How To Test Your Way To Success As a Small Business

As a small business, you have an advantage over larger competitors: agility. It’s harder for larger, more established companies to be agile. You can, and here’s how to use that to your benefit.

How To Test Your Way To Success As a Small Business

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

Test, test and test some more. Try things out. You may have noticed that the CCC blog publishing schedule has been a little off lately. That’s because we’ve been testing different publishing days and posts per week. We apologize if we’ve thrown off your reading schedule, but things should be settling down now. After studying our data, we’ve decided on a Tuesday and Friday publishing schedule (for now).

Related reading: Social Media Marketing: Try Stuff. Test. Repeat.

In addition to testing out publishing schedules, we also like to test our content in different formats and on different social platforms. For example, we usually tweet each CCC blog post twice within a few days to a week after publishing: once with the title & featured photo and once with a quote or a question that is discussed in the post.

On May 4, we tweeted the above tweet to promote a recent post, Twitter’s Retweet with Comment Feature Changes The Conversation. This tweet with the title and photo racked up 413 impressions and 16 engagements, which are fantastic for us. Then on May 7, we tweeted a quote from the post along with the social media hashtag. That tweet fared much worse, gaining 159 impressions and 1 engagement. Lesson learned: always tweet with pictures. Not so fast!

On May 8, we sent a title and photo tweet promoting a post, Inside/Out: Brands, Take Your Message To The People. It garnered only 94 impressions and 0 engagements. (The irony is that this same picture was a hit on Instagram, racking up 31 likes and 12 comments.) So on May 11, we sent a text-only tweet (shown above) that was viewed 311 times and engaged with 4 times.

Finally, we posted the picture shown below on Instagram on April 13th showing our love of all things Mad Men. (If you missed it, check out Mad Men: Master Storytelling In Any Era, and you’ll understand at least part of our love affair.) It’s still pulling in traffic, currently at 69 likes and 25 comments. We also posted this picture on Twitter with fantastic results (5/17/15: 556 impressions and 19 engagements) and Facebook with less fantastic results (4/14/15: 11 people reached, 1 engagement).


Can anyone hear us?

Here’s our point: keep testing and trying things so you can stay in front of your audience, who is always moving. You’ll read so many posts that tell you to publish blog posts on Tuesdays at 10am and Facebook posts on Wednesdays at 3pm and LinkedIn posts on Thursday mornings at 7:30am. Those are general suggestions that can help you as you accumulate your own data to study and test. Your audience is unique, so they’ll set their own best practices. The hard part is breaking through all of the noise and clutter to hear, see and follow them.

Your Feedback

As a small business, we love your feedback! So let us hear it.

What suggestions do you have for the CCC blog?

What suggestions do you have for small business owners?

How has testing led you to success?

Enjoy your long weekend, but remember what Memorial Day represents. THANK YOU to everyone who has given the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our country and freedom. And please, stay safe and be smart; don’t put a first responder in harm’s way.

Always testing, always learning,
Jaime

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Get Your Ducks In A Row: Your 1st Quarter Social Media Updates

Social media is an ever-evolving world. One of our most popular posts last year was Social Media 2014: Traveling At The Speed of Light (And A Look Ahead!), so we thought that a quick first quarter review of social media updates would help you stay up-to-date. Here goes!

Your Q1 social media updates brought to you by CCC (and Webster)!

Social media’s like a day at the ballpark. You never know what you’re going to find! A duck wearing shades?!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

LinkedIn


Get Social

What important updates did we miss?

What’s your favorite social media update thus far in 2015?

What’s your favorite social network right now?

Remember, we’re ready to help you navigate the always evolving, real-time social media world to achieve your specific objectives. Want to talk?

Let’s get social,
Jaime

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Social Media 2014: Traveling At The Speed of Light (And A Look Ahead!)

Social media. This ever-changing, real-time world is unbelievable — both in the marketing opportunity it presents and in trying to stay on top of the constant changes. Are you utilizing the new features that popped up in 2014? Let’s take a quick look back…

Social media travels at the speed of light

Facebook

Twitter

  • Start a conversation: share a tweet through direct messages (read more)
  • Tag people in a photo / add multiple photos to one tweet (read more)
  • Twitter offers you more control over your feed (read more)
  • Would you sell directly in Twitter? (read more)
  • What’s next? Ask the head tweeters.
From rags to riches: Brian Acton

Facebook didn’t turn him down this time. Brian Acton, co-founder of Instagram, became a multi-billionaire in 2014.

Instagram

Pinterest

LinkedIn

  • Customize your background to paint a better picture of you (read more)
  • New homepage design lets you stay connected (read more)
  • LinkedIn Publishing stepped up its game (read more)
  • Who’s viewed your profile? New ways to engage (read more)
  • What’s next? Big ideas in 2015

Post, Tweet & Pin

What major social media changes in 2014 did I miss?

What 2015 update are you anticipating the most?

What’s your favorite social network now and 3 years ago?

What a year in the social media world!

Cheers,
Jaime

Stay up-to-date on the crazy social media world. Join the discussion:
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Get Visual With Content Marketing: 5 Tools To Help

We’ve all heard that ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words,’ but the proof is more personal. When you flip through a magazine, browse online or read a blog post, where do your eyes go? To the pictures. So it should be no surprise that images are the number one most important factor in optimal social media content. [source]

I can spout stats all day, but instead I’d like to focus on tools to help you create professional images for your content marketing and social media needs.

Get visual with content marketing

  1. Your Gallery – You’d be surprised at the wealth of images already available at your fingertips. Look at some of your favorite pictures and see how you could tie them in to your marketing message (like the image above). Furthermore, if you come across an interesting photo op, take it. I snapped a close up shot of the front of a journal a few weeks ago and ended up using it last week for a CCC Facebook post.
  2. Creative Commons (or CC) Search – I love this search engine! Easily find legal images to spice up your content on various search engines. If you’re looking to modify an image or use it for commercial purposes, check the appropriate boxes because licenses vary. Make sure to properly attribute the photo you find.
  3. PicMonkey – A fun, online photo editor that allows you to design visuals from scratch or edit your own photos. Standard templates are available (including a Facebook cover photo) and the array of themes, frames, text fonts, overlays and other tools at your disposal — for free — are impressive. Paid membership is available for additional resources.
  4. Square InstaPic – Are you tired of trying to force your photos into Instagram’s square template? Then this dynamic, easy-to-use app is for you! Square InstaPic allows you to use your whole image and enhance it — add text, change background colors, use filters, make collages, etc. I love this app so much it sits right next to my Instagram app on my visual home screen. Android only. (iPhone owners, what’s your favorite photo editing app?)
  5. Picture Manager – This handy little program is a lifesaver, so I’m sad to see that it isn’t included in MIcrosoft Office 2013 (although you can still get it.) Resizing your images to optimal size for the social network you’re using them for is an important step, and I regularly use this program just for that reason. You can also crop, remove red eye, rotate and adjust the color, among a number of editing functions. As a bonus, Picture Manager also allows you to save pictures as different file types and serves as an effective way to manage your gallery.

Research & Statistics

If you’re looking for more facts and figures, check out the following resources:

Join the Discussion

What tools do you use to get visual in your content marketing efforts?

Have you tried any of the tools listed above?

Drop a link to your favorite visual content in the comments below. Why do you love it?

Visually inspired (and impaired),
Jaime

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Warning: Appropriate Hashtag Usage on Instagram Will Result in Major Traffic Increase

Hashtags: you either love them or hate them. This blog has pondered hashtag usage before and received a mixed response from readers on their effectiveness and aesthetic appeal. But more than a year after that discussion, one thing is clear. Hashtag usage should be defined more than ever by social platform.

Hashtags? They can be a beautiful thing when used appropriately.

Original photo credit: “Protesters Blur By” by Geraint Rowland via CC BY 2.0 // edited by author


Social Platform Hashtag Usage

Twitter? One to two hashtags raises engagement and can help you reach new audiences. Three or more turn off potential readers because #nobody #wants to #read a #tweet #like #this. Remember, aesthetics matter, especially now that pictures are viewed directly in the tweet and articles can be previewed. CCC Tip: put your hashtags at the end of the tweet if character space allows.

Facebook? Not so much. The largest social network was late to the game recognizing hashtags and its audience doesn’t have patience for them. One or two may bring new eyes to your post, but make sure you tuck them in at the end so they’re as out of sight as possible. CCC Tip: Pass on hashtag usage on Facebook; they do more damage than good. In fact, when we published the previous hashtag post, Facebook was where we received the most negative feedback on the subject.

Pinterest? Meh. The verdict is sill out on this platform, so you may want to use a couple of applicable hashtags, if appropriate, or bypass altogether. Pins are typically easier to find via category (by search) or by board, so make sure to ‘file’ them properly. Also, take advantage of board descriptions! Let your prospective audience know why they should follow a particular board so they’re more likely to see future pins.

Instagram? Gold mine. Some days it seems like hashtags were created for this popular visual platform instead of Twitter. Sure, you’ll see some people complain about the plethora of hashtags used on this site (30 are allowed per photo), but they are SO effective in bringing increased traffic when used appropriately.

Hashtag Guidelines on Instagram

  • First, only tag your photos with hashtags that make sense; don’t tag accounts or hashtags only to fool people into looking at your picture. That makes people mad, so it’s not an effective long-term solution. Example: CCC is a marketing company that specializes in writing (including social media), but we don’t tag a picture of a sunset with #marketing, #writing or #socialmedia (unless it’s applicable for some reason).
  • Research hashtags to check their popularity and what type of photos show up in the search. More popular hashtags (#socialmedia, #writing) mean more people are searching, but more results in the search mean more competition. Less popular hashtags (such as ones you create) have less competition, but you’ll need to promote the tag to draw eyes to it. During your research, get a feel for what type of photos show up in the search. You may be surprised by the double meaning of some hashtags or an unexpected use by another campaign.
  • You can use up to thirty hashtags per photo, but don’t feel obligated. In our experience, most photos don’t warrant that many hashtags.
  • Creating your own hashtag? Try to keep it reasonable in length and avoid special characters (?!#$%), because they don’t work. Numbers do though. Make your hashtag easy to remember and promote, promote, promote!
CCC on Instagram: @jaimeshine

Are you visually inspired? Follow CCC on Instagram! Find us under jaimeshine.

Hashtags & Instagram: An Experiment that Produced Results

I was reviewing our Instagram account on Sunday evening (OK, more like Monday morning) and decided to try adding hashtags to older photos that didn’t have any or only had one or two. I thought it would be worth the time to draw more traffic and possibly bring new eyes to CCC’s posts. Wow! I couldn’t believe the results.

In only 48 hours, we picked up nearly 100 likes, 10 comments and 6 new followers.

These numbers are for an account with 185 followers, under 300 photos and little to no engagement at some points in the past, so we’re thrilled!

Conclusion: Appropriate hashtag usage on Instagram will result in major traffic increase, so please use responsibly.

Join the Discussion

Do you agree with our recommended hashtag usage on the social platforms mentioned above? Or have you had a different experience?

Do you have any Instagram hashtag guidelines to add?

Have you conducted a hashtag experiment on any social platform?

Hashtags: do you love them or hate them?

p.s. It’s Election Day! Go vote and make your voice heard.

A reformed, if reluctant, hashtagger,
Jaime,

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Social Media Savvy: It’s Still All About the Brand

One of the more popular posts I wrote last year was about social media branding and its importance to your brand’s reputation, especially if you’re in the marketing, social media, technology or related fields. After reading Dustin W. Stout’s excellent post on the subject, I realized an update was in order. The major social networks were busy editing, tweaking and re-branding in 2013.

Why does it even matter?

  • Your reputation — If your social media branding is out of date, what else is?
  • Respect — You’ve carefully cultivated your brand and want people to use it as intended. Extend that courtesy to others, including social media networks.
  • Brand police — The networks may not notice that you’re using their out-of-date branding unless you’re Coca-Cola or Apple. But remember, you are renting space on their platforms so it’s not a good idea.
spotlight shining on the major social media network logos

Your brand conveys who you are and what you’re about. Make sure to always comply with other company’s brand guidelines.

Facebook rolled out a new like button this year, but the social media giant’s main logo has remained pretty consistent. The company uses a white ‘f’ in a blue square and does not allow use of the full Facebook logo.

Google may be a brand master, but it’s social network Google+ is still figuring out which way it wants to go in that department. This platform has changed its branding every year of its short existence, and has currently settled on a centered ‘g+’ on a red background.

Twitter‘s flying high from its splashy IPO earlier this year (which has since come back to Earth), so its fresh branding with its legendary bird angled up makes sense. Stay away from the old ‘t’ or full Twitter logos, or the dreaded Fail Whale may appear.

Instagram is a new addition to this year’s post as the visual social platform has exploded over the past two years. The company has added video to its repertoire, been purchased by Facebook and moved to the web — a major reason to grab a badge and promote your account.

                 Facebook logo     Google+ logo     Twitter logo     Instagram logo     Pinterest logo     LinkedIn logo     YouTube logo

The current branding for the major social platforms is shown above. (Keep in mind that some offer additional options, depending on use.) For your convenience, I’ve linked each logo to the current branding guidelines for that social network.

Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you about social media brand compliance.

Is using current social media branding on your website, blog and other marketing materials important to you?

Is it as important if you’re not in a related industry?

Is there another social media network or platform you’re interested in?

Need to update your social media branding? As a special treat, Dustin has shared a downloadable file at the end of his aforementioned insightful post.

Well blog readers, it’s  been an eventful year. Thank you for reading along, joining the discussions and sharing our content to your connections. We really appreciate it, and wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014!

Spotlight photo courtesy of Virgin Mobile’s Wallpaper Swag Gallery // Social media icons were added

Stay safe and enjoy ringing in the New Year!

Jaime

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Facebook: Dead or Alive?

We’ve had some interesting discussions recently on the Clearly Conveyed Communications Facebook page. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, take a look and let us know what you think!) One of them this week was, coincidentally, about Facebook

                        Facebook: Like or Dislike?Facebook: Like or Dislike?

Is this social platform behemoth living large or dying a slow death? Facebook’s certainly been in the news a lot lately, and I came across an article from our friends at MediaPost entitled, Vine, Instagram: Hit It And Quit It, that made a strong statement. 

“Facebook sucks unless you’re over 40.”  -Karl Greenberg

That’s a strong statement but is it true? The article goes on to say, “Young people don’t use Facebook anymore. It’s too complicated and takes too long.” That thought is from Bernard Glaser, who heads the marketing operation at Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. While MB has a *few* friends on Facebook (1,766,687 at the time of publication), the company’s actually trying to move more of them to Instagram. 

Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. Instagram Content

Despite millions of fans on Facebook, Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. is trying to move them to Instagram — a social network they feel is better suited to a younger audience.

 

CCC’s Experience: A Case Study

Initially, we really struggled to gain traction on our Facebook page, which is frustrating. It definitely lags behind some of CCC’s other social platform presences (linked at the end of this post). However after much time and effort, we’re starting to increase our Facebook community as well as their engagement. Engaging with other pages (and page owners) is so important as well as posting content that’s intriguing to your specific fan base (oh, at the right time). We’ve really found the new and improved Insights tool to be a big help in determining our strategy going forward. 

New & improved FB Insights tool

The new & improved Facebook Insights tool allows you to dig deeper into your audience’s demographics.

For all the advice, statistics and studies available, it really comes down to your specific audience(s). For our page, we’ve found that text updates (generally questions or tips) receive the highest reach while pictures pull in the most engagement. Links typically offer the lowest reach and engagement; however, the last link we posted generated much better results in both of these categories. 

We’ve also discovered our best times to post throughout the day and have been varying our posting times more to see which types of updates resonate the best with our fans at different times on different days. In a nutshell, popular advice on content and posting times may be a good place to start, but dig deeper into your audience’s specific demographics to really tailor their experience on your Facebook page. 

Your Experience

So, is Facebook in your company’s social media plans? Why or why not? Also, who is your target audience(s)?

As a consumer, do you use Facebook? What are your primary reasons for using it? 

Despite its current status as the largest social platform (by a wide margin), do you think Facebook will ever become extinct? 

Drop your thoughts below to continue this interesting discussion or head over to the discussion on the CCC Facebook page

You may also be interested in our other Facebook posts

Photos courtesy of:
Wikimedia Commons (Facebook Like Thumb and Facebook Dislike Thumb)
Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. Facebook page (#CLA Take the Wheel Instagram Contest)
Clearly Conveyed Communications Facebook page (Insights Tool)

A dual Facebook user (for business & pleasure),
Jaime

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#Hashtags: Big Business or Bust?

Hashtags

Hashtags — love them or hate them? Are they good or bad for business? Photo courtesy of Michael Coghlan via Creative Commons License

Let’s take a closer look at the world of hashtags…

On the positive side, hashtags open up your social media updates to a whole new world: non-subscribers, non-fans and non-followers. Searching hashtags brings potential fans, followers, subscribers — and customers — to your doorstep. Whenever I use hashtags, I always receive more traffic from those outside of my network. I’ve also come across brands — both personal and corporate — on Instagram and Twitter that I probably never would have found otherwise.

Hashtags are also a wonderful way to have a conversation online. Stay up to date with webinars, events, ad campaigns, sporting events, etc. by searching for the hashtag and participating in the conversation. As a marketer (or event professional), designating hashtags for your campaigns and events is a great way to invite attendees to join the conversation, build momentum pre- and post-event, involve those unable to attend and integrate your online and offline marketing efforts.

#Olympics hashtag search

The #Olympics hashtag: insight and insanity

For example, Twitter noted that the #SuperBowl hashtag was used 3 million times over an approximate 5-hour time period. As a marketing professional, you’re probably excited to jump in! But slow down — and do the math. That breaks down to an average of 167 tweets per second. And remember, anyone can use a hashtag — not only brands, companies or excited fans talking positively about your product or service. Someone complaining about a sideline reporter’s outfit or a celebrity that’s spotted in the crowd will show up in that hashtag search as well. As Oreo showed us, hashtags don’t make the tweet.

Power outage? No problem says Oreo.

Oreo stole the show on Super Bowl Sunday. No hashtag needed.

Another negative aspect is what I like to call ‘overhashtagging.’ I’m pretty sure that’s not a word, but it is in my dictionary. #Have #you #ever #read #a #tweet #like #this? #Probably #not #because #its #so #annoying. I’ve spoken to Twitter users regarding hashtag use and come across research that noted readership (and engagement) drops after 2 – 3 hashtags. Of course, it’s not just on Twitter; we’ve all seen photos maxing out the 30 hashtag limit on Instagram. As my mom always says, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. #justsaying

In summary, hashtags have good and bad qualities like most things in life. They can be used correctly or abused as some of the pros and cons below show.

Pros

  • gain new followers, fans, subscribers and possibly customers
  • have a conversation online
  • bring event attendees into the conversation, including pre- and post-event
  • integrate online and offline marketing efforts
  • help a campaign go viral

Cons

  • new followers may be temporary or fake
  • aesthetically unpleasing
  • overuse is distracting / hard to read
  • overuse lowers readership / engagement
  • get lost in the sea of popular hashtags

I came across an insightful comment by Daniel Victor, social media staff editor at The New York Times, which sums up my opinion of hashtags well.

“Here’s where I’ll join the rest in unquantifiable hoodoo: I believe hashtags are aesthetically damaging. I believe a tweet free of hashtags is more pleasing to the eye, more easily consumed, and thus more likely to be retweeted (which is a proven way of growing your audience). I believe for every person who stumbles upon your tweet via hashtag, you’re likely turning off many more who are put off by hashtag overuse. We need not banish the hashtag, but let’s start putting more thought into when we’re using it.”

Your Thoughts

What do you think? Are you a hashtag user or recovering abuser? Refuse to use them?

Have hashtags been beneficial to your business? Or hurt your online brand?

Please chime in with your thoughts on the wonderful, wacky world of hashtags! Feel free to link to articles, blog posts, studies, etc. (including your own) on the subject in the comments as well.

Additional Reading

#EnjoytheWeekend!

Jaime

p.s. Sunday, June 30th, is Social Media Day 2013! Join CCC as we celebrate (virtually) the power of social media in our lives. View the event invite for details and social media resources.

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