Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Big Changes at Twitter: Character Limit Increases to 280



Twitter is making some changes, which may be in response to its drop in ad revenue. The company tested an expanded, 280-character Tweet limit for users over the last month (I was not one of these users). Apparently they liked the response, because 280-character tweets are now available to all users, unless you happen to be living in Japan, China or Korea.

Longer tweets getting a mixed reception

The longer form of tweets has received a mixed reception, but Twitter has provided data that helps justify the reason for the company’s doubling the Tweet character limit. Twitter says that users are engaging more with the longer tweets. More importantly, longer tweets are generating more likes than shorter ones.

More rationale from Twitter on the character limit change

Historically, 9% of Tweets hit the character limit. This translates to our laboriously trying to edit our posts to make them fit within the limits of the 140-character Tweet. With the expanded character count, the number dropped to only 1% of Tweets running up against the limit.
Interestingly, timelines haven’t filled up with 280-character Tweets—users aren’t necessarily using the limit. Only 5% of Tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2% were more than 190 characters.

Too early to know the results

It’s still a little early to get any definitive data on the results of this change, but I believe that the 140-character Tweet has taught all of us to communicate efficiently on all of our social channels—not just Twitter. While it’s challenging to stay within 140 characters, statistics show that it’s short posts that get read. Those 500-character posts are overwhelming—and no one reads them. Distilling your thoughts down to the heart of your message requires skill. One thing I’m dreading: What will this expanded limit mean to our Tweeter-in-Chief?
Do you need help with your social media program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing specialists.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Russian Facebook Ads: The Result? Increased Transparency


If you’ve tuned out all things political, you’ve missed a growing problem of political advertising on social media. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Except that Facebook reported on Sept. 6 that it had found an operation likely based in Russia that spent $100,000 on thousands of US ads promoting divisive social and political messages over a two-year-period through May 2016. Zuckerberg has apologized, but probes are in the works by several congressional committees, along with the Department of Justice.

The Russian ads spread divisive views on immigration, race and gay rights

“For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better,” Zuckerberg said in the post. Facebook, still the dominant social media network, said 3,000 ads and 470 “inauthentic” accounts and pages spread polarizing views on topics that included immigration, race and gay rights.
This brouhaha is a very big deal because of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, the appointment of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the ensuing investigation into the matter and the potential charges of obstruction of justice against Trump and members of his team.
As a result of the Russian takeover of the Facebook platform, Facebook now is testing a lengthier review process for ad campaigns that are using highly controversial topics to target an audience. Facebook now will request ad buyers for election-related topics to verify their identity, and they will include disclosures for each ad.

Implementing new changes will slow down the buying process

According to one political advertiser, Facebook is alerting ad buyers, letting them know that their campaigns might take longer than usual to run if its target audience is based on political, religious or social issues. Facebook has become a popular advertising platform because it provides the opportunity to drill down to rich demographic detail, including user interests.
“Ad sets that use targeting terms related to social, religious or political issues may require additional review before your ads start running . . . or you can adjust your detailed targeting elections.”

Tech companies testifying before Congress about Russian operatives’ use of their platforms

The notification comes right before attorneys from Facebook and other tech companies are scheduled to testify before Congress to talk about how Russian operatives might have used their platforms to sway U.S. voters during the 2016 presidential election. It also comes just days after a top lawmaker introduced a bill to require large tech companies to hold a database of political ad spending.

Facebook not alone in its efforts to become more transparent 

As Facebook rolls out new oversight procedures and policies, Twitter is also stepping up its efforts to become more transparent. It will soon begin explaining to users who see political ads why they’re seeing them and who paid for them. An industry that was self-regulating will now fall under government regulation to avoid the kind of takeover of the platform that occurred during the runup to the 2016 election.
Do you need help managing your social media program or maybe just some help generating quality content? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

4 Tips for Better Social Media Posts


Despite Twitter’s imposed 140-character limit that has us all thinking in shotgun bursts, I still see some really long posts on Facebook and Linkedin—many of these without an image. The result? Forget it. No one’s going to take the time to stop and read this. Like it or not, we want our messaging condensed into quick, easily digestible sound bites.

Ask any writer: it’s much harder to write a little than a lot

If you’re writing headlines, social media posts, ad copy or taglines, think efficiency. Pare down your copy to the fewest number of words that will make your point.

Here are some tips that have helped me be a better, more efficient writer

1. Identify the single message you want to communicate

Time to prioritize. What is the single most important thought? Not the reasons it’s going to enhance your clients’ lives. Save that for other parts of your content-marketing program–an e-book, presentation, blogpost or a white paper, where you have the space to build a compelling case. Identify the one primary message and whittle away the excess.

2. Rely on images to help tell your story

With limited space and character limits, images and graphics take on an enhanced role. Incorporating a great image will help convey your message without contributing to the word count. Be selective; not all images are created equal. Spend time finding not just a good image, but a really great one that will get people’s attention and contribute to the overall impact. A note: avoid clickbait. Way too cheesy and it will hurt you in the long run. Select images that are relevant—but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be funny, fun, clever, whimsical, etc.

3. Get rid of everything that doesn’t contribute to the core thought

Even great writers have blocks and struggle. The cure? Start writing. Forget about word or character limits or making it sound good; rather, focus on your main point without regard to how many words it takes to convey your story. Once you’ve finished, sit back and review what you’ve written, and begin to edit. Apply liberal does of your delete key. It will take a few passes, but you will be able to trim this down to its core.
Another tip: A longtime writer, it’s always my goal to write efficiently, making my point with the fewest possible words. My favorite strategy is to write something one day, then come back the next day to review it. The passage of time provides startling clarity. I’ll look at something I’ve written and wonder what in the hell I was thinking!

4. Keep your perspective. It’s just one piece

Concerned that someone will see a single tweet and form an opinion? Let it go—that may be the source of your problem of trying to cram too much information into one thought.
A single piece of content isn’t likely to be the decision-maker for a potential client. A social media post is only one piece of a greater whole, which is an integrated content marketing program.
Do you need help managing social media? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

5 Easy Ways to Incorporate Instagram into Your Marketing Program


Those who are dragged kicking and screaming to social media groan with every new application that hits the market. Each has its own little niche in the online space, and we eagerly or reluctantly join the frenzy, competing with millions of other users to create a following, connect and share information. We’ve ramped up to Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. We’re members of online communities such as Nextdoor and Patch.

But many people—especially older users–are struggling with Instagram

If you think Instagram is going away, you may have to wait a while. There are currently more than 700 million users. The demographic? Of course. It’s those millennials and youngsters again—that group who cannot bear ever to be separated from their phones. In response to those who find Instagram annoying and awkward because the messaging has to be executed on a phone, well, you may not be their demographic.
  • More women than men
  • 18-29: 55%
  • 30-49: 28%
  • 64+: 11%
Love it or hate it, if you want to reach your market, you need to be using Instagram. Here are five tips for maximizing your Instagram posts.

1. Every word counts

Twitter users get this one. Think efficiency. Conveying your message as succinctly as possible is critical to Instagram communications. While you can include up to 2,200 characters, including emoji, and up to 30 hashtags, only 125 characters will appear before users have to click “More” to see the rest of the caption. In a recent analysis, the average number of words per caption was 33 words. The bottom line: Keep it short.

2. Use emoji where it makes sense

Those emoji showing up most frequently in top-appearing posts? Hearts, clapping hands, the camera emoji. Be selective.

3. Add hashtags for visibility

Hashtags help users discover your content. Instagram limits hashtags to 33—but that’s ridiculous. One study that looked at top publishers such as National Geographic, Bleacher Report and Dodo found that the average number of hashtags per post was only one, due to many of the top 25 publishers’ not using hashtags at all. As with content and emoji, be selective.

4. Provide context with mentions

Publishers and big brands add more power to their Instagram posts by tagging the subjects of the photos—so mention others in your posts. Big brands like Vogue, National Geographic and Time average two-four tags/mentions in their posts. Vogue, for example, mentions fashion brands, celebrities and the stylist teams with whom they collaborate.

5. Add a call to action

As with all of your marketing efforts, include a call to action. Ask a question, ask your audience to tag a friend or direct users to a link in their bio for more information.

A final note: Instagram on your computer

While there are apps that you can download that enable your using Instagram on your computer, this is not recommended because it’s getting away from the essence of Instagram—a spontaneous, immediate way to share great images and impressions.
Do you need help managing your social media program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Who Reads Newspapers Anymore? You’d Be Surprised


I’ve always loved newspapers, and it stems from childhood. My family always got the daily newspaper and we shared it among the five of us. We could count on my mom to completely trash it. She never put the sections back together, so we had to reconstruct it before we could properly read it. I promised myself that when I was on my own, I’d buy my own paper and be the first one to touch its crisp, pristine pages.
Like most newspaper devotees, there’s something ceremonious about this. I read the sections in a certain order, beginning with the sports page; when I’ve finished I feel better able to understand my place in the world.

Even as Trump harangues journalists, circulations are on the rise

Sadly, with the rise of digital, we’ve seen newspapers around the country steadily going out of business, and many think the industry is dead. Not so fast. Even as Donald Trump continues to harangue journalists and label excellent, iconic publications like the New York Times and Washington Post fake news, their circulations have risen. What’s happening may be a backlash to Trump, but thoughtful people still want to know what’s going on in the world, and they know they’re not going to comprehensive information from FOX.
Those newspapers that have survived are adapting and filling a need. They’re finding new ways to reach their audiences. Publishers are taking digital strategies and applying to them to their print operations.

1. Deepen the focus on local markets

Hearst Newspapers has acquired dozens of newspapers since 2016. A big part of their strategy is staying local, placing an emphasis on regional excellence. Hearst started as a family newspaper, and it has stayed true to these roots, even as the chain has grown to a huge, diverse media company extending to 150 countries, generating $10B in revenue.

2. Deepen the engagement

Combine the newspaper with a digital offering, creating free and premium websites. An example: San Francisco has sfgate.com and sfchronicle.com.
The SF Gate is fast and buzzy, run by a separate digital editorial team while the Chronicle is run by the core newsroom. By freeing up those sites to be more competitive editorially and more savvy on sharable content. The traffic has grown from 20 to a whopping 60% reach through this strategy.

3. Building market-specific products

Hearst has more than 4,000 employees across the country, publishing 22 dailies and 64 weeklies, but they’re committed to building products. Example: In San Antonio, Hearst started an effort called Spurs Nation. Neither a website nor magazine, it’s a whole platform, with a print product and a local Sunday TV show and digital video. The Spurs actually ended up working with Spurs Nation.

4. Leverage data to
identify audience preferences

Hearst is investing big in data, because they want to know as much about their users as possible. Understanding their market means that they can continue to offer the right kind of content at the right times. Fundamental business intelligence is critical.

5. Speed to market with comprehensive news and information

You have to have something worth paying for. Breaking news might be one function; deeper analytical journalism another. There’s room for both. People are still reading. They’re curious and want to stay informed. There is still a need for information beyond the 140-character sound bite.

Hearst is on the move

Hearst is driving its own success through creative use of digital tools and social media, plenty of metrics and good old-fashioned reporting. We’ve come full circle. The delivery of news is really what newspapers are all about.
Are you ready to outsource your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Women and Sports Advertising: Nothin’ But Missed Opportunities

I recently read an article that was a great illustration of how marketers are totally missing the boat when it comes to what I call Marketing 101: Identifying your audience. If you think your product or service is for everyone, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
This article was written by a colleague who did a seminar in our little burb last winter. He’s clearly defined his audience: small sports retailers. He runs sales seminars and workshops, helping them become enlightened marketers and salespeople, creating stakeholders with a heightened customer focus.

Sports advertising is inevitably about and for men

He’s taking a look at the outdoors/sports industry—the stores, ads, trade shows, etc. and virtually all of these are geared toward men. What? The face of the sales force and marketing campaigns is a masculine one. But that’s not an accurate representation of the industry. They’re missing the boat on several fronts.
  • Women are the shoppers; they’re the ones who often do the shopping for the men in their lives.
  • Women are often very engaged in outdoor activities. They’re fishing and hunting, playing tennis, soccer, baseball, and basketball. They’re rock climbing and racing bicycles, running and ice-skating, boxing and fencing, etc. You get the idea. Women have become fiercely competitive; they’re active, aggressive and involved.

Change begins with every retailer along the food chain

So how else can outdoors retailers and manufacturers start recognizing that they’re missing a huge opportunityand a historically loyal market? It starts with every sports retailer on the food chain. Incorporate more inclusive events into their itineraries. Start hosting women-specific clinics. Make the outdoors seem approachable to novices, regardless of gender. Women may have felt excluded from a particular sport, so change that perception; make it approachable.

Manufacturers also need to step up

Like the retailers, manufacturers need to upgrade their products so they’re geared toward women. No neon pink, but not crazy masculine, either. Ad campaigns should feature both men and women. The current model is currently either for men or for women. But since we’re sharing the outdoors, men and women should be equally represented.

Stop qualifying women in the outdoors or in sports

Market to women as members of the group, rather than singling them out. As women integrate into all aspects of industries, their roles and populations will grow. It helps shape the industry for women moving forward. Creating better gear for women, for example, can impact the younger generation, the current generation, the bikes women ride, the opportunities they’re given. We shouldn’t be breaking down roles by gender or ethnic group. No more women CEOs or Latino CEOs. It has to start somewhere. Making sports neutral would go a long way towards leveling the playing field for women. It will also result in increased revenue for retailers and manufacturers.
Do you need help with your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Business Cards: Obsolete or a Great First Impression?

Are business cards on the verge of extinction?

I’ve been at a few recent events or in situations where I hand someone my business card and they tell me that their company has just gone paperless. What? Note that it is generally a company that makes this kind of decision, not an individual consultant or solopreneur.

Never travel or attend a networking event without a handful of cards

What happens to them after they’re exchanged is anyone’s guess. If you’re like most of my clients when I ask what they do with the contacts they make, they pull open a desk drawer and stare at a huge collection of dated cards. A better course of action, of course, is to be discriminating. Get cards from those people who are good potential connections. Add these people to your contact management system and newsletter list, connect with them on social media and schedule a coffee date with those whom you want to see again. Follow up with these people and build strategic relationships.

It’s a physical reminder in a digital world

Of course, one reason business cards are disappearing from both our wallets and radar is our reliance on social platforms. Do we really need business cards when we can quickly pull out our smartphones and instantly follow one another on LinkedIn? Maybe a business card really is superfluous.

But what those who are now going paperless? 

All of a sudden, the ritual of sharing cards has been aborted. That act of shaking hands, making eye contact and exchanging cards has lost some of its impact. It’s not that you were dying to get another business card, but that business card, like your website or any other piece of collateral, says a lot about you.
An attractive, well-designed business card reinforces your personal brand, helps make a favorable first impression and sets you apart. Many people these days are finding ways to individualize their cards without making them—they’re using the backs to include a quote, they’re adding graphics. Terrific logos go a long way towards personalizing your card. More important, if you’re sharing it with someone with whom you genuinely want to follow up, that card has important contact information that they can reference. You never want to make it hard for someone to get in touch with you.
Ultimately, business cards are still useful at keeping you fresh in the minds of the recipient. For those who really do like to take those cards home and follow up with their new connections, an important opportunity to connect has just been lost.

Business cards: inexpensive and still relevant

I gave up on print collateral long ago. It’s expensive and quickly dated. When people ask me if I have a brochure, I have no problem telling them that I’ve gone paperless and direct them to my website. That’s a trend that many small businesses and consultants embrace. But I’m for hanging on to your business card. It helps create connections.
Are you ready to outsource your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We writers and content marketing experts.