Humans are wired to respond to visual stimulation. As historically recorded, thousands of years ago, people narrated their lives in cave paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphs. Today, art, books and various multimedia platforms have created a new narrative landscape populated by brands in many shapes and forms.
Everyday, the average person is exposed to hundreds of different advertising messages from hundreds of different brands. Of those, people tend to be most attracted to brands with authentic narratives and compelling imaging.
In the current digital era, social media is no doubt a great tool to increase your online presence. The problem lies in the fact that as more brands jump on the Internet bandwagon, marketing clutter can make it harder for your brand to stand out and compete.
Effective Visual Branding on Social Media
1. Build a Brand Narrative
– In the following video titled ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’, author Simon Sinek explains his simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership. Addressing the question of why Apple always seems to surpass other computer brands, Sinek postulates that Apple’s success as a brand can be attributed to the fact that Apple believes in challenging the status quo and thinking differently. And did you notice the high quality and neatness of their photography?
The take-away: Determine why your brand is great and the kind of narrative you want to share with the world will emerge. Invest in high-quality photography, digital imaging and graphics.
2. Make Your Brand Memorable
Did it ever happen to you that you are spending an amazing day at the beach and suddenly, bursting out of the ocean, you feel like a Coke?
It’s not a coincidence!
Coke uses ‘red’ to associate excitement with their product.
Big brands have realized a long time ago that colors can impact how they appeal to their target audience. Color is more than just a hue. It makes a statement.
But you do need to be consistent with your use of colors. Social media includes virtually anything you post online. This includes but is not limited to tweets, Facebook posts, shares and web content. A brand’s authenticity relies on consistency.
Here is an excerpt from KISSmetrics’s infographic that gives some general guidelines on how colors affect American online shoppers:
With 400 million Tweets a day and 200 million active users, people turn to Twitter to talk about the things they care about, whether it’s the news that affects their lives or the businesses down the road, including your business. This gives you a powerful context to connect your business message to what’s most meaningful to your customers in real time.
Using Twitter, you can:
1. Listen and Learn
Twitter is the perfect platform for you to see what your competitors are tweeting about and gather market intelligence. It’s an easy way to get insights that you can then use to form your own twitter marketing strategy.
2. Grow and Succeed
Whether you want to grow your business, strengthen and promote your brand or run exciting promotions, Twitter can amplify your efforts in these areas and more.
3. Learn from Others
Study how these businesses use Twitter to drive transactions and connect with customers.
Your Twitter Profile
Your Twitter profile is the entry point for your audience. As such, every element of your profile including your @username, photo and bio should reflect your brand personality.
1. Put your Best Face Forward
Your Twitter profile and background images represent your brand. It’s therefore time to put your best face forward. Use a profile image that reflects your company. Logos work. Feel free to get particularly creative with a background or header image to give your page a finished look.
2. Choose your @Username.
Your @username is your Twitter URL. It should be straightforward and reinforce your brand identity. Once you decide on a @username, put it on your marketing materials, both online and offline so your customers know where to find you.
3. Introduce Yourself
Write a clear and concise bio that describes your business. No need to write a novel. To help drive traffic, you can also include, in the bio, a trackable link to your main website or to a specific landing page.
4. Making the Different Elements Work Together
At the end of the day, when designing your Twitter profile, you need to make the individual elements described above work together to best reflect your business: Your name, bio, website and profile picture. You should also keep in mind that people may access your page across screens, from smartphones to tablets to laptops.
8 Reasons Why You May Be Unpopular on Twitter
1. Your Twitter Profile Has No Face
Often businesses have a Twitter profile but with no face. This will NOT help your popularity on a social media site like Twitter. Avoid uploading images of celebrities. Use an original profile image. You’re no Lady Gaga! She can get away with using the image of an egg as her profile picture. You probably can’t.
Launched in June 2011 by search engine giant Google Inc., Google+ is a social networking service with 300 million+ in-stream active users. It integrates numerous Google services, including Google Profiles. Most notably the social network, also referred to simply as G+, allows users to group their contacts into Circles, enabling members to sort their contacts into specific categories. This in turn allows users to tailor posts and send them to specific social groups.
Google+ Quick Facts
- 22% of online adults use Google+
- 42% use the social network to interact with brands’ content
- 70% of top brands use Google+
- Google+ refers the most traffic per visit: 2.45 pages
- Google+ generates nearly as much engagement per follower as the social media giant Facebook
- Google+ generates twice as much engagement as Twitter
Clearly Google+ is the next big thing.
Marketing on Google+
1. Perfect your Profile
Getting on Google+ is like setting up your home in a new, exciting metropolis. To get yourself known, you will need to go out and meet the neighbors. Google+ was launched in June 2011 so your neighbors have been having a street party for quite some time now.
– Set up your profile with a clear photo of your face and a creative or exciting image as the cover photo to visually represent your brand. In case of a business, you can also showcase your brand personality with a company logo.
– Link your Google+ page to your site. The use of Google+ badges is subject to the Google+ Platform Buttons Policy. Because Google+ pages, profiles and communities are different, Google offers slightly different versions of the badges, which you can read about here.
– To find people to whom you relate, use hashtags to search people with similar interests. You can then add these people into your circles.
2. Create and Manage Circles
Circles make it easy to share the right things with the right people. To start out with, Google+ gives you a few circles but you can also create new circles for even more flexibility. On Google+, you can shout, speak or whisper. You can share as broadly or narrowly as you want. If you have something to say that the world needs to hear, choose “Public.” To keep your message to a specific group, choose one of your circles.
3. Get Involved and Be Active
No matter what you’re into, there are people on Google+ who share your interests. Search for public communities around the topics you’re passionate. This is a great way to meet new people and join conversations.
There are lots of ways to share with your communities. Post beautiful photos and videos, plan events, or even have face-to-face discussions using Hangouts.
– Only share your own stuff
– Just post links and photos without describing them
– Share the same post multiple times
You can also create real-world groups of people like your basketball buddies and fellow classmates. It’s simple: If you find yourself sharing regularly among the same group of people, communities are a fast and fun way to stay in touch more easily.
Content Marketing on Google+
Right now there is an opportunity for everyone to build his or her global network using Google+. Google+ can amplify your business messages i.e. your content and create:
– Engagement on posts themselves
– Social traffic to your website
– And Traffic to your website that comes from Google Search.
This not only increases your business reach and impact, it creates business.
In our never-ending quest to increase conversion rates and revenue, we often focus on web design and offers, and overlook the power of customer reviews. In truth, no amount of advertising or tweeting can impact customers the way an objective peer review can. This is because, in this age of social media and online reviews, what you say about your business is important; what people say about you matters even more.
So, How Important are Online Reviews to Consumers?
According to BrightLocal’s Consumer Review Survey 2013,
- 85% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses
- Lifestyle businesses attract the most searches including restaurants and clothes shops
- 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more
- 65% of consumers are more likely to use a business which has positive online reviews
- 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
These findings provide unequivocal evidence of the growing influence of online reviews on the purchasing habits of people. Nowadays more and more consumers are consulting reviews as a first step in their pre-purchase research of local businesses.
These stats are self-explanatory as to why small businesses need customer reviews. Put quite simply, user reviews increase conversions. They can eliminate doubts potential customers may have about a particular product or service or they can help the process of product selection.
The SEO Benefits of Reviews
Improved conversion rates and overall customer experience are among the most obvious reasons for encouraging customer reviews but let’s not forget the considerable SEO benefits as well.
1. Customer reviews generate fresh and unique content for the search engines.
2. Improved rankings for the name of your products plus the word ‘review’ or related words such as ‘ratings’.
3. Reviews can sometimes serve as rich snippets to help increase click throughs from the search engine results pages.
4. And content generated by user reviews increases your chances of ranking well for long tail keywords.
The term “expert” is thrown out rather carelessly these days. This may be the result of sites like LivePerson, which allow anyone to sign up as an “expert” in a pre-determined category. Sites like these are often lax when it comes to verifying credentials. Social media marketing gurus are abound, possibly because it’s relatively easy to amass a following on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Whether or not these social media mavericks built their following legitimately is immaterial. There’s more to being a social media expert than having thousands of followers.
What’s more, any number of Internet marketing forums provide these individuals with a soap box upon which they can spout their pearls of wisdom. Sites like these create an environment in which people can declare “best practices” and strategies “guaranteed” to increase engagement. Whether these individuals are experts or not can be difficult to determine. If your colleagues are getting a bit full of themselves, you can take them down a peg with a simple social media audit. But first, it’s helpful to be completely clear as to what being a social media marketer is all about.
What a Social Media Marketing Expert Actually Does
A social media marketing expert will have a firm grip on the field. It’s a rough and tumble work environment, and an expert will always be focused on these goals:
- Gleaning demographic data from their client’s audience in order to understand their wants and needs and to grow the base
- Constantly promoting content via content marketing, advertising, guest posting and link building
- Driving engagement and promoting sharing via the major social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Flickr and Linkedin – each network requires a different strategy and attracts a different “crowd”
- Effectively and efficiently driving traffic to a specific landing page to grow brand awareness
- Cultivating strong ties to niche influencers
Perhaps the most important aspect of the job is the ability to create true engagement with the target audience. Anyone can get followers, but an expert has the ability and know-how to connect with any group of people. He or she has the ability to find out what the audience is passionate about. The expert understands that passion drives engagement and formulates a social engagement plan accordingly.
The Mark of a Professional
First, though, it might be helpful to slap a definition on “expert.” Many professionals consider an expert someone who has specialized knowledge that isn’t easily obtained. In the Old World—the world before 2003 or so—you could easily determine whether someone was an expert by looking at their academic history. No longer. These days, high school and college dropouts make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and run corporations. Still, there are a few indicators of a true social media marketing expert that you can look for. It’s helpful to look past their social media profiles in the beginning and focus on a few other areas:
- Do they have a blog? A social media marketing expert will most certainly have their own Web real estate with a large following. Their blog should be active, with lots of comments and other forms of engagement.
- Do they understand content marketing? Do they use their blog to promote other people’s products, and if so, do they do it well? Their posts should be devoid of the hard sell. They should understand the value of providing well-written, useful content. Their focus should be on building their list and not on selling individual products.
- Are they good with people? Do they respond to comments, and if so, are they helpful? Do you get a sense that they’re a real person, or are they stiff and robotic?
- Do they drive engagement with images, video and infographics? A social media marketing expert will understand the importance of giving the people what they want.
In 2014, public relations are as much about conversing with customers on a one-on-one basis as it is about releasing press releases. Companies have traditionally relied on this form of media to give them a face, or public image.
Today, however, social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest provide a platform with which you can interact directly with your customers. This is an extraordinary opportunity, as it gives you the chance to show consumers that you’re more than a faceless corporation. Now more than ever, consumers want to know that they can reach you at a moment’s notice, and more importantly, they expect to be able to.
When you speak to your consumers, remember that you’re speaking to your audience. Your message isn’t buffered by the media. Be germane and up front at all times. Keep your messages concise, but friendly, and always address customer questions directly. Consumers are extremely sensitive to “the run around.” Additionally, when you engage with your customers via social media, your consumers expect the Who, What, Where and How, but they crave to be given this information by a familiar face.
One of the main advantages of supplementing your normal PR efforts with a consistent social media presence is that the interest you generate can help feed traffic created by your normal press releases. With this in mind, you should avoid bombarding your audience with a constant barrage of messages. Create a posting schedule, and plan to release more messages when you post your press releases. This will help you avoid exhausting your audience. This is especially important for businesses, as consumers will already assume that they’re trying to drum up business.
Embrace Brand Journalism
According to Roper Public Affairs, a series of articles can be more effective than a press release or any number of advertisements. In fact, 80 percent of business decision makers prefer to learn more about a product or service through articles than through advertisements. While the press release will always be an important PR tool, you shouldn’t overlook the power of brand journalism, or content marketing, as marketers call it.
Brand journalism, put simply, is the practice of cutting out the middle man—the press—and instead speaking directly to customers. A risky venture, for sure, but if done correctly, you can generate massive brand awareness and trust. One powerful strategy entails creating a series of articles that expound on the content within a planned press release, and then promoting them via social media as the press release goes live. It’s important to note, however, that these articles should be information oriented. Don’t use them to hard-promote your product or service. Instead, use them to illustrate to your readers that you’re an authority in your niche.
Niche authority is one of the most powerful assets that you can possess, and unfortunately, you can’t create it with a press release alone. When consumers consider you an authority in your niche, they’ll be more willing to expose themselves to your products. This in turn, gives you a much higher chance of snagging the conversion. Being an authority renders PR much easier, as well. A strong blog and social media presence gives you the opportunity to tackle rumors and slurs head on. Early adopters of brand journalism include P&G, Cisco Systems, John Deere and Microsoft. These companies have brought on journalists to power their own websites, and they’re reaching customers directly with stories that blur the line between ad and news story.
5 Social Networks & Apps Businesses are Getting Creative On (Other Than Facebook, Twitter, G+ & Pinterest)
In 2014, some 73% of online adults use a social networking site of some kind. Facebook remains the platform of choice but according to a study by Pew Research Center, a striking number of users are now also diversifying to other platforms with some 42% of online adults using multiple social networking sites simultaneously.
As a business, you want to be where your customers are. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are obvious social networks you should be using to increase your business reach and impact but there are other popular social networks out there that you are neglecting and that can potentially do your business a lot of good.
For one, millions of people from all over the world use Tumblr every month to find, follow, and share information. Tumblr is the perfect social network empowering businesses to create content and get it in front of the audience they deserve. By all accounts, Tumblr gives you a means to create a brand identity you can be proud of and tell your story using any number of media including pictures, animation, text, music, video, and more.
– 125k new users sign up on Tumblr every day
– There are 140M blogs on Tumblr
– With 63B posts
All you have to do to tap into this traffic is sign up on the social networking site (a process that takes under 30 seconds) and you can create content and engage with the very active Tumblr community by being an authentic member. How you tell your story on Tumblr is entirely up to you. Tumblr also makes it super easy for businesses to syndicate content across the web and other networks.
Instagram is unlike any other platform. The single focus of this social network is captivating imagery and this gives brands an avenue for rich visual storytelling. How you tell the story of your brand is what makes you unique. Instagram, in turn, promises:
– An engaged community; Instagramers are passionate about the platform.
– A visual medium where captivating imagery takes the center stage
– And a beautiful and inspiring environment
– Instagram boasts 200M active monthly users
– With 65% of those users being outside the United States
– 60M photos are shared on the network everyday
– That generate 1.6B likes
Effective communication is never a one-way street. Perhaps this explains the popularity of social media with businesses. Marketing methods used in the past have not been very conducive to back and forth discussions, have they? But social media, that’s a different story. Social media marketing actually thrives on interaction and engagement between a business and its customers. The challenge is to make people feel valued. In social media, you acknowledge the needs and desires of your audience and work towards fulfilling them. More often than not though, getting the conversational ball rolling is easier envisaged than done.
So how can a business increase its Facebook Page engagement?
We’ll get to that in a minute but first, let’s cover how much traffic you can expect from Facebook.
– Facebook has over 1.5 billion users worldwide
– 699 million people log on Facebook everyday
– 700 billion minutes is spent on Facebook every month
With the right marketing strategy, you can tap into that traffic.
1. Posts with Less than 80 Characters Get More Engagement
When it comes to marketing on Facebook, you want your business messages to be short and succinct. Don’t take forever to get to the point and avoid overly long or complex messages. These lessen engagement rates. People don’t want to “read more”.
2. Using Emoticons and Images Increases Comments
Photos and graphic content tend to generate more comments and likes than any other type of content and that includes videos and status updates. So, to increase your Facebook engagement, how about you figure your way around Photoshop and have fun with images. Rather than posting a status update, how about you convert the message into an image or an infographic?
3. Questions Generate More Engagement
Making some of your Facebook posts interactive, for example, by asking a question or posting a “fill in the blank” style post will increase your Facebook engagement. The audience on Facebook reacts extremely well to little quizzes and trivia-type questions. This is a sure-fire way to get people to connect with your business.
For prices as low as $25, you can buy Pinterest followers by the hundreds. Clearly, the decision about whether or not you should buy your way around the social network does not depend on your buying threshold. Other factors come into play and today, we’ll talk about these factors and hopefully help you make an informed decision post a discussion of the pros and cons of buying your fame on Pinterest.
Pinterest is a rapidly expanding social network. As of now, it connects over 70 million users across the worldand according to a Pinterest ROI study by Piqora, one Pinterest pin on ecommerce sites generates an average of $0.78, a number that went up 25% since Q4 2012.
So it does not take a genius to figure out that being on Pinterest and engaging with your customers on the social network can grow your social media following and benefit your business in many ways. Comments, likes, repins and clicks on Pinterest can:
- Drive traffic to your website
- Increase sales
- Generate leads
- And help you increase the reach and impact of your brand
So that covers the question of why you need Pinterest for your business. Now let’s talk about whether or not you should buy your way around the social site in an attempt to build your following.
Building a following on Pinterest, nay any social network is not easy, especially if you are not a business with a strong online following, like say, Coca-Cola, Apple or Nike. Ergo, the most obvious reason why businesses buy Pinterest followers is to make it seem like they are popular.
Now this might work for your business in the sense that, eventually, your account might actually become popular, increasing your online visibility and brand exposure. People on Pinterest come across your account and they see the number of followers and repins; the instinctive response is to join the crowd, right? So buying Pinterest followers might actually, in the long run, make you popular in reality and drive traffic to your website.
Buying Pinterest followers and repins by the hundreds or thousands will probably fool the average Pinterest user and your online connections into thinking that you are this popular authority figure in your industry but it won’t fool Pinterest’s algorithm.
You see, like Facebook, Pinterest’s algorithm works on certain signals that indicate whether or not your content is attracting a lot of attention and engagement. If you post content that Pinterest users love and engage with, your pins will show at the top of the Pinterest search results to popular pinners.
Conversely, if your number of followers increases by the hundreds everyday but no one ever interacts with the content you share, the chances that you will show in the Pinterest search results get progressively slimmer. It indicates that your pins are unimportant.
With that said, buying Pinterest followers and repins is also a violation of Pinterest’s Acceptable Use Policy, which has been recently updated to include subtle changes condemning users who pay others to follow them or re-pin their images.
In simple words, if you buy Pinterest followers, repins, likes or comments, you run the risk of getting your account banned.
Last but not least, by now, we are all aware of the fact that social signals are important ranking factors. But when you buy followers, for example, Pinterest followers, you will see an increase in traffic for 2-3 days but then, the traffic goes away, ALL of it. This may hurt your business’s search results and make you come across as spammy to the search engines.
Just so we are on the same page, this article is not about building social links to your website (or sending social signals); it’s about linking to your social profiles (like your Twitter or Facebook profile).
Now, Why Would You Do That?
Reason #1: Exposure
Remember that the “number of backlinks” was originally meant to measure a website’s or webpage’s popularity or level of exposure.
So the first reason would be to increase the exposure your profiles get, and eventually hope for (well, work towards) more likes, comments, shares, +1s, retweets, mentions, leads, etc.
Reason #2: Dominate the SERPs
Sure, having your website on Page 1 of the search results is nice. But how about having multiple spots on that page (less spots for your competitors?). You have probably already noticed how Facebook and Google Plus profiles appear on Page 1 anyway. They have the potential to rank high; building links to them will only help them get there.
Reason #3: Dominate the Social Network Itself
While we don’t exactly know how social networks rank their own pages and profiles in their own search engines, the number of links pointing to them might very well be one of those factors (And if they are not yet, they are very likely to be in the future, so why not invest in it now, before most other people).
Now That We’ve Got the Why Covered, Let’s Get Into the How and Where, Okay?
From your Website
Ignore the “2-way linking doesn’t work” advice some marketers like to give without any further explanation. Sure, if your link profile consists of 100% link exchanges, you might be flagged. But it’s (very) normal for a business to link to its social profiles. These are actually useful links, as the user can learn more about the company (by looking at reviews for example).
Simple ways of doing it are:
- Icons (or text links) in the sidebar, footer, or even header of your website linking to your social profiles
- Using scripts that the networks and third parties provide that allow people to connect to your network directly (It’s not technically a link, but serves almost the same purpose)
On Other Websites
I’m not talking about spamming. I’m talking about when you are a contributor (or guest poster). Insert your links in your author bio. Most blog owners won’t mind (as in, they won’t count it as part of your “maximum links allowed” if you ask nicely).