Facebook Changes and How They Affect Your Brand

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By Julia Prior, Account Coordinator

Facebook released a set of changes to several of its features this week. One of these includes a change in the news feed algorithm that could help posts that were missed by a user get a second chance at engagement. Additionally, Facebook has begun to experiment with the idea of “trending topics” much like the similarly named Twitter feature.

The third and final change is the official roll out of the much talked about Graph Search feature, which allows users to search for more specific things inside Facebook, such as “Friends who Attended X College” or “People who work for X Company” or even “Friends who like X brand and live in X city”

The below graphic, shown at a special event hosted by Facebook this week, shows the network’s new focus on three of its services.

facebook-3-pillars


News Feed Updates

Facebook will add the news feed update to its current EdgeRank algorithm, but the most distinctive difference is that previously, each time a user refreshed their feed, new stories would automatically populate the top of the feed – even if they had a lower EdgeRank score than the stories previously displayed. The change in the ranking process now allows older stories that may have been posted earlier in the day but the user has not seen – to join the “new” stories at the top of their feed.

For example, if your brand posted something early in the morning that got a good amount of engagement, it has a chance to reappear on your fans’ news feeds later in the day, and get another boost from that second appearance.

This just reiterates that the focus of any good social media strategy needs to be based in good content that tells a story. The better the content, the more engagement the post will receive the first time around, and the more engagement it receives, the higher the chance of it reappearing at the top of a user’s feed.

Trending Topics

Facebook’s decision to utilize its new hashtag feature and experiment with Trending Topics opens a gateway for brands to join conversations and customize their content to suit what people on Facebook are talking about.

One of the biggest complaints people have about branded content on Facebook is that it is not relevant or it is not content the user is interested in. The new trending topic feature is a way to see what kind of content the majority of Facebook users want to see, because they are already talking about it.

Before, brands would simply use educated guesses about popular holidays, tv shows and news items to customize their content and hope that those topics were of interest to their fans. Now they will be able to tell what users on Facebook are talking about at that very moment, and will be able to use that information to ensure that they put out relevant content.

Facebook-Graph-Search

Click the image to enlarge.

Graph Search

While Graph Search has been available to some users on Facebook for some time now, Facebook has begun what they refer to as the official roll out of the feature to U.S. accounts. This new search function effectively allows a user to search for any single thing on the site – at least the things they would normally have access to anyway. Users can search for anything within the Facebook network and receive personalized results based on their friends.

While this does not directly impact your brand, it is a feature to keep an eye on, as it opens the door for new sponsored opportunities within Facebook. Not only that, but Graph Search makes pages more discoverable. A user can search for a “consulting firm in X city” and find new pages and companies that way.

Additionally, for brands, Graph Search puts even more emphasis on images. Graph Search can reveal photos and images in albums from pages and user photos where the brand is tagged – putting focus on photo albums (not wall photos) and user-generated content.

So What Can You Do?

It is important to know about these changes while writing your social media strategy. Knowing about these changes before and during their initial roll out will allow your brand to be ahead of the curve in adapting to the new way Facebook is operating. It allows you to have precious time to discuss a strategy and create content optimized to take advantage of these new marketing tools.

Six Trade Show Tips for Beginners

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By Julia Prior. Account Coordinator

With the spring conference season over, Public Relations representatives from companies around the world are in recovery mode after attending industry conferences and trade shows. The three to four month flurry of trade shows, expos and conferences can be daunting, even for a seasoned professional, but for a beginner, it’s downright terrifying. Between traveling, staffing booths and meeting with media, the whole season can be quite an ordeal. Here are our top six tips for getting through it in one piece.

Image courtesy of flickr.com/energytomorrow

Image courtesy of flickr.com/energytomorrow

1. Preparation. This is probably the most important item on the list. Starting as soon as possible, nail down travel and logistical plans that you can. As soon as you have your hotel and booth number, begin planning your logistics. Will you be renting a car or walking? Are Taxis readily available in case walking isn’t an option? (Rain, heat, etc.)

2. Preparation. This is on the list twice because yes, it is just that important. Not only should you have any and all logistics planned out, but you should also have planned your messaging and key topics for the conference. Be focused and remember your audience. Make sure that if a reporter walks up to your booth, you have something newsworthy to tell them.

3. Research. This goes along with the preparation points. Research everything. What other companies will be attending? Will there be media there? Will you have a chance to meet with the media? Have they written about you before?

4. Comfortable Shoes. On a more literal note, you’ll be standing a lot during a conference. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes that you’re comfortable standing and walking in for hours at a time. You don’t want to worry about your feet aching when answer questions from reporters or potential customers.

5. Start your planning early. Begin nailing down messaging and booking media appointments at least 2-3 weeks before the conference. Don’t risk missing out on a media opportunity because you waited too long and all your target reporters were booked solid.

6. Sleep! Make sure to get enough sleep every night of the conference. I know, there are always tons of networking events, happy hours, and sponsored parties to go to. But you want to be on your A game when representing your brand, so make sure you are operating at your highest level. Making sure you get enough sleep during the conference will also help you hit the ground running when you get back to the office after the conference.

Bonus Tip! Don’t go alone! Make sure you have support, whether on or off site from your PR and Marketing teams. They can help set media appointments, brief you on the background of the media in attendance, and even assist with nailing down messaging so everyone at the conference is saying the same thing.

So now you’re ready! Keep these tips in mind this fall when you start planning your conference schedule. Remember, planning and preparation is key for conference season success.

What are your top things you do to survive industry events?

Creating Killer Visual Content for B2B Brands

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By Julia Prior, Account Coordinator

The verdict is in – compelling content in the digital age comes in the form of images. And it makes sense because images are an eye-catching way to convey information, feelings and news in an easy to digest and relatable manner.

But how does all this work for B2B companies?

Often a major strategy in a B2B plan is to position the employees and executives as thought leaders and trusted experts on the company’s particular topic. Images are a creative way to disseminate this kind of information to the general public.

Southern Methodist University Cox Executive Education (client) uses images like this one to share thought leadership in order to promote its programs that help professionals grow in leadership and management roles.

Southern Methodist University Cox Executive Education (client) uses images like this one to share thought leadership.

By sharing a quote or industry insight on its own, you may gain a few customers that read it and think about it. But people are more likely to read and engage with the content if it is presented not only in short and sweet “snackable” sizes, but in a graphically creative way.

Instead of just sharing a headline or quote from an article, try pulling a sound bite sized learning out and creating an image out of it. You can then use the image to post to social media, or even use as an embedded picture with the article in a publication or on your website or blog.

The key here is to make the content interesting. Support your executives’ brilliant articles and thought leadership pieces with compelling images that help tell the story.

The easiest way to do this is to simply impose a quote or learning from the article into an image, as shown here. This gives readers a quality look at topics and draws them into the article. Make them want to read more.

High resolution images of your company’s product can also be used to this effect. If you work in technology, use the images to back up any claims you’re making.

Paradigm, Ltd (client) uses product images to demonstrate the capabilities of its software for geological exploration and reservoir characterization of oilfields.

Paradigm, Ltd (client) uses product images to demonstrate the capabilities of its software for geological exploration and reservoir characterization of oilfields.

Get creative with your visuals. Showing your product on its own is nice, but to really add weight and credibility to the image, try using a picture of someone using your product. Pair this with a quote from your executives or customers about the product or technology, and you’ve got a compelling image to use practically anywhere.

In addition to small, snackable sized images, give some thought to using the research your company has no doubt done to create your own infographic. By teaching the reader something unique about your industry, and supporting your claims and products with data and facts, you earn the readers trust and become an expert in their mind. Infographics are also a great way to show how your customers are benefiting directly by using your product or service.

Lastly, don’t forget the fun side. Take pictures at conferences and events, even around the office. Office birthdays and special events provide a chance to show your customers and the world what kind of personality your brand has. Give a peek behind the curtain every once in a while and allow your Facebook fans or Twitter followers a glimpse at what your company does at conferences or events.

Images are a great way to tell your brand story not only through social media, but to make your website, blog posts and contributed articles more interesting. As long as they are high resolution, professional in appearance and relevant to your overall messaging goals, images can be a great way to draw more attention to quality content, which will in turn draw attention to your brand’s product or services.

What kind of visual elements do you use to tell your brand’s story?

7 Ways to Care for Your Customers

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By Julia Prior

No matter what industry you’re in, customers are the bottom line of your business. Without them, there would be no business and the best way to keep them around is to show them how much you appreciate them. Strengthening that relationship allows for collaboration, communication and an overall happy business connection.

  1. Notes: Everyone loves receiving a hand written note. Whether it’s to say thank you outright, or to wish them congratulations on a recent win, it will show that you have been thinking of them and keeping up to date on their events.
  2. thank_you_noteGive them shout outs on social media: Did they just get a big award or score an awesome media placement? Feature them on your blog, post about them on Facebook, gush about them in less than 140 characters on Twitter. Associate yourself with them and show that you are happy for their success, even if it wasn’t directly because of your services.
  3. Reach out: E-mail is a great way to connect quickly and see what’s going on. If you haven’t heard from someone in a while, reach out by phone or e-mail and just check in to make sure they don’t need any help with anything. Sometimes you may not hear from them because they are very busy and don’t realize that you can help them be less busy.
  4. Take them to lunch: Nothing says “thank you for being my customer” quite like a shared meal and a little face time. Have a casual lunch and make sure to discuss things other than business. You’re not there to sell them anything, just to gently let them know if they need anything, you should be their first call.
  5. Introduce them to your connections: Do they have an issue that you cannot solve but you know a partner who can? Make the introduction and the customer will remember to always go to you, no matter what the problem is. The same goes for hiring. If they are hiring and someone in your network would be perfect for the job, go ahead and make the introduction. Having a shared connection in the office will help your relationship grow.
  6. Birthday Cards: This is self-explanatory. Even though most professionals don’t make a huge deal of their birthday, it’s still nice when people remember.
  7. Stellar Service: There’s a reason your customers are your customers to begin with. Keep doing what you do, and it’ll be the icing on the cake of the message to your clients that you appreciate them and value their business.

As you can see, it’s really the little things that set your business apart from your competitors. The relationships you have with your customers are one of the most valuable things about your business, so don’t forget to nurture those relationships and those connections.

What other ways do you show your customers you care?

The Top 4 Social Media Penalties

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By Julia Prior

With the Super Bowl this afternoon, don’t find yourself committing a social media penalty. Here are the top four.

Illegal Formation: A tweet that has more than 140 characters, more than 3 hashtags or is too vague for the average person to comprehend.

Messaging is key on social media platform, but so is execution. It takes skill and strategy to communicate and contextualize your message in a quick, engaging and thoughtful manner.

Offsides: Retweeting a story you haven’t fully read. Always do your research and get the back story, and don’t just share things because the people you follow are sharing it.

What if there’s a point in the story that your company doesn’t fundamentally agree with? Read, research and strategize before sharing or posting anything. I cannot stress this enough.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Also known as trolling. Purposely commenting, posting or tweeting in a way to elicit a negative reaction from others and either de-rail a current discussion topic or to bring attention to your own brand by hijacking your competitor’s community. This can also be exhibited by brands who use hashtags and topics in their tweets to show up in trending searches.

Just don’t. It’s poor form, and frankly it’s very rude. You wouldn’t drop into a conversation in real life and immediately change the subject to yourself, so don’t do it online.

Helmet – to – Helmet Collision: Attempting to address and resolve a customer complaint directly in a public forum. If a customer takes to social media with a complaint, offer to contact them privately to discuss, either through a Twitter direct message, email, or even better, a phone call. Always offer your information first. Example:

mortons

Morton’s addresses the customer directly, in a timely manner (this replay was time stamped only 3 hours after the original comment was made) and offered another medium to hear additional grievances, with the promise to look into the issue.

 

UPDATE: 

Power Outage: Going dark and not posting for an extended period of time.

Social media is a relationship tool. You wouldn’t neglect any of your other relationships for an extended period of time, would you?

 

What do you think the biggest social media penalties are?

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Writing Skills Without Breaking a Sweat

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By Julia Prior

As PR professionals, our writing skill is one of the most important that we have, but also the one we probably take for granted the most. It’s important to consciously strengthen and improve our writing, not only to benefit ourselves, but also to benefit the brands that we represent and support.

But what do we gain from the same old writing exercises? Press releases, backgrounders, industry blog posts definitely build your writing skill, but after a while you start to run on autopilot.

Below are my favorite ways to spice up my writing routine and strengthen my PR muscles. Go ahead and give them a try.

  1. Read. We’ve always been told that reading makes you smarter. It’s true. Reading also helps you write better. It can fuel both content and craft in ways you don’t even realize until you start reading on a regular basis. Plus, reading for pleasure has been shown to help you sleep better and will lower stress. Read books from industry leaders as well as novels. Variety is the key; it will expose you to different information as well as new ways of telling a story.
  2. Volunteer for writing projects. Does your company have a blog? Write up a few posts for it. Write case studies and white papers. Each project will flex a different part of your writing muscle.
  3. Start your own blog. Have a passion for something unrelated to your work? Write about it. We live in an age where anyone can be a writer, as long as you have a topic and the passion and dedication to build an audience. Sure, write about your industry, but also write about your passion in fishing, local music and BBQ. If you have multiple passions, pick one. Personally, I write about social media, public relations, writing, healthy lifestyles and weight loss. I used to write about college basketball. My point is: write about what you love and suddenly writing won’t be such a chore or cause anxiety.
  4. Tweet. The ability to get your thoughts, messages and points across is good, but to be able to get them across in less than 140 characters takes skill. The essentials behind writing for Twitter are the essentials of writing for PR. Be engaging, informative and concise.
  5. Ask for feedback. Ask someone you trust to read over what you’ve written and give you honest, but polite reviews of your work. It will help you grow as a writer and will ensure you produce a quality end-product.

What are your favorite ways to exercise your writing muscle and mix things up?

7 Things You’re Doing Wrong on Social Media

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By Julia Prior

There is no denying that social media has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. It has opened up so many ways for us to keep in touch with our friends, family and, more significantly, our customers.

But there are right and wrong ways to do everything and the same holds true in social media.

1.       Not linking your posts to other pages.

When you mention another page, person or entity in your social media posts, make sure to link back to their page. On Facebook, make sure to put @ before their name, and select them from the drop down menu that will appear. On Twitter, make sure to research the correct handle and use that in your post. A lot of times it will save characters, and all the time it will help your brand reach to other users. It also helps you develop a relationship with the brand. And isn’t that what social media is all about?

2.       Linking your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Yes, it is very easy, and efficient to link Facebook and Twitter and only have to post once. But Facebook and Twitter are completely different networks with completely different audiences and different engagement metrics. A few words and a shortened link work well on Twitter, but falls flat on Facebook. Take the time to rework your message, add in a couple details and tailor the link for the network.

Also, on Facebook, make sure to delete the link out of your post after the preview pops up. You wouldn’t say “Visit this Link. Visit this Link” so why are you putting more than one link in your post?

3.       Blatantly asking for people to “LIKE this if you agree” or “COMMENT with your favorite story”.

I read a fantastic post over on PR Breakfast Club about this. It’s pretty simple. If you create great content, you won’t need to ask for engagement.  True, it’s an easy way to get interaction and feedback from your audience. And yes, it’s a good tool to have in your arsenal, but don’t make it the backbone of your social media strategy.

4.       Not having a strategy.

We are communicators. Every word we write has layers of strategy behind it. So why don’t your social media posts have that same background? Every post should get you closer to your goals and you should know how it is going to do that.

5.       Liking your own Facebook posts.

Why would you skew your metrics and numbers by liking your own post? To get true engagement metrics, you need to know how many of your fans are interacting with your content, not how many of your employees are doing so.

6.       Automating all of your posts.

Scheduling posts has its time and place. It makes it easy to post on evenings and weekends when engagement is higher, and it streamlines the whole process. But again, don’t let it be your go to move. Social media is meant to be spontaneous and organic. Your audience wants to know they are interacting with a real person, not a machine.

And if you do schedule posts, please keep an eye on what’s trending and what’s going on in the news. You don’t want to be that brand putting out a promotional message amongst a stream of posts about Hurricane Sandy. Not only does it make you look uninformed, but it makes you look insensitive as well.

7.       Only sharing your own content.

It’s important to share your own content, yes. But it should not be in every post you make. Be sure to interact with customers and partners online as well. We always tell clients for every one post about yourself, you should have three others promoting someone else or building a relationship with someone else.

What else do brands do wrong on social media?