10 Ways to Humanize Your Brand Through Social Media

Many people will Like a brand on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter, simply because they love what the brand has to offer. Some won’t stick around unless the company has valuable messages to deliver. In the end too much repetitive information and not enough humanized content can make community members bolt quickly, so it’s very important that your brand finds a unique voice and keeps it consistent. Not only do you want to stand out but you want your fans to feel like they’re talking to someone they can trust – not a company CEO who can’t relate to them. Here are ten tips for humanizing your brand on Social Media, and some advice on what to avoid.

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How to Run a Photo Contest Using Social Media

These days it can be tricky to come up with fresh, new content for your Social Media pages without sounding repetitive or copying other businesses. One of my favorite solutions to this problem is crafting a contest around your business – not only will your fans appreciate the change of pace, but if you throw in some kind of a reward they’ll jump at the chance to participate and create more buzz for your pages!

A simple yet effective contest to run is a photo contest. The idea may sound daunting, but as long as you plan ahead and make efficient use of your various social sharing venues, you won’t fail. To begin coordinating your photo contest, start with choosing a theme. If there’s an upcoming holiday, you can center your contest around that special day and give your audience something to work with. Should you decide to give away a product, gift certificate, or coupon, you can cater the prizes to your theme as well.

Next, you’ll want to decide upon the official rules that they’ll need to follow. Here’s a sample set:

  • Participants must be 18 years or older.
  • Entries must be submitted by March 1st.
  • Entries submitted on Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram must be tagged with #EpicPhotoContest.
  • Entries limited to three per person.
  • Any entries displaying offensive or sexual material will not be counted.
  • It is the responsibility of the winning participant(s) to contact us via email by March 10th.

promote-your-blog-contest-though-images-and-bannersOnce you have your theme, prizes, and rules finalized you can start planning all of the media elements of your contest. Consider your Social Media presence and how your pages can be used to leverage this competition. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, and Tumblr are all excellent venues on which you can accept your entries, but you’ll need to monitor the pages closely to make sure contestants are not posting inappropriate content. This is especially important for Facebook as they have very strict policies about such violations. On Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr you can supply a certain hash-tag or keyword so that you can easily search for entries. In the sample set of rules above I used #EpicPhotoContest, but this tag can be anything related to your brand. Just make sure that it’s unique so you can easily pick out the entries when you search for the tag. You may also consider asking your contestants to geotag their photos, as this will help you with statistical research and allow more insight into your audience.

It’ll be important to have some graphical images to accompany your contest. Use Photoshop or a free program like Gimp to come up with something simple but eye-catching which includes all of the important information. You can post these graphics on your website and link them to your official rules, and you can also post them on all of your Social Media channels. Because consumers are very visually driven, this will be a great way to catch their eye and draw them in. You can also print off flyers for the contest and pass them out around your town, including information such as your Social Media pages and the proper hash-tag they’ll need to enter.

Once your graphics are made and your contest has begun, don’t be shy about promoting it often! Feature entries as they roll in to encourage other users, and send out a newsletter about the contest. If you partner with similar companies, ask them to make blog post or send out a Tweet directing their fans to your contest, and promise to do the same for them in the future. Once you reach the ending date, make sure you praise your winners on your various Social Media pages so that other users know the contest is over. Such praise will also encourage future entries! Be transparent through the process, providing updates and news on your Social Media pages, and it’ll surely make your brand seem more personable. Remember: the more personable and open you are with your audience, the more they will trust you and want to participate in your online activities!

Instagram’s Latest Folly – Updated TOS has the Internet abuzz in a bad way

Just one week after Instagram and Twitter announced they were severing an important tie, it seems that the photo-sharing app’s maintainers are looking to displease even more users. Yesterday they announced an update to their Terms of Service – which will include more information in January – and has the Internet abuzz with distaste for the service changes. instagram

Now Instagram can share users’ photos with advertisers who can then use those photos and general user data to promote sponsored content. This means that, in theory, you could someday see your Instagram’d photo of a heart-shaped pizza pie on a Valentine’s day advertisement for Pizza Hut and you wouldn’t see a cent, dime, or single pepperoni as payment.

The update states explicitly, “…To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.” This is par for the course when it comes to the TOS of some other sites (like Facebook for example), though the general response from the Internet has been negative. A plethora of former Instagram users  have openly said that they’re leaving the service – which isn’t very pleasant to do if you’ve enjoyed your time Filtering prized snapshots.

Getting rid of your Instagram account requires a few steps, and there’s no way to undo the process or sign back up later on with the same username. If you’re worried about Instagram selling your photos then deactivating your account or removing all of your pictures is the only way to keep them from doing so. Before taking such a drastic step, I recommend backing up your photos with a service like Instaport (which seems to be running slow today due to an influx of traffic) or Copygram and downloading them to your computer. To preserve your username, simply delete your photos one by one and then leave your account vacant, should you want to reinstate it in the future.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 1.20.52 PMIf you’re looking for a new service many shutterbug folks are flocking over to Flickr’s improved photo app crafted by Yahoo. It has everything that Instagram does and then some – filters, Social Sharing, geo-tagging, groups, and the ability to search millions of beautiful photos from all over the world. If you’re going to make the switch, this app is currently your best option.

As the dust starts to settle, it will be interesting to see how many people leave Instagram in fear of creative violation. One thing is certain; ever since Facebook purchased Instagram and it became a chess piece in the game of Twitter vs Facebook, things have been on a downward slope for this once glamorized photo sharing tool. Are you leaving it behind?

Update 12/18/12

In response to this backlash, Instagram has released a statement on their blog addressing some of their users’ concerns and redacting changes to their TOS. According to the post, “The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience.”

The question remains; are they sincerely undoing the changes or simply back-tracking to save face and keep their users? To me it seems like a combination of both, but we can’t blame Instagram for wanting to fix such a tangled mess that has undoubtedly tarnished their once shiny image.

Key Elements of Social Media Strategy – Free Marketing Template!

[Download link to my free Social Media Marketing plan is at the end of this blog post!]

Social Media Marketing strategies are important to any organization looking to grow their audience online. There are some key factors that must be considered when making your marketing strategy if you want things to run smoothly, especially if you’ll be working with a team of other gurus

line_chartFirst you must come up with some objectives for your Social Media growth. Think about what goals you want your company to reach by establishing and nourishing an online presence. Are you aiming to create a solid space for customer service, are you strictly looking for a way to interact with your consumers, do you want to gain more attention for your brand, or are you looking to do all of the above? It’s important to have a clear set of goals in mind before continuing with your plan.

The next key step is defining your audience. Do some research to determine which groups you will be targeting with your Social Media messages; young women who are into video games, parents over the age of fifty, or even as broad as ‘college students’, to give a few examples. Such information can be gathered by studying user_groupsimilar brands and their audiences, or building your Social Media pages and watching closely with data analyzing tools like Facebook Insights and PeerIndex. Once you have groups targeted as your key audiences think about their specific objectives, as different groups will respond to your marketing messages in different ways.

You’re almost ready to start thinking about how you’ll build your presence online! Consider the ways you can integrate Social Media into your website, and how you’re going to deliver your messages. Will you use e-mail marketing campaigns, attend events in person, or put Social Sharing buttons on your website? Will you create an online forum where your audience can gather, or will you present your website on other forums and message boards? You also want to consider which Social Media venues are going to best suit your website. Facebook and Twitter are a staple in Social Media plans for all companies, though your audience may also fit well with Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, or YouTube. Choose venues that will fit your pre-defined audience and be confident in why you’re picking them selectively.

Once you have you platforms chosen you should decide what tools you’re going to use to deliver these messages and monitor data. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are popular choices, but which is best for your brand? You should also consider whether you’ll use the web versions of these applications, or if you’ll be downloading desktop versions and purchasing upgrades so that you have more options. Take the time to hammer out what roles your fellow team members will be have, too, so that each person has clearly defined responsibilities in your marketing plan.

graphNext, consider how often you’ll be checking the data for your various Social Media accounts, what you’ll use to gather said data, and then what you’ll do with the information. Will you have weekly, monthly, or yearly check-ins to see if your messages are being properly delivered to your audiences? Will you use Google Analytics, Klout, Facebook Insights, or a combination of the above? And finally, what will you do to make sure any negative data can be changed to positive data in the future? Try to summarize ideas for the ways you may be able to alter your marketing plan in the future, if your data isn’t coming out the way you’d like it to.

Once you have everything in a neat package, I suggest creating a marketing plan timeline and outlining any major goals you have for your company’s Social Media presence. For example, if you’d like to see a solid amount of participation on your Facebook page within six months, or double your Twitter followers within a year, note those objectives in your timeline so you have clear goals to reach.

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An excellent way to end your marketing plan is with a brief summary of your well-defined plans, tactics, goals, and implementations. You can also touch upon any budget restrictions you may have, as some Social Media tools can involve recurring payments made for upgraded plans. Even if you over-estimate what you’ll need for your budget, it’s a good idea to have all potential expenses written in your plan so that nobody is broadsided by costs.

In closing, you can download my Social Media Marketing Plan template for free and use it to craft your own long-term strategy with all of the elements mentioned in this blog post. Good luck and have fun!

If you like my free marketing plan template, please return the favor and give @Omnomedia a follow on Twitter!

Tumblr vs. Pinterest

Tumblr and Pinterest, while similar in purpose, are very different in execution. They tend to serve two unique audiences, and with Pinterest rapidly growing to compete with Tumblr’s avid fan-base, competition between the two is heated. If you’re creating a Social Media marketing plan for your business, group, or company, it’s important to understand the similarities and differences between these two sharing sites so that you can choose which will work best for you.

Let’s examine exactly what each of them do.

tumblrTumblr is considered a micro-blogging platform and is quite similar to Twitter in that content filters down through one main, simple feed in blocks of images and text. I like to consider Tumblr posts as miniature blog posts that rely heavily on images and video to catch the eye. You’re looking for re-blogs and likes on Tumblr to add posts to your personal collection on your profile, and as a way to find others with similar interests. On Tumblr you can easily look at who else as liked and re-blogged a certain post, then follow them if their personal page looks interesting to you. You can also find topics by doing keyword searches, so the tagging system is very important.

pinterestPinterest is coined as a visual pin-board for images that users want to keep in their personal collection. Instead of chunky mini-blogs, you re-pin what you see around the internet and on other pin-boards, adding them to your personal, categorized collections. Making pins easy to find in searches relies on supplying adequate information in the summary before pinning, and on using keywords that will come up in Pinterest searches. Images that you’ve pinned show up both on your profile in stacks, and in your main feed amidst a sea of pins from people that you follow.

What are the main similarities?

Both Tumblr and Pinterest serve as media-heavy feeds and collections of images that users keep on their own profiles by Liking and re-blogging or re-pinning. Each of these Social Sharing venues allow for commenting and participation, though Pinterest makes it visually simpler to add comments and Tumblr users tend to only promote the best comments on each post. In whole, both Tumblr and Pinterest serve as popular SEO tools for driving traffic to websites and promoting personal interests.

How about the differences?

First and foremost; user interface. Aesthetically speaking Tumblr offers one option for the main feed – a grey-blue backdrop under a white background for posts, with colorful buttons at the top representing the options users have. These options include text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio, and video posts. Users also have a mini-dashboard to the right where they can tumpistlook at their own Likes and posts, find other blogs, and check out daily featured posts. Personal pages, however, can be tailored to users’ preferences with a plethora unique layouts, both from Tumblr itself and from many free sites around the web.

Pinterest is very different aesthetically in that it offers a simple off-white background and some tones of light gray, which helps their red logo and red Follow buttons pop. Otherwise, the only way you can personalize your page is by adjusting the different pin-boards to have specific covers, and by shifting the boards around so that they appear in a certain order. Pinterest clearly wants users to focus more on the images displayed by it’s many users than on personal individuality.

User Interface Summary: Tumblr offers visual uniqueness and preference while Pinterest offers a blended hodge-podge of visuals without the possibility of personalization.

Differences in use come down to simple button clicks. Tumblr users have more options in what type of media they can post – text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio, and video – while Pinterest only allows photography and video pins, and not from every website out there on the net (Facebook, for
Screen shot 2012-12-11 at 1.48.52 PMexample). With Pinterest you must install a “Pin It”  button on your browser’s menu bar, and when you come across something you want to share you simply hit the button, choose the photo, and a small window opens up. From there you decide which pin-board you’d like the photo to fall into and add a summary of 500 characters or less, finally hitting the red “Pin It” button to post. You can also choose to share it to your Twitter and Facebook right from that window, if you have your profile integrated with those other Social Sharing venues.

Tumblr does everything from within the main feed on their site. You have all of your options above the feed, and clicking one of them takes you to another page very similar to what you’d see when making a blog post. You have a plethora of options for tailoring your post to your liking, as well as the ability to insert links and tag it like crazy.tumblr1 Unlike Pinterest you must do the work yourself and either upload your media or link to it directly. Tumblr gives users more room for longer posts, too, but lacks the ability to add other contributors to accounts – a unique feature Pinterest possesses.

Use Summary: Pinterest offers better off-site integration with simple clicks, and Tumblr requires users to treat their media like blog posts but offers more options for what can be posted.

While the general purpose of both are similar (sharing what you love), Tumblr and Pinterest seem to have different missions. Pinterest clearly states on their About page that they want to ‘connect people from all over the world’, while Tumblr states on their About page that they help you ‘effortlessly share anything’, and ‘customize everything’. Tumblr seems to want to promote engagement as re-blogging is a staple in their interface, and they encourage the idea that posts can grow and evolve as the general community adds to them. Pinterest wants to help users find each other with similar interests and promote nonstop eye-candy for them to add to their collections. When looking at the main feeds of both sites, one can see that Pinterest is more artistically driven in a broad array of visual topics, while Tumblr is best suited for defined passions like fandoms, special interests, memes, and social causes.

General Purpose Summary: Pinterest encourages contributions to their community and connects users with others through visual interests, while Tumblr encourages personal passions that grow their community which, in turn, spreads popular posts amongst their users.

Audience statistics play a huge role in the differences between Tumblr and Pinterest. Because Pinterest is such a fast-growing site, social-media-audienceswe know that it’s quite popular amongst Caucasian females in their mid-twenties to mid-fifties with middle-class incomes [source]. Tumblr is more evenly split between males and females, but on average it is most popular amongst young men and women of Hispanic amd Asian races [source]. From that data, we can gather that Pinterest appeals to  working class young mothers and housewives, while Tumblr caters most to young college-aged males and females of ethnic backgrounds.

With these differences we can see potential posting trends in both sites. Pinterest is most likely to be filled with DIY and home-related pins, while Tumblr operates best for special interest groups with passionate topics.

Audience Summary: Pinterest appeals to middle-aged, crafty women and Tumblr to college-aged, passionate men and women.

General Summary

If you’re looking to choose between Tumblr and Pinterest for your business, community, or company, then it’s important to factor in all of the above. You’ll want to consider the aesthetics, usability, purpose, and audience of each to decide whether Tumblr or Pinterest will best fit your website’s messages. If your audience is typically comprised of family-centered women, then Pinterest is for you. But if your audience leans towards young adults who are outspoken and would prefer customization, Tumblr is for you. My suggestion – try them both out and see which one generates more traffic to your website, while considering your own preferences for media sharing. After all, you want to have fun updating your pages!