Tag Archive for social media

Public Relations

Public relations is about more than writing press releases. Effective PR requires strategic, consistent relationship building with key members of your community. The PR team at Last Straw Media includes experts who can “plug you in” with the right connections–and nurture those connections to help you grow your business.

The Benefits of Ongoing Public Relations

Many small business owners see public relations as an “extra” they can’t afford. But really, you can’t afford not to engage in public relations. The right PR team helps you grow your business and protects your brand in cases of crisis.

Press coverage:

Our team helps you frame your company’s stories, accomplishments and events so that they appeal to news teams and journalists. You’ll garner more attention from media outlets that matter.

Relationship building:

We reach out to our diverse local and national contacts to build relationships with the right people for your business. These individuals are more likely to share your story when it’s relevant to their areas of expertise.

Community development:

Our goal isn’t merely to reach newsmakers; it’s also to reach the public. We’re pros at working with your marketing and advertising team to ensure a consistent, clear message across every communication channel.

As your business gains more positive attention, you’ll enjoy more customers. And all the positive media coverage will insulate your business if something goes wrong. Over time a cohesive, thoughtful PR campaign results in more revenue.

Public Relations and Social Media

Your company’s social media networks are some of the most useful tools for improving your PR. That’s why it’s critical to enlist a team that’s well versed in both–and knows how to leverage each platform for maximum benefits. Your public media campaigns should be integrated with your social media activities.

At Last Straw Media, we have extensive experience with both social marketing and public relations. Our experts will develop an integrated public relations strategy that incorporates both traditional and new media to transform the public image of your business. For more information about public relations for your company, please contact us.

Online Reputation Management: Managing Negative Reviews

As a business owner or manager, online reputation management is more important than ever. You should be attentive about what’s being written or said about your brand or product online. Reviews show up in a number of places, sites, as well as in comments or full-on posts on blogs and social media platforms.

"online reputation management" "brand" "social media"Here are IntelRepMan’s top 5 tips on how to navigate negative reviews and deal with unsatisfied customers:

1. Always Use Empathy:

Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand why they feel the way they do. If you sound uncaring or indifferent you will only encourage the person to take further negative action. Don’t blame the customer or some other employee: Take responsibility for the situation and confront it head on. People don’t care who’s fault it is, they just want the situation fixed as soon as possible.

2. Don’t blame the customer or some other employee:

Take responsibility for the situation and confront it head on.  People don’t care who’s fault it is, they just want the situation fixed as soon as possible.

3. Take negative conversations posted online, offline immediately:

If someone has already posted a bad review, comment or blog post about their experience with your company, get their phone number or address, and try to handle the problem offline by personally contacting them. Avoid online comment battles. They just make you look worse and unprofessional.

4. Do Not Ignore Bad Reviews or Angry Customers:

Address negative reviews and customer complaints right away. Do not think an angry customer will just go away! This is the digital age and it only takes a few minutes for someone to go online and leave a negative review about their bad experience with your company. Your quick reply to both the individual and the online post with a simple comment such as “We are so sorry to hear that you had this experience/feel this way/are unsatisfied with the product. We are attempting to contact you to remedy the situation/please contact us so we can make this right/etc.” will go a long way in showing not just this consumer but other prospects that you run an honorable, responsible business.

5. Act quickly to contact the person:

If you promise to make things right, do it! And try to do it right away! If the customer has to bug you to get you to follow through with your promise, he will never trust you again and probably will not remove the negative review. By acting this way you may motivate them to post even more negative reviews telling people how you didn’t make things right.

Often by following the above tips not only will you have the opportunity to address the issue but you also might just change an angry reviewer to a happy customer. Most people that are upset really appreciate the fact that you care enough to make it right and will tell others. Once you have remedied the situation feel free to ask the individual to share their experience in how you corrected the issue and why they are now satisfied customers. Prospects understand that no business is without flaws, it’s how a business addresses and fixes them that shows the companies true character.

To learn more about managing reviews, contact Last Straw Media at info@laststrawmedia.com for IntelRepMan’s complete list of managing negative reviews and leveraging positive reviews.

"online reputation management" "online marketing" "seo"

 

Our guest blogger is Corina Sheridan, the president and creative force behind Intelligent Targeting and IntelRepMan. A dedicated entrepreneur with a passion for business and marketing, Sheridan brings to the table 10 years of experience in Direct Marketing, Brand Development, SEO, Digital & Online Marketing Strategies as well as Buying Behavior Analysis.

There’s No Time to be Shy in 2013!

As a social media professional, I meet a lot of people who say they are too shy to enter the world of social media, both personally and professionally. When it comes to building your brand’s online presence in the New Year, it’s time to get over it!

Yes, we all have privacy concerns. And this isn’t to say go around posting every single thing you do in your personal life, but if you don’t even have a personal account for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, LinkedIn and/or Pinterest, you are missing out. That is where people spend their day communicating, whether you’re there or not. So how can you build a powerful online reputation for your business if you have no idea how people are communicating, or what they’re already saying about your brand?

What’s the Fear?
Many people are afraid they are going to give away “trade secrets.” Unless you work at NASA or the CIA, it’s very doubtful the information you share is really a secret. Most people aren’t shy to Google it (heck, Google is even a verb now!) So if your potential customers can find the information anywhere, why wouldn’t you want them to get it from you? Take this advantage and establish yourself as the expert. If you help them with little tips, they’re more likely to trust you and come to you when it’s time to make a purchase.

Uncomfortable in the Spotlight?
It is understandable a lot of people do not enjoy putting themselves out there. But it’s challenging to be the leader, if you’re hiding behind everyone else. So take little steps when it comes to social media and blogging. Try sharing Facebook posts, tweets and blog posts from other respected leaders in your industry. Use credible sources to help begin to build your following and then slowly move toward making yourself the credible and trusted one.

Who has the Time?
It’s funny how we think we don’t have the time to get things done, yet we’ll wind up watching TV for hours or texting back and forth over unimportant details of our lives. The bottom line is we all have 24 hours in a day. It’s often lack of direction or focus that gets in our way. And if you truly don’t have time, which many business owners don’t, then it’s time to hire a social media professional. Because whether you like it or not, people are talking about your brand online. But if you aren’t listening and responding, you can lose customers.

Taking Care of the Nuts and Bolts

Last week we talked about getting all the background information necessary to put together a social media strategy. Your first steps are to figure out what your online audience is looking for and to determine the best places to engage an online community. Next, it’s time to address logistics, commit to a content plan and measure your results.

Step Three: Take care of the nuts and bolts. Let’s face it: as a business owner, you don’t have limitless resources. It’s important not only to establish a budget for your social marketing efforts, but also to decide how much time your staff will devote to the initiative. For many small business owners, it makes more sense to outsource social media management to an expert.

Once you’ve budgeted time and money, you can set more realistic goals for what you’ll accomplish with your campaign. It’s important not to skip this step, so spend adequate time on establishing goals that are both specific and measurable. Common goals often focus on increased web traffic, lead generation or direct sales.

Step Four: Build an editorial calendar. The cornerstone of any social marketing campaign is original content. While it’s not necessary to plan out every tweet in advance, you will want a road map for content creation. Usually it makes sense to plan your content a quarter at a time. Use your keyword research for this step; for example, each topic should address a specific keyword cluster. You’ll also want to consider holidays and other events that may offer creative marketing angles for your business.

Some content may require more time and effort to create, like white papers or case studies. These items are often published monthly or quarterly. If you plan well, your larger content items can actually be broken down into a series of blog posts, or vice versa. Thus as you choose topics, think about how you can best leverage each item to maximize return and minimize time needed for content creation. The more effort you put into planning content, the easier it will be to avoid writer’s block later on!

Step Five: Put the campaign into motion and evaluate as you go.
Eventually it’s time to stop talking and get to doing! Once you launch your campaign, it’s time to shift into evaluation mode. You’ll constantly want to ask what’s working, what isn’t and what new social marketing tools are available and appropriate for your business. Tools for evaluating success include your website analytics, sales figures and lead count.

As you and your team get more comfortable with navigating the social media space, you can move beyond the basics to become true social media trailblazers! When you meet to evaluate performance, take time to brainstorm strategies and tactics that could be social marketing game changers. Over time, your social marketing presence should evolve with your users; be sure to keep up with their needs, preferences, and habits.

What’s the most difficult part of creating a social media strategy? How have you worked to overcome this challenge?

Social Media Marketing: Do You Really Have a Strategy?

Most business owners know that they can no longer ignore social media. Indeed most small business owners have even dipped their toes into the world of online marketing. But merely building an online presence isn’t enough; it’s critical to approach social marketing with a clear, thoughtful strategy. Today we’ll look at collecting all the information you need to put that strategy together.

Step 1: Figure out what your online audience is looking for.
Your first priority in social marketing: providing value to your online community members. That requires determining exactly what kinds of information your customers and clients are looking for. If your company is B2B, your customers and clients may be more interested in industry updates, case studies and business management news. Meanwhile, B2C customers might be seeking more human interest stories and entertaining photos.

More importantly, you’ll want to determine what topics will really engage your community. If you’re not sure, think about the questions your clients and customers ask all the time. How can you answer those questions via social media? You can use a keyword tool to figure out common words and phrases that your audience uses to talk about key issues. Integrate these into your campaign and use them as a starting point for developing not only your overall strategy, but more specifically  your content strategy.

Step 2: Determine the best place to engage.
Every online community is different. You’ll need to figure out not only where your audience “hangs out” online, but also where they hang out to find the kind of information and engagement that your company can offer. For example, Facebook is an exceptional marketing tool, but you may find that LinkedIn or Twitter is a more fertile ground for your online community to grow. The best place for engaging depends on multiple factors: demographics and industry are two key aspects to keep in mind.

At first, it’s usually useful to experiment with both your message and platform. You can also put some free tools to work. Google Alerts allows you to set up email notifications for the mention of relevant keywords you’re following.

You can also use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to search for terms on Twitter. This research has two benefits: first, you can gain insight on which platforms make the most sense and the kind of language your clients and prospects use; and second, you can get a firm grasp of how your competitors are leveraging social media and identify opportunities to differentiate yourself through content, messaging, and other factors.

Now that you have all this information, you can distill it into a social media strategy that makes sense for your company. Next week we’ll explore putting the pieces together into a cohesive strategy.

Why Your Online Reputation Is More Important than Ever

Over the past few years, consumers have increasingly turned to the internet to find and evaluate local businesses. If you haven’t been paying attention to your online reputation, now is certainly the time to start! Here’s why:

  1. Search has gone local. When people search for products and businesses online, the results they receive are shaped by their current location. That means you’ll want to claim as much “online real estate” as possible–your Google Place, Facebook, and Yelp, for example. Maintaining these diverse profiles means that your company can show up in multiple places for a given search. But these profiles also require regular maintenance and attention. Letting these sites fall out of date may result in a mismatch between customers’ expectations and experiences.
  2. Consumers expect engagement. Reputation management is about responding to customer compliments and complaints. Customers fully expect that if they post a question on your company’s Facebook Page, you’ll answer (and fast!) By responding to consumer questions, comments, and complaints, you take advantage of opportunities to convert and keep customers. After all, this aspect of reputation management is simply an extension of your customer service. It can seem like a full-time job to monitor your company’s online presence, so you may consider hiring an agency to monitor for you.
  3. Your business needs a consistent image. One critical aspect of reputation management is protecting your brand from unauthorized representation. You may not be the only one publishing information about your brand, and sometimes that other information can look like the real thing. If that’s the case, it’s important to contact the person responsible or take other measures to eliminate the impostor sites. A qualified professional can not only identify them, but also help you get the sites or misinformation purged.

Be Proactive with Your Online Image

  • Reputation management isn’t just about reacting to what others do and say online. The best online reputation management plan blends savvy content creation with robust monitoring.
  • Your blog is an excellent tool for reputation management. It’s a place for you to publish positive news about your business and establish your company as an industry leader. As a bonus, maintaining a blog will improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Facebook and Twitter pages will now also show up in search results. Take advantage by maintaining active accounts on both. This is a means of claiming a few more spots in search results–with sites where you control the content.
  • If your company produces press releases, be sure that these also go online. With the right distribution, these will also show up in customers’ and prospects’ search results.
  • Maintain other relevant online profiles, such as Yelp, Urban Spoon, and Google Places. Be sure to add photos, keywords, and other details whenever possible. If the details change, immediately update these sites as necessary.
  • Use Google Alerts or a similar service to monitor mentions of your company across the internet. You may also want to monitor the names of key employees. When mentions pop up–whether negative or positive–do your best to respond.
  • Respond to all feedback in a timely manner. Sometimes it’s tempting to delete negative comments. But the author may repost the comment, and you’ll want to show that your company cares about making customers happy. (Note that really derogatory, lewd or defamatory posts should be removed.)

Reputation management should be an integral and seamless aspect of your online and social marketing strategy. With the right approach, you’ll build a consistent, positive image for your brand.

SEO with a Side of Twitter: Maximizing Social Search

Both search and social have evolved considerably. Most notably, they’ve become increasingly interrelated. The result: online marketers must factor social interaction and engagement into their SEO strategy. Where traditional SEO strategy focuses only on search engine page rank (SERP), we must now also address how search results are displayed in other ways, namely how social results are listed. Modern SEO, therefore, incorporates strategies for optimizing both ranking and display.

The Role of Social in Search Engine Algorithms
Recent trends indicate that Google places ever increasing emphasis on delivering personalized results. So social content, like our blog posts and Google + status updates will figure into the search results Google returns for you. It will factor in both your own social habits, and also those of people in your online social circles.

Many experts predict that these personalized, subjective results will eventually be just as important as the objective ones in the traditional SERP list. So what’s an online marketer to do?

  • Make social sharing as easy as possible. Though we’re not exactly sure how much those Likes, Tweets, and +1′s are worth, it’s clear that they figure into your search results. Add these buttons and widgets to your content and web pages whenever it’s possible and makes sense.
  • Offer content that encourages sharing. High-quality blog content, photos, videos, and infographics can all have tremendous power. Leverage this content across different platforms based on your target audience’s online habits–which may or may not be primarily through social media.
  • Maintain your focus on generating inbound links. Facebook and Twitter are excellent platforms for sharing content and starting conversations, but those inbound links will have more impact on your SEO.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with posting time, content style, platforms and other variables that affect social media performance. If you’re not sure where to start, it may be worth hiring an expert–at least for a consultation.
  • Engage with your online audience. Ask what would be useful, and in what format they prefer to receive their information or updates. Their responses will often be quite enlightening.
  • Regularly revisit your SEO strategy and determine how your social media marketing activities fit in with that. Use analytics to guide your decisions, and you’ll get more value from your online marketing budget.

Ultimately, the best way to maximize both traditional SEO and social media is to approach both in tandem, recognizing that the two are increasingly intertwined.

Where Should You Build Your Online Community?

In the past few years, we’ve shifted from viewing the customers we reach online as an “audience” to identifying them as members of our online community. This paradigm shift illustrates a greater emphasis on conversation, rather than one-way communication: social media not as megaphone, but as telephone.

Not every community works or grows the same way, largely because every online community has a different purpose and function. But other factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic background and even occupation can make a huge difference in the behavior of an online community.

As your business seeks to use social marketing effectively, it pays to know where you’ll find your prospects and customers. The latest research from Pew Research Center offers insight into where different demographic groups hang out online.

For the most part, these data corroborate several stereotypes about social media use: Pinterest is actually dominated by women, for instance, and plenty of Baby Boomers are using Facebook.

Do any of these numbers surprise you? Will you change your social marketing focus moving forward?

 

IMAGE: http://marketingland.com/wp-content/ml-loads/2012/09/social-network-demographics.jpg
Source: Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, Omnibus Survey, Aug 2-5, 2012

Blogging: Part of Your Social Marketing… and Your SEO

Blogging certainly isn’t new, and most companies are well aware that they should be doing it as part of their social marketing plan: your blog is the ideal platform for starting conversations about your industry, and the articles you write give you original content to post to your other social sites. What many marketers may not consider, however, is that blogging can also have significant effects on your search engine optimization (SEO).

Bring ‘Em in the Back Door

Your website is (or should be) built around keywords that match your company’s offerings and the words that people actually use to search for those offerings. But these pages usually contain only static content that doesn’t get updated on a regular basis. This is where your blog comes in. Note that your blog articles will often come up in search results long before static pages on your website.

But before you even think about search engines, remember that your visitors want a solution to their problem–not sales copy. They find exactly that on a well conceived and thoughtful blog. So answer their question, and make it easy for them to get in touch with you. The first step to making your blog a “back door” to the rest of your website is to choose your topics wisely. Consider the questions that clients always ask, and address them in your blog posts.

Remember that your blog is a soft marketing tool. It’s not the place to overtly push your products and services. It is the place to show your industry expertise and offer solutions to clients’ and prospects’ key issues.

Think about the Nuts and Bolts

Search engines love blogs for several reasons: they’re updated frequently; they often hit the “sweet spot” of keyword density; and they are an ideal place for internal and outbound links. Blogs also offer opportunities for including meta-tags and other “back end” SEO strategies. While you don’t want to pay so much attention to these elements that you stray from providing readable, useful content, you’ll need to keep basic SEO tactics in mind as you write.

• Keyword density: Ideal keyword density is about 10 to 12 percent. Choose a few highly targeted ones for each post. These should overlap with–or be closely related to–the keywords you’ve targeted for your website.

• Timing: The more often you update your blog, the more often search engines will crawl your site and index it. The result: your blog articles can show up within hours or days of being posted. This may be the most important SEO benefit of blogging.

• Tagging: Tags on a post are a bit like an index for your blog, and there are few different tagging opportunities for each post. Include tags on the post itself, and be sure to use meta and alt tags whenever possible. Hint: adding photos and videos to your blog articles will provide more places to include tags.

• Originality: Search engines penalize sites with duplicate content! Note that it’s okay to include quotes from reputable sources (and include a link back to the original source), refrain from wholesale copy-and-pasting content from other sites.

Over time, your blog can be a powerful tool for both social marketing on-site search engine optimization. The right strategy and techniques will not only improve your web traffic, but also get you more motivated, targeted traffic to your site.

I can do it, why should I hire someone?

Social media is easy. Everyone is doing it. So why should I spend money to have someone run social media for my business?

As a social media expert, I can give you many reasons why you should leave your social media campaigns, posting and monitoring to someone skilled in this field. But instead, let’s talk about it from a business standpoint.

  1. Time is money. The amount of time you spend running your social media accounts and campaigns is time better spent on actually running your business. If you think you can’t afford to pay an expert, compare the amount of time you spend on social media to the amount of time you spend on more urgent income-producing business matters.
  2. Social media is always changing. It’s challenging to keep up with all of the social media changes. We all know Facebook is always changing its guidelines and new functions, plus factor in keeping up with all of the other social network sites and it’s nearly impossible to do while you’re running your business.
  3. Know the tricks of the trade. Maybe tricks is a strong word, but do you know proper social media etiquette? Can you post too frequently? Do you know the best times to post? Do you know which type of posts get the most likes and shares? Do you know how to tag on Facebook? Hashtag on Twitter? How is your monitoring being done? It’s not to say you can’t do your research, but most business owners don’t have the time or can’t afford to make this a priority.

I also often hear “I have an intern to do it.” Interns are great resources, don’t get me wrong. My intern is often a life saver. But I would never allow her to post content that hasn’t been approved. Not because she isn’t an intelligent young woman, but ultimately it’s my business. Whatever is posted is my responsibility. Who wants to have to deal with a tweet that could possibly get them sued? Or a Facebook post that violates terms of a contract or organizational guidelines of your field?

So when it comes to running your social media as professionally and effectively as you run your business, leave it to an expert.

How to Date a Social Media Professional

Dating can be difficult, especially if you’re stuck to your iPhone and iPad 24/7. After reading PR Daily’s “How to date a PR professional” article the other day, we got to thinking. Dating one of us may be even more challenging, because many of us have a journalism or public relations background before you even add Twitter streams, Facebook updates and geolocation-based applications.

So here are five things you need to know before dating a social media professional:

Hold on, let me tweet

The first thing you need to know when you’re going to date one of us is, well, we have to take a second to tweet, check in on Foursquare and update our status on Facebook. It doesn’t matter if the hostess is still seating us at the restaurant or our significant other is asking a question. Hey we aren’t egotistical. We don’t genuinely think everyone cares what we are doing and where we are at all times. But since are in the social media know, we feel obligated. Plus, what would our clients think if we didn’t?

We know what you are talking about

By you, we mean everyone. We will constantly surf the web, flip through our Flipboard app and check the latest trends on Twitter to keep up with the latest news. Whether it is a breaking headline or a funny article, we want to be the first to read it and share with others. We’re always looking for good content, whether it is for our personal use or for a client. Even if it is 1 a.m. and we are in bed with our iPad.

We can’t turn it off

Since we don’t really clock in and clock out for work, we find it hard to shut down completely. If a client emails us and wants something posted right away, we do it. If someone comments on a Facebook page we manage, we respond. That means that we are constantly connected. There is no set schedule, which may make it hard for us to ensure you that our dinner date will be at 7:00 p.m. sharp. On the flip side, we can usually take work wherever we go.

 We can’t believe you said that

We are avid writers by nature. We can’t stand grammatical errors. We take copy editing to a whole new level. If you use it’s instead of its or their instead of they’re, we have to use severe restraint not to comment on your post. We also won’t retweet what you said, even if it’s hysterical. We just can’t excuse those typos, and please don’t blame the 140-character limit.

We mind our manners (usually)

We may take our phones out at some of the most inappropriate times, but we’re not trying to be rude or ignore you. It’s our job. And in case you were wondering, we aren’t texting our friends while you’re talking to us, well not all the time! We are actually working. Social media doesn’t just happen by itself.#justsayin

Making the connection with Xobni

One of the first things to know about Xobni is that it is “inbox” spelled backwards. That is where the basis of this system lies. Compatible with Gmail, Outlook, Android, iPhone and Blackberry, Xobni allows you to connect with your contacts in multiple ways.

Xobni merges your contacts on your email or phone, and then connects each of your contacts to each of their social media networks. This makes it easy so you don’t have to go searching for each person individually to connect with them in each one of the many ways that currently possible. You can also view message history, common contacts as well as all of their social media updates within the contact’s profile. This system is perfect for your business if you are juggling a ton of contacts and find yourself attempting to sift through them often.

Image courtesy: xobni.com (Screenshots)

The system first started out on Outlook and has branched out to Gmail and smart phones with the Smartr contacts system. Through the use of a sidebar, it shows you the people you correspond with the most. You can also change the view so you can see the profiles in different perspectives. If you only know a little information about a contact you know you are trying to find, just type it into the search and with just a bit of info, and you should be able to find them. For example, if you are looking for someone within a particular company but don’t remember their name, type in the company name and it should bring up all of your contacts affiliated with that company. This creates an easy, efficient way for you to link with people from business, to personal.

Depending on your plan, Xobni is either free, or there are pro versions that are up to $47.95 a year (if you catch the current 50% off sale.) Check out the gadget store for a list of apps you can add to your Xobni profile including Google Translate, Dropbox or even Yelp.

Five Tips for Small Businesses in 2012

It is the first week of the New Year, and you may be trying to figure out your budget for the year or strategize your marketing plan. Something else you should take into consideration is your online presence and technology.


Image Courtesy: vichie81 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Go Mobile
Do you have an iPad or smart phone already? Do you have trouble trying to break yourself from it? Many seminars and meetings allow phones, computers and iPads now. Some even encourage it. Make sure you know when it is appropriate to have your iPhone out and updating, and when it is a very focused meeting.

2. Clean up
Do you have the habit of saving everything to your desktop? Do you know what important files are where? The beginning of the year is a great time to start with a clean slate and become more organized on all of your devices. While you’re at it, make sure you back up!

3. Update your profiles
Make sure that all of your social profiles are current and reflect your work correctly. Update your resume, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, etc. Often times there are certain profiles that we don’t sign on as frequently, so making it a point to update all of them now makes it easier later.

4. Give your audience what they want
Make sure that you are not just selling or promoting yourself, as we have posted about previously. Engage with your audience and customers and provide quality content. Find out what they want out of the New Year. Start up a conversation with them so that they know you are listening to their feedback.

5. Strengthen your brand 
Your brand should represent quality and consistency, as well as showcase your business’ identity and uniqueness. How long has it been since you have updated your online look? You may not need to change your logo, as it is a part of your brand, but little tweaks to your website and graphics, as well as updated content, can give you a fresh look. Make sure your efforts are consistent across all platforms including your website, blog and social media pages.

The Art of Instagram

It has been a little over a year since Instagram has come out, and if you haven’t used it yet, you probably have heard of it. iPhone users reap the benefits of this cool photo app. Before you take a photo, you can select a filter to take a picture through, or you can add the filter after you take the photo. Either way, photos automatically look retro, hip and cool. You can instantly appear to be a fantastic foodie by taking an Instagram photo of your delicious dinner, or share your travels with a stylish take, by taking filtered photo of the city skyline.

Users can follow others, like other photos and add captions to their photos that are uploaded. Share them on Tumblr, with your Instagram followers, Twitter followers and Facebook friends. Another big feature would be the fact that you can use hashtags and search new topics.

Photographers have even been drawn to the iPhone app. Many are gaining followers quickly, showing off their work and becoming well known. Companies have also taken advantage of this visually gratifying opportunity by showing off their brand. Taking pictures of new products and listing a description and where it is available makes it quite easy for purchase.

The choice of filters range from a black and white look called “Inkwell”, to a retro look called “1977.” The app has become so popular that even Facebook tried to buy them out. After a rejection, Facebook even plans to come out with its own filters. There are other apps available for Android that are similar, like RetroCam, but they haven’t caught on quite like Instagram has with millions of users. Instagram has created a new social platform based on a simple idea – photo sharing. With that and a little extra edge through the use of filters, Instagram has become quite the trend.

Check out the Instagram blog to see many beautiful photos uploaded by users: blog.instagram.com.

Battle over the Check-ins

Do you check in on Foursquare and become the mayor of the local library, or do you check in on Facebook to prove to your friends and family that yes, you do read!

It’s official Facebook’s takeover of Gowalla has begun. We know that Facebook launched a battle over check-ins after the location-based social network Foursquare gained success with about half a million active users more than a year ago. While you can post your Foursquare check-ins to Facebook, the social network giant started its own check-in feature.

But many already prefer another location-based option. Gowalla has been around since 2007, although it hasn’t been as popular as long-time competitor, Foursquare.

Of course things are about to change, as they often do in the social media world. Facebook bought out Gowalla and is already working on the integration. The features with Gowalla include adding photos and stories to your check-ins (nothing too new), but then it is stored in what is called Gowalla passport. It creates a different atmosphere for you to show off all your latest travels to your friends.

Image courtesy: Gowalla

The question is, will the Gowalla name continue on, or will it soon disappear into one of Facebook’s new added features? It is looking like Gowalla will go bye-bye. Facebook is obtaining some of Gowalla’s innovative engineers, though. This will include the co-founders of Gowalla.

According to an article in Metro.co.uk, Facebook released a statement saying, “While Facebook isn’t acquiring the Gowalla service or technology, we’re sure that the inspiration behind Gowalla will make its way into Facebook over time.”

So, there you have it. Gowalla will officially shut down in January 2012. Facebook’s Timeline will be set to debut soon enough to the rest of the public, and we might expect that Gowalla-like features will be included. Prepare yourself to see your newsfeed to blow up with all kinds of ballistic comments about the changes.

Did you really follow them?!?!

Twitter has made a change that many tweeps did not like… the new Activity Tab. Shortly after it went live late last week, users were quick to hashtag their rants. Just search the #activity or #activitytab hashtag, and you’ll see plenty of users complaining about the change.

Users are already comparing the change with Facebook’s news feed. With the new activity tab, it’s hard to follow a large amount of people without others noticing anymore. This can be a little aggravating if you’re trying to get your follower count up by following a lot of others. Also, if you followed the entire cast of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and you really didn’t want to ruin your intellectual reputation.

The upside of this is that you can make it a useful tool in order to find other interesting people to follow. Others can also see if you favorite a tweet. This is a plus if you never kept track to see if others were favoriting your tweets before.

On Monday night, Twitter removed the activity tab, sending users into a rejoicing, confused, yet temporary frenzy.

The activity tab has returned for some users, and they are not very happy. Some profiles have yet to see it appear again, but you should be on the look out for it. Twitter, you released the new feature to a select amount of users, then released it to everyone, then retracted, then put it back out there again? Whew.

We have a hunch, that just like with Facebook, people will eventually get over it and adapt to the change. (As long as it stays, or, comes back?) Changes in social media don’t usually receive the most positive feedback right away. Yet, changes are inevitable in this constantly adapting world of social networking platforms.

If you don’t already, you can always follow @Support in order to get the latest updates on Twitter functions.

Got Klout?

If you haven’t heard of Klout already, it is a system that gathers all of your social media interactions together and calculates a score. This score, from 1 to 100, is taken by how much you influence others.

Klout had some changes recently that have social media networkers in a flutter. Suddenly user’s scores dropped in the past two weeks. The changes to offer a “more accurate, transparent klout” have people questioning whether or not the formula actually can form your social media presence correctly. The configuration is supposed to be derived by the number of people you influence, how influential they are and how much you influence them. There seems to be a mistake in the new algorithm. The mistake lies in definition.

John McTigue, in a B2C article, explains that Klout is defining quality and quantity. Klout says that its algorithm is about quality of influence, not quantity. How do you judge that? But really, it is about quantity because you are judged by your interactions with people that are highly influential to others. It can be confusing. We know.

Here’s the best way we can think of explaining it: If you tweet Ashton Kutcher, and you just so happen to get a tweet back from him, your score should jump. This is because  of how influential he (with over 8 million followers) is to so many others. The problem is, what does that tweet say and how do you judge the quality of it?

So should you let your Klout score bother you? Some are because they think it will affect their potential job opportunities. We think that Klout had the right idea originally, wandering into a new territory that is, you can say, “influential” to the social media world. It’s certainly not something that is going to disappear, but it something that will evolve.

With so many people focusing on the numbers game in social media, we still insist offering quality content over quantity. Never ignore people who are truly interested in conversations with you (no matter what their Klout is.) And don’t worry so much about the Ashton Kutcher’s of the Twitterverse (unless of course you want to!)

Thanks for the follow, now BUY MY PRODUCT!

If you’re an active Twitter user, you should be familiar with direct messages. You may also be familiar with auto DMs. There is a setting with social media dashboards where you can send out automatic DMs when you have new followers. With this, we say to be careful. Whatever you do, DO NOT send out auto DMs with direct links to your products or any type of sales pitch.

Preferably, we say, don’t use automatic DMs at all. If you are really interested with connecting with that new follower, you should start an engaging conversation with them. Either that, or they will interact with you if they choose.

Automatic DMs generalize everyone who took the time to follow you. They may have started following you because you sent out a funny tweet. They may have seen you have the same interests, or that you’re in the same career field. Either way, if they took that time to click “follow,” you can take the time to DM them personally if you feel it’s necessary.

If you have a very active account, where there are too many followers to handle you don’t need to say “thanks for the follow” separately to each one of them. Scan your list, filter through the real, personal profiles versus the not so real. There are often “naughty” or fake profiles on Twitter that follow people at random and have zero tweets, or links to spam and viruses.


Once you have done this, choose the profiles that you find interesting. Start an interaction with them by responding to one of their tweets or retweeting them. Saying thank you is always nice, but when you’re saying thanks to everyone, it looks as if you are putting everyone in the same category. Or you could wind up filling your timeline with too many thank yous and not enough content and actual interaction that you become almost as bad as the person who auto DMs.

What to Think about Unthink…

Unthink has created a flurry of news around the country with the spotlight on Tampa Bay, considering the CEO is a Tampa resident. Natasha Dedis, has dubbed the new social media platform as the “anti-Facebook.”

Unthink, which is currently in its beta stage, promises everything on the site is completely yours– challenging highly publicized Facebook privacy concerns. The site combines Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn type features in a new way. (Is it just us, or does it look sort of like MySpace for adults?)

One of its main features is to separate social and lifestyle content from professional. With people constantly worrying about making their posts appropriate at all times, does Unthink have the right idea?

When the site first launched last week, so many people tried to sign on that the servers went down, leaving many frustrated after all the publicity online and on TV. We most certainly were. If you’re going to even make any kind of comparison to Facebook, you better be prepared for that type of response.  Just sayin’.

After a few frustrated attempts, we finally got an account set up several days later.  Here is a sneak peek of features we have seen:

  • Option to post statuses, hashtags, photos, videos and links
  • 4 separate streams including: public, social, lifestyle and professional
  • Followers and Friends
  • iEndorse Channel – Where you choose to endorse a brand
  • Apps
  • In the Loop – A feed showing your network’s actions
  • Lifestyle tree
  • iBelieve – Your “about” section

With so many features, do you think it is an asset or overwhelming? Do you think it gives you more control over your social media content? Do you think it is a threat to Facebook? If will it take a Google+ turn?

What do you THINK of UNTHINK?

Did You Just Hashtag me on Facebook?

From your boss to your 14-year-old niece, almost everyone is on Facebook and/or Twitter. And since they all speak the language, the question is do you? It’s important to know the dos and don’ts of posting on social networks. And even if you think you know them, sometimes we could all use a refresher course.

Don’t

Use hashtags on Facebook
There is no point to using a hashtag on Facebook. It may look “trendy,” but there is no way for friends to follow that topic via Facebook. Our suggestion would be to not connect your Twitter and Facebook updates through social media dashboards

 

 

 

 

 

This example brings us to another don’t.

Use social media under the influence

You may find yourself checking your notifications the next day to see that you, in fact, did post that inappropriate picture of yourself dancing on a table last night. Your boss will then know why you were late that morning.

Post a ton of useless content

By useless content we mean excessive amounts of links to your favorite YouTube videos, using your status box as a journal entry including every detail of your day, or publishing a plethora of updates about your crops in Farmville.

Spam your friends

It isn’t always in your control, but try to avoid any suspicious looking links or messages from friends on your wall. If you think it seems fishy, don’t click it. Report any suspicious messages you see or mark them as spam.

Share your personal problems

There is such a thing as too much information. Think of it this way, if you wouldn’t want it on the headline of a newspaper, you probably shouldn’t post it.

Oversell

Avoid communicating with new followers or fans right away with links to buy your new product. You wouldn’t ask a new acquaintance at a social gathering to buy your product right away, so don’t do it online.

Do

Use hashtags on Twitter

Hashtags that are related to your tweet’s topic are useful (e.g. #health). This can create a trend for others to follow. It can also be a topic that is already trending. If it is, others can find your tweet once they start following that particular subject.

Post multimedia every once in a while

No one wants to read just text all of the time. Adding mobile uploads or videos to something that you know your audience will find interesting is always a great way to get feedback.

Share your accomplishments

If you just won a prestigious award, or simply baked a beautiful cake that day, that is something that your audience will like to see.

Ask questions

Asking your audience questions gets them communicating with you and interacting with your page. Be sure if you do ask questions, respond to their answers so that your audience feels like their feedback is valued.

Share good content

This is one of the most important keys to social media. Whether it is your personal account or your business profile, sharing good content is vital. If it is your personal account, share an interesting article or a funny story. If it is your business account, share quick facts or tips about your business, how it can benefit others and related materials.

But They Ignored My Press Release!

Businesses want their events covered. Period. But what if you sent out a press release (a.k.a. news release or media release) and everyone ignored it?

Unless you’ve worked in the media or with journalists closely for a long time, you may not realize how much it’s about timing. If breaking news happens, your event turns into an afterthought, even if the media promised to cover it. But what about the things you can do to make sure your release gets noticed, or at least not deleted?

  • Can you spell? As longtime St. Pete Times columnist, journalist & friend, Ernest Hooper told my PR Writing class at the University of Tampa recently. “Spell my name right!” Will your release be ignored if you spelled the name of writer incorrectly. Quite possibly. If you can’t spell his or her name right, what other errors are in your release? That includes spelling the name of the company correctly too! With every misspelling you lose credibility.
  • Is your event really news worthy? Can the journalist tell a story about it? Some events just aren’t worthy of huge media coverage, but that shouldn’t stop you from connecting with media contacts (reporter, editor, producer, etc.) that specifically focus on the subject matter. Believe me everyone else in the newsroom will thank you from clogging up their email accounts.
  • Do you have any connections? If you don’t, you could get ignored for a long time, unless your event is so huge it can’t be ignored (think President speaking in Tampa.) Take the time to introduce yourself to journalists, get to know them personally before it’s time to ask for something. This connection doesn’t guarantee coverage, but it definitely gives you the edge over a competitor.
  •  Did you send the release out far enough in advance? If you want until the last minute, the journalist most likely has another story planned. Many plan their schedules weeks in advance, so send a release about a month in advance. Plus, you’ll want to check back in with him/her about two weeks before the event.
  • Have you tried other outlets? With social media networking, you don’t always need traditional press to create a buzz about your event. Think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Meetup, etc. Post it on every free online resource available. Many traditional media outlets have an events section. Also, reach out to bloggers because many have loyal followers who are truly engaged which is better than a disinterested audience.
This certainly isn’t everything you need to know about writing a compelling press release, we’ll share more on that later, but it’s a great step in the right direction.
Last Straw Media wants to hear from you if you have any tips or experiences (either positive or negative) you want to share. Please leave a comment below.

Facebook: A Love-Hate Relationship

I used to think I was the only one with a personal love-hate relationship with Facebook, but after reading a lot of posts about hating the new changes, I began to really think about it. I love Facebook as a free social media marketing tool for small businesses and non-profits.

It’s a great way to interact directly with your target audience, build loyalty and increase business. But sometimes have to admit I hate it as a regular person just using it to communicate with friends. Do I need to know your every movement throughout the day? Do I care if your child went to the bathroom? Gross!

A lot of people are angry about the new changes, including a new news feed that generates top stories which many of you don’t even care about. One of my friends, and fellow social media business owner, even posted how ridiculous it was she could see her own posts there. Many think Facebook will spiral downhill.

“If an organization keeps changing like this, it will create a doom loop. Facebook, to me, is becoming a doom loop. However, now that myspace has lacked prominence in social media, Facebook is capitalizing on being a captive audience. STOP the FREAKIN’ changes!” one person wrote on Last Straw Media’s Facebook page when asked how they felt.

The thing is most people were posting their angry comments on Facebook, the same site they claim to hate. So changes and all, everyone is still on Facebook. And guess what? More changes are coming.

Mashable reports, “Prepare Yourselves: Facebook to Be Profoundly Changed.” Today at its f8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook is launching changes that Mashable (which was pre-briefed on the revamp) says “The Facebook you know and (don’t) love will be forever transformed. The news that will come out of Facebook during the next few weeks will be the biggest things to come out of the company since the launch of the Facebook Platform.”

Let’s face it, Facebook already has 750,000 active users, most of whom aren’t going anywhere because Facebook is where most of their friends and family members are. While some have predicted Google+ is going to get an edge here. I for one, think Google is a little late in the game to bring down Facebook– thought I do of course keep an eye on the new social media tool.

With a big buildup like that, I can’t wait to see what Facebook has in store. Love it or hate it, I think most users aren’t going anywhere.