Hop on the Hashtag Bandwagon

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If you’re brand new to Twitter marketing, you’ve picked a perfect time to join the social network. Much of what Twitter users discuss is what’s currently happening in the world and there is a lot to talk about right now. From ObamaCare and the government shutdown to new episodes of buzzed-about television shows and from football to baseball, Twitter is on fire with hashtags relating to the things we are all talking about. Used correctly, hashtags can help brands join the conversation while potentially introducing themselves to a new legion of followers.

At the writing of this post, the following hashtags were trending on Twitter: #TheGovernmentShutDownBecause, #Netflix, #Halloween, #Buctober and #America. If you haven’t used hashtags, that list might make zero sense to you. And that’s okay. Hashtags are simply ways to tag things others on Twitter are talking about — a way of joining and inviting others to join similar conversations. #TheGovernmentShutDownBecause, for example, invites Twitter users to fill in the sentence with their own one-liners, funny memes or opinions. (This one, which referenced the Nickelodeon show Drake and Josh, was the top of the pack, by the way.) But you don’t have to be born in the 2000s to take part in the conversation. Hashtag #Buctober is a shout out to the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. Local brands like Pittsburgh eatery Primanti Brothers used #Buctober to encourage fans to come in after the big game. Trending hashtag #Halloween gave brands like ABC Family, American Apparel and Random House a chance to start trick-or-tweeting early with followers.

The key with hashtags is to strike when the iron is hot. Sometimes hashtags go on for days, but most peak in popularity in a matter of hours. Also, only use hashtags that relate to your brand and social media marketing story. If you sell cards, then #Halloween would be an easy one for you. If you sell tires, however, the hashtag of #Netflix might be a harder sell. But maybe you can make it work! For huge companies and mom-and-pop shops alike, hashtags and how we use them rely 100 percent on a brand’s creativity. Hence, the sky is the limit.

Readers, what recent hashtags have made you laugh, roll your eyes or get involved? Also, which companies rock a great hashtag? Sound off in the comments section below! 

Online Video Creation & Google+, a Match Made in Heaven

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Social media marketing is a must to promote branded videos. Links to your company’s newest videos on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like are the easiest way to get your amazing online video creation in front of audiences. Posts with original videos make for dynamic and viral social media gold, so there isn’t a reason not to do it. Yet for our money, no social media channel is better for video marketing than Google+.

For starters, Google+ is incredibly YouTube friendly (naturally, given both channels are part of the Google family). This ease means original videos posted to Google+ can be added instantly to a brand’s YouTube channel. For anyone who has ever spent an entire day loading a video to YouTube, this is fantastic news. Also, videos uploaded to YouTube and then posted on Google+ look and sound great given there are no compatibility issues. And with Google+ Hangouts On Air, you can actually create live content which can also be saved to your YouTube channel. Hangouts On Air are used by tons of brands of all sizes for things like interviews, product reviews, conference coverage and live Q&As with followers. In fact, these hangouts can become a live event in themselves, potentially driving folks to your brand’s channels. If you’re good at rolling live and have a game plan for an entertaining segment, Hangouts On Air are a real solution for fresh video content. Finally, Google+ has dozens of ways to promote videos throughout the platform. Communities, for example, are terrific spots to place videos in front of handpicked audiences with interests in what you and your brand do. From bookworms and weekend warriors to travel lovers and fashionistas, there are Communities for everybody.

Finally, posting videos on Google+ has a distinct edge that the other channels won’t ever have: It’s Google! This means every time you create content for Google+, your company has just given its SEO a shot in the arm. Videos — and everything you post on Google+ — winds up in Google searches for your business. 

Readers, have you used Google+ for videos? Tell us your love stories (or tales of woe) in the comments section below.

5 Things for September 13: Fiona Crucifies 'Big Food' for Chipotle

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Haunting and genius online video creation? Yup. Oddities from the world of social media marketing? Uh huh. Some legitimate news thrown in just for good measure? You got it. Our weekly list of five things you might have missed has all that and then some.

1. Pure Imagination:  The creative team on Chipotle’s new online short film and game reads like a big-budget movie: Fiona Apple singing an iconic song, Oscar-winning producers and a compelling look at a controversial topic. While cute and charming in animation, make no bones about it: This film takes a tough stance against “Big Food.” Undoubtedly one of the most creative and most-talked-about online videos of the year. 

2. Footlong Couture: Project Subway incorporated the currently happening New York Fashion Week with its “$5 Any Footlong in September” promotion to produce a competition where designers made outfits entirely out of Subway wrappers. The hashtag #ProjectSubway was used by the chain to help engage its 1.6 million followers in this unique fashion smackdown. 

3. Twitter’s New Song: Speaking of Twitter, the social media giant has long tried to launch its own music platform. The results have been underwhelming at best. Yet all hope for #TwitterMusic may not be lost: This week, the company paired with massive music service Spotify to hopefully take music streaming and social search to new heights.

4. Skip the McLine: Mobile ordering to pick up real-life items and in real time is something a few brands have been ballsy enough to attempt. According to Mashable, McDonalds is willing to give it a shot. The company is now testing a mobile payment application in Utah and Texas. “With the app, you can order ahead and pick up your food at drive-thru windows, curbside or in the restaurant,” Mashable reports. 

5. Try to Forget: Finally, we round out this week’s list with a major Twitter bellyflop from AT&T. The communications magnet tried to pay tribute to those lost on 9/11 with a tweeted image of the Twin Towers in searchlights, but consumers weren’t having it. After hundreds of complaints, the company took the image down and apologized a couple of times. The moral of the story? Take the day off from marketing on 9/11, brands… Or deal with the wrath.

Are You Making This Major Social Media Mistake?

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179320163resizedWe have long preached about Facebook and Twitter marketing being two-way streets. These social media channels are great for selling our company, getting the word out about products and services while helping with SEO. Yet social media management cannot exist solely on sales-driven posts. These efforts should help tell our brand’s story and build relationships. A new survey for Econsultancy, however, proves that marketers are more interested in using social media for lead generation and list building than for branding.

The study, published on MarketingCharts.com, found that 37 percent of marketing professionals surveyed used social advertising for lead generation. Eighteen percent used it to increase traffic, while another 18 percent used it for direct online sales. Only 27 percent used it for branding.

Steve Olenski of Forbes explains why this is not such great news.

“It means that marketers are putting more emphasis on selling than they are at establishing relationships with consumers via branding,” he writes. “It means that marketers would rather try and sell you something than say tell you a story. It means that marketers are only in ‘it’ to increase their bottom line.”

Olenski describes placing sales-driven marketing placed ahead of relationship building as “catastrophic.” We could not agree more. Over and over, we’ve seen social media marketing “fail” small businesses. Upon a closer inspection, we usually find that these efforts failed because they were filled with only sales-driven messages. No effort to reach out, zero engagement and a brand’s unwillingness to connect with followers is what fails, not the platform itself. The mistake is thinking these efforts are short-term, quick fixes for lead generation. Consumers and especially social media users can see right through brands who do that and are quick to unfollow those who exist only on a “please buy our stuff!” diet. Social media has invented a class of savvy shoppers who expect a little conversation and intelligent back-and-forth before they plunk down their credit cards. For the most part, this is a good thing — and, good or bad, it’s a reality. Embracing the culture of social media and reaping its benefits is a more long-term survival method.

“What these same marketers fail to realize is that by building their brand via storytelling, sharing of relevant content and truly engaging with consumers will lead them to the lead gen promised land they seek,” Olenski notes. “Make no mistake about it, however. Those marketers who go down the path of putting lead gen/sales over branding and relationships will not be successful in the long run.”

5 Things for August 23: Smelling Swift, Fancy Facebook Ads and Masculine Mascara

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Nine out of 10 online marketing geniuses and social media experts agree: Our weekly list of five things you might have missed has the best stories from the digital newsroom. Why don’t you read for yourself and see if they’re right? 

1.) Adtractive Facebook: Facebook announced this week a partnership with Shutterstock that will give advertisers access to Shutterstock’s massive visual library. “Not every business has a team of designers to help communicate their message, and so the Shutterstock integration allows Facebook advertisers of all sizes to search and choose from millions of high-quality images at the point of ad creation,” David Fraga of Facebook told Business Insider. This could help companies of all sizes make better-looking, more professional Facebook ads.

2.) Better Business Blogging: If you missed Daniel Newman’s post entitled “Demystifying Small Business Blogging,” please read it now (well, after you finish reading this post, of course). Newman helps his readers find easy ways to stop making excuses and start blogging. “In order to see results from blogging for your small business, you have to commit to doing it like any other sales, marketing or operational effort,” he writes. Preach.

3.) Surprise Package: We’ll go ahead and say that 2013 is the year of the double-entendre dude-filled viral commercial. This one for Benefit mascara is also star-studded. Vinny Guadagnino of Jersey Shore, Simon Rex and some comedian from Vine all take part in this sexy, silly viral hit which plays on mascara wands hidden in guy’s crotches. We promise it’s not as NSFW as it sounds.

4.) Smells Like Taylor Swift: #HiFromTaylor is a Twitter campaign, an interactive online video experience and social media marketing blitz — all in the name of promoting Taylor Swift’s new perfume, Taylor. The spot integrates fan’s photos and status updates to an ad with the pop star “shot from the perspective of the user to create a sense of them starring in the video with Taylor herself,” an agency rep says. As long as there’s no Kanye cameo, we’re cool.

5.) Food Photos for Thought: Lastly, big kudos to chef Mario Batali for spearheading Feedie, an app that both helps the hungry while celebrating our insatiable desire for food photos. According to Mashable, “Each time you take a picture of your food at a participating restaurant using Feedie, the restaurant makes an instant donation equivalent to one meal to The Lunchbox Fund. The non-profit provides daily meals for at-risk South African schoolchildren, many of whom have been orphaned because of HIV/AIDS.” Bravo!

Is What We Read More Important Than Who We Are?

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For a brief minute, social media marketing seemed to be a golden ticket into giving marketers a better look at who consumers really were and what they really liked. Facebook pages filled with “likes” for favorite brands, tweets mentioning interests and Pinterest boards chock full of lusted-after items give the illusion of really getting to know a consumer. Yet many think when it comes to content marketing, we should really be asking consumers what they’re reading instead of analyzing their status updates.

The webpages we visit, the blogs we read and the things we search for say far more than social media ever could, says the Guardian’s Jonny Rose.

“By tracking consumer interactions as they browse and engage with content, brands can begin to reveal current and evolving interests, inclinations and needs — sometimes before the individual knows themselves,” Rose says.

Technology referred to by Rose as “content analytics” gives brands access to invaluable insights — but how?

“Content analytics technology analyses pieces of text and makes it understandable and readable for computers. It allows computers to understand the topics, people, places, companies and concepts in the content, sentiment towards aspects of the content, and the language of that content,” Rose says. “This, in turn, means computers can track an individual’s interaction with a piece of content and collect and draw trends about that individual’s tastes and interests.”

If this sounds Big Brother-ish or a little creepy to you, you’re not alone. A lot of folks are startled by the amount of information that advertisers have access to. But others would argue that content marketing analytics helps companies get a more truthful look at the person they are trying to reach. These analytics have also been a long time coming; by now, most people know that when they’re online, they are communicating with brands, whether they want to or not.

Regardless of opinion, these kind of analytics are unavoidable.

“Whether you are browsing to kill time, entertain yourself or researching for a friend, what you are reading right now is incredibly indicative of who you are as a person — and this is immensely useful for brands,” Rose concludes. 

But what do you think, readers? Are content marketing analytics helpful or a borderline invasion of privacy? Tell us in the comments section below.