Google I/O 13, Google’s annual developer conference, happened last week, and I had the fortune of following a few great people on Google+ through their experiences at the conference. There was a lot of talk about Glass and the new Google+ format, both of which I have experienced vicariously through a few people on YouTube. The really interesting part about I/O was the overarching theme of what Google is doing.
Jeremiah Owyang sums it up best in his post about the key trends at I/O:
Google products are being enhanced and interconnected, with no new products added.
Google is virtually replicating planet earth, but “improving” the quality.
Google knows what and who you love as we trade convenience for our data.
It’s all true! Google didn’t make any big product announcements at this year’s I/O—they took care of that with Google Glass a month ago. Instead, they made major improvements to all their products.
Google Maps: It’s now better than ever. The improved Google Maps suggests related places and integrates friend’s social information into your map searches. It has a new interface as well, making the map more prominent on the page. Google also combined Google Earth into the maps so you can get the 3D experience on your browser.
YouTube: A new channel layout was announced a few weeks back and is now becoming official for all users. This update makes content discovery on any channel easier.
Search Improvements: With the implementation of Google+, Google search results now include your social graph results as well. Google uses your data to generate better suggestions across all searches, including Maps, YouTube and Images.
So what are the business implications of these changes? Well, if your business is not on Google+ yet, and you’re not +1’ing your own content, you’re missing out on great SEO advantages. If you have a retail business or a restaurant, don’t forget to also include our business in Maps and promote reviews on the platform. Google is still the reigning search engine, and all that data generated by other Google users will help your search positioning and discoverability.
The future looks bright for Google and Android users alike. The company is using big data in all the right ways to create better a user experience and opportunities for businesses to promote themselves.
This is the scenario: Your company does everything it’s supposed to do when it comes to social. You sign up for all the major social networks, create visually appealing content and a content calendar, but then something weird happens.
You’ll start posting and only receive a few Likes and not much other engagement. What’s wrong with your social media strategy? Right now you probably have your head in your hands, trying to figure it out. It’s OK, we’ve got three reasons to explain why your social media strategy isn’t working; here’s the first of them:
Your research wasn’t strong enough.
The purpose of research is to make sure every piece of forthcoming content that is created, carries your brand’s message and resonates with your audience. To do this, exhaustive levels of research are needed. When conducting research, the most important things to consider are; what words your audience is using (keywords), what they’re saying about your brand, how they interact with each other and their voice. This will allow you to create content that drives engagement amongst your target audience.
Below are a couple of examples of brands that are creating great content on social because they really got to know their audience:
Can you see typical Coke drinkers asking themselves this? Even though this image is simple, it says that Coke is listening to how their customers are interacting with their product. This shows that Coke is paying attention to what online users are saying about their brand and doing so in a way that encourages interaction. And it doesn’t directly push the product—Coca-Cola knows users don’t like being directly marketed to on social media. It’s not hard to imagine that someone posted the question about how many sips a can contains on Coke’s wall, and the question then became inspiration for content. It’s a question that most users of this product ask themselves and is proven by the large number of engagement they received for this post.
In GOOD’s bio, it simply states that it is a “…platform for its members to share what’s good to learn and do in pursuit of individual and collective progress.” That’s a defining statement. By taking the word “learn,” GOOD expresses it knows that most of its fans practice that behavior through reading. They’ve coupled that with content tailored for their bookworm audience, such as pictures of well-designed furniture for reading, knowing that this type of content will drive engagement. They also know that by simply asking for shares they’ll get them, which is why this piece of content received the highest amount of shares in that week.
Stay tuned for reason number 2 why your social media strategy isn’t working.
Inspired by Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants, I took an improv class a few months back, which, for someone who avoids most situations where I need to perform (except for karaoke, obvs), the challenge of taking even a Level 0 improv class* both excited and terrified me. After surviving the first class, however, I started to notice the similarities between improv and real life, particularly at work. Although my improv career was short-lived, I’m still thinking about its principles and would like to share the four most relevant lessons for account folks here.
1. Yes, and
“Yes and” is the fundamental “rule” in the game of improv that you’ve probably heard if you have any improv or comedy-minded friends. The rule communicates two things: (1) accept what your partner has put forth; and (2) add something of your own. It’s impossible to advance a scene if you don’t accept—or “yes”—your partner’s idea (the “offer,” in improv parlance); the scene will just end up being a mess of people not agreeing on anything and rattling off non sequiturs—and it’s positively painful to watch.
How many times have you dismissed an idea, either out-of-hand or with the equally lethal “yes, but?” If you’re in accounts, of course you’re constantly mindful of the logistics and rules, but it’s hard to get to “awesome” without some suspension of limitations so creativity can run freely. Avoid bringing up any logistics in the beginning and just let people toss around ideas—there’ll be plenty of time later to deal with the “real world.”
The second part, the “and,” is also important: it reminds you that you have a responsibility to add something. Contributing your own ideas and participation is not only something you need to permit yourself to do, it’s required to move the scene (or “project,” in our world) forward. Another way to look at it is figuring out what the next step is. Think small—your contribution just has to move the discussion or project forward.
2. Make statements
Is there anything more frustrating that those “I don’t know—what do you want to do?” types of conversations that get batted back and forth. After a couple of rounds, you couldn’t care less and you finally make a decision—any decision—just so you can finally be done with the whole thing. Improv avoids this conversation badminton by mandating that you “make statements” instead of asking your partner endless questions and putting the burden on them to make up the scene. Instead of expecting your colleagues to come up with ideas and solve problems, put forth your own ideas and solutions. Do research or prep work, and give yourself a pep talk even, but train yourself to resist the question reflex.
“Make statements” also translates to “make decisions,” especially for account people. In business, Robert Kulhan, professor at Duke’s Fuqua B-school and avid improv performer, remarks, “We get bogged down in analysis paralysis, or just the pressure of being right… But if you just make a decision you’ll have room to adapt and react and get it to work within the parameters you need.” Neglecting to make the call, take the next step, etc. stalls the project and makes you the bottleneck. I also like to remember one of Facebook’s wall-mounted mottos, “Done is better than perfect,” when I need inspiration to make a “statement.”
Like many improv n00bs, I spent the better of my early scenes thinking about what I was going to say, only to realize I had no idea what my partner just said. A few classes later, I began concentrating on listening to my partner, and not surprisingly, I heard more of the offers in our conversation and could build an engaging scene just from that. I was amazed to realize how much I’d been missing.
Listening well is another way to “yes” your partner in both the improv sense and the personal sense. True listening demonstrates that you actually care about what the person is saying, and that makes the person feel good and builds trust. It’s certainly not an easy skill, but few can argue with the value of building trust with a client or a coworker.
One way to practice active listening is to “mirror,” i.e., literally repeat what your what your partner/client/colleague just said. Not only will you buy yourself a few extra moments to figure out what to say next, but, as improv guru Billy Merritt notes (#25), “both of you will know what’s important in the conversation you are having.” Letting the other person know you’re on the same page keeps the relationship strong and can save you time from figuring out what you missed later on.
4. Make others look good
Think of this last idea as getting an assist in soccer/hockey/basketball—you’re facilitating a play unselfishly so your teammate can bring home the score. Turns out, we have the same opportunities in improv AND in work. As Merritt points out (#19), successful improv is more due to “players playing to each other and to the scene at hand” than to the plot itself. The skillful player knows his partners’ strengths and weaknesses; consequently, she sees the opportunities in the scene for that particular person and sets them up to succeed.
Similarly, good account people identify both what each person on a team does particularly well and what a specific project requires; then she assigns work accordingly. There’s something beautiful about enabling people to do their best work—and getting out of their way—that leads to a successful project and happy satisfied colleagues.
*I took mine at the PIT (People’s Improv Theater) in NYC—highly recommended.
Melissa Komadina works in Account Service at Renegade. She looks forward to "yes, and"-ing your comments here.
Social media has provided brands, regardless of industry or size, the opportunity to connect directly with their community of supporters. The brands that are most successful on social provide relevant, engaging content to their fans, rather than exclusively talking about themselves. Twitter hosts countless customer service interactions, YouTube often showcases internal culture, and blog comment sections allow brands to garner and digest immediate feedback. In each of these instances, the focus is on listening to the customer and turning social media into a two-way conversation, not a highway billboard. While there are many examples to choose from, the health and fitness industry has done an especially great job, using their social channels to listen to their customers and tap into their lifestyles.
Here are a few examples:
ViSalus has turned their Instagram channel into a platform that fans can visit for weight loss motivation and encouragement. They share recipes, boast member before-and-after photos, and showcase the healthy, happy members of their community. They also regularly show off the gym in their corporate office, demonstrating that the ViSalus team is truly committed to health and fitness.
Weight Watchers is doing a great job on Pinterest, a channel that often gets the little-brother treatment. Rather than focusing exclusively on product, they have made an effort to make their pins useful to their customers. By filling their Pinterest page with healthy recipes and motivational boards like “Words to Live By,” the brand is a helpful resource and acts like a loyal friend to their customers. And Weight Watchers didn’t simply set up their page and forget about it; they actively drive traffic to their Pinterest page through their Facebook posts.
Whole Foods consistently does a great job of nurturing brand loyalty and trust. They listen closely to what matters to their community and adjust accordingly. With over 5,000,000 YouTube views, they use the channel as a vehicle for transparency and communication, by directly telling their customers what they're doing and why they’re doing it.
These brands are each making the most of their social channels by creating content that is relevant to their customers’ lifestyles and providing useful services. They successfully demonstrate just how critical transparency, authenticity and connection are for brands today.
Facebook announced their new Android-only app called Home last week to mixed reviews and new challenges. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called it a “family of apps” that push your content directly into a user’s face whenever they access their phone. Well, not literally into your face, even though this would be really awesome and sometimes scary, but onto your screen.
As far as great product placements go, I have to stand up and applaud Facebook for knowing exactly where to place their Cover Feed. This feature puts notices on the screen when you “wake up” your phone right before you slide your finger to unlock it. I’m quietly jealous that they received access to a point where every mobile user has to see. Talk about getting eyeballs on your product! With that said, can you imagine all the possibilities?
Over the past couple of years, Facebook has made brands pay for ads in a Google-like system (which makes perfect sense now!), and more recently, for individual promoted posts. If they make the option available for brands to purchase content that will be put onto a mobile user’s home screen, where should this rank in the priority list for paid media? Maybe not too high at first given that Home is an Android-only app for now, but as soon as that changes I imagine it would shoot to the top of the list. More users access Facebook through mobile than on desktop so if brands want to achieve their max reach, Home might eventually be the place to do it.
On another note: Put some images on your statuses! Because everyone loves emojis.
Google took full advantage of April Fools this year with almost every major app having a great gag.
First is Google Nose, where search integrates with 15 million “scentabytes.” You can even smell “success!”
Althought Google Nose didn’t offer any real functionality; a personal favorite at Renegade is Google Treasure Maps. Where together we can discover the clues to a great treasure! It actually has a setting that will change your Google Maps to the treasure map mode.
Google+ had an emoticon layer you can add to photos. This actually works! Any photo you own and have uploaded to G+ will have a button where you can click to enable the emoticon.
Google Schmick is an Australian Google Street View app that helps you spruce up your house. Now you can give your house a lick of fresh paint for free on Street View with Google SCHMICK (Simple Complete House Makeover Internet Conversion Kit).
Gmail Blue is the great of all inventions! Transform your Gmail inbox into the deepest blues of blues. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to actually be an option.
For those office proficiency geeks, Google launched the “Levity Algorithm” to help make your appointments and documents more exciting! (no iteration of this is really available)
YouTube was by far the best April Fools with the greatest collaboration of pranksters!
Stay tuned tomorrow when Renegade explores pranks from all over the web!
A new feature you may have seen on Facebook caught our eye this week. A friend posts an article on Facebook and you comment, then… BAM! “Like Page” pops up. Good news for brands!
The image above shows a post that appeared in my newsfeed linking to a SearchEngineLand.com article.
As soon a I commented on this post, the “Like Page” pop-up appears below the article preview. The same thing happens when I Like posts.
This is different from the Page post ads that brands can buy to appear on timelines, which have been the target of some controversy after disappearing in November 2012. Unlike these ads, the Like Button appears on users posts that they have opted to share themselves.
So far Renegade has only seen this on posts of articles by publications that have Facebook Pages. It’s a seamless integration of the like button for anyone who engages with the post, friend or not. However, given the coming changes with the News Feed, it’s likely this feature will be integrated into all shared page posts and website links (as long as the website has a FB page). In this way it would work much like Google Authorship and search results. It’s the perfect way to keep page engagement rising, so make sure you’re creating content that people will share.
Search Engine Optimization is the language of the Internet. The rules consistently change and everyone has a point of view on how to do it best. There is also the big debate of whether web design or SEO is the higher priority. All that aside, here are the key things you should focus on that don’t have anything to do with search algorithms and are effective no matter the design of your blog!
Site Traffic: How much traffic your blog gets plays a big role. It validates the information on your blog. After writing, focus as much as you can on driving traffic. You can also do this with backlinks fairly easily, by leaving comments on other blogs that mention your topics and putting your address in the “website field” to drive traffic to your post. You should also share your post on social media, especially Twiter, as this creates backlinks as well.
Post Length: Your post needs to be digestible by Google's web crawlers, although this is not as important as some of the other items on this list. If you can, beef up your post to a decent paragraph, to include enough room for a good “keyword ratio,” and then you’ll be well off.
Links: The links you put into your post that cite sources help your ranking. You could also leave a comment on the original source with a link to your site. Completed link-loops won’t hurt!
Tags/Keywords: Use tags and include keywords as a label/tag. A neat trick is to use the site Wordle.net to create a word cloud of your posts’s source article or, if your post is long enough, your own post. The five largest words in the word cloud will be your keywords. It's also important to use different instances of your keywords, e.g., not just using "light,” but also including "lightbulb," "bulb," "lamps," "light bulb" and "lamp."
Site Info: Make sure you have your site’s general keywords in your site description. You can also create a line that is similar to but not the same as your header in the footer of your site with the keywords, as well as a byline for your posts. For instance, you write a lot about recipes of fruit desserts, so “fruit,” “desserts” and “recipe” should be in your site description and bylines. “Charlie’s tasty creations blog” won’t be nearly as effective.
Other Blogs: If you can manage it, create relationships with other bloggers in similar or complementary topics. Offer to reference their work and link back to their blogs. As a group you can help drive each other up in the ranks through backlinks on similar subject matter. You can also guest blog for these blogs and include your byline in your post on their site, which will also help create relevance in the eyes of the web crawlers.
Avoid Copying and Pasting: Create original headlines and content in your blog. Google will go the original source and ignore your blog entirely when it comes to search results.
Google Authorship: Specifically for Google, the Google Authorship program will help your SEO. You must enter a bit of code on your site or byline and then register with Google. Any content that you create will be tied to your Google profile and Google+ account.
So, don’t get hung up on technicalities of SEO. Just focus on these key concepts and you’ll do fine as a blogger. When your site traffic hits a record amount, you can then dive deeper into the SEO game.
"How we're all sharing is changing and the news feed needs to evolve with those changes. This is the evolving face of news feed." – Mark Zuckerburg
Facebook revealed it would be rolling out big changes to the News Feed design over the next few weeks. The update aims to simplify the News Feed and minimize clutter for users. The question on our mind is, “What does this mean for brand pages?”
“Everything across the board is going to get this richer, more immersive design,” said Julie Zhou, head of design at Facebook.
Pictures now account for half of all News Feed posts, up from 25 percent only a year ago, and with the updated News Feed those images will be more prominent on users’ feeds. Brands will have the opportunity to present their messaging with larger visuals. We can also assume that there will be space reserved on the right sidebar for Facebook advertisements, just like they are presented today.
However, users will be able to filter their news feeds by interests and categories of friends on separate tabs. When users want to see new photos or videos their friends are posting, they can simply click on a designated tab similar to how lists are used today. Concerns amongst marketers now arise about how Facebook will handle users that try to filter all their brand pages out of a feed.
All in all, brands and marketers will be challenged with the task of getting fans to actually share and engage with their content to create stories on their own timelines so it appears on their friends’ feeds – no matter the interest or category. Brands will need to be in-tune with the conversation their fans have to keep their content trickling into the feed more than ever.
It is likely that brands currently struggling with engagement will see a decrease in their reach, much like the decrease seen in September 2011. Facebook will also likely generate more opportunities for sponsored stories and promoted posts in specific feeds for interests, a la Twitter promoted posts and trends, to counter the negative effects of the changes.
Although Facebook has made marketing easier for brands through their advertising engine, which requires a monetary commitment, their turn to focus on user experience may be the second major slap in the face for brands. The future holds a big challenge for brands to revamp their strategies for the coming changes to the News Feed.
Catharine P. Taylors’ take on Media Post
Cara Tarbaj’s take on Social Media Today
Seth Fiegerman’s take on Mashable
To friend or not to friend—a perpetual social media question. If you work in client service, or have clients in some capacity, you’ve probably run into this particular dilemma of becoming friends with your clients on Facebook. So, what’s appropriate? If you work for a social media agency or in a social media-based role, might it be expected that you become friends with all of your contacts? Or is it better to keep your business all business and your personal, well, personal?
That depends. A better question may be, “Is Facebook really the best way to connect with your clients in the first place?” While Facebook is best for sharing among people you already know, Twitter and LinkedIn encourage you to share information, articles and other thoughts in a public space. These two platforms are natural places where you’d want to conduct conversations with professional contacts and new leads. Since your tweets can reveal as much or as little personal info as you’d like, you can intersperse your content with personal tidbits like photos without also giving access to your Spring Break photo albums from college.
As opposed to a few years ago, most people now are on LinkedIn and check it more often (i.e., not only when they’re on the job hunt). More frequent use is even broadening the type of content shared. Rather than always posting industry shop talk, more and more users are occasionally sharing content of personal interest to appear like a real person who’s more than his or her career. Like Twitter, LinkedIn allows you to develop your professional image while you conscientiously share certain types of content that convey the real you.
It’s also easier and less intimidating to follow clients (or have them follow you) on Twitter and LinkedIn. My Facebook public profile may seem innocuous enough because most of my info is friends-only, but if you’re a new friend, I honestly don’t know what you might find if you dig deep enough in my profile—that thing is almost 10 years old! I’d rather take our relationship online via Twitter, where my content is fairly ephemeral, or LinkedIn, which started out as my “professional” channel, and then I’ll share bits of my personal life with you there.
Being a client services person in the social media world doesn’t mean being an open book, but rather using the right networks to connect with your clients and contacts in a meaningful, yet appropriate way. And what do you do if a client friends you? Dawn Mentzer, aka the Insatiable Solopreneur, advises establishing a consistent “Facebook friend policy” for clients—you’ll either accept client friend requests, or kindly inform them that while you use Facebook to keep up with family and college friends, you’d love to connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn (and follow through by connecting with them on these networks).
I’m sure a lot of you have thoughts on connecting with clients on social media, and I’d love to hear them! On what networks do you connect with your clients? Has connecting with clients on social media led to any success stories or cautionary tales?
As you might have guessed, Melissa Komadina works in Account Service at Renegade. Feel free to tweet her or find her on LinkedIn.