Category Archives: Blog

8 Types Of Tools For Making Your Instagram Take Off

8 Types Of Tools For Making Your Instagram Take Off
By Yannick Ilunga

After passing the 300 million users mark a few months ago, Instagram is one of the most popular social media networks, second only to Facebook, which by the way owns Instagram. For everyday users, it’s an excellent way to build and grow an audience and showcase their creativity. Businesses, on the other hand, can rely on Instagram for creating brand awareness, audience building and content marketing, as well as for selling.

In this post, I go over 8 different types of tools you can use to take your Instagram marketing efforts to the next level, whether you’re a solopreneur, small business owner or are part of a social media marketing team.

  1. Camera

This is kind of a no-brainer, but you’re going to need an app to take pictures. Regardless of the smartphone model you have, I recommend you avoid using the standard camera app and rely on Camera+ or VSCO Cam instead.

The Instagram expert Sue B. Zimmerman speaks highly of Camera+ and it’s not difficult to understand why. This app, available for iPhone and iPad only, lets you take pictures using a series of different settings and it also allows you to touch up your images too.

If you’re using an Android device, then VSCO Cam is for you. Similarly to Camera+, VSCO Cam enables you to take high quality pictures with advanced camera controls, edit your images and even expand your arsenal of creative tools through a series of premium tools (available in the VSCO shop).

  1. Photo editing

When it comes to creating visual content, social media and visual content marketing, expert Donna Moritz often talks about the importance of creating in bulk. The way you go about your Instagram marketing shouldn’t be any different.

The first resource I recommend for doing that is Canva. A popular web based tool, available for iPad too, it lets you customize your images, so that they’re optimized and fit perfectly to each social media platform. You can use it to resize your pictures, so that they’re going to look good on Instagram, or to create visuals from scratch using one of the several templates available.

In addition, you can use Canva to create visual content for other social media platforms, as well as for pretty much anything else: podcast artworks, book covers, business cards, etc.

If you need to edit your images on the go, though, you should check out BeFunky. This powerful photo editor, which works on both Android and iOS devices, gives you access to a wide array of editing tools and photo effects that are going to turn your images into masterpieces.

Thinking of creating and sharing collages on Instagram? BeFunky can help you with that too.

  1. Create Quotes, Add Text And Artworks

Sometimes you may be in line at a store, on a train or on the subway and you see, read or hear a quote that inspires you. You feel like sharing it, but all you have is your smartphone…what can you do? My recommendation is Word Swag. It’s probably one of the most popular apps and recommended by pretty much all the Instagram marketing experts out there.

Image 2

With Word Swag, you can create stunning quotes, by either using some of the default templates and fonts or by uploading your own images.

Since Word Swag works only for iOS devices, if you’re an Android user I’d suggest you either give Over or PicLab a try. Both apps let you add beautiful text and artwork to your photos in a matter of seconds.

  1. Video

Video is on the rise, and Instagram is no exception. When it comes to this medium, video marketing and visual content experts such as Lou Bortone, Amy Schmittauer and Holly Gillen agree: Just get started, use what you have.

Whether you’re a newbie video maker or not, you can record high quality video with MoviePro. It’s probably the most powerful app for recording video and film making, and it comes with a wide variety of features.

Image 3

If you want to make videos that are within Instagram’s 15 second limits, you may also want to consider trying Videohance and Hyperlapse.

Videohance gives you full control over your videos’ look with features that had only been available for photo apps. Hyperlapse, on the other hand, lets you create amazing time lapse videos (like a conference room going from empty to fully packed, for instance).

  1. Link Shortening And Analytics

Instagram allows you to feature a link in your bio and to add up to 30 hashtags to your posts. Since you want to get results on Instagram, you have to take full advantage of these features.

For link shortening, I recommend using Bitly, for the fact that it lets you customize your link. Let’s say you’re going to have a webinar about Instagram marketing. You could create a Bitly link that looks something like This way, users know what to expect, when clicking the link.

As for hashtags, you want to be using the ones people are actually using and searching for. You can do all that using Iconosquare. Get key metrics, such as the total number of likes received, your most liked photos ever, your average number of likes and comments per photo: all for free.

  1. Scheduling

Scheduling is such an important aspect of social media marketing, so it’s great to know that there are actually tools you can use to schedule your Instagram uploads too. The web based Schedugram has been the #1 go to resource for scheduling Instagram posts.

Until now.

Hootsuite, mostly known for its ability to make social media scheduling super easy, recently released a new feature, which allows you to schedule your Instagram posts just like you have been doing for Facebook, Twitter, etc. This means that you can now plan everything while sitting at your desktop and let Hootsuite or Schedugram work their magic when you aren’t in front of your computer.

  1. Reposting

Instagram may be about you, but it shouldn’t be only about you. Commenting, replying to comments and liking other users’ pictures are good ways to build relationships, but sometimes you want to do something more than that.

If you come across images you really like and that you wish to share with your audience, you can use apps like Repost and RepostWhiz to repost those pictures (and edit the caption, if you wish) to your Instagram page.

  1. Selling on Instagram

Image 4

While new payment methods like Apple Pay are growing, there’s a tool you can use for selling (and buying) on Instagram: Penny. As a seller, you post images of your items on Instagram. Shoppers use the hashtag #sold and the Penny team takes care of the rest.

Whether you need to improve the quality of the images you post on Instagram, want to be able to schedule or quickly create and edit photos, you want to check your Instagram analytics or want to monetize, these tools are going to help you big time.

Yannick “Yann” Ilunga is the founder of 360, a blog and training community for entrepreneurs and small business owners. He’s also the host of the 360 Entrepreneur Podcast, show that features inspiring conversations with A-Listers like Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas, Kim Garst, Melinda Emerson and Natalie Sisson.


How To Turn Your LinkedIn Profile Into A Magnet For Potential Customers

How To Turn Your LinkedIn Profile Into A Magnet For Potential Customers
By Yannick Ilunga

When it comes to social media, LinkedIn is probably the most underutilized one.

There are over 364 million active users, but only a very small chunk actually uses the platform to its fullest. LinkedIn is much more than a mere “online CV” or portfolio. It’s a powerful networking, authority building, lead generation and business tool.

In this post, I’m going to discuss how you can get the most out of this social media and turn your LinkedIn profile into a magnet for potential customers, as well as a tool for building and growing a network and position yourself as an expert.

In a recent episode of the 360 Entrepreneur Podcast, I sat down with LinkedIn marketing expert and author of the best-seller The LinkedIn Code Melonie Dodaro to talk about how to turn LinkedIn into a magnet for potential customers.

When it comes to this social media, she explained, one of the biggest mistakes users make is having a profile that isn’t completed nor optimized.

LinkedIn Profile Optimization

LinkedIn isn’t Facebook, nor Instagram.

People don’t see it nor use it as an entertaining platform. It’s a business platform, which means that you want your profile to be nothing but professional. This, also for the fact that your LinkedIn profile is going to be one of the first pages that pop up, when people type your name on Google.

The first step of your LinkedIn profile optimization is your profile picture. No photos of your latest trip, your pet, etc. You want to have a professional looking, high quality close-up picture of you. Remember to stay true to your brand though, and be authentic.

Additionally, you should take advantage of all the digital “real estate” available and upload a background, header image (the size is 1400×425). Even though the background image is only displayed to the people you’re connected with, you should still upload a compelling one.

Ideally, you want the header picture to tell something about you, contribute to building authority or to promote an upcoming webinar or product you may be selling. Melonie Dodaro, for instance, highlights her book The LinkedIn Code and her expertise: social selling training, LinkedIn training, etc.

LinkedIn 1

The next step to optimizing your LinkedIn profile is to actually complete all the sections of your page. Don’t focus exclusively on your summary, your current working position and past education. Take the time to add information that can be of value for your potential customers: your skills and endorsements, awards, posts, languages, and so forth.

An excerpt from an infographic by on Slideshare illustrates why doing all this matters:

LinkedIn 2

When crafting the copy for your LinkedIn profile, you should be focusing on two things. The first is write for your target audience. When writing your summary for instance, don’t talk only about your present and past achievements. Mention your potential customer’s pain points and make it clear what solution(s) you’re providing to solve them.

The second thing is a common mistake many entrepreneurs and small business owners make on LinkedIn. “When people look for someone to help them, they’re not going to do a Google search for terms like ‘founder,” Dodaro explained during the interview. This means that you should describe yourself and what you do, using keywords your prospect customers would actually use on Google: such as web developer, social media marketing manager, etc. Make sure to include those keywords through your LinkedIn profile, as those are going to help your LinkedIn SEO.

An additional tip, for making your profile stand out and turn it into a magnet for potential customers, is to leverage multimedia. In fact, LinkedIn allows you upload PDF files and Slideshare slide decks, among other files. This means that you can highlight your best work and build authority by adding multimedia.

LinkedIn Pulse

Sharing your expertise through a post is another excellent way to position yourself as an expert. You can do so by using LinkedIn’s publishing platform Pulse.

It’s completely free to use and allows you to establish your editorial voice and make it heard by writing a post and publishing it on LinkedIn. Your posts will be available for everyone to see and, if your latest one is among those that have received the most views, it may be featured alongside those by A-Listers who are taking advantage of Pulse too.

You may have a blog already, but keep in mind that your LinkedIn posts are public, which means that, potentially, each of the 364+ million users could see them.

Write about things your prospect customers may be struggling with, educate them and provide value. Doing all this could get your content in front of hundreds or even thousands of eyeballs.

LinkedIn Networking 101

As I said, LinkedIn is a platform that is all about business, and its networking dimension is no exception. “Don’t send unsolicited contact requests.” warned LinkedIn expert Melonie Dodaro on the 360 Entrepreneur Podcast. People already get those by email or on other social media.

This doesn’t mean that you can connect only with people you have met in person, though. Did you listen to an influencer speaking on podcast? Ok, there’s your good “excuse” for breaking the ice and connect with them.

When it comes to contact requests, avoid using the standard one: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” and go for a customized connection invitation instead. Replace the default message and explain why you’re connecting with that particular person (remember that people are busy, so you want to be brief).

You could simply write something like:

Hi INFLUENCERS NAME, I listened to you on PODCAST NAME. You have inspired me so much and taught me some new things – thanks for that! I thought Id take a moment to connect with you and to personally thank you! – YOUR NAME“.

Remember that business is still being done face-to-face, so after a few exchanges try to move the conversation to your email and, after that, either to Skype, to a phone call or a face-to-face conversation.

Lead Generation and Social Selling

According to Melonie Dodaro, when it comes to lead generation, LinkedIn is 277% more effective than Facebook and Twitter. This means that, if you’re not leveraging it to generate leads and create social funnels, you’re missing out big time.

She, for instance, provides value to new connections by giving them access to her free LinkedIn Master Class. By doing so, she directs traffic to her platform (her blog) and grows her email list, as people need to sign up for it in order to receive the free training.

Take a moment to craft a few lead generation messages and create funnels that will turn your new LinkedIn connections into email subscribers and into fans. Remember: People buy from those who they know, like and trust. Hence, you want your LinkedIn connections to know you, like what you do and trust you, before you try to do any selling.

An additional thing you can do to really stand out from the crowd and turn your LinkedIn profile into a magnet for potential customers is social selling. A social selling campaign helps you position yourself as an expert, brings you closer to your target market and allows you to move the conversation off of LinkedIn.

As the infographic below shows, you can do social selling even if you only have 30 minutes a day:

LinkedIn 3

Unlike what happens with other social media, people use LinkedIn to do business and to build and grow their professional network. Most of the millions of LinkedIn users have similar goals in mind, but only a small percentage successfully cut through the noise, build authority and generates leads that can lead to actual sales.

This means that, by following these simple, yet effective, tips, you’re going to have an advantage on your competitors who are trying to use LinkedIn for similar purposes, but have yet to unlock its full potential.

Yannick “Yann” Ilunga is the founder of 360, a blog and training community for entrepreneurs and small business owners. He’s also the host of the 360 Entrepreneur Podcast, show that features inspiring conversations with A-Listers like Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas, Kim Garst, Melinda Emerson and Natalie Sisson.

Keep Your Business Relationships Running Smoothly

Keep Your Business Relationships Running Smoothly

The raging war between Apple and, well, everyone else, might still be underway, but businesses aren’t choosing sides. A successful business must be able to connect with varied partners and systems without being held up by pesky compatibility issues. A small business owner with an Apple computer should be able to video conference multiple participants across their networking sphere, without worrying if the files and documents they want to share can be accessed, or if the video conferencing capabilities will be faulty.

increased quality - speed - efficiency

Likewise, large corporations must be able to connect with clients and partners in areas around the globe, as well as creating and maintaining relationships with foreign contractors. Multinational corporations juggle international relationships as a daily routine. According to Małgorzata Rozkwitalska of the Gdansk School of Banking, these relationships include, “national cultures, employing multicultural workforce, negotiating with foreign contractors and satisfying needs of other groups of stakeholders in each country of operation”. These are entities that can ill afford even minor technical delays, difficulties or inefficiencies.

Money Down the Drain

Research from Software maker Compuware, indicated that almost 8 out of 10 businesses had a major technology failure in the year 2013, costing millions of dollars in the short term. “It also revealed that, in the longer term, 45 percent of businesses have suffered losses to market share and brand equity as a result of technology failures,” according to ComputerWeekly.

The success of a business depends on the survival of its technology. No business can grow and maintain that success unless their technology can bear the weight of the day to day functions. It’s also necessary for that technology to be able to convert along with the business. This eliminates the need to overhaul your processes as your business expands. Many tech companies are offering business solutions that are malleable to the individual needs of the client, bundling low tech with high tech, and marketing themselves to the small businesses, the start-ups, and major corporations.

Michael Allen, Director of Applications Performance Management at Compuware, had this to say about the influence of technology on the success of business. “What is clear is that IT is no longer just an operational expense. Technology is critical to a business’ financial health and integral to all lines of business; from finance to marketing; customer service to supply chain and distribution.”

Cloudy Days

Any technology is not necessarily good technology for business. Older server systems or even shared hosting plans can delay productivity and effect vital business communication, which is detrimental to the bottom line. Many tech companies offer cloud hosting, which is any web hosting service, with multiple servers that are connected to a group of online servers. This offers more flexibility and speed.

According to Cloud Hosting Review, virtual private servers have room for expansion and more storage capabilities than some more elementary hosting services. Cloud hosting not only enables businesses to access their information anywhere, it also allows for remote collaboration. Cloud hosting also provides for more advanced video conferencing, with the ability to connect to multiple users simultaneously on the cloud. Using cloud based services such as Polycom video conferencing BlueJeans, connection and communication can be virtually glitch free.

Much of the growth of a business depends on the relationships made and maintained. The partnerships established in a business can see it through unforeseen hurdles. A strong communication network is vital to the success of those partnerships. Technology like cloud hosting and computing offers much in the way of advanced communication.

Risky Business

With much technology comes increasing dependence on said technology. Business owners should never take for granted the possible security risks attached to technological advances. It’s up to the business to be certain they have researched their cloud service providers before they sign up for their service. They also need to make sure that they have a backup plan for their company’s security should the system be compromised.

The greater risk, however, is in not utilizing available technology at all. A company’s path to success can be found in the relationships and partnerships it builds. Technology today offers much in the area of relationship building. When a multinational company can communicate with its foreign and domestic partners with ease, the company flourishes. When a start-up is not hindered from the ability to communicate with possible investors by travel costs it cannot yet afford, it is put on the path to a successful future.

A company must allow for strong technology to make way for effective communication both internally and among outsiders. The growth of relationships could be the growth of the company, so the flow of communication must run smoothly. It is imperative for companies to allow growing technology to establish a foundation for strong business relationships.


The Story Behind #WCW: Women Crush Wednesday

The Story Behind #WCW – Women Crush Wednesday
By Miguel Lopez

Wednesday, aka Hump Day, aka the toughest day of the week. It’s not the beginning of the week anymore, yet it’s not close enough to be hyped about the weekend. It seems as if daydreaming is at an all-time high on Wednesdays. That’s probably one of the factors that led to the creation of #WCW or “Woman Crush Wednesday.”


#WCW is when social media enthusiasts post a picture of their current woman crushes on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It could be a significant other or maybe a celebrity figure that you admire. I’ve been listening to Lana del Rey after seeing her perform at Governors Ball NYC this June. Maybe I’ll make her my #WCW today.

It was an awkward experience explaining #WCW to a group of South Americans at a local hostel in Cusco, Peru this past summer. They had asked me about #WCW along with other “American” fads such as #TBT, the Kardashians and the replacement of “though” with “doe” in speech. I’m pretty sure they think that Americans are even weirder now after hearing each explanations.

Let’s not forget that #WCW is supposed to be fun. Personally, I don’t always post a #WCW but when I do, I do it jokingly and post a picture of a friend’s mom:


A photo posted by Miguel A. Lopez (@miguellopezdgm) on Jun 24, 2015 at 6:30pm PDT

#WCW #ilovemoms #MIGZNYC @_shouliin_

The picture above is of myself and a friend’s mom at my college graduation #WCW.

Just a couple of friendly reminders though. Remember to keep the #WCW post clean and also remember that the excessive use of #WCW may make you look really “thirsty,” as today’s kids would say. That’s a social media hashtag etiquette no-no. Check out our Intro to Hashtag Etiquette for more tips on how to master social media hashtags.

Who was your most recent #WCW?

Miguel Lopez is the social media manager for Hshtags.


Internship: Blog For The Realtime Report

RLTM Internship

The Realtime Report is looking for an intern to help research and write blog posts, curate content and take on a variety of community management activities this summer, from June – August 2013.

This paid, part-time position is based in Montauk, NY — but working remotely is a possibility for the right candidate.

The Realtime Report is a well-respected business blog for marketers, PR and social media professionals; it covers social media case studies, campaigns and marketing statistics.

The internship would involve:

  • researching relevant stories, including statistics, case studies, new tools, and more

  • assisting with writing and/or copy editing daily blog posts

  • community management for The Realtime Report (maintaining presence on various social media platforms)

  • content curation

We’re looking for an individual with writing and research experience (especially blogging), and a passion for social media and realtime marketing.  The time commitment will range from 15-20 hrs/week.

Do you already think like a blogger? Please format your cover letter as a blog post – feel free to add links, images, etc – and send it along with your resume to

Social Networking Stats: Instagram Tops 100 Million Active Users, #RLTM Scoreboard

The #RLTM Scoreboard:  Social Networking Stats for the Week

Facebook: 1 billion active users via Facebook
Twitter: over 500 million users via Twopcharts
Qzone: 599 million monthly active users via TechCrunch
Sina Weibo: over 400 million users via Yahoo
Renren: over 170 million users via iResearch iUser Tracker
VK: over 190 million users via VK
LinkedIn: 200 million active users via LinkedIn
Google Plus: 135 million monthly active users via Google
Tumblr: 96 million blogs via Tumblr
Instagram: 100 million users via Instagram
Tagged: 20 million unique monthly users via Tagged
Foursquare: nearly 30 million users via Adweek
Pinterest: over 25 million users via AdWeek
Reddit: 56 million monthly unique visitors via Reddit

Please email if you have additional updates, or a social network that you feel should be on the list.

Instagram Tops 100 Million Active Users

Instagram Tops 100 Million Active UsersFollowing recent controversy over changing terms of service, Instagram began releasing active user counts to combat rumors that users were abandoning the platform.  In a blog post on Tuesday, Instagram revealed that over 100 million people now use the photo-sharing social network every month.

Co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote: “Now, more than ever, people are capturing the world in real-time using Instagram—sharing images from the farthest corners of the globe. What we see as a result is a world more connected and understood through photographs.”

How does this measure up to other social platforms?  All Things D labels Twitter as Instagram’s closest competitor — and while it took Twitter six years to reach 200 million users, Instagram has gained 100 million at a much faster rate.

And according to a recent study by Simply Measured, brands are taking note: 59% of top brands are now using Instagram.

The 5 Elements Of Successful Influencer Marketing Programs

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in 2011. NASA regularly invites influential bloggers to document key events such as this one.

Businesses have always understood that word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful ways to shape opinions and drive awareness, preference and sales. “Influencer marketing” is simply the new, fancy way to describe word-of-mouth. The difference now:  the spread of influence is directly measurable, and there are all kinds of tools designed to help you identify and manage influence marketing programs.

So what are the elements that actually make up an influencer marketing program? This is one of the many topics that Nick Einstein, Romi Mahajan, Scott Vaughan and I discussed on this week’s Tap the Power of Social Advocates panel at the Online Marketing Summit in Santa Clara.

Here are the 5 elements that every successful influencer marketing plan needs to address:

1. Identify

Who are the people that actually have the ability to shape the opinions and actions of your customers?  How can you find the right ones to focus on?  Influence measurement tools are definitely a place to start and should be part of any sophisticated monitoring strategy, but you’ll also want to look at other sources. Talk to your sales and customer service teams — they can help you identify customers or prospects who are likely to be passionate about your brand. Remember: you want to find not only people who are popular, but also people who are likely to be engaged advocates.

2. Engage

Once you’ve developed your target list, you’ll need to invite your advocates to participate in the program.  Make sure you deliver the invitation in a way that acknowledges their importance, and show that you value their participation. Be specific: how will you compensate them for their time and engagement?  The best reward is one that doesn’t necessarily money or tangible perks — often, being seen as influential by their peers will be enough motivation. There’s a thin line between a reward and a bribe:  whatever you do, make sure that the program and the perks are ones that you’re comfortable talking about publicly.

 3. Empower

Now that you have your advocates lined up, it’s time to empower them. What is the content you want them to share — and how do you make it very easy for them to share that content with their friends?  A steady diet of small easy-to-share updates will keep you front of mind and keep them talking about you on a regular basis.

4. Inspire

Having influencers who share your content is already a win. But having them create their own content, in their own words, about you — that’s taking it to the next level. How can you create a special experience for your brand advocates — one that they’ll be so excited about that they’ll blog, YouTube or Instagram it? How you do it will be different for every brand:  a backstage pass, an exclusive piece of research, early beta access to a new product or an invitation to play a starring role in an upcoming commercial. What is it that fans really love about you, and how can you fuel that passion?

5. Celebrate

Your brand advocates work hard for you. The best way you can thank them is to celebrate them. Put their names up in lights, or put their face on the side of your next plane. Showcase their influence. These people represent your most committed customers. Everything that you and your company do is about delighting your customers (it is, isn’t it?) — what better way to demonstrate that than to celebrate your best customers, as publicly and loudly as you can?

Want to learn more about influencer marketing?  Here’s the entire 45-minute panel discussion from the Online Marketing Summit, the discussion of the 5 elements begins at about 8:30:

[iframe src=”″ frameborder=”0″ width=”480″ height=”360″/]

What kinds of influencer marketing programs are you running at your company? Which brands do you think are doing a good (or not so good) job of reaching out to their advocates?


To learn more about influence measurement and best practices in influencer marketing, check out The Realtime Report’s Guide to Influence Measurement Tools, our detailed analysis of personal and contextual influence measurement tools.

Introducing The Realtime Report’s Guide to Influence Measurement Tools

The Realtime Report's Guide to Influence Measurement ToolsLast December, I announced that we would be producing a guide to influence measurement tools.   Well, it’s taken twice as long as I had planned, and the resulting Guide is double the size.  But it’s done!

This Guide is not for the faint of heart.  We look at personal influence measurement tools–Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, TweetLevel and PeekAnalytics–which measure the influence of individual social network users.  And we also look at a set of contextual influence measurement tools from TRAACKR, mBLAST, SpotInfluence and Appinions, which are designed to look at influence in the context of topics, subject matter expertise, and how conversations are shaped and shared online.

There are lots of screenshots, charts, nuts-and-bolts analysis, and a test drive to see how the results from the different tools compare.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • the business cases for influence measurement tools
  • the difference between personal influence measurement and contextual influence measurement
  • best practices for using influence measurement tools to manage influencer relations and power perks promotions and other marketing programs
  • how the tools work–what they do well and where they fail
  • a comparison of the results you get from the different personal influence measurement  tools
  • how to analyze the size and demographics of an online influencer’s audience
  • how to identify influencers in a given topic or area of expertise
  • how to use influence analysis to manage brand strategies

We’ll be posting excerpts from the Guide in the coming weeks, but you can buy and download the entire 64-page copy of The Realtime Report’s Guide to Influence Measurement Tools right here for $20. We hope that you’ll find it to be not only useful & informative, but also a big time-saver for those of you who are using or evaluating tools like this for your business.

A lot of people helped to make this undertaking possible.  Thank you to the vendors who were generous with their time, answering lots of questions, and agreeing to provide access to premium-level tools to evaluate.  I’m especially grateful to two marketing experts, V3‘s Shelly Kramer and Zoetica‘s Kami Watson Huyse, who shared insights on best practices based on their experience in working with analytics tools and managing digital marketing campaigns, and to all of the other social media and marketing professionals who have offered their expertise and encouragement along the way.  And a big thank you to the entire team at Modern Media and The Realtime Report–everyone put in extra hours to help get this project done.

Get The Realtime Report’s Guide to Influence Measurement Tools today.

Crisis Communications: Will Carnival Maintain Social Media Silence About The Costa Allegra, Too?

Carnival's Social Media FailThe grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship last month was a public relations nightmare for Carnival Cruise Corp., and the public did not hesitate to voice their opinion on social media channels.  After the first few days, Carnival made the decision to go silent on social networks, and missed a huge opportunity to interact with consumers.  Was Carnival right or wrong to pause the conversation?

And, will they try a different strategy moving forward?  We’re about to find out: news outlets are reporting another Costa cruise ship adrift – without power – off the Seychelles. How will the Carnival social media team handle this latest crisis?

Carnival Reacts to the Costa Concordia Crisis

The grounding of the Costa Concordia took place the night of January 13, 2012, and was all over the media on January 14th.  Carnival’s first response on Facebook came late on the 13th: “Our thoughts are with guests and crew of the Costa Concordia. We are keeping them in our hearts in the wake of this very sad event.” For the next five days, Carnival’s Facebook page posted the company’s official statement and information about evacuation & emergency procedures, cruise safety, ship navigation systems, and posted Carnival’s onboard safety video.  But while this information answered the questions and comments of some fans, Carnival did little else to respond to the myriad of concerns pouring in related to the Concordia grounding.

The company Twitter account (@CarnivalCruise) largely mimicked the content of Carnival’s Facebook page, in many cases linking back to the content on Facebook. Carnival is also represented on Twitter by CEO Micky Arison, an avid tweeter (@MickyArison).  In those first few days after the grounding, Advertising Age reports that he “suddenly changed his tune –- from a smack-talking, fun and energetic basketball fan and cruise enthusiast tweeting 20-30 times a day, to a quieter, more measured executive.”

Declaring Social Media Silence

On January 19 – six days after the grounding – Carnival chose to suspend social media activities, with a brief post on Facebook, a shorter version on Twitter, and a single tweet from Micky Arison (Advertising Age).

  • On Facebook, 1/19/12: “Out of respect for all those affected by the recent events surrounding our sister line, Costa cruises, we are going to take a bit of a break from posting on our social channels.”
  • From @MickyArison: “I won’t be as active on Twitter for the next while. Helping our @costacruises team manage this crisis is my priority right now. Thnx”

Public reaction

On Facebook, the “Out of respect…” post announcing Carnival’s social media silence received an impressive response, garnering over 5,000 ‘likes’ and 850 comments.  The comments were a mix of positive and negative sentiment, with some fans strongly supporting the brand and others expressing anger and frustration.

While more information came to light regarding the Concordia’s grounding (most of it not favorable for Carnival), the cruise line remained completely silent on Facebook — although comments on their last post continued to flow in — until January 24th, when the brand posted a “we’re ready to re-engage” post.  The post received 3,000 ‘likes’ and over 600 comments, and once again the reaction was mixed.  Some fans were upset and particularly disturbed by Carnival’s offer of 30% off to those who were on the Concordia.  Others were loyal Carnival fans expressing their continued support of the brand.

Carnival hears from angry fans via social media

Carnival hears from loyal social media fans

But comments on Facebook only tell part of the story. To gain a broader picture of social media sentiments around the grounding of the Concordia, Advertising Age compared the comments and questions on blogs, forums, Facebook and Twitter about Carnival in the pre-Concordia two-week period and post-Concordia two-week period.  In those four weeks, Carnival faced a precipitous decline on social media channels, from 91% positive/neutral (48% positive) before the grounding, down to 66% neutral (only 16% positive) after the tragedy.

Is silence ever the right choice on social media?

Gini Dietrich of SpinSucks wrote “The web is not something you turn on and off. Interacting with people is not something you can avoid when it’s not convenient for you. Sticking your head in the sand, in order to avoid criticism, is ridiculous in today’s real-time, 24/7 world.”

The social conversation never stops happening – and Carnival chose to simply ignore it, rather than actively addressing public concerns – and saw a significant drop in approval. Carnival’s attempt to remove itself from the conversation only left a blank space (with Carnival’s name on it) for fans to fill with their sentiments. In this case, there was a lot of anger and confusion about the Concordia disaster – but to be fair, there were also many prayers for the victims, support for Carnival, and praise from loyal fans of the brand.

In the world of social media, withdrawal looks very much like admitting defeat; keeping a voice and remaining transparent and accountable to your fans is the way to keep them coming back.  But in this case, many fans stuck up for the brand while Carnival itself remained silent.  If the brand had stayed present, would fans have rallied in the same way?  And would Carnival have been able to win over angry fans by addressing their concerns more directly?

Was it truly a “social media fail” – as the media has been so eager to label it? As the Concordia’s captain goes to trial and further developments come to light, Carnival was sure to be back in the spotlight.

And with another Costa ship in distress since last night, we’re still waiting for any mention of the current crisis from the company’s Facebook or Twitter accounts.

For a different approach to crisis communication, see our post Social Media Nightmare: Citibank “Has Customers Arrested.” Video Goes Viral. Now What?

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