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Monday, 26 November 2012

Yog Hopes to Connect Runners in Real Time

tumblr_mdhyqjcedE1qejjfeo1_500Yog, a new social running app, has been launched as a method of connecting runners around the world to get them running together in real time.
The app allows you to arrange a run and invite people from around the world to participate. Or, you could “Run Now” to join in with one of the many runs that other “yoggers” may be doing at that very moment.
Audio notifications and a social running map aim to make the experience feel like you are right alongside other runners during the exercise.
Yog’s international community of runners are brought together by an iOS app which links the “yoggers” in real time. Using the platform, users of the app can organise runs by entering the date, time, and distance of their run.
The iOS app also accumulates all data during the run to give users the opportunity to measure and track their performance.
With social fitness products such as Nike+Strava, and MapMyRun already greatly popular with fitness fanatics and the like, Yog hopes to relate to the real life experience of running instead of just measuring and sharing your achievements.
Peter Pelberg, founder of Yog believes that “The majority of people don’t exercise enough . . . We’ve seen how exercising with others positively impacts the frequency and level at which people exercise. Yog’s point of differentiation is that the app is entirely synchronous. Our community members are not tracking activities in isolation and sharing them to a stream after the fact, they’re running together, from all corners for the world, in real-time.”
The social app was founded by former athletes who struggled to keep up with their exercise regimens while away from teammates. They began constructing the app in 2011 and have since had “yoggers” join in 55 countries from all over the world.
Will you be using Yog?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or via Twitter.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Gaining Facebook engagement through photos

This article was originally written by Sam Zastrow for Social Media Today. You can read the original here.

Several months ago, I realized our Facebook page was, well, kind of bad. Sure, we had optimized the page, added a Timeline photo and were posting regularly. But we weren’t getting the kind of engagement required to help our page realize its full inbound marketing potential. As a new, inexperienced social media manager at an agency that touts its expertise in social media marketing, it was my job to make sure our page was serving its purpose as a branding tool and piece of our overall marketing strategy.
I started by taking a look at what bigger brands were having success with on their pages and adding social media marketing blogs to my daily reading. My biggest initial takeaway was the fact that photos seemed to be driving a ton of Likes and comments for both the big brands and social media marketers. With all the changes Facebook had made in the last year or so to make its network more photo-friendly, it seemed logical that photos should provide the core for a winning social media marketing strategy.
Around the same time, I got my first smart phone (I know, I know) and a friend introduced me to Instagram, then a hot new social network that allowed users to take, upload, edit and share photos on the fly. I thought it was pretty neat, and it turned out we already had an Instagram account set up for the agency. My boss had his eyes dilated that week, and almost without thinking about it, I “Instagram’d” a photo of him wearing sunglasses while working and posted it to Facebook with a snarky caption.
Much to my delight, that silly photo got more engagement than almost any update we had previously posted. Thus began my obsession with a photo-driven social media marketing strategy, which I’ve outlined below.

1. Integrate Instagram with your page to give fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse into your business

While its marketing capacity is limited, Instagram is a great branding tool, especially for small companies. I say this because at many small businesses, personal relationships are a driving force in business-customer interactions. Chances are, your most loyal customers (those who are most likely to interact with your page) know a lot of people who work at your company. If they see someone they know in a photo you post to Facebook using Instagram or another photo uploader, they’re more likely to comment on or Like the photo.
Additionally, behind-the-scenes shots like the one I snapped of my boss give your followers the feeling that they’re getting exclusive content by following your Page. It gives followers a reason to come back to your page.

2. Attach an image to link posts

Our biggest problem with our Facebook presence before I started putting an effort into it was the fact that most of our posts were just plain boring. Blog posts can be really exciting, but when they’re shared as a headline with a link and Facebook’s lame pop-down preview, they’re certainly not going to catch anyone’s eye.
You can get around this problem by attaching an image to each post. By doing so, you’re ensuring your post takes up more room on news feeds and at least gets your fans to notice that it’s there, rather than merely skipping over it. Ideally, people will see the photo, click on it and then follow your link.
Hubspot does a nice job using eye-catching photos to draw attention to their link posts.

It’s best to use commercially available photos instead of any old photo you find on the internet to avoid legal issues, so use Creative Commons to search for commercial photos on photo search engines like Flickr. Also, do realize photos appearing on your fans’ news feeds look different when they appear on your page; 403 pixels by 403 pixels works best for both.

3. Include a screenshot of your content when you post a link to it

I stole this one from Social Media Examiner. They include screenshots with almost all of their blog posts.

Including a screenshot of your blog post (or of the first page of your eBook, for example) serves as sort of a teaser: it encourages your fans to click through to your website. Once again, just make sure your screenshot isn’t too big to display on your page properly.
One last thing: is there such a thing as too many photos? I think so. Facebook marketing queen Mari Smith recommends including a photo with 90% of your posts, but I think that may be pushing it, especially given Facebook’s recent move against link and photo posts. Still, recent research from Hubspot indicates photo posts tend to draw significantly more engagement, so don’t be afraid to include photos with a hefty majority of your posts.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Small Business Strategy: 10 trends to Watch

Originally written by Brian Solis for Social Media Today. You can find the original article here.
As you read this, the business landscape is shifting right under your company’s foundation. How customers make decisions, how they discover, communicate, and share, how they influence and are influenced, is evolving considerably. In fact, customer behavior is not only changing, it’s fragmenting and opening the door to new touch points. Your business will now have to compete for the customers you know and additionally, a new breed of customers that you need to know. And, to earn their attention and ultimately their loyalty, you will need to better understand the top technology trends and how they’re impacting customer behavior.
At the heart of this customer divide is technology. But this isn’t about the technology we once knew, such as PCs, laptops, iPods, ebook readers, DVRs, etc. This change in consumerism is the inevitable result of disruptive technology and how it has affected behavior and reshaped expectations. Smart phones, social networks, apps, gamified everything, Google Glasses, self-driving cars, smart appliances, the list goes on, are placing consumers at the center of their own universe connected to one another through shared experiences. These plugged-in and always-on customers are learning to see the world differently. They’re empowered and they’re entitled. As a result, disruptive technology is grooming customers to expect information and opportunities to find them.
Everything starts with surveying the landscape for how you reach customers today and how their behavior and expectations are shifting. But this is also about the people you don’t reach now. This research will help understand how to appeal to a new type of customer as well.
If you thought that having a social media strategy and presences in the most popular social networks was enough, think again. What of adding social buttons to your website or in your email blasts? Still not enough? How about developing apps for iPhone and Android platforms? Nope. That’s not the right approach.
It takes research to truly understand how customer segmentation is materializing and how new technologies introduce opportunities to engage effectively with each group. More importantly, it takes interpretation, strategy, and a culture of innovation to recognize and prioritize these new opportunities and execute against them while windows for engagement are open.
Just like customer service, sales, and marketing, technology and your ability to translate trends into opportunities, are now part of your everyday business strategy. To what extent disruptive technology impacts your customer landscape, differs from industry to industry and it is your research that reveals where to concentrate and balance your focus and investments. To help, I’ve assembled a list of 10 current trends to evaluate . But, this is just the beginning. Use this list to build a regiment of research and innovation within your business now and over time.
10 trends to review for opportunities…
1. Social Networks from Facebook to Twitter to Google+ and how they’re connecting to influencers and businesses (note: pay attention to nicheworks as well such as Path and Instagram.)
2. Geolocation check-in services such as Foursquare and Facebook location updates to share locations and earn rewards or opportunities for discounts
3. Crowdsourced discounts and deals including Groupon and LivingSocial and what’s valued and why
4. Social commerce services like Shopkick and Armadealo and how they create personalized experiences that are worth sharing
5. Referral based solutions like Yelp, Service Magic, and Angie’s List to make informed decisions and how shared experiences can improve your business, products, and services
6. Gamification platforms such as Badgeville and Fangager, and why rewarding engagement improves commerce and loyalty
7. How your consumers using mobile devices today and what apps they’re installing. Also, how they’re comparing options, reviewing experiences and making decisions while mobile?
8. The online presence your business produces across a variety of platforms such as tablets, smartphones, laptops and desktops. You must realize how consumers are experiencing the online presences you create and whether or not they deliver a holistic and optimized experience for each platform.
9. The consumer clickpath based on the platform consumers are using. Are you steering experiences based on the expectations of your customers? And are you taking into consideration the device or network where the clickpath begins and ends? Are you integrating Facebook F-commerce and m-commerce into the journey?
10. The expectations of connected consumers, what they value in each channel and platform, where they engage and how your business can improve experiences and make them worthy of sharing.
What would you add?
No company is too big to fail or too small to succeed. Simply knowing your customer is one thing. The connected customers does not replace your traditional customer, they simply introduce new opportunities to grow your business. How you’re marketing, selling, and servicing customers today are in many ways missing these important customers and thus limiting your ability for engagement and growth.
Understanding how connected customers make decisions informs more meaning strategies and ultimately effective and engaging programs, products, and services. Now more than ever, the future of business isn’t created, it’s co-created.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Increasing User Engagement on Facebook

If you use Facebook as a tool for promoting your business or brand, then you have probably noticed that Facebook has recently updated its EdgeRank, also known as its News Feed Algorithm.
Facebook is not trying to hide the fact that they want businesses to start paying to promote their posts. It is in Facebook's best interests if your posts are not showing up in people's newsfeeds. They want you to pay to have your posts appear there.
You might wonder if there is any hope in getting your posts noticed in Facebook's newsfeeds without having to pay to promote them. While it is not possible to have your posts appear to everyone who has "liked" your page (even if you pay to promote them), it is possible to improve your chances of having your posts noticed by keeping these tips in mind.
Keep Your Fans Coming Back for More
Many people post whatever comes into their head on Facebook, even on their business pages. Before you post, ask yourself if this is something that your fans would really be interested in seeing. The more posts your fans ignore, the less likely it is that your future posts will appear in their newsfeeds. Many people who "like" a page on Facebook never visit the page again. To get people coming back to your page, your content must be truly engaging.
Remember that negative interaction with your fans can actually count against you. If your fans think you are spamming them they can report your posts to Facebook, further reducing your chances of your future posts being seen.
So how do you get your Facebook fans to interact with your business page? First let's look at what Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm is measuring.
Facebook's EdgeRank Algorithm
EdgeRank takes into consideration how much you interact with your fans. The more interaction the better, especially if your fans are actively interacting with you by "liking" and commenting on your posts.
The EdgeRank algorithm also looks at what type of interaction your fans are having with your page. It gives greater weight to comments than "likes", and the more comments the better.
The algorithm looks at how long ago a post was created. The more recent the post, the more weight it is given.
It is important to remember that the more fans you have the better. If you have a big fan base and are showing ongoing interaction with your fans, the EdgeRank algorithm gives more weight to your Facebook updates.
Create Engaging Content
Before you post on your Facebook page, ask yourself what your fans would like to see. It is easy to fill your page with links to your web site or blog, which is not necessarily bad, but if your fans are not interacting with your posts, think about how you can vary or improve your content to generate more interest.
Images have been shown to create more fan engagement than just text links. People like to look at photos, and if you post some interesting pictures that people can relate to, they will be much more likely to leave a comment.
One of the most effective ways to get people to respond is to ask a question. Try to think of questions that many people can relate to. People like to talk about themselves, so ask a question that will get them talking about what is important to them. Their responses may just give you some ideas for new posts or articles.
When people do leave comments on your page, make sure to respond to their comments. Show your fans that you care about their thoughts and that you will respond to their questions and comments.
Contests and giveaways are also effective ways to increase fan engagement on your Facebook page. People always love to win things, and they will keep checking your page to see if they have won.
Time Posts to Increase User Engagement
Remember that most people are not logged into Facebook all day. Try to time your posts to the times of day when people are most likely to be checking their newsfeeds, such as first thing in the morning, at lunch time, and after dinner.
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely understand Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm. Facebook is slowly moving toward a pay-to-play model and business owners will either have to adapt to the new model or find another way to promote their businesses. Don't forget that creating useful, engaging content, however, will go a long way toward getting your posts viewed by more of your Facebook fans.