Putting to Rest the Concept of “Organic” Social Media

Organic

There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.

Okay, so that’s not really original. Any opportunity to plug in a line from Gladiator, I’ll take it. Despite the overly serious tone of the quote, it plays well with the dream that was social media. The idea of having a set of free venues through which businesses could interact with consumers and the consumers could interact back presented itself as a grand concept to be desired and cherished. Unfortunately, the dream is dead. Success on modern social media requires one of two things: serious fame or cash invested.

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Google +Post Ads Take the Social Network Out Onto the Web

Google Plus Post Ads

The next age of advertising is right around the corner. With Google’s announcement of +Post ads, we now have a venue through which to advertise and garner true interaction from people as they surf the web. Think of it like Facebook advertising that reaches beyond Facebook – WAY beyond Facebook. With millions of websites out there that display Google ads, this expands the business footprint of Google’s social network in ways that Facebook will likely never be able to touch.

+Post ads take Google+ posts and display them on various websites. The example they use from their pilot programs is Toyota who used these ads to promote the launch of their Corolla earlier this year. They took Google+ posts and put them as ads on automotive sites like Autotrader as well as non-automotive sites that likely had a demographic or retargeted preference towards Toyota specifically or automotive in general.

Rather than just a plain banner that took people to the Toyota website or a landing page, the ads were interactive from the websites themselves on which they were found. If someone wanted to interact with the ad or Toyota in some way, they didn’t have to leave their website. They could comment on, +1, or share the post directly from the website without having to go to Google+.

This opens up doors for businesses to be able to truly interact with people much in the same way they’re doing on Facebook right now. The difference is, of course, that it’s not a walled garden. People will see the ads on many of the websites they visit and be able to engage with companies directly rather than having to click thru or visit the social network itself.

The possibilities are limitless. The potential is high. If Google stays true to this direction (and there’s no reason to believe that they’d make a fatal pivot) then this is going to be one of the most powerful forms of advertising that businesses can use. Small, localized businesses will gain the most benefit if they handle it properly, but big brands will be able to get traction with their own launches and offerings as well.

We will keep you updated. In the meantime, it’s time to get your Google+ pages in order, active, and worth your customers’ attention. Here’s the video describing Toyota’s trial:

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Automotive Social Media Image Marketing

Good and Bad Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

Automotive Social Media Image Marketing

If you’re reading this, you’re probably failing at social media image marketing. That’s not me being cynical. By examining dozens of business social media presences every week, I get to see what so many are doing and the unfortunate fact is that 9 out of 10 are doing it wrong or not doing it at all. I’m being conservative with that estimate.

The “unfortunate” fact really isn’t that unfortunate, especially for those who are reading this. You see, you can actually do it right, which means that you’re going to have a leg-up on the competition. When things are too easy or too well known, they have a tendency to become universally good. When they’re universally good, that means that everyone is average.

Image marketing on social media is not about taking advertisements and posting them as images. It’s not about talking about your big sale next week in the form of a banner that you post to Twitter or Instagram (though there’s a way to do that which I’ll demonstrate below). It’s not even about taking pictures of happy customers in front of their latest purchase jumping in the air with the caption, “Oh what a feeling!”

Proper image marketing should accomplish some of the following goals listed in no particular order:

  1. Improve branding
  2. Promote an upcoming event
  3. Demonstrate a lifestyle advantage associated with your product
  4. Connect with the community
  5. Make a statement
  6. Drive traffic to a landing page

It doesn’t have to do all of these. It can do one of them really well, a couple of them very well, or knock out three or four of them with a single post. To highlight this, I’ll use examples that I found in my Twitter feed just in the last couple of hours. This does not only apply to Twitter; Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook can all work nicely here.

It should be noted that size and aspect ratio are extremely important and arguably the biggest miss by most. Twitter has an aspect ratio of 2:1 while Instagram is 1:1. Small images don’t do as well. on any of the platforms. Pinterest is the only platform that does vertical images well. Appearance on mobile is more important than appearance on desktop. These and other technical aspects of image marketing will be covered in a future post. For now, let’s just look at the content…

 

Bad Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

These ones are bad. Don’t do these. I blocked out the business that posted one but I kept the one posted by Ram only because as a manufacturer, they should know better by now…

Bad Twitter Image Marketing

The image quality is poor. The car is cut off. There’s no visible branding for the dealership in the image. Overall, it’s extremely boring. This is not going to get anyone’s attention and nobody who sees it in their feed will care.

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Bad Twitter Image Marketing 3

It’s a nice image of a mountain. Wait. Is that a truck at the bottom peeking up over the edge? It’s good that they are getting their fans involved, but the picture should have been edited to appear properly on Twitter before posting it. This is the lazy way out and accomplishes none of the goals.

 

Decent Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

These aren’t bad. They aren’t good, either. They’re good enough to get listed here just to show the differences between them and the ones further below so you’ll know what mistakes to avoid.

Decent Twitter Image Marketing

The attempt by Nissan is pretty strong. They’re trying to do well on Twitter and they’re doing an above-average job at it. This particular piece is missing something: impact. The message in the image means nothing other than stating a minor incentive. It gives no reason for people to actually click through to the landing page other than the boring message itself. With image marketing, you need to make a statement in order to get clicks. They should have put more creativity into the messaging rather than state the offer plainly.

More importantly, the offer itself is designed specifically for those who already plan on buying a Rogue, so the incentive is in the reservation itself. At first (and second, and third) glance, this appears to be another rebate offer because it looks like another rebate offer. There are brighter minds than mine that could have fashioned a better message, but it should have been less statement of the facts and a bit more mystery and uniqueness to draw people to click.

  • This Rogue wants to be reserved (and it will pay you to reserve it)
  • What do reservations and $250 have in common? The 2014 Nissan Rogue.
  • Early Bird gets the cash on their Rogue
  • No Reservations Necessary (unless you want an extra $250)

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Decent Twitter Image Marketing 2

This isn’t bad because it does accomplish one goal – making a statement. The only thing keeping this at decent rather than good is that the message is a personal one and should have been delivered in a personal manner. While the picture is cool and the message in the text is strong, it would have been better to have a member or former member of the military (there’s probably some working at the dealership right now) by a car or the dealership’s sign with an American flag in hand. This is a bit generic but a good attempt – still better than 9 out of 10.

 

Good Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

Here are some good ones. These are nearly great but are missing a couple of minor components. If you did your marketing like this, you’d be ahead of 99/100 others.

Good Twitter Image Marketing

Great aspect ratio. Hot car. Good message and most importantly there’s a link to the inventory search for the vehicle itself!

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Good Twitter Image Marketing 2

This one is much like the previous except a different variation for two reasons. First, it uses a stock image, which is only good if the image is as good as this one. The thing that brings it up from “decent” is that the link takes you to a vehicle specific landing page which is more appropriate on Twitter than a straight vehicle search. Remember, if they want to search, they will. Putting them on a page with information about the vehicle is better for higher-funnel customers that you’ll get through social media.

 

Great Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

These are the best that I’ve seen so far… after searching four hours back in my Twitter feed. There are better ones. There are plenty of worse ones. They aren’t perfect but they’re pretty darn close.

Great Twitter Image Marketing

This one hits goals 1, 5, and 6 nicely but it really nails home #3: Demonstrate a lifestyle advantage associated with your product. It doesn’t need to show the whole car. It doesn’t need a beautiful background. It has a simple, elegant four word message that can reach the target audience where it hurts.

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Great Twitter Image Marketing 2

Remember, it doesn’t have to nail several goals to be effective. This time, it does a wonderful job of branding but keeps it touching the community with the localized weather factor. This is exceptional and if the following is engaged, it’ll resonate.

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Great Twitter Image Marketing 3

Simple and powerful. This is what Nissan missed when they promoted their message. Well done, Mr Potratz and Mr Ziegler.

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You don’t have to be a professional photographer or a creative genius to get it right with social media image marketing. You just need to have a good strategy, solid execution, and a willingness to know the “rules” well enough to break them ever so slightly.

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As a Paid Service, Google Helpouts Better Deliver

Google Helpouts

Real help from real people in real time… often for a price.

The concept of Google Helpouts is this – you need help and you may be willing to pay for it. You might need some assistance with a dish you’re cooking. You might want to learn how to play the guitar. You may want assistance on your business school application, but are you willing to pay $300 to get that assistance? Considering that particular Helpout is with a Harvard Business School graduate, you might, but it certainly better deliver.

Most of them aren’t that pricey and some of them are free. The idea is an absolutely solid one, but it just seems a bit ambitious at this point. Google hasn’t perfected their Hangouts feature, something that hasn’t quite made it into mainstream usage. There are three major drawbacks to taking on a project like this:

  • Infrastructure: mobile internet simply isn’t there yet. It will probably work just fine on WiFi but if you’re in your backyard and need help with Landscape Design, you might be on 4G or (gulp) 3G. Will a $50 service work well on a mobile connection?
  • Focus: They have a lot going on right now. Between their attempts to dominate mobile, trying to put balloons in the air to connect the world through the internet, building a driverless car, and trying to find the fountain of youth, Google is pretty stretched… even for Google. That’s not to mention the ambitions they have with Google+, something that they might have wanted to master before taking on a project like this.
  • Trustworthiness: Google needs to be trusted by the populations of America and the world if they want to achieve their goals. It doesn’t matter how well they have vetted the people on these Helpouts – if something goes wrong, it will reflect on Google. They need a ton of these people in order for this to work which means a ton of “employees” that are representing Google in the eyes of the people paying for the service.

Bottom line is that I’m skeptical. Even though this is Google that we’re talking about here, they have not had a major ambition that has worked in a long, long time. They’ve had plenty of successes – that much is certain – but it just seems like these big dreams of doing things that haven’t been done very well in the past by others is simply fueled by Google’s abundance of cash and willingness to fail if necessary.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that Google should stop thinking big. It’s companies that have the cash and are willing to take risks that will mold our future. It just seems like they really need to focus hardcore on making at least one of them work before trying to make all of them work simultaneously. If Google+ was rocking and rolling, this might be the next logical step. Google+ is showing definite signs of a future but there is still so much that needs to be done.

Most importantly, people have to get used to paying Google. Right now, they’re simply not. Google has never mastered the art of getting people to pay for their products the way that Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft have. Sure, people buy Android phones and apps all the time and some of that money is going to Google, but the people buying these things are not really buying a Google product, at least in their minds. They’re buying a Samsung Product, a Verizon service, and an app built by some smart people, none of which work for Google.

This is Google Helpouts. The money is going to Google. The people represent Google. If Amazon had rolled this out, it would have made more sense, not because they’re more qualified but because people are used to paying Amazon directly. Unless you’re a business buying ads, you’ve probably never knowingly paid Google any money directly.

This is not the project through which to start that habit. I hope that Helpouts is a success but I believe it will be another in a long line of Google failures.

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Google+ Killed iGoogle

iGoogle

There’s a story in the Washington Post that blames the death of iGoogle, the personalized homepage that Google created but didn’t really tell anyone about, on social media in general. It mentions Google+ as part of the problem but didn’t get the story exactly right.

Google+ was the only problem. iGoogle did not fall victim to Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other social sites because it didn’t compete with them. It wasn’t a matter of mentality switching from personalized selection to crowdsourcing our decisions based upon our feeds. That’s ludicrous. iGoogle failed for two reasons and they both circled around Google+.

The first reason is obvious. Google+ is everything that Google wants to be on the web. They’ve given two years of developing and testing plus two years of hardcore focus after launch before leaving it where it is today – a focus but not the whole ballgame. They have other things they’re pursuing now in mobile and other areas, but they are not taking their eyes completely off the social game. They never will. They’ve put too much into it to allow it to fail like every other social endeavor they’ve tried outside of YouTube.

The second reason goes back to the earlier focus. They could have very easily promoted the heck out of iGoogle but decided to keep it a secret menu item like ordering Animal Style burgers from In ‘N Out. They did this because they knew Google+ was on the way and that it would eventually replace iGoogle. There was an outside chance that iGoogle could be integrated in as part of the evolving Google+ environment, but when that became unlikely a year ago, they decided to let it die.

Here’s what the Washington Post had to say about it:

Customized portals like iGoogle really represented a sort of first step toward the highly personalized experience most us have online now due to the influence of social media. It seems almost quaint to rely on self-selection when you can use the hive-mind of your network to help deliver content to your stream. And with Google’s push toward an all-encompassing social-driven Web experience, it’s no surprise they decided to ax the service.

Read More: Washington Post

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The 30 Minute Social Media Management Schedule

30 Minutes

In an ideal world, you’re the social media and content manager for your company. You spend eight hours a day harnessing the power of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ while developing content for your blog and YouTube channels. It’s tough, but you’re making it happen.

In the real world, you’re probably responsible for a ton of different things and social media was tossed onto your pile of work. How can you cope? Is it possible to have a strong social media presence without devoting a ton of time to it? Yes and no. Yes, you can have a pretty decent one, but 30-minutes as detailed below is the bare minimum to be considered truly active. I’ve seen people do it in about 2 hours a day and have a super strong presence.

For those of you who are having to hold it together until help (or more time) arrives, here’s a great infographic that can work as a daily checklist of activities that you need to accomplish to maintain the minimum level of social media power, courtesy of Pardot.

30 Minute Social Media Infographic

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Four Quick Growth Stats About Google+

Google Plus Growth Infographic

Yes, I know I’ve been on a Google+ kick lately, but it has been it’s like Michael Corleone in Godfather 3. “Every time I think I’m out they pull me back in.”

Hopefully, I won’t have a heart attack immediately after saying the line the way that Al Pacino’s iconic character did. Also, I’m not in the mafia, in case you were wondering. I am, however, fully entrenched into Google+, which is why these stats mean something to me. Hopefully, they’ll mean something to you as well.

I would love to connect if you want to circle me there: https://plus.google.com/+JDRucker/posts

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Infographic courtesy of Mihi Digital.

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Google+ Has Big Bump in Monthly Active Users

Google Plus

Google has been less forthcoming about their numbers ever since they were scrutinized and ridiculed the last time they made bold statements about users. This time, they are cautiously optimistic. They’re not going to have another “mission accomplished” moment.

The numbers, for what they’re worth, are very encouraging. They moved beyond the 300 million monthly active user mark. While it’s not even close to the daily active user numbers for Facebook, it’s encouraging to see just how far they’ve come in half a year. It means that they’re starting to pick up the kind of traction that many hoped they would get after their strong first couple of months in mid- to late-2011.

This, along with some improvements to Google+ Hangouts and a move to open up custom Google+ URLs gives them some good momentum heading into 2014. All of this comes when the company is not as laser focused on social as they were the first couple of years under Larry Page’s second run as CEO.

Here’s what USA Today had to say about the numbers:

Google said Tuesday its social network Google+ has seen a 58% jump in users in recent months.

Vic Gundotra, head of social at Google, said Google+ has 300 million monthly active users, up from 190 million in May.

Read More: USA Today

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Check Your Google+ Pages for the Custom URL Option

Google Plus Custom URL

If you’re like many who use Google+, you may not check your pages very often. With posting and monitoring tools out there, you might not log into your actual account very often. You should. Custom URLs are now available.

For individual users, you should be getting an email if you meet the minimum requirements. These “requirements” are very minimal. Have a profile longer than a month, have at least 10 followers, and have a profile picture. If you can’t meet these requirements, you’re not really trying.

For pages, you have to log into your page accounts themselves. An option will pop up at the top that looks like this:

Google Plus Custom URL Claiming

It’s very easy with pages. With profiles, you have to verify with a text message.

I actually like the way that Google is doing this. I was on a plane when Facebook made the custom URL option available. By the time I landed, my name had already been taken. This method makes it much easier as long as the name isn’t too common.

Businesses that don’t see the option but that meet the minimum requirements should be fine. Just wait and keep checking until it pops up. If your name is common, it appears as if Google is adding location indicators to the URLs to help differentiate.

Keep checking. More importantly, don’t give up on Google+ any time soon. They’re still pushing forward and they aren’t going to be denied just because so many naysayers call it a ghost town.

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