Social Media is More than a Part-Time Position

Can you use a part-time social media manager to achieve your online marketing goals? Will hiring a part-time social media manager be enough to acheive your goals?  Isn’t social media marketing simply making announcements to a network of people who have signed on to receive your news and tidbits? Isn’t it simply sharing links, images, and videos you find interesting or inspirational? Or is it all about building relationships and finding ways to engage with your prospects and customers? These things are definitely part of social media marketing, but they don’t tell the whole story.

There is much more to social media than just being social, and doing this type of marketing well requires more than a part-time effort. It requires a strategy, measurement, and constant nurturing. Too often, marketing directors think of social media as a part-time endeavor–something to do whenever time allows, a marketing tool to use whenever inspiration happens to strike, or worst of all, a task that is only performed as an afterthought. When their efforts fail to bring the desired results, they are forced to face one important reality—social media isn’t part time.

What Can an Agency Do that a Part-Time Social Media Manager Can’t?

Our agency dedicates between 30 to 50 hours a week per client, between all of our “hands,” to social media. This includes strategy, consulting, curating content, customer service, campaigns, reporting and more. To ensure that our clients enjoy measurable results, we put in a full-time effort. As with most things that really matter and make a difference in life, you can expect to get out of social media what you take the time to put into it.

Not many brands have an extra 30 to 50 hours worth of internal bandwidth to dedicate to social media marketing.  Many companies outsource their social media, and you can too. But first, you have to understand what it really takes to be successful in this arena. Here are just a few things that our agency does for our clients:

Set social media clear goals and objectives

Without careful, thoughtful goals and objectives, you’re not prepared to go anywhere. Why? Because you have no idea where you really want to go. Sure, you know that you need social media marketing, but you don’t have a clear idea of what you want it to do for you. We work with brands to determine what they need and then evaluate how social media can help meet those needs. Some possible goals can include increasing brand awareness and improving customer loyalty. Next, we set objectives for moving from an unrealized goal to a goal met. All of our objectives are:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time Bound

That’s right! Make they are SMART!

Figure out who your ideal customer is

How? We develop buyer personas to ensure that when we are helping your brand, we are targeting the right people. We try to learn the following about your brand’s ideal customer:

  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Income level
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Challenges
  • Habits
  • Motivations

Choose the right social media platform

We help our clients work smarter, not harder. Avoid help them avoid spreading themselves too thin by attempting to have a presence on every social media network. This will waste valuable time. Instead, we use the buyer personas to figure out where your audience spends most of its time. Then, select a primary and secondary network on which to focus most of our efforts. We keep it simple and smart, making sure your brand is where your ideal customer is.

Develop a social media and content marketing strategy

Save the willy nilly posting for your personal social media accounts. For your business, we create a carefully considered strategy for the type of content (text, images, video, links, funny, serious, inspirational, etc.), a schedule for posting and strategies to drive engagement, encourage new followers, and keep your current followers happy and interested.

An on-point social media manager

CMOs and CEOs are typically far too busy with to spend the time needed to follow up on the follow through of a social media manager. Rather than proceed with far less than what you really need, a solution is to utlize an agency that understands not only the social media landscape and your business but also has the staff and bandwidth to nurture your brand’s community and online presence. All good social media manager should have the following character traits:

Curious: A good social media manager will be interested in how things work, why they work that way, what your audience needs, how to provide it, how to fix issues, and how to do it all better.

Teachable and adaptable: Things are constantly changing in the social media arena. New platforms come into play, certain strategies become more effective, your audience changes, or your competitors change the game. You need a social media manager who is eager to learn and willing to not only roll with changes but also lead the way in some respects.

Experience and skills: While it’s not critical that a social media manager knows everything (it is okay to learn more as he or she goes), you do want someone with skills in multimedia (including images, video, graphics). It’s also critical that a social media manager has experience with, and commitment to, exceptional customer service. Likewise, an understanding of analytics and analytic tools is important. This should include the ability to analyze data beyond basics, such as the number of likes or followers you have or how many times a post has been shared.

 

As you can see, social media success requires a great deal of time, effort, knowledge, and enthusiasm. The good news is you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) go it alone. Working with an agency can help augment your existing marking team and ensure that your brand’s social media, content and influencer marketing efforts are getting “all hands on deck,” freeing you mind other aspects of your brand marketing.

The Anatomy of a Social Media Policy

Your Corporate Social Media Policy

The Anatomy of a Social Media Policy

As a business owner, marketing manager, or executive, you may wonder if your company needs a social media policy. After all, nearly everyone we know uses a Facebook account, and lots of people are Instagramming photos of their families, or posting this weekend’s party on Snapchat. How do you protect your business when your staff are loose on the social web? Smart businesses have social media policies which govern the actions of employees in social media, whether on behalf of the company or while on their own time.

Most social media policies are crafted primarily with company protection in mind.  I’d argue that an equally important goal of your policy should be to eliminate confusion on the part of employees, making it safe for them to engage in social media without constantly asking for guidance (or fouling up). Therefore, a good social media policy needs a number of key elements in order to make it easy for employees to follow and clear for HR and executives to interpret. Even if you already have a policy, perhaps it’s worth checking to be sure you’re covering the following eight points.

1. Your Social Media Policy Establishes the Face of Your Company

The first part of your social media policy should cover protecting the company. You’ll want to document who is approved to speak on behalf of the company in social media. This could be anyone, or it could be only those people who have been specifically certified or trained to do so – and possibly only people who have been trained in your brand voice. You will probably want to think of social media in the same way as traditional media; after all, you wouldn’t allow just anyone to do a TV interview on behalf of the company, so why would you allow anyone to tweet for the company? And by “approved to speak,” you might mean in any instance – even the most basic of customer service issues may need to go through your approved social media team.

2. New Social Accounts

Make it clear who is authorized to create social media accounts for the company. Although you have likely already established your Facebook page and other social presences, someone in your organization might have a notion down the road that their branch or product line needs a Twitter account of its own. In order to keep things coordinated, perhaps state that all new social presences require approval and specify where that approval must come from.

3. Employee Personal Content

Set some boundaries for personal content. You probably don’t care whether your staff tweets about their kids or their knitting, so help them to see where the line is between work content and personal content. Some policies suggest that as long as employees are not talking about company-related topics, everything else is fair game.

4. FTC Endorsement Guidelines

Realize that staff do want to talk about their work – after all, they spend a lot of time thinking about work topics and it occupies a large part of their day. But you don’t want your employees to run afoul of the FTC Endorsement Guidelines, pumping up the reputation of your brand without full transparency into their relationship with the company. So include in your policy some info on how to incorporate industry or company information into their own conversations, without running afoul of the FTC rules. This could mean that they have to state their company affiliation in their social profile (but that their opinions are their own), or that they should indicate (#employer, or with an explanation and a link) in their tweets or personal blog posts.

If you’re part of an agency or consultancy that serves multiple clients, the same FTC rules apply, only your employees will need to disclose client posts with #client or an appropriate explanation and link.

5. Employee Advocacy

Do you want your staff to amplify your social messaging – retweeting your content or posting your blog posts to Facebook when it’s appropriate for their audiences? If so, clarify this point and help your team to do so; to streamline this process, you can use employee advocacy tools like Bambu, Circulate.it, or GaggleAMP. But be wary of requiring sharing of staff; it’s really not appropriate to ask people to use their personal profiles for business, and it could reflect badly on your company if it looks like you’re making your staff spam their family and friends with your corporate messaging.

6. What’s Off Limits?

Some content may be totally off-limits for any employee posting anywhere. This probably includes confidential information, posting anything negative about a competitor, or posting anything that could infringe on intellectual property laws, at minimum. While this may all seem obvious, put it in the policy anyway.

7. Customer Service & Employee Feedback

Give employees an outlet for passing along information they see in social media that they feel should be responded to. At the very least, providing an email address to the PR or customer service department within the policy will be a valve release for employees which may prevent them from trying to respond on their own.

8. Be Professional!

Remind everyone about the importance of professionalism and respect for others. This seems to go without saying, but why not put it in writing, just in case? Those videos of the company holiday party with the boss in the lampshade probably won’t be good for your corporate image.

A good  social media policy does not constrain your employees’ personal self-expression, but makes it obvious for them where to draw the line. Review some examples of corporate social media policies, work with HR or legal as necessary, and codify something that relieves the stress of “should I or shouldn’t I?” for your staff, while providing you peace of mind.

Have other thoughts about what a social media policy should include? Please share your ideas in the comments.

7 Tips for Success in Social Media

“Keep it simple” is good advice when it comes to most things business related, and that includes social media. Why, you ask? Well, the fact of the matter is that some of the simplest things can influence your success with social media. However, it’s also the simple things that many business people overlook or forget to do on a regular basis.

For example, it is simple to share information that is of interest to your audience, striving to make their lives better, easier, or more entertaining rather than posting repeatedly about your business and what makes it so great. That’s simple but good advice, yet it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that we should always push our products and services. Unfortunately, constantly pushing our offerings backfires in a really big way. Likewise, there are many other ways in which the simplest of things threaten to trip up even the most-savvy business people. But, no worries. We’re here to help you avoid falling into some surprisingly simple social media traps.

Here are seven tips for ensuring your social media success, even as you strive to keep things simple:

  1. Don’t try to be all things to all people. There are just enough popular social media platforms to make it easy to spread yourself too thin. You figure you need to be on Facebook because everyone is there. But then you get to thinking you should be on [Insert Other Semi-Popular Social Media Network Here]. Then there’s that new social media network you just heard about (there’s always something new in the pipeline), and shouldn’t you be there too? It would be great if you could do everything really well at the same time, but the fact of the matter is that the quality of your presence and interaction with your audience is significantly diminished when you try to be everywhere. That’s the bad news. The good news is you really don’t need a presence on every network to reap the benefits of social media. Instead, figure out where the majority of your audience is, go there, and establish a strong presence on that social media network. If you hear how great a particular platform is, but your audience isn’t there, why should you be? Focus your efforts.
  2. Do branch out a bit when it makes sense for your business. Though you really don’t need to dominate every social media network out there, it’s also a bad idea to restrict yourself to just one. As mentioned in the previous tip, you want to be where your audience spends its time. It makes sense to research which social media networks are most frequented by your audience, and then concentrate on those particular social media networks. In general, most businesses can gain good ground by establishing a presence first on Facebook and then on Twitter and LinkedIn. Once you have that firmly in hand, you might choose to branch out to other platforms that cater to a significant number of your audience members if, and only if, doing so will truly help you engage your audience. If not, you’re probably just wasting time and energy. You’re looking for ROI here rather than simply the chance to see and be seen.
  1. Don’t restrict yourself to social media only. Social media can be a large and critical part of your marketing efforts, but it isn’t the only thing on which you should spend your time. Email marketing is still an important part of the marketing mix, and it’s a mistake to nix email in favor of social media. Instead, it’s a good idea to start your conversations on social media and engage your audience there, but when the time comes for a more in-depth conversation, take advantage of email to further the relationship. And don’t forget that telephone calls and in-person meetings can also help solidify a relationship you initiated via social media. Likewise, emails can be a great vehicle for sharing news and promotions and reminding past customers that you still have what they need. Keep in mind that some of your followers probably miss a significant portion of your posts. Let’s say a past customer hasn’t seen your posts in a bit. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, not in this case, because you send a monthly email newsletter that reminds your customers that they need more of [Insert Product Here] and can’t do without your excellent service.
  1. Do use hashtags. You want people to easily find your posts. When they go looking for relevant information, you want them to find you. Hashtags make it possible for people who are searching for what you have to offer to find you. And that’s not all. Not only do hashtags make it easier for you to target a specific audience, but they also make it easier for you to monitor what others are saying about your business and keep an eye on what your competitors are doing (so you can strategize ways to better serve the same audience that they are targeting).
  1. Don’t post willy nilly. Your messages should suit not only your unique audience but also the network on which you’re posting. To save time, you may consider posting the same message to all your social media networks. Don’t do this. Some types of posts that do really well on one social media network may not fly on another. And if your audience follows you on more than one platform, it could be super-annoying for them to see the same posts popping up in multiple feeds. Instead, take note of the types of messages that work best on each network, tailor your content to the specific platform, and vary your messages.
  1. Do track, monitor, and measure everything you do on social media. Time truly is money, and it’s a waste of time to fly by the seat of your pants on social media. You need to monitor and measure if you want to learn what works and how it’s helping your business. Move forward with the efforts that get you the results you want, and reduce or stop the efforts that aren’t helping you meet your goals. Have a new, potentially game-changing idea? Don’t blindly run with it, pushing forward even when the results are disappointing. Instead, test, test, test, and tweak, tweak, tweak!
  1. Be true to yourself and your audience. No one likes a phony, and your social media success is dependent on people liking you enough to pay attention to your posts. Even virtually, people can spot a fake from a mile away. Being likable is important, as people want to do business with people they like, but trying too hard to be someone you’re not is a recipe for disaster. Go ahead and be yourself, be genuine, and let your audience catch a glimpse of the person you really are. While you’re at it, consider sharing a video of you talking about your business, sharing some valuable information, working hard to produce for your customers. This helps your audience feel personally connected to your business, a feeling that is worth its weight in gold.

Strategies needn’t be complicated to serve you well. Apply the simple tips above to your social media efforts and meet your goals faster. What simple strategies have helped your social media marketing efforts? Share with us in the comments!

Social Media Tools for Collaboration, Organization and Creation We Love (and Use!)

This post was co-authored by Christina StricklandCori Jacobs, and Lesley Lloyd.

 

If you’ve attended any of our social media training sessions, you’ve heard us compare growing social media presences to building a house before. We’ve talked about how you need to build a solid foundation and then the right layers on top of that.

Because construction analogies come easily to me, let’s just roll with, shall we?

If you’re going to build a house, you’re going to need a hammer, right? And, not just a hammer but a screwdriver, a wrench, and some excellent power tools. The same goes for social media.

Sure, we make social media management and content creation look easy, just like those guys doing home remodels on HGTV. But, like those home flippers, we have a great team of talented, dedicated people and an arsenal of tools we use every day.

There are so many social media tools available now that it can be hard to filter through them all to find just what you are looking for. It was equally difficult to determine which tools we should include on our list. To narrow it down, each of these had to meet certain key criteria:

  • The tools must be used by at least two-thirds of the team here at Crackerjack Marketing. In most cases, the tools listed below are used by every team member.
  • The tool must be used every day by said two-thirds of the team members.
  • The tool must have a free version, even if limited, for you to “try before you buy.” For most of these, we have the paid version because we felt the cost (usually minimal) is well justified.

7 Social Media Tools for Collaboration, Creation and Organization We Love

We didn’t want just to give you a boring list of the tools. We also want to share the reasons why these tools are so valuable to our organization by giving you the perspective of several team members, with varying degrees of responsibilities.

Contributing team members include Christina Strickland (that’s me!), Vice President; Cori Jacobs, Client Services Specialist and Lesley Lloyd, Community Manager.

Ready? Let’s dig in!

Favorite Social Media Tool #1: Slack

Collaboration

At first glance, Slack appears to be a simple messaging platform. While it is simple to use, it’s more than just a means of communication. Slack has a broad range of tools and integrations. Everything from uploading documents to sharing funny gifs. Best of all, it has the desktop and mobile apps, so you’re never far from your team.

What we love about Slack:

Cori: I’m showing my age here, but as someone from the internet ‘old school’ I like the familiar feel of Slack — it reminds me a lot of chatting over IRC (Internet Relay Chat). If you never used IRC, think of it as the predecessor to AOL chatrooms or instant desktop chat clients such as MSN Messenger or ICQ. The ‘channel’ model worked then, and it’s a great tool now for keeping multiple topic threads separated so not every single discussion is in one massive, impossible-to-track conversation. I also like the ability to turn notifications off and on per-channel so that I can keep on top of the main topics.

Lesley: I like using the channels. They’re helpful in keeping track of updates going on in social media. We use a Snapchat channel where we add articles on tips, tricks, news, etc. about the network. It’s a great reference tool for writing a blog post on Snapchat, or if we wanted to implement some of the things we learned into our Snapchat profiles. Slack also offers a reminder option for when you can’t look at an article the moment a colleague shares it. You can also pin an item in a channel, so it shows up at the top. Additionally, if you think it would apply to another channel, you can copy it to multiple places. Slack has many shareable and versatile options within the channels. You can designate them to social networks or clients or tools that you’re using. It’s the communication tool to rule all!

Christina: While there is just so much to love about Slack, one of my favorite features is also one of the most basic ones … the search function! If your organization is anything like ours, communication is happening at the speed of light! We love bouncing ideas around and getting inspired. Sometimes, though, we forget what we finally decided on or vaguely remember that someone had a good idea at some point. With the search function, you can enter a word and search your conversation archives. You can narrow it down to a particular channel or conversation or search all of your Slack history. This feature has significantly reduced the number of redundant conversations (“Hey, what did you say about that Instagram campaign, again? I don’t remember.”)

Favorite Social Media Tool #2: Our Editorial Calendar

Organization

We searched the Internet for a long, long time, looking for the right editorial calendar to use for our clients. After an extensive review and so many different tools and templates, we created our own, designed to help keep all of our clients’ content organized and on track.

What we love about the Editorial Calendar:

Cori: The key benefit of our Editorial Calendar for me is its ability to cover each social platform separately in as much detail as is useful a day-to-day community manager, as well as allowing them to maintain a higher-level overview which isn’t bogged down with details. The Overview vs. Detail layout is very useful for situations when sharing a calendar with clients. Most of the teams who we coordinate with aren’t likely to want to dig into a calendar filled with reams of individual tweets, but the high-level view allows them to keep on top of what’s happening across all their social platforms.

Lesley: If you like to plan, the editorial calendar is the place to be. It’s easy to navigate and easy to read when it gets full of all of your ideas and posts. Who’s going to remember what you posted in August of 2014? The editorial calendar will! When working with multiple clients and multiple promotions and channels, creating a calendar for each helps to keep you from getting your paths crossed.

Christina: Aside from being easy to use and understand, I love having an archive, or record, of all the work we have planned and have completed in one place. Don’t forget that you don’t “own” your social channels, so it’s always a good idea to have a backup somewhere.

Favorite Social Media Tool #3: Canva

Creation


If you haven’t heard about Canva yet, stop what you are doing, right now, and go check it out. Canva is a graphic design tool for non-graphic designers. You can start with a template or make your own.

What we love about Canva:

Cori: OK – I’m going to sound like an ad right now, but Canva is genuinely a lifesaver, and has upped my game, graphics-wise. I’m no designer and can barely crop an image in Photoshop, but when a client sends a blog post at 6 pm to be posted the next day, Canva lets me create a compelling feature image in just a few minutes. If I need size variations optimized for multiple social channels, I can also do that with just a couple of clicks with Canva’s “pro” version.

Lesley: The sharing capabilities, especially. The folders and streams make it easy to organize different images for various social channels as well as categories (holidays, contests, promotions, products, etc.). The images don’t have to be emailed or uploaded to your team; they’re saved right in Canva so access and edits can be made by any team member or client if you so choose. Canva also has a variety of designs with sizing and fonts, so it fits everything you’re looking for in an easy-to-use design tool. It makes graphic-creation quick, easy, and professional.

Christina: There is so much to love about Canva. One of my favorite features comes with the Canva for Work subscription (paid). With the paid version, you can create a stored “Brand Kit,” which includes your company colors, logo, fonts and templates as default. No more looking up color codes or using an online color picker!

Favorite Social Media Tool #4: DropBox:

Organization

DropBox is a hugely popular cloud storage option, and for good reason. It’s easy to use and makes your documents accessible from anywhere.

What we love about DropBox

Cori: Like many other cloud tools, Dropbox is invaluable as a shared repository. It’s perfect for storing and sharing all types of files, large or small — anything from spreadsheets to photos to huge video files (though you need a Pro account if your stored/shared files go past the 2GB limit). If you don’t need to collaborate on a file and simply need a place to store and control access to them, Dropbox is perfect. Also, the search function works great, which is good news for someone with thousands of files stored who often needs to be able to put their hands on them quickly.

Lesley: Dropbox is more than a storage tool for documents. Your photos, links, and events fit there, too! When you’re working with multiple clients, you’re going to need space, and you might want to share what you’re working on with them. Dropbox has both! It also has a Paper option like a virtual workspace that you can share with the team with tasks and assignments.

Christina: Selective sync is such a big plus for me! As Cori mentioned, our clients often have enormous video files. The Selective Sync option allows you to control which files sync with your desktop or laptop. Since I work on a MacBook Pro, I prefer not to have my precious hard drive space consumed by video files, and I’ll rarely access. Another on of their great features are file and folder sharing options. You can invite people to view all of the files in a particular folder or create a link to a single file. Even better, you can set an expiration date on that link for sensitive information.

Favorite Social Media Tool #5: Social Report

Organization

Social Report claims that it is “an all-in-one social media management platform with all the features you need in one concise package.” While none of us would agree that it’s the “all-in-one management platform” we do love the reporting capabilities.

What we love about Social Report

Cori: Social Report is a one-stop shop for most of the stats I need day-to-day — super convenient! It tracks an impressive range of platforms and offers breakdowns which aren’t always available through a platform’s ‘native’ analytics. Having a single site for so many platforms means I can save a lot of time when putting together client reports. The Social Report team is constantly looking to improve and add new features, too — for example; they recently added the ability to automatically schedule ‘evergreen’ posts on a rotating basis.

Lesley: I use Social Report every day. Whether for scheduling posts or reporting weekly or monthly, Social Report does it all. Although no reporting website is perfect, and Social Report is constantly updating, it’s my trusty side-kick. I save so much time using it for scheduling 3rd party and evergreen posts (which is a new feature!). Social Report is relatively reliable as well! Minus the occasional error, it’s given me accurate information time and time again.

Christina: Like Cori, I love that I only need to go to one place to find the data we need on a day-to-day basis and for most of our monthly reporting needs. From a team management perspective, I like that we can control who has access to which accounts. I can give access to multiple accounts to our community managers or limit access to a single account for our clients. While “great customer service” isn’t a feature of the tool, I have to say that the support team at Social Report is amazing!

Favorite Social Media Tool #6: Grum.co

Organization

Grum.co is the unicorn of social media scheduling tools, allowing you to schedule Instagram posts in advance, from your computer! While it’s not packed with a ton of features, what is has it worth its weight in gold!

What we love about Grum.co

Cori: The simple interface and the convenience of posting to Instagram from my desktop make Grum a winner. Other Instagram solutions we’ve tried only remind you to post from mobile, but Grum allows you to ‘set it and forget it,’ which is perfect for any busy social manager

Lesley: You can’t beat the simplicity of Grum. Every feature is easy to use and understand. It also offers an archive of past posts for users and clients to reference (but don’t depend on that instead of an editorial calendar!). Instagram hasn’t paved the way for a convenient scheduling tool yet, until now!

Christina: It’s great to be able to log in and make sure that our community managers have the right content lined up. I also love that I can switch between clients without having to log in and out again. Sure, it’s a “little luxury” but one that I can’t live without, now that I have it!

Favorite Social Media Tool #7: Grammarly

Creation

While we use professional copywriters and editors as much as we can, because social media is about responding and reacting in real time there are occasions when using a professional editor isn’t practical due to time constraints. In these situations, we always, always, always, have more than one team member review what has been written but then we also always, always, always, run it through Grammarly, to make sure we don’t have any participles dangling or commas misplaced.

What we love about Grammarly

Cori: Should it be “that” or “which”? Is it “who” or “whom”? Grammarly is a great tool for those times when I’m struggling to deliver my message in the clearest possible way. I never want to embarrass myself (or worse, a client!) with awkward wording or grammar, so Grammarly can really be that ‘second pair of eyes’ I need on a document before pushing it live for the world to see!

Lesley: I never gave grammar in social media a second-look before Grammarly. Correct punctuation, verbs, and tense are often overlooked on social channels because of character amount, laziness, you name it! However, there’s nothing more important to you or your client than appropriate grammar and Grammarly is the perfect tool to ensure your posts are correct. Grammarly catches and fixes many mistakes, but use your discretion!

Christina: The critical and advanced (premium version) grammar checker are excellent features, I’m a huge fan of the vocabulary enhancement suggestions and the style features. I never knew I wrote in such a passive style before!

While we think these tools are just the bee’s knees, remember that there isn’t a single tool that’s going to replace an effective strategy, great content and a great team.

A Lesson in Rebranding from Snapchat

A Lesson in Re-Branding from Snap (Snapchat)

A Lesson in Rebranding from Snapchat

Yes, you read the title right, Snapchat is now Snap. A change of name in the fall told us that the brand is now planning on expanding itself to be more than a messaging network. Since its creation in 2011, Snap has been interesting, unique, entertaining, and fun! You know about the filters (maybe you have used the dog filter a time or two), the disappearing pictures, videos, and chats, the compilation of stories, memories, ads, spectacles, and discovering other news and current events.

Rebranding became necessary to Snapchat in the fall of 2016. You might find yourself in the same shoes now. You can’t hide from rebranding (and that’s a good thing), and you can’t ignore it. If you feel the pressing need to rebrand and don’t know where to start, take a page out of Snapchat’s book on the matter.

Lessons in Re-Branding From Snap

Snapchat rebranded flawlessly; we’re all wondering how they did it, and how we can do the same.

Simplicity

Don’t change too much too drastically. Snapchat dropped the “chat” indicating that they’re more than “chatting” now, but will still be the channel you know and love. Even when you hear “Snap,” you know who that is. Same color scheme, same logo, same basic identity, but they’re moving forward.

Curiosity

Keep your users guessing. Snapchat announced the new name first. The co-creators were clear in the changes and comforted users in the knowledge that more information was coming on the rebrand. There’s a fine line between leaving your users curious but excited and curious but frustrated. Your users like to see you innovating and moving forward, but they want to know about it in a plain and clear manner. They’ll wait to hear what you have next.

Control

Decide what, how, and when new information gets released. Snapchat controlled the details in their announcements, creating the hype until the next installment of information. Users don’t like to be overwhelmed with new information. Make your rebrand exhilarating by giving a little here, and a little there. By keeping your hand on the plans, the rebrand is completely yours and yours alone.

Timing

Plan your timing. The timing of your rebrand may be more important than the rebrand itself. Create a schedule that you’re able to stick to with some flexibility if necessary. Refer to this schedule when users ask you what’s happening (because they will). Make this timing realistic as well, so you can stay on top of what you’re releasing (there’s the control) and do it promptly for you and your audience.

Tasting

Release something new with a rebrand. I like to call this “tasting” because you’re giving your users a little taste of what’s to come. The first question they’re going to ask is, “What’s going on?” The second is, “What will this look like for me?” So you need to show them. Change for the sake of change isn’t always the best answer. Your users are going to ask why you’re changing and you need to know why and why they should get on board. Snapchat released Spectacles with their rebrand. They told us they wanted to be more than a messaging network, and they showed us how with Spectacles.

Personality

Be who you are. The greatest quality of Snapchat’s rebrand is their personality. They want to remain fun and still be familiar to their audience. How will your audience follow you into your new arena if they can’t recognize you? Completely changing who you are will almost guarantee you a loss of current users. Stay true to you, and you’ll reach your net wider to catch the audience you want, without dropping the audience you have.

Follow Through

Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t make empty and lofty promises if you can’t deliver! If you say you’re going to release a new product on a certain day at a certain time for a certain price, do all you can to make that happen. If you’re presenting a name change, do it! Set yourself up for success by being timely, creating a release schedule, and making your promises simple. If you can’t follow through on your word, or you need more time to make it happen, just be honest! Users can be understanding and patient if external, unfortunate, and unexpected things happen because we all know they do.

Start Using Snapchat

I hope you’re thinking about looking into Snapchat (excuse me, Snap) for your brand or business now. I think that’s what Snap is hoping for with this rebrand, too. It’s no longer a channel for young people, but for everyone. Include how you’re now on Snapchat in your rebrand! You’re casting your net wider, staying true to yourself, giving users a taste of what they can expect, and keeping it exciting. Is it time for your brand to take a new turn? Let us know in the comments!

Twitter Hacks for Content Marketing

8 Twitter Hacks for Better Content Marketing

Twitter Hacks for Content Marketing
Often, business owners try Facebook out as their first venture into social media marketing. They know they need to have a Twitter presence too (because their audience is there), but they often drag their feet, finding Twitter intimidating or believing it’s complicated. The truth is Twitter is no harder to use than Facebook; it’s simply different. But no worries; we have you covered. Here are 8 Twitter hacks to make successful tweeting easier:

1. Craft an Engaging Elevator Pitch

Your Twitter bio has to be short and sweet. You have only 160 characters to work with, so make sure it packs a serious punch. Think of it as the ultimate elevator speech, and be sure to include your link. Don’t hesitate to update your header photo with text as well. Many Twitter users will check out your profile before they decide to follow you.

2. Go for Quality Over Quantity

You can cast a wide net and get a huge number of followers, but that won’t help your business if your followers aren’t really interested in what you have to offer. Aim to attract quality followers rather than random hits by crafting tweets that are relevant to your industry and of clear interest to your audience. Tweeting about your lunch or your fun weekend plans might entertain you but probably won’t help your business (unless this is somehow relevant to your brand).

3. Follow the Right People

You can work towards building the right audience by following others who are interested in or involved in your industry. Not only will these people follow you back, but their followers may jump on board and follow you too. How do you find the right people to follow? Do a Twitter search using industry-relevant hashtags and keywords. Check out your competitors and see who’s following them. These people are probably interested in what you have to offer as well. Want some handy tools for finding followers? Check out TweetStork and Audiense.

4. Get the Most out of Each Tweet

With Twitter, you have a low character count, but you’re also dealing with a short tweet lifespan. The average lifespan of a tweet is only about 24 minutes, so you want to make each message count. Use a link shorterner like Bitly or Google URL Shortener to shorten your links, so you have more room for text. And be sure to include relevant hashtags to make it super easy for anyone who is searching to find your content.

5. Tweet When Your Audience Is on Twitter

The worst time to tweet is when your audience isn’t on Twitter. Use a tool like Tweriod to gain insight into your audience’s Twitter habits and figure out when they are most likely to see your tweets. Then, tweet at those times.

6. Provide Appealing Visuals

Social media users are very visual, so give them what they want. Tweets with images or videos get more click-throughs, more retweets, and more favorites. Tweets with images get 150-percent more retweets, and those with videos get nearly 3 times as many.

7. Be an Authentic Engager

There’s something interesting about you and your brand. In fact, there are probably a lot of things your audience would like to know about you. So tell them, keeping an eye toward ensuring that your messages are both authentic and interesting. Not sure what your audience will find interesting? Use a keyword search to learn which relevant topics people are talking about on Twitter.

8. Be Social

All too often, people forget that one of the key words in social media marketing is social. Get involved in conversations, follow others, retweet, share, and bring something helpful and informative to the table. Doing this will not only help attract attention to your brand but also humanize it. Make a point of being social at least a few times each day.

Use the Twitter hacks above to make tweeting a part of your social media marketing plan. They’ll help you put your best foot forward, find your audience, and be more social. Be sure to come back and let us know how these Twitter hacks worked for you!

The Ins and Outs of Twitter Chats and Parties

The Ins and Outs of Twitter Chats and Parties

The Ins and Outs of Twitter Chats and Parties

If you’ve been on Twitter for an extended period of time, you’ve seen a Twitter chat and party or two. Maybe you’ve participated in or hosted one or two! It’s one of the ways brands and businesses are connecting on Twitter. Most importantly, chats and parties are a direct connection to your current audience and to the audience you’re trying to reach. We’ve had tremendous success in hosting Twitter parties for some of our clients! Our efforts yielded participation rates of up to 233 (averaging 185 per party) people and 8,194 tweets in just one hour!

The Ins and Outs of Twitter Chats and Parties

Let’s look at what makes up a chat or a party, because they are different. Yes, chats and parties both live on Twitter and include a relevant hashtag for search and participation purposes. However, chats are more laid back and geared toward businesses, groups, and individuals who want to discuss a pre-determined topic in a specific field of interest. Parties are more formal and are sponsored by brands that pay a host to run it for them, and the topic is, of course, about the brand. Start thinking of themes, questions, hashtags (I’ll talk about this later), and prizes now!

Twitter Chats

A Twitter chat is the online version of a social club. Most of them meet weekly at a designated time to discuss relevant topics previously chosen by the host. Chats are a casual event because they don’t require a reservation or registration. Participants are encouraged to join in at the appointed time and use the appropriate hashtag. Sometimes this hashtag changes so it’s important to check-in beforehand to know which one you should be using.

Twitter chats aren’t only social media, digital marketing, or online-topics specific. Chances are if you’re interested in it, there’s a chat for it. That also means that chats aren’t only hosted by businesses. Groups and individuals (sometimes even brands) host them to bring like-minded people together in conversation about what they love. If your interest lies in the medical community, but you want to know more about agriculture, join a chat! The opportunity for networking, socializing, and learning about other businesses are huge!

Brands can participate in chats as well, by not forgetting to look for a chat that aligns with their goals. If you’re noticing a chat that is reaching your audience and/or talking about your topic, join in! After you’ve participated in one or two chats, reach out to the host and ask about a sponsorship. The next chat might include a mention of your brand, a banner on the chat’s page, or an opportunity to ask questions. Sponsorships from Twitter chats have a less restrictive policy, so if you get the chance to have one, be creative!

Twitter Chat Etiquette

As previously mentioned, Twitter chats are more relaxed, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. Businesses and users need to follow some basic rules:

· Be polite: Everyone is there to have fun, learn, and talk about his or her interests.

· Don’t talk about yourself (too much): If you’re only there to turn the conversation to you, maybe you shouldn’t be there. However, if you have an experience relevant to the topic/question, that could be valuable to someone else.

· Interact: If you agree with a participants comment, feel free to say so. If you like a question, voice that. Like tweets, retweet, and others will return the favor.

Twitter Parties

Did you know that Twitter parties originated eight years ago? They don’t happen very often (although they could be done weekly), and they typically include a sponsorship from a brand. Organization is extremely vital for a party seeing as there are rules and guidelines participants need to follow. A host gets paid by a brand to run the party, and in return, the host gathers their top resources for the party which can include a diverse variety of things such as: influencers, blog posts, giveaways, events, etc. The host and the sponsor work as a team to decide what the topic will be, and additional features they want the party to have.

Parties are also more formal than chats. Think about a party that you’ve attended. Was there an RSVP giving the time, place, possible dress code, and directions to the party? The same applies to a Twitter party. An RSVP is your virtual guest list telling you who is planning on attending the party. If you’re giving away a prize or two during your party, check your guest list to make sure the winner actually attended the party and participated with the hashtag.

Twitter parties provide an amazing benefit to not only brands but the participants as well. This is give and take at its finest. Typically parties consist of women, either hosting or engaging. Men’s products and/or brands can make a name for them here and break new ground.

Twitter Party Etiquette

Organization matters greatly in a Twitter party. To keep from losing the structure, apply these rules that need to be followed by both the participants and the host.

· Be polite: This is important (and obvious) no matter if you’re in a chat or a party.

· Don’t ignore yourself: This is the opposite of a chat. Since a brand is sponsoring a party, the topics and agenda for the party are partly created by the brand, so, of course the brand is going to come up, and that’s okay! Make sure it’s relevant, though.

· Interact: Like, retweet, and respond to tweets. Show the participants that you’re listening to them and not only letting tweets scroll on by you. If you’re a participant in a party, this needs to be done to show the brand that you’re listening as well!

· Follow through: As a brand, you may be offering prizes and giveaways, and that’s great! After you’ve chosen a winner, get their information right away. As a winner, provide your information as quickly as possible.

Hashtags for Twitter Chats and Parties

A hashtag is arguably the most important aspect of a chat or a party. Hashtags are used for search on Twitter. When a user searches for a particular hashtag, they can choose a conversation based on that hashtag. If you know there’s a chat or party that you’re interested in but not able to attend, the hashtag allows you to come back later, search for it, and see what you missed. It’s what keeps your chat or party organized. Every time you compose a tweet based off of a topic, use the hashtag for it. You’ll be able to reach more people with one than without one. If you want to win a prize, chances are one of the rules is that you’ve used the hashtag.

By using a designated hashtag, you’re conversing with that group and not all of Twitter. At times you may use more than one; one for the party itself, and one for the topic/brand. Brands or businesses should set up a platform that allows them to search for the hashtag and see only that, making it easier to respond to the participants in the chat or party. Some of them even add the hashtag automatically into your tweet if you’re tweeting directly from that platform.

Let’s Chat (or Party)!

No matter who you are, a Twitter party and/or chat should be in your Twitter strategy, because they’re a part of what makes Twitter so special, and they bridge the gap between you and your audience. Get creative! Now’s the time to show your followers that you not only want them to know you but that you want to get to know them! How do you get to know someone? You chat with them of course!

Have you hosted or participated in a Twitter chat or party? Please let us know in the comments.

alternatives to vine

Alternatives to Vine (and What to do When a Channel Gets Shut Down)

alternatives to vine

Twitter through some of us for a loop (pardon the pun) at the end of October, by announcing the closure of Vine, its 6-second video app. This is big news whether you loved and/or were involved with Vine or not. Twitter is now refocusing, and we can’t wait to see what that looks like. In the meantime, social media marketers who have made an investment in the app now need to take serious steps in another direction. If the Vine stars we knew, loved and laughed at can move on, then you can, too. This is a great time for you to revisit your social media strategy to make sure that you have a backup plan if you used Vine, and to make sure the rest of your channels are covered in case one of them bites the dust.

Alternatives to Vine

If you have to say goodbye to Vine, wipe your tears and start looking at other channels. You don’t have to look far; you just have to look at what works best for you and your brand.

1. Snapchat

Snapchat is at the top of the list, and rightfully so. This app is certainly a challenge seeing as they don’t have a follower count or a follower recommendation feature, however, its popularity and 150 million users makes it the app you want to be on. The audience is large, and the demographics mostly include millennials, so how can your brand get started and maintain usage on Snapchat? Interact either directly through stories and chatting, or through special features and advertising! Just like Vine, you can download your stories, so you don’t lose them after 24 hours.

Should you use it?

Maybe. Snapchat mainly reaches millennials, so if you also want to reach that age group of 18 – 24 year-olds, then you need to be on Snapchat. If you’re not sure, keep an eye out. If you’re not using it now, you might be in the future.

2. Instagram

Instagram has also jumped on the stories train, so if Snapchat doesn’t work for you, try Instagram (or both!). The one-up Instagram has on Snapchat is its users base: 500 million. You’ll find a wider range of demographics on Instagram. If cosmetics is part of your goal, Instagram stories look better because of the higher image quality, but they load slower causing people to stop viewing after the 1st or 2nd story. If you’re a brand, the load time is crucial. You will also find ads and private messaging as a viable interaction tool.

Should you use it?

Yes! Or maybe. Again, it depends on your goals and your audience. If you’re already on Instagram, why not give it a try? Compare and contrast with Snapchat to get the best look for your brand.

3. Facebook

Vine might not have been live, but live video is certainly taking over the social world. If you’re considering going live with your posts (and still being able to keep them for later) start with Facebook. They’re adding more Snapchat-esque features like masks (or filters) in addition to enhancing the appearance of their video feature and giving their videos a more interactive feel. Live video gives you the permission to be authentically you without editing. Give a tour, stream an event or an opening; show off a product or a demonstration of one. As people react to your stream, comment back to them! Ads haven’t made their way into video yet, but there’s still time.

Should you use it?

Yes! Facebook is where your audience is. Let them know when you’ll be broadcasting, and you’ll have hundreds if not thousands of eyes on you. That’s great advertising! My sage advice before you “go live” is this: think before you do. Make sure you have a plan beforehand, so people aren’t watching you bop around aimlessly.

4. Periscope

Twitter hasn’t gotten rid of all of its video sources. Periscope is still kicking and still growing. Even though broadcasts disappear after 24 hours, it’s the latest and greatest for real-time marketing. One of the noteworthy aspects of using Periscope for live video is that it’s not limited by location. Your users can find you from anywhere in the world to see what you’re seeing.

Should you use it?

Maybe, probably yes. I’d like to repeat what I said for Snapchat: if you’re not using it now, you might be in the future. Usually the phrase, “everyone is doing it” isn’t the most positive of points, but when it comes to social trends, I live by it. Everyone is on Periscope, so you should be, too.

What to do When You Lose a Channel

Picture this: It’s 2008 and MySpace has been taken over by Facebook. How many of you hung on for dear life until the last possible second before reluctantly switching over to Facebook? So did I. Change can be hard and the opposite of fun, especially if you’ve invested time, money, energy, and strategy into a social channel just to lose it. My challenge to you is not to think of it as a loss, but a breath of fresh air to your strategy.

This is easier said than done because losing a social network can feel a lot like being dumped, can’t it? Sometimes it’s unexpected and leaves us with more questions than answers (especially when you find out you’ve been ‘broken up with’ by reading an article on the internet. Yikes!). If Vine could talk it would be saying, “It’s not you, it’s me.” And it’s true.

Go back to the drawing board to make the necessary adjustments in your strategy. Make sure you know how to move your content from one network to another. Download and save as much as you can to make it shareable on the other existing channels. Chalk it up to experience, brush the dust off, and move on. The closing of Vine is the picture perfect example of why social networks can’t be your only investment in social media. You’re borrowing someone else’s space, and it could go away in a second. Your owned space is your blog, and social media should be adding to that space, not vice versa. Keep that in mind and from now on you have a safety plan in place to protect your content and make a smooth transition whether a channel closes, or you have to leave one yourself.

Moving Forward

Vine is a great loss to many social media users and managers. If you were active on Vine, grab your videos and remember them in a positive light! Then, create a new strategy in case of emergencies and keep researching. Start looking into Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Periscope as a place your videos can call home. Thankfully, there are many options (and more to come) as apps grow, evolve, and new ones are added!

Were you on Vine? If so, where are you moving to next? Does your social media strategy include an emergency plan in case of a shutdown? Let us know!

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

Creating Brand Voice on Social Media

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

“Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland

Every brand needs a strong brand voice. What is brand voice, you ask? Essentially, it’s the tone and style you use when communicating with your audience. Your brand voice not only tells your audience who you are and what you have to offer, but also proves critical in engaging your audience members and motivating them. Your brand voice gives your audience a feel for your brand’s personality, and since the explosion and rapid growth of social media marketing, it’s become more important than ever before.

That Was Then

Years ago, before social media marketing gave us another highly effective way of reaching audiences, businesses broadcast mass marketing messages to consumers through radio, television and magazine ads. Consumers far and wide received the same generic message. That brief message was delivered in a 30 second spot or a half-page ad. Essentially, marketers used a handful of words to reach everyone.

It’s understandable that with those constraints, it was incredibly hard to show personality. Of course, there were ways to make it happen. If you had a large marketing budget to fund a high-end ad agency and lots of media spend, you could make an attempt at telling a story with consistent characters, celebrities, or rarely, a real person from the company (like Dave Thomas from Wendy’s).

The fact of the matter is that many brands simply didn’t have the budget to show personality, but showing personality is critical. Why? Well, think about it. Great brands stand for something, don’t they? You know what to expect when you walk into a McDonald’s, when you buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle, or when you call a customer service representative at Zappos. And when you’re talking to a representative of a brand on Facebook, via Twitter, or watching them in a video, you expect that person to speak with the brand’s voice.

Do you expect the NPR Twitter feed to sound snarky? Of course not! And as for the Gap Facebook page? If their posts came off sounding snooty and intellectual, you’d wonder if you’d somehow clicked into The Twilight Zone.

This Is Now

Today, businesses put lots of different people to work engaging on behalf of their brands on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, and more often than not, via a blog too. These people are checking in regularly, answering questions, sharing inside stories, personally recognizing individual customers, inspiring their audiences and becoming an integral part of the community they serve. This differs greatly from the radio spots and display ads of yesterday. Each one of these representatives must use their specific brand’s voice every single day.

As an entrepreneur who started a business based on your own passion and interest in your product, service or company, your brand voice is probably part of the natural way you talk to your consumers. It’s easy for you to talk and write in your brand voice. With social media as such an important part of your marketing strategy, however, you need others in your organization to engage with your audience using that same brand voice and do so not only convincingly but also consistently.

Build Your Brand Voice

Every tweet, every Facebook status and every blog post says something about your brand. Everything you post sends a message about who you are, what you care about and how much you care about your fans or followers.

  • Define your brand voice. Your team can’t use it if they don’t know what it is. Is your brand voice bold, inspiring, humble snarky, playful, sassy, loud, or honest? Clearly define your unique brand voice so that your team can speak and write with it.
  • Take a look at the competition and their brand voices. Differentiate your brand voice enough that you stand out from the competition.
  • Listen to your audience members. How do they speak and write? Make sure your brand voice is a good match for them. You don’t want to speak in a highly formal voice if your audience is very casual or playful.
  • Document the words, phrases and tone that you expect your brand voice to sound like. Your team will be much more effective if you provide them with guidelines and examples to follow.
  • Guide your team in writing tweets, social media posts, and blog posts in your unique voice. This will take some work on your part at first, but eventually, your team will begin to think in your brand voice, and writing in it will become second nature. Keep a close eye on their work until you’re fully comfortable that they’re speaking and writing in the right voice for your brand.

Protect Your Brand Voice

It’s critical to both recognize that your brand voice isn’t static and protect your brand voice at the same time. Your brand voice isn’t meant to be perfect and stay exactly the same over the years. It will, and should, evolve with your audience and changes in your goals and strategies. That’s okay and to be expected. What’s not okay is a team that goes off the rails and fails to communicate using your brand voice.

Address and correct mistakes consistently. It’s never a good idea to leave your brand voice in the hands of others without close oversight. People make mistakes, and if you don’t offer constructive feedback, they will continue to make them. Remember, your reputation, and ultimately, your success is at stake, so it’s up to you to keep your team on track.

Establish a Brand Character

For as much as you’re paying attention to brand voice, you’ll also want to project the right brand character, which is an image your audience will have of you based on your brand voice and the way you use social media.

So what’s your brand character and are you moving in the right direction? You can learn a lot from looking through your past updates in each of your social media channels. It doesn’t take long to notice that a pattern begins to develop based on your timing, tone of voice and types of content. Each of these combined together becomes your brand’s character.

Unfortunately, some characters are bound to miss the mark in social media. For example:

The Magician

This character has an amazing disappearing act! He’ll post, maybe even a few days or months in a row, and then ‘poof! He’s gone! You never know when he’ll reappear, but he does at some point.

The Infomercial Guy

You’ve got to buy my stuff! Seriously, have you seen all the great things my stuff can do? You can’t live without my stuff! While those may not be his exact words, that’s the message. His updates are constantly self-promotional and non-stop!

The Motor Mouth

She’s constantly talking and most of the time it’s far off-topic. She’ll tell you what she had for lunch, what the weather is like outside and what her plans are for each moment of the day. Her updates are not well balanced with her brand’s identity.

The Radio Announcer

It’s a one-way conversation with this character. She loves to send out tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts, but don’t expect her to respond. She’s not out for conversation; she only wants to make sure you get his message!

The Right Brand Character

We’ve given you brand characters to avoid, and now, we’ll share the right brand character. This character almost always hits the target, delivering the right message, at the right time. We call her The Mindful Maven.

The Mindful Maven

Her messages are consistent, clear and well-balanced. You’ll find her sending updates about her brand, yes, but not nearly as often as sharing other content she thinks will be interesting and relevant to the fans that follow her brand. And while she’s not detailing out every moment of her day, she wants to chat with you too. You’ll find her responding to comments, answering questions and joining in the conversation.

As you start to create your brand’s identity in the social media space, be sure that your character most closely matches that of Mindful Maven. You should have your own unique personality, but you want to make sure you’re hitting that sweet spot every time!

Building and protecting your brand voice is a critical but ongoing process. Use the advice above to create the right voice for your brand and engage, motivate, and inspire your audience.

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social media

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social Media

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social media

In years gone by, it was enough to create some business cards and set up a website, but today you need so much more. Today, your prospects are ever more social online, and your audience will expect to not only see you but also interact with you via social media. Too many startups view social media as an afterthought rather than an essential part of succeeding in business. They soon discover just how critical it is for encouraging interest, building a reputation and developing lasting relationships with potential customers Fortunately, you have this essential guide to help you start off on the right foot.

Choose the Right Startup Name

Choosing a name is one of the hardest tasks a new business will ever undertake. It’s easy to come up with names when you’re just dreaming of starting a business, but when it’s time to get started, nothing seems to feel quite right anymore. Why? Well, because there’s so much riding on this name. It has to be just right for your endeavor, and it has to be both catchy and memorable. It has to make an impression, reveal something about your company and inspire people to remember you. And as if that’s not enough, the name has to be available for use. Naming your business exactly the same name as another business can be a recipe for disaster.

Okay, breathe. Yes, it can be difficult, but you can do this. Go ahead and start with these great tips for naming your startup:

Get to brainstorming

Brainstorming is the first step in choosing the right startup name. This part is easy. Jot down a list of words that describe your startup. Don’t think too hard about this or even take it too seriously. The time for that will come later. For now, you just want a basic list with which to work. If you run out of words that fit, head on over to Thesaurus.com, and type in the words you’ve already jotted down. Add some synonyms for the words you brainstormed to generate an even longer list.

Review what you brainstormed

Start crossing the words you absolutely hate off your list. Next, review the list again and get rid of the ones you only like just a little. You should be left with the words that best describe your company. Play around with these words to see if you can use them to come up with a catchy startup name. For example, you might end up with the right name by combining two or three words on your list, or you might build your company name by making one word out of two, such as in Facebook and Firefox.

Consider how the name you’ve dreamed up sounds

Does the name you’re considering easily roll off the tongue? Does it include words that rhyme, such as in HotSpot? Is it fun to say? Does it evoke the types of feelings you want it to? Your name doesn’t have to rhyme or strike a fantastically melodious chord, but it should be easy to say. If it’s fun to say, that’s a definite bonus. Try different word combinations by saying them aloud several times before you choose, and have some friends try them out too.

***Hint: You will also need to choose a domain name, and it can really help to work on figuring out a business name and a domain name at the same time. Be sure to scroll down to the Choose the Right Domain Name section (next!) for tips.

Check on availability

There’s nothing worse than getting your heart set on the perfect startup name and then discovering that it’s already taken. Before you get too attached to that magnificent moniker, do an online search and make sure it’s not already taken. NameChk can help you with your search. Look for your desired name in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database as well.

Opt for creative and different

Some companies choose names that don’t mean anything or at least aren’t commonly used (Think Kodak and Google!). Others choose a word from a foreign language or select words for impact rather than meaning. This type of approach can really work for you as long as the name you choose will fit your brand image. In fact, a creative made-up or out-of-the-ordinary name can help you stand out in a sea of competition.

Choose the Right Domain Name Too

You probably thought you were finished after you chose a brilliant business name. Sorry! There’s still work to do. The right domain name is just as important as the perfect business name. Today, your prospects expect you to not only show up online but also prove easy to find. If your business name sets off fireworks, but your domain name is too obscure, difficult to spell, or impossible to remember, it could hurt you on the Internet.

Here are some tips for choosing the best domain name for your business:

Choose a domain name that is as close to your new business name as you can get
You may not be able to get AcmeWidgets.com, but maybe you can get AcmeWidgetsSeattle.com. Try different permutations of your business name, or add your location or another descriptor.

If at all possible, go for a .com domain

.com domains are still the most common and most used for business, at least here in the U.S. If you’re trying to match your existing business name, you can consider a .net, .co, .info or .us domain, but be aware that most people will still type in your domain name with a .com on it. Take some time to check and see who will be the beneficiary of all the traffic meant for you that ends up going elsewhere. If it’s your #1 competitor – don’t do it. Find something else with a .com domain.

Make it memorable, but not too long

One and two word domains are nearly impossible to get these days, unless you buy them from someone else (often through a broker like Sedo.com). So you may need to go to three words or more, but try to keep it as short as possible while being descriptive and memorable.

Spell it out

When you’re considering a new domain name, say it out loud a few times and try it out on other people. You’ll often tell people your domain in person or over the phone. If it’s a true pain to spell or explain, you’ll get really frustrated when people don’t get it. So instead of Widgets4U.com or Widgets-4-You.com, try to get WidgetsForYou.com. Or even better, WidgetsInWyoming.com. That’s far more descriptive and easier to convey all around.

Don’t rush it

This is an incredibly important decision. Don’t rush it, and don’t just grab the first domain that’s available. Check out tools like DomainNameSoup.com to play around with and try a bunch of different options. Try the multiple choices or word combinations functions.

Go with a reputable registrar

When you’re ready to buy your domain, use a reputable domain registrar, such as enom or Namecheap.

Make Social Media a Priority

Recognize that social media isn’t a mere add-on. It can be a critical component of getting noticed, meeting goals, and enjoying continuing success. Make it a part of your plans from the very beginning.

Develop a social media strategy

It’s perfectly fine to post willy nilly on your personal social media account. When it comes to your startup, however, it’s critical to start with a strategy that will help you meet your goals. Every post, share, and comment should fit that strategy and the image you want to project.

Set up social media accounts

Where do your prospects spend time? Find out and make sure you’re there too. Many startups begin with at least Facebook (over 1 billion users around the world) and Twitter (over 300 million monthly users around the world), but if a large segment of your audience is on Instagram, you want to make sure they can find you there. If your start up is B2B, you’ll definitely want to have a presence on LinkedIn while Facebook and Twitter are top choices for marketing to consumers.

Do create a company blog too, as this can prove your most engaging platform of all. With your blog, you have the opportunity to develop a strong brand personality via blog posts and videos.

Of course, this is a lot to accomplish all at once. Consider starting with one platform and developing that until you feel confident that you can manage and continue to grow that presence even after adding another platform into the mix.

Craft an amazing profile

Many startups set up social media accounts in haste, creating barebones profiles and generic avatars, thinking they’ll set up better profiles later. Don’t do this. You only get one time to make a great first impression. Your audience has other options, and when they find you online, you want them to feel sure that connecting with you is a good one. Start out with an attractive, eye-catching avatar that perfectly represents your startup, and create a profile that entices your audience to check you out.

Create an editorial calendar

Create an editorial calendar before you begin posting to your social media accounts, and update it regularly – either weekly, monthly or quarterly. Planning out your editorial content in advance takes away the “I don’t have time to write today” problem that most people have and makes publishing content as easy as queuing it up and clicking a button.

Develop social media that informs, explains, and answers questions before they’re asked

At first, you may not receive a lot of questions and comments. That’s okay! You’re brand new! However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t answer those unasked questions. Put yourself in the shoes of your average prospect and customer, determine what you would want to know in their place, and then create content that provides that information.

Avoid posting dry, dull content or being overly promotional

It doesn’t work to sell, sell, sell to your audience via social media. Instead, work on providing content that tells your story and helps make your audience members’ lives easier and more interesting. Be sure to make it engaging enough that people will want to consume it and pass it along.

Provide customer service via social media

Take advantage of social media to provide great customer service to your customers. Respond to their questions and concerns, offer real help when needed, and use your customers’ suggestions and comments to make your products and services better. Being responsive in this way can really give your startup a boost, encourage loyalty from your new customers, and show prospects that you’re a business they can trust.

Listen, interact and react

Devote time each day to monitoring your social media accounts, checking in at least a couple of times per day on each of your social media platforms. Tools like Hootsuite, Social Mention, and Talkwalker can help you monitor what others are saying about your brand.

Respond to comments, answer questions, share posts, and follow others. Being social helps you gain more exposure and encourages your audience to engage with you.

Use this guide to make real headway with social media for your startup. We’ve provided the basics you need to achieve success. Don’t be afraid to experiment as well, however. Creativity (within the bounds of a solid strategy) can win points on social media.

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