Azure Collier

my take on social media marketing and its impact on how we work, live and consume

Why I still use Instagram

I was late to the Instagram party – I joined just after they were purchased by Facebook in the spring. And after that, I just used it occasionally. My iPhone’s photo app was my main tool for smartphone photography.

I know there’s been a lot of grumblings and complaints about Instagram lately because of their terms of service changes, but I have really grown to love it for the following reasons:

1. Instagram helps you create beautiful images

I am not a professional photographer (disclosure: I am married to one!), but I do like to take nice, non-blurry photos that I can share. Instagram’s filters allow me to take my basic, stripped down images and make them more special. Take this image for example – here’s a photo I took of bangle bracelets at Adivasi, a funky Indian gift shop/small business in Brattleboro, VT.

Bangle bracelets - before

Photo taken with iPhone

Bangles After

Here’s the Instagram version – it’s cropped and I added the Kelvin filter.

The Instagram-edited photo is a much more vibrant image and I gave it a fun border. Better, right?

2. Instagram’s profile pages

Instagram recently gave all users profile pages, which is great. You can’t do a lot there, but you can see more of a user’s photos, and follow them from the desktop version. And having a public profile page is good for SEO.

3. Apps to enhance your Instagram photos

A co-worker introduced me to Pic Stitch, which allows you to create collages of 2 to 4 photos in 32 different combinations. I’ve also found Statigram, which will show you Instagram stats, your most popular images, and which filters you use the most.

My Nov. 11 photo of the day: The theme is night so I took a photo of a candlelight in one of my lanterns.

My Nov. 11 photo of the day: The theme is night so I took a photo of a candlelight in one of my lanterns.

4. Photo of the day projects

I started using Instagram on a regular basis when a friend introduced me to the November Photo a Day challenge from blogger Fat Mum Slim. I didn’t know it before, but apparently there are lots of photo challenge groups on the interwebs. Somehow I managed to complete all of the November photos. It’s a fun project, and having a theme every day makes you look at your surroundings a bit differently. As you go about your day, you start looking for possible objects or activities that complete the theme. It makes you think creatively. I tried not to repeat any of my subjects – I can’t use photos of my cats, wine, or my shoe collection for everything – and the themes are broad enough that you can put your own spin or interpretation on the challenge. If you’re interested, the January list is up – try it out!

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How one small business built Facebook buzz – before opening its doors

Thumbs upI first heard about the Rail Trail Flatbread Co. when my husband and I were in Hudson, MA a few weeks ago looking for a place to eat dinner. We drove by the restaurant’s downtown storefront – a new brick sign spanned the building, and the windows were covered up. It wasn’t open, but I was intrigued. What was going on with this restaurant, and when would it open?

Not long after that, I saw a Rail Trail Flatbread Co. ad on Facebook that included a picture of the storefront. I liked their page, and was immediately surprised to see that the page already had 400 likes and wasn’t open for business yet!

How did they do it?

Mystery

Hudson is a small town. So when someone starts a business, people notice. And, like me, they want to know what the heck is going on. A quick Google search revealed that plans for this restaurant were announced a little over a year ago. Shortly after that, the Rail Trail folks started their Facebook page. Good move – anyone who Googled the restaurant would find the Facebook page. And they would like it to be in the know.

No Update is Too Small

Throughout the fall, as the restaurant neared completion, the owners posted updates about their progress a few times a week – no marketing-speak, just quick posts about hiring staff, painting, finishing the bar, putting up the sign, and testing ingredients. These updates helped add to the excitement, and served as a reminder to fans that the opening was happening soon.

Photos, Photos, Photos

Images are powerful – especially on Facebook, where 70% of all activity is based on photographs, according to a study from Overgram.  The study shows that using images can boost your Facebook engagement by 120% for a single photo, and 180% for a photo album. If you’re curious about the new restaurant in town, you’re probably dying to see what it looks like. And, if you’re a beer connoisseur, a Facebook photo of Rail Trail’s 20 taps is going to rock your socks off. That image got 61 likes, 15 comments and 1 share, and demonstrated the power of social word of mouth.

Welcoming Their Future Customers

Rail Trail started participating in community events before their opening and posted photos on Facebook – they handed out candy during Hudson’s downtown trick-or-treat walk. They invited people to get an exclusive preview as part of the annual holiday stroll. On more than one occasion, they thanked local businesses and vendors for their help with the renovations, and thanked the community for their support.

Rail Trail Facebook Thank You Post

By taking time out to get to know their neighbors and show their appreciation, Rail Trail is forming relationships with future customers. Posting on Facebook is key – fans are used to seeing them in their news feed, and they’re getting to know the business.

Facebook Ads

By early November, Rail Trail’s Facebook page had around 200 likes. With the opening day a few weeks away, they amped up their fan count by buying Facebook ads – when I finally liked the page toward the end of the month, they had reached 400 fans. They were up to 500 around the week of their quiet opening. Ads allow small businesses to directly target potential fans, based on demographics and geographic information. It clearly worked – they doubled their fan count in less than a month!

Social Media Success

I haven’t had a chance to visit Rail Trail Flatbread Co. yet, but I’m already impressed – they’ve proven that you can easily generate buzz for your small business by marketing on Facebook with the right content, and the right mindset.

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Engage, inform, recruit: How nonprofits can use social media to recruit volunteers

A version of this post appeared on the Constant Contact blog in December 2012.

When you think about nonprofits and social media marketing, you probably assume that these organizations are primarily using social media tools to fundraise. Without money, you can’t provide services or pay the staff who carry out those services.

Actually, most nonprofits are going social to build relationships. When asked about social media goals for the 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, nonprofits said their top three were growing their base, engaging members and growing fundraising. Two out of the three priorities focused on recruiting volunteers and supporters – growing and maintaining relationships.

So how can a nonprofit use social media to grow their volunteer base? That’s a question I answered recently for several nonprofits by presenting a session on social media during a November volunteer breakfast at the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

The key is using the right content for your organization to engage your audience, inform them about your mission, and then recruit them once you’ve built a relationship.

Engaging content from the Humane Society Pinterest PageEngage

Engaging your audience means sharing content that encourages them to act – you can see how successful that content is when people comment, share, like, retweet, and repin. What kind of content is engaging?

  • Multimedia – Use photos and videos to engage your audience. The Pajama Program provides new pajamas to children in need, and their photos of smiling kids and families are a powerful way to tell their story. I couldn’t find one of the hundreds of their Facebook photos that didn’t have some fan interaction.
  • Inspirational – Get your audience thinking about what they can do to help. UNICEF has an entire Pinterest board of inspirational quotes and photos.
  • Asking a question – The Girl Scouts got a lot of mileage on Facebook recently just by asking a few questions:  “So we’d love to hear your good news about girls: what skills are they learning? What educational trips have you taken? In what way have they awed and inspired you?” That simple post got 186 comments, 422 Likes, and 35 shares.
  • Humor – Animal photos and humor are a natural fit for The Humane Society. Every one of the pins on their cute animal photos Pinterest board have been repined. Your nonprofit might not have anything to do with animals, but sharing funny content is always a good idea.

Informing Content on Facebook from Massachusetts Service AllianceInform

Social media allows nonprofits to interact with their audience on a daily basis. Take advantage of that interaction by informing your audience about your mission.

  • Share your news – This is basic, but it’s important. Regular posting of your accomplishments, announcements and events help to remind your fans of the vital role you serve in your community.
  • Education – Your knowledge is valuable – use it to educate your social media audience. The ASPCA has a Pinterest board full of pet care tips. Each pin links to a full article on the organization’s blog.
  • Events – Definitely invite your followers to events via social media, but make sure you’re posting after the event too. Event photos and video allow you to show off your hard work. Make sure you tag participants – people, sponsors and other nonprofits – in your photos to get more traction like the United Way of North Central Massachusetts did during their annual Day of Caring. As your fans interact with your content, their networks will see it, allowing you to spread your message even further.


Recruit

Red Cross Twitter Post About Volunteering

You’ve engaged and informed your followers, and formed a connection with them. They’re thinking about you on a regular basis and they support your cause. Reach out to them through social media to recruit them as volunteers.

  • Share links to your volunteer opportunities – You can post the link and add a description on Facebook and Twitter, but don’t forget about Pinterest. The San Antonio, TX Food Bank has a Pinterest board of volunteer opportunities and donation drives.
  • Talk about your industry – The Massachusetts Service Alliance, which works with dozens of nonprofit agencies, shared this Americorps infographic about what just one Americorps member contributes through their work. It shows your followers how they can make a difference.
  • Use statistics – The Red Cross has posted daily Hurricane Sandy relief updates on Twitter, including volunteer needs. They tweeted that 90% of their 5,700 workers helping with Sandy relief are volunteers, and linked to a website to sign up for Red Cross opportunities.
  • Try LinkedIn – The Heart of West Michigan United Way posts opportunities on their LinkedIn page, and they link to their website, which has a volunteer matching service.

Need more social media help? Check out my slides from my social media presentation, Engage, Inform Recruit: How to Use Social Media for Volunteer Growth.

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Is anybody checking in?

foursquare buttonsI recently celebrated my third anniversary with foursquare. Since 2009, I have checked in more than 3,700 times on 988 days. I have 64 badges, 21 mayorships, and 48 friends, and follow 54 businesses.

After seeing last week’s Pew Center for Internet and American Life report, Cell Phone Activities 2012,  I started to think “Why am I doing this?” Location-based apps/check ins were not among the report’s top 8 cell phone activities. Pew did a study back in May about mobile location-based services, and only 18% of smartphone owners use them. Crazy coincidence? 18 percent of my Facebook friends are on foursquare.

At first, it was about trying a new social media site. I loved the bragging rights for mayorships, and I was one of very few people using it in my area, so I had lots of mayorships. I loved getting the badges too, but I’m not earning too many these days.

So why am I still doing this?

A large part of it is the routine. I check in every – single – day. It starts with the elevator ride to my office – check in to work (I don’t have a foursquare location for my house because my husband would rather keep that private). As soon as I pull up to the parking lot of any of my destinations, I get out of the car, click my remote key thingy to lock it, and open up the foursquare app. When I was in London earlier this year, I bought an international data plan so I could check in (and use the Internet and other apps) – I scored lots of points and got a sweet London Calling badge. My friends who attended Boston’s Social Media Day with me over the summer hovered over a table of social media giveaways – we each walked away with a complete set of foursquare badge buttons.

I think the other part that keeps me going is the possibility of getting a discount. But those are few and far between too. The Gap’s occasionally had some foursquare coupons, and so has Newbury Comics (a funky CD store chain in New England). Lots of places have partnered with American Express to offer coupons or deals, but I don’t have an American Express card. I get more benefits from loyalty cards (especially Panera Bread, Sephora and DSW) than I have in 3 years of foursquare check-ins.

It seems like there hasn’t been enough interest to sustain an app like foursquare. Most businesses aren’t aware of it, and the ones who are haven’t been leveraging it to appeal to loyal customers. They’re relying on those loyalty programs that give them better access to customers, who have to provide the company itself with their valuable personal information in exchange for an account or card. Some of its functions can be completed with other apps that have the advantage of ubiquity and popularity – check ins with Facebook mobile, and reviews/tips with Yelp.

Is checking in worth it? Not for me, not lately. One day, I’m going to get to the office and decide to check my email on that elevator ride to work instead of checking in on foursquare. That day is coming soon.

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