COM0011 – Blog 6 – All media is pretty much Social Media

COM0011 – Blog 6 – All media is pretty much Social Media

Whenever I watch something on Netflix, I’m always swayed by its star-rating, and as a result, I always submit my own after I’ve watched it. I’ve actually come to rely on these ratings so much, that if a movie or tv show has less than a solid 4 out of 5 stars, I won’t even watch it. Some of the best series I’ve seen on Netflix were ones I’ve never heard of (often foreign-language, which is why I wouldn’t have heard of them) that I was surprised to see had a really good star rating which influenced my decision.

This is a good example of the pervasive reach of social platforms in our everyday life. I’m interacting with other Netflix users through the ratings system and it’s improving my experience and driving my choices.

Even traditional forms of media like newspapers have taken their act to the Internet, where users can easily read, share, and comment on news articles. Many live format television shows include social media interaction in real-time, or even refer to their users’ communications at a later date to react to their comments.

It seems as though all media is basically social media, with at least some form of social integration. So why are we still calling it “social media”, and not just “media”? Well, I believe this term will eventually become obsolete, as it’s starting to sound outdated already, and having typed it roughly a hundred times for the purposes of this course, I think its time is up.

Whilst trying to think of something that isn’t social (Books? No, books have become social now too) I’ve realized that everything is available in digital format through apps or otherwise, and we can act or react upon them all.

Even the terms used to describe social media tools have evolved over the years, with words like “network” and “channel” replacing such terms as “portal” and “gateway”. This suggests that we no longer think of our social accounts as satellites of our main website, but instead they are part of the larger picture of our brand. And our brand most likely includes an interactive component to participate in the world around us.

Ironically, I think that the evolution of social media will eventually make courses and programs such as this one obsolete. If everything will be represented digitally with interactive capacities, Social Media will be less and less of a mysterious specialty, and more of an early-ingrained way of life.

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COM0011 – Blog 5 – Tattoos as Personal Branding

COM0011 – Blog 5 – Tattoos as Personal Branding

If you look anywhere on social media, or better yet, have gone outdoors in the area you live within the last twenty years, you may have noticed the increasing popularity of tattoo culture.

It may seem like people are in a huge hurry to permanently alter their appearance in the name of art, but I’m starting to wonder if in this age of personal branding, it might be the ultimate display of branding strategy.

Once reserved for ex-cons who had some jailhouse tats while they were in the big house, now they are visible on the various body parts of so many people, regardless of socio-economic class or age. Traditionally, tattoos held deep cultural meaning and were often a rite of passage or a symbol of rank. These days, they can mean a lot of things, but are commonly accessible in most areas in tattoo shops that specialize in the design and safe application of body modifications.

Part of the allure, aside from the stunningly intricate artwork and color palette emblazoned on your body, is that fact that they were long-held as counter-culture and unseemly. Like most trends, the oppression of a group has created an interest in one of the attributes common to that group, and the expression of the art form has spilled into popular culture.

From afar, tattoos can easily tell you a few things about someone without ever having to communicate with them directly. These things could include their penchant for a certain style of music, cultural affiliations, affection for their loved ones, and so on. This is not unlike personal branding in that it establishes the image a person projects out to the world to differentiate themselves from their competitors and to form alliances based on common interests.

The biggest difference between body art and digital branding as I see it, is that your body art goes everywhere with you and speaks for itself, while your digital branding lives on the internet and requires a measure of engagement to be accessed and appreciated. Perhaps the two elements together can marry the perfect branding: one that’s live and in person, and one that represents all your online and professional activities. A strong personal esthetic has done wonders for well-known personal brands like Lauren Conrad or David Gandy, for example. Social media is filled with people who gained notoriety from their remarkable body art, inciting the idea that anyone can set themselves apart form the crowd with a beautiful tattoo.

COM0011 – Blog 4 – Hootsuite vs. Buffer App

COM0011 – Blog 4 – Hootsuite vs. Buffer App

If you’re like me, and feel as if maintaining various social media accounts would require a leave of absence from work just to generate and manage content, then you’ve probably considered using a social media management tool to keep your affairs in order.

The popular Buffer App and Hootsuite have become mainstream tools to publish your social media content on a pre-arranged schedule. The idea is that you can set up all your upcoming posts to publish at a future time of your choice on whichever outlet you feel is appropriate. This means that you can set it up in the middle of the night or whenever you actually have time, and be able to carry on with your day whilst posts go up onto your accounts at their scheduled time.

The main advantage of this is that your content isn’t all clumped together in one time period, which can lead to follower drop-off. Another advantage is that you can write/organize your content when YOU are most inspired, but post them when user engagement rates are highest. Finally, you are much more likely to publish content regularly if you are submitting it to a social media management tool at your convenience.

When comparing Buffer to Hootsuite, there are several factors to consider. The general consensus is that Buffer is quite a bit simpler than Hootsuite. While both platforms offer scheduling and analytics, Hootsuite offers other features such as viewing your Twitter feed and interacting with followers from within the app.

Both companies offer paid plans with extra features and increased posting and user limits for business and agency use. However, despite its shortcomings in terms of features, Buffer’s simplicity allows for a more streamlined user experience and focuses on the posting of content directly, which can be more convenient for users.

On top of this, Buffer’s analytics are more concise (and free) to view post performance and “re-buffer” as needed.

Hootsuite vs Buffer

Comparison of the Hootsuite interface on top, and the simpler Buffer App on the bottom.

In conclusion, both tools are excellent additions to your social media practice. You can even use both, so as to take full advantage of each of their strengths and see which one suits your needs.

Lastly, a team of Canadians out of Vancouver developed Hootsuite, so if you’re unsure which is best, there’s no harm in supporting awesome Canadian tech companies such as this one.

COM0011 – Blog 3 – How much should you spend on a phone?

That depends, how much money would you like to earn this year?

When it comes to my smartphone, I spare no expense. That didn’t happen right away, I eased into better and better devices over the years as I renewed cellular contracts or inherited old phones from friends. Finally I realized that if I want to be competitive in any industry that relies on communication of any kind to earn an income, then I should have a high-end handheld device and a fast, reliable service plan so that when customers are connecting with me, I’m ready.

I remember the first turning point was many years ago when I used my PC laptop for emailing and a Motorola flip-phone for texting and phone calls. One day I went to a client’s house for a service call that we had scheduled by email, and when I arrived, they informed me that they had sent me a cancellation hours ago…by email. I went back to my car, quite put out that I had wasted my time going over there, and decided that I needed my first smartphone so that I could receive emails on the go.

How much should you spend on a phone?

My second turning point was when my trusty IPhone 4S was starting to act bizarrely, not rendering my location correctly on maps when I was on a service call, and not ringing when someone was calling me. I hemmed and hawed over paying for a new, better device when it dawned on me that no matter the cost of the device, it won’t be anywhere close to the amount of income I could lose if customers can’t get a hold of me.

Studies exploring the social differentiation of wireless users indicate a clear correlation between income and mobile technology. Generally, people of a higher income are more connected, whether it’s by home or mobile internet. One may argue that it is because of their higher income that they can afford these luxuries at all, but it isn’t a pattern that you should disregard. Certainly if you want to make yourself more employable you need to make yourself more visible, and your online presence is much harder to curate when you’re only viewing your emails or logging into Facebook once a day from your desktop computer because you’ve used up all your data for the month or you don’t have the necessary apps. Just imagine that your competition in the job market are updating multiple social accounts and replying to emails and messages within an hour. You need an awesome handheld device if you want to keep up.

This being said, some people are happy with their life, and happy with their device. This post isn’t for them, though. It’s for anyone who wants to be competitive in a technologically driven world and is hesitating over a device upgrade. You may eventually come to realize that not only does it replace all form of gadgets and make your life easier; the cost of it is a drop in the bucket to the amount of income you intend to earn this year. It hardly seems reasonable to expect to increase your salary if you don’t increase your skills, availability, knowledge, and savvy, and your communication tools are no small part of that development.

COM0011 – Blog 2 – Optimizing your food blog for Pinteresters

COM0011 – Blog 2 – Optimizing your food blog for Pinteresters

Let me begin by saying that I am not a food blogger, so this is not a post about how to make a lovely culinary blog like my own. I am just a person who cooks and bakes often, and primarily uses links from social streams like Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter to find recipes. Thanks to these, I can find a massive selection of food blogs with recipe posts, far outdoing the selection that I can find by using Google alone (the same few sites like AllRecipes.com and Cooks.com are better indexed and always at the top of the results, unfortunately.)

Of these, I feel that Pinterest is the best choice for social recipe perusal, because the social aggregator is,

1. picture-based , so you can scroll through your results by photo, which yield higher conversion than text when it comes to food;

2. Pinterest posts link directly to the post or page of origin; and

3. Is so easy to share to by photo linking that it is a top choice of food bloggers to share their content, and therefore Pinterest’s selection of any given search result is abundant.

This being said, I feel that there could be several key improvements to the blog posts themselves in light of the fact that much of their traffic will be coming from Pinterest and other social media.

Since I am usually standing in my kitchen or at the grocery store when I’m using Pinterest to comb for recipes, I will be accessing it from a mobile device. Thankfully, Pinterest is aware of this and its mobile app has an awesome user interface, so no complaints there. However, once I click on a suitable-looking photo to link to the blog it was posted from, this is where all hell breaks loose. Most food bloggers use lots of high-quality photography to display their culinary prowess, but many take it to the next level and unfortunately it slows the load time on a mobile device to the point of abandonment. I have often been on a post, trying to scroll through forty slow-loading images so that I can simply see the recipe list to make sure I have all the ingredients before I start. Sometimes I stand there swearing and scrolling, but often I just close Pinterest’s browser and go back to its search results so that I can find a link to a different site altogether. If the recipe was posted at the top of the post under the title, I would have only had to scroll that far to find it and it would have increased my likelihood of using it.

Speaking of photography, the photos themselves should be optimized for web, and quite often, they are too big and too numerous. I personally don’t need to view ten similar photos of the same pie taken in impressively high quality, nor a separate photo of EVERY STEP of the cooking process, either. I feel that if the blogger can’t illustrate the whole recipe in 5 photos or less including the feature image, then they need to review their posting strategy.

The body copy itself is often too long. While I understand that the blogger is trying to create a community in which their voice and their style can blend with their skills to appeal to their niche audience, I am arriving to their blog from outside their niche and I simply do not care about their voice. I just want to see their spinach dip recipe because the photo on Pinterest looked tasty. I will not read the 500 words of copy introducing the week they’ve been having at the time of posting, nor how much their “hubby” loves this recipe. A short paragraph regarding the blogger’s success with the recipe and detailing any alterations made to it wouldn’t be amiss, but anything more will be scrolled past.

The comments need to be moderated to be useful. Many recipes on larger sites are only as good as their comment thread. On a site like AllRecipes, some recipes are utterly useless if you don’t read the user feedback, as often times the recipe itself is bunk, or an important substitution had to be made by a commenter to render it edible. On smaller blog sites, I have come to notice that half the comments are from the blogger’s community who are trying to show support by commenting things like “This sure looks good, can’t wait to try it”. This is no use to a casual user whatsoever. The commenter’s intention to possibly use the recipe someday is of no value to me. The blogger should reduce or remove comments of this nature, or use a vote-up type system where they can upvote more relevant comments to the top of the thread, such as “I tried this yesterday, and I had to increase the salt, but it worked perfectly”.

In conclusion, I love Pinterest and I love being able to easily connect with food bloggers and their recipes. But with such vast amounts of content available online, any food blogger trying to reach an audience through social media should optimize their posts to make them a bit more user-friendly if they want theirs to stand out from the rest.

Photography of food

COM0011 – Blog 1 – How can small business use Periscope for their social media strategy?

COM0011 – Blog 1 – How can small business use Periscope for their social media strategy?

Since Twitter launched their Periscope app in March it has been gaining momentum as users become addicted to the instant gratification factor of “consensual voyeurism” and the concurrent chatting alongside the video. It’s like a combination of a vlog and a live chat; the user broadcasts themselves live through streaming video on their mobile device, while viewers join and comment through their device in real time.

Periscope screenshots

Used with permission from Periscope

 With such obvious appeal, it’s not surprising that marketers are already aligning strategies to take advantage of the worldwide audience accessible through the fledgling app. While most of the broadcasts happening at any given moment are of the daily, if not mundane, activities of the user (I watched a baker in Paris knead dough through his phone that he’d leaned up against something), there is something eerily exciting about witnessing a slice of reality through the phone camera lens of someone on the other side of the Earth. With so many eyeballs looking out into the digital universe for something, ANYTHING interesting or different, we would be crazy not to use live streaming to introduce our viewers to an alternate view of the products and ideas that we want seen by those eyeballs.

Potential marketing strategies using the Periscope app could include A/B Testing (“Which do you prefer, this one or this one?”), transparency (backstage with celebrities or never-before-seen look at the brand’s process), and live POV (sports and events as they unfold). All these while answering viewer questions live means the app holds untold potential for engagement and conversion.  Almost immediately after its launch, several notable brands like Spotify and DKNY signed up and began using Periscope to regale their viewers with behind-the-scenes content.

But how can smaller businesses and startups trying to get themselves out there use Periscope to engage with their audience? One way brands are using it is by scheduling live Q&A sessions so they can connect and build loyalty to the product or service. By making the stream available through the brand’s Twitter, the session can be viewed by users for up to 24 hours afterward as well. By forcing the brand to answer real queries in real time, it deflates the traditional marketing hierarchy and offers contextually relevant content to its market.

As more and more companies are embracing social media to humanize the brand and tell it’s story, so too are they allowing the market to participate through live feedback and allowing for a transparency that connects people to the brand more intimately than mass media ever could.

Follow me on Periscope @p_giny, although I can’t guarantee I will be broadcasting anything more earth-shattering than kneading dough, or maybe walks through my neighbourhood.