Instagram Stalls, Time to get Worried?

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As Instagram rolls out it’s battle tank to increase revenue, usage statistics are tanking. Which is sort of ironic since the whole idea was to innovate and get more advertising money.

The dearth of technology is tied to innovation. Instagram has been slow to the finishing line since it was purchased by that behemoth, Facebook. People are sharing less on Facebook and for Instagram, people spend less time on it than in previous year.

Advertising on Instagram got a whole lot easier in 2016, namely, anyone with a Facebook account can buy adverts now on Instagram. It is basically the same way you buy Facebook advertising. No different except that you get to put your adverts up within a user’s newsfeed.

Not long ago, Instagram started to ditch its show me everything newsfeed to adopt a tuned algorithm. They will show you more of what you like….or suggest users that have similar post which you like and at the same time, take into account the number of likes and views of your particular post and tell the world where you stand. What do you make of it? Well, it is really to justify what you pay for. If your advert or post get shown to an audience, you get to see how many times it has been viewed. It cuts both ways.

Metrics are everything but results are a wee bit subjective.

Instagram is Spreading its Wings

If you happen to like posting stuff, Instagram now helps you to get discovered. Content consumers may not have an idea on who to follow so this clue might be helpful when users who have similar post you like are often suggested. Herein lies the problem.

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With 80% of its users now from outside the US, up from 75% last fall, Instagram’s growth has relied heavily on its popularity in overseas countries like Japan, Germany, France and Indonesia.

Marketing overseas got easier but not all of them speak English. So Instagram has introduced instant translations for post for users to read. 

This two prong approach sort of solves the problem but it doesn’t quite solve the engagement problem. People are using Instagram less as it is so yesterday, and this has gotten Instagram worried of course, and as a brand advertiser, you should be too.

If you don’t catch enough eyeballs, then where should you be?

Time to Get Worried?

Instagram has also hit 300 million daily active users. While 300 million is impressive, CNBC reported that Instagram usage has actually dropped 23.7% between this year and last . So even as Instagram is reaching a wider daily audience, its users are spending less time in-app. Less time means less revenue for Instagram and this is how it plays out.

The immediacy of an advertising campaign doesn’t mean you should be throwing more dollars at Instagram but to spread that reach wider on both traditional and online advertising and not rely on social media alone.

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That’s because the Daily Usage has tanked for Facebook and Instagram. People don’t post as much anymore or for that matter share or check their newsfeed to the point Instagram has to send you suggestions on who to follow and what to follow in terms of interest and pages.

Since the adverts are targeted, advertising can be directed at a particular profile but this will not stop ads from running meaninglessly when users scroll pass them. Do I recall what I just saw that was inserted into my news feed? Nope. Nor do I care since whatever advertising that was directed at me wasn’t of interest to me.

Videos got Longer on Instagram

Posting video is being extended to a whole 1 min. However Twitter has countered this allowing videos up to 140 seconds long with Vine. Wow. Would you be bored?

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The fight for video time is apparently getting longer for these two competing platforms but Twitter still lacks punch. Instagram is more social media while Twitter is more conversational. Even when Twitter can stand up on its own with the combination of Vine and Periscope, it can be a bandwidth hog if you’re not too careful with your mobile data.

This is what is keeping people from streaming on mobile. Data is expensive and viewers would rather watched the saved videos on Wifi.

Collective Engagement is the Key

The only reason why Starbucks would set up another shop a block down the road from the first one is location. If that is the case, then a collective engagement is what you are after should you have a social media strategy.

I find it pointless to pit Instagram with Twitter and Vine, or Google+ with Facebook. It is a collective engagement (the sum of its total) that you are interested in because duplicating content on all your social media platforms bores the hell out of people. Why should I follow your Instagram feed if you post the same stuff on Twitter? Or for that matter on Facebook or Google+.

Return on Investment Explained

ROI is very simple to explain in advertising terms. The aim is always thrice the amount of return on whatever you have spent in promotional activities.

The amount of time spent, and the effort put it has to justify the results. The rough advertising reach model is three times the cost in terms of ROI. So if you calculate all your social media time and effort to a daily rate, and if you multiply that in terms of dollar value by three times, this is the actual benefit you should be receiving from this collective engagement on social media for a weekly or monthly expense. If you are not getting that in ROI, then it is pointless to continue social media activities.

This justification is what doomed Facebook’s stubborn approach to organic reach and would happen the same way to Instagram if it is not careful. If an advertising or promotional effort is costing more than what it returns to brands and businesses, then the money would be better spent elsewhere.

 

 

 

Facebook Live takes aim at Periscope and Meerkat

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Have you downloaded Facebook Mentions? It’s an app for would be celebrities, news and media organizations and just anyone who is remotely famous.

Why is Facebook pulling a stunt like this?

Well, you may have heard of Periscope and Meerkat, two live streaming apps but there are a few more that does similar things….like Twitch, which is opening up to non gamers and smaller players like Mobli, which has a Live Stream option for you to broadcast to an audience.

Facebook clearly thinks it is big enough to game this. So they hired a bunch of famous people and paid them a lot of money for them to live stream their day to day chores for your entertainment.

This is not the end of it. Facebook Live is technically in Close Beta, meaning only people who are truly celebrities will be given a chance to go Live.

The option is also available to brands who wish to connect LIVE with an audience and any Facebook Business Page will qualify but it has to be vetted. So if your FB Page only has 1,000 likes and sells designer aprons, chances are you get booted to the end of the queue if you ever attempted to register for FB Live.

After spending many months researching Periscope. I have found a ton of caveats.

Unlike Snapchat, where a select few gets invited to broadcast a feed that you can view before it disappears into nothingness, FB Live follows closely on the heels of Periscope and Meerkat. The chart below will give you an idea on who is watching what on both Meerkat and Periscope.

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The FB Live stream plays to all your followers, and followers will be informed of a Live broadcast as it happens. This is probably one of the most difficult media channels to master as people have to be subscribed to your notifications and at the same time be able to flip open the mobile app at the shortest moment of notice to watch you do dumb or entertaining things.

This recorded LIVE feed will be kept on your Page timeline forever, but people outside of your FB Page won’t know it exist.

Plans are afoot to make those recorded Live feeds available in Facebook search itself though I haven’t found out how they are going to do this without charging someone for the privilege. All recorded video streaming will be available through the search but knowing humans and their weird taste for entertainment, no one is going to watch a Donald Trump  speech no matter how entertaining it is. What’s more, any search now in FB will yield ZERO recorded live broadcast on your browser search, so the Video search isn’t exactly working at the moment except maybe for the overloaded Facebook app for mobile. Why would you watch video streaming on mobile is beyond me unless you have unlimited mobile data plans.

The close beta will probably become an open beta before going global. How is FB going to monetize this is beyond me but as a content developer, you should be aware of this before doubling down on that spiffy new mobile device and mobile data plan just to go Live.

Streaming right now is only restricted to chosen Facebook Mention celebrities. Each video segment is restricted to only 30 mins. Any more than that means you need a second FB Mentions account or are incredibly famous that FB will bend over to lick your boots.

Moving on to a Live broadcast is pretty easy. You can see the steps here.

One of the other problems with Live Broadcast is the poor quality of the videos. Both Meerkat and Periscope suffer from this. Facebook Live is no different. As for the follow-ship. Those voyeuristic folks who follow you aren’t really that large a number for now.

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If you look at the above chart, you’d soon realize that FB Live subscribers will be dependent on your followers of your FB page. For Periscope and Meerkat, these platforms can be independent of Twitter followers and this means if you have a million Twitter followers doesn’t mean you will automatically have a million Periscope followers.

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Bandwidth is dependent on many environmental factors and since you don’t have a good connection, your videos will be cutting out, jumpy and highly irritating. Even if you broadcast often, you’d might be able to increase the number of followers on your Periscope or Meerkat account without the same number of followers to your Twitter account. The above chart says it all, over a 8 day period, the number of videos you have to produce to keep up the frenzy is pretty high. And because of time zone differences, you won’t be discovered unless you are broadcasting something that is already trending on social media. Unlike FB Live, Periscope only keeps the stream you follow and kept about one day before it disappears. Meerkat on the other hand allows followers to keep the stream by hitting a record button. This means followers who like your stream have the ability to store it forever…until Meerkat gets bought out or closes down.

For FB Live, your only option to increase followers is to double down on FB advertising to increase your Page Likes or Followers. There is no other option. FB Live isn’t stand alone and is tied to your FB Page account.

Going forward, you have to ask yourself as a content creator/producer, would people be keen to watch you Live or maybe keep it real with a recorded broadcast on YouTube.

With Live streams, it’s just you and the audience. You cannot do any splicing, cleaver editing, add creative effects or cut to music if you wanted to. So for branding purposes, the scope for content developers is restricted.

What’s more, the experience for your followers is mostly restricted to a talking head (meaning you just doing the talking). So unless you got plenty to say within 30 minutes, which is relevant to your followers, you’re better off not saying anything and just answer questions they might for you, like….your success or failure as a celeb or on the new Portaloo that you are helping to endorse.

Don’t even count the chickens before they are hatched. Live streaming doesn’t automatically guaranteed 150,000 strong audience. I would think you’d be lucky to have 15. Recorded repalys might give you a further 100 to 200 eyeballs but that’s normally how far it goes when you’re not a member of the Kardashians.

Even with Live event broadcast, you might get a few stragglers who would ask you questions on the fly. But in any Live stream, it is just you and your followers where the interaction is via a keyboard. You get to speak to them of course after reading their questions on your mobile device display but I don’t think you should try getting philosophical about it.

Lastly, beyond looking at some famous celebs going Live and chatting to them, you can already engage most of them via Twitter directly. Facebook Live hasn’t got any real benefit except for FB asking money for you to get more followers for your Page. What’s more, with the new emphasis on Video, your YouTube videos will definitely be more interesting to watch.

As a precursor to bigger things to come, Facebook’s investment in Occulus Rift may be the eventual goal. By Live Streaming VR videos, be it in 360 or 180 degrees, you will be giving a new experience to people watching you. This is unfortunately only for the future and isn’t applicable to Facebook Live just yet.

So what is Facebook Live good for now? Nothing much….until Virtual Reality or VR Live videos take off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epic fails on Content Creation for Facebook Post

 

“Good content always has an objective; it’s created with intent. It therefore carries triggers to action.”

It is no secret that Facebook seems to be the place every brand wants to get into especially when it comes to eyeballs. Every time you send out a post from your page to followers it only gets a 1 percent organic reach. The one percent organic reach is for pictures and links. Video on the other hand gets you more, maybe to the tune of 4 percent in a day.

Facebook defines organic reach in terms of unpaid post that pops up on your newsfeed. This means that you may have a truckload of followers but they won’t see your post unless you paid Facebook to reach out to them.

During my 2 year observation on Facebook post, I run a page which I use to obtain metrics. I have managed to get a 10 percent reach in two days using a very sly method of commenting on other Page post using my Page persona. This is very hard work and for a 10 week old post, I am able to hit a 50 percent reach of my followers.

Recently I took the global car brand from BMW to task.

Obviously they haven’t a clue on what works and I told them to create content when posting instead of just putting up a picture.

Engagement counts to each Posting 

When you post a picture, like the above, telling followers hey, custom job for you mini, why not do this? Then the picture stands alone, without a link or a FB content, then you are in trouble.

Facebook measures each post with an engagement. So if people liked it and clicked on it, then it gets shown to more unpaid followers. This grows and grows but it tops off at 50 percent. When people leave comments on it, it also gets circulated around for longer period. And this is what creating meaningful content is all about.

Brands who are not serious about this should only post pictures only content to Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. Pinterest is a bit iffy here as its quite nebulous. People collect pins which are pictures with content links but you don’t know if they get viral like herpes when you pass it around. Once you take into account that females like Pinterest more, then you could have more gender specific content created.

Brands like Mini should know this. If they give ideas to people with no wear to start, then it is useless. The picture stops there and without the content to keep it going, it dies. The top picture illustrates this.

Mini should ask itself what the picture is suppose to generate. Eyeballs, likes or Clicks?

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  • There is no URL to lead to a content page but the picture entices you.
  • The introduction creates a expectation that you can get a custom job.
  • It ends with a question, “how would you customise your MINI” without even telling people how it can be done.

This is why brands must have partners.

For the above Mini campaign, it makes sense for Mini to partner Avery Dennison for car related vinyl wraps or Dupont Standox for a full custom paint job.

Once the content is created, both Avery Dennison and Mini can share in the Facebook post, giving the content a longer life span instead of a one off, emotional Like on a page. Facebook isn’t Instagram and vice versa. If your goal is to get people to like the image, then it is in the wrong place. The FB Page algorithm has already killed it for you whereas for Instagram, there is still a chance of getting unpaid eyeballs if the person is already following your Instagram page.

The Difference in Gaining Followers versus Boosting Post

Thanks to the money grubbing ways of Zuckerberg, you have to differentiate between paying for new followers or just reaching out to existing followers.

Reaching out to existing followers of your FB page is through boosting your Post, while gaining new followers is like putting up Ads for your Page to attract new followers. Both are very different and you should never confuse the two.

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Boosting a page is crucial if you want to get content out to the open for all to see. But gaining followers is just the act of getting people to Like your page, and hopefully in the process, get them to subscribe to ALL your notifications. This is secretly hidden away within the Like button and by people who Like your Page doesn’t mean they will get all your notification on content. This is a secret that Facebook doesn’t want to share with you. If you knew how many were subscribed to your Content notifications, you won’t be paying FB to show it to your followers.

This is why it is important for Brands to reward followers with physical items. It could be a keychain, a unique sticker or even a goodie bag.

 

Good Content means a Long Shelf Life

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In difficult economic environments, the first thing big brand budgets get cut are those in advertising. It makes sense because like brand advertising, no one is going to notice when the economy faces difficulties. Selling to a exhausted market is like selling ice boxes to eskimos. This is where meaningful content comes in because of its long tail nature.

Useful content gets recycled and used for a very long time. And for Facebook post, this is perfect. It is a slow burn process. Since Facebook algorithms work in the way that you only pay for what you are getting, it makes perfect sense to engage people with such post if you don’t intend to pay for them.

What’s more I am all for featuring unique content.

People are not going to be grateful if the SAME content they see appears in their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds. This is another bad habit that Brands do partake in.

For the follower, what good is it to follow your favourite brand page on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram when they see the same stuff all the time? Makes no sense. Followers could just subscribe to just one and leave the rest out. But here, you need them to follow you because….you have unique content for each social stream.

On Facebook alone, you need to have at least 35 content Likes or Comment Engagements before Facebook gives you another 1 percent organic (unpaid) reach. This is a tough proposition.

So when it comes to a bull market, advertise. In a bear market, you create content with a long shelf life. That way, you brand stays in shape for the long haul and when the bulls come around again, you have your long tail content to thank. People will remember the brand and that’s what counts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YouTube Red to remedy Content blocked with AdBlockers

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One of the problems faced by content creators these days is that more and more people are blocking ads that helps fund content. For example, a lot of the stuff you watch on YouTube is advertising funded, but if you use a ad blocker, then content creators are going to suffer.

This is apparently the line taken by Apple, which in its war with Google (who also owns YouTube) is launching adblocking as a native option for iPhones. This means, ads won’t be showing up where content is displayed.

This is bad news for you, as a content creator if you are relying on eyeballs to help support your content creation efforts. However it won’t affect you if you happen to be video blogging about your own business and the content you display is basically a means to promote your own business online.

This is why Google has introduced YouTube Red.

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Now, Red sounds terrible as a name. It smacks of communism and China but in reality, it’s just another portal to get you to pay for content. It is a channel to monetize content for creators which isn’t new. Vimeo has similar subscriptions for content in its PRO service where you can sell your content in return for a fee of US$200 a year.

For Red, YouTube will pay you for the eyeballs you attract on your channel but your channel will not be available to free to view public streams. The other thing is that your content is distributed on a pay to view by hour basis of a subscriber. This means that YouTube takes 45 percent of the subscription revenue while the remaining 55 percent is distributed to content creators base on the number of hours a viewer spends on your channel. So if say a subscriber views your channel 10 hours a month out of 20 hours in total, you get 50 percent of the revenue.

YouTube Red also opens up the possibility of funding for your content creation. So if you have a channel which is valued, you might get some cash tossed your way to produce even more content.

At launch, the new YouTube service will carry a few unique channels not found on ‘free to stream’ public channels. These include…

  • Scare PewDiePie: a reality-adventure series
  • Sing It!: a scripted comedy that lovingly satirizes the reality singing competitions
  • Fight of the Living Dead: famous YouTubers trapped in “a frighteningly realistic zombie apocalypse”
  • A Trip to Unicorn Island: feature-length movie gives fans a look inside the life and journey of Lilly Singh on a 26-city tour

Some pundits have pointed out the caveat to all this is that fans who are not subscribed to Red, won’t be able to view your channel anywhere in the world.

For the majority of YouTube fans, who have been fed a steady stream of free content, the thought of paying for a subscription sounds too Netflix.

We do not know at this stage if the content you watch on Red is sharable to other social networks and if they are not, then there is no chance of your channel ever being promoted outside of the YouTube universe. This is a chicken and egg issue as if you’re not already famous on YouTube with millions of views, chances are you are not going to get noticed on Red.

So it has to work both ways, for subscribers to view their favourite content that is now found on YouTube Red, they have to subscribe, otherwise they won’t be getting their fix anytime soon.

How Twitter turned Nazi on Coke’s Campaign

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When it comes to creating content, the last thing you should do is to use an automated bot. A bot is a term for a robot, which of course is just some dumb waiter in this instance. In the case of Coca Cola, they were on the receiving end of the joke when Gawker themselves started a bot to counter the #MakeItHappy hashtag used by Coke.

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People using this quote will have the chance of getting a lovely ASCII graphic as long as it was tweeted with the #MakeItHappy hashtag. So this was Coke’s way to spread some love and happiness in the time of ISIL and the burning pilot trapped in a cage. The quoted text below sums up the experience.

Coca cola started a new Make It Happy campaign during the SuperBowl TV spots and didn’t know the consequence of using Twitter hashtags. As part of Coke’s ad campaign, it allowed people to reply to tweets with the hashtag #MakeItHappy, which would prompt the @CocaCola account to automatically take that tweet and spit it back out as fun ASCII art.

This basically sums up the use of bots. If you fail to employ a full time human staff to man your content feed, then you’re looking for trouble. In Gawker’s case, they wanted to prove a point that having a Bot manage your content feed is a bad idea. All they had to do was insert lines from Hitler’s infamous book “Mein Kampf” and use the hashtags to lure the Coke Bot to pick it up and this can happen to anyone. The quoted text will appear as a happy ASCII art as seen below.

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Why Content Has to be Managed

You learn the hard way that you have competitors and they are out to destroy you in the most creative way. In the case of Coke, a rival like Pepsi could hire someone to hijack the campaign. Even though any publicity isn’t bad publicity, in this case it gave Coca Cola a boost in the social sphere, things could have turned out far worst for SMBs who do something which can tarnish their long term marketing objective.

Coke pulled the campaign, Gawker laughed so hard and yes. You have to be-careful when using Twitter.

Hashtags have become a way of life in content promotion. You find a unique hashtag and try to own it by using it. The NYPD also had a campaign which backfired. It started a #myNYPD campaign to show how citizen friendly they were and got a slew of citizen photos showing otherwise. Then it was made into a joke which put the NYPD in a very hard spot.

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Twitter for the Rest of Us

Twitter is a two way street. It is sort of like a bulletin board of sorts where people can reach out to you and it works particularly well for brands, celebrities and politicians. If you wanted to reach out to someone directly, he or she may respond to you in Tweets. The whole process then helps you to communicate with entities you do not normally have the chance to. This power to the people scenario is also open to abuse. Twitter is severely limiting to those who can’t sell something in 140 characters. Using a URL embed is the only way but to get people clicking on that URL is also a shot in the dark. Twitter has made it clear that it aims to clamp down on spam and post abuse but so far, they have been slow in responding.

As with all social media platforms, Twitter allows you to shore up your followers with lots of buy-in fake followers, take promotional adverts to promote your content on the platform and use it for content marketing. What they don’t tell you is that organic growth has been spiralling down and is only a tad higher than Facebook’s zero percent organic reach.

The platform has been moving away from its text based roots and is now openly supporting picture post and later, video post as well. Twitter has no choice but to do this as it has to secure the eyeballs instead of letting people exit the platform to view something on YouTube or a third party video host. In the past, they have blamed iOS 8 failures and broken mobile apps that costed them millions of users.

However I am not particularly sold on Twitter is that after experimenting on it, I realise that the ambiguity that is often associated with it is what makes people abuse the platform. For one, it rarely ever reaches out to the masses unless you happen to use a ‘pop’ hashtag. These are the trending hashtags that Twitter tells you about in your dashboard. You have to craft your content to fit the moment instead of relying on your own unique hashtag to take off. Its like riding a popularity wave, once it dies down, you find the next hashtag wave to ride on. It’s a bit like surfing, where you wait for the right wave to ride on. So for example you can add a Tweet to ride on Coke’s  #MakeItHappy trending tag and add #hireMyWhore at Men’s Health Spa.

I have seen Bots that are programmed to work as a spamming tool by inserting bit.ly URLS into a reply to your tweets and then sends you to a spam site upon clicking on it. Thanks to Twitter’s method of restricting your characters, people often are not sure if the given URL is a genuine reply or a spam link.

In the case of Coca Cola, they started this off without much thought and didn’t plan on responding  that someone hijack their campaign, this undermined their online credibility. By having a human process to moderate the replies, spam and abuse can be checked but this is far too costly for a industrial giant that pulls in billions in global revenue every year.

This is where content marketing gets expensive for corporate use. People have to be assigned as moderators while for SMBs, you just have to monitor this on your own time. Imagine if you’re out fishing for the weekend and constantly fighting spam on your hashtag on your mobile. That’s the reality for the rest of us.

How Twitter can Work for You

As a communication channel to your business, it has to be manned 24/7 and this where you tell customers to follow you for updates. You can of course insert marketing or promotional content but often the character limitations will leave your followers guessing. This is why people make use of picture post as a marketing lure. In the case of Coke, the happy ASCII picture was the lure for people to jump onto the hashtag wagon.

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Instead of just tweeting pictures, you should consider using Twitter for the following:-

  • Content updates to your Followers on Social Media.
  • Promotional updates to your site
  • Sharing of curated content using shortened URLS to your followers
  • Feedback and Contact channel for customer/product satisfaction

It makes no sense to acquire users on Twitter unless your targeted audience are also frequent users of the social channel. Such acquisitions are a miss-miss affair. Remember the hashtag rule. If the brand isn’t yours then there is no point pouring money into it in the hope it will go viral.

So before you embark on any content marketing campaign, think about the strategy behind it first and follow through on it. Murphy’s Law is all about consequences on things that can go wrong and for social media, there are heaps.

Facebook Censors Blasphemous Pages To Comply With Turkey’s Demand, But Won’t Publish It

Here is another tip for thought. How do you define content that is ill-conceived and blasphemous in light of the “Je suis Charlie” fiasco? What you might think is funny could be offensive to another. That’s why having a targeted content strategy matters. Governments are now increasingly exercising their right to censor social media content and companies like Facebook will have to comply because if they get blocked, they will lose millions in advertising revenue.

Facebook Unveils Facebook At Work, Lets Businesses Create Their Own Social Networks

Building your own Social network is a bold step. However it’s only for employee and employer relations, sort of like a LAN bulletin board from the old days. Will it work? I have my doubts. The idea that employees will log in through a company Facebook page or company page is a non-starter. Why would a company compromise its operations by having employees discuss company issues on a social page?

What’s more companies have their own Enterprise networks and even if you don’t have one, a company can start its own in-house social networking site with a WordPress Theme.

Facebook aims to take on Oracle, which offers Enterprise type social network solutions. However, one must not forget that Oracle solutions are privately held. You don’t surrender any information to an entity like Facebook each time you use it.

Content 101: Why having a Strategy Matters

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The idea behind having your content is two fold. One is to get on top of a SERP, the second really for social media. Both count towards your eventual goal of reaching the top 10 but let’s not also forget that content plays a huge part of it all. Whenever you do a search, UGC from different sources (country IPs) also help to boost your visibility. Whenever you do a search for a product or service, reviews from consumers and users will show up results that is linked to your brand. This is why having a solid content strategy matters.

Back in the days where social media was nothing more than online communities (it still is btw) you posted stuff you did, stuff you want to do and shared some pictures online. It was like, Buzznet, and my profile is still active there too. Social media like Foursquares, Tripadvisor, Linkedin, Facebook and G+ are intrinsically linked to content found on Tumblr, Blogger and self hosted WordPress sites.

Facebook and G+ changed it all in recent years as your social profile also became your brand and what you associated with. So if you happen to run a business or work for one, they would have their own presence online outside of the traditional website. The game changer was that your businesses could  qualify as an online entity thus was born the need for social media content. This entity should be alive, as determined by Google Algorithms, and updated to show it is alive.

Online Brochureware versus Content Development

Still relevant in today’s online world are online brochures to show you have a company presence for people to drop by and browse your services/products. If you are lucky, they might even send you email. But any long forgotten and undated revision to your website will only show that your strategy isn’t about content but more of a online brochure, with that your SERP gets gunned down by Google for being too plain and unhelpful. Brochure ware sites are Zombie entities, not entirely living or dead so this gets bumped down the search chain over time. Using keywords within your brochure site  isn’t going to help you rise to the top of a SERP but at least you’re somewhere in the top 100, or maybe top 1000. Oh…maybe that wasn’t your intention to begin with?

Why Site Planning Matters

There are plenty of places to host your own online brochure. That one page calling card which you call a website has many advantages, like maybe your email and fax number for contact. However if you want to be found outright in a SERP, you need to invest.

First, you don’t have to do this. Your business is going great and you won’t miss those emails screaming for orders from the darkest corner of Africa. However if you want to sharpen your online presence, you need to take note of a few following details.

1. Migrating to a CMS System

When do you graduate from a website to one that is content friendly? This is time you finally decide to use a CMS or Content Management System. If you have no content, heck you can even do that on a free WordPress account. Free hosting too. It’s done so let it sit! But if you have regular updates (meaning weekly or monthly as opposed to once in a year revisions) then that needs to be managed. There are three popular CMS platforms for self management, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.  Having a web designer isn’t the ultimate solution. Designers work on design and are totally clueless when it comes to your content needs.

2. Web Designers are Not Content Developers

This is another thing that people have to understand, web designers are not content developers and have little or no regard to what makes your business work. They do not come out with content on the fly or make that work with social media. Designers create sites which suit the content you have or the content strategy you have in mind. They worry about how the system will perform and how the content will look. The also have to think about the back-end system based on your content requirements.

3. Web Designers are not SEO Consultants

Here is another problem people face, if you want to have an SEO friendly site, you don’t hire a designer to do that, this is not their role. 5 years ago, SEO was real easy. You could use Black Hat techniques to fool search engines to display your site ontop of a SERP. There were web tools and even downloadable programs which can do this. Those same tricks aren’t going to work now as the whole SERP business has gotten a lot more complicated. This is where the SEO consultants come in. Today, SEO consultants have to transition to content consultants as their role to find the easiest way to the top of the SERP has gotten so much harder. Most of them are snake oil salesmen. And you know why? They cannot guarantee a metric in which to prove any success. Pageviews or web traffic can be generated without having to hire a consultant, you can pay Google to put your name on top. Web traffic can also be gained by putting up banners on partner sites. SEO consultants can lend a hand to boosting your SERP rank but they cannot guarantee a return on your investment. So go figure.

4. Content is Dynamic

Content has to be shared via multiple platforms that we all know as social media. People want to know what works and how to do things. Even B2B sites need content that showcases their services or products in the best light. This is why so much effort has been given to Google’s Hummingbird update. There is no point of having content that is locked into a particular platform. That platform has to help disseminate your content to a wide audience. This is why YouTube works so well. It is share friendly. You can post videos you made to both G+ and Facebook. However if you post video to Facebook, that content gets locked into that platform and it can’t be shared outside of the FB community.

Google’s algorithm is being tweaked all the time. Every month, they do something to adjust it and this can be viewed on Mozcast, a site that monitors the SERP turbulence created by these minor changes. These changes affect how your content is placed in a SERP and if you are chasing a SERP rank, you probably need to have full time staff monitoring such changes that affect your site ranking.

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5. Know your limits on Budget

From the onset, having a CMS isn’t going to be easy as you need someone to manage it. Then there are other cost factors for each strategic decision. For example, shooting a video and putting it up online might seem relatively easy but you have to ask yourself who is going to do this if you’re not video savvy. The same can be said about graphics for your site. If you want a highly customized graphic, then you need a web designer who knows how to manipulate images in Photoshop or create one digitally in illustrator. Do not expect that to come from one person. Everyone has a different role as what your want sometimes lies outside your intended budget. Let’s not forget the budget for SEO consultants and content developers if you don’t have the time to develop them yourself. All this adds up as part of your ongoing budget.

6. A Dead Site is a COMATOSE Site

There are plenty of comatose sites on the Internet. Businesses who concentrate mainly on existing customers do not update their own company websites when they have new products. This becomes very exasperating for customers when they hear of something new and can’t find any resource on it. Just coz you paid for the hosting and put up a static front page isn’t helping you or your customers in any way. Today, people are information driven. They need information to make credible decisions. Having a static site that sits there minding its own business is a waste of money.

One way of avoiding this is to cross post content from Tumblr, Instagram and even Pinterest to your own website. Social Media management systems like Hootsuite, Buffer and IFTTT.

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IFTTT.com is probably one of the most creative uses of web action fucntiions where you can trigger cross posting of content to various other media channels. The only downside is that it doesn’t support either Pinterest or G+ for the time being but Facebook profile, pages and groups are supported.

Online isn’t cheaper than Print

One of the age old paradigms is that having a website is going to be cheaper than printing a brochure as it was suppose to disrupt the traditional way of doing things. Not anymore. It cost more to get your brand recognize and even more for you to make money from it.

You should instead take websites and social media as complementary channels for your marketing strategy and not rely on it solely to bring home the bacon.

Online has gotten to be as expensive if not more than what it takes to print a brochure. One of the reasons is that technology has made it more complicated to reach out to new customers as everyone else is clamoring for that same piece of the pie. Your voice gets drowned out if you don’t shout loud enough in the marketplace and this is where you need to strategize your priorities. Big brands with millions of dollars in advertising budgets never have to worry because they have what it takes to create their own online presence whereas for the SMB, your budget is limited. Competing with the big names isn’t your priority but find your niche is. This is where you have to formulate strategy to get things going for yourself.

Content marketing is all about attracting eyeballs and you need to spend time, effort and money to make it all work.

Facebook Page Tip: Move your Page to Groups for Better Exposure

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Facebook organic growth will drop to Zero and with that in mind, they want you to show better content. So what qualifies as better content? The recent dumbing down of the algorithm, means you will have to spend money to boost your post as well as attract eyeballs from a chosen region—while dealing with fake Facebook likers who come from massive click farms found all over the world. How can you spread your influence, engage and convert such eyeballs through Pages?

When starting your FB Page, the first thing you rely on is to get your friends to ‘like the page’ but that’s not enough. It ends there and you have to gain new  followers to your Page and not leverage only on your friends. The only way is to advertise in FB to get people to like your page that exist outside your immediate circles. For this, Facebook requires  you to pay for the first tier of service. Then after that hit you with a second tier payment plan to ‘boost your post’.

For large corporations, paying FB isn’t a problem. The problem is with SMBs or small medium businesses who have a limited advertising budget.

How do SMBs avoid paying such fees? Facebook says you have to create good content, the content should engage your audience. To do this, here are two golden rules.

Comments count as Engagement

This is the most basic rule. You need to get people to engage with your content and not just like it. Liking it is pretty useless these days. What makes for great engagement? Interesting or controversial content which gets people to put their own spin or two cents worth into it. Now that might seem like a lot to ask but it’s not that difficult if you constantly bring up interesting issues. Once people leave their comments behind, it counts towards your engagement scores. Again, brands try not to be controversial as it goes against their corporate image. Small businesses won’t have such a rigid policy so they will have more freedom to post stuff that big brands won’t indulge themselves in.

Content that is Most Shared will earn you Free Publicity

Yes, you see how things go viral. There are tricks to doing this that goes against the grain of popular brands. For example having a list of 10 things you can do with a particular product and how it can make your life easier. Content that is often shared are simple things, like using baking soda to clean stains…which big Brands are loath to discuss since they might have a $19.99 cleaning solution that does the same thing. People who share your post will help you go viral!

Other contents shared include entertainment, scientific facts and even local news pertaining to current affairs. What people don’t share is their porn sites so don’t go adding this to your page time lines.

Liking a post isn’t enough anymore. This is part of the algorithm that Facebook wants to snuff out.

Likegate is a thing of the Past

Likegating competes with Facebook’s own ad serving system to promote apps, and these can be web apps to mobile apps. This is probably the only reason why they issued a Jihad banning such acts.

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, check-in at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.

What FB doesn’t tell you is that if you incentivize people to ‘switch on ALL notifications’ for a particular page, you can reach out to 100 percent of all your followers. This is something they do not want even though the feature has been introduced for anyone who follows a page.

Page and app owners resort to collecting data and getting you to approve the permissions needed to post to your timeline but often this is a tricky affair. What shows up on a person’s timeline might not show up on others. Liking a page does nothing now for organic growth. It will not bring you fame or fortune or encourage fans to throw their used underwear at you in adoration. It is through sharing and comment engagements that determine your content’s life span.

Now, Facebook Pages will not be serving up anything from now on to benefit you, as a Page and business owner. You have to get smarter so what’s there to call?

Move your Facebook Pages Activity to Facebook Groups

Often ignored, Groups is the nerdy cousin of Facebook Pages. I have stressed this before in a previous post and now there is even a far better reason for this. Facebook groups has its own mobile app on iOS and Android.

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So what can you do on Groups? How can I brand myself for Group Activity? The answer is pretty simple. You have to reshape your content to suit users instead of just spamming them with the latest offers and promotions.

Hey, if I do that for Pages, would it work too? Technically it might but with a lid put on FB Pages now. You’re not going to get any eyeballs without paying Mark and his team. Remember I mentioned the ‘boost post’ feature for Pages posting? Well your likers or followers will not be seeing any of your post if you don’t ante up on the money.

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Facebook Group App has Newsfeed notification numbers to alert you on updates

 

Groups Mobile App does everything you wish your Pages would do. For example, it has a list of groups with number notifications. This means that even when a person does not turn on all notifications from your Group, he or she will still see the number of newsfeed updates the moment the app is open. This is very useful for people who use this app to keep in touch with the groups they follow. At any time, they can engage with the group and peruse the news items within each group. Group post can be moderated so if someone starts to spam your group, you can kick them out.

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All your comments and engagements will result in a group notification. This bodes well for brand owners who take the trouble to answer to every post and comment made within their own user group. What’s more Groups is immune to the algorithm set up by Facebook for promotional purpose. The Group Mobile app will allow you the chance to engage with your fans who have signed up with your Page without having to pay for the ‘boost post’ fees stipulated by Facebook.

Reinventing your Page Post to suit Group Post

This is relatively easy. Put yourself in the shoes of your consumers. What would make a good content for them to read and engage with you. Don’t just ask them to buy something outright or come down to get a promotional service. The secret here lies in a strong content strategy. Here are some tips.

Develop, create and curate content that would be useful or entertaining for your group members

Post blog items that relates your business. Give useful information that they are not aware of. Don’t assume the role of snake oil salesman and try sell members again and again with a sales pitch.

Engage with Questions and Surveys

In groups, you can conduct your own research with a click through survey question to determine how they feel about issues and questions they might have about your business and service practice. Remember to reward them for taking part.

Post Epubs Files to Members

In your group dashboard, you can post PDF publications (limited to 25mb) where members can freely download. Here you have a chance to go more in-depth with your business and services of even for that matter, serve up a promotion catalog of all your products or services.

These steps will help you build brand equity that is pretty hard to come by these days in the online world. It is certainly worth the effort to go this way instead of subjecting yourself to the new algorithm set up by Facebook. Your content strategy is not about sending out promotional invites but instead offer knowledge that puts your business or service in better light.

So spend some time, develop a cohesive content strategy and get ahead of your competitors. The lazy ones will always get left behind so don’t be one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content Creation with Canva

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I am broke! I don’t have money to buy Photoshop, nor do I know how to use it. I need help with my Images and I don’t know a darn thing about photography!

Sounds familiar? Well it should, after all not everyone has a gifted sense of design or the ability to capture a thought provoking or interesting image content to post to FB, Instagram or for that matter, any social media engagement platform.

Creating content might sound like making Apple pie but there is always a problem associated with it—either you don’t have time to do it or don’t know where to start. Canva  is here to help you but a word or warning, it is still in Beta so do expect some kinks.

What Canva can do for You

Photoshop is great, but heck, it’s not easy to use. Then you have the other stuff like illustrator to add in text and graphics, which Photoshop isn’t too useful for. Those are very expensive to purchase so instead of doing that, why not use something simple like Canva?

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As a digital imaging web app, it does not have the same usability as say, Photoshop Express found on your mobile app. It is a different sort of animal. Previously I had written about Graphic Memes and how some mobile apps can create beautiful content without you ever trying. Canva is similar. But what makes it different is that it can create a whole more lot of stuff for you using purpose designed templates.

Creative Freedom with Templates

I have noticed that over time, people tend to get lazy with technology. Optional templates are the way to go for creation enthusiast. No thinking required, and with just just a minimum of design sense you can probably hack something up within five minutes.

For a start,  you have a slew of pre-selected templates for your Twitter, FB page, business card, poster, etc, etc. You can also design a PDF flyer if you so desire or a call to action brochure for print or web use. I won’t even dare to list the number of things I can think of in which you can design with Canva so let’s stop here.

Templates are a boon at least for those who have no design sense. You pick a template, create a graphic for use and drop in the desired images, you then change the text to suit your needs and you’re ready to go.

Such simplicity will be a mind blowing experience for many and I am sure even seasoned pros like myself won’t deny how much it helps to solve the problems of creating something out from scratch.

Web Apps versus Desktop Apps

The cloud is where your apps will reside one day in a connected world but this is far from perfect. People still prefer to use a PC software like Photoshop instead of using the Cloud based version for one simple reason…your Internet connection is just too slow to upload or download large files.

This is probably Canva’s only weakness. I know some of you out there are pretty fond of uploading large pictures and have that scaled down to fit the graphic parameters of your design, and this is probably one of the problems that are being addressed at the moment.

Smaller files work perfectly (those under 1MB) but the whole design process will start to crawl on its knees once you start uploading multiples of 5MB photos.

During my test, the replacement of the background graphic becomes a problem when manipulating large files. The webapp starts to lag and sometimes it stops working altogether.

Besides uploading your preferred files directly up to Canva, you can also pull images from your Facebook account. This is nice, and I hope they would add more image platforms like Google Picasa and Yahoo Flickr. This would make selecting images very easy, but I am not sure if that would be the right intention.

Canva needs to monetize its service by selling stock images and designs. So for every design created that makes use of Canva’s image stock library, they make some money from it. Each image cost only US$1 buck. They don’t obviously make that much in the end, as they have to pay both the stock image library and the photographer who took that picture. That’s one tough business proposition.

Browser Problems

Presently, Canva only supports Chorme, Firefox and Safari. There is no IE or Opera Support so you gotta switch. Chrome compatibility is relatively poor, at least on the Mac as I have encountered numerous freezes and unresponsive features. Firefox is cool but suffers from lag. That said, Canva is still in Beta and they will need time to sort this out.

Creating Content for Pinterest, Google+ & Facebook

Canva is ideal for content creation and this is where it gets top marks. The graphic elements, tools and optional images which you can purchase will make this a go to place for all your social media content creation needs.

It is fast, effortless and cool. Take for example a poster, you could create one that post to your social media pages. All you need to do is edit the text elements to suit your needs and you’re done.

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If you have pictures to upload, you can do so as well but you have to make sure it has the right pixel parameters to match for what you want to do. For example, if you are creating a Facebook page background image, you don’t need high resolution images. But if you are going to use it as a Poster, you will need that to fit the requirements.

Canva has a lot of potential to succeed but I am not sure they can sort out the problems at the Beta stage right now but there is nothing to stop you from tailoring those beautiful templates to suit your current requirements as long as you’re not too ambitious.