it’s a seasonal holiday, use some of the relevant graphics on offer to make sure your posts are in theme with whatever’s happening.

What do you use for creating graphics? Let me know. If you say MS Paint, I will have to report you to the relevant authorities.