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Top 10 Reasons to be Thankful for Social Media

10 Reasons I'm Thankful for Social MediaThanksgiving is a time when we all pause to reflect on the people, places and things that have brought joy to our lives. If “Social Media” doesn’t come to mind when recounting your list, I ask that you keep reading. Perhaps you’ll be squeezing it in before the month is out.

Here are my Top 10 Reasons to be Thankful for Social Media

10. Foursquare Tips:  Why spend twenty minutes perusing a restaurant menu in search of something that sounds appealing. Now I can check-in on Foursquare and discover the clever kernels of information other patrons have left behind in the tips section. How else would I be brave enough to try bone marrow and beef tongue if the Travel Channel hadn’t advised, “you won’t be disappointed.” I’m always thankful for good advice.

9. Hashtags:  Except for hash browns I admit I’m pretty sheltered when it comes to anything relating to hash. But I have come to be thankful for the space-saving features of the hashtag. It is extremely useful on Twitter for following a topic of interest. And it’s so efficient. Just add the pound sign and drop all spaces and punctuation. Makes you wonder, #whydontwewritelikethisallthetime?

8. Instagram Filters: I never knew how much I missed those rounded-corner square photos of my childhood until I discovered Instagram. Rather than capitalize on the saturation of high-definition color reflected on my iPhone’s retina display, it’s great to see the design trends are opting for the red-orange cast and faded color that channel technology of yesteryear. Now that’s progress. So when it comes to Instagram I’m thankful I have the ability to choose.

7. Followers: Social media just seems to call on the stalker tendencies in everyone. Not in a creepy ‘restraining order’ kind of way. More like an ego-boosting, pseudo celebrity fan club. On Facebook our contacts must go through a screening process, apply and be accepted into the inner circle otherwise known as Friend. Whereas Twitter turns everyone into a voyeur. I can follow whomever I like, listen to their conversations, and chime in I want to. And followers are a great source of information, feedback and ideas. Thanks to a network of friends and followers I’ll never be lonely. When I’m frustrated or elated I know there’s always a listening ear. And if I’m constipated I promise to keep it to myself.

6. YouTube Instructions: While most people are devouring videos of dogs on skateboards and lipdubs (or at least the handful that remain after claims of copyright violation,) I’m searching YouTube for how-to videos. When I want to master a new technique in Photoshop or unlock the secret to the perfect pom-pom bow for my Christmas packages, I know I can find it on YouTube. Well, truth be told, my mom taught me the secret to the perfect pom-pom bow. But we logged on together to learn how to make ribbon roses this year. So watch out Santa, we’re upping our game.

5. LinkedIn Connections: Forget six degrees of separation. I’m pretty sure the LinkedIn algorithm can find a way to make me a 2nd degree contact with Kevin Bacon. In fact, I think I’ll keep connecting with people until he shows up in that list. And when I make that connection I’m going to endorse him for Skills and Expertise of inspiring the six degrees in the first place. So, which one of you knows Kevin? Find me on LinkedIn and add me to your professional network so we can get this party started.

4. Klout: I am thankful there is finally a website out there handing out Klout. Here I am, working hard to become an expert in my field. I teach people how to improve their design skills and take a creative approach to marketing. I also work in the tourism industry to promote the people, places and businesses in my northern Michigan hometown. But according to Klout I am influential on the topics of Bill Cosby, Shoes and Money. Hey, I’m just grateful my influence has any Klout at all.

3. Power to Pin it: I don’t know what I did before Pinterest. Well actually I do. I had manila office folders bursting at the seams filled with pages torn from magazines, notes to self, cocktail napkins with crude Sharpie sketches, brochures, maps and photographs all squirreled away for future reference. In fact, it’s not fair to say that in the past tense. I still have them. But it’s been a decade since I opened the rusty file cabinet for a scan. Once an idea hoarder, always an idea hoarder. Thanks to Pinterest I can pin productively. And I will actually cook that crockpot cake, and make owl crafts from my toilet paper tubes. I swear I will.

2. Sharing: It’s true. Everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten. Take sharing for example. From link shorteners like bit.ly to the ShareThis widget, nobody makes it easier to share than social media. I’m thankful for Instagram because they make it so easy. I snap a photo with my iPhone of a scrumptious dish at my favorite local hotspot. In three taps I can share it on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Suddenly I’ve started 4 conversations about tacos. And who doesn’t doesn’t love tacos? They lead to margaritas.

1. Status Updates: The number one reason I’m thankful for social media is the status update. The posts and tweets I scan on a daily basis connect me with family and friends in a way I couldn’t have imagined. Thanks to Facebook I know I’ll see photos of my niece’s baby before my mother even hears she was born. When snowmageddon arrived last March and our entire community was searching for news on when the power would return, or whether the roads were clear in town, I relied on Twitter to find the answers. I know more about local and world events thanks to the articles and links streaming through my feed on Tweetdeck. Social networking has redefined how I stay in touch with long lost friends and introduce myself to new business contacts.

So there you have it. My top 10 reasons to be thankful for social media. The long and short of it is, social media reminds me that life is about connections — creating them and maintaining them. I hope you’ll practice your social skills and find some reason to connect this holiday season.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Just for Fun, Social Media

 

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Recommended Reading: Media Magnetism

Media Magnetism bookI’ve been keeping a little secret under my hat, shhhh, don’t tell anyone but I’m a writer. Well, too late now.

The cat’s out of the bag and wreaking havoc on the print world as my first written contribution to a published work is on Amazon.com. Media Magnetism: How to Attract the Favorable Publicity You Want and Deserve edited by Christina Hamlett hit the shelves in July and I just received my signed copy this week. While I’d love for you to pop open a new window and hit Add to Cart just because my name is in the table of contents, that’s not the reason I’d recommend this book.

The truth is after reading the accomplishments of the more than two dozen authors who contributed their tips, tricks and funny stories to this book I’m definitely the rookie on this bench. But for me, and for you, that’s a good thing. We get to benefit from the vast experience of others and I’m learning as much as you. Because Media Magnetism is filled with fantastic DIY tips for anyone in business or caught in the public eye.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Make influential connections
  • Become sound-bite savvy
  • Work with photographers and videographers
  • Manage a cost effective campaign
  • Improve your TV, radio and phone interview skills

And for my part I’ve contributed suggestions for improving your DIY ad design skills, using Twitter wisely and I snuck in some of my favorite online design resources.

In addition to the print edition of Media Magnetism the editor has created a great website MediaMagnetism.org for expanding your knowledge and putting you in contact with the amazing and accomplished authors in the book. You can submit questions to the Answer Bag and read guest posts from the industry professionals on topics covered in the book and beyond.

It’s fascinating to meet and network with this diverse crowd of PR pros. The collaborators hail from across the U.S., brought together by editor Christina Hamlett to help you, the reader, improve your DIY business skills. I’m enjoying reading through my copy and taking notes on ways to communicate more successfully by email, what not to wear on TV, and how to improve my press kit. There are also some, “I can’t believe anyone would do that,” stories that will leave you laughing at your desk.

I have a rule against writing in books. But I may have to make an exception, or keep a notebook with my copy because there are just too many good tips in here that I’m going to want to remember. I hope you find the same result.

The retail price of the book is $14.95 and is currently available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Powells.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Design, Resources, Social Media

 

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How to Use Social Media for Social Good

Social Media for Social GoodWhat is Social Media?

Social Media is the new media. What once was obtained from books, newspapers and magazines over the course of weeks or months, can now be read and shared online in a matter of seconds. Perhaps we should call it Fast Media. But I like the term Social, as it comes with additional connotations I think are appropriate and useful.

When you think of Social Media what’s the first image that pops into your head?

  • A viral video of a stunt gone bad or cats playing the piano;
  • Friend requests or comments on your status update;
  • Streaming random posts filled with hashtags and @mentions;
  • Photos of beautiful cakes, DIY projects, vacation spots, and the latest pajama jean trend.

No? Perhaps you’re in the crowd that has little to no idea what any of the above list just mentioned. The crowd that thinks Social Media is how college kids waste their time when they should be studying or looking for a real job.

Let’s hope you’re not in that crowd. But if you are, I’m going to show you what Social Media means to me, and maybe I’ll change your mind.

Social Media is fast becoming the way our society connects with one another. That’s not to say it’s the only way. I still prefer to meet with my clients in person, and believe that face-to-face can’t be replaced by Facetime or Facebook. But social media is the face of new media. So let’s use it to our advantage.

My definition of Social is built on the power of connections. Each one of the social media channels I use — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Foursquare — is built on the premise of growing your connections. Those social networks have power. The power to spread a message globally in seconds. Seconds!

Next I define Media as messages. Some messages are visual, auditory or a combination of both. They could be informative, entertaining or a call to action. All advertising is about conveying messages. Thus the terms Media and Advertising seem like an old married couple.

So here’s my definition of Social Media: The power to communicate messages across a global network of connections in seconds. I want that power. Don’t you want that power?

Who wouldn’t want that power?

And the best part is… it’s free. You have the power. You just need to learn to use it. What you choose to do with that power… well that’s the next question.

How do you use the power of social media for social good?

Every status update, every tweet, every video or blog post is an opportunity to share your message. With a little strategic planning you can craft a collection of messages that support a goal. Take advantage of your social networks to spread those messages and you’ve got a campaign. If you use this philosophy to raise awareness, fund-raise, or promote a cause — now you’re using it for social good.

Here are a few examples of how to use social media for social good

  • Cash Mob – Select a local small business to support on a designated day. Everyone agrees to make a minimum purchase, say $10. Spread the word using your social networks.
    Benefit: An injection of cash into a small business can make a huge difference. They pay-it-forward by choosing the next Cash Mob location.
  • Donate for Likes – Businesses trying to grow their fan pages on Facebook or their Twitter account can offer to make a $1 donation to a cause or organization for every new like on their social media account.
    Benefit:  Your fan base grows, your goodwill is noticed, and a worthy charity gets a much needed donation.
  • Promote a Cause – This may seem small but the power of social media to raise awareness about a cause is enormous. Every person you friend or follow magnifies your reach exponentially. Promote what you’re passionate about, what you believe in and your friends, family and followers will share it.
    Benefit:  Knowledge is power. That’s not a Schoolhouse Rock reference. It’s the truth.
  • Create a Fundraiser – I did it with the Traverse Traveler Scavenger Hunt for Autism. We created a Facebook page for the event, promoted it through Facebook and Twitter, we built awareness about Autism and the use of iPads for students with Autism at Traverse City Area Public Schools. And we raised a lot of money in the first year. You can do it too.

Find your passion and use your social network to become a teacher, activist, volunteer and goodwill ambassador in your town. And let me know when you do, so I can share it!

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Marketing, Promotions, Social Media

 

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How to Build Your Small Business Brand on Twitter

Do you have a small business? Have you thought about expanding your social media brand on Twitter, but you could use a few tips to get started? As a small business owner I’ve come to appreciate the power of Twitter as a form of marketing. But more importantly, I’ve discovered the secret to building brand success lies in how you use Twitter.

I’ve been sharing my Twitter tips with small business clients because I think it’s an immensely powerful tool if used correctly. Since I believe marketing can be a D.I.Y. skill, I’m going to share some of these tips with you too.

10 Tips to Build Your Small Business Brand on Twitter

1. Logo is the Way to Go

Like all forms of marketing, social media is an opportunity for you to build your brand image. Your logo is the face of that brand. If your twitter account is representing your business, use your logo as the profile pic (aka avatar). Remember, your twitter avatar is tiny. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a detailed picture of your product, seaside location or your dog in a bowtie. Save that for a creative ad campaign where we can make out the details.

2. Consistency is Key

It’s confusing to your followers when you change your business avatar like a runway model in a fashion show. Remember your avatar appears in a constant stream of icons on your follower’s feed. It should stand out and be recognizable to them. A loyal follower may be scanning their feed to see what clever remarks or customer special you’re offering. If they’re searching in vain for the avatar you used last week you’ve just lost a point of contact, and possibly a follower.

3. Don’t Fear the Unknown

Twitter is a great place to follow and be followed by strangers. Unlike on a personal Facebook account, on Twitter anyone can follow you. That’s the nature of the medium, so go with it. When you receive a follower, follow them back if they are legit. And don’t be afraid to chat with a total stranger. They might become a huge ambassador for your brand.

4. Follow Your Yellow Brick Road

Everyone has a different approach when it comes to following on Twitter. My personal strategy is to find and follow businesses and people in four categories: my region, my interests, my customers, and my followers. Start by following other local businesses. It is a great way to connect with your community. Then search Twitter for topics of interest to you and those that affect your business. Next, look for your customers on Twitter so you can build that relationship. And finally follow back those who follow you. They are obviously interested in what you have to say, so why not reciprocate? If you discover their tweets are not what you’d hoped you can always unfollow.

5. Hashtags Help

If you’re on Twitter, you must speak in the native tongue. And that means hashtags. Whether you choose to use them or just follow them is up to you. For the true beginner, a hashtag is any phrase that is preceded with a #. The phrase must appear with no spaces and the # sign first.

Find out what hashtags your industry is using, and add them into your tweets. There are local hashtags like #TCMI for Traverse City, Michigan, industry hashtags like #Marketing and #Design, and niche groups that gather to share ideas, frustrations and links. Places like #youmightbeanautismparentif is where parents of autistic children unite. Searching through hashtags is a great way to find new followers and engage with those who share your passion.

6. No Pushing

If you’re considering using Twitter for your small business I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you already have a business Facebook page. And you may have discovered you can push your Facebook posts automatically to Twitter. That sounds like a great idea. Two birds with one stone, right? Not in my opinion.

These shortened posts, which often end in broken sentences followed by a link to Facebook are not the same as posting your content on Twitter. It’s an illusion, and your tweeps (Twitter peeps) are quick to realize you’re not really there. Would you use an automated system to call your customers with news about their account, new products or events? No, because you aren’t there to answer their questions. The same standard applies here. If you’re not really there, people will know. And more importantly they’ll turn their attention somewhere else.

So what can you do to post content to both Facebook and Twitter in an expedient way? Check-out HootSuite and TweetDeck. These are online tools (and apps) that allow you to post to multiple social media channels. Using their dashboard you can cater your messages to each platform and audience.

7. Please and Thank You

Twitter is all about recognition. People and brands love to see their @name in the Mentions column. The trick is to acknowledge, engage and thank your followers as often as possible. And your brand will grow. But don’t be disingenuous. The point is to get involved with your audience by responding to their questions, commenting on their content and thanking your followers when they have mentioned you. A great way to start this tradition is with #FollowFriday or #FF.

On Fridays you’ll notice a slew of posts that are filled with @mentions and a hashtag or two. That’s a Follow Friday post. It’s Twitter’s version of a shout-out. Some people choose to fill their post with random names from their follower list. Some repeatedly offer #FF to the same group of tweeps. I think the most successful #FF posts are when you choose one brand or person to mention and offer up a reason why someone should follow them. It’s sincere, it’s focused, and it’s helpful to those of us who don’t know them.

8. Tweet and Re-Tweet

If you made it #8 on my list you’re serious about building your small business on Twitter. So this point is critical. Tweet good content and re-tweet that of others.

Twitter is, by far, my best resource for industry related news, events and articles online. Find and follow people and brands who are sharing great content that would matter to your followers. Then re-tweet it. If you’re sharing a link that you found through someone you follow, give them the credit of a RT (re-tweet). You can do this automatically, or add your own twist on the tweet and add “via @mention” to the end. RTs will earn more followers and encourage your followers to share your content.

9. Critical Response

Many small businesses shy away from social media platforms because they fear criticism. They imagine customer complaints posted out there for everyone to read, and spread like lice in a kindergarten. But the truth is, as scary as it is, social media is the perfect place to deal with criticism head on. You might be surprised with the results.

When I first started Twitter I had just launched my new iPhone app, Traverse Traveler. I was excited to see followers in my area. Those whom I followed were beginning to find me and comment on the app. And then one day I opened my feed to find a follower complaining about why I didn’t have specific listings on the app. I feared the worst and figured they were unhappy with our product and would continue to share their unhappiness with the world through Twitter. So I put on my big girl pants, took a deep breath and responded to the tweet. I explained that the businesses in question hadn’t yet listed on the app, but I would see what I could do to get them involved. I received an immediate response thanking me for answering the question. And a few weeks later, when said businesses did list, I was able to contact that follower with the news. What appeared to be a customer unhappy with our product has become a follower who gladly promotes us to family and friends.

How you respond to criticism and complaints will speak loudly to the online community. If you ignore them, they tend to perpetuate and spread. Or you’ll confirm their fears…that you just don’t care. Responding to complaints on Twitter directly, and offering assistance shows your brand is involved. You do care. And you are willing to work with your customers.

10. Lurk, Listen and Join In

Twitter is one of those weird places where voyeurism is encouraged. It’s like one giant coffee shop where people are chatting about hundreds of topics and you can sit and listen. But the best part is, without warning or misstep you can join in. It’s encouraged in most cases. Ever wish you could be two places at once? I’ve followed the hashtag for two different conferences occurring at the same time three time-zones apart and felt like I was there. I’ve cheered on the Detroit Red Wings, commiserated with Apple fans when Steve Jobs died, and made many new friends on Twitter that I’ve yet to meet in person.

Just remember one thing: You Must Be Present to Win

This is the big one. Twitter moves too quickly to watch from the sidelines. It’s not a spectator sport. If you want to build a brand on Twitter you’ve got to get in the game. You need to BE there. Following the steps above will help you establish a brand, but to build it and make it successful you have to get involved.

Do you have a small business on Twitter? Share some of your tips for Twitter success in the comments below. And by all means, follow me on Twitter at @TraverseTravelr !

 

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