The blog.


Social Media is Not a Mouthpiece

Social media is a great tool for any business, but only when it’s being used properly. There are many brands out there that simply use social media as a way of constantly inundating their audience with a series of generic news updates or links, and quite frankly, they’re doing it wrong. Social media is not a mouthpiece, it’s a party line, and everyone has a voice and a place in the conversation. If you’re not creating thought-provoking and engaging content within your social spheres, your ROI will be virtually non-existent.

The Old Way of Thinking Needs to Change

With traditional advertising brands didn’t have to think about creating a conversation around their collateral. All they had to do was craft a message, print the message, and pay a boatload of money to ensure that you saw it on your screen or in your magazines. This one-sided way of communication has been the norm for decades, so it’s easy to see why so many brands are having trouble keeping up in the social media age.

These companies are trying desperately to hold on to the old model because of the security it afforded them, and I get that, but if you’re going to go all-in with social media, the idea of security should’ve been abandoned long ago. You’re not allowed to dictate what the customer says or feels when it comes to your product or service anymore. Your job is to deliver the message and then field the reactions that come in from it in a meaningful way that benefits both parties.

This is a Pardon, Not a Death Sentence

The idea that social can be evil or somehow destructive to your brand is 100% self-made. When done properly social can transform your brand in ways you’ve never even dreamed of. You’re now able to connect with your audience in a way that you’ve never had before, and you have unprecedented access to their information which should be worth its weight in gold. Think back ten years ago. Did anybody want to be friendswith Coca-Cola? Were people willing to share a commercial with hundreds of their closest friends? No, they weren’t. I think this is what makes social media so powerful today. You’re not responsible for creating massively successful ad campaigns. You’re responsible for creating an ad campaign that speaks to just one person, and they automatically make it a success by sharing that message for you at zero cost to you.

This should be liberating for your brand, but I understand that many people have a hard time coming to grips with this reality. Many old-school marketers believe in being a control freak, and they think that social media is a death sentence. It’s not. You just have to understand the conversational nature of what’s happening and figure out a way to incorporate that into your brand’s strategy.

The Humanization of the Internet

If you’re still trying to figure out exactly how to connect to your audience using social media, the easiest thing I can tell you is to approach your messaging with a sense of humanity. People want to know there’s another human on the end of the line when they’re communicating with brands online. One of the most frustrating things that’s ever been invented is the automated voice prompts that most companies have on their phone systems these days. Every single time I get one of those things, I immediately hit zero fervently until I’m sent to an actual human being. When I reach out to a brand on Facebook or Twitter, I’m looking for that same thing. I don’t want a canned response with a link to your contact form. I want some empathy, conversation, and customer service.

Even though airlines are notoriously bad at customer service, they are one of the best (in my opinion) when it comes to social media. Sure they pump out a series of sales tweets now and then, but for the most part their job is fielding messages from pissed off travelers all over the world. One of the things I like about the way airlines handle their social customer service is the fact that they append the initials of the customer service agent to the end of the tweet or Facebook message. At first I didn’t know what the initials meant, but once I figure out it was the initials of the person I was talking to (they actually called me on the phone) I have since started to take comfort in knowing that there’s an actual person trying to help me on the other end of the line. That small detail means more than you think to most people.

This is the type of thing you need to be doing on social media. You need to analyze your audience and figure out what their pain points are with your brand and its messaging, and then find ways to interject some realness into it. There’s already a world of distance between you and them because of the nature of this type of communication, so you need to be doing everything you can to make the experience of digital seem less robotic. Otherwise you’re just repeating the same old story we’ve seen for decades, and that is what makes us change the channel to begin with.

Conclusion

I realize that I approach social media marketing from a much more holistic angle than most do, but that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. I don’t believe you have to sacrifice your brand or your conversions in order to create a more engaging social presence. In fact, I’d argue that you’ll see more conversions and gain access to more valuable data by doing so. The days of big ad buys and paid focus groups are over. Crowd-sourced information and conversations are the new norm now, and it’s time for you and your business to get on board.

Social Platforms: Stick to the Scope

Every social network has a unique purpose and target audience. Anyone using these platforms for business purposes should be up-to-speed on what that purpose and audience is, and what type of content to share with them. Unfortunately many people paint with broad strokes when it comes to social media and they simply post the same message on every single platform. Well, you’re doing it wrong.

Know Your Platforms

For the most part social is social, and there can be some overlap between the platforms you use, but the reason there are so many social networks to begin with is because each one of them is supposed to solve a very specific communication problem. Twitter is best for short-form blasts of information to “followers”, Facebook is for connecting with old friends and loved ones, and LinkedIn was built to further your professional career. You shouldn’t be saturating each one of these with the same type(s) of content. No one on LinkedIn cares about what you had for breakfast, just as no one on Twitter cares when you update your resume.

Oftentimes I’ll log in to LinkedIn and I’ll see status updates from people that are very personal in nature or that contain meme images or YouTube videos. This is not what this platform is intended for, and by doing this you are putting yourself in a very bad position. People take note of things like this, and while I suppose it’s your prerogative to post whatever you want on your profile, it still very much goes against the nature of what this network was intended for, and thus makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Know Your Audience

Another piece of the social media puzzle is know one’s audience. You should be well aware of the types of connections you have on every network you participate in. Most networks include some form of analytics tool that will allow you to get into the nitty gritty of who your audience is, where they’re from, how old they are, and at what time are they most active. You should use this data to better serve your audience on these various platforms.

If you Google “best time to post on social media” you will undoubtedly be overwhelmed by the amount of infographics and blog posts on the subject. However, if you actually take the time to read a few of them you’ll begin to notice a trend. For instance, Facebook users are more active during the afternoon, Twitter users in the morning, and LinkedIn during lunchtime and evenings. These all directly correspond to how these networks are being used and by whom. Facebook is being used by parents and kids after school, Twitter is a news source before you head off to work, and LinkedIn is being used by people with 9-to-5 jobs. The formulas are pretty simple, but you have to put in the effort in order to truly understand them and take full advantage. Here’s a link to a great infographic on this subject for your reference.

Speak the Language

Just as the content on each network should be different, so too should the language and grammar that you use. I’m amazed at the amount of people that don’t take the time to learn the lingo of a given platform. While it might be ok to use abbreviations, hashtags, and “internet speak” on sites like Instagram and Twitter, it’s certainly not ok to do the same on a site like LinkedIn. On short-form networks you’re often given a pass for bad grammar and spelling because of the character limitations of the message window. Just remember, brevity doesn’t have to equal sloppy. Do your best to keep your messages free of serious grammatical gaffes.

I’ve misspelled words on purpose to make them fit into a tweet, but as long as people can discern what I meant I’m willing to let that go. When I’m developing a blog post, sending a Facebook message, or creating a post on LinkedIn, however, I almost always double check my spelling and grammar, and many times I’ll even keep a thesaurus handy to make sure I’m using things in the correct context.

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

The types of images you use in your social media posts should also be carefully chosen. If you’re syndicating content across multiple networks, make sure that the images you choose are appropriate for all audiences and networks. You’ll notice most of the images that I use for my posts fit within a general them of the content that I’m sharing, but at the same time are relatively benign, which allows me to use them across many ecosystems.

Stock photography is a great way to get high-quality images for your social media posts. Just be sure that you’re checking the licensing information beforehand and that you are also customizing the images in some way so that they fit a little better into your posts. Most stock photos are generic, even if they depict something very specific they don’t really relate to you and your business. Add things to your photos like text and graphics (your logo, etc.) so that it gives the image a bit more context. Again, be careful with hashtags, as those aren’t necessarily a big thing on every network that you’ll be posting on.

Conclusion

Creating compelling and complementary content for social networks is difficult. You have to be willing to invest the time in order to understand the needs and wants of the individual user base of each platform that you choose to use. If you’re not doing that, your social efforts will be seen as nothing more than a generic attempt at over-saturation.

Choosing Images for Your Content is One of the Most Important Decisions You Can Make

I recently read an article that discussed how Netflix experimented with different types of image thumbnails for its content in order to drive consumption. Their findings were so fascinating to me that it got me wondering why more companies don’t do that with their content? Many companies today are content to simply used canned templates or stock photos when it comes to the preview images they use for their content, but while those images may be cost-efficient and easy, they certainly aren’t as effective as they could be.

According to the research that Netflix did, images accounted for 82% of the time people spent browsing for titles to watch in the Netflix library. That means that the images were 4x more likely to draw someone in over a catchy title or well-written description. That’s not to say that titling and descriptions aren’t important. They most certainly are. However, this does show that we are living in a day and age where people aren’t as interested in traditional methods of enticement. We live in a digital age where companies are constantly fighting for the attention of their users in a shorter window than they ever imagined.

In general, I’d say, you have about 30-60 seconds to capture someone’s attention and make them click-through or engage with your content. In many cases the window is probably even smaller, so it is extremely important that you make that window count. Well, according to MIT, the human brain can process an image in as little as 13 milliseconds. That means you can maximize that tiny window and grab the user’s attention before they even realize what has happened. Pretty powerful stuff, right?

“While the results from our research were often surprising, it is clear that an image can move people in powerful ways.”
– Nick Nelson, Netflix

So, what can you do as a company to ensure that you’re maximizing this opportunity? Well, it’s actually pretty simple. Follow the Netflix model. Seriously. If you read the blog post that Netflix published, you will get a pretty good idea of where to start. From there you should conduct your own research amongst your followers or customers to see what makes them click. The answer will almost certainly be different for everybody and every business, but the idea remains the same. The day of canned, cookie-cutter imagery is over. People see through that. We live in an age where brand authenticity is of the utmost importance, so using an image that doesn’t feel true to your brand is a huge misstep.

I understand the reason(s) people use template-based looks and stock photography. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and at that very moment, it’s good enough. The problem is that those types of images are accessible to far too many people. You run the risk of using the same image that someone has used before, or simply becoming a blur in the noise of social media when you really want to rise above it. I recently saw an ad for a college here in Tennessee. They were advertising their new online classes, and they used a stock photo for their billboard. On the other side of the city, the same image was being used to advertise a drug rehab facility. Do you think the college wants that sort of thing associated with them? No, they don’t. But that’s the risk you take when using a stock photo.

The main thing to take away from this article is that each piece of content you create is unique, and should be treated as such. Don’t settle for good enough when great can be achieved with just a little extra work. Take pride in the content you create and do your best to ensure that it’s as clickable and shareable as possible!

Why Personal Branding is Important for Designers

We live in a social-focused world. Your online reputation is more important than ever, and whether you know it or not, you’re already a personal brand that people are judging and interacting with on a daily basis. If you’re not actively working to improve your personal brand as a designer, now is the time to start.

Why You Should Care

You might be wondering why you should care about personal branding; especially if you’re working for an agency or corporation. The simple answer is that you might not work there forever, and building a solid network can even help you get ahead in your current role too. Having a solid personal brand strategy will allow you to:

  • Obtain better professional opportunities;
  • Position yourself as an industry thought leader;
  • Land a higher-profile job;
  • Start your own business with your own clients.

What You Can Do

How do you build a personal brand as a designer? The good thing is that today’s social platforms are largely visual. Platforms like Facebook, instagram, and SnapChat all get the most engagement from eye-catching imagery, and as a designer that should be your bread and butter. Use your skills to share targeted content across these platforms to increase awareness for you and your brand. The key is to grab the attention of users and let them extend your organic reach for you. The better your content, the more likely it will be shared by those who are consuming it.

If you have your own blog you should write articles about happenings within the industry; share case studies from the client work that you do; and give them insight into your creative process with behind the scenes video snippets and vlogs. All of these things are hot and audiences are hungry to consume them. Up-and-coming designers are always looking for a leg up; especially the ones that are fresh out of school and are looking for real-world experience.

By developing a solid content strategy your following will increase over time. As your following grows, so will awareness for your brand. If the right people come across you then you could be on your way to speaking at industry events, landing a book deal, or making money from an online course that showcases your creative prowess. All of these are great ways to extend your reach and put a little extra cash in your pocket. Don’t just settle for the rat race. Focus on the future and always be thinking about your next play.

Conclusion

No one is looking out for you but you. By building a personal brand you’re laying the foundation for your future. Take it from someone who has been there; your reputation and willingness to hustle are the only ways you get ahead in this game. And both of those things, as well as people’s perception about you, are 100% in your hands.