Articles written in February, 2012

February 24 2012

Photo Centric Social Networks are Looking Good for Business

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Since the emergence of the first social network, photos and videos have always been an integral part of the experience and draw. It makes perfect sense that photo centric networks – like Pintrest and Flicker focusing primarily on images, but including videos too – would become popular.  Connecting the dots from the rise in Pintrest’s success, may have created a healthy competition in this market, which prompted Flicker – the original photo/video network – to update their user experience.   Whatever the result, we like seeing the increased activity in these networks, and predict that businesses will find additional benefits from interacting in this type of social network.  If you aren’t familiar with either network yet, below is a short summary for each.

Pintrest is not the “newest” social phenomenon on the block, but it is becoming the “hottest” based on growth and interaction.  It is a pin board of interests via images that not only can expose products for a Brand, but can also generate good outbound links to the compay website.   Using its own unique verb for flagging interests, people have been creating “pins” and sharing account invites – an exclusivity feature to create an account on the site – like crazy over the last few weeks.  In a blog last week, The State of Search created a compelling infographic about the usage of the site showing a 145% increase since the New Year.   Pintrest’s exposure is partially due to the integration of the social graph, enabling it to post network activity directly to a member’s Twitter and/or Facebook account.  Also, it recommends people to follow based on the friends from those accounts that are using Pintrest too.   Recently, there has been some cautionary hype in the media due to the privacy policy, so before setting up a “pin board” for your brand, make sure it is going to benefit company interests, rather than harm them.

Flickr has been around since 2007 and is the largest photo centric network to date, but was losing interest and member activity as a social network.  This month Flickr announced it will be making a number of changes in the coming months, beginning with a new photo stream design – Justified View – and a new uploading feature – Uploadr –  to create an improved user experience.  The Justified view releasing on Feb. 28th , will be eliminating all the white space and text in a user’s photo stream – similar to Pintrest’s  design – and showcasing larger images in a single viewing area that can be hovered over for more information/actions.   Markus Spiering, Flickr head of products, discussed these updates earlier in the month with Mashable, and explains that the main focus for these updates is to increase user engagement.   Businesses that already have Flickr accounts, will experience the new look first in the streams of the people already following them.

What it all adds up to is more sharing opportunities, links, and exposure for your Brand.  It has been said this style of design appeals to the passive internet user due to the ease in creating preferences based on visual appeal within their own account.  This could mean a new audience to target that might not be as active in other more robust networks.  As a Brand, the most important thing to address in any content situation is what you can create that will encourage interaction with the populace.  To create a strategy, first do some research inside the networks to help to establish who you want to create content for, and what types of images will be shared the most.

If you’d like more information on how to create a company account, content, or social media strategies for this type of network, contact us.

February 22 2012

Facebook Updates for 2012

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Facebook’s paperwork for its Initial Public Offering filled this month, has created some media buzz and speculation as to what the company will be doing next.  The IPO included stats like, “Facebook  had 845 million active users as of Dec. 31, with slightly more than half of those people, 425 million, using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to visit Facebook. An average day on Facebook sees about 483 million people logging into the world’s largest social network, an increase of 48 percent over the previous year.”, and other tid-bits that sparked a lot of ideas as to what to expect this year from the company.  In just the beginning of this year, Timeline was released for user profiles and will soon be made available for businesses too. If you haven’t been following all the media, here is a review of a few anticipated Facebook Updates in 2012 we think are important for businesses watch for.

Mobile App with Ads
The IPO alluded to mobile as a potential revenue source, and cautioned that the lack of mobile revenue could harm it, since nearly half of the users access the site on a mobile device.  According to Zoe Fox at Mashable, “Users of Facebook‘s apps — for Android, iPad and iPhone — may begin seeing ads as soon as early March, as the company looks to gain an addition revenue source before it goes public.”    Also, a new advertising method to expose ads to mobile users called, Sponsored Stories, was released in December of 2011, and embeds the advertised posts directly into the newsfeed of an individual’s profile.

Facebook Timeline for Businesses
On Feburary 29th, Facebook will be sponsoring an event for marketers where it is expected to announce the release of Timeline for Business Pages.  Timeline was recently released to profiles for all users and although it is getting mixed reviews, it offers a new experience for the site.  Timeline aggregates every Wall post in a profile into a chronological view that can be adapted, added to, and hidden away from view, changing the way information is accessed. Also, the new enhanced options for sharing with media partner applications directly in the Timeline.  Facebook VP-Marketing and Business Partnerships David Fischer said Timeline for brands would be “consistent” with the Timeline look-and-feel, but not a carbon copy.

What does that mean for businesses?
Marketers can use those mentions from user interaction, and give their brand wider distribution through sponsored stories. “Marketers want to promote stories about the things they’re affiliated with but don’t always own the apps,” said Gokul Rajaram, Facebook Ads director of product management, referring to apps from services such as Spotify, Netflix or Pintrest that allow users to share what content they’re consuming. “Now you can promote stories from any app about objects you own, not just from the page owned by the marketer.”  This will open a whole new way to target ads as well, based on what a user is listening to, reading, or watching when the ad is served.

Brands will have the ability to promote the history of their business by adding historical facts to the Timeline.  A large customized design in the profile banner can be adapted more often to promote the brand, campaigns and contests, or other relevant marketing to drive traffic to.  Unfortunately it’s rumored that Page Tabs,  which were once visible under the profile image, will now be condensed and hidden in a box at the top of the page.  Kunur Patel of Ad Age Digital suspects that the format change is to promote the use of the “Open Graph” apps and could put pressure on brands to develop their own apps using custom verbs other than “like,” in the same vein as Pinterest, which has a Facebook app that tracks when its users have “pinned” something.

As Facebook continues to expand, and gain the billions of revenue expected from the public offering, there will be new internal initiatives being added frequently to ensure that the revenue generated by the company will meet stockholder’s expectations.  That being said, we expect the advertising element within Facebook to continue to expand and add options for businesses to increase exposure and engagement with their fans.

What updates will you need to make in your own Social Media Strategy for the Facebook of 2012?

February 10 2012

6 Tips for Merchants to Market with Four Square

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Foursquare is an LBS (locations based services) social network accessed from a popular mobile application – desktop available too – that can be integrated with a member’s Facebook and Twitter account.  They describe themselves as “a service that helps find where your friends are hanging out and offers tips from other users on what to do once you get there.” Around 15 million people worldwide have committed to over 1.5 billion check-ins with millions more being added daily.  Beyond just checkins, other tools for members like tips, photos, and a new integration with Garmin also aid in fan engagement. There are over 600,000 businesses using the Merchant Platform to connect with customers and generate traffic to their locations.  Both Merchants and Brands have the ability to create a business page, however the recommendations to follow focus on a merchant’s marketing strategy for Foursquare.

1.  Claim your venue. Sign up for an account and search for your location. It might be that a customer has checked into your venue, and you can claim it by proving that you own it. If you can’t find it or you are opening a new location, click “Add a new venue to Foursquare,” which is at the bottom of the page. Once all the information is supplied, your venue page will come up for you to claim.  Foursquare will ask you a few questions about the business and how you’d like to verify your ownership.

2.  Create a Special. There are seven types of specials to choose from to reward your fans for visiting your location to check-in, leave a tip, or share their location with friends.

  • Swarm Special. A special is unlocked when a certain number of people are checked in.  This can be great for events or fundraisers sponsored by the merchant.
  • Friends Special. A reward for when friends check in together. You can give a great referral package or offer something really special and specify how many friends need to be checked in, if someone is able to rally that much support to your store then they get the big reward.
  • Flash Special. A special for the first X number of people who come at a specified time.  You can target times that are slower for your business to try and increase traffic or give the first x number of people to come a prize by a certain time, like in conjunction with a product release.
  • Newbie Special. A prize for people who check in to your business for the first time.
  • Check-In Special. A reward for every single checkin. Merchants can offer a free item or a discount off a purchase.
  • Loyalty Special. A reward for a user’s third, fifth, tenth checkin to incentivize customers to return a few times to get the special. Loyalty specials can be recurring (“every three checkins”) or not (“on your third checkin”).
  • Mayor Special. The mayor is the person who has checked into a venue the most. As such, he or she deserves a prize.

3.  Educate the Staff. You never want someone to redeem a special and show it to your staff, only to be looked at with a vacant expression. Be sure your team is prepared and can recognize a Foursquare special and offer the redemption. Once you create a special, Foursquare generates flyers for you to print -one for employees, and one for customers – to aid in building awareness for the special promotion.  Your staff can easily tell when a person has ‘unlocked’ a Special because the color will change from gray to orange on their phone. Another technique is to include a register code in the Special. Maybe have it say: ‘upon checkout tell us this discount code: ‘4sqSpecial’.

4.  Dashboard Analytics. The Foursquare merchant dashboard is full of useful information. Business owner’s can see when and how many people are checking in, along with details on the gender and age breakdown of those users and who the most frequent visitors are.

5.  Advertise That You’re a Foursquare Merchant. People might not be inclined to check in if they don’t know there’s a reward.  Foursquare will send you window clings for each location you verify and set up a special for.  Display them in your windows and print out signs to place next to registers letting customers know you’re on the network.

6.  Target Hot Spots. Look around your area for businesses that get lots of checkins and try adding tips to these venues that point people to your business or special.  Foursquare includes a feature that will point to nearby specials, but try to write a quirky tip like “we deliver to this hotel – even if you answer the door in your PJ’s” and possibly attract even more of those people already in the area.

Foursquare isn’t the first location-based social network to help you connect with friends using GPS via your mobile device, it is however becoming the most popular.   As an inexpensive solution for creating specials and generating buzz for your business, it’s a no brainer why so many merchants and brands already participate in this network.   For any additional questions you might have about Foursquare, there is a very helpful site here, or contact us today for a social media consultation.

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