Sunday, 10 November 2013

Socially Speaking - SM4W13

As I write it is Remembrance Sunday. Here in the UK, you'd have to be a hermit not to be fully aware of that. But, I suspect, fewer people will be aware that yesterday (9th November) marked the 75th anniversary of Kristaalnacht, which saw the first major outbreak of mass violence against Jews in Germany and Austria. The pogrom heralded a step change in Nazi policy which culminated in the Death Camps and demonstrated so completely the risk that once again existed to justice and freedom in Europe.
  
If you already knew all about Kristallnacht and are sensitive to the proximity of these two key dates in the calendar, you're probably thinking "and your point is...?". That's great. Like me, you'll have twice the reason to pause for thought in the days before 11th of November each year. But if there's just one person reading this who wasn't aware of it, I like to think that now they are. Simply in putting it down here I have shared with them something (something valuable in my opinion) that they didn't know before.

Who knows...? I may have piqued someone's interest to the extent that they  Google 'kristallnacht' and learn even more. Perhaps they too will think it's important enought to take this new-found knowledge to someone else. And so on.

All of which brings me around (rather obliquely, I'll admit), to the point of this post.

On Tuesday 26th November I will be delivering a workshop on 'getting started with Twitter' at a conference in Preston called Social Media for Women. The aim of the conference is to inspire and support more women to feel confident in using social media - whether that be for work, business, pleasure or in a community role. The conference organisers asked me to write a blog post about why I have chosen to get involved and support this event (yeah, thanks for that guys!). So here it is... demonstrated I think (hope) by my ramblings above.

For me, an inherent value for people in using online 'social media' websites, as well as curation and blogging tools, is to create awareness and interest amongst others by sharing things that matter to you. The social media pros call it 'engagement'.

By this, I'm not saying we should all be saving the world or sharing the deep and meaningful every day of our lives. What matters to you is likely to bounce between matters as wildly diverse as your newest pair of shoes (black patent courts with HUGE heels, since you ask) to a breaking news story. What you choose to share will be affected by who you are sharing with and why. My point is that whether you choose to blog about your business and/or tweet about your weekend, it's all because you think it is interesting. That it can be interesting to or improve the day of others - friends, family, associates or customers. 

If it is or does, then that brings it's own value back to you - better friendships, repeat or new business, a change in attitudes... the list goes on.

In my business, I work with people (men and women but, interestingly, mostly women) who run organisations of all sorts to help them use social channels more effectively and to feel confident doing so. On the 26th November, my workshop will look at getting started on Twitter, the basics of using the system and how build the right following. 

If you haven't already reserved your place, you can book online at www.socialmediaforwomen.co.uk. Bring along your laptops or tablets... there's wifi available and there's no time like the present to get Tweeting!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Drum Beat Issue 2

Do a Competitor Analysis for Free on Twitter, and other social media tips...

Welcome to the second issue of Drum Beat - my regular digest of news, views and best bits from the world of social media. 

It's been a busy week in social media marketing this week, with Facebook rolling-out a new mobile layout for Brand Pages, as the first step in their mobile-first strategy. But there's been plenty going on elsewhere too. 

This magazine is available to Flipboard users at http://flip.it/RRQUz. If you can't access Flipboard however, here are all the links to all the articles within.

Happy reading!

Articles:

Welcome to Drum Beat

Welcome to Drum Beat!

So, I've recently been puzzling about the best way to provide my committed followers with a regular digest of social media and comms news. Email newsletters are a great communications channel but I felt that I wanted to do things a little differently and make use of some of the newest new media software. 

So I thought I'd trial using the User Magazines capability in Flipboard. This is a brand new feature that allows any registered Flipboard user to take on an information curation role by creating and sharing their own collection of stories. It's also a really lovely, easy system to use as a reader.

Anyone using an Apple or Android tablet or mobile device, as well as Kindle Fire and NOOK users. Nowadays, this is a great many of us. However, like all new things, it has it's failings. The most prominent of these in my view is that desktop computer users cannot download the software, or indeed access the magazines in any form. Boooo!

I'm confident it's something they'll fix but, in the meantime, I've decided to use my blog as a back-up - to share links to the articles I've 'flipped' into each magazine, making it accessible for pretty much everyone!

So here it is. My first Drum Beat Digest...

Articles: 

Happy reading!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Going Local: Places moves into to the Google+ circle

Internet search giant Google this week announced that they are integrating Google Places, the on line business listing and ratings service, with Google+, their social media platform. 

Google Places listings will be migrated to a new feature on Google+ called Local which, for users of the Google+platform, can be found as an icon on the left-hand side of your homepage (if you can't see it there, check under 'More' - you can then click and drag it onto the sidebar menu for easier future navigation).

It makes sense - for Google at least - to do this. The changes will turn Google's geo-locational listings product into a far more social tool and will no doubt drive more user traffic to the Google+ platform which, despite rapid initial growth, has so far failed to ignite the interest of the masses and pose a threat to social media behemoths like Facebook and Twitter. It's a move that was clearly calculated to boost traffic to and within the network.

The new look Google+ Local should provide a far richer and integrated way for people to discover, share and interact with local businesses - provided, of course, that you are a Google+ user. The key features of the new system are:

  • The ability for users to share reviews and photos of places - either just to their network or to the wider public, depending on privacy settings,
  • A new method of rating and reviewing places based on Zagat (a more complicated but arguably more accurate 30-point scoring system), rather than the original star ratings,
  • A Google+ page for each local business listing, where users can go to find reviews, photos and other useful information, and
  • Provided you're logged into your Google+ account, reviews from people in your circles are highlighted in Google search results. 
     
What this means for your business 
 Well, if you already have a listing on Google Places (a great many local businesses do) then your listing has already been automatically converted into a Google+ Local listing. Internet users that click the 'more info' link via Google Maps or Search will be directed to the new Google+Local page for your location.

However, for the moment at least, you can still log into www.google.co.uk/places to edit and manage your listing if you have one. There's a new layout for listings - so you'll want to take a moment or two to familiarise yourself - but all of your content should be available as before. You can still use this route to verify listing data, make updates, and respond to reviews, and if you use AdWords your ads will operate as normal.

Google are also trialling an Offers system which allows you to create an share customer offers for them to redeem with you using android smart phones. This functionality is currently being offered free for an undefined 'initial trial period', after which (equally undefined) charges will apply. 

If you already have a Google+ page for your business, you'll be frustrated to know that you can't yet integrate it with your local listing to create a single brand identity on the social network. However, assurances have been made by Google that this functionality is in the pipeline and will be rolled out soon.

And if you currently use Google Places to review listings...
Then all of your past reviews and comments will have been migrated to Google+ Local but attributed anonymously to 'A Google user'. If you want to have these attributed to you and to set privacy preferences, then you'll need to create a G+ account (if you don't already have one) and migrate your data by going to 'My Places' in Google Maps.

If you want to continue to review and rate listings on Google in the future then you'll need a Google+ account to do so. Its a bit sneaky of Google but you can hardly blame them. Who wouldn't do the same for their 'baby'?

Friday, 2 March 2012

Time for Timeline… introducing Facebook’s new layout for Pages


They say “the only constant is change”. It would seem that, where Facebook is concerned at least, ‘they’ are pretty much bang on the money!

Facebook introduced the Timeline format for personal profiles late last year - replacing the now infamous Wall with a more visual record of your history on the network (your whole life if you want). Facebook still hasn’t forced all personal users to make the switch over yet, but on Wednesday they took the obvious next step in standardising this layout across the platform by announcing that all business pages will automatically convert to a timeline format from 30th March.

Ahead of this date, though, page owners have the opportunity to preview how their page will look, edit, and add content to suit the host of new features available and, if they’re ready, make their brand timeline public.

It’s difficult not to feel frustrated when change is forced onto you - especially if it requires you to do extra work. And let’s face it; if you run a small business or work for yourself then you’re pushed for time most of the time. However, after taking a few hours to review the layout and capabilities of the timeline format for pages, I’m feeling pretty excited about their potential. On balance, it looks like it could be a change for the better in many ways.

So, here’s the lowdown on what you can do, what you can’t do and what you need to do if you administrate a Facebook page:

Layout and visual elements
For a start, a good deal more space on the page is given over to visual content. The top of the page is dominated by a large cover photo, which is the first thing any page visitor will see and allows plenty of scope for a strong, creative image that represents your brand. Facebook guidelines say that this image must not contain any calls to action though, so urging users to ‘Like’ your page through this medium is out.

A smaller, square profile picture sits nested below the cover photo. It is this image that will appear alongside your posts on a fan’s newsfeed. You will need to check how your existing profile picture will fit within the new dimensions and possibly make changes to suit both the new shape and also its positioning across over the cover photo.
Beneath these two elements is the page name and a host of other valuable information for visitors. If you’re a local business with an address, your location, contact detail and opening hours is positioned to be immediately visible and easy to find. If not, it’s a short ‘about’ description.

Other key page items, such as the like count, photos and other apps (e.g. custom pages) are also visible and clickable from this section. Four boxes are always displayed here, with the first being the photos app. You can re-order the others as you would prefer and the remaining ones are accessible via a drop-down box. The page may have up to 12 apps in total.

It’s worth noting at this point that the functionality to set a landing page for new visitors is no longer available - the reasoning being that your cover photo should provide enough visual clout to compensate. But the ability to create customised content through apps (custom page tabs as was) is still there and the visible space available for these has been increased. Any tabs you currently have on your page will be automatically shifted across, although you may eventually want to review their content in light of the new dimensions.

Finally, below this starts your timeline. To the right, users will be given a more social perspective on your brand in terms of how many of their friends Like the page and also the latest interactions (such as posts or tags) their friends have made with your page. The rest of the timeline is made up of your content and any user posts that you chose to make visible.

Your stories on this timeline will occupy more space, with a heavier focus on the visual elements, such as photos, so the more eye-catching the picture, the more noticeable the post.


Other functionality
In addition to the above, there is plenty of new functionality to help you make the most of your page in its new layout too. Tools available to you include:
  • Users can send you a message (and vica versa) without directly posting to your timeline - allowing you to have a private conversation with them and great for sorting out customer service issues or handling pricing/order queries directly through the platform.
  • Administrators can now choose to require that they ‘approve’ posts on the page by other users before they are visible to the public.
  • Create featured (or starred) posts, which are displayed across the full width of your timeline to highlight them. You can restore these posts back to their original size at any time.
  • You can add milestones and other back-dated posts to your timeline, allowing you to tell the story of your business or brand back to its inception, rather than just when you joined Facebook and have them appear at the correct point on your timeline. Milestones take on the full width of the page.
  • The option to ‘pin’ a particular story to the very top of your timeline for up to 7 days. The item is then anchored above newer posts unless you unpin it. This is a nice feature for highlighting forthcoming events or competitions.
  • Also, the admin panel for managing your page seems, on the face of it, to have become much more straightforward to navigate and understand.
What you should do now
As a page administrator, it’s certainly worth taking advantage of the time available to you now to preview your page in the new design now - reviewing and possibly revamping your content before the changes come into play at the end of March. The preview feature allows you some valuable space to experiment with the new look and feel before it becomes visible to the public.

This said, there’s really no need to panic. By and large your existing content will look fine in timeline view – the main decisions you will want to make are around what to add (rather than take away) in terms of the cover photo, featured posts and any back-history. You can also make all of these changes once the page is live in timeline format.

Taking a critical eye to any custom pages and improving them to fit the new dimensions is something you will probably want to do in the medium term – and I’m more than happy to help there!

I hope this provides an easy introduction to the coming changes and leaves you feeling empowered to make the most of them for your business. If you have any questions on the new format and functionality, please post them to my Facebook page (facebook.com/bangthedrumconsulting). I’ll do my best to give you a quick and straightforward answer.