Social Media Interaction, the University Brand and Recruitment Performance

This paper was in response to a call for research to explore brand identity, meaning, image, and reputation (BIMIR) in higher education in the Journal of Business Research. The paper was written in collaboration with Stuart Roper and Fiona Lettice. The study set out to determine whether use of social media platforms would raise the value of universities’ brands by increasing demand for places. If social media use were found to improve brand performance, the study would then determine which aspects of social media would be of the greatest value.

Rutter, R., Roper, S. and Lettice, F., 2016. Social media interaction, the university brand and recruitment performance. Journal of Business Research69(8), pp.3096-3104. Download PDF

Figure 1: Example of a Tweet aimed at prospective students by the University of East Anglia (UEA)

Introduction – While many effective methods exist for enhancing brand image, use of social media is increasingly becoming the most common across all sectors, as it allows almost universal access.  Although considered controversial in some quarters, Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) have begun communicating in the tone of the marketplace in order to attract students, their de facto customer base, amid inbuilt inequities in both material assets and reputation. Universities with a well-established history of excellence, such as those in the Russell Group, have a significant advantage over newer HEIs or those which are smaller or have restricted access to funding, but the relatively low cost-to-engagement ratio of social media enables all HEIs to embrace it. The research question being: can institutions with lower reputational capital compete for students by increasing their brand presence?

The hypotheses – four possibilities were considered:

  1. The level of HEI initiated social media activity on Twitter and Facebook positively and significantly relates to student recruitment performance –  the first hypothesis would be shown to be correct if a clear connection could be demonstrated between those institutions which initiated a greater amount of social media activity and those which experienced an increase in student recruitment.
  2. ‘The level of HEI social media validation on Twitter and Facebook positively and significantly relates to student recruitment performance – for the second hypothesis, the connection would need to be made between success in recruitment and numbers of followers on Twitter or likes for HEIs’ Facebook pages and posts.
  3. The type of tweets, direct user interaction and website links will significantly moderate the relationship between social media followers and student recruitment performance – placing intrinsic value on type rather than amount of engagements, could be shown to be correct through analysis of whether potential students were finding answers to questions, using links supplied via social media and demonstrating satisfaction with their interactions.
  4. The level of social media use, direct user interactions, website links on Twitter and Facebook Talking About will be significantly different between Russell Group and non-Russell Group HEIs – a difference would have to be shown between the numbers of tweets and/or Facebook Talking About (FTA) relating to those HEIs in the Russell Group when compared to the non-Russell Group, as well as numbers of weblinks and levels of user engagement.

Methodology – Data in the form of Facebook likes, FTA and Twitter followers was manually collected and the Twitter archive of each of the 56 HEIs in the study was harvested using web scraping software. The number and type of each kind of interaction was analysed and the data distribution plotted to show any relevant trends; the information was then examined using structural equation modelling, confirming the consistency of the trends. In order to determine how these results impacted on the hypotheses, the researchers garnered information from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS) showing the number of applications to each HEI per available place. Plotting the recruitment figures from UCAS against the analysis of the HEIs’ social media performance allowed any relationship between the two factors to be observed at distinct points in time and conclusions to be drawn. Figure 2 highlights the scraping process and platforms used in this research.

method

Figure 2: showing the scraping process and platforms used in the research

Findings – The study shows that high numbers of Twitter followers, Facebook likes and FTA are strong indicators of recruitment performance, with Twitter followers being the most relevant factor. While a greater number of tweets does not predict greater success in recruitment, the type and quality of Twitter interaction is important; as prospective students often engage with HEIs on social media to find answers to specific questions, a swift response is more likely to create a relationship between the HEI and the individual, thereby encouraging recruitment. The amount and type of weblinks posted on social media has no discernible effect on recruitment performance. Hypothesis 4 was only partially correct, as Russell Group universities were neither making a significantly different number of tweets to non-Russell Group universities nor experiencing a higher amount of FTA. Russell Group HEIs were, however, involved in a higher average number of interactions and posted more weblinks, almost exclusively to their own sites, unlike non-Russell Group universities. Figure 3 below summarises how social media can be used to achieve the highest level of UCAS demand.

social-media-funnel-process

Figure 3: the social media student recruitment funnel

Conclusion – By engaging with those prospective students who have endorsed the HEI via Facebook likes or by following it on Twitter and making those engagements fast and accurate, social media can become one of the most effective tools at a university’s disposal. Regardless of status, those HEIs that create a strong social media presence can improve their brand image and increase student recruitment.

Social Media within Higher Education: US and UK Universities

Over the last few years, every institution in the Western world seems to have jumped onto the social media bandwagon. Often without much accompanying analysis, organisations have assumed that engagement through social media will have positive effects on their recruitment and performance, and the higher education sector has been no different. It is rare indeed to find a university which does not maintain a Twitter feed and Facebook presence at the very least. Only now, however, is work really being done to examine how these tools might actually affect university performance.

Social media consultancy Sociagility recently carried out a study which attempted to measure the correlation between engagement with interactive online communication and overall university rankings. After measuring the social media output of the top 25 US and UK universities (as found in the Times World University Rankings) within a comprehensive scoring system, the report found a very close correlation between social media scores and overall institutional rankings. In other words, the better the university performed, the more successfully and actively it used its social media outlets.

usvsuk-socialmedia

Of course, in some ways such an outcome is unsurprising. The best higher education institutions in the world inevitably tend to have more money than less reputable institutions, and so are likely to have a more comprehensive social media strategy. The report did not claim to prove a causative link between social media use and institutional success. What it did show, however, is that UK universities as a group scored significantly lower in measurements of successful social media usage than their counterparts in the US. It seems that the British education sector has yet to catch up with the use of social media.

Some might argue, however, that lagging behind in terms of social media is not such a bad thing. For example, recent research jointly conducted by the PR firm Communications Management and The Student Room has found that a university’s online activity has little bearing on student recruitment. Over 300 current and potential students were surveyed about their choice of university in this study, and whilst two-thirds of students use social media channels several times a day, this outlet of information was rated as both less influential and less trustworthy than traditional printed material, or face-to-face communication opportunities.

student-using-social-media

Such research does not show that social media is unimportant, but rather that higher education institutions should take a balanced view of its utility. It is certainly not the panacea which might have been hoped for in some quarters, but neither is it useless, particularly given the high social media usage of the student demographic. Ultimately, universities which wish to use social media appropriately need to understand that the most important part of any student’s choice of institution is reputation. Social media is not only a tool for communicating that reputation, but also a powerful factor in shaping it, as long as the university is willing actively to engage with current and prospective students.

In other words, simply having a Facebook and Twitter account is not enough. The research conducted by Communications Management and The Student Room suggested that many of the students surveyed were unaware that their chosen university even had a social media presence. In order to be effective, such tools must be actively utilised, rather than simply existing. What is more, the information put out through such media cannot simply be the usual promotional and PR language simply translated to a different medium. Students gave clear feedback in the survey that “they [universities] do not talk about the things we need to know” and that “I don’t find enough useful information [on social media channels] that relates to me”.

targetted-content

Essentially, the study has found that social media is of little use unless its content is both targeted at the right audience, and utilises the strength of the medium. Rather than talking ‘at’ students, universities should be using social media to find out what is of interest to them, and then tailoring their output to the responses received. That, after all, is the strength of social media. The number of institutions which still appear to believe that simply having a Twitter presence is enough to grant online credibility is astonishing. As the above quotations reveal, many universities do not even signpost students to the fact that they have a social media presence, seeming instead to believe that their work via social media will somehow be noticed by osmosis.

The traditionally bureaucratic structure of higher education institutions may also be problematic when seeking to use social media effectively. After all, the manager of a social media account is unlikely to have the authority needed to respond properly to student concerns, and in most cases will not even be monitoring social media channels in a full-time capacity. Twitter, Facebook and other such media cannot be used to their maximum effect without significant effort and thought being put into the task.

As with all university functions, social media works much more effectively if it is part of a wider recruitment and performance strategy, and if its purpose is clearly identified. Currently, too many universities see their social media presence as a box to be ticked, rather than a powerful tool to be explored. It is, perhaps, little wonder that many students currently feel that universities have missed the point of social media altogether. It remains to be seen whether the UK’s higher education sector will eventually catch up with its US counterpart.

Further Reading

http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2013/apr/17/university-student-recruitment-social-media

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/comment/podcasts/the-podcast-social-media-roundtable/2003307.article

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/419520.article

Social Media Concerns: How to Manage Dissatisfied Customers

The essence of social media is providing an avenue to connect with customers online. As a business owner, you will have the opportunity to present the features and benefits of the products that you are offering.

Your readers, in turn, will have the chance to review, purchase, or complain. At some point, you will experience a dissatisfied online customer who will complain about bad service or a broken promise.

It is your job to take this opportunity to convert an irate client to a satisfied and returning customer.

Here are some tips to consider:

Step One: Be Aware

You cannot address an issue that you do not know about. Listen to the concerns of your customers by allowing them to leave comments on your website. Keep watch of the activity on your Facebook page. Make sure to keep a regular check on Twitter hash tags or replies related to your business. Read forums and review sites that cater to the nature of your business. Knowing about the negative comments and feedback about your products and services in the soonest possible time will help avert a potentially disastrous outcome.

Step Two: Respond Immediately

Immediate action is required when dealing with customer complaints. The longer you take to make a statement, the harder it becomes to resolve the situation. On occasion, you will need intensive research and background checks before you can provide an acceptable explanation. In such situations, you can simply leave a message explaining the actions you need to take and a turn around time for a response.

Some offensive comments are not worth the response. If the criticism is made out of spite or bigotry, then it may be best to simply delete the post. Your other customers will ignore rude or discriminatory remarks especially if made without basis. Instead, you should focus on working on action items that are within your control.

Step Three: Connect With Your Customer

Avoid canned or scripted responses. Speak like an actual person and try to relate with how your customers must be feeling. Giving them a copy of your terms and conditions will only aggravate the situation. Acknowledge their concern and let them know that you understand what they are going through. Empathise with them and let them know that you will feel the same way if the situation happened to you. Reassure them and tell them that you will do everything in your power to resolve the situation.

Step Four: Make Things Right

A sincere apology may help appease an irate customer, but fixing the problem is the only way to win them over. Offer to make things right for the customer. Replace the broken product or give a refund for lost deliveries. You can also opt to provide discounts or freebies for future purchases. People make mistakes, but what is important is how we correct those errors.

Step Five: Do Not Get Emotional

As the business owner, you need to be the voice of reason. Customers are expected to complain, but business owners who get into an argument with their clients are seen in a bad light. Even if you know you are right, you need to be patient enough to clearly explain the logistics to the customer. Getting into a fight with them will not resolve the situation.

Step Six: Get Their Involvement

A negative comment is a great opportunity for learning and improvement. If a customer complains about a certain feature, ask him what changes need to be made to improve the product. Make them feel that their input is valuable. If you consider their suggestions, make sure to involve them during product testing or the product launch.

Step Seven: Make Sure the Discussion is Visible

It is tempting to keep the conversation offline, but providing solutions in plain sight will let the world know that you are serious about providing excellent service. You also make other people aware that you are constantly working on improving your products. If you provide a clear solution for a specific issue, there will be no need for other customers to send in similar complaints.

Unhappy customers will always be a part of your business. There will always be something to complain about. Dissatisfied customers tend to spread the word around so it is essential to change their mind about your company. Use the negative feedback to your advantage and turn a bad situation into a learning opportunity.

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Social Media Management – A Task for One Person?

Social media management is a hot topic amongst marketing managers and in general organisations typically have specialised departments dealing with specific tasks and concerns.

Human Resources handle people issues, the IT department handles system concerns, and Legal handles matters of the law. Social media concerns and tools usually fall under the jurisdiction of the Marketing department because they involve promotions and press releases.

Announcements and responses that come from a single source tend to be more streamlined and consistent to the core vision of the company.  But are companies that rely on a single person or department missing out on the full potential of social media?

Having a single person or department dedicated solely to social media functions may have its advantages, but a bigger group of people can certainly produce a more impressive output. You can either have a single person or group do 100% of the social media tasks, or have the majority of your employees spend 5% of their time attending to these tasks. In theory, having dozens or even hundreds of employees representing the company in social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook will result to a wider audience reach.

Here are some of the advantages of having multiple social media outlets:

1. More people create more noise.

Having multiple employees sending out positive Tweets or writing blogs about the company says a lot about employee satisfaction and improves the branding of the company. The message also reaches a wider audience.

2. Employees will keep up with technology and will be adept on using social media tools.

It is essential to train the employees on the proper usage of social media tools for this system to work. They need to know how to properly represent the company, and how to increase the number of followers or subscribers. This training will not only be beneficial for work but is also applicable to personal endeavors.

3. Different employees have different strengths and interests.

They will produce blogs, Tweets, or Facebook updates that relate to them personally but are relevant to the nature of your business. Your company will benefit from this because of the diversity of content that will be available online. You will reach a wider and more diverse market. Interest in your products or services will also increase. Employees can also experiment with these tools and can potentially come up with an innovative approach to promotions.

4. The feedback system will also improve when you have a large number of people checking the web vigilantly.

It is possible to report important updates and news flashes that can affect operations in the soonest possible time. You can also detect customer complaints easily and address them immediately. Generally, about 60 to 80 percent of customer complaints made via social media channels are ignored because of lack of manpower.

This results to customer dissatisfaction and a missed opportunity for improvement.

5. Employees will be empowered. Social media exposure is a huge responsibility. Your employees will feel valued and trusted.

In order for a business model like this to work, it is essential to invest in social media training and corporate awareness. The employees need to be adept with how to utilise the tools to further the interest of the business.

They need to understand that social media will be an essential part of their daily tasks. They also need to realise that they will become the front liners of the business. They will be representing the company and any post that they make will be a reflection of the company’s mission and vision.

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How Do Universities Use Social Media?

Social media is often criticised as being a source of distraction in an educational environment. Networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter keep students from paying attention in lectures or engaging in productive seminar activities. These sites are often used to communicate with friends and are rarely associated with learning. Innovative educational institutions however, have begun to appreciate the value that social media can bring to education. These sites, after all, are the best channels to reach out to students and grab their immediate attention. Realistically, a Facebook post would have a bigger chance of being read, compared to words written on internal intranets; students respond better to methodologies that are more relevant to modern life.

Here are some ways through which social media can be used by universities:

Social Media as a Tool for Lectures

Believe it or not, social media is a great way for lectures to improve on their discipline. It is an excellent way to research trends and topics that can be used for lecture plans and seminar activities. Social media sites are overflowing with fresh ideas and trends that can easily be used and applied to lectures and discussions, for example in a marketing lecture it would be appropriate to have the latest marketing practice to back-up theory. The Internet also has a wealth of information in the form of educational blogs and websites. Teachers can also use these sites to connect with colleagues from other locations.

Social media is incredibly effective, in terms of reaching out to students. Teachers can use sites like Twitter to send out blasts about topics and activities that will be discussed in future sessions. Course assignments, unit outlines and assessments can also be made available online. Lecturers can even post information, trivia, or snippets that are related to the courses they are teaching. All it takes is the creation of an account that students can follow or subscribe to.

Some universities have already gone as far as creating their own social media platforms. These platforms allow teachers to upload assignments, lecture materials, and learning paraphernalia with ease and sophistication. They can also freely communicate with their students to update them on topics that have not been covered during class. Customised learning sites are also highly preferable because of the level of security that they offer the students. Filters for unacceptable words and language can be set up, and access to mature sites may be blocked. These sites can even be set up in such a way that teachers and students can access their files anywhere online connectivity is available.

Social Media Benefits for Parents

Social media can be an effective tool to reach out and communicate with parents. Universities in the United States often sponsor extra-curricular events and activities that promote student development. Posting these events online is a great way of informing and inviting parents to provide support and encouragement. Sites like Twitter and Facebook may be used as “broadcast accounts” to disseminate information. These sites are easy to maintain, easy to use, and free of charge.

Parent feedback is also a critical aspect of education. Parents need an avenue wherein they can express their opinions regarding certain policies or decisions. It can also be great to hear constructive criticism or recognition for outstanding activities and events. Not all parents may have the time to write formally and it is often more convenient for them to express their sentiments via transparent, online posts.

Student Participation via Social Media

Students are more receptive with teaching approaches that involve technology or mobile devices. They are more interested in using learning tools that come in the form of mobile phone applications or games. Universities can capitalise on this type of technology by using social media tools.

The Facebook Groups service is an example of an online tool that can be used for education. Professors can serve as administrators for the page and require their students to join as members. Here they can communicate and assign tasks, exchange files, participate in polls, or watch educational videos. Notification settings can be made in such a way that members are made aware every time a new post is made. An added incentive for the students would be the fact that they will have access to their colleagues’ Facebook accounts, obviously if their privacy settings allow and once they are approved as friends. Pinterest is also gaining ground in terms of popularity. With this service, students get to share web links or photos that are relevant to certain topics and subjects.

Social media can aid long distance learning. With simple uploads and profile modifications, learners from across the globe will have access to reading materials and videos without being physically present in school. This is perfect for students who are revising at home, or for external individuals to the universities looking for high quality learning materials. The iTunes University application, for example, provides a wide range of lectures and online courses from some of the best universities in the world. Communication between schools located in different parts of the world is also made easier through social media, for instance Universities that have a main campus and a location in London. International students also have an easier time keeping in touch with friends and family, while still gaining the full learning experience from their University.

Conclusion

Social media tools are easy to incorporate into existing curricula because most of the students already have existing online accounts. It does not take long for students and faculty members to learn how to use services and requires few resources and little training time when compared to other communication media. Some educational institutions may continue to resist this kind of development because of the possibility of abuse. However, this concern can easily be addressed by providing students and faculty members a strict list of guidelines that they need to follow at all times.

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Social Blogging – How to Make Blog Posts More Social?

September 3, 2012 |  by  |  Social Media Management  |  No Comments

Blogging is an excellent form of self-expression. The writer is able to impart his thoughts, opinions and knowledge, using a media form that is accessible to millions of potential readers. This scenario, however, is limited by the fact that a blogger’s reach, only goes as far as the number of people who wittingly or unwittingly discover the blog. A well-written article can be lost into the Internet oblivion, if nobody knows that it exists.

Do not fear however, this is where social media comes in. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ complement blogging, by serving as indispensable platforms for article distribution and advertisement. Bloggers need to play the social game if they wish to be heard. The more they interact with readers, the bigger the probability of getting more hits and page views.

Here are some tips on how a blog can become more social and visible:

Buttons for Social Sharing

Satisfied readers or online guests, who stumble across an interesting read often wish to share their discovery to their friends and contacts. They would want to let someone who could benefit from the article or someone who has experienced a similar situation read what has been written. They will not however  in the majority of cases, spend the time copying or typing a page URL in order to send it through email or SMS, which involves too much time and effort for most. Social Sharing Buttons are a great solution to this predicament as within a few simple clicks, your page will potentially be shared to an exponential amount of new viewers.

Shareaholic is one such social sharing service. It has over 1.5 million users and is a familiar tool found in a lot of active websites. Aside from the more popular social networking sites, you will have the option to select from over 100 other sites and services. The icons can be customised to become animated and do not take up a lot of space so they load relatively fast. There is also an option to show the number of shares on each network. One of the best features of this service is the fact that they provide analytics, users will get an idea as to which pages content is socially the most popular. They will also know which channels are used for sharing and distribution.

Maximising Twitter

Twitter is a great way of letting people know about your blog and your new articles. Once you gain a substantial following, it can then just be a case of regularly posting updates to reach out to your readers. Many bloggers are not aware that Twitter has an “Embedded Tweet” feature that allows them to incorporate and display any tweet into a blog entry.

Here are the steps on how to properly embed tweets:

  1. At the bottom the Tweet permalink page, click on “Embed this Tweet.”
  2. Once the pop-up box comes up, simply choose between HTML, Link or Shortcode.
  3. Copy and paste the code into your blog.

Once the embedded tweet is displayed, viewers can see your message, follow you, reply to your tweet, or even retweet the entire post. Once again, this service makes it so much easier for readers to share a post that they find really interesting or informational.

The “Tweet This” feature is yet another function that will capitalise on reader engagement.

This feature literally grabs a visitor’s attention and pushes them to take action, it works best when you give your readers encouragement, for instance “ready to tweet”. The actual pre-defined tweet text needs to be something that a user would want to post on their feed, something that they think will take people’s interest. They simply need to click on the “Tweet This” link, and their followers will have access to the tweet, which conveniently has a link to your blog post. The Click to Tweet site is a free service that you can use to create a Tweet This link.

Social Commenting

Social commenting is also a great way of interacting with your readers. This gives readers an opportunity to potentially make praise of blog posts, or provide constructive feedback on things that you can improve on. Readers will be able to share their own opinions on the topic and bloggers even use the comment section to get inspiration for future articles or publications. Commenting services such as Facebook Comments Box and Disqus have even made it possible not to limit commenting and interactions within the blog.

Facebook has released the Comments Box, a plugin that allows users to comment on your site using their own Facebook accounts. The great thing about this service is the fact that users have the option to “Post to Facebook.” This means that your link will be posted to their timeline and will appear on their friends’ News Feeds. Their friends in turn can like your page, and even participate in the discussion by adding their own comments to the box.

Disqus, on the other hand, is another commenting platform that allows users to share any discussion thread or comment to their own social networking sites. Users are also given the option to use @mentions or social tagging, which effectively brings in other users to the discussion. To make things more interesting, Disqus also provides a voting system that highlights the best content and votes down the bad ones.

Conclusion

To summarise, a blog post is only as great as the number of readers that it can potentially reach. Customising your site to include social media tools is an excellent way to allow your readers to share what they like and to gain more readership and following. All bloggers need great content and an exceptional social media strategy in order to succeed.

Using Instagram to Promote Your Brand

Instagram is a photo sharing application for iOS and Android devices.

In recent months, it has been catapulted to success not only because of the ease and convenience that it offers to photo-loving individuals, but also because the social media giant Facebook purchased it for 23 million shares (originally worth $1,000,000,000, now said to be $753,000,000). It has more than 80 million users making it one of the fastest growing social networking sites in the world. The sheer volume of Instagram fanatics should be enough indication that this social media site has the potential to be a gold mine for brands and companies that wish to engage in free advertisement and promotion.

Here are some suggestions on how an organisation can use Instagram to improve brand recognition and boost revenue:

1. Introduction of Products and Services

As a photo app, Instagram is a great tool that can be used to showcase your company’s products and services. A picture paints a thousand words and a great photo of your company’s newest product can spark the interest of potential buyers. The service can also be used to display print ads that would cost a small fortune, if published in magazines or billboards. If you have 100,000 followers, then each post made is tantamount to a free reminder to consumers, to support your brand.

To gain more followers, you need to be very selective with the photos that you upload. Choose photos that provide value to your customers and use shots that will spark interest in your brand and company. Maintain a high standard of quality, upload only the best shots. You can also check out what other popular users are uploading to get inspiration and ideas on what you should post.

Bear in mind that too many photos about the same product can cause people to become less interested in your site, resulting in brand and product fatigue.

2. Reach a Wider Audience with the Hashtag

Posting photos may be an excellent marketing strategy, but its reach is limited by the number of users following your account. Even the biggest brands only have about 500,000 followers, which is a small chunk of the total Instagram population. The hashtag (#) is a great tool that will allow you to expand your reach even to people who are not following you. By adding hashtags to specific keywords, your photo will become searchable and available to 80 million users worldwide. You will potentially get additional views from users who are not yet familiar with your brand and who may be interested in purchasing your products.

Using popular hashtags can help you ride the wave of current online trends. People who are searching about specific trends will likely come across your photos. However, don’t get carried away, make sure that you only use tags that are relevant to what you are posting.

3. Search for Potential Customers or Influential Users

The search function of Instagram can also be used to reach out to potential customers or users with an influential following. Search using specific keywords, resulting in photos that match your exact needs. For instance, you can try searching for photos with the hashtag “#cuisine” or “#michelinstar” if you are a restaurant. You can then leave comments on relevant photos to persuade consumers (and their followers) to try out your restaurant.

You can also increase fan numbers by following and complimenting other Instagram users. Make sure to be selective in who you follow, and avoid accounts that could adversely affect your reputation. Be discreet and avoid making it too obvious that you are out to make a rapid increase in following.

4. Promotion of Events and Activities

Instagram is also a great way of engaging people to participate in events and activities. A product launch, for instance, can be made even bigger when guests are encouraged to take “behind the scenes” photos to supplement the official photographs and video streams. The event will not only reach a wider audience, but it will also be personalised and give different perspectives.

Having a photo wall with your logo on, is also a great way of ensuring that your brand will find its way to online photo albums, profile pictures, or social networking posts.

Geotagging your photos is also a good way to promote your event or shop. Consumers browsing through your photos may be interested to know where to find your shop or office. Having the location readily available saves them the trouble of having to search online.

Instagram also displays photos taken from the same location and will show potential customers how much fun existing customers are having with your brand.

5. Customer Engagement and Campaigns

Another great way to use this tool is to elicit the participation of the masses to engage in activities that will promote the brand. Like other social media sites, Instagram is a great avenue for contests and campaigns. You can ask your followers to use hashtags that would promote brand recognition. For example, a coffee shop could host a contest for photos that showcase the best places to enjoy a cup of coffee. An energy drink manufacturer, on the other hand, can start a contest for the photo that best represents life and activity. Once the entries are posted, you can then choose the best shots and feature them on your own website.

Instagram was originally created so that users may capture great images, manipulate them to become great photos using built-in filters, syndicate using other social media sites like Facebook and interact with other users through hashtags and comments. The site has evolved into something much more than that and today brands can use it as a highly effective mode of free advertisement and promotion.

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The 5 Big Reasons Why Tweets Fail to Go Viral

A harsh reality of the Twitterverse is that at any given time, 70 to 75 percent of tweets fall on deaf ears, or as the case may be, on blind eyes. In the never-ending onslaught of messages that is Twitter, you have to stand above the crowd to get noticed.

There are five major reasons that most Twitter users can’t seem to make a tweet go viral. Learn about them, and better yet, learn to avoid them.

1. No Call to Action

Like a good landing page, your tweet should contain a call to action. Something as simple as “RT”—meaning “retweet this”—is preferable to nothing at all.

There are two elements to the call-to-action concept with regards to retweets: the implied call to action, and the explicit. Your explicit call to action, “RT” in the example above, should be short and to the point. Your implied call to action is the value of the tweet itself. A well-written tweet should sell itself to users, urging them to send the tweet along to their friends.

A tweet containing little more than a link has no chance of going viral. You should strive to make your tweet as unique, compelling, and valuable as possible. While this may be obvious, it is all too easy to forget once you find yourself working with only 140 characters.

Keep in mind that Twitter users are constantly bombarded with tweets, and indeed, retweet requests. Stay ahead of the game by demonstrating to your followers why they should retweet your message. Don’t rely on the explicit call to action.

2. Low Quality Link

A power Twitter user, the type that has the kind of following that you can’t wait to tap into, has no interest in sharing a low quality, spammy, or otherwise irrelevant link with their followers. One of the main laws of Twitter marketing is that you should never link directly to a landing page—not if you want others to spread your tweet around for you. Instead, link to well-written, thought-provoking, and valuable content. The page that you link to can contain a link to your landing page, but be careful not to draw unnecessary attention to it.

These are things that big Twitter users do take the time to look at before deciding whether to do you the favor of a retweet or not. Keep this one question in mind when writing your tweet and deciding what to link to: “How will this benefit my followers?” Then, demonstrate to the big Twitter user that you have their concerns and interests in mind.

3. The Wrong Time of Day

A tweet is a very short-lived entity. Unlike Facebook posts, tweets exist in the moment. If your tweet doesn’t get picked up, that’s it. One of the most important things you can do to help your tweet go viral is to identify your target demographic, and then determine when the largest number of those people will be online. For most niches, this means avoiding posting your best tweets in the middle of the night or late in the evening.

Tweet primetime seems to be from around 9 am to 3 pm Eastern Standard Time. Getting them out earlier in the day also gives them plenty of time to be retweeted before tweet volume winds down in the afternoon. If you find yourself in the evening needing to get a tweet out, you may be better off waiting for morning. It is always a mistake to tweet the same messages to your followers multiple times.

4. No Hash Tag

A hash tag is composed of the “#” sign followed by a word or phrase that represents your tweet, it can be your brand for instance. Before you use a hash tag, you should visit hashtags.org or a similar site and see if anyone else is using the tag that you want to use.

Sites like hashtags.org group tweets by hashtag, creating a saerchable database of related tweets. By creating a body of useful tweets on a single subject with a hashtag, you can instill confidence in your followers. A tweet containing such a hashtag is valuable for both you and the people you hope will retweet for you, and hence has a much greater chance of actually being retweeted.

5. The Tweet is Difficult to Understand

Finally, while Twitter is much more laid back on the surface than other networking sites such as LinkedIn, don’t make the mistake of being overly carefree when it comes to spelling and grammar. Your followers and prospective retweeters will judge you based on both.

Your grammar combined with the elements above all come together to form a conclusion about you and your message in the space of just a few seconds. Try to keep any message that you want retweeted at 110 to 120 characters or less. This way, the person retweeting your message may have the chance to add a few words or a hash tag of their own, or an @Reply.

Always keep in mind that a retweet is usually a “you scratch your back, I’ll scratch yours” proposition. Give your followers incentive to retweet your messages, and they will. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?”

Attraction Marketing: A Viable Alternative to Traditional Marketing Methods

Attraction marketing is a relatively new marketing concept. You can use it to draw potential customers, who also happen to be interested in what you sell, to your brand. Combined with the ever-expanding power of the Internet, attraction marketing can be a phenomenally powerful asset.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing strategies such as running radio and television commercials tend to become less effective over time. As customers are bombarded by these non-stop advertisements, they become less sensitive to them.

In fact, while traditional marketing ploys may increase sales over the short term, they can contribute to a phenomenon known as “brand fatigue” over the long term. Brand fatigue refers to the tendency of customers to lose interest in a given brand after being exposed to it for an extended period of time.

Traditional marketing increases brand fatigue and decreases interest by bombarding customers with impersonal, outrageous, occasionally misleading, and often flat-out annoying advertisements. These one-size-fits-all messages must be—but seldom are—exemplary to stand out from the crowd and deliver stellar results. To achieve this, there is a better alternative.

Attraction Marketing

Attraction marketing deviates from the beaten path in that its main goal is to demonstrate to potential clients a brand’s worth by providing a valuable product or service for free. In the Digital world, for instance in business to business, this can take the form of a company or individual giving away valuable insights in the form of a digital book.

To master attraction marketing, you must study your demographic. You must learn what they want, and then demonstrate that you have it. This doesn’t have to mean giving away your entire inventory. The idea is to give them something of value, while leaving something of even more value off the table.

Making this information freely available on a website, and then using sound SEO principles to rank highly in major search engines, means that you won’t have to bombard people with advertising that they likely won’t be receptive to anyway. Your customers will come to you, hungry for the information that you have to offer.

Attraction Marketing and Social Networking

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are saturated with users who share links to sites with valuable information. When you foster goodwill between your brand and your prospective customers by offering a high-value report, blog, book, or newsletter, you stand a good chance of getting a mention from these users. This highlights the importance of coupling attraction marketing with a strong, active social networking presence. By creating a profile for your company on these sites, you will give fans and satisfied customers a place to direct potential leads to. Don’t forget to leave links to your social networking profiles in your free ebook, report, or newsletter. By doing so, you can create a self-perpetuating cycle in which new customers discover your brand and old customers promote it.

Common Attraction Marketing Mistakes

New attraction marketers often make the mistake of not spending enough time actively participating in communities surrounding their niche. You can overcome this tendency by joining forums that are related in some way to the product that you are selling. The stronger the relationship, the better.

Post insightful answers to questions while letting your forum signature promote your brand. Demonstrate to members of the community that you are a leader first and a business second. A forum signature containing a link to your site accompanied by a good answer can do more for your business over time than paid advertising.

Secondly, you must take care to properly identify what your market wants. If the solution that you offer them is not a valuable proposition, it won’t matter how much of it you are offering for free. A great place to start is at the forums that you have identified. Look for threads that are posed as questions, and watch out for questions that are posed again and again. These indicate potential shortages of supply in the market, that is, information that is desired but not available.

Successful attraction marketing hinges on creating relationships, demonstrating value, and delivering on promises. While you may have to put more work into it than you would for radio ads or Internet banner ads, the potential long-term benefits of an effective attraction marketing campaign can outweigh any short-term benefits seen with these traditional marketing methods.

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Social Syncing – Connecting Your Social Media Efforts on Pinterest

Unless you have been living in a bubble for the last year, chances are good that you have heard about the success of social media superstar site Pinterest. While brands and marketers have flocked to the site in an effort to build brand awareness, many Pinterest users neglect to connect their social media dots. Rather than relying on individual efforts on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, savvy social marketers are using Pinterest as a way of driving traffic to each of their brand building endeavors. Whether it is the company blog on Tumblr or your corporate videos on YouTube, using Pinterest as a hub for your social media efforts is essential to brand building. By being aware of the strengths of each social media platform, you can pin appropriate content to Pinterest in order to increase engagement.

Facebook Focus – Sharing Stories and Images Works Well

An excellent way to increase engagement on Facebook is to ask your fans to post images of themselves using your product or service. Each picture and accompanying blurb can then be pinned to a fan board on your Pinterest page. Seeing other customers pictured on your Pinterest pages encourages users to join the party and submit their own shots. In no time at all, your Facebook following will likely have grown. Encourage your Facebook fans to be creative and use humor in the images they post on your wall.

Twitter Tips – Best of Tweets Gain Attention

When posting tweets to your Pinterest boards, be selective in the tweets you include. Rather than pinning every single Twitter post to your boards, choose only the most insightful gems. Not only does this encourage your Twitter followers to engage with your company on a truly meaningful level, it gives Pinterest users a deeper look into the personality of your business. The tweets you choose to include on your Pinterest pages shows users whether your company has a sense of humor, whether your company engages in charitable activities, or even whether you divulge special deals to your followers.

Tumblr Temptations – Images Win Hands Down

If your company uses Tumblr to brand build, chances are you already know how well images work on Tumblr. (If you are not using Tumblr, what are you waiting for?) Save long posts of written text for your company website. The best way to build a following on Tumblr is to post plenty of images that offer a glimpse inside your business. From your latest product release to an insider’s view of your corporate lunchroom, for Tumblr users it is all about the pretty pictures. As another highly visual social media site, these images work extremely well on Pinterest. Just be careful not to pin everything from your Tumblr account to your Pinterest account. Leave users wanting more, so that they proceed to your Tumblr account to see what they might have missed. Engaging titles and tempting tidbits in your Pinterest descriptions will further drive viewers to your Tumblr account.

Circle Success on Google+

Encourage users in your Google+ circles to post insightful comments on your Google+ page. As with Twitter, be selective as to which of these interactions you pin to your Pinterest boards. Google+ works well with corporate connections, so pinning strategically can build your business’ reputation as well as that of your chosen Google+ followers.

YouTube Tip – Creative Comments Can Catapult Your Efforts

When pinning company YouTube videos to Pinterest, pay close attention to comments made on your YouTube videos. Pin YouTube clips that help to fortify your brand’s reputation. Each time your firm posts a new video to YouTube, share the link to your social media network and encourage fans to post their insights on your YouTube page. Not only is this viewer engagement seen as a sign of quality by Google, it offers your business yet another way to interact with your user base. A negative comment need not discourage you from posting a particular video to Pinterest. Taking the opportunity to interact with a user in a thoughtful manner only serves to build your brand’s reputation in a positive way.

By paying attention to the strengths of social media websites, your business can make the most of Pinterest by pinning appropriate content from each site. Be sure to identify your Pinterest link clearly on each social media website so that users fully understand their posts could potentially end up on your Pinterest boards. With ongoing effort, you can grow your following on each social media site you participate in while building your Pinterest reputation at the same time. Each social media site offers its own rewards; tying them all together in one spot furthers your business’ reputation as a socially savvy company.

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