Success in Social Media: The Path

How do you measure success in social media? I’ve been asked this many times during interviews, and I always answer the same way: any and all interactions that place your brand in a positive light. Many people might disagree with me and focus more an metrics and numbers, but if we look at the path social media marketing has taken in the past few years, you will see that the measure of success has shifted into a more subjective realm. Does that mean the metrics and numbers don’t matter? Of course they matter! That’s the point of marketing, isn’t it? But in social media, the marketing aspect has quickly shifted over to branding, presence, and overall engagement with your followers.

Let’s take a look at the original metric that social media marketers used to measure success: Followers. The more followers you had, the better, right? Having a huge number of Likes on Facebook means that people actively sought out your page, clicked the Like button, and would then receive news and updates whenever you post them. Well, at the time it was the only important metric you had.

Social media marketers then started to focus on creating viral content, and the measure of virality was the number of Likes and Shares a post received. In came the flood of clickbait titles, “Like if you agree” image macros, and “Share if you love your mother” posts. Companies wanted to know that their content was being consumed, or, with the changes to the Facebook algorithms, seen by their followers. We’re at the tail end of this practice now, and we’re quickly shifting over into forming direct, emotional connections. Frankly, I feel like this should’ve been where we started as social media marketers.

How do you create emotional connections with your followers? Just check out the tagline of this blog: Be more human. That the adage by which I formulate my social media strategies, and companies and brands should pay attention. Be more human. Just take a look at the first word in “social media”! It’s “social”! The more you advertise and broadcast to your followers, the faster they get fed up with your content, which means they’re more likely to just ignore you. When that happens, say goodbye to your organic reach, which means you pay more to advertise your content, which exacerbates your problem. Literally throwing your money away. People on social media don’t want to be bombarded by ads on a daily basis. To reach them, you have to become like one of them, which means using the social media site as it’s intended: to create connections with people on a personal level. The playing field is already set; you just have to play the game instead of trying to create your own rules!

Each social site has its own expectations of etiquette and behavior. On Tumblr, for example, you’re expected to have fun and not take yourself too seriously. On Instagram, you need to show of your staff and show everyone what you’re up to. On Facebook, you want to be the person starting conversations and share your opinions (just be careful about this part).

If you’re likeable to the point where people can relate to you, they will take the time out of their day to support you. So how do you measure success in social media? Be more human today.

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Are Tips About Creating Viral Videos Useful?

viral-video-300x294Everyone wants something positive they’ve made to go viral, but whether it catches on is completely up to two factors: the effort you put into your content and luck. Mostly luck, because tons of viral videos and images took very little effort in terms of marketing and production to achieve their ultra-popular status. On the other hand, you could’ve put hundreds of hours into creating content you’re proud of and get very few views. And that’s where the problems with best practice articles come into play, especially the ones that give you a list of tips on how to make viral content. They’re intentionally vague. If a magic formula for virality exists, everyone would be doing it. Let’s explore the 6 “tips” from Social Media Today with a critical lens.

1. Make a Compelling Niche Video – All you need to do is offer something quality and original and niche…that’s it! That’s all you have to do! That’s like saying “All you need to do is take these tubes of paint and make a Picasso!” Let’s face the facts here: quality, original, and niche content takes time and resources; it’s not something you can half-ass or bang out in an afternoon. You need to worry about timing, environment, topic, execution, and reposting. And like I mentioned earlier, you can do everything right and still not achieve viral status.

2. Use Thorough Video Descriptions – Why wouldn’t you? This isn’t a tip! This is something you should be doing right from the start to take advantage of keywords for SEO!

3. Add Tags that Identify Your Video’s Keywords – This “tip” is unnecessarily separate from “tip” number 2.

4. Promote Your Video Through Social Networks – Again, this is nothing new. Standard practices are not tips.

5. Engage in Conversations on Youtube – Now this is a sound piece of advice. Many marketers forget to answer questions or make comments on their Youtube content. Taking this step can show you go above and beyond to engage with people who enjoy your content, and if there’s anything the people of Internet enjoy most, it’s that their opinions are heard.

I know this must all sound so cynical, but there are only so many best practice articles you read before they start becoming repetitive. Social media marketers are always looking for new ways to innovate their craft because the industry is in constant flux. Rules and tips that work today might not be relevant in 6 month’s time, trends change every single hour, and the global narrative of the Internet has no constant (except for the love of cats). Many of us look to sites like Forbes, Social Media Today, and Mashable to keep up to date with the latest tips and strategies. You guys and gals are the experts! Show us you mean business, because you’re held to a higher standard when it comes to your information!

Buzzword #4: Trending

We’ve all heard about what’s “trending” on Twitter, but what does it really mean? Simply put, they’re the most popular topics of the day, hour, or even minute. It’s the conversation in a busy room that grabs the most attention, where a large group of people are paying the most attention and participating. It’s a massive communal dance floor where rings form around the most talented, flamboyant, or strangest dancers. So how can you predict what will be trending? You have to follow the news, whether it’s local, world, or celebrity. If President Barack Obama schedules a press conference about Swiss cheese, you can bet #swisscheese and #obamaswisscheese will trend. If a topic becomes extremely popular over a short period of time, it can take on a brief flash of viral status. However, virality occurs extremely quickly and stays popular for extended periods of time, whereas trending takes a little bit of time to build up and usually dies down in a day or two.

trendTrending topics are conveniently located on the left of your Twitter page along with their relevant hashtags. But how can this be relevant to you? With so many people throwing their voices and opinions into the mix, yours is likely to be drowned out, right? Well, unless you’ve got thousands of followers, that will most likely be the case, even if you throw out the relevant hashtags over and over again. So how do you set yourself up to be heard? It’s no guarantee (nothing ever is), but if you seek out the people or organizations that do have thousands of followers and reply to them, retweet their posts, etc., you increase the chances of being heard. At the very least you might grab a few new followers for yourself.

The social media sphere is like the ocean: dynamic with its ebbs and flows, filled with life, often polluted, and changing constantly. It is fickle, holds grudges, champions the most unlikely causes and topics…let’s be honest – the internet is a strange, exciting, and scary place. You need to learn to leap headfirst into the trending waves and hope you catch a really good one. If you’re lucky, you can become a celebrity for a day. If you’re already a celebrity, you’ll be the one making the waves.

Buzzword #1: Viral

Buzzword #2: Organic

Buzzword #3: Engage

Buzzword #3: Engage

speech-bubble-mdEngage. Seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it? The point here is not that you engage your customer or fan base, but how you go about doing it. We’re used to the idea of social media accounts being private or personal, but it’s becoming abundantly clear that everything you say and write can potentially be seen by anyone and everyone. The latest example of how social media engagement can go horrifically and spectacularly wrong comes from Amy’s Baking Company, or ABC, as illustrated in ZDNet’s article. It’s also a perfect example of something going viral in the negative spectrum (see Buzzword #1: Viral).

The potential for negative engagement is great, but the external and visible aspect of  social media can be used to your advantage! These accounts are windows and keyholes into your company’s operations, and they are the primary way by which fans and customers look in. This means you have a great deal o control over what they see, hear, and read about you. You show your hand first, and they engage you in response. If you pay your cards right, they won’t even know it’s happening.

There should be an ease to your interactions. Go with the flow. Be knowledgeable and professional to show you’re an expert at what you’re promoting. Be casual to show you’re a real human being with shared interests. While it’s easy to see just names on a screen, it’s imperative that you treat all your visitors as real, genuine people. They are your guests when they come to your page. You are a teacher and a helpful guide to those with questions. You are a friend to those who love what you promote. And remember this well:

NO ONE IS YOUR ENEMY!

KindDo not argue, and do not be defensive, offensive, or confrontational. Always be courteous, even in the face of dissatisfaction. If things get heated, take it to PMs (private messages). A majority of people will engage you in private messaging if you take control of the situation by making PMs the only place where they will get a response – and that’s ultimately what we’re after in social media, isn’t it? A response!  But don’t let the term “private messages” override any lessons you’ve learned. Anyone who knows how to use the “Print Screen” button can reveal the full contents of your conversation, and that’s the kind of power you never want to relinquish to anyone. Private or not, always be kind to everyone!

So how can you actively engage your fan base? Well, if an interest exists, there’s a group dedicated to it in social media. Facebook has Groups, Twitter has #hashtags, and Reddit has subreddits. Find these groups and become an active member. See how other members of these groups interact with one another and follow suit. The best way to market yourself and your product or company is to be as enthusiastic as your fans. You appear more trustworthy if you’re not just someone who works for your company, but rather an enthusiast lucky enough to land a job with them.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next Buzzword!

Buzzword #1: Viral

Buzzword #2: Organic