Instagram Vivs Long-Ferguson

Could Instagram grow for you?

Instagram is Growing, it’s official

Should you be on Instagram or not? Would it work for your brand? There are many who feel you should be on Instagram. I am still waiting to be convinced but definitely open to its possibilities.

Instagram isn’t as big as Facebook but then nothing is. It’s important to remember that this is all relative. Facebook is the major player with growth and engagement across all demographics. Don’t write off Instagram, Pinterest and my favourite, Twitter yet – they are still major players.

In 2014 Instagram announced that it had surpassed 300 million users. By early 2017 the organisation confirmed that they had over 700 million active users per month. In other words, this is a teenage social media platform with a growth spurt.

And while you might think of Instagram as one of the ‘smaller’ social networks, this is in fact not true at all. Because in reality there is evidence that it has more users than Twitter (300 million+ active users per month). This is likely owing to its broader visual appeal.

Facebook reigns supreme

I think the power of Instagram is how effective it can be used with another platform particularly Facebook. As both platforms are owned by the same organisation they work extremely well together. Using Instagram posts to update your Facebook profile is a simple way to generate easy regular visual content. This is a great bonus for small business and major brands.

This provides the perfect way for you to tie all your social media accounts together, to save a lot of time uploading to multiple different channels and to increase your brand visibility. It even plays nicely with Pinterest, which just so happens to be another sorely under-utilized social network for marketers. This is a core objective with your marketing plan, be wary of using all the different platforms that are available to you. Remember think about where you audience is active, and consider where you platforms collaborate.

Instagram Vivs Long-Ferguson

LET’S gO Shopping

On top of all that, Instagram is actually a great place to sell. According to recent studies, a lot of users use it to shop – and some use it primarily for purchasing.

To put this in numbers, 70% of those surveyed by Iconosquare in 2015 stated that they have at some point sought out a brand using it. 62% have followed brands that they love, while 41% said they would be happy to hear about giveaways and discounts.  65% said that rather than being intrusive, they find it flattering when a brand likes their post.

As though that wasn’t enough reason to start investing your marketing time in Instagram, it’s also worth remembering that Instagram like Tumblr is drastically under-estimated by a lot of businesses and internet marketers. In other words, your competition most likely isn’t making the most of these platforms and you have an opportunity to stand out. A note of caution on this though the growth of the Instagram Influencer is definitely rising but it’s still feasible if you are focused about your brand and the type of images you want to share.

Use of the hashtag is fundamental for this platform but I will save this major subject for a future post.

return on investment

Finally, there’s the ROI that this platform offers. Brands love Twitter because it’s so incredibly easy for them to upload content. The same can be said of Instagram – if you know how to take great photos, or you can create inspiring visuals plus upload them and add your hashtags. You are on your way to keep a very active account with just a few minutes a day or even a few minutes a week.

So have a play – try out Instagram and see if it works for you.  I will be focusing on Instagram with a new client over the next few weeks. So let’s see if I change my view and adopt it as a favourite tool.

different Vivs Long-Ferguson

And now for something completely different

Listen, last week I did something very different. Well different for me but probably not for most people unfortunately.

Commuting

I went to work everyday in an office. Not only that but I commuted each day by train.  Setting the alarm clock for 6.30 am, having a strict routine to get to the station on time and not getting home until after 6. It was a weird experience. I thought it would be easy but it wasn’t. It was necessary as I have been working on-site with a small professional services firm helping them understand and use social media.

I haven’t commuted or worked daily in an office for about 15 years or so. You can imagine it was a real shock to the system and I needed a whole day to recover. Mind you from the age of 17 onwards up to my early 40s I worked and commuted to an office everyday so I thought it would be interesting to try it out again. This client specifically needed onsite consultancy and it made sense for this specific one-off project.

something different Vivs Long-Ferguson

To be honest, the work really was  very enjoyable. Collaborating on a 1 to 1 basis to help some individuals set up their LinkedIn profiles, show them how to connect with their clients plus grow their individual and business networks. I also talked to them about other social media tools; Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr . Some of them were using social media occasionally or were thinking of adopting social media tools to grow their online profiles and therefore their business.

Active Listening

I did a lot of talking individually, but more importantly I did an awful lot of listening;

  • understanding their existing knowledge
  • finding ways to provide value to their use of social networks

I also corrected a few misconceptions. My approach as a social media strategist is to find the platform that ticks as many of the boxes as possible. It needs to work for their target audience, plus their natural work styles and interests. There is no point trying to force someone to use Instagram if their clients are not using it or they don’t feel comfortable with this as a platform.

The work was a very enjoyable exercise, I met some interesting people and helped them understand the positive power of social media. The daily commute and  being stuck in an office from 9 to 5 was dreadful. I don’t know how people can do it. Office spaces are not creative or innovative environments.

I am so glad that when I left my full time work earlier this year I didn’t go for another job but chose the freelance route.It was a risk and I wasn’t sure which direction to take but now I know my work lifestyle choice is the right one.

I would have been so despondent working in an office everyday for the next 20 years.

It’s not for everyone, but if you are seriously tempted to adopt the laptop lifestyle, as I have done, then I recommend that you take a look at this simple eBook that you can download for free. It helped me and it may help you.

 

 

Portfolio Career Vivs Long-Ferguson

And what do you do? The Portfolio Career

The Portfolio Career. What is it and what does it really mean?

A short blog this time as I am very busy with various client work at the moment. I came across an article by Stylist magazine about portfolio careers. This reminded me of one of my favourite books And What do you do? A great read if you are at a tipping point with your career and life.

Why is it relevant?

Why is this relevant, mainly because when I decided not to go back to full time, running around the country, managing a team sort of employment this was the book I reached for. After dreaming for weeks, months almost years now was the opportunity to do something for myself. So, dear reader, I did.

After much procrastination and debate I finally took the plunge. Officially I am now a freelance consultant. I focus on social media, digital thinking and marketing. What makes my offer different is I also develop strategies on engage with your audience not just market to them.

Luckily in a few months I have secured some clients and I am off-an-rolling. A busy August for me. No lazing about by the pool for me this year, well not at the moment anyway.

Portfolio Career Vivs Long-Ferguson

fingers in pies

The point of the article and theme is nowadays one job is not enough. Neither is one career. More and more of us are combining multiple roles, skills plus expertise to create the portfolio career. However, this approach is not for everyone. You need to be able to

  • manage your finances really well, cash flow can be an issue.
  • know your brand. I am lucky as I use my name – its very individual and distinctive. Thank goodness there is only one Vivs Long-Ferguson. Need help developing yours get some professional advice or talk to friends.
  • manage your time. I blog about this a lot, its crucial to achieve a healthy balance in life plus be productive.
  • take care of yourself. Self-care to the uninitiated.

So there you are. Some simple tips for anyone thinking of starting their own portfolio career. Personally, I can highly recommend it. Come join me.

And if you need help navigating your social media you know where I am.

 

 

 

 

Twitter strategy Vivs Long-Ferguson

The secrets of an effective Twitter Strategy

The first thing to remember when utilising any social media including twitter is to make sure you have a strategy. Now, this doesn’t need to be pages and pages of business planning. A simple list of bullet points with objectives can suffice. Too many of us forget this basic step. Consequently, the result is we jump about between platforms, become distracted and forget the point of the original exercise.

Twitter

Let us use my favourite social media platform, Twitter, to dissect a potential plan. Twitter is a brilliant tool to introduce strategic thinking for developing your business. Your Twitter strategy should consider:

  • The audience – who you’re trying to reach
  • Profiles and influencers, you want to connect, collaborate or be associated with
  • Your twitter aims (e.g: my brand, generate clients or traffic to my website and services)
  • What type of content you will be tweeting and RT; news, stories or your content.
  • Schedule of your twitter activity, frequency
  • Your voice or tone. Your tweets should reflect who you are and your business
  • Engagement with your audience and followers

Having a strategic plan in place for your twitter will ensure you’re working towards your business goals. This is the difference between having a presence on social media rather than improving your business profile.

Make it daily

For twitter to work effectively for you need to tweet daily. Make it a habit. All social media networks move quickly and twitter is one that moves fast, very fast. Twitter is not a method to dip in and out, Neither is it something to fit in when you have time. You need to make time to tweet regularly. I appreciate this is a hard task but there are a variety of ways to manage this aspect such as scheduling your activity.

Engagement

Engaging with you twitter feed is fundamental. The daily twitter tasks you need to monitor and check which contribute to engagement include:

  • Acknowledge new followers
  • Like other Twitter content
  • Retweet and share content
  • Responding to other twitter users who like and retweet your content
  • Following new accounts
  • Monitoring trending topics or major hashtags (#tuesdaythougts) and akin them part of your strategy
  • Scheduling posts with different platforms (SproutSocial, ManageFlitter, Tweetdeck, or Hootsuite are a few platforms you can try but there are many free and at cost)
  • Respond to DMs plus make sure you avoid auto responses

To help you make sure you complete all these daily tasks create your own checklist to ensure you get everything done. If you have a team helping you manage your social media the checklist can help your team share the workload. Plus don’t forget my earlier tip, as a rule, try to think Pareto Principle, you should be only posting 20% of your own content, the rest should be other peoples.

Make sure you and your team monitor the account throughout the day. Twitter is fast, moves in real time so if a client has a complaint they don’t want to wait too long for a response. All the data tells us that customers expect a business response within a few hours. Conversations happen quickly so make sure you monitor all your clients, customers, leads and prospects. You don’t want to miss anything vital to business growth.

It’s your brand

So much of our world is now about automation. Whether we are dealing with automatic responses to speak to a service provider or self-service at the supermarket. The irony of this is our craving to do business with other people. We are tired of faceless responses. Social media and twitter specifically can show your personality so let it shine. Your brand needs to reflect you whether that’s serious, professional or fun and upbeat. This element of reality strengthens your online character.  Check out my blog on #askeddie explains this in a little more depth.

Once you decide on your tone, style makes sure is consistent. Don’t change it remember consistency and reliability are vital.

I know it sounds like a cliché but be you. Join the conversation, be genuine, authentic. Retweet what you like, what inspires you and provides a sense of truth. Be human, have fun don’t be boring or unresponsive.

Influence & Promote

When you RT or share a link do you think about credit to your sources. Always do this as it provides further opportunities to engage with others. This is one of the ways you can talk to your influencers. Often tweeters don’t track their mentions or shared content. What you can do is mention them in a tweet this way they will have a notification. Your influencers will take note, and they should if they follow twitter netiquette respond to you and share your content. This type of relationship is all part of the growing strand of influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is the major trend for the future particularly Instagram and twitter.

Avoid Automation

There are so many tools available to you to help manage and schedule your twitter activity. Now, these are great, and they are varied. They can help with spotting trends, identify hashtags, measure your influence, spot your nonfollowers and schedule your activity. Some are free others need payment normally monthly. Find a tool that works for you and helps you manage your twitter but avoid automation.  It’s tempting but don’t do it, using automation can only do more harm than good.

Twitter strategy Vivs Long-Ferguson

Social Managers need to curate their social media content, manually search, monitor activity. They are learning to understand their brand and more importantly the brand audience. This overall picture provides a more comprehensive view of twitter activity. Not just something that can automate.

Avoid automatic responses for engagement and DMs. There are so many horror stories and PR nightmares of this going wrong so make sure it doesn’t happen. Don’t believe take a look at these examples.

You might be confused as we suggested using some scheduling for tweet activity. This is okay but alongside this, you should still be manually tweeting as well. Remember what we said about being real and authentic? Well, there ya go.

I’m still standing

How do you stand out on twitter? There are so many businesses using Twitter for marketing, thousands of tweets are sent out every moment. So how can you stand out from the crowd? Here are a few final tips for you to think about

  • You only have 140 characters for a tweet. With URL, mentions and hashtags that don’t leave you a lot to play with so make your words count.
  • Don’t abuse keep your tweets to a maximum of two hashtags only. Research and use the hashtags that work for your brand, compliment your business or use renowned hashtags to grow your audience.
  • More and more visuals matter so always try to use a relevant image with your tweets. Research your images and use pictures that work with your brand, reflect your style and tone.

I hope this helps you think about your own twitter strategy and if you need help, you know where to find me on twitter.

 

 

social media

#AskEddie: The good news social media story

For me the glass is half full, definitely half full. Never half empty. I always like to see the positive side of life. Sometimes that’s hard to achieve especially with social media.

Now I know that social media has a dark side as well as a positive side. However, last week there was a very positive news story about a young Eddie Smith on his work experience with Southern Rail. In fact to some he has been proclaimed as Southern Rails saviour.

You can read the full news story about Eddie online. Basically a young guy on work experience was given the opportunity to monitor twitter activity on Southern Rails twitter account. Eddie was working at a Southern Rail operating centre in Sussex. Straight forward you would think but he had permission to introduce himself online and invite people to ask him questions. Consequently, the questions posted were amusing and young Eddie took the opportunity to answer them as well as he could.

The twittersphere loved this and the response was positive, funny and worked hard to win over many disgruntled Southern Rail commuters. For Eddie he has said its a great work experience and something that will live with him for a long time. Apparently he is also now considering a career in PR.

This story strengthens one of my key secrets of social media.

Be yourself.

Always, don’t try and be something your not. Don’t tweet what you think people want to read. Be yourself always online. This is what we mean about being authentic. It helps build trust and makes sure people know who you are. Individuals respond to this personal truth, when they see it they warm to it and want more of it. So always be yourself.

Maybe I am naive about the bad behaviour of social media. I know trolling exists on twitter.This is a serious problem especially for women and celebrities who are active online. We all know it exists and I would never dismiss it. However, isn’t it rewarding to know that there is a good side to social media as well, and that something good can come out of twitter.

Personally I have found social media an exceptionally collaborative and connected resource.

I just loved this story. And if you need a little positivity to brighten your day you can always read the #askeddie tweets. Oh and always ask questions, lots of questions. Enjoy.

Engage, not broadcast

Engage with your audience, don’t just broadcast

Today I want to talk about how you engage with our audience. Too often we are Broadcasting what we want to say rather than considering what people want to hear. This is a major bugbear for me, which probably won’t surprise many people who know me well. I have worked in the areas of participation for several years. My experience is all the effort focuses on the launch or start of something when you need to also direct resource on sustaining what you want to do. Time and time again effort is wasted.  

Last week I spent most of my time thinking, talking and discussing the impact of social media. I know for many social media is simply a nuisance. Efforts wasted. A fad for the young or something they simply don’t have time to engage with. I am not surprised people feel this way. I feel for you.

With others, they know they need to do it but not sure how or what to do first. It’s too confusing. Advising clients on the basics of social media as well as the strategies to use it well is definitely on my agenda. It’s what I am here for.

Using the right social media channel is the first step and I will save this for a blog on another day but using your social media well is too often overlooked.  Social media is so much more than a broadcast tool – you need to engage with your audience. In fact, you need to listen, converse with them more than listen to them. You also need to hear what they are saying, feeling and thinking.  If you want social media tools to work for you then sharing what you are up to is not sufficient. Your content needs to take a participative, almost facilitative approach.

Very few of us can have an impact from simply sharing what we are doing, eating or seeing. This strategy might work for a few celebrities and the famous but the rest of us we need to interact with our audience. We need acknowledge them, encourage them and motivate them. This is why engagement on social media is an essential part of the mix and not for the faint hearted. It’s hard work. We all hear stories of the pin or Instagram that went viral. I am sure it’s all true but I suspect there was a lot of work behind the scenes before that one image or tweet took off.

Facilitating an online conversation takes time. Lots of time. You need to observe, listen to your audience, get to know them, understand their interests. With social media, similar to behaviour on email, this is a communication tool that you might easily misread a comment or make assumptions as to original intentions. Being alert, diplomatic and sensitive is vital as a social media manager. You need to set aside time and effort to make sure your audience is understanding you and listening to you.

Engage, not broadcast

You also need to do it consistently and constantly. Taking a break now and then for a digital detox is fine but walk away from your online profile for a few weeks or months and it will show. The social media audience is fickle and they can tell when you are being quiet.

I like to use the Pareto rule for social media (well, to be honest, I like to use the Pareto principle for everything in life). Assume that 20% of what you do on social media whatever the channel should be about you. This means that the remaining 80% should be about what else is happening on your channel – that means sharing, retweeting, liking or commenting on other people’s activity. This is engagement looks like.

But why you ask should we do this? Because it makes you seem genuine, it makes you authentic. People will see the real you, they will want to engage with you. Not just some social bot who is automatically undertaking these tasks. Yes, I know its awful marketing jargony speak but it’s true. It’s also the main reason why I think automatic responses or Direct Messages on Twitter don’t work. Because we know when it’s not genuine, we know it’s just an automatic message you have set up. So please don’t do it. It’s lazy and counterproductive for what you are trying to achieve.

It’s ironic really that in a world that is so networked, so connected, so globally online small that we crave, almost demand the genuine to stand out. Food for thought indeed.

Awareness is another reason to put the effort in. Simply seeing your active online, consistent about what you comment on, what you share all adds up to your online footprint, or your digital DNA. Long-term your audience will trust you and like what you do, what you stand for and therefore they will want to work with you. And remember don’t say anything online you might regret.

But it can be worth it. When it works, it works brilliantly. Having a bad day? Look to social media there is always a phrase or image that will lift your spirits. Always someone else experiencing how you feel and ready to lift your spirits.

I am sure I haven’t convinced everyone and I know there is a lot of noise on social media. You probably find most of it is not useful so use your participation online to find what is useful for you. Set aside some time to curate your digital content. Find that keyword or hashtag that works for you. Start there with your comments, your sharing and liking. This simple task will help you navigate a space that works for you and help you connect with worthwhile commentary online.

Regardless, let’s stay connected.

smarter

It’s time to work smarter, not harder

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend four sharpening the axe”.

There’s debate about whether Lincoln even said this. But it certainly does say a lot. Regardless of its origins I love this quote because it emphasises the need to plan and think about your tasks before you actually get going. I am not sure I always follow this rule, there is part of me that thinks just do it, and do it now. The impatient part of me.

The main issue is, this quote captures the kind of thinking that separates the haves from the have-nots. The successful from the unsuccessful. The people who prosper and the people who just get by. Because it is saying that it’s better to work smarter and not harder. But how do we do that, how can we work smarter to achieve success.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend four sharpening the axe Abraham Lincoln

Working smarter not harder means different priorities for different people, you need to find a way that helps you work smart. A simple way to start figure out what your strengths are and use these as a framework to improve your own personal development. Here are a few tips I try and follow to ensure I stay smart workwise:

Avoid the Blank Page Don’t start from scratch, don’t reinvent the wheel. See if you have done something similar before, do you have a template? A document or an example you can amend that meets your aims. Research for examples to use and then create your own. Avoid starting with a white canvas at all costs and use an example to improve your own thinking.

Stay on track It’s so easy to get interrupted but it happens to all of us. So stay on track with reminders, notes, to do lists – whatever works for you and your work style. Assign limits to a task, so if you love surfing the net for hours on end then give yourself 30 minutes and that’s it. Give yourself time to be distracted or brain space to be creative.

Set your goals Goals are so important, use them as your personal GPS (think goal, purpose, scope). There is a theory that taking this approach helps you transform chaos to calm and helps you work smarter. Imagine the finished product, what will the work look like when finished? Understand the why, the purpose of what you are trying to achieve, the timescales, the people involved and the milestones to make sure you are on track to deliver. Don’t set goals that are unrealistic, you will only end up feeling frustrated and demotivated when you don’t achieve them. Similarly don’t set goals that are too easy, try to challenge yourself and provide space to learn.

Time Free your mind to focus on the tasks that are the real priority, the tasks that will have impact. Some call this time theming, for me its strategic thinking. Used correctly it can help you achieve work-life balance. For example you could set a day or afternoon for networking, or research. Don’t dismiss this as idea by saying you don’t have time – that is part of the problem. You need to change your mindset and make sure you are investing in yourself. Use this time to talk to others in your field or read those newsletters filling up your inbox. I have written previously about how to use your time effectively.

Email strategy I have written about this so many times and its a recurring theme. Manage your email properly, don’t let it manage you. Its a major productivity killer and can lead to reactive work patterns rather than proactive work planning. I check email three times a day, then switch it off and remove notifications. Check them first thing to see if anything urgent has come in overnight. Again lunchtime quickly to see if anything needs a response before the close of day. Lastly, the end of your working day as you plan your work for tomorrow or Monday. And yes, don’t check work emails at weekends.

So a few ideas to help you work smarter not harder. Common sense rules that we need to remind ourselves of repeatedly. What we are talking about here is what Lincoln would’ve avoided.

And remember Lincoln’s sage advice and avoid mindlessly swinging a blunt axe at a tree. Instead, make sure you work smarter and see results.