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New Facebook Profile

New Facebook Timeline, applications and ticker enhance social media experience 

As a Social Media Mad Scientist for Brand Journalists, I help our clients develop social media strategies to increase customer engagement through social media outlets. Social media involves ever-evolving platforms for businesses to connect and build relationships with their clientele, and success requires staying on top of the latest trends.

Facebook is easily the most popular social media platform to date. But how can clients rely on this useful tool when it constantly changes? To make transitioning easier, I keep up with all the changes Facebook makes and work with our clients individually to ensure their engagement continues to increase.

Right now lots of changes are taking place on Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg announced some of them on a livestream at F8 yesterday morning and informed everyone that the bar has been raised. The addition of Timeline, Ticker and a streaming news feed are tools that will help leverage engagement, but they might be confusing at first. 

Let’s take a look at some of these additions:

The ticker allows you to see real-time activity from your friends.

What is Ticker?
You may have noticed Ticker already. Ticker is located at the top right of your home page. This is an up-to-second feed of what is going on with your friends. This can be anything that they do on Facebook. There are millions of Facebook users and the average user has hundreds of fans. The news feed – how we see what others are doing – only displays a fraction of what’s going on. The new ticker gives you everything, real-time.

While some people think this may be a too much information, it scrolls quickly and you can choose to check it out, ignore it or click to hide it if you don’t want the distraction. Either way, you can now see both the trimmed down news feed and the real time flow of activity.

What is Timeline?
Timeline will be your new personal profile. In short, Timeline will be a timeline of your life, with your status updates, your pictures, your music and all other information you put on Facebook The user can choose significant items for the timeline instead of just recent updates. This will eliminate the “Older Posts” link at the bottom of your profile. If you want your friends to see a particular story from a year ago, you can add that to your timeline, so it doesn’t disappear in the sea of information. Facebook also automatically features significant events, such as graduations, births, marriages, etc.

“Timeline is the story of your life,” said Zuckerberg. “All your stories, all your photos, all your apps.”

Another cool feature of Timeline is the statistics of your life at the end of a month or year. You can see how many people you became friends with, who posted on your wall, your top music, places you visited, pages you Liked and more. Your life, like any other story, has a beginning, middle and end.

Caution: Looking through your Timeline may provoke nostalgia.

To activate your Timeline now, visit this Mashable article for a step-by-step.

New Apps
Facebook is partnering with tons of companies to make sharing your interests with your friends easier. Spotify, just one of the companies partnering with Facebook, has already starting posting what people are listening to, just a day after the announcement. This doesn’t just pertain to music, but also news, movies and any other media a person can come up with. To go right along with the Facebook change, Spotify became open today for everyone in the U.S. to sign up, without an invitation.  Netflix and Hulu are not far behind.

Business Fan Pages
Facebook hasn’t announced how these new updates will affect Fan pages yet, but Fan pages already have one significant changed. In the past, a Facebook user would have to Like the fan page to post on the wall. Now, anyone can post on the wall, whether they have Liked the page or not. This will annoy people and companies that measure weekly Likes, but we have to remember, engagement on Facebook fan pages can be measured in other ways.

Facebook has done a good job of making itself much more relevant with these changes. I think you’ll like what you see when your timeline goes live.

Top 10 Marketing Take Aways from the 2011 IFA Conference

This was a busy year at the 2011 International Franchise Association conference in Las Vegas. Much like the last two years, almost every session I attended drifted to social media; it didn’t matter if we were in a room full of operations staffers, franchise attorneys or salespeople; social media is still dominating the conversation in franchising.

2011 IFA Conference - Attendees Spill outside for the Social Media Sessions

Here are my Top 10 marketing and social media take-aways from this year’s IFA conference, the 51st for the venerable association:

1. Social media marketing is finally becoming integrated with the rest the marketing efforts. No longer off by itself, social media is now seen as equal to print, pr, and other advertising functions. Social media is here to stay and simple marketing such as print ads now morph into social media and social media now swings back into traditional advertising. There are no clear lines and lots of overlap. It’s only going to get muddier as the franchise industry learns to leverage new technologies in 2011.

2. Social media can be used to help sell franchises. From producing optimized blogs aimed at making it easier for potential franchisees to research your brand to using paid facebook advertising to attract visitors to regional franchise seminars, companies are learning to use social media platforms as a tool to generate traffic. It may not work the way you would think, but savvy companies are making it work.

3. The business blog – a blog integrated into your consumer or franchise development website – is one of the most important parts of your social media plan. People who want what you have to sell are looking for you online and having an integrated blog on your website both gives you tools to create your own social community and put content in front of your target audience. Of all the things social media related, the blog offers the biggest bang for the buck spent on marketing.

4. PR is back – PR was on the rise this year and if you are not using PR to tell your story on a national level, you are missing the chance to build brand and get your story out. PR is changing and old-school traditional PR doesn’t work as well as story-based online brand building. Forget new store releases and think national trend stories that position your brand in a unique spot.

5. Local PR generates results -PR is divided into two services: national PR for your brand and local PR for your franchisees. Local media like to write about local companies and unless releases come from and are about your franchisees most journalists won’t write about you. Local PR is an important way for franchisees to build brand on a local level. Small publications have fewer reporters and are more likely to bite on a story if it is about a local business.

6. Google Places is perhaps the most important social network for influencing customers. When customers, especially customers who want to buy what you have to sell, look for something on Google, they see business listings for each of the businesses in an area. Each listing, called a Place Page, has user reviews from real customers, owner-uploaded content and a variety of consumer information. Because it leverages user reviews and buzz postings, Google Places has become the modern day equivalent of the thumbs-up or thumbs-down in the Roman coliseum. The good news is that franchisees can manage this content and can leverage good reviews to dramatically increase store traffic and online leads. The bad news: few companies have bothered to claim pages and train franchisees on best practices.

7. Keywords Count and SEO is changing. Forget hiring SEO firms to do expensive ‘on-site’ search engine optimization for your website. Using online tools, companies are doing internal keyword research themselves and are beginning to generate content in the form of blog posts, facebook posts, linkedin statuses and online press releases that use keywords tied to the buying process. Not just brand awareness keywords such as your company name but a whole range of keywords relating to research, comparison shopping, user reviews and pricing.

8. Social Media is a lot more than facebook – It might be more accurate to say ‘being on facebook is a mistake.’ Facebook is a popular platform but it was clear from the companies that could point to actual sales results that the real breakthroughs were coming from other tactics and tools. Blogs, Google Places, SEO, Social Loyalty programs and linkedin articles were producing far more business than facebook. If you want to get social media results, don’t start with facebook; start with your blog.

9. Social loyalty programs taking shape – The idea of social loyalty, rewarding your customers for positive digital activity that builds brand awareness and generates referrals, is beginning to take shape. Integrated point of sale systems, leveraged coupons, referral coupons and social media only promotions tied into customer cards and custom facebook tabs are all coming together into well thought out systems that may dramatically alter how local franchisees tap into social media’s word of mouth on steroids nature. Stay tuned as this field emerges in 2011.

10. Content Truly is the Currency of the Internet – social media is essentially people talking to each other and if you plan to drive conversations about your company, you’ll need good content. In company after company, franchisors expressed frustration that they didn’t know how to create content in the volume needed today and franchisees expressed frustration that there was little help at the local level. It takes far more content to get good results than most companies realize and few firms know how to tell the right stories or understand how to implement them. Companies with good content can reshape public opinion and generate leads; companies without content diminish. Publish or Perish is the marketing mantra today. The newly emerging field of Brand Journalism – companies that merge a PR firm with a marketing firm and create content streams – is something to watch in 2011.

What were your take aways from the 51st IFA Conference?

(Source: brandjournalists.com)

 

Podcamp Nashville 2011 Review

Podcamp Nashville 2011

The crowded first floor of Cadillac Ranch during Podcamp Nashville 2011

Podcamp Nashville, a free and interactive ‘un-conference’ – a forum for bloggers, marketers, content creators, social media experts, educators, podcasters and the like to gather, network and learn about the latest trends, tricks and technologies in the interactive world  – marked its fourth year in the music city with a simple theme:

Express Yourself.

With social media, individuals and companies have tremendous opportunities to broadcast thoughts, perspectives and in the case of a company, tell stories. Expressing yourself can help influence the way others perceive you or your company and in today’s social media world, if you can’t get started expressing yourself, you’ll have a hard time making use of social technology.

If you have never attended a Podcamp, you should. Many thanks to the organizers of this free event – it was full of awesomeness and very helpful information.

@brandjournalist@faithfulPR and @mackvong from Brand Journalists attended this year and here are our thoughts and take aways from podcamp Nashville 2011:

Forget keywords for SEO and start thinking about Key Phrases.Expressing yourself is not just about getting your thoughts out; its about communicating your thoughts in a way others can access. We see this in our client work daily – people are inundated with information and rarely do people find what they are looking for with a one or two word search. What we’ve found and what I heard several presenters mention was how important longer phrases are. If you are shooting a video about a macbook upgrade, think “macbook unibody 8gig upgrade review’ rather than just ‘macbook.’ People use keyword phrases to find very specific content and as a marketer or content creator, you’ll need to create content to cover a wide range of what people are looking for. This holds true for blogs, webpages and videos.

QR Codes have come of age. We LOVE QR codes! There were several sessions on QR codes. @irenewilliams did a great job of explaining how to use QR codes to help
with customer engagement. In particular, QR codes let customers experience digital content in the moment. QR code faux pas #1 – don’t use one to send customers to your website home page. DO create them to send to blog and web pages with content that is helpful for a customer in a specific situation such as standing in a store trying to make a buying decision. Use web and blog pages formatted for mobile viewing (the only users of QR codes are on smart phones) and create content specifically for QR code use. Our favorite tactic: use QR codes to gather facebook fans. QR code stats:Use increased over 1200% in the last half of 2010. Best tip of the day: use the bit.ly link shortener to create automatic QR codes with free analytics.

Youtube videos are an essential component of expressing yourself. Best stat of the day: Google owns Youtube and Youtube now gets 2 Billion searches a day. Because of the relationship between Google and Youtube, videos get preferential ranking. If you are not creating and posting videos to Youtube, start now. It greatly increases your reach and search-ability. Use key phrases in your titles and use the description to post the same content you would in a blog. Embed videos on web pages and blogs. Sometimes, video content sticks better with readers than text. Favorite camera: Kodak zi8 (better than flip) with a 20’ wired lapel mic and an inexpensive tabletop tripod. Total cost for kit: $150. Best tip: use a white board as a background and write items on the board as you talk for an effective video blog.

Blogging is still the cornerstone of expressing yourself. There were no sessions dedicated to blogging but it was clear from almost every session that to express yourself, you need a home base and more often than not, that means a blog. WordPress is still king. Best tip: Tumblr is an easy place to start. Tumblr has made a range of improvements making SEO better and for someone who has never blogged Tumblr is a really good first step. Serious blogging is better done on hosted, custom wordpress installs. Blog for yourself, for your company and for clients.

Digital Stalking is Cool – Just do it. Most amusing session of the day was from @courtenayrogers on digital stalking. In her words, Google is made for digital stalking and with the wide range of data on people and companies at your fingertips, you should get in the habit of digital stalking people you want to do business with, people you want to network with and especially those you might want to date. Stalking  – or researching – a company online gives you a much better idea of how to jump into a conversation and makes a cold call a warm and friendly call. To demonstrate, Courtenay ‘stalked’ the pre-registered attendees. “What, you are still on myspace? Really?” Stalking helps you express yourself by helping you better understand your target audience. Go on, get your stalk on.

Authenticity and transparency are not just important for individuals, they are essential for businesses. Several sessions focused on how to be more authentic – social media is, after all, a conversation and people crave dialog and relationships with ‘real’ people. Put it all out there and be as transparent as possible. Be a real person and don’t be afraid to show yourself. In the case of a company, the more information you publish, the better. Trust is earned over time and the more ‘real’ information you get in front of potential readers and customers, the richer your interactions will be.

Mobile marketing via SMS is a powerhouse if used properly. @lcguttery did a great job tackling the tidal-wave of QR mania to make the point that mobile, SMS marketing packs a powerful punch. QR code marketing is all about letting customers tap into digital content in specific places whereas SMS marketing is broader in reach and focus. Best SMS marketing tip: long form SMS marketing is cheaper and more flexible than the more expensive short form marketing. Use a trusted and experienced vendor for services if you foray into this and be very sensitive to how customers perceive SMS marketing as somewhat invasive.

Just Do It. Expressing yourself takes motivation and cadence.Several sessions addressed something we see daily – how do I get started and once I get started how do I keep it up? Fellow colab coworker and SEO expert @kateo gave one of the more thought provoking sessions at the end of the day titled ‘Cathartic Content: how a blog can help you grow.” Her point: sometimes, just the act of expressing yourself via a blog helps you define your story. It helps you get in the habit of producing work and helps you sort out issues and focus on what is important. For her it lead to the foundation of her company MetaMarketer. For companies, it can help tap into better and far richer relationships with customers. Success at expressing yourself takes practice – readers are attracted to the regular cadence of thought and if you really want to succeed, build up your skills over time.

What was missing from Podcamp Nashville

As amazing as some of the trends were above, we were surprised at what was missing. Namely, sessions on facebook, blogging, SEO and Twitter. We make a living expressing ourselves and helping a wide range of clients express their company stories and we’d be hard pressed to get results without them.

Podcamp Nashville uses a random drawing for the volunteer presentations and as a result, many were duplicates. We’ll be sure to put our names in the hat next year for a range of presentation topics. Might be helpful if organizers could put out requests for specific topics to make the day more valuable than it already was to attendees. There was no shortage of experienced presenters in the room. Coolest trend: ipad2 users using the ipad to connect to the projector and an iphone to change slides.

Thanks to everyone who presented and especially to the volunteers who orchestrated this event. We learned a lot and everyone came away energized.

See you next year!

Thomas Scott is the CEO of Brand Journalists, a Nashville based digital PR, blogging and social media firm that serves the franchise industry.

Connect with Thomas on Linkedin

Connect with Thomas on twitter

Search for additional info on twitter under #pcn11 and #pcn2011

http://www.podcampnashville.org

(Source: brandjournalists.com)

 

Pam Coyle, 
April 20, 2010

Thomas Scott, a friend and former colleague at The Times-Picayune, recently asked me to help punch up a press release. He’s vice president of marketing at Showhomes, a home staging franchise business, frequent blogger and social media thinker.

I got a great up-close lesson in the new ways of the information world. (more…)

Showhomes home staging is one of the few companies in franchising that has succeeded in using social media to have dramatic breakthroughs in franchise sales.  Their brand journalism approach to social media deserves the credit and any franchise professional should read this article by the Daily Vista to learn how they did it:

(more…)

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