Making the move to Instagram

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Now that we have all written off Facebook for content and marketing engagement, we have to find another content outlet to try spice things up. Instagram at the moment is trying to rev its engine up a bit by going more exploratory and in the process suggest new ways for people to follow like minded post from Instagram users. This is an interesting move as it is generally regarded as the next step towards advertising and promotional ad space. Instagram’s growth has been phenomenal. Look at the stats published so far and you know what I mean.

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So before Instagram gets into the same Facebook act, by forcing you to advertise to get seen, there is no better way to ride the wave than now.

How to Ride the Wave for Free

I peered into my crystal ball and have seen the future. Instagram will soon have its algorithm and that means you are going to have to fight to get noticed but until then, here are some rules to follow.

Encourage User Generated Content

In any B2C business, UGC is the best way forward. They are your ambassadors, and you don’t have to do the heavy lifting. Now as a business owner, when was the last time you thought of your customer’s satisfaction and UGC? How many times have you come across a boutique that supports or encourages UGC? Or for that matter a retailer that was UGC friendly? Forget the luxury goods store that protects the design of it products. It won’t work there coz they charge so much for something which can be copied for a fraction of the cost, hence the ‘no photography’ rule but what about general retailers who want to make a difference? Allowing your customers to browse, try things out and even take a selfie when trying an outfit is going to generate eyeballs and in the process generate awareness and branding. Restaurants and cafes already offer free WIFI for customers, and this makes for an easy check-in and free advertising to their friends who will come by.

Make use of the 15 Seconds of Fame on Video

If you want to create interesting content on your own, then try posting a video. 15 seconds is pretty easy and if you have an app like MeiPai, which is mentioned in another of my blogs on video apps. There are plenty to choose from and some like MeiPai even offers auto editing to make your job easier.

Instagram allows for Editing in Post

Another new feature from Instagram this time, you can edit all your earlier post without having to worry about what you left out the last time. Previously, you had to delete the post and repost them. Well not anymore.

IGeditThis means you can link your post to your G+ site, webpage or FB Pages (if you haven’t already dumped it) on a later date, or for that matter add in your twitter links. We all know that sometimes when you generate a shortlink, the process becomes cumbersome on mobile.

Location data can also be edited. So if you moved shop for some reason and need to re-edit all your older post, you can do so now. Having a check-in location gives your business credibility. So remember to make use of the new editing feature to stay current.

Achieving Business Succes in Instagram

There are plenty of competing platforms when it comes to video and image post. For example, in Latin America, the de facto choice is Mobli. While for China, Instagram is still blocked so you only have access to Storycam, which is an app from the same folks who brought you WeChat.

All of these apps have cross posting capabilities so you can of course post to more than one social account or for that matter duplicate the post in different social account.

Instagram will in the future change its algorithm to match that of Facebook. Until that time happens, you better start building your audience on Instagram now.

 

 

 

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.

 

Facebook Pages: The New Algorithm Punches below the Belt

 

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Facebook announced its Facebook for Business in Dec 2013 and within months, a new algorithm was introduced and it doesn’t look good for content marketing.

Techcrunch published an article on how Facebook has been destroying your pages newsfeed with its new algorithm. Apparently, they have the facts right but haven’t gone far enough to tell Zuckerberg in his face that he’s given you free heroin and asking for payment later. The problem is that the organic reach has been affected.

Organic reach: The number of unique people who saw your post in News Feed or on your Page, including people who saw it from a story shared by a friend when they liked, commented on or shared your post, answered a question or responded to an event

It is true that Facebook has been tweaking its algorithm for Pages newsfeed. Your fans don’t get to see any of those feeds anymore than they see Santa these days and there is good reason for it. The chart above illustrates this problem quite clearly.

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Social DNA is important now in the eyes of Facebook. Small businesses who have invested in a Free page will now have to ante up to get their post featured on their fan’s pages. Social DNA is determine by how often people like and share your post. If it’s not up to mark, it won’t be featured. Social DNA isn’t about having regular newsfeed post but rather on the quality of the post. And this can be determined by the number of comments and shares you get on a post.

Now let me point out to you that in the past Facebook Pages are free to set up. Any SMB (small medium business) with a limited budget to promote their brand are welcome to sign up. Then they asked you to spend money to get ‘likes’ for your new business page. Sounds fair so you put down your 20 dollars and in no time get a thousand likes. And with these likes, you basically have a following of sorts each time you post some news to your Page in the hope that your likes will translate to sales. The more post you put up then the more likes, shares and comments you will get and this is what social DNA is all about.

Enter the Social Media Management Systems and Agencies

Facebook pages is a huge business. So huge that you now have Social Media Management Agencies as well as Social Media Management Systems which you can sign up for to manage your Facebook Page. The agencies offer everything you need to boost your social rankings, and these are full fledge digital agencies that deal specifically with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, G+, etc, etc, on your behalf. The SMM Systems like Hootsuite and Buffer offer you dashboard control of all your social media accounts. And fo course, you have to pay for everything.

I bet Zuckerberg was walking on the beach somewhere in California when a beach ball hit him on the head to give him that idea. Why the fuck are you paying SMM Agencies and Systems when I can virtually make you lick my heels? So he came out with this newsfeed algorithm to take business away from SMM Systems and SMM Agencies.

Acquired Targeting….

Your social presence has a DNA which engages the reader. So when it gets big enough, well, it’s time you have to pay for your post to be featured. Facebook just made your subscription to those SMM tools totally redundant. I have remarked in some of my previous post that Social Media Marketing is as over rated as a Woody Allen movie. They do the same thing that SMM system tools do. Post by post, they are suppose to generate traffic  These SMM tools and agencies are at best, web traffic pimps. They promise you better management of your content on social media but with the new algorithm for your business page in place, your post aren’t going to get featured anyway!

Take a moment to understand how a newsfeed post gets featured.

  • How popular (Liked, commented on, shared, clicked) are the post creator’s past posts with everyone
  • How popular is this post with everyone who has already seen it
  • How popular have the post creator’s past posts been with the viewer
  • Does the type of post (status update, photo, video, link) match what types have been popular with the viewer in the past
  • How recently was the post published

This is why Content Development matters. You need to formulate a bullet proof strategy to start with before you start marketing your post online. What’s more, using a SMM service is no guarantee of getting traffic to your page if you don’t start paying Zuckerberg and company.

Tipping Point for Paid Reach

Your content strategy is to get people to notice, share and comment on your post to get results. This means that your audience must like and share the post with their friends to stay relevant. Once this happens often enough, you get a boost in your Social DNA. You can’t escape the fact that you have to pay to get your post featured and once you do, make sure you have the juicy content that people are looking for.

This is a tough act to follow because small businesses have limited budgets to spend on a promotion, and if you don’t have something attractive to be shared, like maybe the One Dollar Hooker special if you happen to run a brothel, then you’re out of luck.

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Your Facebook audience may not be inundated with news feed post from friends. But Facebook isn’t letting this go. They want your money. All the crap you hear about Facebook keeping the newsfeed algorithm trim and healthy is just another excuse to charge business owners money to feed their bottom line revenue. The average Facebook user has less than 300 friends. In fact, Scientist have proven that we can only keep 150 people on a list. The rest are fair game. How many  pages does the average Facebook user likes anyway? It’s only 40. Seriously, do you think that all 40 brands will post to your time line newsfeed everyday of the week? This is what Facebook is saying right now about the new algorithm. Keep it trim and snappy. Sorry bud, no free rides if you’re a growing business.

How much you are willing to spend to boost your post reach is up to you. You could rack up thousands on your credit card if you are not too careful. So don’t go crazy with the plastic. Plan your content strategy first before jumping onto the Fan page bandwagon.

 

 

Responsive Web Design for Mobile

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I want a website! I don’t want one that SUCK! What Should I do?

In the old days, at least during my time, the only option to show off your website was to create one on a web host with code. Then came desktop programs like Pagemill from Adobe that sort of help iron out the rough edges but that was no guarantee it would not suck! The problem back then was browser compatibility (it is still the problem now but to a lesser extent). The only way to bypass that was to use Adobe Flash (hence its popularity).

Since Adobe has scaled back on its support for Flash, it has become a veritable nightmare for browsers as a new breed of surfers emerge to take its place. These new breed of web surfers are now referred to as mobile web traffic.

Mobile Web took off in a big way in the 21st century. Data has to be transmitted and understood by devices with a peculiar set of protocols. In its day, WAP and Docomo’s i-Mode were highly popular and due to limited bandwidth on mobile, TCP/IP standard didn’t enter mainstream until much later in the late 90s thanks in part to EDGE/3G services giving you much faster data access.  I won’t bore you with the details but responsive web design in the old days meant that you had to put up a WAP site along with your standard website. I-mode in  was only happening in a handful of countries before it died prematurely in the hands of the iPhone. The iPhone in particular spearheaded the rapid demise of all other mobile protocols.

Now, why would you want to put up a website to meet the demands of both desktop web surfers as well as mobile surfers? Good question. According to Gartner and Cisco’s report, the dominant traffic of the Internet future will be from mobile devices!

  • The Gartner Institute is projecting over one billion smartphones and media tablets will be sold globally by 2015
  • Global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012
  • In 2012, mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000
  • Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012
  • Average smartphone usage grew 81 percent in 2012
Gartner statistics on mobiles and tablets

Responsive Web Design

It sounds like a big term that only geeks can understand but really, it  just means you gotta have a website that scales to size to meet the needs of a mobile experience.

Using Adobe Flash isn’t kosher anymore, largely thanks to Adobe abandoning its support for the mobile platform by saying it can’t be done. So let’s not go there.
There are ways to create a mobile/desktop site without much worry if you care to spend some money. Or if you prefer, use a CMS/blog platform such as WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr and a host of other CMS platforms like Weebly and Squarespace. There are just too many to mention. You can create blog sites, corporate sites and even e-commerce sites that are responsive to all devices using these platforms. Some are more user friendly than others so you gotta know what you want before you begin.
For example, not all CMS platforms support e-commerce engines. This is pretty tricky and hosting as to be secure enough for you to use. All e-commerce sites will be targeted for hacking at some stage so choose well.
Developing your own RWD Site without CMS
 
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This is the golden question everyone is asking. Can I not use a CMS host and create my own site? Of course you can. If you care to ante up on one of those web tools, I suppose you can do anything. Some takes more work than others and this is probably the only leg work you need to do. You can use something like TOweb, a site creation program that basically allows you create everything you need for a website but it doesn’t support blogging. Download it, install it and run it. It’s not very intuitive but if you want complete control, you have to learn the ropes. Move a ahead a bit more and you’ll have HTML5 compliant building tools such as Tumult Hype.
This is a drag and drop experience and with all the content ready at your disposal, it should be quite easy to build a site up within a day. However, the e-commerce part might be a bit more tricky so keep your eyes peeled for things you don’t understand. Whereas Tumult Hype is not for the uninitiated, it has many powerful features to create everything from interactive elements to multi-touch support but to fully utilize its power, you need to know how to code.
From Website to Mobile App
Yes, this can be done too if you are wondering why no one seem to mention about it. That’s because it takes a bit of tinkering. First, there are several Mobile App Builder platforms available online, just Google the reviews up and you’d get an idea on what I mean. Those which are free to use are pretty basic, and you need to also pay for the App to go live on a store. So far, only Blackberry doesn’t charge anything for listing a mobile app. It cost US$19 for the Windows store to US$99 for the Apple store. So please remember that the freebies are not free when you decide to list your app.
responsive-design-mobile-web-mobile-apps-you-pick-the-strategyHow does the Mobile App Maker Work?
First, your content is your key. If you already have a standalone website that is not hosted on a CMS platform, you need to find out if the App Builder of your choice is able to support it. If not, you could choose an App builder that takes your feed manually with RSS.
All app builders are made to have some form of intelligence. They might not be able to play a game of chess with you but they sure as hell know what is a content feed when they see one. From here, you can add maps with bells and whistles like video and flickr photo feeds.
Paying to use a platform is normal, if you don’t pay, expect an advertising banner to be displayed on your mobile app. This is not a good way to start if you are running your own business.

Enabling Responsive Web Display for WordPress

This is much easier to tackle if you are running the latest WP on your site. Just do the following:-

Go to your DASHBOARD > APPEARANCE > enable MOBILE

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You can customize those options if you like and see how it goes. But beyond this, it’s not going to cost you anything else. Older versions of WordPress would take quite a fair bit of juggling with extensions, where a third party extension is used to enable mobile device viewing.

You’d be surprised how it looks in the end as the theme you use can be highly responsive to mobile displays to the point you can’t tell the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website.

Multi-Touch is not Included

You are bound to arrive at this point asking, what is the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website if you can’t visually tell the difference? Well here are some pointers to remember :

  • Native mobile apps might display content in a similar way but on a native mobile app, multi-touch actions are supported.
  • Mobile websites do not support the fancy transitions you often see on native Mobile apps. You need to code in HTML5 and use Javascript to have that capability. This requires coding knowledge.
  • Native apps are hand coded. They do not use templates or themes, thus making them feel more unique to the end user and is totally Greek to the uninitiated who try to code one from scratch.
  • Native mobile apps support for Social Media is seamless. The app can integrates more tightly with your content and social media feeds.

Remember how to Deliver your Content

Content matters. If you have lots to share, then you should put more thought into it but first know how often you are going to update it. If you are going to have lots of updates and plenty of content to share to engage your customers or fans, then it is better to start off with a CMS system with RWD enabled for your site. A mobile app is sort of a calling card these days even though they carry the same content as your website. You need to find out if you really need a mobile app to begin with.

Your content strategy should be sound. Customers are not going to download and install your app if all you do are annual updates.

Think for a moment, if all you are producing is vintage vinegar, and you don’t have much to share, then having a mobile app would be a waste of time. Even your Twitter feed will be empty until you have a fresh batch to announce for delivery.

Content has to be original and engaging and not just brochure-ware. The term brochure-ware is just that, a company brochure that has been regurgitated into an online form—which in this case would be your mobile app.

Don’t just create another mobile app just cause you think it is cool. Have a defined content strategy in place before you do as this is a very time consuming process. Content has to be curated or developed and if you don’t have the time to do it, then you have to engage people with the right expertise to help you.

Having a budget before you proceed is very helpful. Sort of like having an advertising budget, you carve out a part of that advertising budget to support SMO and SEO activities. Failing to do that will cost you even more time and money….and customers when you take them for granted.