Archive for the 'Tool Time' Category

Facebook Timeline for Brand Pages: What’s the big fuss?

The social media world has been abuzz since last week’s official launch of Facebook Timeline for all brand pages. Timeline has been available for personal users for a few months, and while it’s been optional, it’ll ultimately be the only choice for people and brands alike. I’m now accustomed to seeing the new look on my friends’ pages: huge cover photos of sunsets, babies or pets (I’m guilty of at least two. See for yourself.), but how will Timeline actually transform a brand’s presence on Facebook? After speaking with reps from the site, taking an online webinar and reading up on all of the official Facebook documents, I’ve come to the conclusion that Timeline can enrich a consumer’s view of a brand. How can it do this? By creating a page where consumers might spend more time and by allowing brands to seem more human.

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Personal uses of Cover photos are often sunsets, babies or pets.

Here are some details about how Timeline works:

Cover Photo vs. Profile Picture

The new cover photo seems like a simple concept. It’s like a profile picture, but bigger. But Facebook claims that it’s more than that – and they may be right. The suggested use of this space is for an image that captures the essence of your brand. Not a logo, not a promotional photo, not just text. The cover photo is the soul of the brand page, and should convey the soul of the brand. On the other hand, the profile picture should convey the facts: the logo, the label, etc. Facebook chose a few brands as guinea pigs for Timeline. Among them were Coca-Cola and Manchester United and not surprisingly, their pages look great (I’m guessing their sizable Facebook advertising budgets didn’t hurt). The Manchester United page is the perfect example of the Cover Photo vs. Profile pic discrepancy. Their profile pic is just the Manchester United logo. And yet their cover photo is of an emotional, uplifting photo of the victorious team, evoking immediate emotion from any user. Even from me!

What it means for brands: Emotion sells.

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Manchester United gets it right with an emotion provoking cover photo

Pinning Your Posts

Another new feature for Timeline is the ability for brands to “pin” a post to the top of the page for up to 7 days. This is all about the first impression – any user landing on a brand page will see exactly what the brand wants them to see. The days are over when negative customer feedback live at the top of the Facebook Brand Page wall. This gives more power to the brand over all headlining content on their page. And while users are still encouraged to post on brand pages, Facebook has introduced a new option for consumers to privately message brands. This should cut down on some of the customer service type questions that are often prominently displayed on Facebook walls. Barack Obama’s profile is a great example of keeping the positive message up top, including user photos of reasons why they support Obama, positive videos and quotes from the President himself.

What it means for brands: Choose your pins wisely. They’re the introduction line in your consumer conversation, and you now have the power to control it.

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Obama pins positive posts. And check out his great cover photo.

Views and Apps

Here’s a big change: Brands can no longer select a landing page for their users to view first. Everyone will land to the brand’s Timeline. The only way for users to go straight to an application is through a paid media buy. Facebook has also changed up the way applications are displayed – they’ve said goodbye to the text links on the left side of the page and opted for pretty thumbnails at the top of the page, right next to the Photo and Like images. Brands will be able to move the thumbnails around, displaying which applications get top priority, although the Photo and Like thumbnails are stationary. This results in a nicer presentation, but a more top-heavy page, where users will need to scroll down below the fold to get to the real meat of the page.

What it means for brands: Brands can no longer dictate for users to arrive on welcome pages, “like to enter” tabs or apps. So, create thumbnails to make your apps pop.

Milestones

On to the main course: And here’s where brands can really show their personalities. The milestone function allows brands to chronologically add in the opening day of their business, the day they made your first dollar, when they expanded globally, etc… The actual timeline on the Timeline allows brands to expose their history to their users. Do consumers care? Brands are tasked with injecting their milestones with fun, interesting facts – otherwise the Timeline will fall flat. Starbucks started their Timeline with opening their first store in 1971, and for a company that has grown so quickly – it’s a fun read. Obama also gets this right. His milestone posts bring us back to the 1970s with fun facts such as: “Obama gets his first job working the counter at Baskin-Robbins” or “Obama moves in with his grandparents in Hawaii”. But then there’s Coca-Cola. Their first milestone on their Timeline is the company’s start in 1886. A brand with such a long, rich history should be fascinating to read about. But do consumers have time to scroll though their entire history? I’m not so sure. Especially since the Timeline functionality is still very sluggish. Once we see improvements with the speed, it might become a more attractive read.

What it means for brands: Keep this section short and sweet, with punchy and interesting facts. Brands want users to find your brand charming and inspiring, not just read a history text book.

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Coke’s milestones take us back to pre-Facebook times in 1886.

There’s no question – Timeline is pretty. And it will allow brands to speak to users in a whole new way. I just hope that Facebook doesn’t lose sight of the importance of the consumer to brand and consumer/consumer conversations, both of which seem to take a back seat with this new look. If the goal is to make brands seem more human, then human consumer engagement should still be a top priority. But as we’ve seen with Facebook in the past, there’s certainly more change to come.

The Power of Pinterest: Why Everyone Should Join the Pin-sanity

By Donna Ho (@donnatho)

So what’s with all the hype around Pinterest? As cliché as it sounds, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve most likely heard of the virtual pin board and social photo sharing website. Or you’ve been asked just a few too many times, “Are you on Pinterest?”

While it may have initially been an online spot for food lovers and wedding hopefuls, the site has become much more as a number of brands, businesses, and influencers have joined the Pin-sanity. The site was recently named one of the top 10 websites within the Hitwise Social Networks with nearly 11 million total visits in a week. And according to a study by Shareaholic, Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google Plus, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.

Everyday People Pin

Just a few months ago, I was that person who didn’t get it. Why was this virtual pin board so cool? After taking another poke around the site, I quickly became a Pin-somniac. What’s not to love about bookmarking and organizing you favorite photos and feeling creative? Being able to click through images to other interesting links made the site even more addicting and exciting, which brings to me to why others are catching on to the social media network trend.

Brands Pin

As brands have become comfortable with Facebook and Twitter and are learning the ins and outs of Google+, they are now adding Pinterest to their social media repertoire. The ability to pin and share photos through links helps drive traffic and therefore, increase visibility and sales. A marketer’s dream, right? Chobani and Mashable are just a few examples of some who are successfully pinning their own product/content. Marketers are even thinking outside the box, using Pinterest for contests, adding a Pin-It buttons to their site and using hashtags.

Brands are not only using the site to promote their own product, but create a brand personality online that will engage users.

Take for example, InStyle Magazine created a board for a Valentine’s Day Gift Guide, in which its 4,000+ followers most likely re-pinned, liked and purchased these products.

Influencers Pin

Just like Twitter and Facebook, people follow personal brands and enjoy seeing what their favorite guru’s inspiration. Fashion Director for Marie Claire, Nina Garcia, an expert in the fashion trend, for example, is very active in the Pin world with more than 240,000 followers interested in the upcoming seasonal fashion.

Whether you’re using the social network to spark ideas for your clients or for your own personal enjoyment, Pinterest is a fun and easy-to-use social tool that I believe has the power to stick around for a while. Although the site’s user base is mostly female, I have a feeling the guys won’t be too far behind to catch onto the trend. Are you convinced of the pin-sation?

Google’s Search Plus your World: Why bother with SEO when all you need is Google+?

By Madeline Willman (@MadelineWillman)

A few months back, Google came out with its Google+ brand pages and SHIFTer, Kristi Eells, wrote a post about why healthcare companies should care. Kristi explained that at the time, “creating a Google+ page will not carry weight over companies without a profile…” However, on Jan. 10, this all changed when Google released its biggest change with “Search Plus your World,” a feature that integrates Google+ pages into users’ search results.

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land wrote an extensive article explaining how Google’s Search Plus your World works. Here’s what you need to know:

Search Plus your World allows users with Google accounts to search ‘globally’ or ‘personally.’ When you are logged into your Google+ account you will see posts and pictures from your Google+ profile and from those in your circle. For example, when I search for SHIFT Communications, five personal results within my Google+ page and circles show up that mention “SHIFT Communications.”

When logged into Google+, Search Plus your World will automatically be turned on, but you can opt-out by clicking a toggle:

However, even when opted out of Search Plus your World and not logged into Google+, Google still shows Google+ pages before Twitter and Facebook pages when searching a particular topic. For example when searching for “music” Google provides Britney Spears and Mariah Carey’s Google+ pages on the left hand side. One may question why some of the biggest pop stars in the world like Katy Perry and Justin Bieber don’t show up: They don’t have Google+ pages.

This proves that if you want to have a better chance of showing up in Google’s results, a Google+ page is in order.

The change has shocked the tech community with backlash from influencers like MG Siegler who noted, “Google is using Search to propel their social network. They might say it’s not a social network since it’s a part of Google, but no one is going to buy that. They were late to the game in social and this is the best ca
tch up strategy ever.”

There are also multiple anti-trust and privacy discussions, but even though there has been ongoing controversy over Search Plus your World; it doesn’t seem to be disappearing any time soon. Google is the king of search with 64 percent of the market share (according to comScore’s December findings) and if Google is making it a priority, brands probably should too.

Regardless if Google is doing the right thing or not, the fact is: Google+ pages show up in search results before Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin results – if you want your company to have a better chance at staying at the top of search results you should think about getting on board and building out a Google+ profile.

Read Search Engine Watch’s Jason Cormier’s take on the issue in his article, Why Your Business Needs to Be on Google+ Now and check out how to build a Google+ page below:

Battle of the Brand Pages: Can Google+ Pages Knockout Facebook?

By Marlesse (@marlesse)

Last week, Google announced that it will offer Google+ Pages to brands, businesses and celebrities. Heading up to and following the announcement, speculation surfaced from tech and social media buffs alike as to whether Google+ pages could be the game-changer for the budding social network.

Despite largely positive reviews from users and reviewers alike, Google+ has yet to regain its early momentum (the site went from 0 to 20 million unique visitors in three weeks!) and instead, has seen slumped engagement numbers – the most recent report from Chikita, a data analytics company, shows that since the launch of the network, traffic has fallen 60%. Google+ received even more heat after Michael DeGusta from UnderStatement.com posted the infographic below showing that the majority of Google’s management either don’t have a Google+ account, or have never even posted.


Instead of jumping into the fray, let me lay out an overview of all that Google+ Pages can do for brands and other commercial names. That way, you can decide for yourself whether Google+ will take over the world with a bang, or go out with a whimper.

How to launch a Google+ Page:

Google created an online guide that shows brands how to:

  • Launch the page
  • Share updates
  • Promote the page
  • Measure analytics such as traffic and interactions to determine how they affect the brand

My favorite thing about Google+ is the ease with which corporations can engage their followers. I’ve listed a few tools below:

Tailor Messaging through circles:

Because Google recognized that different people are interested in different parts of a business, it incorporated Circles into its social network. This way, brands and friends alike can tailor messages to specific people. Facebook also saw the merits to tailoring messages and quickly launched Friends Lists.

Chevrolet is already making use of Circles on its Google+ test page. The brand sent out an update to its followers asking about their interests so they make sure to keep them looped into their favorite topics. Chevrolet gave its fans the following options to choose from: Outdoors & Recreation, Events & Entertainment, Racing & Performance and Innovations.

Receive Direct Follower Feedback with Hangouts:

With Hangouts, brands can host video chats with up to ten participants. While it seems that this is something that only smaller companies could really take advantage of, the X Games Google+ Page has already held a Winter X Games Hangout with athletes Louie Vito, Mat Hoffman, Sarah Burke, Brian Deegan, Ryan Nyquist and host Brandon Graham. In addition to the athletes, X Games hosted a contest to select a few fans to join the Hangout and ask some of their favorite athletes a few questions. If you want to checkout a video of the hangout, you can go directly to the X Games Google+ page or go view the video on YouTube here.  So while this function may seem limited, it doesn’t mean it’s entirely irrelevant to big companies!

Immediate Access to Google+ Brand Pages through Google Search:

Google’s newest feature, Direct Connect, makes it dead simple for users to find and follow brands on Google+ through a normal Google Search. If a user wants to find a brand on Google+, all they have to do is type ‘+’ in Google search, followed by the brand or business they want to follow. So if a user wants to follow Macy’s, they would simply type ‘+Macy’s’ in the Google Search box and it will bring up a direct link to the Macy’s Google+ Page.

And these are just some of the high-level features! Now that Google+ Pages has been launched, do you think more people will engage on Google+, or do you think Facebook is just too big to compete with? Include your thoughts below!

Tool Time: PicPick

By Emma Murphy (@E_Murphy)

This post is for all the account coordinators out there who are tasked with regularly scanning the Web for news about their clients and clipping relevant articles.

Scanning for news and compiling clip reports can be a time-consuming process, particularly for ACs at agencies that use PC computers. Why, you ask? PCs don’t have a particularly user-friendly screen capture function.  I find the PC “Shift + PrtScn” command frustrating because you’re only able to take a screen grab of your entire screen. You have to spend valuable time cropping the image to isolate whatever you’re most interested in, which when you’re clipping articles is usually the outlet’s logo or an image with which your team supplied the writer.

Mac users, I’m sure, are familiar with the much more user-friendly “Command + Shift + 4” screen capture command that allows you to take a snapshot of a select area of your screen.

Well, PC users, I want to introduce you to a handy application that allows you to take a screen grab on a PC just like you can on a Mac. It’s called PicPick.

You can download PicPick for free, here. Once you have it installed, just click “Shift + PrtScn” like you ordinarily do to take a screen grab. Crosshairs will automatically pop up, and you’ll be able to select just some portion of your screen to capture. Once your image is in PicPick, you can easily resize, rotate, sharpen, or blur it… you can do any number of things. Also, what’s great is you can choose in which format you want to save your image, including: jpeg, gif, bmp or png.

I’ve already introduced one or two ACs here in the SHIFT NYC office to PicPick, and my guess is that if you ask them about the program, they’ll rave about it. They’ll say what a timesaver it is. Try it out for yourself and leave a comment here to let other Slice readers know how you like it.

Making the Grade…in PR

By Ciri Haugh (@chaugh)

As the school year is once again about to come to a close, a pool of new graduates will start to flood the PR workforce. Though, as I think back to my days as a senior in college, and compare it to now – I can’t help but want to share some advice to the newest class of PR professionals. One of the best lessons that any grad should know is that an A in college doesn’t always equal an A in the workforce.

Sound a bit sobering? It’s not meant to bring the mood down but something I personally found to be true, and think its good to remember when approaching that first job. College provides some great skills and a analytical way of thinking. However, not all colleges – and PR programs – are created equal.

So how does a new graduate put their best foot forward? Here are a few tips that I would personally recommend, although every organization (and manager, for that matter) are different:

1.  Be a sponge

There are tons of reports, tools, formatting and stylistic preferences for every organization. It will probably seem overwhelming but take in as much as you can and you’ll be an expert on it before you know it! Find resources to refer to that will supplement your knowledge like the AP Stylebook on Twitter or Microsoft’s Office suite tips.

2.  Network early and often

Get to know other PR professionals, journalists and local influencers early so you can get a feel for the industry. Check out sites like EventBrite or PRSA for events in your area.

3.  Ask for feedback

If you start asking for feedback after projects, you’ll start to learn from mistakes and begin to understand the preferences of your manager, office or client. Mashable posted an article last year that covers how to solicit feedback. Though it was directed at designers, the strategies are still relevant to PR people!

4.  Look for a mentor

It’s not a bad thing to have silly questions or want to have another springboard to bounce ideas off of. A mentor can be those things, and provide insight about career path or answer questions that you might not be comfortable talking to a manager or VP about. Take a look at this US News article on 13 tips on finding a mentor.

5.  Practice, practice, practice

Writing is a huge asset in PR – and you’re expected to excel at it. Find a forum to practice writing and receiving direction on your work. MediaBistro offers a series of writing seminars and courses, though most are paid classes, they do offer free seminars and events.

The point is that at a first job, and especially a PR agency, you’re not expected to know everything. So just jump right in, work hard and ask for help often! You’ll do just fine.

Tool Time: Do you give a hoot about HootSuite?

By Justine Massiello (@jmassiello)

Image from HootSuite

I don’t know about you but I’ve wanted to be able to be in two places at once – which is exactly what HootSuite ( http://hootsuite.com/) lets you do. This bad boy is perfect for the professional Twitter client, it helps you monitor keywords, manage multiple Twitter profiles, schedule tweets and measure your success. Also known as, everything and more that your client wants and needs from you.

The Good:

  • Its freeeee!
  • Tweet scheduling
  • Manages multiple twitter profiles
  • URL shortening and tracking
  • Monitors RSS feeds and send headlines out in your Twitter feeds automatically

The Bad:

  • Statistics – they are there but don’t always work
  • Functionality is not so clear at first glance – you’ve got to work with it to figure it out

Image from HootSuite

 

The Verdict:

  • I would highly recommend HootSuite to those who are in need of a successful Twitter campaign.  I love tools/applications for Twitter that schedule your tweets and shorten the URL.  It also saves you time and makes you look like a magician, what more could you ask for?

Overall rating: I give HootSuite 4/5 slices!


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