Half a Billion People are Tweeting

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When asked why they are interested in Twitter marketing, most clients say something to the effect of, “Because everybody’s on Twitter!” Turns out our clients might be right. A new study says that Twitter is the fastest growing social network on the planet.

According to Internet research company Global Web Index, 36 percent of all Internet users — roughly 485 million people — have a Twitter account. Account holders who use Twitter at least once a month jumped up 40 percent in the second half of 2012 to an impressive 288 million. These numbers confirm that Twitter is growing faster than both Facebook and Google+. Facebook showed growth of 33.4 percent to 693.5 million while Google+ grew 27.7 percent with 343 million active users. Fifty-nine percent of Twitter account holders are now active on at least a monthly basis, up from 50 percent reported in the first half of 2012, meaning that Twitter is doing a fantastic job driving engagement. Twitter, the study suggests, has now become more than a snappy, social back-and-forth hub. Visitors are also coming simply to read tweets and use the platform as an entertainment and news source.

For marketers and small businesses, the numbers are good news, too. Twitter has always been a valuable platform to get in touch with folks, and now there are even more users to talk to. Thanks to improved search functionality and an ever-updated follower recommendation feature, Twitter users can also make sure they are having a conversation with the right kind of people, too. The odds of finding an audience for your businesses have increased; however, so has the degree of difficulty of standing out on Twitter. Now in the sea of half a billion witty and brilliant tweeters, a clear Twitter strategy has never been more important. Smart, non-spammy content along with regular follower engagement aren’t just good ideas, they’re a matter of Twitter survival.

So, readers, you tell us: How does a brand stand out on Twitter? Sound off below!

Fixing a Blog’s Image Problems

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Last week, Nellie Akalp wrote an informative blog post for Mashable.com entitled “Is Your Business Guilty of These Six Blogging Mistakes?” In it, Akalp profiles six common but deadly blogging-for-business mistakes. It’s a good read and a helpful list, yet one of the mistakes really stood out. Ranked at #5 was a problem we’ve seen become a blogging epidemic over the last few years: “Not using images the right way.” Companies can have a great blog, but if it has a horrible or non-existent image, the whole message can be sunk.

“While many new bloggers focus on the words, images are the best way to grab people’s attention quickly,” Akalp writes. “In addition, breaking up longer posts with images that illustrate what you’re talking about will help keep readers interested and combat our limited attention spans.”

So, we wondered, what exactly makes for a memorable blog image and where do we find these images?

At the start of a blog marketing campaign, it isn’t uncommon for companies to worry about this image issue. After all, we are living in the Instagram/meme era and every company wants to be able to create images that readers both remember and want to pass on. But does this mean we have to hire pricey graphic designers or pay out the nose for image license service? Not necessarily. Great photos without copyrights attached to them exist online already and can be used in your blog if you take a little time to seek them out.

“The best way to steer clear of trouble when selecting images for your blog is to use ones with Creative Commons licensing,” Akalp advises. “You can search for Creative Commons-licensed images on Flickr, on the Creative Commons website or via CC search engines like Compfight or Photo Pin.”

Memorable blog images should be ones that have something to do with the post, ideally. Readers can tell when you’ve picked out random photos selected out of panic or laziness. Half-hearted pictures that have little or nothing to do with the text of your post are a waste of your reader’s time (not to mention insulting to their intelligence). Instead, give yourself a few minutes to jot down some image keywords before you go on your photo hunt to give you a guidepost of what to look for. Take the same care picking out pictures as you do choosing blog topics. Avoid images you’ve seen on dozens of other blogs but don’t be afraid to use your favorite blogs as inspiration for your own images. Get artistic and alternate between full-color, black and white, infographics and employee-created images. Lastly, think of your blog and its images like a story and choose images accordingly based on the tale your brand wants to tell.

New Facebook Page? Rally the Troops!

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At one point or another, all of us have been pitched a slick proposal from an alleged Facebook-for-business master that goes something like this: “I can get you thousands of likes and keep your followers engaged for a small price.”

(Insert the proper eye roll and “thanks, but no thanks” response here.)

Because even if a marketing ninja can wrangle us thousands of likes, paying for likes doesn’t assure that folks will stick around or even care about your brand’s Facebook page. Instead, we think going back to Facebook’s conversational, grassroots beginnings is the way to go… and who better to like your page than the folks who really like you in the real world?

It’s always surprising when clients come clean and tell us that they are unhappy with the number of likes their Facebook pages have received — and yet they haven’t attempted to market this page to the people in their inner circle first! Sounds strange, but it happens a lot. Maybe they’re afraid to “bug” their friends. Maybe they don’t want to mix business with social. Maybe the thought never crossed their mind. Who knows? What we do know is that when launching a business page on Facebook, it’s best to turn to the people who know you first before waiting endlessly for anonymous likes to just fall from the sky. The math behind this is simple: You have hundreds of friends and they have hundreds of friends and your employees likewise have hundreds of friends, too. Turning to this crowd of already friendly faces is an easy way to build a base of likes for your page. These are your friends, so don’t feel bad about “bugging” them. After all, they don’t feel bad about posting endless videos of their kid’s dance recital or telling you how they voted. Your friends actually like you (presumably) and should have no problem helping you get likes on Facebook, either.

Next, turn to that other valuable resource: your customers and clients. These folks already support your business, and chances are great that they’ll do so on Facebook, too. Let them know via email newsletters, in-store signage and on your website that you are on Facebook. In your page’s early days, entice them to like you with contests and Facebook-only discounts. Customers should use your Facebook page to get all of the information they need about your company, so make sure it’s frequently updated and filled with content they want to respond to.

The Facebook forest is a crowded and sometimes intimidating one. But with a little help from your friends, you can stand out, get noticed and even get liked.

Blog Like the Big Brands: Build-a-Bear

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The complicated puzzle of blog content management can often be solved after we’ve truly figured out who our audience is. Just who are your customers? Who are those names in your email database? Furthermore, who are the people who respond to your tweets and Facebook posts or enter your company’s contest? Once you’ve identified who you’re talking to and who you want to talk to, your blog can be more focused, less stodgy, more conversational and more entertaining to read. We see brands that sell toys and services made for children do exactly that by blogging directly to the folks picking up the tab: mom & dad. Teddy bear factory and all-around huggable experience Build-a-Bear, for example, is a brand that knows this and knows how to use blogging to reach out to the entire family and the blogging community at large.

Behind the Seams, the adorably named and perfectly executed blog by Build-A-Bear, is built on WordPress. A company built on building teddy bears naturally blogs about literally making furry friends, in-store events, crafty ideas like planting flowers and making cupcakes and Twitter promotions. Since parents are in charge of organizing trips to the local Build-a-Bear, the blog is written for them and not the kiddos. Instead, the children are directed to Build-a-Bear’s online children’s magazine, Cubazine. Can’t find Behind the Seams or Cubazine? Build-a-Bear’s comprehensive digital marketing also includes another blog on Blogger, an active Pinterest page and plush-flavored micro-blogging over at Twitter. Build-a-Bear is a brand which clearly realizes how crowded the children’s toy market is and uses blogging on different platforms to help stand out from the pack.

The company also engages the blogging community on both WordPress and Blogger, and this a super idea for any size company. Sure, hosting your blog on your own site gives you total control over how your blog looks and reads while making it simple to direct users back to the main home of your website. Yet using a public and mostly free platform gives you something valuable, too — a built-in audience of people you may not already reach! Blogger and WordPress have millions of users, and brands that choose these sites for blog creation get access to them too with very little effort required. Are they perfect for every business? No, but for new brands or companies looking to using blogging to talk to more people, it could be a snuggly, cuddly solution!

Five Things You Might Have Missed

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Blog marketing basics, divine live-tweeting and some heartfelt online video creation are just of a taste of what you’ll find in this week’s Five Thing You Might Have Missed. But don’t take our word for it. Dig in and find out for yourself!

1.) Popularity Mechanics: Why don’t people read your blog? What should you be blogging about? Where do you begin with blog marketing? And how do you get more folks to like what you blog about? The secrets to a popular blog are spilled in this must-read post from Inc. Aaron Arders demystifies blogging for business and does so with humor and insight.

2.) Pawnee Pinterest: The marketing folks over at the sitcom Parks and Recreation deserve a round of applause for taking a subplot involving fictional clothing store Rent-a-Swag and turning into a Pinterest phenomenon. The show has been rocking comedic Pinterest boards for a little over a year, and this latest triumph proves that pinning can be effective and hilarious.

3.) Facebook Calling: Finally: a Facebook petition we can get behind! A plaza in the Spanish city of Granada will be renamed after legendary Clash frontman Joe Strummer after 2,000 signatures collected on Facebook swayed city officials. Strummer had a long history with Granada and he even mentioned it in the iconic song “Spanish Bombs.” Spain — and even Facebook — just got a little bit cooler.

4.) Heart to Heart: Whether you love or hate that smart-talking heart-shaped puppet on the Zoosk commercial, there’s no denying that the little guy, along with his friend Liz, are a viral sensation. With over 14 million views on YouTube and slew of parodies, this is one puppet that, in one commercial, put a dating website nobody ever heard of on the branding map.

5.) Live Tweeting, Diva Style: And lastly, we’ve been snickering at the no-holds-barred tweets from icon Bette Midler for months, but the star really showed her Twitter gravitas on Monday when she live-tweeted the inauguration. Midler tweeted about being hungover, the tackiness of gum chewing and even zinged Paul Ryan. For a star like Midler, who is returning to films and Broadway, Twitter is a good way to re-introduce themselves to audiences. Yet Midler’s blunt and hilarious tweets make Twitter marketing simply divine.

Tweetorials for Untechnical Types

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I recently found myself uttering, “Relax! It’s just Twitter!” to a client who had dipped his toes into Twitter marketing and was feeling totally overwhelmed. A non-stop avalanche of RTs, hashtags, dashboards and tweeting links had left my otherwise well-educated client dumbstruck. The truth is he isn’t alone. Most people visit Twitter briefly, don’t “get it” and then write it off as ridiculous. But that would be a mistake. The platform is still a great way to keep in touch with our followers, meet new friends interested in our brand and help give us an easy SEO shot in the arm to boot. Yet some still worry that Twitter is too technical and too complicated. Nonsense! Here’s a quick tweetorial for even the most tech-challenged of Twitter virgins.

Learn the lingo: Having a hard time telling your #FF from your #RT? Take a few minutes to learn what the heck people are saying on Twitter and it’ll make your time their less confusing and more entertaining. This guide is a good place to start.

Set it and forget it: A great dashboard, whether it be TweetDeck or HootSuite, is essential for starting your Twitter journey. These handy tools allow you to schedule tweet several days in advance — even for weeks at a time. Naturally, you’ll want to engage with followers in real-time, too, but a dashboard helps take the stress out of tweeting everyday. Best of all, these dashboards take only a few minutes to download and are incredibly uncomplicated to navigate.

Say what?: “But what the !@#$ do I tweet about?” is the No. 1 question clients ask social media experts. In the spirit of keeping it simple, tweet what you know. Send the kind of tweets that represent the topics you want to talk about to your clients. Tweet what you find fascinating and chances are somebody will find it interesting, too. Photos of new products, links to industry articles and cool videos getting passed around your office make for great Twitter fodder. And don’t worry — tweeting links, videos and images is super simple thanks to Twitter’s awesome upgrades. Which brings us to our last tip…

Getting easier all the time: A faster search engine, highlighted hashtags and more precise “Who to Follow” suggestions are making Twitter incredibly user-friendly. New upgrades are being implemented regularly to make it even easier for folks of varying levels of technical prowess to get on Twitter and enjoy it for the fun and powerful marketing tool it is.

 

From Magazine to Blog and Back Again

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There’s no doubt that magazines are once again relevant, and there’s even less doubt that the medium owes a huge debt of gratitude to the advent of blog creation. Blogs have influenced the how publications look, the content inside — even the very way we read articles. The lines between blogs and magazines get even fuzzier when you consider how many publications were near extinction and then were brought back to life by morphing into a blog/online magazine. Now the online magazine has returned the favor and is in fact influencing the way we blog.

The best magazines, both the old hand-held paper kind made from trees and the digital variety, are the ones with content we can’t get enough of. We find ourselves reading every last article and waiting for new issues to arrive. The publishing world has taken this style and married it with blogging techniques to create delicious online reading with that magazine feel. Consider the following examples for a moment. GOOD magazine has always been a dynamic read. Covering arts, social issues and technology with an incredible amount of style has always been GOOD’s specialty. The online version can explore an even wider selection of topics and feature a heavier rotation of images that their traditional magazine simply couldn’t handle. Plus, when a magazine adapts blog practices, it allows them to talk to their readers, which is something GOOD clearly enjoys doing.

The Hollywood Reporter is great example of how journalism practices can help a blog. THR, as the kids call it nowadays, is more than a little influenced by those much-talked-about Hollywood insider blogs but also uses its reputation as a decades-old industry journal to give its articles a legitimacy that the do-it-yourself Tinsel Town blogs don’t have. On the flip side, the cool fashion magazine NYLON has certainly benefitted from the casual look and feel of blogging. Its Tumblresque design and sassily scribed posts are a thing born of blog-world and have made the publication more popular on newsstands as a result. Clearly both magazines and blogs are continuing to change the way we enjoy both forms.

What’s fantastic about all of this mutual stealing… er, I mean “influencing”… is that every business blog can now look like a magazine and every magazine can now interact with its readers like a blog. So, readers, we want to know is this: What are your favorite blog/magazines?