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What's next for Twitter?

March 21, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

Twitter{{}}Twitter turns ten this week, but it continues to suffer a difficult year, with share prices plummeting, key executives jumping ship and new user growth stalling for the first time in its ten-year history.

Last year, co-founder Jack Dorsey returned as ceo to try and bring the company out of a tailspin that has left it with a two billion dollar deficit and a product that seems increasingly unsure of itself.

Rumours of an impending takeover by Facebook or Google have been rife in recent months, but Twitter's long-term prospects depend on it sorting out several key issues which have left it losing ground in an unforgiving marketplace.

So what are Twitter's problems?

Lack of monetisation

Social networks tend to build a large pool of users first and worry about how to monetise them later. Nobody wants to join a new social network that's plastered with ads. Twitter amassed a huge user base - currently around 300 million active users - but has struggled to find an advertising product that doesn't push people away.

Twitter's ad products were always designed to look native. Promoted tweets, trending topics and recommended accounts are nestled among organic results. But advertisers have been disappointed with the in-stream ads Twitter has offered.

Twitter's ads underperformed against Facebook's, despite the average CPM being five times as expensive. The fact is that Facebook's network reach dwarfs that of Twitter, it offers a far more diverse demographic and its users share things ten times as much. Twitter needs to work out a way of offering real value to advertisers without scaring off users. Not an easy task.

Great expectations

Twitter is an important part of modern culture. It's a place where revolutions are born and where vital information gets spread during good times and bad. Hashtags and live-tweeting have changed the way we communicate. Virtually every president and prime minister on earth has an account.

But none of this necessarily makes Twitter profitable. And tech investors are losing patience with social networks whose dazzling valuations are now causing worries of a second dot com bubble.

In a February earnings report, Twitter warned that user growth will continue to stall and profitability is unlikely any time soon. Its focus is now on making itself indispensable again.

User confusion

Twitter has never been an easy sell to casual users. Dorsey recently conceded that "new users may initially find our product confusing", noting that there's a "perception that our products and services are only useful to users who tweet, or to influential users with large audiences".

The constant tinkering with its core product certainly hasn't helped. The possibility of changing the two features that have defined the platform since its launch - the 140-character limit and the chronological presentation - don't inspire confidence in the platform's staying power against other, more visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Twitter is doing the right thing in trying to make its product simpler but it risks losing its identity by becoming a noisier version of a Facebook feed. The Lists feature is a great way to split your timeline into categorised groups but without a third party application you can't see them all at once. Twitter is the only social network that gets more frustrating the more you use it.

A bad atmosphere

In addition, Twitter has become an increasingly hostile environment, with countless cases of individuals being publicly shamed on the platform. The dark side of Twitter's collectivist ecosystem is the "snowflake in an avalanche" effect that creates a diffusion of responsibility amongst those who participate in mass shamings. Nobody takes the blame, apart from Twitter itself.

Twitter's reporting system is notoriously difficult to enforce on a platform that encourages handles over real names and requires only a fresh email address to create a new account.

Anyway, editorial censorship is likely to cause a backlash from users who would see it as a slippery slope towards letting people silence any negative attention, however justified. And yet the difference between simply posting a negative opinion about someone and bullying them is difficult to judge even by humans, let alone an automated process.

So what's next?

Making headlines and getting celebrities and world leaders to use your product is great for attracting new users, but it won't keep them there unless you offer them something that's both enjoyable to use and provides genuine value - the huge number of dormant accounts is clear evidence of that.

Twitter is likely to sink more money into R&D and acquisitions in order to overhaul its product. Buying Periscope, a live-streaming video service, was a good start.

But there are still problems with its advertising product and the only way it can fix them is to put its users first and advertisers second. The recent acquisition of cross-platform tech company TellApart, which allows advertisers to remarket to users who aren't logged in or don't have an account, is concerning.

Jack Dorsey recently announced a big restructure of Twitter's staff, slimming down its team and pledging to recruit new top talent. A bit of downsizing isn't such a bad thing for the brand. Perhaps Twitter could benefit from changing its identity from "the big idea that was meant to change the world" to being just another quietly efficient tech company.

Copyright © 2016 Rob Diggle, digital marketing manager, Databroker.

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Social media lessons for start-ups

March 15, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

Social media lessons for start-ups{{}}It can be easy to fall into the trap of using social media for your brand in an ad-hoc way, especially when you are starting out. But setting standards for tone and branding on social media sites can be a crucial make or break decision for a fledging business.

When you're looking at social media for your business, there are several things you need to consider - from where your audience is, to making sure your social media pages have a consistent look.

It can be daunting to get your social accounts properly up and running, especially with each platform having their own nuances and tricks to learn, but if you do it right, it can be one of the best moves your business makes.

Here are some key tips for best practice if you're starting to use social media as a new business:

Be where your audience is

There is no point setting yourself up on social media if your target audience isn't using it too. Your audience's demographic will determine how much you use each social media site. For example, if your target market is young people, you'd be best off focusing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - with about 53% of 18-to-29 year olds on Instagram, 37% on Twitter and even more on Facebook.

Of course, you will have identified your target market when you establish your business. It's also worth browsing on social media platforms to see if your competitors' audiences are there and how much they are using it. You can also track the habits of your target market - if they are using Twitter between 5pm and 10pm, you need to be active during those hours.

Have a consistent look and feel

Branding is huge for any business, especially a fledging one. If your marketing doesn't match your website, people will not necessarily recognise your brand wherever they find it. The aim of good branding is being able to recognise it at a glance - from your logo to your colour scheme. Social media is a great place to implement your signature look as you can ensure your profile picture, tone and font usage remains the same throughout.

Don't be desperate

We've all seen businesses who try a little too hard to get noticed. Tagging random people in pictures and posts can generate likes but it doesn't always make for good marketing. And refrain from spamming other people's posts with comments - it may seem like a great way to spread brand awareness but you'll just look like you don't know what you're doing.

Social media can be the best starting point for new businesses, if used properly. It introduces your brand to new customers you normally wouldn't find and provides free advertising. (Or paid if you wish!)

Remember our three magic rules of social media; be where your audience is; make your social media pages consistent with tone and feel; and don't try too hard. If you stick to these best practices, you should get real results from social media.

Sponsored post: copyright © 2016 Elena Lockett, digital communications expert, FM Outsource.

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Like it or not - social media sites are starting to look very similar

February 01, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

Like it or not - social media sites are starting to look very similar{{}}Twitter recently made the decision to replace its Favorite button with a Like button giving users a new way to show their appreciation for Tweets.

Of course, Facebook has been using this feature for years. This sudden change at Twitter may have come as a shock to the system for avid social media users, but it's not the first time that something like this has happened. In 2013, taking a leaf out of Twitter's book, Facebook added a panel showing trending hashtags to its homepage.

Social media platforms seem to be slowly blending into one and to prove it, here are three examples of social media features that are now spread across a multitude of platforms.

Likes

To appeal to new users, Twitter has swapped its Favorite feature for a Like feature, symbolised by a heart. According to Twitter, newcomers often found the Favorite feature (with its star symbol) confusing and were unsure what they should use it for.

Crucially for businesses, it's likely that companies that use Twitter will get more Likes than they did Favorites because liking something has a much lower barrier than making it your Favourite. However, this move by Twitter could reduce the number of retweets and these currently generate the most social reach for many firms.

Video

It's hard to ignore the surge in video across all social media channels.

Recently, Facebook introduced an auto-play feature, making it impossible to avoid the viral videos that fill our news feeds. Image-sharing platform Instagram also introduced a 15-second video feature, responding to the micro-video craze established by Vine. Twitter rolled out 30-second videos for tweets and began offering promoted video ads. Even Pinterest unveiled Cinematic Pins, a GIF-like video feature.

Video sharing has even created micro-celebrities, including Cian Twomey, an Irish Facebook user who rose to fame after posting videos of himself impersonating his girlfriend. Cian's Facebook page now has over three million Likes.

Photo tagging

Anyone who has been tagged in an unflattering photo on Facebook will be unhappy to find out that Twitter has also adopted this feature. Rather than listing the names of the people in the tweet, users can now tag them in the photo.

Thankfully, anyone tagged in a photo can amend or delete the tag themselves. The photo will only appear in the original Tweeter's stream, unless tagged users choose to retweet. One thing worth knowing about this feature is that the default setting for private accounts is to not allow any tagging.

Like it or not, it's clear that social media channels are slowly converging on a single set of standards.

Copyright © 2015 Jessica Phillips, account executive at Stone Junction.

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The 11 deadly sins of social media

August 27, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

The 11 deadly sins of social media{{}}Recently we’ve seen some sinful uses of social media; from clueless users to pointless tweeters. Already this year we’ve witnessed an array of social media blunders, not to mention those who’ve been prosecuted for their comments on social media.

So why all the sinning? With social media use at an all time high and as competition increases between social businesses, people are stretching the social media boundaries to stand out online. Some businesses have lost sight of social media etiquette, business etiquette and common sense as they “borrow” content and spy on their competitors.

But businesses that abuse social media are only damaging their own reputations and jeopardising their business opportunities.

So what are the 11 social media sins?:

1. Forgetting that social media makes you omnipresent

Although you can delete posts, people can also screen grab and anything you post can remain in the social media realm forever. This is particularly relevant with Twitter — you can never be certain who is monitoring what you tweet. Never post anything on social media that you wouldn’t be happy for the whole world to see.

2. Not being consistent across social media platforms

Treat social media as one and be consistent across your social media profiles. Your social media profiles should not be competing for your attention, do not favour one over the other; you should post content consistently over all sites. But keep in mind though that each has its own rules and purposes.

Use Twitter to signpost, ensure LinkedIn is B2B focused, Facebook B2C and Google+ should be a mixture of the two. You may need to alter the language of your posts based on the target audience of that platform. Ensure that your presence is consistent and truly represents you. Your social media profiles are usually the first place people go to find out about you, if you’ve got a mismatched, jumbled and inconsistent presence, people will be less likely to trust you and what you post.

3. Not being vigilant about fakes and trolls

There are thousands of fake social media users posing as celebrities and everyday users, with many of these being controlled by internet trolls. These are people who trawl social media sites posting derogatory comments and abusing users and should be reported to the social networking site in which they are operating on. 

You must ensure that those influencers you follow are verified (have a little blue tick). If you’re an infamous user yourself, consider getting your own account verified.

4. Not minding your Ps and Qs

You need to be careful what you tweet, even on your personal social media profiles. If your employer is mentioned on your profile, they can be liable for any offensive comments you make through Vicarious Liability.

Mind your social media Ps & Qs, watch your language and do not swear — especially if you’re posting from your business account. Your tweets represent your brand so ensure they reflect your target market and avoid offending anyone with your language.

5. Taking a break from social media

There are proven best and worst times to post on social media and constantly broadcasting brand messages can be a waste of time. Check out the best times to post and ensure your posting is targeted.

Mix up scheduled tweets with timely posts throughout the week so you’ll create a great balance for your social media profiles and save yourself a lot of time.

6. Sharing personal information

Social media is not the place to air your dirty laundry and you will undoubtedly regret doing this so don’t share your personal information, family disputes or private matters.

Do not mix your personal life with your business handles; ensure you create a different personal account to keep up to date with friends. Already this year we’ve seen a number of cases involving people being fired, and in some cases prosecuted, for what they’ve said on social media. Again, don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the world to see — including friends, family, colleagues and employers.

7. Deleting negative comments

Most of us have received negative or abusive comments on social media at some time. Don’t delete these comments, instead reply to them promptly (not necessarily immediately) and appropriately (step back, compose yourself, don’t reply in anger, deal with this in the same manner as you would through any other form of contact) to show you are dealing with this.

This is particularly true when it comes to social customer service; Twitter is now the first place many of us go to complain and if your company is brushing these comments under the carpet and removing them from your feed then this shows you in a terrible light. Show respect when replying and only use humour if appropriate.

So, don’t kill comments (unless truly offensive, in which case report and block); start dealing with them confidently.  Ultimately, you will be judged on the way with you deal with it.

8. Not being faithful to your connections

Don’t insult or mock people via social media; instead treat all your connections with respect. Ensure you get the tone of voice right, as well as the content you share — never position yourself online as something you are not.

Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. Forge new relationships, share content and that way your will gain respect, support and recognition.

9. Copying content

Social media has made it harder than ever for individuals to keep a track of their comments, posts and articles; and it’s now easier than ever for people to steal your content. Don’t steal other people’s tweets, arguments and opinions — it’s wrong.

We all know that social media is great for getting content ideas and inspiration, but if you are to use someone else’s articles, don’t present them as your own and reference them correctly. Social media content can still be copyrighted and you may find yourself in trouble if you present ripped off content as your own.

10. Lying

Many people think social media gives you anonymity but this isn’t always the case. Social media posts and comments are traceable so never use social media to slander people or businesses.

If you have a problem with a business or a brand, make sure you bring this, politely, to their attention and do not use social media as a way to broadcast your hate towards them. If you’re a business, don’t lie about other companies or mock them on Twitter.

Ensure that you have correct training and policies in place to monitor what your staff post and who has access to your accounts.  After all, social media is an extension of your existing communications channels.

11. Jealousy

Love what your competitor is doing on social media? Well, don’t just sit back green with envy, go and do it yourself. Social media has removed boundaries that were traditionally the realms of big brand, big budget names.

Social media has provided a glass wall into other businesses and If you like something they’re doing, then think about doing something similar yourself. Not only has it allowed you to monitor competitors, social media has also allowed you to keep a track of your business targets, giving you an easy way to communicate and network with them.

© Emma Pauw, social media writer, We Talk Social.

Are you having one-sided conversations on Twitter?

August 19, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Are you having one-sided conversations on Twitter?{{}}Social media platforms such as Twitter give brands a free and invaluable way to connect with clients (both current and potential), spread brand warmth, monitor competitors, manage customer service, gain customer insights and drive website traffic — what’s not to love?

Yet, many brands are jumping feet first into the social media realm without understanding the basics; in particular, how to post content. This may seem like a no-brainer to some, yet many brands still don’t understand the fundamental rules of social media. Yes, social media is integral to your brand, but going out all guns blazing with no planning or strategy may do more harm than good.

And what’s the biggest faux-pas of all? It’s using social media channels to broadcast rather than engage.

Beware broadcasting

If used in moderation, broadcast messages on social media can be effective. You can flag up new website content including blogs, news and articles. And you can attract more fans and followers by positioning yourself as an industry expert.

Yet, this must be done in moderation. If you continuously broadcast marketing messages via your social sites, people will soon switch off. Mix these messages with engaging third party content, network with customers and work to build strong lasting relationships with your followers. Social media is a long game but over time you will see results.

You wouldn’t train your in-store staff to constantly shout out brand messages in an attempt to sell to customers — apart from looking unprofessional, it would drive people away. So why do brands do this on social? The best sales people get to know their customers, they engage them in conversations, find out what makes them tick and then provide a solution to match their needs. The same should go for social media.

Twitter tactics

A report from Brandwatch shows that 25% of top brands continue to use Twitter for broadcasting purposes only. If you’re constantly broadcasting marketing messages, your content is without context, no trust is built and ultimately no sales. This can also make your brand look uncreative; your social media sites are supposed to show the human face of your organisation, to show your personality. If you’re only pushing brand messages, your business looks dull and uninspiring.

The real value comes from engaging your followers in two-way conversations, interacting with them and showing them that you care. Over the years, many brands have created a huge sense of brand warmth via their humorous and engaging social media posts; and their messages are retweeted, spreading their brand messages much further than those brands who broadcast. So come on guys, get some personality.

Are your posts falling on deaf ears?

We all know the saying; if a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? Well, the same goes for social; it’s all well and good endlessly posting but if you’re not engaging your followers then these posts will fall on deaf ears. If you’re constantly pushing out messages, people will soon switch off. Instead start engaging in conversations, joining in with the chatter and building up a strong sense of brand warmth and rapport with your followers.

Copyright © 2014 Emma Pauw, social media writer, We Talk Social.

Vine - the six-second commercial for gen Y

July 23, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Vine — the six-second commercial for gen Y{{}}When Erik Qualman — social media magic man and author of the hugely successful book Socialnomics — released his latest stat-packed YouTube video he did a great job of highlighting the power of social media in the modern age.

This three-minute clip is a shining example of clever video marketing. Considering that it’s a sequence of facts and figures strewn across the screen, the video drives home its point in a compelling way.

It just goes to show how a smart design combined with eye-catching infographics and a Daft Punk backing tune can hold a viewer’s attention for 180 seconds.

It’s even more impressive if you take into account one of the video’s stand-out statistics — the average person has an attention span of seven seconds.

It sounds extreme but I’m inclined to agree with that — mainly because as soon as I’d read it I immediately started wondering what I should have for lunch. But also because we, as consumers, are being so overloaded with advertisements that we tend to disregard anything that doesn’t appeal to us within the first few seconds.

This sort of consumer behaviour has shifted the way content marketers approach advertising — and that’s where Vine comes in.

The influence of Vine on advertising

In his video, Qualman describes the six-second Vine as the new 30-second commercial. This makes a lot of sense. Apart from anything, no-one’s buying into traditional marketing anymore — just 14% of consumers trust advertisements, according to Qualman.

With Vine, viewers are getting are short, snappy, engaging clips primarily intended to entertain while hinting at a brand or business — it’s the gentle approach to advertising.

On the grapevine

One big business that is using Vine cleverly for content marketing is Ford. Ford has only been using the platform since early 2014 yet it has managed to accrue a substantial following by recruiting the help of more established Viners. It has asked these influencers to produce Vines in which Ford cars play a part — but this is more like product placement than traditional advertising and it’s better for it. Re-Vining the clips using the influencer’s handle, as opposed to Ford’s, also encourages more user engagement.

In addition, the playful and irreverent humour in its clips attracts the attention, trust and respect of a younger audience that would typically be less interested in corporate commercials.

Given that Qualman says 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old, then gen Y is the largest and most social media-dependent demographic out there.

So, if you want to tap into this pool of potential customers, it would be worth taking a page out of Ford’s book and start harnessing the power of Vine in your content marketing strategy.

Copyright © 2014 Shelley Hoppe, managing director at Southerly.

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