Facebook

Navigating the Twists and Turns of Effective Facebook Advertising

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With all its faults, missteps and ever-changing algorithms, Facebook still attracts a lot of daily eyeballs. Capturing a share of those eyeballs requires a combination of skill, diligence and circus acts.

Margot da Cunha, writing on the WordStream blog, offers some useful tips designed to help you target, inform and charm your intended audience.

Appropriately, her first tip is to “target an insanely specific audience,” which is something Facebook, with all its information-gathering, can assist you to achieve. “The super-sophisticated level of ad targeting is one of the main reasons to be excited about Facebook marketing,” according to da Guntha. Specific targeting requires a granular understanding of your customer or client personas – from who they are to what motivates them.

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You don’t have to start from scratch on targeting, as da Cunha suggests rounding up all your existing customers and leads, then entering them into Facebook’s Custom Audience feature. She also advises trying to clone your existing customer base using Facebook’s Lookalike Audience feature. For these “known” audiences, more specific ad content would be appropriate and likely persuasive.

Creating and sustaining the right content is another important ingredient of success on Facebook. Da Cunha recommends “short, enticing videos” that convey information quickly and with some entertaining frosting. To see effective videos, da Cunha suggests viewing and mimicking BuzzFeed’s approach. A beneficial byproduct of shorter videos can be ease and less cost in production, she says. The main benefit, however, is the right people view them.

Some of the skills da Cunha identifies are making your Facebook posts easy for the eye to navigate and only paying to promote your best content. “Focus viewers’ attention toward the most important part of your Facebook ad. For instance, if you have a strong call-to-action, you could show an image with a person looking at or pointing to that text,” she explains. Continuously generating fresh content is important to sustain interest, but you can maximize attention by promoting your best stuff, even if isn’t new, but remains relevant. This is a smart business decision, as well as savvy marketing.

Then there is the circus. Da Cunha urges the use of pictures of dogs or babies – or both. Stage contests. Post pictures of your employees having fun, which can humanize your brand. And don’t overlook emojis to connect with viewers who want to share emotions and feelings.

Advertising on Facebook will never be easy or obvious. Knowing how to navigate the twists and turns on the road to success of Facebook can save time and money – and earn kudos from your boss and clicks from your target audience.

Small Business Use of Social Media Continues to Grow

Small businesses follow trends of increased social media presence and promotion and use of visual content such as infographics, images and videos.

Small businesses follow trends of increased social media presence and promotion and use of visual content such as infographics, images and videos.

Despite its problems with preserving user privacy, Facebook remains the dominant social media platform for small businesses, but Instagram, YouTube and Twitter are catching up. LinkedIn and Snapchat are in the race, too.

More than 70 percent of small businesses with fewer than 500 employees use social media promotion, according to a recent survey of more than 350 US small business owners conducted by Clutch, an independent research firm based in Washington, DC.

Small business presence on social media platforms has risen in step with increasing user engagement. Clutch says as many as 24 percent of small businesses now posting on social media started as recently as 2017. More than half of small businesses with an online presence post something daily.

Women-owned small businesses tend to rely on social media more than businesses owned by men. Millennial-owned small businesses are more likely to use social media than older business owners.

Fifty-four percent of small businesses post images or infographics on their social media sites, adhering to evidence that visual content draws greater attention than text.

Of the small businesses surveyed by Clutch, 16 percent said they planned to become active on social media, while only 13 percent indicated no interest.

Eighty-six percent of small businesses surveyed indicated they are on Facebook, which isn’t much of a surprise given its overall social media market dominance with 2.13 billion users across multi-generations and the ability to target audiences.

A little more surprising is that Instagram logged in as the second most used social media platform with 48 percent of small businesses. YouTube (46 percent), Twitter (44 percent), LinkedIn (31 percent) and Snapchat (25 percent) also attracted substantial small business usage. Only 12 percent of small business social media users rely only on Facebook.

A social media presence for women-owned small businesses is a virtual no-brainer because women outnumber men as social media users. The same holds true for small businesses owned by Millennials and targeting Millennial consumers, who grew up surrounded by digital media and can’t imagine life without the internet.

Generational preferences indicate Gen X and Baby Boomers are more likely to prefer Facebook and LinkedIn while Millennials gravitate more to Instagram and Snapchat, creating at least a crude form of social media segmentation.

The Clutch survey showed 52 percent of small businesses post something daily on social media, 70 percent post weekly and 94 percent monthly.  Images or infographics (54 percent) are the more popular type of content posted by small businesses, followed by offers or promotions (52 percent), reviews (49 percent), videos (44 percent), blog posts (40 percent) and research data (33 percent).

 

Sending a Message Through Messaging

Content marketing and social media get the headlines, but increasingly direct messaging apps are getting the users because of their speed, convenience and personal connections. Businesses have noticed.

Content marketing and social media get the headlines, but increasingly direct messaging apps are getting the users because of their speed, convenience and personal connections. Businesses have noticed.

Direct messaging is rapidly emerging as a valuable channel to address service issues, support peer-to-peer communications and create stronger relationships with brands.

Often overshadowed by social media, messaging and chat have the benefit of establishing a direct digital contact between consumer and company, whether to deal with a cable outage, modify an overseas travel itinerary, notify someone a package arrived or pass along timely information to a colleague.

Email has most of the same virtues, but users associate messaging with immediacy. While people periodically check their email, they tend to respond more quickly to messaging apps. That explains why Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp both boast 1.3 billion monthly active users and Slack is used by 3 million people daily.

The evolution of messaging, including as a business channel, is evidenced by Facebook’s growing investment in Messenger, which is now host for 65 million businesses.

Dylan Sellberg of Hubspot in a blog post on Medium wrote, “2018 is the year for businesses to engage with customers through messaging. Because it’s not about what your business wants – it’s about what your customers want.” Sellberg shared examples of how companies are leveraging Messenger:

  • Sephora uses Facebook Messenger to streamline their booking process and secure more bookings.
  • Soul Space Media generated 11,000 Facebook Messenger subscribers for 13 cents each.
  • 1–800-Flowers found that 70 percent of its chatbot orders were from first-time customers.
  • Electro house DJ Hardwell teases new songs, livestreams events and engage with fans through Facebook Messenger, which is his brand’s top traffic driver.
  • Love Your Melon announced its new line of caps via sponsored posts on Messenger, and saw a 14X return on investment.
  • Hur Nusrat, a Bangladeshi fashion retailer running its business exclusively through Facebook, used Messenger to triple monthly sales in the course of a year.

The four assets Sellberg sees in messaging include speed, familiarity, convenience and industry forces, which he says are pushing consumers away from traditional channels such as disruptive technology, social media algorithms and concerns about false-flag players. Tine Thygesen, writing for Forbes, added that in addition to convenient, messaging is “inexpensive, personal and instant.” For businesses, it is also cost-effective.

“Offering messaging in service situations enables a customer service representative to answer questions pertinent to the purchase decision and give personal and timely response to time-critical questions,” according to Thygesen. “As the nature of messaging communication is to-the-point, it is much less time consuming than phone calls, also because they are able to communicate with multiple customers at the same time.” Increasing numbers of consumers regard direct messaging as an important service for brands to offer.

The immediacy of messaging matches well with mobile devices, which increasingly is the platform consumers use to engage with brands. Marketers can take some heart that messaging relies on direct contact, not fresh content.

“Messaging has arrived,” Sellberg advises brands, “and it’s time to determine how to leverage it to your business’ advantage.”

 

Marketing Principles in an Evolving, Disruptive Marketplace

The 4Ps of marketing have been around for quite a while, but changing customer expectations, new technology and disruptive businesses demand adapting those principles to reach and persuade today’s consumers

The 4Ps of marketing have been around for quite a while, but changing customer expectations, new technology and disruptive businesses demand adapting those principles to reach and persuade today’s consumers

The 4 Ps have been the axioms of marketing for decades, but are they still relevant in the digital age? Sort of.

Product, price, promotion and place provide a framework for marketing plans – what are you selling, at what price, with what kind of promotion and through what channels. It is hard to get more basic than that.

However, the explosion of communication channels and the erosion of traditional media channels has made marketing these days anything but basic.

Jonathan Bacon, writing for Marketing Week, suggests the 4Ps have become more like guideposts than roadways to marketing success. He quotes one marketer as saying, “Marketing is no longer about what businesses want to tell their customers, it is about businesses listening to their customers and responding in a way that offers a meaningful solution to them.” Customer relationship management doesn’t exactly fit into the 4Ps as “promotion.”

Bacon notes that while “price” continues to play a role in customer decision-making, marketers must demonstrate why a product offers “value.”

Matt Barwell, consumer management officer for a beverage company, tells Bacon he has added two of his own Ps – purpose and penetration. Brands need purpose to exhibit consistency in product quality and their brand promise, which is emerging as a critical differentiator. Penetration is essential to the success of any marketing strategy, which translates into putting marketing messages in channels where intended customers are watching.

Ignoring the 4Ps can be risky, Bacon says, as many brands have discovered by chasing, but not catching fast-moving digital crowds. It’s like driving in a strange land without a roadmap.

The solution lies in adapting the 4Ps to the contours of a specific product’s shape or a brand personality. Offering free samples in a grocery store is different, but not that much different than providing samples to an influential blogger who will write a review. Both are promotions, and both seek to build a relationship.

New technology, including artificial intelligence and virtual reality, will profoundly alter the marketing landscape of the future. And that doesn’t take into account disruptive products and services. Who would have imagined Amazon in the food space or SpaceX in the colonization of Mars business? It will definitely make marketing even more challenging.

The 4Ps represent the established wisdom of marketing. Success these days doesn’t require rejecting 4P-principles. Instead, the 4Ps can be a compass of what to watch for in the marketplace so you don’t convince yourself that a low price, a clever ad or lots of followers on Facebook will take you to the promised land.

Marketing principles still apply. They simply have become a whole lot more complicated to apply.

 

The Face of News Media Keeps Changing

Newspapers continue to decline while more readers get their news via mobile devices, which has pulled advertisers into new platforms and still-emerging forms of advertising content.

Newspapers continue to decline while more readers get their news via mobile devices, which has pulled advertisers into new platforms and still-emerging forms of advertising content.

We may be trading dominance by communications conglomerates for dominance by a handful of gargantuan technology companies that are emerging as prime arbiters of our news feeds.

Given the recent flap over Facebook’s censorship of certain trending news, that could be a growing concern, rivaling worries over the likes of Rupert Murdoch’s influence over what is considered news.

It is no secret that newspaper circulation has continued to dive as many print publications have struggled to cash in on their digital siblings. But it has gone relatively unnoticed that eyeballs tracking the news have shifted so dramatically to Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Twitter – with $40 billion in digital advertising trailing along.

Microsoft’s $26 billion purchase of LinkedIn puts it alongside Google, Facebook and Apple as digital platforms intent on creating bubbles that users never have to leave to do their work, share information, network with friends or potential employers, be entertained and view the news.

According to the Pew Research Center's 2016 State of the News Media report, 2015 was the worst year for newspapers since the Great Recession. Circulation dropped 7 percent, advertising fell 8 percent and newsroom staffing shrunk 10 percent.

Michael Barthel, a Pew research associate focusing on journalism research, speculated, “Coming amid a wave of consolidation, this accelerating decline suggests the industry may be past its point of no return."

Meanwhile, TV and cable news operations held their own, thanks in part to a long and lively presidential primary season with lots of candidates and SuperPacs. News podcasting and live streaming are experiencing audience growth, but not revenue growth. If there is good news, they also are not cannibalizing traditional radio listenership and revenues, Barthel says.

Mobile devices are gobbling up audience attention and attracting more ad bucks -- and Google and Facebook are raking in the lion's share. The transition is more rapid than some may realize, with mobile advertising now outpacing advertising geared for desktop devices.

The question begged by the mounds of data in the Pew media report is “So, what does it all mean?” For one, it’s clear people appear more, not less interested in the news. They are shifting where they get their news, which is pulling advertising to new places and creating a demand for different types of advertising. But there is no promise current trends will persist. They may just be dog legs to the left on a course that is inexorably going into a water hazard on the right.

It seems obvious there is increased channel segmentation and a sharp divide in the news viewing habits of younger and older adults. But where does that lead? In an age of videos and visuals, why are audio-only communications picking up steam?  Will cable TV news retains its appeal after the November election? Would TV networks and stations have benefited as much by a more traditional contest such as Hillary Clinton versus a candidate like John Kasich?

Local TV stations have been buoyed by the buzz and business bump of morning TV shows, which feed into national news TV shows. Even evening TV news shows, which have been stretched over a range of “getting home” times, are prospering or at least holding their own. But how is this sustainable when younger adults no longer tune into traditional TV?

Media trends have a remarkable ability to mirror general societal trends. They show, as Pew reports, that people still thirst for news, but are willing to gravitate to different platforms and non-traditional sources to find it. Apple and Yahoo aren’t permanent emplacements. They can be as temporary as yesteryear must-sees, such as “Laugh In” and “Dallas.”

One thing is clear. In times past, all people could do is complain about the faults of their local newspaper or the bias of TV networks. But there is a lot more to fret about today when it comes to the news.

Facebook in the News for News Bias

Facebook faces new scrutiny as a news provider after a Gizmodo journalist exposed a liberal bias behind the company's Trending stories feature. Hoping to smooth things over, Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg says he plans to meet with conservative leaders to explain how the tool the works. 

Facebook faces new scrutiny as a news provider after a Gizmodo journalist exposed a liberal bias behind the company's Trending stories feature. Hoping to smooth things over, Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg says he plans to meet with conservative leaders to explain how the tool the works. 

Facebook has continued to surge as the leading social media site to become a trusted news source. But news reporting suggests that it’s Trending stories may be different than advertised.

With a billion active daily users, Facebook is a commanding platform for news. In the United States, 41 percent of adults are on Facebook and nearly two-thirds of the site’s users say they get their news there, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

However, one of Facebook’s key news features – the Trending story box located in the upper right corner of the newsfeed – isn’t as objective or automated as Facebook proclaims. In reality, the workers behind the scenes – called curators – apparently have kept popular conservative stories from showing up in the feed.

Gizmodo technology editor Michael Nunez broke the news in a series of stories over the last two weeks, picking apart the inner workings of the Trending news team.

“Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation,” Nunez concluded after interviewing a handful of former Facebook contractors hired for the project. “Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing, but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists ‘topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.’”

The Trending feature has been marketed more or less as an automated aggregator that pulls in and promotes the most popular stories on the web. However, the operation actually relies on a lot of help from real people who handpick what makes it on the list and what gets cut, regardless of how much web traffic a story attracts. As Nunez learned, the sausage-making is heavily shaped by personal biases.

“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,’ said the former curator. This individual asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of retribution from the company. The former curator is politically conservative, one of a very small handful of curators with such views on the trending team. ‘I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”

Facebook executives initially denied allegations of censorship and liberal bias in their news promotion, but they now admit the company’s curators exercise some editorial control over the Trending section. The Guardian’s Sam Thielman dug much deeper into the situation after receiving leaked internal guidelines that not only confirmed Nunez’ reporting, but revealed how deep the rabbit hole really goes:  

“The guidelines show human intervention – and therefore editorial decisions – at almost every stage of Facebook’s trending news operation, a team that at one time was as few as 12 people:

  • A team of news editors working in shifts around the clock was instructed on how to ‘inject’ stories into the trending topics module, and how to ‘blacklist’ topics for removal for up to a day over reasons including ‘doesn’t represent a real-world event,’ left to the discretion of the editors.
  • The company wrote that ‘the editorial team CAN [sic] inject a newsworthy topic’ as well if users create something that attracts a lot of attention, for example #BlackLivesMatter.
  • Facebook relies heavily on just 10 news sources to determine whether a trending news story has editorial authority. ‘You should mark a topic as ‘National Story’ importance if it is among the 1-3 top stories of the day,’ reads the trending review guidelines for the US. ‘We measure this by checking if it is leading at least 5 of the following 10 news websites: BBC News, CNN, Fox News, The Guardian, NBC News, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Yahoo News or Yahoo.’
  • Strict guidelines are enforced around Facebook’s ‘involved in this story’ feature, which pulls information from Facebook pages of newsmakers – say, a sports star or a famous author. The guidelines give editors ways to determine which users’ pages are appropriate to cite, and how prominently.”

Following the eye-opening reporting, media scholars, journalists and news consumers alike are taking a collective pause to reconsider Facebook’s role as a news source. The stories could be a game-changer for the site, which continues to outpace the online marketplace in raising ad revenue, partly due to how heavily the public has come to rely on Facebook for news.

Not surprisingly, the strongest reaction has come from right-wing pundits and news organizations and conservative politicians. Key Republican leaders, like Congressman John Thune who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee , are demanding an explanation from Facebook and an investigation into how its Trending section works.

Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg plans to meet with conservative leaders to discuss the controversy over the next few weeks. That will be particularly awkward for Zuckerberg, considering that Facebook is sponsoring this summer’s GOP convention. 

The company launched the Trending feature in 2014, hiring a small team of young, Ivy League-educated journalists to serve as its curators. The group is responsible for writing headlines and summaries and linking back to news stories inside the Trending feed. The curators work on a contract basis, and Facebook seems to be showing signs of cutting the contractors and moving instead to a more automated operation as the company improves its algorithm.

Exactly how this flurry of scrutiny will reshape Facebook’s Trending section and the social network's role as a news provider will take some time to play out. 

Justin Runquist is CFM’s communications counsel. He is a former reporter for The Oregonian, The Columbian and The Spokesman-Review. Away from the office, he’s a baseball fanatic with foolhardy hopes that the Mariners will go to the World Series someday. You can reach Justin at justinr@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @_JustinRunquist.

Twitter is in Trouble

Twitter isn’t growing its user base, is losing money and has seen its stock price stumble, but the social network is still a direct, powerful, real-time way to share the news.

Twitter isn’t growing its user base, is losing money and has seen its stock price stumble, but the social network is still a direct, powerful, real-time way to share the news.

Is Twitter a digital 140-character dead letter? Maybe not yet, but it faces a major challenge from Instagram, Snapchat and a new digital platform called Peach for the right to be called the news bureau of social media.

Writing for The New Yorker, Joshua Topolsky says Twitter, which once seemed unassailable, now seems confused and vulnerable. Twitter's original appeal as a forum for “raw, streamlined” citizen journalism has turned into a company without a compass.

"Changes to the product made it hard to follow conversations or narratives,” wrote Topolsky, co-founder of Vox Media. "A lack of rigor in verifying reliable sources made information suspect or confusing. More troubling was the growing wave of harassment and abuse that users of the service were dealing with – a quagmire epitomized by the roving flocks of hateful, misogynistic, and well-organized “Gamergate” communities that flooded people’s feeds with hate speech and threats. The company seemed to be wholly unprepared to handle mob violence, with few tools at its disposal to moderate or quell uprisings.”

Perhaps most troubling are reports that Twitter will lift its 140-character limit and allow tweets with as many as 10,000 characters. Topolsky mockingly called that change an attempt to compete for the “short- and long-winded alike.”

There is objective evidence Twitter has hit a digital wall. Its user base is stagnant. It is hemorrhaging money and has watched its stock value tumble by 50 percent. The company has also lost a bevy of top executives, some of whom have gone to work for Twitter competitors.

Worse yet, Topolsky says, Twitter could be on the verge of irrelevance. Millennials employ Instagram and Snapchat for quick, real-time news-sharing. Instagram, WhatsApp and WeChat now have as many individual users as Twitter, and Snapchat is gaining ground fast.

Many young social users also have abandoned Facebook, Topolsky notes, but Facebook has adapted and kept growing. He says Facebook has “come to dominate and define the concept of social conversation” by dealing aggressively with online campaigns of “noise and intrusion.” Requiring people to use their real names, according to Topolsky, "has certainly made Facebook a much safer space in which to engage.”

Topolsky, who counts himself as a committed Twitter user, hasn’t given up hope. "The core ideals that made the product great are not lost, yet, even if they’ve been obscured," he says. "The directness and power at the heart of Twitter – short bursts of information that can make you feel that you’re plugged into a hulking hive mind – are still its greatest asset.”

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has returned to lead Twitter through its difficult patch, much like Steve Jobs was summoned to revive Apple. Meanwhile, Twitter users will keep their fingers crossed for the social media platform that is a perfect for newsjacking, crisis response and story-sharing. For busy people interested in what’s going on, it is an invaluable tool. The question is whether it will remain relevant.

The Art of Engagement and Spam

Online engagement isn't a choice between what is and isn't spam. Online engagement is all about what works.

Online engagement isn't a choice between what is and isn't spam. Online engagement is all about what works.

The point of social media is engagement, but a lot of engagement resembles spam. Cory Torella says it doesn't matter.

Torella – the founder and CEO of Better Auds, a social media marketing firm – says most posts on social media sites seek to engage other people. He calls that "strategic, purposeful conversation." You may be sharing a video of your dog refusing to go out in the rain or inviting people to participate in a contest. Torella says at some point "spam is no longer spam."

"If you guessed that the amount of spam that I receive on a daily basis is fairly high, you are correct," says Torella. "However, I love reading spam…. I read every single word of it."

Most social media users don't share Torella's enthusiasm for spam, but they may unknowingly share his habit of reading it. Especially if the "spam" has strong visual appeal and an irresistible hook.

Torella's business is all about cultivating an audience online without trying to buy followers. Earning an audience on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Instagram is all about content that engages people.

As individual users, we seek to engage our circle of friends by sharing experiences, pictures and thoughts. Corporate, nonprofit and pubic agencies seek to engage target audiences to sell a product, ask for a contribution or change a behavior.

The social media strategy for individuals may be as simple as connecting with "pals." The strategy isn't that different for organizations, except they usually want their "pals" to connect with their websites.

Torella's zest for consuming spam posts is tied to his interest in finding what works, what appeals to certain audiences. In effect, he is looking for how users segment social media.

One of the most vexing problems for organizations that have worked to accumulate a large number of "followers" is to keep them engaged. Many people "like" a company or organization, then never go back to the Facebook page. Sustaining engagement takes energy, creativity and perseverance. You have to work at it constantly.

Torella views spam as a form of lab mice. By trial and error – and, in his case, careful observation – you see what works and what doesn't. "I determine if there's anything I can take away from [spam]," Torella explains. "If it's good, I will write it down or screenshot it. If it is bad (and I mean really, really bad), I will write that down, too. So while most [people] see spam, I see art."

Engagement, spam, good art, bad art all may make no difference. What counts is what works – to gain clicks, conversions and customers. The only way to find out what works is to experiment. That is a lot easier and cheaper to do on social media than paid media. You simply have to be willing to engage and let that lead you where it will.

Matching Visuals to Your Message

Viewers expect higher quality visual images. You should demand matching your visual assets to your brand message.

Viewers expect higher quality visual images. You should demand matching your visual assets to your brand message.

Most people by now have gotten the picture that visual communications are effective. But adding visual pop to actual communications still for many remains a mystery.

Anna Guerrero, in a blog posted by ragan.com, offers some practical tips on how to lure viewers. Guerrero's core point is that just adding visual content doesn't do the trick. You need quality visual assets that tell your story better than any words can.

Her tips include using high-quality photography, website screenshots, infographics, candid images, original designs and a striking color palette – stuff that stands out and grabs the eye.

Maybe Guerrero's most profound point is the need to match your visuals with your message. To convey that your organization is full of "fun people," show a behind-the-scenes picture of your team working while doing something funny. To reduce a complex topic into something simple, create an infographic that walks the viewer through the issue in digestible chunks. To establish credibility, post a screenshot showing the original source of information that you are citing.

Visual symbols play a large part in brand recognition – and loyalty. They can be leveraged by associating them with strong, compatible visual assets that express a more specific message. The example Guerrero pointed to was the Kaleidoscope Blog on Pinterest and its distinctive, easily recognizable design.

Striking photography pulls people in, as she showed with an eye-popping picture of a woman applying bright red lipstick with a man caressing her cheek with his lips. The picture was visibly relevant to the Facebook post headline and the content: "8 Reason to Fall in Love with the Girl Who Rocks Red Lipstick." The image, Guerrero notes, wasn't the result of an expensive photo shoot; it was a piece of stock photography.

Successful visual communications usually flow from information design processes that give equal weight at the start to all assets. Information designers don't make words look pretty or discard words in favor of snazzy pictures. They choose the best combination that tells the story in a way the intended audience will notice.

It is true that effective communications in the digital age almost always include visual assets. Viewers have come to expect it. With so many people sending pictures from smartphones and designing personalized greeting cards on their tablets, their expectations have risen for more presentational value. And they just don't want pictures; they want good pictures.

Good pictures don't always mean the same thing across communication channels. Quirky works on Instagram and elegance pays dividends on Pinterest. That is a direct reflection of the dominant demographics that use each platform. What you post on Facebook is different than what you post on your website or as a blog illustration.

Visual imagery should be part of your communications toolkit. More important, it must be part of your brand narrative.

Tips for Using Social Media to Pitch Media

These guidelines will help you successfully connect your pitch with reporters using social media.

These guidelines will help you successfully connect your pitch with reporters using social media.

With the current realities of newsrooms, it’s smart to look for alternative ways to pitch story ideas using social media. Before you send that pitch, make sure to follow a few guidelines. 

Nicole Fallon, writing for Ragan.com, says there is an art to pitching journalists on social media. An inappropriate pitch or using the wrong social network can do more harm than good. 
“Every social media site is different and has its own set of unspoken rules and guidelines for using it,” says Fallon.

LinkedIn is almost always a safe bet for any sort of professional outreach, but not everyone checks the site regularly. Most reporters use Twitter professionally, so take a look at the type of content they post to get a sense of if this is an appropriate place to pitch. Use of Facebook can vary from person to person. Some have a large number of friends and contacts, while others see Facebook as a more private space. If you’re friends, review the reporter’s posts to determine how a particular reporter is using the site. Instagram can be more personal as well, so use it as a way to build a relationship with a reporter, but not to pitch them directly.

Always try to start by building a relationship with a reporter. A pitch is not a good way to say hello. A good relationship with a reporter is almost always going to make your media pitches more successful. Social media can be a great way to build a relationship with a reporter. 

“A great way to start is by sharing or commenting on journalists' articles that are relevant to your clients' expertise,” says Fallon. “If you tag them, they'll most likely see it, and if you haven't worked together before, this will put you on their radar.” 

Rather than an outright pitch, Fallon recommends using social media to gauge interest. Keep your messages short and direct. You can always send more details later. 

If the reporter is interested, Fallon recommends moving the pitch to email. It’s really the best way to send more detailed information. If the reporter is expecting your email, he or she will be more likely to respond. 

Be careful about sending attachments immediately. These can often get caught in spam filters or the large file size can cause emails to bounce. Let the reporter know what types of materials you have to send to them and ask about the best way to send them. Sometimes it’s downloadable files online, while others prefer services such as Dropbox. Sometimes email is fine depending on their system. Delaying attachments can make sure your message gets to its intended target. 

Pitching via social media is not always the best – or even a good – idea. Make sure you’ve done your homework before hitting the send button.
 

More Than a Pretty Picture

With Facebook fatigue and a puzzling new algorithm, some people are ready to step back a pace on social media. Maybe they should simply redirect their energies to a different platform — Pinterest. 

Its user numbers aren't as gaudy as Facebook's, but its visual interface is more focused and appealing, especially to women — who make up 80 percent of the people who "pin" on Pinterest.

Facebook allows you to upload photos to your feed, but Pinterest enables you to create boards centered on subject matter, whether it's recipes involving Nilla Wafers or the splendors of Paris.

Nilla Wafers has centered a campaign to reconnect with consumers on Pinterest. Its packaging encourages purchasers or store browsers to check out visually inspiring pins with recipes and holiday ideas. The pins became a vehicle to drive clicks on the Mondelelez Snackworks website.

The vertically designed recipes evoked the sense of looking at an actual cookbook and attracted attention based on that familiarity. They aimed at people who like to cook, a great demographic match with the majority of pinners on the platform. Recipes are one of the social network's most popular forms of content.

Social Media Manager is Dead-End Job

With social media becoming an ever-increasing part of communications strategies, how can a position dedicated to managing social media be already on the way out?

The answer to that is easy and predictable. Social media never was — or should have been — an end in itself. It is just another tool, a cool one at that, in your integrated communications toolkit.

Social media is the perfect answer for some marketing and issue management needs and a non-starter for others. Just like TV ads, billboards and direct mail.

In the marketing PR world, the right answer isn't what service you sell; it is the tool or tools that get the job done.

Think of social media in the same light as websites. Not that long ago, websites were rarities as part of communications strategies. Now, it is rare to find a communications plan that doesn't call for a website. Social media is following a similar pattern. It is becoming a staple in most communications strategies. But it usually is just a part of the strategy.

Locking in on LinkedIn

The time and energy you invest in LinkedIn can be rewarded with job opportunities and client referrals, as well as heightened respect from colleagues and competitors.LinkedIn is much more than a professional networking site. However, you need to dedicate time and energy to optimize its value.

If, for example, you ignore your LinkedIn account, you will miss daily alerts about your colleagues who have new jobs or job anniversaries. In addition to the cue, LinkedIn makes it easy to congratulate your colleague, creating an opportunity to renew or refresh your contact. 

Even if you have an extensive set of connections on LinkedIn, you can get lost on the social media site by failing to post anything. LinkedIn provides an excellent opportunity to post thought leadership pieces or share content you find valuable.

Responding to Negative Online Reviews

Negative reviews are a fact of life for many businesses, so it's time to bone up on how to respond effectively and report the ones that are fake.Online reviews have emerged as an important decision-making tool for consumers, especially for restaurants and service providers. Now they also have to dodge the impact of fake negative reviews.

A recent study reports that 16 percent of restaurant reviews on Yelp are fraudulent and often are extremely negative.

With the stakes high in the court of public opinion, here are some steps to take to fight back:

Growth of Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising is growing rapidly, but the key to success remains in having vital social media sites featuring compelling original content.Social media ads are becoming a staple of integrated marketing campaigns as marketers look for ways to surround their target audiences. And people are taking notice of more ad traffic on their social media streams.

A survey by Vizu confirms advertisers are embracing social media ads as a way to drive traffic to their websites. A report by BIA/Kelsey predicts native social media ads will grow from $1.5 billion this year to $3.9 billion in 2016.

But marketers aren't abandoning other tactics, such as online display, TV and print ads. Instead, social media ads seem to be the latest great idea to take their place as just another outreach tool to audiences, much like mobile apps.

Social media ads are proliferating, explains Ryan Holmes, CEO at HootSuite, because they produce results — at least better results as measured by numbers of clicks than stale ideas such as online banner ads. 

Pretty Little Liar’s Secrets of Social Media Success

I’ve got a secret. Can you keep it?

So begins the theme song of the popular ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars (PLL), which has been very successful in reaching young audiences.

The show has qualified as the number 1 television telecast with females 12-34 for the past nine weeks. The season-two finale made PLL the most tweeted and Facebooked about TV series of all time. The program’s secret? Its savvy use of social media.

The show uses Facebook well. There is an official page as well as dozens of fan-created Facebook fan pages. Rather than trying to shut down these fan-created pages, the official page uses them as a resource, sharing their content on the official page – increasing the personal connection with fans and making the most of an additional resource for content at the same time. 

The creator, several actors, and even some of the characters have Twitter accounts. The show uses Twitter for live chats with its stars. Fans use hashtags for the chance to have the show’s stars respond. The show’s creator also uses her Twitter account to release clues to the ongoing mystery of who is tormenting those pretty little liars. There was even a secret video, which fans could find through decoding clues released via one of the character’s Twitter accounts. The show has also enhanced viewers’ experience by releasing a series of webisodes that reveal additional clues.

Online is Norm, Not Exception

Data from 2012 shows Web access and use growing worldwide, with a real surge in social media and mobile traffic.There are 2.4 billion Internet users worldwide compared to 2.2 billion email users. There are 5 billion mobile phone users, including 1.3 billion who have smartphones. There were a staggering 1.2 trillion Google searches in 2012 and 1 billion active Facebook users.

Those are a sampling of statistics arrayed in a blog by Pingdom, which helps its clients keep their websites online. It has provided similar year-end summaries since 2008.

The 2012 summary is dotted with interesting data points, such as the average Twitter user tweets 307 times per year, the average LinkedIn user is 44.2 years old and 47 percent of Facebook users are female.

Some of the information has commercial value in assessing channel choices. For example, there are 425 million active Gmail users, which Pingdom says makes it the largest email provider in the world. The top 100 blogs that run on WordPress claim a 48 percent share of viewers. There were 37 million page views on Reddit.com and 191 million visitors to Google Sites, making it the number one web property in the United States.

Trends to Watch in 2013

2012 has been an exciting year in marketing public relations. Here, we highlight trends we expect to drive change and marketing innovations during 2013.

Social reputation sparkles

All things social will officially transition from their old ‘just for kids’ reputation to a well-earned position as drivers of strategic objectives. From crowd-sourcing to recruiting, selling to engagement — social strategy will be a first order of business.

Direct consumer engagement trumps media relations

PR has long evolved beyond being a synonym for media relations. In the rise of social media such as Facebook, blogging platforms, Twitter, YouTube and other sharable content networks, clients decreased traditional media spends in favor of creative campaigns that engage directly with consumers. We predict more brands than ever will embrace the opportunity to tell their own stories and share value-added content through their own online communication assets.

Visual marketing continues explosive growth

Images took center-stage this year, led by the visual superstar Pinterest. More than being a pretty face (or product shot), visuals showed their dramatic power to increase stakeholder engagement, linking up with goals from driving e-commerce sales to influencing voter sentiments during the presidential campaign. ‘Show, don’t tell’ will move from a novelty best practice to the norm, with the most consistent and creative brands claiming leadership positions in the marketplace.

Content Confectioner

Does the chocolate image wake up your sweet tooth? I could tell you that the candies are locally made in Portland with melt-in-your-mouth sea salt and quality chocolate, how they have perfect flavor profiles and are the ideal size for a guilt-free treat. But the image probably inspires you faster.

If you saw this photo on a chocolate company’s blog, you might pin the image to Pinterest or share it with you friends on Facebook. If I’m the chocolate company owner, I’ve just used shareable content to empower you to help me market my brand through the most powerful form of marketing, your word-of-mouth recommendations.

This is the potency of visual communication. Adam Vincenzini describes the image-powered web as “the notion that Internet users prefer the most efficient and engaging methods of communication.” Images equal efficiency. Fast Company calls visual marketing “the breakout trend for 2012,” noting a 2012 ROI Research study that found “forty-four percent of respondents are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures than any other media.” Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are leading channels for visual storytelling.

Here are my 13 tips to help you become a Content Confectioner — a creator of crave-able, sharable brand assets.

1.  Start with Your Goals

What are your marketing and brand goals, values and key messages? Think about what those things look like. How you can show and share them with your stakeholders?

2. Be a Reporter

Reporters seek and share stories. Do this for your brand. Shift your perspective to look for the significance of the everyday – teams, routines, the work and production environment. How does the everyday drive toward your brand promise? If you make this perspective shift, you’ll always have a story to share.

3. Get the Tools

You’re not obligated to add a $2,000 DSLR line item to your budget. I swear by my iPhone camera. It’s portable and takes high-quality images with flash and focus options. You can send images easily to Facebook, Instagram or email. The right tool is one you can obtain and use often. Do your homework. Test the options. And go for it.

4. Eyes Wide Open, Camera Ready

The aforementioned iPhone has more than 4,000 photos on it (yes, they’re backed up). Keep a camera with you and err on the side of taking more images than you’ll use to create an image bank for your brand. This practice supports quicker content creation. It also increases your odds of capturing million-dollar moments and images. Think of it as gathering lots of ingredients for limitless recipes.

Visual Sharing Like Yearbook Party

Videos, followed closely by photos, are the content most likely to be shared on Facebook. If you aren't posting videos and photos, you aren't engaging your online fans to the fullest extent possible.

According to a report from Zuum, a social media insight tool, videos and photos have a much stronger probability of being shared than status updates or links. Facebook has made it easier for brand pages to offer visual fare, and the brands that enjoy the highest level of engagement are feeding their fans eye-catching treats.

Of course, it is not an either-or situation with visuals versus words. A mix of relevant material is best. But failing to post videos and photos, including those that are user-generated, is a mistake.

Sharing visual content is what has spurred the remarkable growth and usage of Instagram and Pinterest.

Writing about this trend, Jon Thomas of Story Worldwide provides some compelling examples of visual branding, including Oreo's striking rainbow cookie to celebrate gay pride. The simple graphic generated 300,000 likes, more than 90,000 shares and some 60,000 comments, Thomas reports. Plunging into a controversial subject earned Oreo lots of pushback. But if its goal was engagement, it succeeded.