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Social Media: ‘Evolving, Not Just a Fad’

What may seem like a fad to some is actually a serious evolution in people’s need to connect with family, friends and brands. Social media has already evolved and will evolve even more, but unless you engage, you will never know when it has evolved to something else.

What may seem like a fad to some is actually a serious evolution in people’s need to connect with family, friends and brands. Social media has already evolved and will evolve even more, but unless you engage, you will never know when it has evolved to something else.

Social media has exploded onto the firmament, but is it just a fad or here to stay? One Millennial expert says social media will hang around and evolve.

“Social media staves off extinction by creating new updates and evolving in order to keep their users interested,” writes Sophia Meyer*, a senior at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. “Twitter has evolved from being a place to tweet about what you ate for breakfast to a hub for news sources and live updates.”

Social media staying power and adaptability erases the excuse for many business leaders to wait out its demise. In fact, the evolution of social media argues for why it is imperative to hop aboard.

Sophia Meyer wrote an essay about social media’s staying power as part of a job interview as she prepared to graduate and enter the professional PR job market.

Sophia Meyer wrote an essay about social media’s staying power as part of a job interview as she prepared to graduate and enter the professional PR job market.

“Social media users today are not only using social sites to connect with their friends and peers, but they are increasingly using them as their primary news source,” Meyer observes. “The popularity of social media and the opportunity it provides for engagement with customers has made it the number one tool for companies to build their brand and target specific audiences.”

Where once social media was a medium to share your “status,” it has evolved into a platform to share content, including commercial content, Meyer says.

There may be a better venue down the line, but for now social media is the key channel to connect with potential customers and deepen loyalty with existing customers. A big piece of evidence is the rise of influencer marketing. Influencers, who can range from celebrities to bloggers, rank nearly as high as friends in trust and the ability to influence a buy decision.

Meyer suggests social media is not your grandfather’s phone book. And you shouldn’t expect social media to be your grandson’s fave.

“Social media is an ever-trending topic that has seen its fair share of positive evolution, and even fails,” she says. “One thing can be certain, however, social media is here to stay. While its users change and evolve, its features change and evolve, and its content evolves, individuals will always demand social media in one form or another.”

That is a nuanced argument for jumping on the social media bandwagon to avoid missing the next trend because you haven’t experienced the current one.

“Humans will always desire to connect with each other, share their thoughts and opinions, and consume a variety of content,” Meyer asserts. “Social media remains, and will remain, the main hub for all of those human needs.”

*Sophia Meyer, Gary Conkling’s daughter, wrote an essay about the longevity and adaptability of social media as part of a job interview.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

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).

 

Internet Deserts Text in Favor of Video, Audio and Animation

The internet has swung from text-heavy to video, audio and animation. Have you kept pace or are you becoming a dinosaur when it comes to reaching your audience where they are watching?

The internet has swung from text-heavy to video, audio and animation. Have you kept pace or are you becoming a dinosaur when it comes to reaching your audience where they are watching?

Audio and video content are rapidly overtaking text as the internet converts into a dominantly visual media. Unless you aspire to become a modern dinosaur, take note.

Apps, podcasts and YouTube videos are supplanting web pages and blogs. Mobile devices have morphed into broadcast cameras and digital editing booths. Videos attract the most views on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Online gaming is ubiquitous.

But the trend runs far deeper. Realtors, among others, employ virtual reality to allow homebuyers to scout potential houses. Apple iPhone X recognize your face. Digital assistants obey verbal commands to surround us with our music playlists or uncover long lost recipes.

It shouldn’t be surprising because pictures have always spoken louder than words. Ex-presidential secretary Ron Porter’s record of spousal abuse was known when he was appointed, but didn’t become a disqualification for employment until pictures surfaced showing an ex-wife with a black eye.

A special edition in The New York Times recalled the internet began as a text-heavy communications channel. That was all the bandwidth of the time could handle. “Suddenly the script flipped,” wrote Farhad Manjoo, “Now it’s often easier to communicate through images and sounds than through text.”

Imagery pairs better with shorter attention spans – and with our intrinsic ability to see first. We remember more of what we see than what we hear or read. That’s just how our brains are wired.

Wider availability of audio and video editing tools means more people, especially more young people, are familiar with constructing visual and audio content. That influences and informs audiences to expect information packages with a higher degree of presentational values. Visual communications usually dress up better than text.

What you can’t photograph or capture on video, you can animate. Cartoon characters, special effects, visual origami and out-of-this-world imagery can captivate. Animation tools are increasingly available to ever younger designers. The art of animation also continues to arc closer to the science of computer technology.

Online advertisers are following the crowd, spending more resources on video, audio and visual content. Why not with stats like this: YouTube says viewers in 2017 watched 1 billion hours of videos, averaging two hours per day. About 70 million Americans listen to five hours of podcasts per week. More than 800 million people use Instagram for 30 minutes a day. Netflix plans to invest $8 billion and Apple $1 billion in original content.

The #MeToo movement has shown once again how powerful a social media hashtag campaign can become. President Trump parlayed his often audacious and politically incorrect Twitter feed into an election victory by rallying and activating a base of supporters. 

There are societal casualties. There are rising fears of online addiction. The line between fact and fiction, reality and alt-reality has been blurred, much like George Orwell predicted in his dystopian novel 1984. Images can easily be doctored, challenging viewers to detect whether what they see is real or fake. Virtual “reality” could take false imagery to a whole new level. But those challenges exist in text, too. Think Mein Kampf

All this should be enough to convince you to get busy about video and audio content. Right? Right.

Influencer Marketing Through Earning Influence

Influence marketing goes beyond sending your product to a blogger and includes testimonials, third-party recognition, turning critics into advocates, thought leadership blogs, storytelling and authentic acts that build a reputation

Influence marketing goes beyond sending your product to a blogger and includes testimonials, third-party recognition, turning critics into advocates, thought leadership blogs, storytelling and authentic acts that build a reputation

Influencer marketing is popular, largely because it works. However, influencer marketing involves more than just pay-to-play engagement with bloggers.

Sending products to influential bloggers to try out and then promoting their positive reviews is a successful tactic. But it isn’t the only successful tactic. There is a more organic form of leveraging influential people.

One of the most tried-and-tried forms of earned influence is the testimonial. The consumer or client giving the testimonial doesn’t have to be a so-called influential person. They have credibility because they consumed your product or retained your service.

Another form of earned influence is recognition by a third party. This could be an interview, product review or op-ed. The content is fair game to promote, which is what Chevrolet does in its ads about J.D. Power customer satisfaction ratings.

An unsuspecting form of earned influence can come from turning a critic on social media into a brand advocate. What better way to demonstrate brand value than tracking the journey of someone upset at product quality or service who is impressed by a quick reaction and fair resolution of the problem. You couldn’t pay for this conversion – or duplicate it in a pay-for-play context.

Thought leadership is a powerful, but under-utilized form of earned influence. You can turn your expertise or special knowledge into influential currency if you share it. That’s the point of thought leadership blogs or asking for opportunities to submit guest blogs.

Reputation may be the most underrated form of earned influence. A solid reputation isn’t something that can be invented, minted or inherited. Reputation, by its very nature, is something that’s earned. The arc of a reputation can take years, but it also can accrete more quickly – and regardless of age – through innovation or a principled act.

Influence is not something you can proclaim. However, you can nudge along the process of gaining influence through storytelling. The stories about your brand or you that you share – or arrange to be shared – can influence key audiences and burnish your reputation.

There isn’t a formula to achieve earned influence. Thank goodness. That gives people a lot of latitude in pursuing paths to attract interest, build trust and earn influence, whether in the marketplace or on Twitter.

Professional assistance can help in the process of influence-development. But PR pros can’t counterfeit authentic influence that flows from expertise, innovation or principled action.

If you developed the best-tasting, heart-healthy donut, by all means put it in the hands of donut bloggers and circulate their mouth-watering reviews on your social media channels. Just don’t forget there are other avenues for influence marketing, many of which have longer lasting impacts and contribute to deeper consumer loyalties.

 

Customer Service = Golden Rule of Good Business

Customer service has emerged as a critical differentiator that influences people’s choice of restaurants, banks, cell phone providers and even doctors.

Customer service has emerged as a critical differentiator that influences people’s choice of restaurants, banks, cell phone providers and even doctors.

A smiling face, attentive service and an extra-mile effort can set a business apart from its competition. Far apart. Yet, customer service isn’t always a management priority. Big mistake.

A hotel, restaurant, bank or telecommunications company can lose customers over poor, disengaged or surly service. A doctor can lose a patient or a PR firm can lose a client for the same reason.

Once upon a time, good customer service meant the customer was always right. But customer expectations have expanded. Now, good customer service relates to all touch points of the customer experience – from greeting at the door to paying the bill.

A friendly server or accommodating bank teller doesn’t guarantee a positive customer experience if a diner gets the wrong meal or a bank deposit winds up in the wrong account. A top-credentialed doctor may be bypassed by a prospective patient because of a reputation for not being empathetic.

Customer service reputations spread by word of mouth. Now they spread more quickly and more widely on social media and rating reviews. Who wants to hire a contractor who doesn’t meet deadlines or go to a restaurant with watered down drinks?

While you still may ask your tech-savvy college friend for a recommendation on a new camera, you still will check out your camera options online. Pew Research has found 40 percent of US adults almost always review online items they are looking to purchase. Another 42 percent sometimes check out prospective purchases. Virtually all Millennials check out products online. In addition to price and product features, online reviewers want to know about return policies, the quality of your customer service.

Pew also found almost 50 percent of patients searching for a doctor, whether for primary care or surgery, go online. MedData shows almost 50 percent of doctors ignore online reviews about them. Big disconnect that can put a medical reputation at risk.

The rise of online rating reviews has ironically underscored the value of the old-fashioned suggestion box. Allowing a customer to vent on a comment card gives a business owner instant feedback that might replace a nastygram on Twitter.

Online reviews include checking out business websites and profiles, which argues for including testimonials to the quality of your product – and your service. They take on even greater importance because not all online reviews are reliable – or even true. Yelp claims 127 million reviews and Angie’s List brags about 10 million verified reviews, which means there is a lot of commentary out there. Providing your own messages in the words of real customers can be informative, useful and prudent.

Testimonials, however, can’t cover up sketchy customer service. To avoid souring your reputation, take pains to stress to your employees the importance of quality customer service. The best way to show you mean business is to lead by example. If you treat your customers like gold, your employees and coworkers will notice and follow your golden rule.

Emojis: “A New Language in Digital Media”

Emojis are emerging as a whole new digital language where a tiny icon replaces text to convey emotion and sentiment and to personalize online marketing interactions.

Emojis are emerging as a whole new digital language where a tiny icon replaces text to convey emotion and sentiment and to personalize online marketing interactions.

Visual communications can take odd twists, such as the emergence of emojis as defining icons for marketing campaigns.

An article earlier this year in Adweek went further, describing emojis as a “new language in digital media” that can communicate “tone and sentiment on messaging apps and social media among consumers.”

Whereas they used to be limited to a happy face and a sad face, now there nearly 2,000 emojis and the character count keeps growing.

Emojis have matured beyond being punctuation marks for text to becoming the message itself. Well known brands such as Taco Bell use emojis that correlate to their products in digital marketing via apps, social media and email. General Electric launched the #EmojiScience campaign that invited people to send emojis to get short video lessons from Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Twitter now enables marketers to target customers who have used specific emojis. Dominos has an Emoji Ordering campaign that centers on customers including the pizza slice emoji in tweets. Instead of zeroing in on key words, brands search for relevant emojis. Consumer brands with an eye on younger adults are eager to jump into emoji-based marketing.

While emoji marketing may work best for now with Millennials, it won’t be long before its appeal spreads, if it hasn't already. Who wouldn’t want to order a pizza by posting an emoji on an app? I received a message with a rose emoji from my wife after urging her to take a moment before going to work to look at the beautiful blooms sprouting on her rose bushes.

The advice to marketers at this point seems pretty basic. If you sell ice cream, look for the ice cream emoji. Keep up to date on the growing cast of emojis. Be sensitive to the details of these little drawings, which sport a range of skin tones and nuanced emotions. Don’t expect everyone to jump on board with your emoji campaign until you build some trust. 

Engaging people with emojis means using them as if you are actually communicating with someone. Expressing emotion or sentiment through an emoji can personalize a brand’s interaction with a consumer and sharply increase engagement rates.

Learning how to use emojis may not be quite the same as taking French lessons, but it kind of is. Emoji fluency is critical to say what you mean and not inadvertently communicate something you never intended.  When you are fluent in emojis, you can tell stories with pictures.

Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at  garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

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.

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.
 

Relevant Real-Time Marketing

Newsjacking on Twitter can produce short-term brand benefits, but finding strategies that deliver valuable information in real-time may have longer-term rewards.

So while Oreo pounced on the moment when the lights at the Super Bowl went out, earning it a lot of online comments and offline praise, that kind of magic moment doesn't occur very often. More often than not, companies clamoring on a twitter trend just add to a noisy feed and gain little attention and even less brand traction.

Hilton Hotels employs a different approach, as described in an informative blog post by Vanessa Sain-Dieguez, who leads social media planning and integration for the hotel chain. Using the Twitter handle @HiltonSuggests, Hilton Worldwide shares information in real time about the cities and destinations where its guests go.

"Our global Twitter team monitors Twitter search in real time and engages when we can offer help that matters to the user," Sain-Dieguez says.

She argues that the secret of real-time marketing isn't looking for how to chime in, but discovering ways to add value. 

Inviting Your Consumers Backstage

One sure-fire way to connect with your consumer is to invite them backstage to get a preview, insider view or special insight that builds trust and loyalty.One good way to entice customers to your website or blog is to send them an invitation to meet you backstage.

Pulling back the curtain and sharing insider knowledge or perspective makes people feel special, especially if the tour is authentic, not just a come-on. 

As a kid, I enjoyed when my dad took me on an early morning visit to the railroad station to watch the circus unload. Seeing how animals and huge tents were transported was more fascinating to me than the actual circus.

If the key to marketing today is to establish relationships, then making customers feel like trusted friends is a good start toward making them feel trust toward you. Of course, that requires more than a good backstage tour.

Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff doesn't just rely on the traditional Fashion Week runway to get buzz for her handbags. She employs a full arsenal of social media. She placed a Vine video on Twitter showing snippets of what goes on before a handbag makes its way to the runway. She debuted her new line on Snapchat before it appeared on the catwalk.

Minkoff teamed with Tumblr and Nordstrom on a T-shirt design contest, with the promise, which was kept, that the winning design would be strutted down the runway. The T-shirt also was sold at Nordstrom. She lined up an exclusive interview during the show to share her insights.

During Fashion Week, Minkoff posted pictures on Instagram and tweeted, including a backstage camera angle that literally made viewers feel as if they were backstage.

Not surprisingly, Minkoff has a large, loyal following. She has transformed her consumers into friends, confidantes and partners.

Relationship-based marketing demands more than coupons and sales pitches. Consumers need a point of connection. Allowing them to peek backstage of your operation is a pretty reliable, sure-fire way to create that connection.

Twitterjacking the Grammy's

David Meerman Scott has extolled the power of newsjacking. Josh Martin, social media manager for Arby's, has proven the power of twitterjacking.

Tuned into the Grammy Awards, Martin was poised with some pre-developed tweets when he noticed online buzz comparing Grammy award winner Pharrell Williams hat to the fast food company's well-known logo.

Quick on his fingertips, Martin tapped this simple tweet – "Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs."

Martin's quick-witted addition to the conversation turned into a "great real-time moment," earning 83,000 retweets and was "favorited" 48,000 times.

More important, Williams playfully responded with his own tweet, "Y'all tryna start a roast beef?" which was flashed to the artist's 2.7 million Twitter followers, gaining another 16,988 retweets and 14,195 "favorites" — huge earned exposure for a second-echelon fast food restaurant.

Good Intentions, Bad Taste

It doesn't take a bad deed to plunge into online hot water. All it takes is poor judgment.

SpaghettiOs, a division of Campbell Soup, learned that the hard way when it posted a well-intentioned tweet to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day. The tweet displayed the pasta brand's lip-licking mascot in tennis shoes holding an American flag. The post ignited a firestorm on social media.

Typical of the indignant tweets was this one, "@SpaghettiOs really?? C'mon corporate morons. Ridiculous and frankly offensive."

SpaghettiOs took down the tweet and apologized for the offense. But it left pundits to wonder why someone thought it was necessary to interject a brand into a commemoration, raising questions about whether it was an attempt to exploit the occasion for profit.

In reality, the tweet probably represented a well-intentioned effort to add the brand's voice in remembering when Japanese planes bombed Hawaii, catapulting a stunned United States into World War II. It's doubtful the corporate tweeter was thinking about sales or profits. He or she was trying to engage online.

This is where judgment should have entered the picture. Someone should have paused before hitting the "tweet" button to assess potential reaction to the post.

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.

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.

Rise of Second-Screen Viewers

Watching TV while tweeting looks like a trend more than a fad, opening up avenues for interactive, multi-channel marketing outreach.Have you watched a teenager "watch" TV while texting or tweeting on his or her smartphone? Have you seen an adult doing the same thing while watching a movie on a tablet?

Second-screen watchers are becoming a more pervasive pattern, according to The Nielsen Company, a global leader in multinational media research and best known for its TV ratings.

In a story reported by The Associated Press, Nielsen shared data showing one in three Americans used Twitter last June while watching TV. And that, the company adds, was before the Olympics when ménage å tweets spiked even higher.

Twitter may have emerged as the second screen of choice for TV viewers.

But there is more going on than tweeting. Forty-one percent of tablet owners and 38 percent of smartphone users, Nielsen told AP, use these devices at least once a day while watching television. While those numbers haven't risen sharply, what has changed is how much longer people are watching two screens "at once."

Curating Yourself Online

RebelMouse enables users to unite their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites on a single, personalized "social web front page."

The digital newspaper has a visual feel that Jay Yarrow, writing for Business Insider, says is a combination of Flipboard, Tumblr, Pinterest and About.me. The extra advantage is that your RebelMouse home page constantly refreshes, even displaying a discriminating eye to choose the best visual assets you have to offer.

Developed by Paul Berry, former chief technology officer for the Huffington Post, RebelMouse provides an easy way to aggregate a user's social sharing, but also add content directly and provide analytics indicating how people are interacting with your posts.

Berry describes his new online progeny as a tool for people and brands to publish content. "RebelMouse should help them be good at it and help them engage with influencers as well," says Berry.

The underlying value — and the key to Berry monetizing RebelMouse — is providing a central hub to see someone's entire online presence. This could be extremely valuable for brands or individuals with huge followings on various social media sites.

Berry has attracted gobs of media coverage even though RebelMouse has just moved from beta testing and, according to Berry, now has 25,000 sites posted. He promises to add more design options to allow greater customization.

Several digital commentators said RebelMouse doesn't contain any revolutionary tools or tricks. Its value comes from its simplicity and relative ease of use, which in turn produce an elegant home page and sophisticated analytics. It is, in effect, curating yourself.

Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On

Not getting enough sleep? A new website leads you through useful content, one sense at a time.Storytelling and interactivity often are missing on websites. Not so with NationalSleepFoundation.com.

“This website includes fun, practical information to help people transform their bedrooms into a sanctuary for sleep,” says David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “We believe everyone can benefit from better sleep and this site provides easy tips and links to more in-depth research to help people improve their sleep environments. It also gives guidance for when more help is needed.”

The new "Inside Your Bedroom, Use Your Senses" website engages viewers through touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. The familiar paths of sensory perception let viewers contemplate issues such as "shivering and sweating at night," as well as "how bed surfaces affect your sleep."

Landing pages devoted to each sense contain a mixture of information about what impacts sleep, such as too much or too little light in a room, and research data — "73 percent of Americans say a dark room is important to getting a good night's sleep."