Azure Collier

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

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!

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3 steps to testing content for your Facebook page

A common question I hear from people using Facebook for marketing is “What kind of content gets the most engagement?” There’s no easy answer I can give you. But what you can do is test to find out what topics and types your audience is interested in. And you can also take advantage of marketing research that shows what kind of content gets a typical Facebook user’s attention.

That’s what I did recently in September when I started volunteering with the Leominster Office of Emergency Management (LOEM) and helping with their Facebook page. Before I became involved with the page, the organization had been posting text updates about severe weather warnings and links to news or information about public health, safety and emergencies. This was important information that the page’s fans needed to know, but it wasn’t getting them much engagement, spreading the word about what the organization and its volunteers does, or helping to grow their fan numbers.

What was missing from the page was original content, posts that show what happens behind the scenes at LOEM, and photos. If you want to increase your engagement, photos are a great start. Photos get 2 times the engagement of text posts. Photos are also the No. 1 content type shared by Facebook users.

So, for the month of September, I tried posting more of that type of content, and the results showed that this is what the fans want. Here’s how I tested the content:

1.       Testing Post Types

Facebook Insights Post Types

We posted 4 text updates during the month and tried 5 photo posts. The text updates included the weather warnings and information about a community event. The photos showed LOEM volunteers in action at a fire and at a booth during an annual festival, as well as a post known as a word image that combined a stock photo of a first aid kit and 4 emergency preparedness tips and a link to more information online.  It’s clear from the stats shown above in Facebook Insights that photo posts get the most reach and engagement.

2.       Measuring Likes, Comments and Shares

Facebook Insights Likes Comments SharesThough photos received more clicks than likes, comments and shares, fans are showed through digital body language by just clicking that they’re interested. Of course I’d love more likes, comments and shares on the page, but the clicks are a good start and indicate strong interest. The activity shows Facebook that these fans want to see our page’s updates in the news feed. And the actions of likes, comments and shares can be seen by our fans’ friends in their news feeds, which gives us greater reach, more exposure and potential page likes. The behind-the-scenes and LOEM in action photos are starting to help spread the word about what the organization does. Since the September tests, there have been a few fan comments thanking volunteers for their work.

3.       Posting When Fans are Online

Facebook Insights When Your Fans Are Online

In recent months, as Facebook has updated its Insights, page admins now have access to some great data about when fans are online. The stat – found when you click on the Posts tab in the new Insights –  shows an average  of how many of your fans are online during each day of the week, as well as during each hour of the day.

So I decided to post 3 out of the 5 photo posts specifically using the When Your Fans Are Online data. The majority of our fans who are online using Facebook are viewing the site from early afternoon to late evening on any given day of the week, from 4 pm to 9 pm. This is pure speculation on my part, but based on the time of day and the gender of our engaged fans (65% women, 40% of them are ages 25-44), many of them may hold day jobs and may be parents. They are using Facebook after work or after their kids are in bed, so they have time to browse Facebook. By posting during those hours, our content has a better chance of being seen in their news feed.

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t solely rely on the When Your Fans Are Online stats. Make sure you’re testing other days and times as well. But the stats are a great start to helping you find a frequency sweet spot.

Results and Moving Forward

There’s a lot more that you can test when posting Facebook content, but just looking at these 3 factors helped us determine that trying visual content that showed what the LOEM was about is a great start to improving the page.  As more people interacted with and commented on our content, that engagement was seen by their fans, and that helped to influence fan growth. The LOEM page gained 10 fans in September. To some people, that may not be a lot, but to a small organization, those small gains are a fantastic step forward. We’re continuing to post photos and testing to see what other types or topics our fans will engage with.

Need more Facebook help?

Check out my other posts on Facebook marketing or ask your questions in this post’s comments.

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Yes, you can create video content: Busting video myths

Video content is a marketing conundrum.

People love watching video. It’s content gold, but it’s a marketing challenge. Some marketers are hesitant to use it because video content creation is often misunderstood.

Today I want to set the record straight on video. Anyone can create an effective video, and it’s easier than you may think. Let’s bust some video myths:

Myth #1: I don’t know if my audience is interested in video

They are and I have the stats to prove it:

Instagram's tools allow you to edit your video's length. And yes, this is a video of my cat :)

Instagram’s tools allow you to edit your video’s length. And yes, this is a video of my cat :)

Myth #2: You need fancy, expensive equipment to create a video

Nope. If you have a smartphone, that’s all you need – no high-end video equipment, no expensive video editing software. What counts here is the content. Your video has to be interesting, engaging and useful for your audience.

And there are plenty of free video apps like Vine and Instagram. When Instagram recently added video, it included features that allow you to edit for length, change colors with filters, and pick your own cover image.

Myth #3: I need to spend a lot of time creating a long video that includes a lot of information

No you don’t. In fact, please don’t. I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve worked on over the years for organizations that insist on long videos built to satisfy the needs of their internal organizations (bosses, board of directors, etc.). Your audience will not watch them because they were not built for them. They were built for the hierarchy of your internal organization. The only views they get are from the meeting or event the video was built for, and that’s it. A few years ago, I worked on projects that involved spending hours of dividing videos of long speeches into multiple parts of YouTube sized chunks. No one clicked on them.

Just because YouTube allows you to upload 15-minute-long videos doesn’t mean that you should. People have short attention spans. You’ll lose 10% of your viewers within the first 10 seconds.

So how long should your YouTube video be? The average I’ve seen on marketing blogs is between 2 and 3 minutes. Try testing different lengths. YouTube’s analytics will give you stats on the average time people spend on your videos, and at which point your viewers drop off.

Myth #4: Written content is better for my SEO

You absolutely need written content but video will drive visitors to your website, blog and other digital assets. YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google – which owns YouTube. And 70% of search results are videos. So the more video content you have, the more likely it will be found in a search.

What’s holding you back now?

Hopefully nothing. Grab your smartphone and start shooting video! Got video questions or myths you want to be busted? Let me know in the comments.

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3 tools that will help you measure and optimize your Instagram engagement

Instagram isn’t the largest social network in terms of users (13% of Internet users have accounts) or businesses using it for social media marketing, but you can make a big impact with the content you’re creating there.

There are 3 reasons for this:

  1. You can easily share to Facebook, Twitter, and a few other sites through Instagram’s settings.
  2. People love visual content. If you share your Instagram photos to Facebook, they will receive between 120-180% more engagement than just a text-based post.
  3. You now have access to a lot of 3rd party tools that can measure engagement with your Instagram content – and show you some other nifty stats about your activity.

I’ve done a little digging recently, and thought I’d share some tools I found to help you get the most out of your Instagramming.

Statigram

I’ve mentioned Statigram before – as a tool you can use to create a Facebook profile photo from your Instagram shotsbut Statigram also has great statistics for your account.

Statigram Optimization

When you click on the Statistics tab, it will give you:

  • An overview of your total photos, likes, comments, followers. The overview also shows scores for your love rate (how much your followers like your photos), talk rate (how many followers comment on your photos), and spread rate (engagement from non-follows). Judging by those scores, I have a lot of work to do on my Instagram account!
  • A rolling month analysis – and this is exactly a month from when you’re currently accessing your stats. You’ll see the amount of content you posted during that period, engagement in likes and comments, and follower growth.
  • Content analysis from your first Instagram post, including total photos per month, a month by month and week by week comparison, which day of the week and hour you post the most, filter usage, tags, and geolocation.
  • Engagement statistics, such as the percentage of likes from followers and nonfollowers, likes compared to growth history, most liked photos, percentage of comments, comments compared to growth history, and most commented photos.
  • Optimization of your frequency and filters, and how they impact engagement. I think this is the most useful set of statistics. There’s a great chart that shows your current posting habits for days of the week and times, compared to when your followers interact with your photos. The places those intersect are your optimal posting date and time. You’ll also see a chart that shows the lifespan of engagement with a photo – how quickly people comment after you post a photo. There’s a graph that shows the filters you used, compared to comments and likes. It looks at your tags as well – what tags you use compared to the most popular tags.
  • Community statistics on your followers – who you’re not following back, who’s not following you back, and who are you following that follows you back – and your follower growth.

SimplyMeasured

SimplyMeasured’s free reports give you a look at multiple social networks, including Instagram. The best part about the Instagram report is the engagement activity. If you’re sharing to Facebook and Twitter from Instagram, SimplyMeasured will show you which channel is getting the most engagement for your images.

Simply Measured Engagement

In my case, Instagram ranked the highest, followed by Facebook and Twitter. Since I share photos mostly on Instagram, sometimes on Facebook, and rarely on Twitter, that makes sense. If I shared every photo on all networks, this report would give me a better idea of – all sharing being equal – what channel would give me the most engagement as far as Instagram photos.

SimplyMeasured also analyzes engagement among your Instagram activity – likes and comments per photo. And it shows engagement via Twitter and Facebook – tweets per photo, and Facebook likes, comments, and shares per photo. It shows your top photos for the last month, a keyword analysis – comments per keyword, and determines your best time and day for engagement. Not what I expected at all; it turns out my best time is 4-5 pm, and my best day is Friday.

Twtrland

A tool called Twtrland might throw you off – we’re talking about Instagram here. But in addition to Twitter analytics, Twtrland gives you stats for your Instagram profile:

  • Your follower count, and what percentage of your followers are novice, casual users, or power users.
  • Your average activity per week
  • Likes and comments per photo
  • Your most popular photos – my No. 1 is of one of my cats, which is a relief; I’m trying not to post too many cat photos. But I guess this just reaffirms that cats rule the Internet.

Twtrland

What I Learned

Based on these tools, my current Instagram habits, and common marketing knowledge, I know that I do need to post more (I have been slacking). My growth history from Statigram shows the more I post, the more engagement I receive and my follower count goes up.

I get good results if I’m posting photos during an event and tagging the pics with the event hashtag – more exposure because event attendees are looking for related content. The Simply Measures activity stats show that the weekend I posted during Blog Better Boston, my engagement went up. Hashtags count too – when I participate in the Photo a Day challenge, other participants are looking at the #fmsphotoaday hashtag, and are catching my content. And that explains why my most popular photos from the Twtrland stats are from the photo challenge.

Simply Measured Instagram Twitter Facebook

Stats from Simply Measured and Statigram show that I should be posting at 4 pm on Fridays, but weekend mornings and weekday evenings after dinner will get me steady engagement.

Simply Measured Frequency

How is Your Instagram Activity?

If you’ve used these tools, what did you learn? And if you have other tools to suggest, I would love to hear about them in the comments!

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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!

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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.

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Stats, source and a new look: 3 things you should know about Pinterest

I have an on-again-off-again relationship with Pinterest. It’s mostly due to my on-again-off-again relationship with online shopping. I prefer to shop in person, try things on and see them face-to-face.

But sometimes I am curious about what’s new without having to leave the house (like tonight when we got a foot of snow). And then I see a ton of things I want, so I pin them to my boards (hello 30 dresses and skirts from ModCloth!).

I’ve noticed an on-again-off-again trend with Pinterest. You hear a blip here and there, and then there’s a period where Pinterest is everywhere – that’s what’s happened in the last month. So here are 3 things that you might want to take a look at if you’ve put Pinterest to the side lately. Log in and crank it up!

1. Stats

There are actually 2 things in the stats category. Here’s the first. An infographic I saw today with data from the Pew Center for Internet & American Life confirms what most people know about Pinterest: Most users are women. However, Pinterest use is very common across geography (urban, suburban and rural), race, education and income. When I think about the people I know who use Pinterest and their demographics, that really fits the bill. Some of those people could care less about Twitter or Instagram, but they are regular pinners.

Here’s the second stats item: As of last week, Pinterest added an analytics platform. Right now, it tracks pretty basic activity of content from your site that’s been pinned: number of pins, pinners, repins, impressions, reach, clicks and visitors. I’m interested to see how this develops over time. My little blog has a small amount of Pinterest data – my busiest times are the days that I pin blog posts, and a day or two after that:

Pinterest Stats for azurecollier.com

2. Source

Here’s a cool little trick to find out what content from your website is getting pinned. Use this URL: http://pinterest.com/source/YourWebsite.com/. This is a screenshot from my blog’s content that’s been pinned – mostly by me! But as my blog grows, it will be nice to see what’s being pinned so I can get a better picture of what content readers want.

Pinterest Content from azurecollier.com

3. New look

If you have a Pinterest business account or have a verified website on your profile, you can preview Pinterest’s new look! There’s some small changes to the navigation – the search bar and categories are on the top left and tools for your settings have collapsed under one bar on the right. When you hover over the categories icon, it opens a window of 2 dozen topics.

The more interesting change is on the pins themselves. When you click a pin, it now shows a menu of other pins from that pin’s board, and suggests other items that people have pinned from that source/website. It’s a great way to explore other items or products that you haven’t seen before.

New Look - Pinterest Pins

That’s the latest about Pinterest! Got some tips that I didn’t cover? Let me know in the comments. Happy pinning!

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Make your LinkedIn profile stand out by adding projects

LinkedIn is the social network that doesn’t get much love.

It’s professional and buttoned-up. It’s not as fun as Facebook, or as pithy as Twitter.

And – aside from your profile photo and any image that shows up as part of a link that you post on an update – there’s nothing visually interesting going on.

Until now.

If you have accumulated a visual, creative portfolio as part of your career, you can absolutely show it off – by using the add a link feature in the Summary or Experience areas of your profile. The Summary area allows you to show off all your projects in one spot; adding to the Experience area allows you to add work to specific positions.

STEP 1

LinkedIn Edit Profile

To get started, make sure you’re in the edit mode of your profile.

STEP 2

LinkedIn Summary Section
Scroll down and find your Summary or Experience section. Click the add a link icon.

STEP 3

LinkedIn URL Title

Enter the URL for your project – you have a wide range of sites to pull from because LinkedIn has partnerships with about 100 providers, including SlideShare, Prezi, Twitter, Pinterest, Issuu, YouTube, and Vimeo. Click Enter, and then LinkedIn will pull the title and description of your item. Edit the title and/or description, and click Save.

FINISHED!

 

LinkedIn Projects

Now you have a new multimedia project to showcase on your profile.

Although you can add specific projects to your positions, I like having them all in one spot in the Summary. I have webinar slide decks, a video, blog posts, and my Twitter stream. It’s a great way to display my skills in social media content creation, writing, editing, presentation design, and video editing.

Voila! Your LinkedIn profile just got a whole lot more interesting and interactive.

Have you tried adding your projects to LinkedIn? What do you think of these tools? Let me know in the comments.

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How can your business get noticed in the new Facebook news feed? More visual content

A look at the new Facebook news feed (image from Facebook)

A look at the new Facebook news feed (image from Facebook)

The most important lesson from Facebook’s news feed upgrade announcement this week is this: multimedia is critical to your business’ success on Facebook.

Photos and videos will appear larger in the news feed – currently that content makes up 50% of the stream. And there’s a good reason for that. Facebook users are more engaged with multimedia than with text updates alone, or with text and a link. MBooth found that videos are shared 12 times more than link or text updates, and photos are liked 2 times more than text updates.

It makes sense. for Facebook users – your fans and followers – photos and videos are a huge part of their social media activity. A recent Pew Internet and American Life study shows that almost half (46%) of online adults post photos and video, while 56% have completed at least one photo-sharing activity.

For small businesses who are already using photos and video, the changes validate the time and effort they spend on creating that content. For those that aren’t, it’s time to take stock of your content creation for 2013, and change those New Year’s content resolutions. The top content types that small businesses in a BusinessBolts.com study planned to increase this year were written content; 53% wanted to focus on video, and 30% planned to increase photo creation. If your business placed multimedia towards the bottom of the list, your smartphone is going to be your new best friend.

The time is right for multimedia content, especially for small businesses on a small budget – no one has to purchase expensive equipment, or hire high-end professionals to show off their business. Everything you need is on your iPhone or Android. The tools are extremely easy to use, and you don’t have to spend hours on your photos or video. A couple of images in a small album or photo collage, or a short video (really short if you’re using 6 second clips from Vine) are all you need. If you haven’t already, download Instagram and Vine, and start capturing engaging, interesting visual content.

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Timelape video for Community Builders/United Way

Check out this video I worked on for the Community Builders of the United Way of North Central Massachusetts. It’s a timelapse of their Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day from last month. I’m very happy with how this turned out!

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