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Archive for Business

Changing Your Online Voice for the New Generation

Online Voice For A New Generation
The modern social era brings more and more problems for people wanting to advertise their products and services online. Although, apps and social media sites are adding more to their advertising and promoting tools, many are hindered by other aspects that block people from seeing the brand. People tend to forget that they're talking to unique, different people through social media and with so many competitors it is vital to get your online voice right for the new generation.

Therefore, for people to see your posts, it is important to change up your features and aim your content at an individual, rather than a larger group. Even traditional advertisers such as The New York Times have shifted away from their in-your-face, generic style of ad banners and started looking at a more modern way to gain interest in their company.

Modern Day Problems

One problem of contemporary social media is a person’s ability to choose what they want to see – if an advertisement is annoying, an individual can simply remove it from their social media and block any future posts. For instance, if a person sees the same option of a similar product to click on numerous times as they scroll, they are more likely to be infuriated, than interested. Consequently, information is always in demand and often outdated within a few days. If an online presence isn't aimed at anyone in particular, people are likely to skip any content a brand posts.

Pick an Individual, Not a Group

Advertisers must remember to think about the user first. Advertisements have long been based on a model that targets everyone, but not everyone is always interested in your product or services. It’s better to market to an individual than a large group of people, as it cuts out parts of the public that would bypass the advert on Facebook.

People are only interested in entertainment and information that they find personally hilarious or exciting. Users have access to things they enjoy at the touch of their finger, so it’s about marketing to those who will specifically click on the link.

When advertising, think about what will improve your target audience’s life and how the product will benefit them. It’s no good being really enthusiastic about your service if you’re unsure of how it will help someone else. Consequently, if you have a new product and already an audience, aim the content of posts at them. It is vital to understand your target as your campaigns and themes will mould with your followers and listeners.

Content for a New Era

It’s best to think how your audience would think – identify topics that would be engaging and posts that specific consumers would find humorous.

It is significant to hone in on aspects of your online voice, such as tone and linguistic style, to get it right and defined. A person is much more likely to click on a link or explore a page that seems like it was made just for them. For example, for a women’s online clothing website, they may use terms as ‘Hey Bae’, which is terminology that will eliminate an older generation and target a smaller group of followers that their clothes are designed for. This saves time and effort on all those advertisements and posts being glanced over, as it’s a contemporary, direct and young women will know that the clothes are aimed at individuals their age. A great way to see it is that you're pitching to someone sitting in bed in their pyjamas - how would you speak to someone in this manner?

Refining your online voice for an individual will benefit your posting and advertising as it is will make content far more consistent, concise and accessible to your specific target audience and bring your brand into the modern era.

Effective Competitor Analysis for Social Media Greatness

social media competitor analysis

One of the simplest and most effective ways to ensure success for your social media marketing campaigns is through effective competitor analysis.

Businesses have now grown to understand the potential that social media offers as a marketplace. However, due to it being so mainstream, many are unwilling to invest time and energy into planning and preparation.

One of the biggest mistakes that can be made in the preliminary stages is launching forward without defining clear goals and establishing what tactics will help achieve those goals.

Like a great deal many things, planning is key to success on social media. Competitor analysis is a key part for this. It not only allows you to garner ideas, it also gives you a clear idea of benchmark expectations for growth and engagement. These can then be cross-referenced with your own results further down the line.

Many businesses on social media forget competitor analysis when they launch their social media pages. But the truth is competitor analysis often turns out to be one of the most useful and valuable studies that a marketer can undertake before getting going.

The key points below will help you better know what to look for when conducting competitor analysis for social media...

1. Identify your competitors and what Social Networks they use

You probably already have a good idea of who your competitors are, however, it’s a good idea to double check that these are the same on social media. Those who you consider less prominent competitors in general may have cracked social media on a bigger scale than others!

Look across absolutely all networks to see which they use. Remember that Facebook and Twitter aren’t the be all and end all of social networks. Some businesses get an awful lot of  their brand awareness and engagement from things like Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and (particularly for B2B) LinkedIn.

2. Consider their Social Media voice and rates of activity

Social media was created by humans for humans. If they have cracked it, your competitors voice on social media will reflect that and differ from their general professional voice. It will generally be more personable.

Do they use humour? Have they opted for a friendly, helpful tone to encourage interaction? Whatever it is, consider how it might effect audience engagement. After that, analyse the frequency at which they post on each network.

3. Consider following and engagement ratios

This step helps you to gather the sort of data that will help you to analyse your results further down the line. Analysing engagement rates also gives you a good idea of how popular each competitor is with their audience in comparison to each other.

Depending on how thorough you want your analysis to be, this can again be a time-consuming process. If one competitor has lower engagement on their posts by their followers than others, consider why. Do they engage actively with them? Is there something about the content that could be affecting it?

4. Identify the style of content that works for them

Content! It's a golden word. It’s what entices your audience to engage with your brand and increases your reach. By measuring how successful each content medium (video, live, graphics, polls, competitions, etc.) is with their fans you can give yourself a better idea of the kind of things that might work for you.

5. See how they integrate their channels

It’s important to remember that social media was created to be integrated! Many companies are successful on social media because they create great blog content on their own website and share it through their social channels. Chances are that if that content is popular with their audience, it could be for you too.

Simple Social Media Post Structures for Constant Growth

Social media post structures

Building an awesome and original repertoire of social media post structures is a great way to cement your social strategy for constant and continual growth.

From the smallest manufacturer to huge multi-national corporations, from the up-and-coming influencer to the biggest name in the social game, we can all struggle when it comes to juggling content originality and posting frequency.

Social media users are in a position where they have a vast amount of different businesses and organisations vying for their attention on a day to day basis. It’s incredibly important to ensure that you grow your pages with the correct audience in mind to ensure you are building a community of advocates for your brand. However, even if you have the most die-hard fan base imaginable, sooner or later repeating the same content is going to turn people away.

Why you need an arsenal of awesome social media post structures

Constant growth requires commitment to your audience. It’s all too easy to get despondent when your likes begin to tot up, but this is dangerous territory - if anything, at this stage marketers need to invest more and more into their posting strategy to ensure that their current audience remains interested and reactive.

Repetitive content turns off consumers, which in turn damages your reach. To keep those guys on your side you need to constantly be reminding them why they liked your brand in the first place. Doing this requires you to use a variety of social media post structures that invite engagement.

Here are a few ideas to help you on your way:

1. Industry expert knowledge and advice

Providing useful advice and guidance can be valuable content for businesses whose audience follow them for their expert knowledge. Couple this with original, expert content from your own blog and you're on to a winner. This can also be done as single entities without links to external content, however these posts should be limited.

Often marketers can over-rely on tips and advice for social media content, and at this point audience members begin to lose interest. It’s also important that you don’t rely heavily on piggy-backing clichéd post structures such as #WednesdayWisdom, #MondayMotivation and #FridayFeeling.

In small portions these social media post structures can help with reach and engagement, but using them as a primary part of your posting strategy looks lazy and uninspired, a process known at Giraffe Social Media as “Pirate Posting”. Yargh.

2. Topical posts

Using your posts to comment on relevant trending topics when they crop up can be a great way to diversify your strategy and generate significant reach and impact. If you’re savvy enough to make use of the relevant hashtags you put your content in prime position to be discovered by new users.

Be sure you don’t limit yourself to only engage with news and trends from your own industry. Take big media stories such as seasonal events and global tournaments and look these through the lens of your industry. This style of posting often results in a boost in engagement rates because it not only interests your own audience but also wider social media users

3. Start a social face off

If the trending topic allows, a great way to encourage engagement is to structure your post as a head-to-head and ask users to side with their choice. This can also be done with two similar products or aspects of your industry. Not only can this provoke a discussion, it can also provide beneficial insights into your community’s preferences which will help you to tailor your future content as suits.

4. Just do more video

Do more video. Whether it’s raw, behind the scenes footage captured by a member of staff or a high-spec professionally produced video of a day in the life of your business, video gets way more engagement than any other type of content. Visual is integral to catching a user's’ eye.

Developments in smartphone technology and social networking features have also made the process of doing live video broadcasts 100 times easier. This is something you should certainly be doing as it literally personifies your brand and makes your audience feel they are part of an exclusive group.

5. Pose your questions as fill-in-the-blank responses

Every social media manager worth their salt appreciates the importance of asking questions to provoke engagement from their audience. In order to get the largest amount of responses possible it’s a good idea to make the process of responding require little energy.

Fill-in-the-blank quotes are a great way of achieving this. They provide users with a pre-structured response - and also the opportunity to be humorous, which many find hard to resist.

How To Build Your Brand with Facebook Live

Build brand Facebook Live
Harnessing Facebook Live as a key aspect of your marketing mix gives you a much better chance of building brand notoriety on social media. Here’s how to do just that.

I’m going to go out on a whim here and make a pretty bold claim about your marketing strategy and Facebook Live; you’re probably not doing enough with it. Okay, so maybe that is a sweeping generality, but it’s the sentiment that counts. Much of what can be achieved through Facebook Live can’t be replicated in other post styles, and many businesses don’t even bother with it.

As a social networking feature, there’s nothing particularly phenomenal about it. Live streaming is by no means a new concept. In fact, it’s been around since the darkest ages of dial up. But couple it with the largest social network around and suddenly you've got a really easy way to reach your audience with personal - and yes, human - messages.

Social features that build your brand

What is it that made your audience choose to advocate your business over your competitors? Simple. It’s your brand. And it’s your brand that will encourage future users to do exactly the same. Certain social networking features actively facilitate the process of building your brand by acting as something of an X-ray through fonts, colours and messages to inside an organisation, enabling businesses to show how this is reflected within.

Facebook Live is one of these features. That means that while it may not be a ground breaking user feature, as a marketing tool it’s pretty special. Alongside the general appeal of video, it carries a value of immediacy; a sense of being “in the moment” that social users can’t get enough of.

Here are some ways you could use it to build your brand…

Behind the scenes footage

With Facebook Live you are able to offer your audience a unique look behind the scenes into your business and how it works. Social media users love being exposed to a place they might otherwise never be able to see. However, the key here is to analyse and understand exactly what it is that your audience wants to see.

Should your stream be educational, sharing your processes? Or should you be focussing on particularly exciting production process or interesting work site? Understand that behind the scenes footage is a promotional opportunity, but to have any effect it needs to have value to users.

Special celebrations

If you can, don’t Tweet about it - stream it. Whether it's someone’s birthday or the Anniversary of your company launch, everybody loves a party. If your colleagues have got the afternoon off for tea, cake and cocktails, invite your customers to get involved too.

Streaming celebrations and events can be particularly useful if your company culture plays a major part in the development of your brand. It can certainly be useful for attracting the best talent to your business, but that isn't all; users are far more likely to value a business that obviously values its employees.

Expert Q&A sessions and Webinars

If you've spent any time undertaking marketing responsibilities to any extent, the likelihood is that you’ve been invited to at least 3,000 free webinars. The beauty of hosting these on Facebook Live is that you aren't asking for sign-ups, so required user investment is low. For that reason, users are far less likely to have reservations

Holding live Q&A sessions is also the ideal way to concrete your brand as an industry leader. With Facebook Live, you are able to listen and respond to questions as they come in. Not only does it encourage trust in your service, it’s a great way to showcase that you are comfortable under the spotlight.

Hosting focus groups and gain user feedback

Building a new product or service? Getting your audience’s perspective is incredibly valuable and could make all the difference in those crucial preliminary stages. On Facebook Live you can use Focus Groups to get user’s input on different creative and strategic decisions in the during the development process.

Not only a great way to conduct on the spot market research, it will make your customers feel valued and part of your brand.

Why You Should Never, Under Any Circumstances, Buy Followers

why you should never buy followers
If there is one thing you should never do when building a social media strategy it is buy followers. Of all cowboy social media tactics, it is the worst.

Listen carefully; in the world of social media marketing, there are no shortcuts to quality results. In fact, you could be right in saying that there are no shortcuts at all. You may be able to reach your goals quicker, but the only way to do that is to revisit your social media strategy and either increase or shift your investment to a different focus.

It’s natural to want to expect immediate results, especially when immediacy is almost expected. Sadly social media marketing can often work out as something of a slog. Certain quick-fix techniques have been heralded as cheap and easy ways to smash your goals. But that is far from the truth.

Buying followers may be a way to see bigger numbers, but I’ll say it again; the only thing that will speed up your path to your actual goals is increased investment in an already expert strategy. In most cases, these numbers are empty, meaningless and potentially harmful. So you definetely shouldn’t buy followers. Here’s why:

Fake followers can’t interact properly because they aren’t real people

If you buy followers you aren’t buying followers at all. You are just buying numbers. What follows you is a collection of fake or innactive accounts that offer absolutely nothing to your brand. You can’t expect them to interact or engage with your content. And if they do, it will just be incredibly spammy auto-comments that actual, real people can spot a mile off.

Their inactivity can result in a reduced organic reach

Social networks use intricate algorithms to determine the strength of your content and ensure it gets in front of the right amount of users. Engagement is a key signifier for the quality of your content. If tonnes of people engage with your posts then the social networks will consider your content quality and serve it and similar posts to more and more people. When you buy followers who simply don’t engage the opposite happens, resulting in a reduced organic reach.

They can destroy the credibility of your pages and your business

As I mentioned earlier, real users know when you buy followers. An account with big numbers should have content that supports and upholds those numbers. Also, auto-comments by fake accounts are quite clearly just that. Users know and will lose trust and respect for you brand as a result. Nobody wants that.

They totally fluff up your metrics

If you buy followers you have no way of differentiating between real and fake followers. This will really mess with your metrics. You have absolutely no way of working out genuine audience behaviour from that of robots. You are no longer able to work out what aspects of your strategy are getting you the biggest return and invest in them. It’s just not worth it.

You can end up being marked as spam

When you buy followers all of these things - decreased organic reach, high-rate of auto-comments, disinterest by genuine users - work to systematically sabotage your page. Because of how social media algorithms work, your posts will eventually begin to look like spam - and spam just attracts spam. Which means you will just end up being a can of spam. Spammy spam spam. You might even have your accounts suspended as a result… which at that point could actually be a blessing in disguise.

In conclusion, don’t buy followers.

Just don’t do it. If you were thinking about it, take the money and invest it into a different aspect of your strategy. Promote a post. Even if it amounts to nothing, at least you won’t have inadvertenly sabotaged your social pages.

The Best Free Social Media Tools For Small Businesses

Best free small business social media tools
By leveraging the right small business social media tools you can ensure awesome results from your strategy - and these are the best tools around.

You could say that a social media strategy was only as good as its best social media tools. It’s not true; a social media strategy is ultimately only as good as the marketer who devises and employs it - but you could say that all the same.

Why? Well, every social media marketer makes use of social media tools to help streamline their processes and maximise the amount that they can achieve. For small businesses, this process can save heaps of precious time and energy that can be much better invested elsewhere.

This index of free small business social media tools is an updated version of a previous list that I combiled back at the beginning of 2016. Each of these small business social media tools I have tried and consider worthy of mentioning.

1. Coschedule’ Headline Analyzer

Nothing boosts a social media marketing strategy quite like the addition of an awesome content marketing strategy. That’s our jam here at Giraffe. Seriously, if you want to get more from social media, start writing awesome web content that your audience will value before posting and promoting it. You can thank us for the results later.

Coschedule’ Headline Analyzer provides quality scores on the strength of article titles and headlines in relation to social media engagement, particularly the likelihood of shares. It also helps to determine the likelihood that a blog title will be beneficial to your SEO.

2. Yoast WordPress Plugin

Yoast is the number one search engine optimisation plugin for wordpress. Users set their chosen keyword for each article they post and are given simple tips to increase the likelihood that they will rank well for that keyword. These include increasing the frequency of the keyword throughout different parts of the content such as headlines and alt text for images. It also gives you little coloured dots which signify the strength of each aspect of your article - and nothing compares to the feeling of turning all those tiny specks green.

Technically it is an SEO tool… Come to think of it, both of the first two examples weren’t really small business social media tools… However, articles put through Yoast commonly experience more click throughs from social due to the optimisation. So certainly worth using. Plus the extra benefits are definetely not to be sniffed at.

3. Socialrank

Socialrank is a simple to use platform that allows you to identify, organise and manage both Twitter and Instagram followers. As small business social media tools go, this is one that will help give you genuine insight into the strengths of your following such as who your best followers are and what they are about. With the use of filters you can see, amongst other things, who your most engaged and influential followers are.

4. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is the preferred social media management tool of millions that allows you to schedule, engage with and grow your audience across all of your social networks from one place. It also offers social analytics. Free features are limited but there is a selection of affordable pro plans available.

Although I have used Hootsuite in the past, it isn’t currently in our arsenal of in-house social media marketing tools. This is mostly down to the pricing structure which can escalate quickly once you start to add extra accounts and services. However, as small business social media tools go, the free version can certainly be useful if you only have a few channels to manage.

5. Tweetdeck

If Hootsuite isn’t for you, that’s completely fine. There are plenty of other social media scheduling tools out there of varying quality. While scheduling for Instagram may be a serious task (there are ways, but they are difficult), Facebook’s in-built scheduling tool is perfectly adequate. It may hiccup every now and then, but with that many users you can be sure that it will be fixed soon enough.

For Twitter, Tweetdeck is a great tool that allows users to create and schedule Tweets, alongside a bunch of other features like creating custom feeds. These can come in really useful for spotting opportunities for interaction. While it may not have as many advanced analytics as Hootsuite’s paid version, that doesn’t stop it being the preferred choice of many social media marketers.

6. RiteTag

Hashtag strategy - what is it? Well, it’s using hashtags. Sounds simple, right! It’s not. Shame. What makes RiteTag one of the best small business social media tools is that it gives instant feedback on your chosen hashtags to help you decide which to use as part of your strategy.

Using the right hashtags is integral to seriously expanding your reach, but left to our own devices we are all guilty of having a few that we always use. We do so mistakenly thinking that they are powerful when they are actually just a waste of characters. If that’s you, I can’t recommend RiteTag highly enough.

7. DrumUp

Depending on how important external content (that is, content from other websites) is to your social media strategy (and the likelihood is that it will be to some extent), DrumUp can be a great tool. It has multiple functions which recommend content for you to share or curate based on your keywords, direct to your dashboard.

The dream is that your content marketing strategy would eventally become so good and so frequent that you would never need to go looking for content to curate - you would always have a steady stream coming from your blog. But until then, DrumUp is a great tool.

8. Canva

I’m pretty sure we are sponsored by Canva at Giraffe… If we aren’t and you are from Canva, get in touch. We are always raving about it. Absolutely everyone in the office makes use of it to create professional looking graphics for social media posts. It’s simple, easy to use and comes with a whole host of graphics, layouts, fonts and images. Power users - hit up either of the two below resources to get more out of it…

9. Pixabay & 10. Pexels

If Canva is the sword of Giraffe Social Media, Pixabay and Pexels are the shield and… force-field? Something like that. Anyway, these two sites are perfect for finding images under Creative Commons CC0. In laymans terms, this means you can do absolutely anything you like with them. Seriously, anything. And you won’t have to thank anybody.

There are a few things to consider when making use of stock images though. Ideally you only want to make use of them as one-off graphics - don’t make them key to your brand such as a permanent placeholder for the homepage on your website. The reason is that many consumers have seen the majority of them before and can spot them a mile off. But one-off use is ideal.

11. Websta

For my sins, I have only just started using Websta and I must say it is fabulous. It provides everything you would expect from a social media management tool - key analytics and insights, custom feeds and the ability to explore content - while allowing you to view and interact with other users’ posts. Instagram’s in-app analytics are currently basic at best - Websta takes those one-step further.

12. Later

Marketed as “The simpler way to plan your visual content marketing”, Later is a scheduling tool for Instagram that allows users to schedule and manage their posts ahead of time. Is it that? Well, it is true that Later allows you to spread out and create a steady stream of content - but it does take some investment. That said, if you use Instagram a lot then these kind of small business social media tools can be a God-send.

13. Website Grader

Hubspot’s Website Grader gives a full report on the strength of your marketing efforts across all of your digital channels. This includes, you guessed it, social media, but also content and SEO. Certain information can seem a little iffy from time to time but it is still really useful if you are strapped for time and looking for immediate direction.

14. Uprank

Uprank is an advanced research tool that analyses and provides data on the strength of your brand’s digital marketing, including website architecture, SEO and social media. It then generates and delivers a digital marketing strategy tailored to your site in the form of comprehensive tasks. Great as a starting point - but lacks the creative and innovative aspects needed to develop an awesome social media posting strategy.

15. AdParlor

AdParlor lets you create free mockups of ads for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. This can give you a much better idea of what your finished campaigns will look like to users on these networks. The brand new interface is sleek and easy to use. As small business social media tools go, this is one that can be perfect to help develop your social media advertising strategy, with scalable and downloadable mockups, instant previews and in-line character limits.

Simple Instagram Tricks Beyond Better Content That Actually Work

Instagram tricks beyond better content that actually work
Instagram is about way more than sharing photos. Start using these Instagram tricks and soon you will see more users engaging with your brand.

Social media marketers are insight-obesessive. For this reason, nothing delights me more than when a friend of mine who isn’t a devoted full-time social media marketer helpfully informs me which social networks are big business.

No really, I mean it.

Okay, I will admit that this is due in part to the fact that I take great pride in pointing out when people are incorrect… which is probably an aspect of my personality that could do with revisiting. But it’s mostly because this passion gives me great insight into how each network is currently viewed by users. Most recently it was this line…

Mate, it’s all about Instagram now. All about IG. IG is 🔥 right now.

Just how my friend managed to express the fire emoji verbally I’ll let you decide, but it definetely happened. Normally I would have taken the opportunity to start a discussion about the positives and negatives of single-network social media strategies, but instead I found I had to agree with him. Instagram is, for the mean time at least, most certainly 🔥.

Instagram tricks that work

It’s all well and good to say that one particular social network has the edge over others for inspiring engagement (ten times the average engagement of Facebook to be precise), so long as you explain how that engagement can be unlocked. Luckily there are some simple Instagram tricks that can give you an edge over your competitors and ensure that you are getting the most out of your activity.

Be super specific with your goals

If there is one of our Instagram tricks that casual marketers could do better with its being super specific with their goals, because many don’t really have any beyond “post something great, get likes”. Instagram can be great for keeping your audience aware of the inner-workings of your organisation, but it has much more potential than that - potential that deserves to be stretched! If you want to see more purchases of a particular product, be bold and make that your goal. Create a marketing plan focussed around constantly promoting and bringing awareness to that product including partnering with influencers, and you will hit that goal.

Initiate active following

The best way to grow your following in Instagram is to unashamedly steal your competitors followers. Unfortunately there aren’t any Instagram tricks for engagement in the traditional sense; you want an engaged following, the only way to grow it is through engaging. Utilise hashtag research to identify large accounts within your industry or niche and then begin to engage with their following - like and comment on users posts and follow them, give them a few days to respond before unfollowing any that haven’t followed back and repeating the process.

Attempt to influence the influencers who influence your influencers

This may be a mouthful, but at it’s centre is a strategy that is surprisingly easy to swallow. Influencer marketing is big business, especially on Instagram. Paid shoutouts can be great for certain users, especially e-commerce and bespoke products. However, by taking time to identify not just the influencers you want to potentially reach, but those that influence those influencers, you can substantially cut your budget as your products are likely to be picked up by those other users.

Use Facebook Insights to decide on partners for Instagram

If you’re considering about utilising influencer marketing on Instagram, one of the best Instagram tricks is to check out Facebook’s Audience Insights in order to discover the best users to partner with. The best way to do this is to create a custom audience and upload your customer email list, then click on Page likes. This will give you the best insight into what your audience is interested in.

Forging a Destiny of Social Media Influence

forging a destiny of social media influence
If you want to succeed in selling your products or services, you need to succeed in selling yourself first. You need to have social media influence.

What does success really, truly look like in the world of social media marketing? Simply put; influence. Successful brand pages quite openly exploit the influence that they have on their audience for their own gain. Trouble is, building social media influence is easier said than done. You can’t buy it. It won’t come as the result of some innovative new web tool focused on maximising engagement and minimising fuss.

Truly, far fewer marketers are competently cultivating it than would care to admit.

So how do you do that?

Becoming a social media influence for your industry is about more than writing great content that benefits your audience. That can only work in part after you have an identity. You must first identify some vital attributes for your brand and consistently display these in any and all marketing channels that you invest in.

Social networking is about connections. To use a technical analogy, and bearing in mind I have little to no knowledge of this sort of thing, the stronger a connection is, the more current that can pass through it without it breaking. (Is that right? It sounds right anyway.) If you want to have a significant social media influence on your connections you must first have created bonds that are unbreakable. That takes time and persistence; no amount of careful soldering is going to help. (Is that right? I think it’s time I let this one rest and moved onto something I’m more comfortable with.)

One for the Gamers: building a character, forging a destiny

If you’ve ever played a Role Playing Game, you’ll understand the process of building a character. And even if you haven’t, this is a great simile so I’m going to use it all the same and you should definitely read it.

When you build a character you are given a finite amount of character points. You spend them to govern which attributes and aspects of your character are most and least prominent. For example, you might have a natural inclination for high intelligence levels but not be as strong as others. Or you might, like me, cram all of your character points into charisma and be unable to even walk up a flight of stairs without fatigue setting in; but your silver-tongued nature means you can talk peasants into giving you a piggy-back. (Generally not recommended.)

How your brand is represented online, and even more so on social media, needs to be human. It needs to have a face and a voice that users will find instantly recognisable. As you launch (or in most cases now, re-launch) your pages for social media influence, you are essentially creating a character. The attributes that you invest in at the beginning will determine how far you can go towards influencing your audience.

In short, building influence can only occur with consistency of voice and persistence of post. Regardless of industry, these are the characteristics that you should be investing in to get there:

Intelligence - value beyond measure

At the bedrock of influence is value. Quite honestly, if you want people to care what you have to say about your industry then you have to have something good to say about it first. Ask yourself, honestly; is your brand sufficiently showing (not saying) that they hold an expert knowledge of their field? Content marketing is about showing, not telling. You can bet that there will be tens of thousands of brands and professionals in your industry who are happily boasting about being an expert - but how many of those are actually living the responsibility that comes with being an expert and sharing their opinion?

Endurance - consistency of voice

If you want people to care about what you have to say, they have to value you. Value is a reciprocal resource; you have to offer value to be value. Sounds simple, but by golly does it takes time. Only when coupled with dogged persistence will you start to see the expert opinion that you offer on your industry noticed and advocated by those in your online community. Social media marketing is most certainly a long game - just keep at it.

Charisma - unique individuality

Charisma isn’t just for peasant-riding stairwell-dwellers. A little individuality goes a long way. In fact, it’s the only tool in your arsenal that will allows you to stand out from all those competitors of yours who also want to unleash their ultimate influencing power. Be bold in creating a voice that isn’t just valuable to your audience in content, but also in style. Humour is not to be shunned. Salesy waffle-talk is.

Perception - cultivating trust

A perceptive social media marketing strategy isn’t just preoccupied with growth. It focuses on retaining an audience by building, setting and maintaining high standards of trust. The biggest of no-nos is constantly plugging your audience with promotions and salesy waffle-talk. If it was your expert voice that lured them in the first place, those are the expectations that they have. Under-deliver and expect a damaging loss of trust.

Strength - community orientated

What is it they say, there is strength in numbers? Well, forging an influence is about building a community of advocates; a tribe of individuals all united around the knowledge that you offer. So how are you supposed to cash in on that? Be community orientated. Or rather, within the confines of my fabulous gaming simile, guild orientated. Create a community culture, one of inside jokes, catchphrases and camaraderie.

Now, to battle worthy hero. Influence awaits you in the wilderness of... Das I’nTernet.

Social Media Tactics that Deserve to be Bulldozed

social media tactics that should be bulldozed
There are good social media tactics, there are bad social media tactics, and there are social media tactics that deserve to be bulldozed.

It's official. Just one glimpse on Twitter and it was confirmed to me; time to take out the metaphorical trash of beyond-bad social media tactics. Not controversial tactics, mind. That would suggest that these tactics warranted even a smidgen of advocacy from the deepest darkest fringes of digital marketing.

No. In the crosshairs today are those social media tactics that have gone past being dead in the water; so far past that they have started bloat, smell, and risk contaminating an otherwise fresh experience.

They are ruining it for everybody and they need to be levelled.

The final wrecking ball

Funnily enough it wasn't actually one of these tactics that confirmed it for me, it was the abscence of one. This morning I logged on to Twitter and was greeted by a tonne of notifications (which I was super psyched about) and about double the amount of messages waiting for me (which I was wholey un-psyched about).

As any self-respecting marketer whose account isn't primarily used for customer service would, I ignored the latter and launched directly into exploring my notifications. I was happily replying to interactions with witty GIFs and generally having a great time with our awesome followers, before my hand accidentally slipped. I found my screen populated with automated messages asking me to "collaborate!", "attend a free webinar!", "click for a guaranteed 5k+ followers!", and even one asking what type of bread our business used.

Now, apart from the last one which genuinely made me chuckle, I wasn't engaged by this inbox full of disengenuous ones and zeros. That is until in the centre of it all I found something I did not expect:

A proper, genuine message from an actual, real person.

You see, thanks to the mountains of automated messages we received every day I'd forgotten that direct messaging had another little-known function aside from being a take-it-anywhere robot junkmail cabinet. A barely used function that allows one Twitter user to message another privately. I know - mind boggling.

Down with this sort of thing

I know for a fact I’m not the only one who despairs at instances of marketing idiocy on social media. So once I’d responded to the human being (or might it have been a very convincing bot?) I resolved myself to write this article. What follows is a list of social media tactics that should be condemned to the past.

1. Automated Twitter messages (obviously)

If I hadn’t already made it perfectly clear, automated Twitter messages are on the verge of making the Twitter inbox obsolete for highly-active users. Primarily users make use of the standard “Thank you for following - insert pitch here” format. It’s nigh-on devoid of reason as theres nothing private about it. It may aswell be a tweet.

If you want a user to actually engage with you, reach out with something of value to them. And do it publicly. Direct messaging can and should be reserved for customer service and private matters, which can then be shifted to email. Bulldoze that bot.

2. Facebook groups for events

There is nothing more harrowing than being added to a club-night guest list group by a random promoter acquaintance you haven’t seen since freshers week at University eight years ago. But it happens.

I’m not completely sure where the inclination for creating private groups for public events on social networking came from - perhaps it’s a result of users being stuck in the dark ages. But its about time it stopped. Creating and promoting an event through your page on Facebook is the correct way to do it. Your friends want to be invited - not accosted.

3. Automated Instagram comments

No matter how hard you try to make your automated Instagram comments sound authentic, they just don’t. They are completely obvious. What’s more, they aren’t fair on everybody else as hashtags that are practically owned by bots fluff up engagement rates by polluting them with empty numbers.

And what’s worst, you won’t know where and what has been commented on on your behalf unless it is responded to.

Some services can seem intuitive enough, making use of hashtags to target content that might want to engage with. But at the rate that automated comment services work, sooner or later one of those seemingly random innocent comment combinations is going to look not-so innocent next to a particular photo - say for instance the comment “Wow, gorgeous! 😍was generated next to a photo of a small business owner’s children on holiday. Not good.

4. Mindless, useless tagging

Tagging can undoubtedly come in useful for expanding reach and building social media discourse. But like anything else on social media, it should only be engaged with if it offers value to users. Tagging a user in a conversation that is of little to no importance to them is a redundant endeavour and can actually harm a brand’s image. It is effectively wasting their time.

The key with tagging is to definetely do it when a piece of content or a conversation allows, but don’t go looking for it.

5. And finally, letting your politically fired-up MD run your Twitter account

This may sound ridiculous and obvious, but now is not the time for your brand to start getting politically fired-up. In fact, unless your business explicitly requires your engagement, you’d do well to avoid politics alltogether for the foreseeable future. I chose the above statement as one of the worst cases of political preaching I have ever seen came from the account of producers of novelty coasters whose brand was otherwise rather witty.

So, to recap; don’t let the robots takeover, don’t force users to do something they don’t want to do, and definetely don’t let your political stance ruin your otherwise jovial voice.

Got anything you’d like to add to the list? Tweet us - @GiraffeSM.
(Just ignore the automated response)

What Happens When You Ignore Social Media Marketing?

What happens when you ignore social media

We’re at a point in time now where choosing to ignore social media is laughable. Without it things look very bleak indeed..

The reason is simple - it’s a marketing avenue where even the nichest of audiences can be found, one that facilitates brand awareness and advocacy on a herculean scale whilst also granting access to intuitive and measurable advertising.

When we talk about social media marketing we can all benefit from recognising that we’re no longer referring to a new concept. Social media is now about what we do not what we could do. This means that businesses who now engage in social media marketing (which should be absolutely all of them to one extent or another) can do so with a complete understanding of what each network can (and can’t) viably achieve, hence the possibilities become achievements and the future becomes the now.

The numbers are still significant and still growing - average daily social media usage among internet users reportedly amounts to 118 minutes this year, up from 109 minutes daily during 2015. The idea of pulling the plug on it needn’t bear thinking about - but just in case you are, here’s what happens when you ignore social media marketing.

Web traffic slows down and your content has very little impact

Because so much of our daily internet usage is taken up by social networking, a significant chunk of discovery for external sites comes from there. Opting to rely wholeheartedly on traffic from your blog and organic clicks from search engines will undoubtedly result in a noticeable slowing down of web traffic.

Social media isn’t about blindly posting your brand in front of random people, it’s about distributing the expert or entertaining content from your website to those who are likely to have use for it. Figures released last year suggested that Facebook now accounts for more traffic to news sites than Google. Content marketing is pretty useless without a clear social media distribution strategy; in order to increase your chances of your content getting noticed, shared and curated by influencers, you need to make sure it is sufficiently published.

If you aren’t noticing a high level of engagement or clicks on your content, it’s likely to do with how it is optimised for that particular network. Not one site is the same, so be aware of what performs well wherever you are posting and ensure your content is suitably tailored to each.

You risk being seen as the friend who never comes out and brand awareness significantly drops

Social media is integral to building awareness of your brand by real people. Social media brings with it something of a label that validates your business among the 24/7 culture of the 21st century. When you aren’t remaining active on there you risk losing that potency.

Remaining active on social media is about positioning your business beside users’ personal life; sooner or later you are likely to be integrated. As those discussions grow, so can your audience. When you are nowhere to be seen, people start to forget about you and instead turn their focus to those that are there; your competitors.

Your industry stops appreciating your voice and you lose customers to competitors

This is particularly significant for those in a B2B industry. Utilising content marketing alongside social media marketing is the perfect way to develop and expert, a professional voice that builds trust and awareness in your brand. When you let that slip often those in your industry begin to forget about you.

On social media your audience expect to be listened to. Regardless of whether they have something positive or negative to say about your brand, they expect a response. By not remaining reactive and retaining your professional online voice your risk alienating customers and losing them to your competitors.

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