Use images when posting on social networks

The growth and success of highly visual social networks is not an fluke. People are highly visual when it comes to consuming content. Reading a 2 page article with now photo to help you visualize the information makes for a very dull experience. Social media is not different – the more visual and appealing the content – the more folks will engage with it.

As a test we have analyzed a random 1,000,000 tweets and found that using native Twitter upload almost doubles the chances of a tweet of being retweeted, while using TwitPic increases the chances of a retweet by a respectable 50% while using other posting methods like Facebook and Instagram had no impact of being retweeted that we can easily tell.

Similar trends are observed with Facebook posts. Facebook photos always outperform the status counter parts by significant margins. All forms of engagement are higher – likes, comments and shares.

Social Report offers a number of photo publishing options – everything from including a url to an image to uploading your custom photo. You can quickly crop and resize an image as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since you can also schedule a whole series of publications – we absolutely recommend to have a different image every time. Otherwise your social timeline will look highly repetitive and redundant.

Then as you view the publication performance reports, keep and eye on metrics such as engagement, or ‘people talking about’ – all of these will give you a good sense of how well your publication does.

 

 

Should you be using social auto responders?

Social Networking - Best Practices

Social Networking - Best Practices

As a user of social networks I am sure you have gotten a message from someone who you just followed. It has some a cookie cutter ‘Thank you for following me…’ message. How often have you read beyond the first sentence? How often do you click on any links with this it? Have you developed a 7th sense in figuring out that this is an auto responder just by looking at an email notification?

When we hear social marketers talk about their ‘auto responder’ strategy – we always ask one question: “How do you measure the impact of these messages”. More frequently then not we hear a response that no such measurement is taking place. Seems and feels like a good idea but no one is really putting effort in understanding the impact.

A simple way to get some reporting from your auto responders is to embed a link and track clicks on that link. You can design an auto response message with a short link (i.e. a Bit.ly link) and then use that short link exclusively with your responder.  This will most certainly give you a fairly accurate perspective on people’s reaction to your message.

Auto responding does however violate a fairly fundamental principle of being socially relevant and of being viewed as a source of interesting and valuable information.  That principle states that in order to gain following one must be producing content that is truly useful to those who consume it. If the value is there – true following will be built.  If however you bombard your followers with canned message, which is very obviously not personal – this is a massive turn off.

It also violates a rather fundamental principle of social interaction in general. People like to be in control of information they get. Their world is comprised on folks they follow and content based on that. Sending them a clearly irrelevant message is an intrusion and will be perceived very negatively.

If you do feel compelled to respond to folks, perhaps due to a well founded business reason – do so in a very personable way – be sure to bring value to your follower with the message you send them.

Building applications for social media intelligence

About five years ago we sat down to build Social Report. The idea was simple – provide social intelligence to anyone who uses social media with specific business objectives. In many ways we were trying to mimic what Google Analytics has done for web analytics – provide a fairly low level, foundational set of reports that can enable even a novice user to quickly understand how well their Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, Youtube channels (and may other platforms) are performing. How many likes are they getting, how many comments, how many new followers, what are the demographics of their users, how effective are their posts, and most importantly what is the true impact of social media on their business.

The further we got with developing the platform, the more we realized that this is not going to be a simple integration project using programming interfaces that each network provides. Some of the key challenges that we started to run into right away included:

  • Networks generally provide different information and the depth of the information is varies. This means that if we wanted to achieve uniformity of reporting (i.e. new users, demographic information, geography, engagement) – we would need to be creative and possibly look beyond interfaces that are offered by each network.
  • Network interfaces are not very stable. Frequent outages and excessive limits on how much data can be downloaded from each networks means that our system needs to be extremely resilient – it must know when to retry, when to pause – all of this requires painstaking fine-tuning.
  • Network interfaces also change frequently and often in a highly disruptive manner. What was available before may now be missing and we are left wondering how to fill the gap.
  • Some networks simply don’t provide any programming interfaces which means that we essentially have to build one from scratch.
  • Data delays. Delivering near real time social insights to our users is a must. If there is a comment made on your Facebook page we must deliver it to the customer quickly. This becomes tricky as we try to balance network limits, the need to download data and often times delays of the reporting by networks themselves

With all of these challenges that we face on the daily basis we decided that our experience working with Social Networks is something that might be extremely useful to those wishing to build applications that utilize social data.  Social Report API is a set of programming interfaces that allow developers to quickly and easily build integrated apps that can take advantage of the following aspects of our technology:

  • Our social data gathering capabilities – downloading, storing and processing social data
  • Reports – once the data is download it goes through rigorous analysis – this information is also made available.
  • Publishing – an elaborate publication scheduling framework, that allows developers to bypass all the nuances of each network publishing ability and simply schedule social publication.
  • Social searching using keywords across wide range of social networks as well as monitoring of specific social accounts.

There is also support to allow you seamless integration of our UI Reporting as well. Our Single Sign On API will enable you to completely embed our platform into yours.

You can find out more information about our API here. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

Improve your social message with Facebook ‘Call to Action’ feature

We have always been talking and enforcing the concept of call to action when to came to publishing. The idea is simple – when you post something to your social profile you want the message to have some sort of an action that the user can take.  While you can rely on comments and likes, the best option to drive your fans and followers to your website is to include a link in your publication that the user can click. This is your call to action. 

Social Report Publishing reporting builds on top of this idea by providing wealth of information:

1)   Initial call to action engagement (clicks):

  • By social account – where did the clicks come from? From your Twitter profile or from one of your Facebook pages?
  • By network – how is each network performing? Where are the clicks coming from? From LinkedIn company page? From YouTube channel?
  • By time of day – compare when you get the best response.
  • Geography – compare people in what part of the world are giving you’re the most clicks on your ‘Call to Action’

2)   Conversions. Once the user clicks on the link in your post does he then become your customer  (i.e. does he buy your product, does he sign up for your service). This reporting data is also broken down into the same reporting structure:

  • Conversions by social account
  • Conversions by social network
  • Conversions by time of day
  • Conversions by country and city

Without embedding a call to action into postings such tracking is impossible. Without such reporting your social activity is rather meaningless as you will never be able to connect your social efforts with an actual business impact analysis.

It seems that Facebook is now reinforcing this idea that we had some time ago by making ‘Call to Action’ an explicit feature that you may include in your post. If you are using Social Report already – nothing changes really – except perhaps that your call to action on Facebook will look prettier and more obvious. It is an optional feature that you can enable when scheduling your publication.

 

Is it worth to promote messages on Facebook and Twitter?

Facebook has certainly made it very easy and convenient to promote your posts. All you do is you quickly click on ‘Boost’ button, pick how many people you want to reach and Facebook does the rest. What does it do exactly? Who knows! All you get is seemingly random but very impressive results – many thousands of people reached in a matter of minutes some times.

Demystifying such results is what we do here at Social Report.

We have come up with series of reports in a general category “Paid vs. Organic”.  Here is what are after:

  1. For key metrics such as impressions and reach we added several metrics around the dashboard how many of these are organic and how many are paid. The goal of these reports s to show you the ‘organic’ trend. Percentage of each metric that was organic – that did not require your to pay for it. It may be quite low at first (in single digits event) but you will need to see an upward trend over time. This is how you know that you are able to turn paid traffic into persistent organic one. The goal is to have more organic activity – not only is it free but also it creates a very different environment on your pages.
  2. The next goal is to understand the engagement patterns – how many of actionable events – such as clicks, conversions, comments are occurring as a result of paid posts vs. organic. An interesting observation here is that it will be just the opposite of #1. Just like you organic impressions are just a small fraction of the paid once, here you will find that when it comes to actionable events – you will be getting much more engagement from your organic posts then from your paid once. Here you will be looking for an upward trend on your paid engagement – this is how you know that you are getting your money’s worth.  If your are not getting engagement from paid traffic – there is little reason to pay for ads.
  3. Web stats are also a great indicator – consider your bounce rate in relation to ‘Paid vs. Organic’ traffic. Bounce rate is an inverse of ‘social engagement’. You want to see bounce rate low – this means that people are getting past your home page. At first you will also find that bounce rate is quite high for paid traffic. Your goal is to increase it and our reports will allow you to keep an eye on its growth.
In summary – the goal of our reports is to allow you to track the increase of your organic reach and impressions and the increase of engagement that was a result of paid posts.
We highly recommend promoting posts that you publish through Social Report (check out our publishing capabilities). This enables us to capture the insights necessary for the ‘Paid vs. Organic’ reporting.

We are still working on figuring out the actual mechanisms of running promoted posts on both Twitter and Facebook. Hopefully we can shed some light onto that as well at some point.

What does it mean to track sentiment on Social Media?

Here at Social Report, we are often asked if we do “sentiment analysis” and we always find it difficult to answer this question with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

Let’s first try to define the problem space.

Sentiment analysis is a phrase that is thrown around a lot. Almost like the word ‘Cloud’ – people tend to think of it as panacea for all everyday problems. Sentiment identification implies ability to identify feelings or an attitudes. In social media world – it is often thought about in terms of tweets or comments having a ‘sentiment’. Is this tweets positive? Is this reply negative?

There is one other important dimension to this issue. The sentiment is not something isolated. Attitudes and feelings are always expressed toward a certain target – a person, a topic, a place, etc. Therefore when we talk about ‘sentiment analysis’ – we must also think that it is the sentiment toward something specific that we need to be looking for.

On the surface it seems like a fairly simple problem to solve. If you, the human, look at a sentence – you can quite easily tell if it it s positive or negative. Did you ever think about what criteria you used to determine that? Did presence of certain words tell you that it was a positive or negative sentence? Most likely it was a combination of factors: words, phrases, their position in a sentence, discussion topic, timing, author’s name, attached images, etc.

Over the years I’ve seen several platforms attempt to deliver this type of analysis – when you scratch the surface however – they all fail. These tools are typically really good at simple sentences and they fail miserably for more complicated conversations and discussions.

What’s worse? Not having sentiment analysis or have it be inaccurate in 20%, 30%, 50% of the time?

We thought about this challenge here at Social Report and decided that instead will not go the route that is guaranteed to work in some cases, instead we decided to empower our users to create their own sentiment analytics by giving them a set of very simple tools.

  • Our users can track social content using keywords. This can be content located globally or within your own social media profiles (i.e. comments, replies, etc)
  • Use any keywords you like – keywords that you will feel imply attitude or feelings.
  • Have ability to include and exclude keywords for more refined searching capabilities.
Here you are fully in control and can experiment with your results. So instead of asking a question “Notify me when someone wants to buy a car” you would instead ask “Notify me when someone uses keywords ‘looking for a car’, ‘lease a car’, etc, etc”

Why use 5 social media tools when you can use 1?

I recently came across a post by Dan Virgillito on SocialMediaExaminer that discussed 5 platforms to achieve 5 social media management tasks:

  1. Evaluating progress with all-in-one monitoring – dashboard to oversee social activity and key metrics.
  2. Collaborating with team members to create great content – quite valuable – especially for larger teams and organizations.
  3. Measuring results with advanced reporting tools (frankly this felt like #1). Perhaps the subtle difference is that monitoring is more of a browser based KPI centric display while the reports is something you can download and print.
  4. Monitor multiple campaigns with custom boards and widgets. Not feeling that this is even needed in any way, but I guess the author is referring to a way to perhaps share your analytics? Or perhaps being able to embed various pieces of your reporting into other systems that you organization might be running?
  5. Stay front and center with scheduled content. Being able to schedule and publish is certainly of enormous convenience.
I quickly ran some numbers to see how expensive something like this will be. The tools in Dan’s article will run you about $600 per month (that is if your team is less then 3 people, the price sky rockets if you have a larger team).
I would build on this and define a must have toolkit of any social media manager as follows:
  1. Interact with your social audience – from scheduled and bulk publishing to being able to quickly and easily respond to a new follower or a new comment.
  2. Conversion tracking – publishing is great but meaningless if your can’t connect it to actual conversion figures (sales, new customers, etc)
  3. Powerful reporting – from simple on screen charts to comprehensive downloadable reports.
  4. Search and keyword tracking – tracking buzz and identifying conversation around a certain topic or a set of keywords.
  5. Goals and objectives – setting up objectives and tracking progress towards them based on current performance trends.
  6. Extensibility – being able to take collected analytical data and conduct further research. This means that data presented by the report must be easily exportable.
  7. Team management – being able to conduct social media activities along side team members and clients – all with well defined set of permissions and access levels.
  8. White label? Somewhat optional but is important for many. Being able to custom brand your reports will ensure your corporate identity is front and center.
  9. Programming API – for those with more advanced data needs – having a secure API to move data from and to this reporting platform.
  10. Hosted or SaaS – for organization with high security requirements – being able to host the platform as appliance internally.
Check out Social Report Advanced plan – $79/month (much better then $600/month) – has all the features in this list. Unlimited users too! If you don’t need “White Label” or “API” – you can use our Standard plan – that’s just $39/month.

 

Organizing your social media data

If you are running an organization with multiple departments doing different things with social media, you might already be wondering what might be the most efficient and transparent way to organize the way you manage the information that flows through these various social accounts as well as gain some visibility into how effective they are.

For starters – you should be using a single tool to achieve this purpose. Being in a situation where multiple different tools are used, will not only increase logistical and operational overhead but also will make any reporting difficult.

Next – decide on how would want to structure your social data. Here is one idea:

  • Projects – each department can be represented by a project (i.e. Europe Sales, or Mobile Technology, etc)
  • Users – users will have ability to access one or more projects with various permissions.
  • Social Profiles – social profiles are added to projects. If your ‘Europe Sales’ group has a Facebook page, they can add it to their project.

Here are few things you will be able to accomplish now:

  • Access each project and view reports as they relate to that specific project.
  • Check on prior, current and planned social media activity.
  • Mix and match projects. Create additional projects that represent different dimensions of your social data. Here are few examples:
    • Project called “European Facebook Pages” – can include all Facebook page profiles from your Europe offices.
    • Project called “All Sales Twitter Accounts” – can include all Twitter profiles for all your sales teams.
    • Manage user permissions. Securing your social accounts is a big concern. Making sure that access to your social credentials is well insulated from users is important. In this model – none of your employees ever needs to know your Facebook Page password.

You may also want to consider where this product is hosted and running. Getting a 3rd party to host and operate your social media management is great and has its advantages (i.e. cost, time to go live). Hosting it inside of your network and adhering to your security guidelines and protocols may also be a big factor.

Own your data by having full access to your information. Not just in a form of Tweets and Facebook page updates on these networks, but in a form of downloadable and exportable storage of information that can easily flow into in-house reporting platforms.

Learn more about Social Report

Monitor your sales team’s social media activity

As Social Report continues to grow and acquire a diverse client base, I realized one thing: no two clients’ needs are just alike. I thought it would be interesting and valuable to share few examples of how our clients use tools available on Social Report platform to manage teams, automate daily business management functions and monitor team’s social media activities.

One of our existing clients, a firm with a sizable sales team (~50 people) was looking for a business management software to help CEO gain better visibility into that team’s social media activities. His sales team is tasked (among other responsibilities) with growing the company’s social presence through expanding their own networks on social media platforms like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. Social Report was asked to demonstrate a set of metrics that could automate monitoring of this team’s activities. For example, the CEO wanted to know how many followers, connections and friends each member of his sales team had been able to gain in a given period of time as well as engagement levels of his sales staff with their followers. He also wanted to monitor his team’s communication activity and content quality across all social media networks they had presence.

Before  using Social Report, he manually collected passwords of all this team members, logged into their accounts one by one and downloaded the numbers into one massive Excel spreadsheet where he manipulated the data into data points and charts he needed. The whole process was “very manual, inefficient and time-consuming series of tasks I wish could be fixed with a click of a button, so that I could actually focus on running my company”.

Here is how Social Report helped streamline this processes by arming the CEO with instant insights into his team’s social media activity:

  1. Create an Social Report account
  2. Added each sales team member to Social Report platform as a user.
  3. Sales team members added their social media accounts to Social Report platform (and therefore the CEO no longer needs to manually collect his team’s passwords and log into their accounts)
  4. Social Report will then begin collecting insights for each social profile.
  5. Overall reporting as well as individual reporting is now available.
  6. Now the CEO simply logs into a single dashboard and quickly assesses how his sales team is doing by having all the actionable data previously collected manually at his fingertips.

Result? Another happy client, who now can focus on strategic thinking and better ways of growing his business and other fun things CEOs do and one less mundane task to worry about. Accelerated reporting and increased efficiency helps him and his company focus on actionable items in real time.

You might be wondering what the costs are for a setup like that? They are laughable! This setup included:

  • Primary account.
  • 50 user accounts with separate logins for each sales person.
  • Unlimited reports!
All for for just $79/month. Considering the time spent before and costs associated with that, this is clearly a no brainer for any company.
While this case study focuses on managing a sales tea. I am sure you can easily extrapolate and see how this can be applicable to many other places. If you have ideas or suggestions do send them to us!

How to interview a social media manager

Hiring a social media manager can be a risky decision. There are hundreds to choose from so how do you choose and who ever you choose gets high level access to your personal information. Here are some points to follow when finding and hiring a social media manager.

  1. Make sure your potential manager knows about different reporting and publishing platforms such as Social Report, Hootsuite, or Buffer. A publishing platform is a 3rd party application that allows you to post to schedule posts in advance. They also allow you to post to all social networks at the same time. Why is this important? You would need a place to oversee your new hire activity. You will need a tool for that. A tool that will enable you to see how well your new hire is doing and control access to your accounts.

  2. Ask if he or she knows about various ranking algorithms that networks use that determine how well you social message will do. Essentially you will be asking for tricks to use for your social media campaigns to ensure maximum exposure. Specifically ask about Facebook Edge Rank it works by considering how strong the relationship is between a specific user and specific page, looks at the mix of comments, likes and shares a specific post has received and how much time has passed since a post was posted
  3. Ask about various advertisement platforms.  Get a sense of which platforms your candidate used, which once he would recommend for you.
    • Google+ uses Adwords for their ads
    • Facebook can run highly targeted ads
    • Twitter you have promoted posts and less targeted ads
    • Linkedin has targeted ads but works better with job postings and more company related news
    • Pinterest just started rolling out their advertising platform
  4. Talk about ad budget and how this agency operates. Do they charge for a campaign or do they keep a percentage of your ad budget instead. If they are only charging for a campaign this means that you input your budget and give the social media manager access to create ads using only that budget. If they are telling you to send them the money and they are running ads separately than they are most likely not using your full budget and taking a percent for themselves. This is a very unethical practice, but with reporting software like Social Report you can get full transparency of your advertising campaigns.
  5. Ask if they typically request their customer’s logins to their social accounts. The only good reason for this may be that on some networks there is really no way to create give authorized access to your account and thus if your social media manager is going to help you do things like redesign your profile areas on your account, this may be required. In all other cases your new hire should be able to conduct their entire operation through a 3rd part tool like Social Report. Learn more about managing your social credentials.
  6. Discuss workflow for publishing campaigns. Will you get a chance to review them? Will they present a road map of campaign activity for the next few months?
  7. Discuss the method of reporting this agency or a consultant uses. How often will get reports? What would these reports show? Ask about how they think the progress will be measured by? Here you would want them to talk about tracking conversions. All the things they will say about ‘reach’, and ‘engagement’, and ‘virality’ is all great – but in the end you would want them to show desire to prove the impact of your by setting up a conversion tracking mechanism.
  8. Check their own social profiles. Are they active? Check how many followers do they have? Are these followers legitimate or did they buy them? Learn how to tell which followers are legit.
  9. Certainly don’t forget to ask them about previous work experience. Specifically try to ask them to talk about customers that are similar to you and how they worked with them. What kind of results they were able to achieve.
  10. Definitely talk about where the work is being done. Do they do it themselves? Do they outsources? Not a huge deal but it can help you better manage your relationship with the team. Chances are also higher that efficiency will be lost if an extra layer of communication exists. The more direct the relationship the better!