What’s Next?

The future terrifies me. My fear is that 50 or so years from now I will be living out Fahrenheit 451 in a concrete jungle that has no trees or wild animals. Maybe that’s far fetched, but at the rate social media is growing, the future is coming faster than we realize.

Social media is no longer in its infancy. The early 2000’s were when social media was this novel, exciting thing, but today it is ingrained into most (if not all) aspects of our lives.  As this article says, “Even the term social media itself is beginning to feel dated; the communications it refers to have become so ingrained into our everyday existences that the phrase seems redundant, like ‘color TV’ or ‘cordless phone.'”

So what’s my prediction? I think that social media will become even more integrated into daily life. As much as I hate it, it’s almost impossible to function in society without a smartphone. I think technology and social media will become almost as important to us as oxygen or food. With the invention of Google Glass, it appears that one day we will see the world through a literal lens of  technology.

As professionals, this means we need to stay ahead of the game and constantly be in the know on how to better reach our audience. If people are beginning to get their information through a smart watch, then we need to figure out how to reach them that way.  If Facebook is no longer the leader in social sharing, we need to know what is. This list of blogs can keep you in the know about the latest trends and how to create better content.

And now I will open the floor to suggestions for renaming “social media.”

Olivia

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Personal Branding; Why it Matters and How to Get Started

As someone who grew up with social media and watched it evolve, it is interesting to see how its role in our lives has changed. It used to be that I could post something and only a few people in my small social circle would see it. My influence was small, and my responsibility for what I posted was minimal. It was almost like the Internet was a second reality that “didn’t really count.” Since then, social media has grown to a point that posts are easier to find (thanks to hashtags) and they are a direct reflection of who you are as a person. Depending on what you put online, this can be a scary thought.

Now that we are older and about to jump into the work force, it is crucial that we pay attention to how we brand ourselves on social media. A simple Google search of your name can determine whether or not you get a job. Think about that next time you post that questionable picture from spring break.

For me, I could sit and do social media for a company or brand all day, but for some reason it is so much harder to create a unified social media presence when it’s for yourself.  Since this is something I am genuinely interested in, I scoured the internet and found several good tips on how to begin personal branding. Let’s begin.

Define yourself- We’ll start with this quote from a really good article about personal branding. Seriously, you might want to read it.

So what is a personal brand?  A personal brand is the total experience of someone having a relationship with who you are and what you represent as an individual; as a leader. Think about what that means to you. Let it simmer. Ask yourself and then ask a close friend – what is the total experience of having a relationship with you like?    Write down the top 5 things you would expect others to experience and have your close friend do the same. Are the answers the same or similar in meaning?  If they are, good for you!  If not, you have some work to do.

Defining your personal brand first takes a lot of introspection. Think about who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. As the above article says, personal branding is not about selling yourself, it’s about defining yourself and what you can bring to the table. This introspection may or may not lead to a quarter life crisis.

Audit what you already have– Social media will be one of the first ways a lot of employers get to know you. Social media is not your personal brand, but it is a tool to display who you are. Even if you know what  changes you need to make to your social media accounts, you have to take a look at what you already have. Take a look at your posts, pictures and even who you follow. That tweet about your crazy ex? Probably needs to go. Same with the photo album that is entirely bathroom mirror selfies.

Make better content- Be intentional about what you post. Don’t tweet while you are angry or emotional. Whatever you share should contribute to who you are as a person. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or make jokes on social media, but it does mean that you need to be responsible. Take a moment and think whether you should retweet that questionable joke, and in general just be respectful.

Those are just a few tips on how to get started, but there are entire books written on this subject. I would recommend taking a look at this article and this other article that give some more in-depth ideas. This might be something you want to consider for yourself sooner rather than later.The reality is that social media has become an extension of ourselves and we have to take responsibility for it.  Have fun!

Olivia

A blog post about gardening

Spring is finally here, which means it’s time to get outside, breathe in the fresh air and start planting a garden.

Olivia, this is a social media blog. Why are you talking about gardening?

Stick with me.

Imagine you have just planted a beautiful garden filled with flowers, vegetables and herbs. You love your garden and have invested a lot of time into planting everything. Then, as weeks go by, you slowly begin to neglect your garden. You don’t water it, don’t pull out weeds and you don’t defend it from pests. At harvest time, you’re shocked at the state of your garden. The plants are shriveled and eaten by insects. All of your hard work planting the garden was a waste.

Okay, sorry for the long analogy. The sad truth is, this same scenario can easily be seen in many social media strategies that companies use. Why waste time setting up a social media presence if you don’t plan on taking care of it and, most importantly, monitoring it?

There are a lot of ways to monitor what is going on in the social media world. From a simple Google search of your company’s name to advanced software, you can easily keep tabs on what is going on in your industry and who is talking about you.

Here are some easy (and less expensive ways) to monitor your social media. Let’s keep going along with the gardening theme and say we are a seed company.

A Google search-Search everything from your company name to your industry to your competition. Oh yeah, did I mention social media monitoring is a must if you want to know what your competition is doing? Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to make your search results more relevant.

Hashtags-This is a great way to find more specific things your audience is talking about. A search of #springtime or #gardening will bring up a lot of relevant posts that you can either get involved with by interacting or just using it as research. Also search your company name on these platforms to see what kind of mentions you are getting.

Fancy software- Brandwatch posted a list of the top 10 free social media monitoring tools. Is anyone surprised that HootSuite is number one? Many of these sites are so easy to use and do most of the work for you. This is a definite must and many offer advanced options if you are willing to pay (consider it an investment.)

These strategies do your company good just like watering and weeding are good for your garden. You can weed out any problems, like an issue with one of your products, and “water” your social media accounts by creating stronger relationships that result in better business.

Okay, maybe the analogy got out of hand. Either way, definitely monitor your social media.

Olivia

Using Reddit for Your Business

Reddit has some of the best and weirdest stuff on the internet. Its front page holds the most popular topics at the time, and it is all curated by users. A story or topic will be posted, and users can add to the conversation by commenting and commenting on other comments (it can get pretty complicated.) The idea is simple, which is part of why Reddit has become so popular. Reddit also holds a wide audience, which can make it appealing to large businesses. But tread lightly, because Redditors know when they are trying to be sold. Any Reddit action should be as customer relations only!

Before you run and start using Reddit, consider who your audience is. Most likely, if you run communications for a small town business, you probably won’t need Reddit. But if you are with a larger company with many internet-savvy customers, Reddit may have some use for you.

Here are a few reasons I came up with on why your business could use Reddit:

monitor your audience– Reddit has many users with all kinds of interests. SubReddits are threads discussing specific interests that users may have, everything from teaching English to antique cars. Monitoring threads that are relevant to your industry are a great way to get feedback, free research and even keep an eye on what they’re saying about your competition.

customer service- A subReddit is a great way to talk directly with customers and help them with questions and problems. If your company creates a subReddit, make it clear to users that it is not to sell something. Unpopular subReddits can just make things worse for your company image.

hold an ama– I LOVE reading AMA’s. AMA stands for “Ask me anything.” Basically, a user says “I am a -insert title- AMA,” and users ask all sorts of questions. Examples of AMA’s are this grandma and the most interesting man in the world. This is a great way for brands to get involved with their audience and make a great relationship with them. Be prepared for all kinds of questions and make sure this is something that aligns with your company’s goals. Again, use this ONLY to engage your audience, not to sell something!

This great article from FrogDog further explains how Reddit works, including who uses it and whether it is right for your business.

So if I have sparked your interest, go explore Reddit! There is all kinds of interesting stuff on there. Here’s a random quote about the internet that I found while browsing, you may want to keep this in mind:

“The most rewarding mindset to have while exploring the internet is one of respect and understanding. When you find something you don’t like, understand that it’s there because some weirdo likes it, and respect that they have as much right to the internet as you and I do.” -BigWiggly1

Olivia

Microblogging: A History

In the famous words of Matthew McConaughey: “Sometimes you gotta go back to actually move forward.” Today, lets go back in time to review the history of microblogging to understand its successes, failures and most importantly, where it is going. (History lesson brought to you by Wikipedia.)

Let’s flash back to an entire decade ago. Internet usage was now the norm, and people were communicating on blogs and chatrooms. Users began to notice that posts on these sites were “quick and dirty streams of consciousness,” and that the content was hardly content at all, but quick thoughts. Thus coined the term “Tumblelogs.” In the coming years, microblogging replaced the word tumblelog, but the idea was the same.

The idea quickly spread across the internet, and soon there were over a hundred microblogs to choose from, including Twitter and Tumblr. This ancient post by Aidan Henry compares some of these sites, and even  projects how the sites may evolve. Sadly, not all of the sites in the blog lived to see the golden years of microblogging.

Since then, microblogging sites like Twitter and Tumblr have taken off with great success and copious amounts of users. What made these specific sites so successful compared to the others? In my opinion, they gained success for two big reasons:

1. They are easy to use. When I first got a Twitter sometime around 2009, all I had to do was type my thought out in a text and send it. Today, it is even easier. Twitter and Tumblr are also easy to navigate visually. There aren’t too many buttons or links that confuse the eye.

2.They serve a general purpose. Many microblogging sites that died out had a very specific use. For example IRateMyDay is a site that has only one function: users can rate their day and only add a small caption explaining why. Twitter and Tumblr, however, are a blank slate that allow users to say whatever they feel on any subject.

With the great successes of microblogging sites such as these, what’s next? Will there again be a new platform that changes how we communicate with consumers? (Personally, I hope Xanga makes a comeback.)

-Olivia

Is Your Audience on Instagram? Probably.

Instagram within an Instagram

Instagram within an Instagram

Sharing photos online is nothing new. My Facebook is full of embarrassing proof that seventh grade me figured out early on how easy it is to upload pictures–and that was ages ago.  Yes, photo sharing is easy, but the way we share today is changing at a more rapid pace than it used to. Right now, Instagram is the place to be. It is still highly used by younger generations, but it is following the footsteps of Facebook in the way that older users are starting to catch on. Is this social media giant the place for your company to be? There’s a good chance.

Just today, as I scrolled through Instagram, it recommended that I follow “BeerYoga,” an account dedicated to beer and yoga. If that’s not a niche audience, then I don’t know what is. Let this be a good sign for your business however, that if there are enough yogis out there who like to sip a brew while they stretch, then your audience is probably on Instagram, too.

This blog post by Carrie Kerpen gives us the pros and cons of being a business on Instagram. The cons list may look longer, but the pros still outweigh them. Instagram posts do not allow links in their content, nor can you use it with programs like Hootsuite, but Instagram also boasts a more engaged audience than any other social media site except Facebook.

Instagram does not have paid advertising–yet–so this is not a platform where you can pay to get views. What your success comes down to is creativity. Post content that is fun and eye-catching. Make it pretty. Engage with your audience by responding to or even reposting their pictures.

While Instagram is a fairly young social media site that is probably not fully evolved, there are countless people in your audience waiting to be engaged.

Olivia

Article Directories: to Post or not to Post?

bullheadareachamber.com

I had no idea what an article directory was until this week. By definition, article directories are a really great idea; you write a short article about something relevant to your field, post it to a directory, and you immediately let your article fall into the hands of thousands of outlets to be published. What a great way to get your story out there without the hassle of pitching it! But after some research, it seems there can be some major pros and cons for article directories.

PROS

  • Publishing articles to directories can disseminate your article much more widely than other vehicles can. Instead of taking the time to develop a pitch, research reporters, and make the call or email, you can click a button and your article is on its way.
  • Articles will help you be seen as a subject matter expert. If someone is browsing through a directory looking for information on…let’s say…cooking, and you have a well-written article about cooking, then odds are your credibility will be boosted if the person reads it.
  • You can keep an eye on the competition. It is always good to watch what others are posting and what kind of responses they are getting. Are their posts getting more attention/feedback? What can your articles give readers that other articles won’t?

CONS

  • Article directories are outdated. I had a hard time finding research on this topic, simply because it seems no one is talking about article directories anymore.  The most recent article I found (which is over a year old) explained why you shouldn’t use article directoriesThe reality is that article directories have become overwritten with low-quality, stolen or spammy content but many just don’t realize it.
  • Google is moving on. As of the January 2014 article, much article directory spam is getting phased out of the Google search algorithm, which will make it harder for your article to be found (if you choose to post one.)
  • You might not be reaching your audience. If even Google isn’t paying attention to article directories, then your target audience probably isn’t either.

So what do you do instead?

If you decided article databases aren’t the way to get your information out there, try a few other methods:

Blogging- A company blog is a great way to be a subject matter expert and provide content for your audience. This also gives your content the chance to be shared via sites like Facebook or Tumblr. Plus, your content will appear in Google searches.

Website– Keep your website up-to-date and content rich. Engage your audience and become a go-to source for information. Eventually, you can become the top-of-mind source of info in your field.

So while it seems that article directories are falling out of the scene, there are still pros and cons for each side. What must be remembered is that you must assess the needs of your organization to know what is right for you.

Olivia