Tell Me a Story

Everyone has their own opinion about Instagram recently implementing their new "Story" feature. Some say it's a rip-off, some are screaming for more filters, others are ignoring it and some are just uploading their downloaded 'snaps'. Here's my two cents:

It's a business move, and a smart one at that. Sure, it works nearly EXACTLY like Snapchat, but the user base of Instagram far outnumbers the user base of Snapchat. The most recent numbers I could find: last month Instagram had 300 million users on it's platform every day, compared to Snapchat's 100 million.  Those are both highly impressive numbers, but clearly Instagram is still where people are setting up camp. So, grab some s'mores and get cozy.

I actually like the fact that this new Story feature seems to divide this one platform into two. I'm still seeing high quality images in my typical feed, but then I can choose to catch these quick, super authentic glances of the people I follow. I know lots of people are upset that they cannot feature themselves with a halo of flowers and a filter that makes the roughest night disappear directly on IG, BUT I personally could care less. I've felt the lure and see the fun, but I'm liking that Instagram has left that very specific to Snapchat (for now).  I can see where some businesses/brands could harness those features and really run with it, while others, not so much.

Here's what I'd like to see more of on Instagram Stories and what I'm working with my businesses to implement and hold fast to. I really believe that this mode could be used with a bit more curation in mind. Not just a quick vomit of what's happening in your day, but a STORY. A story with a beginning, middle, and end. To do this, start with a quick sketch of an idea of what is important to your community or what behind the scenes scenarios do you want to show the world. Then plan it out. Authenticity doesn't need to mean rambling, and totally random. You can be real and have an idea of where you are going at the same time. Film it, or capture images that still have a great visual feel for your brand. Editing can be done, do it. Remember to keep it simple and sweet and on message. 

I'm still deciding exactly what makes a business a better fit for each platform and for now I'm still on the fence about re-posting downloaded 'snaps'.  I'm a big fan of giving each platform it's own personality and content, but these are so similar that I can see the appeal. I'm sure I'll develop a preference soon and regale you with my rant. Until then - give me all the Stories. 

Visual Vibe

We all put out our own vibe. Sometimes there's intentionality to it, sometimes it's completely set apart from intention. Fortunately you can elicit an online visual presence with a great vibe by simply taking the time to dream up your plan and visual scheme.

Hopefully when you first started your business, or self marketing, you sat down and outlined a few things. Your social media strategy was probably part of this as well as your branding. Those two things work very well together and a bit of strategy in the beginning will help maintain a clearer picture of who you are and set you apart so you are more recognizable to your audience. This visual congruency is helpful not just in Instagram, where visuals are EVERYTHING, but it also simplifies your image and can easily maintain your identity across all platforms.

Here's some examples of what I mean by visual vibe with consistency: 

Beas_little_boho_corner does a great job of staying on the same path with their filters. Each image has a slight haze to it that just goes so well with the bohemian thing. If you were to see an image of earthy clothes and this haze you would automatically think "Beas Little Boho corner" when you saw it.

Clean_eating_journal uses a top down angle to create a great similarity and feel to their images. The backgrounds and food obviously change, but these images really convey the colorful food and simplistic nature of the ingredients by maintaining the same angle. 

Food52 is another food centered Instagram account, but it pulls images from it's main site that I believe are even shot by different people. I've added it because even though it uses different angles and lighting techniques for each image, the food images still sit very well together. Most of Food 52's images are concentrated on the single recipe item, or perhaps one ingredient. They've kept the focus about what is integral, and not adding in a lot of outside elements. 

In most of the examples above you can tell that I have a soft spot for a very curated visual look. It isn't necessarily an easy task, but once you've developed how you would like it to feel, it will keep you focused. 

Now, with all that planning and corresponding images, let's talk about when it totally makes sense to ditch the whole uniformity thing.

Thugkitchen, be still my heart, I love this account. If you follow Thug Kitchen at all you will notice that they have a very great voice going on. They curse unapologetically and love great vegan food. It's not that their visuals aren't recognizable as Thug Kitchen, because they do a lot of type over images, but they also change things up a lot. They use different filters, angles, close up shots or far away food scenes, shots of humans, shots of dogs. It would almost seem very odd if it was highly curated and the stayed on the same visual track image after image. 

So here's my point: look at your goals, your branding, and what presense you would like to put out there. Develop a policy for how you would like this to be conveyed visually and then stick to it. It makes sense that Beas Little Boho Corner is soft and ethereal. They are creating a peaceful vintage feel, while Thug Kitchen is creating a more spontaneous, "this is life" feel. It's not that one is better than the other. They are different companies with much different vibes, doing a great job putting themselves out there.

While we're putting ourselves out there; don't hesitate to contact me if you need help with any of these ideas for yourself or business. I heart helping!

Who's Listening

No matter what platform you are using to present your case, it's always been rule #1 to keep your audience in mind. A social media strategy is no different, and perhaps even more complex because there are almost two separate audiences to keep in mind. 

The first audience comes from who's already tuned in. You can very easily check your analytics to get a good perspective on the age, gender, and geographical area that is subscribed to your feeds. It's good to know who is already listening and helps define who is currently interested in to what you have to say. This group will likely be your loyal crowd and should not be forgotten, but there's also the group that you would like to have listening, that you need to pay attention to.

Let's say you are a restaurant, with a great social media following of 30-40 something women. Chances are they are following you on Instagram and Facebook as that age group tends to flock there. When you glance around your restaurant you notice a good amount of 20 somethings, maybe younger, (t's hard to tell these days sitting at 40). Where are they and why aren't they listening to you on social media?

Different age groups consume social media in much different ways. GIFS, videos, and quick quirky meme's grab the attention of a younger crowd. If you're seeking a broader audience, go to where they are. Perhaps you create a Snapchat of behind the scenes kitchen stories, attracting the attention of that younger crowd, while continuing to produce high quality images for your current Instagram account. 

When considering audience, and going to where they are it's good to remember to be fluid, but still stay true to your voice. There's no reason to run off course from your goals and authenticity just to reign in some new listeners.

You may also want to sketch out that ideal customer when you first set up your business and find where they set up camp on social media. Don't limit yourself in this exercise. If your goal customer feels like a fish too big to reel in, don't let go. You at least need to start out fishing in the right pond or you for sure will never catch that big one. 


It's Going to be OK!

The announcement of Instagram's push for a more personalized algorithm feed has already sent businesses into a frenzy. The reverse chronological order you have become accustomed to will now be changed to something similar to Facebook's edgerank, where you will see the posts that the algorithm has learned you will like.

While this directly effects me in what seems like a negative way, I only see this as a bonus and am actually looking forward to it. Businesses have been riding this gravy train of free marketing for a very long time, and frankly it's been a ridiculous ride. Here's my two cents on the matter, and how to make this change work for you.

If you were to put your phone down and think of all the other ad space out there in the real world, none of it is free. Magazines, signs, billboards, newspaper ads. Companies paid for the space and certain spaces were coveted, for good reason. These ad spaces are where certain people are, or may be, and they only wanted to see a limited amount of ads coming at them. Why should social media be any different? It is where everyone is at, and no one wants to be sold to 24/7. Humans crave information, that's why we have magazines, signage and the internet. We like to share our experiences and intake beauty. When we sense ulterior motives, we flee and turn off.

This change should and will hone the marketers craft. If you are not sharing effective and meaningful posts, then you will not be seen. This change is going to produce more thoughtful, curated and meaningful posts. It is a win for you, the person with something to sell, and you, the person who likes their feed to be smooth and meaningful.

Now, how do you take a hold of these changes and make them work for you, the business? Sit down and do some math. I suggest you pour over your Instagrams posts for the last 4 months or so and see what has really worked and what is not working. Make note: type of posts (reposts, single items, teaching posts, graphic posts etc), date, time (you can go to Birdsong Insights to find the exact time stamp of posts), day of the week, likes, and comments. Then crunch the numbers. Find out which posts are working the best and then break it down more into what time of the day and even which day of the week you are getting the most interaction. This is going to take a nice chunk of your time, but it is worth it to come up with a plan to play the game in the very near future.

Now that you know what is working for you, develop a plan. Most people are guessing that Instagram's algorithm is going to work much like it's parent company Facebook's Edgerank system. Edgerank works off of your previous posts and measures the interactions from the previous posts to see how many followers will be seeing the next post. Use tactics from your posts with the highest interactions and continue to measure your ongoing posts. 

Don't forget, there is always the paid ad. As a business, you may now need to dig into the pockets and just pay up. Marketing has always been part of a business budget, and you may find amazing results with paid ads.

Many companies are announcing that their followers turn on Post Notifications for their posts. I'm still not convinced this is a great strategy for making sure you are seen. If you ask people to request push notifications, you better be ready to curate like crazy and really bring your A-game. If people feel even a tiny bit like you're posting too much, or not giving them what they want to see, they will unfollow you in a heartbeat. Personally, I'd like to go to toe to toe with the algorithm and gain more views than risk the small amount tuning in to leave forever. 

It's really going to be ok. Change is good, and inevitable. Roll with it and make it a chance to really let your posts shine. 

Shameless Plug From Lessons Learned

Earlier this week I sent myself to a digital marketing conference to fill my head with bigger and better plans to help clients. It's hard to come back from a conference and a) remember everything you crammed in your brain, and b) figure out just what to do first with all your new found learning.

As I was looking back over my notes from those two days, it became very clear to me that I'm on a very good path. Here's some eye opening stats if you own a business and are trying to be heard:

  • The average attention span of a person on their mobile device is about 6-8 seconds (one second less than a goldfish).
  • That number will go down to 3 seconds for these new wearable devices.
  • In 2008 only 20% of the text with a post was read. I'm going to venture that we haven't gotten any better at reading more of the text.
  • An upside (if you choose to see it that way), digital natives are looking at a screen 9 hours a day. This group is potential!

So, the first thing I will do with all of this information, is to shamelessly plug myself. Images are a big deal to marketing and social media. It's absolutely imperative that you keep grinding away at spending time on how your are being visually presented.

This is not to say that a great photo from your phone won't do the trick. You do not need a DSLR with lots of bells and whistles to get the job done. But your images do need to be clear, bold, and beautiful doesn't hurt either. 

I can help you figure out how to get your best images and make your social media stand out.

The next post I'll throw out some tips to take better images on your phone.


Where You Is?

Back in the day we all flocked to MySpace, created a page, creeped on our old highschool friends and posted nonsense. Then Facebook started up and we all packed up and deserted MySpace to linger in the lonely dust. It was a simpler time that I never again want to go back to.

Since Facebook, the creation of social media platforms has boomed and so has the way businesses market to their audience. Having a print or TV ad just does not cut it anymore. Businesses need to get out there and tell their story on a more personal level in order to create any sort of impression with their target audience. 

The question is, do you need to hit all of the platforms to gain your edge? The short answer is no, but I'm all about the long bit.  Yes, the more you are out there, the greater chance you have at someone, somewhere seeing you. But getting the word "out there" is no longer what people expect. People are now looking for more information, more stories and a place to engage. Your job is to figure out where your people are, and how to best to create this personal contact with them .

It's best to think of each platform as having their own personality and then match your business to that personality. 

Facebook is like a chatty older aunt. It's a slightly older crowd, but one that is still hip enough to get the nature of certain meme's. You can get a lot words in each post and it's a great place to ask questions from your audience to engage them. Facebook is foraging into the world of live streaming, and I think that's going to be a great new tool for business to become comfortable with.

Twitter is a like a spark. It's full of potent, yet very quick information. Most people look to their twitter for the fastest route to information. The amount of actual engagement tends to be minimal yet your posts still have impact.  It's also a great platform to push users to other platforms for more information. It's much harder to overshare on Twitter and lose followers, unlike some of the other platforms, so I encourage almost every business to open a Twitter account. 

Instagram is like an extremely well dressed gorgeous model. It can say a lot without saying a word. However, don't underestimate the power of the caption on Instagram. There's room for a lot of words, and hashtags, which are actually more useful than ever. 

Tumblr is like a slightly underrated, nerdy pretty girl. It's a very complex and open platform, but it still keeps hugging the railings with the edgy gifs and artsy content. It's a great tool to create a funky simple website, and also easy enough to continually add new content to it. 

Periscope and Meerkat are like shiny new toys that some businesses aren't quite sure what to do with yet. Personally I love the live streaming aspect of Periscope to disseminate information that may bring up tons of questions. Or to live stream a private event that enables others to feel like they aren't missing out by tuning in. So much potential here. 

My advice to a new business is to absolutely open a Twitter account and then choose one other platform to focus your energy on and build up relationships there.  Once you are humming along nicely, you may find yourself needing one of these other platforms. 

Those are the big ones, and I'll go over some other platforms I find interesting on a different post. 




The Sound

I have a very good friend that I LOVE going out to eat with. We share a fondness for bacony goodness, but that's not really why I like going to a restaurant with her. I'm very reserved, and probably go out of my way as to not draw any attention to myself in a social situation. She, on the other hand, has a loud and wild laugh, and it will cause the entire restaurant to stop and turn and look at us. Some may be embarrassed by this, and considering my talent of blending in, you'd think I'd hate it, but I LOVE IT!  Her laugh is everything I wish I was. It reminds me of what being alive feels like, and reminds me that everyone has a much different voice and that's a beautiful thing.

When you start up a social media strategy for your brand, your voice should be something that is mapped out. Your voice is the actual words you are using and the tone that you create on each and every post. You may find that a very light hearted joking style works for your brand, while another brand may find that just the facts is what their audience is craving. Maybe you prefer to use profanities for funzies (this account is a great example), or peaceful and minimal word usage could be way more effective for you.  Keep in mind your goals, your overall branding, then brainstorm how your desired sound fits into those.

However you choose to sound, your voice is a feature that should remain constant throughout all of your platforms. It's true that different platforms attract different users, but if you think of your voice as another aspect that defines you, you will see it's best to keep it congruent. I can always tell when one of my favorite restaurants has posted because Jeff's verbiage is just so unique.

Your voice is just another creative way to get people to remember your brand. It helps long time followers define who you are, and can draw in potential clients and followers.


Stay The Course

When you started your brand you probably had more than a few goals in mind. You may have wanted to provide instruction, sell your hot sauce nationwide, or get your art in front of the right eyes. For whatever reason you decided you had something to share with the land of social media, just don't forget your purpose for taking up space in the land. Find a way to give everyone a reason to join you in your space.

Let's say you have an Etsy shop of handmade Jewelry. Things are selling just fine, but your goal has always been to place your gems in a great local boutique. You may get some kind words and followers for posting pretty pictures of your earrings hanging off a pretty face, but remember your goals. Share an image with your gorgeous handmade item, paired with a dress with the same brand, or similar style to what your goal boutique carries. Gently mention them with a hashtag or a kind word. They may not beg you to let them carry your items right away, but you've started a conversation and have showed others exactly what you are all about.

It probably doesn't really need to be said, but if your only goal as a brand/business is to have followers, you should rethink your situation. Followers are the easy part. They can be bought, fabricated, and they will come and go. Creating a goal that is more fulfilling will bring the numbers in sincere forms.

It's much easier than you think to start making noise on social media, yet it has nothing to do with what is driving you.  Social media isn't about just being social on one end and creating any old content. I keep the mottos and goals of each social media client that I manage in a notebook and turn to it often when I create posts and strategies for them. If the post is way off center from their goals as a business, I delete it and move on to something relative to their goals. 

The most effective ways to reach a goal is to engage in a community of others with a purpose. Keep your goal somewhere tangible and refer to it often. Stay the course and your be there before you know it. 

(The martini is reward for reaching your goal. Get to it.)