3 easy tips to make your social media content look professional

There’s a lot of noise in the newsfeeds of social media networks. A lot of clutter and sloppiness.

But your content doesn’t have to look like that. Your posts can stand out from everyone else’s. Before you share, take a moment and use these 3 easy tips to look professional

1. Shorten your links

When you include a link in a post or a tweet, avoid long URLs. They just look bad. And if you’re writing a tweet, a long link can get cut off if you go past 140 characters.

The solution is a link shortener. I’ve used HootSuite’s link shortener and bit.ly, an there are a number of others out there. I used HootSuite to shorten the link for this tweet:

Tweet Shortened Link

The benefit of using a link shortener is that many of them include tracking tools so you can see how many clicks your link got and – if you share that same link on multiple platforms (bonus points for this!) – you can see which platform gave you the most engagement. Here’s a look at HootSuite’s reporting tools:

HootSuite Summary Clicks and Referrers

HootSuite Top Clicks

2. Change how your link is displayed

When you share a link on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, the URL is in your status update, and a preview of the webpage you’re sharing shows up below by pulling an image from the site, as well as a title and subtitle.

Once that link preview shows up, delete the URL in your post. You don’t need it because it’s still active in the preview.

Then use editing tools to clean up your link preview. These editing options are all pretty similar for Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Make sure you’re pulling in the image you want. If there’s more than one image on the website you’re linking to, you can choose to display the most relevant image. Click on the arrow below the image to flip through the options.

LinkedIn Edit Link Headline

You can also edit the title, subtitle (if shown), and the first sentence or two that are pulled from the website. Sometimes the link preview will cut off sentences once they’ve reached a character limit. Click in the editor in the link preview and clean up the text.

Here’s a cleaned up Facebook link post for one of the nonprofits I volunteer with:

Facebook Delete Link

3. Crop your photos

Did you know that each social network displays images a little differently and resizes them based on the network’s design? Make this work to your advantage. If you’re sharing a photo, crop it for the best possible display for whatever network your posting to.

This cheat sheet lists all of the photo sizes for each kind of image – from profile to cover photo to photo posts – for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. Don’t have photo editing software to crop your images? Try a free service like PicMonkey.

I created this image in PicMonkey and cropped it for optimal display in the newsfeed. This post is for the Facebook page of the nonprofit I mentioned earlier. You’ll notice that I have a link in the text for this post because you can’t go to it by clicking the image:

Facebook Photo Crop for Post

Look great!

These tweaks take a few minutes, but they’ll make your posts look like the pros. Once you get in the habit of shortening your links, editing your link preview and cropping your photos, you’ll be able to optimize your social media content, look professional and attract the attention and engagement of your fans.

Got more tips? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Ask Azure: Should I link to my email newsletter signup form in more than one place?

QuestionOne of my friends – who is a marketer for a small business – recently asked me this question:

Q: When people request a free sample or download our manual, there’s a link on those pages to sign up for our newsletter. I was thinking of adding the link to the automatic email they receive after they fill out the form for the sample or manual. Is that too much?

A: The short answer is no.

And here’s a long answer and explanation to back that up. When I switched careers from journalism to higher education PR/social media marketing about a decade ago (oh man, I’m old), I had a tough time with content reuse and using the same links on multiple web pages. “Won’t people get sick of seeing the same thing all over the place?” I thought.

But here’s the thing: People don’t pay attention. They’re not seeing the same thing over and over again. Why?

  • People don’t enter your website through the same place and take the path that you use or laid out for them to discover information. Maybe you have a link to your newsletter on your homepage (which you should have anyway!). But what if your most popular page is your events calendar? What if people find your blog first when they do a Google search? You never know how, when or what page people first enter your website. So if there are important resources or actions you want people to take, make that part of your template for every page.
  • Your audience is not the same group of people across your platforms. Your website visitors, blog readers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and Pinterest board followers might have some overlap, but all of those people are not going from channel to channel to follow your every move. Some might not know you have a presence in other places. Or they might forget to check! That happens to me all the time. I’ve been a fan of HGTV on Facebook forever, but did not even think about following them on Twitter until I saw one of their commercials that featured fan tweets. And right after I typed that sentence, I realized that I was not following the HGTV Pinterest boards either. Done! My point:  If you’re posting to one network more than others, the people on your other channels who aren’t following you there might miss it. And – for those of us who are following you on other channels – we’re all getting flooded with content, so even if we are following you on Facebook, we might miss a post there, but could see it in your newsletter or on Twitter instead.
  • We have short attention spans. We can’t even stick to doing one thing at a time anymore. 83% of social media users have gone online while watching TV (which was the original distraction we were doing while we were supposed to be doing other things!). So we’re going to miss some stuff.
  • No one is going to notice but you. Who knows every link, every photo, every bit of content on your website, blog, email newsletters, autoresponder emails, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+? You, your boss, and anyone else who works on marketing for your business. Everyone else is coming and going quickly, and bouncing along to the next thing. You are the only one scrutinizing your Facebook page for hours and hours. Reusing links and content is going to only look repetitive to you because you’re the only one seeing it everywhere.

Got a question? I’d love to hear it! Feel free to ask in the comments or send it to askazurecollier@gmail.com.

How one small business creates great Facebook content

Anyone who uses Facebook for social media marketing is looking for that magic bullet of content: What can I post that will get my fans talking, make them loyal, and spread the word about my business?

One of my favorite local small businesses has figured it out. Modern Edge Art Bar is a studio in my area that offers BYOB painting classes, jewelry classes, birthday parties, and kids classes. I have taken 3 of the BYOB classes, and was thrilled as a non-artist that I could have so much fun with my friends and walk out with a painting I am proud to hang up at home.

When I first heard of Modern Edge last summer, and liked their page, they had a few hundred fans. Since then, they’ve grown to 1,200 fans and have expanded their business – last month they moved to a larger space, increased their staff, and added more classes.

I think that word of mouth had a lot to do with Modern Edge’s growth, and they’re getting great word of mouth through Facebook because of the engaging content they share. Here are 5 ways Modern Edge creates great Facebook content

1. They strike the right tone

Modern Edge doesn’t post bland text updates about products or services. They share information about their business in a friendly, helpful way. This post is about a possible painting for a future BYOB class – it got 33 comments and 133 likes.

Modern Edge Painting

2. Photos, photos, photos

There is no mystery about what happens in a Modern Edge art class. They post photos of what project the class will work on. They post during a class. They post photos of happy artists with finished projects. This is the cover photo they posted after a class I attended with my friends.

Modern Edge Cover Photo

3. Call to action/get people to share

Want to drive traffic to your products or services? Modern Edge has this down: tell people how many seats are left. Or ask your fans to share on Facebook for a chance to win a free class. This post got 47 comments:

Modern Edge Giveaway

4. They ask for their customers’ opinions

Modern Edge instructors are trained and skilled art teachers. But you can’t fill your classes if no one wants to learn what you’re teaching. They keep their classes fresh by asking their fans what they want.

Modern Edge Facebook Poll5. They’re not all business

This Bob Ross meme is spot-on. It’s about art and it’s entertaining to fans, which is why it got 53 shares.

Modern Edge Bob Ross

Need more help with Facebook marketing? Check out my other posts about Facebook!

3 tools to help you promote your personal brand and content

If you’re producing content – for your business or yourself – you’re spending a lot of time posting, tweeting, writing, designing, shooting video or taking photos. And you want people to see it, right?

Well, they can’t see it if they don’t know about it. You need to get found in online search, promote yourself and your personal brand on multiple networks, and make people not only aware of your work, but where they can find it.

I’ve found 3 tools that can help do all of that:

1. About.Me

About_Me

About.Me is a personal homepage that provides information about you, what you do, your content, and your profiles on multiple networks all in one place.

It’s really easy to set up. Create an account, and fill in your biography, which includes location, job info, and education. Add links to featured content – your blog, YouTube or Vimeo. And connect to your profiles on 28 social networks and apps. Add a photo, choose your fonts, and colors, and voila – you have a nice little homepage dedicated to your personal brand. Plus, you can track activity to your page with About.Me’s stats – check out how many visitors you’re getting, how people are finding your page, and what they’re clicking on.

2. WiseStamp

WiseStamp

If you’ve wanted your own email signature that easily links to your social profiles and embeds your latest tweets, WiseStamp is the tool for you.

The WiseStamp editor allows you to add a photo, links to your website, blog, contact information, and social profiles (including your About.Me page!). You can also embed your latest content – the email apps tool will insert your most recent tweet and WordPress blog post at the time you write an email. WiseStamp works with just about every Internet browser, and you can insert it into your Gmail, Yahoo mail, Hotmail, and Outlook.

3. SlideShare

SlideShareDo you have presentations to promote? Upload them to SlideShare,  a personal portfolio for all of your creative work. And – if you add the right content and tag it correctly – it will get found and shared. Every month, 51.6 million visitors go to SlideShare to find information and ideas.

When you create your SlideShare profile, you’ll add the usual details – links to your social profiles, location, job title and workplace, industry, and website. Add a description about you and your work, and then start adding your content. The free account includes uploads of PDFs and PowerPoint documents – you can add larger files and videos with a paid version.

The free version also gives you some analytics – you can see how many times a presentation has been downloaded and viewed, and you receive weekly performance update emails.

So these are the tools I’ve found and used recently. Are there any that you would suggest to promote your content? Please share them in the comments!

Want loyal customers? Take a lesson from Sephora: Teach them how to use your products

After the makeover: Melanie and I strike a pose during our post-makeover cocktail celebration.

Melanie and I strike a pose during our post-makeover cocktail celebration.

I am a member of the cult of Sephora.

Actually, I’m a VIB member – that’s Very Important Beauty – of their Beauty Insider rewards program for spending $350 in a calendar year (don’t judge; it’s not all for me – I do buy lots of birthday and Christmas gifts there!).

Why do I keep coming back? Because Sephora is not just a place where you buy makeup. You also have access to information and education – in the store and online – to help you choose the right products and learn how to use them.

This is a lesson that anyone – whether you’re a small business or big corporation – can use to win loyalty by letting customers try out products and services, and going beyond that with in-person demonstrations and social media content that provides education and best practices.

It starts with the store itself. If you haven’t been to a Sephora (or if you’re a guy and have stayed far, far away from them), they have a knowledgeable staff and aisles and aisles of makeup. Each product has a sample available that customers can try on. There are plenty of endcaps with disposable eyeshadow brushes, cotton swabs and tissues that allow you to try on the makeup (without getting any germs from the last customer). Beauty Insider members also get samples to take home and try based on purchase points earned – and a free birthday gift.

A Sephora palette from one of my Instagram photo-a-day pics.

A Sephora palette from one of my Instagram photo-a-day pics.

Sephora also offers a range of in-store educational services: express makeup application, classes and personalized consultations. Most are free, and a few are paid. A few weeks ago my friend Melanie and I made appointments for the customized makeup application, and it was definitely worth the price. The Sephora consultants were fantastic – they helped us with all of our questions on makeup application, indulged us with our “I always wanted to learn how to do ____” requests, and helped us find our own perfect colors and combinations. I had such a great experience and shared it on Facebook (word of mouth!), which is why I’m going back this weekend with 3 more friends – I’m picking up a few supplies and hanging out while they get express makeovers.

Most of their social media and email content shares that same combination – they strike a good balance of education and best practices vs. sales. The Sephora Facebook page and Pinterest boards are full of pro tips, links to Q&As with cosmetic company founders and reps, links to instructional videos, ideas, trends and invitations for fans to share their tips and photos.

Yes, Sephora is a global company and they want to make money, but they’re also providing a good experience for the customers with the sampling and educating. If you’re a customer, you can know on the spot if something’s right for you and not waste money on products that you’re never going to use. And if you’re a loyal customer, you’ll come back when you’ve used up your favorite shade of lipstick.

How to make time for social media marketing

According to my tiny alarm clock, it's time for you to post to your blog!

According to my tiny alarm clock, it’s time for you to post to your blog!

One of the biggest struggles that people have with social media marketing is finding time to actually do it.

Everyone has their own tips, tricks and tools, so I thought I would share mine:

Make it a part of your routine

Every day I make time to read social media blogs, marketing blogs, and tech blogs to keep up on what’s happening in the industry. It doesn’t matter if you do this at the beginning of your day, your lunch hour, or during an afternoon coffee break. Make some time to at least scan the headlines so you’re aware of news, updates, stats and what’s next in social media marketing. If you subscribe to these blogs with an RSS reader like Feedly, you can organize them by topic, and quickly scroll through the latest updates.

Not sure what blogs to read? There are a lot of great blogs – and I know I’m missing a few – but here’s some that I suggest (in no particular order):

My blog has now been up for 6 months, and I have to schedule time to work on it. Between my job, my commute, my volunteering, and my social life, there are not enough hours left in a day! Right now, I just can’t post more than once or twice a week. To accomplish that, I schedule office hours for myself a one or two nights a week to write, think of other blog topics, and review my blog and social media stats.

Bookmark all that marketing goodness

The only thing constant about social media marketing is that it changes every day – there’s always new stats, case studies, tools, and news. You won’t remember everything, and that’s OK. Use a social bookmarking site to help you keep track of it all. I use a social bookmarking site called Diigo (it’s also an app!) to bookmark relevant news, posts, stats, studies, infographics, and tools. The great thing about Diigo is that you can tag posts, so if you’re interested in tracking down a post you read that included an infographic on content sharing statistics for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr, you can search your tags in just a few seconds and find it.

This also works for content ideas. If you find a blog post that triggers a topic you want to write about, an article, a photo, a design, or a campaign that inspires you, save it and tag it in Diigo so you can use it later.

Schedule your posts with a calendar

When you walk in to the office or store or wherever it is you work in the morning, you probably aren’t surprised by what’s ahead of you for the day. You have meetings, events, sales, new products, and interesting things on the docket. You’ve been planning these things. So when you’re putting on your social media marketer hat for the day, you’re not walking in with nothing to say. You already have lots of things going on that you can share. As you’re planning them, think about how you can promote them. Make it easy on yourself – create “meetings” for yourself in your Outlook calendar that remind you to create content and post it to whatever social channels you use.

Schedule your posts with a tool

When you know what you want to say, you don’t have to wait to post it. Combine your calendar with social media management systems like HootSuite and TweetDeck (which have free and paid levels) to prepare your posts and schedule them in advance for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.

What are your tips?

Do you have tips or tools to share? What blogs inspire you? What tools are essential to your marketing? Let me know in the comments!

3 ways to promote your blog with social media

Stephanie Fielding

Stephanie Fielding

Today’s guest post is from my friend Stephanie Fielding, the fabulous woman behind Sandpaper & Glue.

Hi!

I’m Stephanie from Sandpaper & Glue, a DIY blog centered around first time home owning. I started my blog about a year and a half ago and have since earned a modest following not only on the blog, but on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest as well. Here’s my two cents worth of tips, tricks, and experience:

1. Branding!

It’s strange to think that something as all about you as a blog needs an actual brand, but readers are quick and savvy and fleeting, and it’s important they know it’s YOU when they stumble upon something. Also, everyone uses social media differently and at different frequencies, so the more ways readers have to connect with you the better off you are. Here’s how that’s done:

Keep your names and look consistent

Create a logo or a pattern 

Sandpaper & Glue Logo

  • Put solid thought into what colors, style, patterns are most you - look around your house and at your wardrobe to see what you tend to be drawn to. I recently designed my whole blog for the new year, I created a new pattern for the background and a new header. This then meant I had to create a new thumbnail for my Google Reader and Blogger followers, a new Facebook cover photo (because headers are not the same dimension), new Facebook tab buttons, and a new Twitter background. Whew! (if you need a quick reference for social media photo sizes, check out The Ultimate Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet)
  • I happen to be handy at Photoshop, but PicMonkey.com is a free photo editing site I highly recommend you check out. Also keep in mind you don’t have to be an artist to create a brand; it can be as simple as picking a color scheme or sticking to a font.
  • Let me step back for a second and address something in that first bullet – create tabs on Facebook that match your brand. This isn’t nearly as difficult as you’d think; this article by Her New Leaf gives you step by step directions on exactly what to do. I made the images for mine in Microsoft Paint, and followed her directions and I had it done in less than an hour – doesn’t get much easier than that! To get my Twitter feed linked up as a tab, I installed this app, then just uploaded a new image. Please email me at SandpaperAndGlue@gmail.com if you need any help with this!

2. Unique content is key! 

Sandpaper & Glue Pinterest Boards

You can’t expect people to follow you around the interwebs if they’re going to see the same thing everywhere they go. Of course you’re going to have some crossover: I have a Project Central board on Pinterest where I pin all my tutorials – but I have lots of other boards I pin to as well. My blog posts automatically link to Twitter, but I mainly use Twitter to talk to other bloggers and reblog cool things they’re up to, and share giveaways they’re hosting. My Facebook page has a Twitter feed tab, and I sometimes put my blog post links as a status, but more often than not I ask questions or share images there.

3. Be yourself!

Pinterest Food Challenge

This one takes a while to figure out. I used to link up to a weekly fashion post about what outfits I wore that week, which was a good way to drive traffic to my blog. But I got bored with that real fast, and when I thought about it, I realized why: I don’t run a fashion blog, and the traffic I got was from readers interested in fashion, so they weren’t going to stick around. That’s when I got a little more clever and created the Pinterest Food Challenge. Once a month I cook something I’ve pinned, then I share the recipe and review it. (Don’t forget to create a logo for anything recurring!) This drives people from Pinterest to my blog, and vice versa. Think about how your social media can work with your blog in an interesting way, but just every once in a while because unique content is key. :)

So there you go – my two cents! I do hope my tips help, and feel free to get in touch with me through the Sandpaper and Glue blog or SandpaperAndGlue@gmail.com if you need any assistance or have any questions!