Category Archives: Insights

Our reviews, commentary and opinions about social media, marketing, PR and realtime business.

3 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Foursquare For Your Business

Social media and the tech world in general are experiential in nature — meaning that the more you use them, the better your understanding.  In a world where it seems that anyone born after 1993 has hard-wired WordPress proficiency and sixteen year old “digital natives” have 150,000 Instagram followers, this presents an issue for some business owners who could benefit most from a strong social media presence.

Here are some ways that a business owner can improve their presence on Foursquare and other social media:

1. Immersion

Throw yourself into the social media platforms you’re using to interact with customers and build your brand.  This way you can get a hands-on feel for how your customers will interact with the platform.

Foursquare customersFor example, I had never used Foursquare before when I realized that my restaurant had over 300 check-ins in the space of three months.  I quickly claimed my business and got a personal Foursquare account.  With my personal account I’ve been aggressively checking into as many places as I can think of, and in doing so have come to understand how users interact with the platform (by being one!) and what makes a business page pop.

Without thrusting yourself into the game-like world of apps (such as Foursquare), it’s easy to write them off or misunderstand how or why users would use them to engage with businesses.  By becoming a user, you get an inside look on how or why a guest would check in to your business or find you through an app.

2. Entice Customers With Great Specials

Immersing myself in the platform as a user has allowed me to craft eye-catching specials that actually pique users’ interest — rather than flat, uninvolved content that doesn’t take into account the various ways in which users can stumble upon your page and unlock its specials.  For example, I realized (by doing it myself) that when you check into a local bar or event venue, Foursquare will often recommend a nearby eating place to go to afterward, particularly if there’s a special.

Recognizing the proliferation of bars and live music venues in the area, I chose to offer a “drunk food” special of sorts, a free order of our Salchipapas (waffle fries smothered in toppings – the Colombian answer to poutine!) on a guest’s first visit.  Business owners can put whatever stipulations they like on a special; in this case guests had to buy a drink and sandwich in order to redeem the free item.

My staff (and I) have been instructed to ask guests who redeem the special upon check-in whether they stumbled upon it – while checking in or browsing Foursquare – or if they were already planning on coming.

Foursquare Newbie Special

Out of 62 redemptions between May 6th (date of inception) and June 15th, around 75% of them said that they had never been to the restaurant before and were not planning on coming until they saw the special.

Since my cost on an order of salchipapas is around $1, I essentially bought 45 brand new customers for only $45.  Considering that all of them brought at least one friend and purchased at least the minimum requirement, this seems like a good bargain to me.  The ones who didn’t come exclusively for the special were not a complete wash either – a free dish only adds to the experiences of regular guests or those who just happen upon the special – and since they had to order a full meal besides, I didn’t lose much off the bottom line.

3. Make Your Content Pop

I find that often in digital marketing, especially for small local businesses, traditional marketing and advertising ideals are thrown to the wind. Specials like the ones detailed above are a cool, fun, way of adding content to your page, even if the users don’t come in!  But put some thought into it – simply adding a special like “Free bag of chips” is not enough to “hook” savvy potential customers.  The content of your specials (or advertisements in the case of Facebook) should be catchy and provide a point of interaction between the users and your brand.

Foursquare Loyalty SpecialThis is a tremendous – and free! –  opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality and make the experience of finding and redeeming the specials a fun and interactive one.  I use the wit and humor of our brand in conjunction with questions and imperatives (“Hey, you’re kinda cute. Come here often? How about we buy you this beer (or soda) to show you how much we care?”) to get the most out of specials and make sure they show up on peoples’ radars.

Like a good gardener, it’s important to curate and maintain the content on your page (not just your specials).  This can be difficult – as much of your brand’s Foursquare content is user-created – but as with other platforms, you want to make sure your Foursquare presence “shines” and provides a fun, exciting, and useful place for users to interact.  Making sure there are photos that reflect both your product and brand identity is a definite, as is making sure all information on the business is correct.

In addition to clever specials, a good byline that sums up what you are is key, since users will almost certainly be viewing the page from a mobile device and it’s important that they get the gist of what you offer.

A well-curated page leads to more redemptions of specials, which leads to satisfied customers and better ratings.  Our rating at Los Perros Locos has gone up one full point, from 7.6 to 8.6, since I started paying attention to the page and specials.

By utilizing platforms such as Foursquare solely from the vantage point of a business, it’s possible to miss many of the nuances of the platforms and how to get the most out of them. With the proliferation of new social media platforms, what are some ways you can boost your business’ visibility and presence online and on mobile apps?

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Only 6% of Fortune 100 Companies Meet Google Mobile Requirements [Study]

Matt Cutts, Head of Google Webspam

Matt Cutts, Head of Google Webspam

Last month, Google released important tips about changes in ranking of smartphone search results.  Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam (and the man behind many of the updates for Google’s search algorithm), has recently begun emphasizing the importance of mobile in Google searches.

Mobile search results (and any changes in how they are ranked) affect the SEO value of websites that are accessed by mobile users. With mobile search on the rise – and set to outpace search via desktop computer by 2015 – companies can’t afford to ignore SEO on mobile.

However, recent data from Pure Oxygen Labs found that a mere 6% of Fortune 100 companies are meeting Google’s standards of optimization for mobile users. The study used diagnostic tools to match the websites with Google’s mobile criteria.

Pure Oxygen Labs evaluated the following on company websites:

  • auto-redirection of mobile users to a mobile-friendly website
  • how the website redirects mobile users
  • whether the site design is responsive

While the expectation is that large companies are aware of optimization for their websites, Pure Oxygen Labs’ assessment shows that many Fortune 100 companies failed to follow Google’s mobile criteria. Some of the ill-prepared companies include Apple, CVS, Costco, and many others.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 2/3 risk ranking downgrades in Google for not serving mobile versions of indexed pages
  • 1/3 serve some mobile content, but only 6% fully comply with Google’s requirements
  • only 56% serve any mobile formatted content to smartphone searchers
  • only 11% of the Fortune 100 currently target smartphone users via responsive design techniques
Responsive Web Design Example

Example of a responsive website

The study is a reminder that all businesses should take Google’s guidelines very seriously, for two main reasons:

  1. Mobile-optimization increases your chances of appearing higher in Google search results (which results in more visibility and business.)
  2. Failing to meet these standards can penalize your website.

“If history is any guide, we expect Google will likely roll out these changes prior to the holidays – most likely in September or October of 2013,” warns Pure Oxygen Labs, “For merchants preparing for the holiday season, the urgency to act is right now as a non-trivial amount of revenue could be at stake. Google effectively put everyone on notice to take mobile seriously.”

Some large companies can afford to be less strict with following the guidelines, because they already have the PR power, a well-known name, and are in the public eye — but that does not mean they are immune.

Small businesses cannot afford to disregard mobile search as as part of their marketing strategy. While it’s not clear how strict Google will be regarding their mobile penalties, it’s best to be safe — and make it easy for potential customers to find your site via mobile search.

Is your brand taking steps to optimize your presence on mobile?

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5 Social Media Best Practices To Keep You Fresh and Relevant

This is a guest post by Calvin Sellers, @CalvinTheScribe.

The social media world is a cluttered mess where a lot of companies and individuals do things they don’t really understand — and much of this activity is done poorly. With so much going on, it’s unbelievably easy to get lost in the shuffle and lose sight of what’s really important. Fortunately, you can follow the tips below to get your message out there in an effective way.

Choose Your Media Outlet Carefully

A lot of social networking advertisers believe that social media is just a conglomeration of places to put your marketing message. While this is a part of the deal, that would be like painting a picture using only the undiluted color blue — it might look nice, but it would probably be incomplete. Instead, it’s wise to choose the social media site or sites that your target customers frequent and go after it genuinely.

Image via Flickr by ajc1

Image via Flickr by ajc1

Some customers love Pinterest, while others are glued to Facebook. Some tweet like it’s going out of style, while others are on YouTube having meaningful conversations while their videos load. You need to know and use these outlets if you intend to really reach people.

Really Blog

In this instance, blogging refers to any sort of blog-like website that is used to connect other people to your opinions. This can refer to traditional written blogs, podcasts, vlogs, or even a tweet where you describe an interpretive dance relating to some topic. The big thing about blogging is that if it isn’t honest, it’s not going to fly with most people. These days, people can tell a real statement from a lead-in to the next sales pitch. Let them learn to trust you before you start in with the hard sell — or better yet, let the soft sell happen naturally.

Use Nepotism Responsibly

Social media companies will often give added weight to their own components. The most overt example is Google, which gives a good deal of extra attention to their own Google+ platform. When you use G+ for your marketing, it will be indexed faster than if you use other resources. This can get your message ranked better and performing more quickly. It may not be perfect, but a little social media nepotism works wonders.

Plan for the Newest Technology

Today most people are not going to check out your social media pages on their computers. When you plan your media pages around the best smartphones, tablets and other devices, you open up your marketing plans to better options than ever before. If you ignore these newer and frequently used devices, you run the risk of being left behind.

Listen and Adapt

Social media is all about making the Web into a truly interactive place, where marketers really give the people what they want. When you listen and adapt to what you hear and read, you’ll do a lot better than if you just talk at people.

Social media is changing rapidly. Are you going to keep up, or will you keep doing things the old-fashioned way?

Calvin SellersAbout The Author

Calvin Sellers is a freelance writer and graphic designer from Tampa, FL. Follow him on Twitter @CalvinTheScribe.

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Kids And Social Media: 7 Tips For Parents From A 5th Grader

Realtime Kids: they're never too young to talk social media safety

I had the good fortune to spend the 4th of July holiday with my sister and her family last week. (What’s more fun than watching fireworks and hitting the park with a group of kids who think having their aunt visit is a vacation for them?!)  Not surprisingly when I’m in the room, at some point the conversation turned to social media. And while I knew how prevalent the use of social media is among the young teens, I was surprised to learn that my 10-year old niece has friends who have Instagram accounts–and has been asking her parents if she could open an Instagram account herself.

Wow.

If you’re a regular reader of The Realtime Report, you’re probably savvy enough to be aware of the myriad dangers related to online privacy, cyber-bullying and worse that parents of young social media users need to navigate. What makes it more complicated: just when you think you’ve got your arms around how to set boundaries that keep your kids safe on a platform like Facebook, they discover a whole new way to get into trouble.  You may have heard about Snapchat, but have you hear about Ask.fm, which Shelly Kramer recently described as a parent’s “greatest nightmare”?

There’s a reason for the COPPA regulations that apply to web sites targeted to kids younger than 13, but the harsh reality is that kids younger than 13 are also using sites that are not required to comply with COPPA. Which is why–whether you allow your kid to have a social media profile or not–parents need to be talking about social media with kids who are much younger than 13.

I am not going to be the person who decides whether my 5th-grade niece will be allowed to join her friends on Instagram–only her parents can make that decision. But I did have a long conversation with her about kids and social media, in which I asked for her thoughts on how parents should help their kids use social media safely. Here’s the list of tips for parents that we wrote on a napkin over lunch:

1. Know how social media works and use it yourself.

If you’re going to guide your kids on how to use social media safely and wisely, you have to be comfortable with how the various platforms work yourself. Before you let your kids open their own accounts, set one up for yourself and use it for a few months so you can understand the nuances of each platform.

2. Talk to other parents and teachers in your community about social media.

Compare notes with the parents of your child’s friends about the boundaries you’re setting. If it’s your son’s or daughter’s first foray onto social media, you want to make sure you know who they’re going to be interacting with, and that the parents of online friends are also aware of what’s going on so that everyone can help monitor young social media users’ safety. It’s also a good idea to have a conversation with your child’s teachers and pull them into the support group.

3. Talk to your kids. And keep talking to them.

My niece was very familiar with the concept of “stranger danger.” I explained to her that the same safety rules that apply in the real world also apply in the online world: if you don’t know who someone is, you shouldn’t be talking to them.  As a 5th grader, she was also very familiar with the concept of bullies–and quickly understood how cyber-bullying could be a problem. What happens if you experience or observe bullying? Talk to your parents about it.  Social life is complex enough in the real world, and things can quickly escalate in the online world. Make sure your kids feel safe and comfortable talking to you about how to navigate complicated social situations, in real life or in realtime.

4. Your online friends should be your real friends.

My son was already 16 by the time he was interested in social media, and while we had many conversations about it, I also knew he was mature enough to set smart boundaries. If I had a younger child wanting to open an account on Facebook or Instagram today, I would make set a few rules to define who she could interact with:

  1. only accept friend requests from people that she was friends with in real life,
  2. do not accept any friend requests from anyone (even if you know them) without first asking me, and
  3. I would have to be in his or her circle of friends so I can monitor this.

My niece thought that these were really good rules.

5. Don’t be anonymous–but don’t over-share

No accounts under fake names or anonymous profiles. You need to know who the people you are interacting with are. But there are certain pieces of information you should never ever ever ever share, and these include:

  1. your age
  2. information about where you live
  3. any information that might let someone figure out your location

Talk to your kids about all the ways someone might be able to figure out their location, or what school they go to. If you want to arrange for a play date or meetup with your friends, do it by phone. My niece was quickly able to to think of 4 or 5 ways that you could accidentally over-share information like this. Keep giving your daughter new examples as you think of them so that this stays very top of mind for her.

6. No pictures of yourself or your friends

brainstorming tips for social media parents over lunch with my 5th-grade niece

Once we had talked about the rules around over-sharing, my niece quickly understood why posting pictures would be a problem — pretty easy to see that you’re talking to someone very young if there’s a picture of a 13-year-old. But what about the profile picture, my niece wanted to know? Well — what are some things that you like? Odds are, when my niece does go online, you may see a picture of her dog, or maybe a flower that she likes, or maybe a cartoon drawing of some kind.

 7. Don’t forget your good manners!

Good manners  matter in the real world, and they matter on social media, too. Saying please and thank you, being kind to others, taking a moment to think about whether what you say might hurt someone’s feelings and paying compliments where you can–it pays to be polite, whether you’re on Pinterest or on the playground.

What do you think about my 5th-grade nieces’ tips for parents of kids who want to be on social media? Are there any we forgot?

And what do you think of the notion of kids younger than 13 using sites like Instagram?

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How to Build a Social Repository (and Always Having Something Interesting to Say)

This is a guest post by Allison Rice, the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com).

Keeping your content fresh on social mediaWho manages social media for your brand? Whether you have dedicated social media staff, or you’re an entrepreneur – and balancing running a business with trying to get the word out across multiple social platforms – it’s easy to get overwhelmed (and tempting to let days or weeks go by without posting anything at all).

But social media is arguably the most important marketing outlet available, and silence is deadly. To stay at the forefront of your potential customers’ minds, you need to speak up.

Of course, everything you say needs to be worthwhile, and therein lies the challenge. Whether you’re just getting started or struggling to establish a social media marketing plan, first consider these five different types of posts or tweets.

  • Updates about your company (new products or initiatives, for example)
  • Third-party news that is relevant to your industry
  • ‘Did you know?’ style information sharing that draws from your expertise
  • Inspirational quotes, links or stories that you have benefited from
  • On-the-fly reactionary posts (photos, comments, etc…)

Most personal Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines rely almost exclusively on that final point: on-the-fly posts. But let’s face it: Not every day at your company is as interesting as the best ones, and your customers may not be concerned with the minutia of your fabulous new espresso machine or the amazing croissant you had for lunch (of course, that depends on the type of company you run).

Instead, think about how you can rotate through each of the five types of posts mentioned above. Commit yourself to one of each type of post each week (or better yet, each day).

Now that you’re envisioning breaking your status updates into five different styles of posts, here are some ways to fill the coffers, so that even when your brain is feeling drained, you have a place to turn for inspiration. Start by creating a spreadsheet or document where you store your ideas as they come to you, where they’ll be ready for dissemination to your followers on the schedule that best suits your marketing plan.

1. Compile Your Company History

What date did your business incorporate? When did you hit your first milestone in sales or employees? Internal dates of significance should be treated like holidays, and are worthy of celebrating through social media. You’ll get kudos from customers and demonstrate that you’re a growing, thriving business.

2. Keep Track of Your Previous Work

Did you write a blog post at the beginning of the last year with budgeting tips, or a seasonal guide to something for the summer or fall? Make a note on your calendar about unique content you’ve created that will continue to have relevance in the future. Tweeting or posting a link back to a previous post is a great way to pull extra miles out of your hard work.

3. Answer Questions

Make a list of the most common questions you are frequently asked about your job or your company. Answering these can make great fodder for tweets and posts, and you already know that they are topics people take interest in.

4. Ask Questions

For any social media marketing to be successful, it needs to inspire comments, retweets and genuine conversation. Nothing accomplishes this more effectively than asking pointed questions in your posts that invite people to respond. You can even solicit the input and advice of your customers on company decisions, from a logo redesign to a new product to what color you should paint the walls of your conference room. When people feel engaged, they are more likely to respond with loyalty to your business.

5. Take Notes

Whenever you’re reading a magazine, watching television or just out and about in the world, make a habit of taking notes when something grabs your attention or inspires you. On the iPhone, the standard ‘Notes’ app may be all that you need, or simply send yourself text messages. When you’re feeling uninspired at work but it’s time to tweet, turn to this rich collection you’ve been keeping in real-time to find a topic that fits your purposes for that day.

6. Look to Testimonials

Whether your business has a Yelp or Google Reviews page or not, every company receives customer feedback. Even if this is solely through emails and conversation with clients, start keeping track of the positive response your work receives, and utilize this in your social media marketing (if it was an email or spoken communication, ask permission first so that your client or customer is okay going public with their praise). Nothing speaks louder than the recommendation of a happy customer, and your own social media pages are a great place to trumpet this to the world.

Do you ever run out of things to say on Twitter, Facebook or Google+? How do you keep your creative juices flowing?

About the Author

Allison RiceAllison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), a leading provider of promotional marketing pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.

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How Can Small Businesses Best Use Hashtags?

Hashtags for Small BusinessThis is a guest post by Megan Totka, Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com.

Hashtags are a cornerstone of social media. First utilized on Twitter in 2007 as a means of organizing tweets, hashtags have come to represent anything from the pulse of pop culture to the completely irreverent. With sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr further breeding the concept of “tagging,” and Facebook creeping closer towards utilizing hashtags themselves, it’s clear that tags are here to stay. In addition, the influx of mobile users today only adds to the popularity of the modern hashtag.

Internet marketers and big brands have been jumping on the bandwagon in order to leverage hashtags in their own marketing efforts. We’ve seen a huge influx of big brands using hashtags to create buzz or push a new product. It was difficult to get through a single commercial during this year’s Superbowl without some sort of corresponding tag for each ad.

Hashtags are challenging for marketers due to their seemingly random and spur-of-the moment nature, short lifespan and difficulty to control, and small businesses in particular face challenges when it comes to hashtags. How are SMBs to compete with big business when it comes to leveraging tags? Where’s the money? Are hashtags more trouble than they’re worth? It’s important to step carefully, but hashtags have certainly their place for small businesses looking to create a buzz.

What Are #BigBrands Doing?

Let’s first focus on what big businesses are doing. Today’s biggest brands are attaching a hashtag to just about every product launch. Movie trailers, fast food, you name it; if it’s out there, it has a tag. Hashtags provide a way for brands to gauge interest in what they’re pushing and examine the buzz accordingly.

An effective ad or commercial combined with an equally memorable hashtag can spark a sensation. Consider KFC’s recent “I Ate The Bones” (#iatethebones) promotion. The catchphrase has been used in their latest commercial campaign alongside the hashtag. In conjunction with a contest on their website, users are invited to submit their own photos and videos reacting to the campaign on Twitter through Vine and Instragram, coupled with the #iatethebones tag. The concept here is rather simple; KFC wants users to talk about the promotion, the commercials and also enter the contest. Through hashtags, they get the best of all three worlds.

Is the campaign a success? Difficult to say. True, users are utilizing the hashtag. With an estimated 1 in 100 tweets actually corresponding to KFC’s contest, however, it could be argued that a large chunk of the hashtag’s usage is white noise. This begs the question: if a hashtag is being used beyond its intended purpose, is it still good “press?”

The challenge for small businesses becomes clear when we look at how big brands use hashtags. Hashtags are not always easy to measure in terms of effective engagement. Tags are often short-lived, and a hashtag’s “owner” has almost no control over how it’s utilized.

Meeting the Hashtag Head On: Tips for the #SmallBiz

Find and Leverage Relevant Hashtags

Let’s consider a timely cost-effective approach for small businesses to handle hashtags. A brand could take advantage of a popular tag by either creating or finding a piece of unique content to correspond with that tag. For example, a business looking to take advantage of an #EarthDay tag could tweet a blog post concerning green office supplies or an equally topical article. An art-savvy business could examine similar tags to take pictures of their office or city’s skyline to correspond with a photograph tag on Tumblr or Instragram.

Attaching content to tags can quickly backfire if users feel that the content is overally promotional or even spammy, but if a marketer stays focused on relevant tags and provides meaningful content, it can quicly connect your business to new audiences. Tip: pay attention to the hashtags your customers are using and see if you find a pattern. Commonly used tags amongst your followers may represent opportunities for new content and engagement.

Hashtags? Newsjacking? Hashjacking?

A second approach, which requires a bit more attention to detail, is a modified form of newsjacking. Also known as “hashjacking,” businesses may look at trending topics and topical hashtags and then insert their own content or commentary depending on what’s being talked about. This is an effective way to get some short-term attention or buzz, although it may not represent the long-term engagement that most brands are searching for when it comes to small business social media. Again, the risk is that you insert yourself in a conversation in a way that feels spammy, or even entirely inappropriate–you don’t want to land on next year’s list of social media fails.  Make sure you first take the time to understand what a given hashtag conversation is about before you attach your brand and content to it.

The #BottomLine

Regardless of their viability for smaller brands, hashtags are here to stay. It’s important for small businesses to keep tagging it mind when it comes to their posts and potential engagement opportunities through social media.  As the social sphere continues to change, tags will continue to be part of the mix.

What’s your tagging strategy?

About the Author

Megan TotkaMegan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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Meet The Realtime Report Summer 2013 Guest Bloggers

Last weekend marked the official start of summer 2013, and The Realtime Report is diving into the season with three new guest bloggers. They will each focus on different topic areas, helping us to continue bringing you the latest in social media and realtime statistics, case studies, campaigns, tools and more — and adding some new voices and fresh perspective. Please join us in welcoming Vincent, Alex and Jake to the #RLTM team!

Vincent Nguyen

Vincent NguyenVincent is joining The Realtime Report not only because of his dashing good looks, but also because of his passion for all things business, social media, and blogging. He is also eager to stay current with new information as soon as it’s known, and will be focusing on realtime marketing, tools and SEO.

Vincent is currently a full-time college student with three internships and several freelance roles. He is known as a content marketer and applies his knowledge of SEO to promote his fast-growing personal development blog, Self Stairway, where he draws from life experiences to encourage others to seek a life of conscious self-improvement.

In addition to his website, you can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Alex Mitow

Alex MitowAlex recently opened Los Perros Locos, the much-lauded premier Colombian-style hot dog joint in New York City’s Lower East Side. He dove into to social media in order to help build the brand (check it out on Facebook), and has found it to be an invaluable tool — both as a way to get the word out about his new restaurant, and to keep customers coming back. At The Realtime Report, he’ll be focusing on the essentials for small businesses looking to bring customers in the door and make the most out of social media with limited resources.

Alex grew up in the restaurant and hospitality world. From 2004 to 2007 he owned and managed Red Fish Blue Fish, a rambling Jimmy Buffet-meets-Bob Marley seafood joint near Tampa, Florida. In New York he managed a full-service restaurant for the Food Network’s Pat and Gina Neely. He has dual degrees in Marketing and Mojitos from the University of Miami, and currently resides in Manhattan’s East Village with a vicious Shiba Inu named Coda.

Jake Schnaidt

Jake SchnaidtJake began working in social media during an internship in college, at the music publication Performer Magazine based in Boston. Later, he continued working on social media campaigns for the podcast network BTR, to which he also contributed writing and podcast material on the subject of social media.

In his spare time, Jake likes to run, explore new neighborhoods in New York City, and write. Currently he’s working on a web series about a life coach and a professional video game player who become friends, and is thinking seriously about this new Citi bike program in NYC.

At The Realtime Report, Jake will focus his writing on case studies and campaigns. He’s super excited to be guest blogging this summer!

Happy summer and make sure you give our summer guest bloggers lots of great feedback!

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Hate Speech On Twitter: A Geographic Study

Hate Speech on Twitter

A team of researchers led by Humboldt State University Dr. Monica Stephens of Humboldt State University (HSU) have released the results of a year-long study identifying the geographic origins of hate speech on Twitter in the U.S. Using the Google Maps API, the team has overlaid the data with a county-level analysis to show the distribution of hate speech on Twitter across the country via an interactive map.

The results? Hate speech tends to be more prevalent in the eastern part of the country than in the west. Concentrations of hate speech show interesting variations by individual terms; playing with the interactive map is both interesting and depressing.

The team analyzed a total of 150,000 geo-coded tweets (i.e. the user had opted into Twitter’s location-sharing service) sent between June 2012 and April 2013, each of which contained one of the homophobic or racist hate words. Rather than using algorithmic sentiment analysis, the project relied upon Humboldt State undergraduate students to read the entirety of tweet and classify it as positive, neutral or negative. Only those tweets that were identified by human readers as negative were used in this analysis.

To produce the map, all 150,000 negative tweets containing each hate word were aggregated to the county level and normalized by the total twitter traffic in each county. This is important because it eliminates population density as a factor that might lead to higher concentrations of hate speech.

More details about the methodology can be found on the group’s Floating Sheep blog (which also features some of the team’s other cool geo-visualizations); there is also an FAQ that addresses some of the controversies this project has stirred up.

Are you surprised at the results?

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Anxiety, Alcohol Use Can Predict Facebook Behavior Among College Students

Alcohol use can predict Facebook behavior among college students

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Emotional connectedness to Facebook can be largely predicted by anxiety and alcohol use, according to a recent study by Russell Clayton, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.  The study set out to examine “how emotionally involved Facebook users become with the social networking site and the precursors that lead to Facebook connections with other people.”

The survey – of over 225 college freshmen students at Texas State University – looked at how loneliness, anxiousness, alcohol and marijuana use related to the students’ emotional connectedness to Facebook and their Facebook connections.

‘Emotional connectedness’ to Facebook is a measure of the extent to which individuals are emotionally connected to Facebook, and also the extent to which Facebook is integrated into individual’s daily lives (ex. ‘‘Facebook is part of my everyday activity’’ and ‘‘I would be sorry if Facebook shut down.’’) The likelihood of using Facebook as a platform to connect with others is determined by: the likelihood of individuals to browse others’ Facebook profiles, contact via Facebook, add as a Facebook friend, and ultimately meet face-to-face.

Two main conclusions were drawn from the data:

  • students who reported higher levels of anxiousness and alcohol use appeared to be more emotionally connected with Facebook
  • students who reported higher levels of loneliness and anxiousness use Facebook as a platform to connect with others

“People who perceive themselves to be anxious are more likely to want to meet and connect with people online, as opposed to a more social, public setting,” said study author Clayton. “Also, when people who are emotionally connected to Facebook view pictures and statuses of their Facebook friends using alcohol, they are more motivated to engage in similar online behaviors in order to fit in socially.”

Why does alcohol lead to more emotional connectedness to Facebook – and why does marijuana have the opposite effect, according to the study? Clayton believes alcohol use, as a more “socially acceptable” activity, increases students’ emotional connection Facebook.  Marijuana use is “less normative,” and fewer people post on Facebook about using it; as a results, users are less emotionally attached to using Facebook.

Loneliness predicts Facebook behavior among college students (study)For students who reported higher levels of loneliness, Facebook was an important tool for making connections – but these students were not emotionally connected to the social networking platform.

Are you surprised by these results? Do you see Facebook as a helpful tool for college students dealing with loneliness or anxiety?

Participants in the study were 229 undergraduate students ranging in age from 18 to 21 years old. Most participants were female (74.3%); in terms of ethnicity, the majority (57%) were Causasian, 28.7% Hispanic, 10% African American and 3% Asian American. The average participant had between 301-400 Facebook friends, and the average amount of time each participant spent per day on Facebook ranged between 30 minutes and 1 hour.

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“Power Middle” Influencer Marketing Campaigns Drive 16x Engagement Of Paid Or Owned Media

Influence Marketing: the Bullhorn vs the Conversation

Photo courtesy of edenpictures (Flickr).

With the rise of Klout and other personal influence measurement tools, much of the talk around influence marketing has focused on how to best target and engage high-ranking influencers.

But new research is showing that a focus on mid-level influencers is actually far more effective when it comes to engagement and driving earned media, and at a much more efficient cost than working with “professional” A-list influencers.

This is the conclusion from a SocialChorus analysis of over 200 social word-of-mouth campaigns, which shows that large-scale social engagement is increasingly driven by a group of influencers the company refers to as the “Power Middle.”  These influencers typically have a smaller but very loyal audience (2,500 to 25,000+ unique monthly visitors to their blog or other social networks). Because their communities are so loyal, these Power Middle influencers drive an average of 16x higher engagement rates than paid media and owned alternatives–and at a much lower individual cost than professional influencers.

Interestingly, these findings match what many experienced marketing people have known for years. In an interview a year ago, Zoetica co-founder Kami Watson Huyse talked about how to leverage the power of the “Magic Middle“–a term based on a 1996 article by Technorati founder David Sifry–to build long-term relationships and form enduring communities around your brand or initiative.

The SocialChorus analysis finds that brands can achieve both scale and engagement when working with 100 – 300 power middle influencers, vs a smaller number of high-end influencers with larger followings. Over the course of three months, a Power Middle campaign with 100 influencers routinely drives 10 actions per influencer and 30,000 to 40,000 social endorsements delivered to millions of consumers.

Why do these mid-tier influencers drive so much engagement? Their audience isn’t just consuming news but often feels a true connection and allegiance to the influencer. They are part of a community and an ongoing conversation.  As a result, a mid-tier influencer’s audience is much more likely to engage with an influencer-endorsed brand.

Campaigns targeted to Power Middle influencers tend to be far more cost-effective. In the 200+ programs SocialChorus has run, the “social currency”–content, access, product and other rewards used to engage the influencer–has averaged under $100 in total value per influencer, within a range of $0 (when highly exclusive content is involved) up to $500. In contrast, professional influencers can require thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars to work with brands. The lower cost of the Power Middle allows brands to approach a wider set of influencers with different personalities, perspectives and vertical areas of expertise, which, in turn, can drive more focused engagement from each influencer’s audience.

Successful social brands truly see these campaigns as two-way relationships. One way they increase audience actions is by repurposing influencer-generated content on their owned channels. Influencers appreciate the attention and are more likely to link to your brands and encourage their audiences to do the same.  SocialChorus found that when their clients repurpose Power Middle influencer content on their owned channels, it outperforms the brands’ own content by an average of 3 to 5X and as high as 10X when used for (Facebook and Twitter) sponsored stories.

Echoing the conclusion drawn by the influence marketing panel at this year’s SXSW, the Social Chorus analysis shows that ongoing relationships are more important and effective than sporadic campaigns.

For more details on the analysis, including how SocialChorus measures and compares engagement rates across different types of platforms and campaigns, you can download the complete Power Middle white paper (free, registration required). The company is also hosting a March 28 Social Endorsements webinar with SocialChorus CEO Greg Shove and Viral Heat CEO Raj Kadam that you may want to check out.

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