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.

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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?

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?

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?

Stop SOPA

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Imagine a world without Google, You Tube, WordPress or Wikipedia. No blogging, easy research tools or online entertainment. Businesses could fail. Teachers would be limited on their resources. Free speech wouldn’t exist. Life would get harder for those of us who spend plenty of time using the Internet daily.

Well, this is SOPA and PIPA.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) draw in much criticism from Americans claiming these laws violate “free and open Internet.” If passed by Congress, these laws could shut down websites without a court hearing, make patrons vulnerable to Internet hacking, deplete our free speech, and overall damage businesses (even non-profits). This type of censorship is practiced in China, Iran and Syria.

Check out AmericanCensorship.com for graphics on the “Internet Blacklist Bill.”

Websites such as Google, Wikipedia and a handful of others are blacking out their websites today. It’s time to take action and step up for our liberties. Sign the Google petition here- www.google.com/landing/takeaction

And the winner is….

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Our agency launched our first social media contest in December 2011 to promote a client’s new book. Our client Kristin Kaufman, founder and CEO of  Alignment, Inc., recently published her first book, Is This Seat Taken?. As our PR team promoted Kristin’s book to local and national media, we took the social media approach to create additional buzz.

On our Twitter page (@BrooksPR) we asked followers to visit the Brooks360 agency blog to read the official rules and then compose a tweet about how random encounters can play an important role in one’s life.

After a week of collecting tweets, one winner was chosen. Huong Vo, a communications graduate of the University of North Texas and social media enthusiast, won by tweeting:

@BrooksPR #RandomEncounters affect our lives in many ways. Big or small, they can change your life: getting a job, finding love, etc.

 

Congratulations, Huong! (picture above) Thank you to all who entered the contest.

For more information on Is This Seat Taken?, please visit the official website.

Share your own random encounter, book review, or make a purchase on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Follow us on Twitter! @BrooksPR

Five Reasons Why PR Should Lead Social Media Efforts

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By Robyn Brown

Who owns the social media function within an organization? Lately, social media seems to be shared among marketers, advertising, PR, IT, HR, customer service and even sales. A recent Social Media Club of Dallas gathering I attended confirmed this diversity. Clearly, everyone within the company wants a slice of the social media pie.

Here’s why I think PR pros should take the lead:

  1. Social media is a form of communication – a function managed by PR. It expands our option for sharing news, thought leadership and an organization’s story.  In addition to writing a news release, we submit a tweet, publish a video with a spokesperson or customer and write a blog article about the news. Jason Falls stated in Social Media Explorer, “Social media is public relations in the online world.”
  2. It’s a medium for social interaction. It satisfies the human desire for conversation. Once businesses realize this, they can open vibrant conversations with their customers and clients. In the current issue of Public Relations Tactics, Steve Cody of Peppercom, Inc. described the role of PR as the following: “We own the conversations. We understand better than any other marketing discipline how to engage in conversations and, critically, how to create compelling messages that will be passed along because they’re relevant and informative.”
  3. PR controls the corporate message and the story it shares to the public. We’re also best prepared to handle communications with the public during a crisis.
  4. Social media demands open and honest conversation. The minute you use corporate speak and sales language with online audiences, you lose credibility fast and people tune you out. PR is already comfortable conversing with different audiences and speaking their language. According to The Spiritual Art of Dialogue, “the key to successful conversation is being open and honest in expressing opinions, feelings, and theories, and having a willingness to share views even when the ideas are controversial and unpopular.”
  5. Journalists are now on Twitter – many looking for new story ideas. Media relations is still a PR function.

Whether you are dealing with negative feedback, communicating with the media, or engaging in conversation that represents your brand and image, a communications professional needs to be involved.

Epic PR Group offers this great analogy:

“Liken it to a cocktail party. Technology, legal, marketing, interns, etc. are all invited. But PR should be the host: introducing people, keeping the drinks filled, mingling and stimulating conversation, vacuuming beforehand to make a good impression, and handling ‘that guy’ who has had a bit too much to drink. The best parties are the ones that people keep talking about.”