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Twitter’s 6 Distinct Communication Networks and How to Utilize Them

Photo courtesy of Social Media Today

Photo courtesy of Social Media Today

Twitter is a vast ocean of information that is constantly being washed over with new content every second of the day. This fact alone can make Twitter feel like an overwhelming marketing tool or one that is simply impossible to keep up with. The fact is that you don’t have to keep up with it all. You only have to effectively connect with one of the several distinct communication networks that exist within Twitter to make an impact.

To better understand just how our communication strategy should shift when reaching out to these various groups of contacts, let’s take a look at the 6 different networks as well as how we can more effectively shape our message to appeal to them.

  1. Polarized Crowds

This communication network attracts some of the most heated and uncomfortable Tweet debates out there. You know what I’m talking about, the ones where 140 characters are flying back and forth with more sarcasm and passive aggression than any professional adult would dare to use face to face.

Polarized crowds make the social media world go round. It’s why divisive topics like pro-life/pro-choice, religion, immigration, gun control and every other political issue imaginable rank among the top trending hashtags day after day.

Polarized crowds are a great network to tap into if you’re looking to “poke the bear” a little. Stirring up a debate is an effective way to get your name out there – for better or for worse. Just be prepared to stay interactive with this network as responses will come at you faster than you might be able to handle and an unacknowledged Tweet is often assumed a concession.

  1. Tight Crowds

Opposite to polarized crowds are tight crowds. These are a network of Twitter followers that come together over a unified hobby or career. If you’re into social media marketing, for example, there is certainly a “tight crowd” to tap into for professional advice and discussion.

You can utilize the knowledge of tight crowds by regularly participating in live discussions. Research relevant hashtags or upcoming tweet chats and jump right in! Be sure and balance sharing information with asking insightful questions. Never has such a wealth of knowledge been expressed in rapid-fire mini-conversations.

  1. Brand Clusters

Brand clusters are fun because they are the cutting edge (if not bleeding edge) of anything trendy going on. This is a fragmented community, but very tight-knit when you hit upon a trend that a group of people are interested in.

You can easily identify potential brand clusters by watching what’s trending on Twitter at any given moment. Check out the hashtags to get in on this network and contribute some valuable information of your own that just might earn you some extra trendy clout.

  1. Community Clusters

Community clusters are exactly that, a cluster. You can often find them swarming around news events whether it’s local, regional, national or global. Community clusters are a great way to stay in the know of what is going on in a particular area.

Harness the power of community clusters by carefully crafting your content to what is most likely to interest them given their demographics and geographic location. Or find answers to particular questions – even public opinion – by joining in a tweet chat relevant to your topic of interest.

  1. Broadcast Networks

Next up is broadcast networks which include media outlets and famous individuals who are in the public eye. Public Relations professionals are most likely keeping a close eye on this communication network as they present relationships that could offer future publicity for your client or cause.

The best way to utilize the broadcast network on Twitter is to stay up to date and to offer meaningful information, when appropriate. Keep in mind that this network if most likely to be bombarded with news pitches and requests for retweets every minute of the day. They’ve become mostly immune to all the “noise.” Your best bet to breaking through is to first build a sincere relationship, only tweet when you have something really good to say and support them in return by retweeting and favoriting their tweets (with insightful comments, for bonus points).

  1. Support Networks

Finally there are support networks. These include companies or services with customer support and non-profit organizations who may offer emotional or medical support to their constituents. For the most part, the members of this network have a vested interest in helping you solve your problems. This is when one small tweet can go a long way to getting the support you need.

The best way to utilize support networks is to be kind, ask a sincere question or politely explain a problem and always, always use your manners! I stress this because it can be easy to get irritated when dealing with a customer service issue, but just as much as the problem is a reflection on the company, how you communicate with them is a reflection on your own brand.

Now that you have a better understanding of the 6 different types of Twitter networks, be sure and consider this information when planning your social media strategy. Who you’re trying target should shape your message and the way you approach questions/discussions. It can also help you organize your list of contacts to connect with them on a more personal level.

How have your social media efforts been impacted by Twitter’s distinct communication networks? Share your personal experiences by commenting below!

 

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The Power of the Written Word: Why Marketers Say Written Content Still Trumps Visuals

words have power

The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it when comes to marketing and branding, experts say that written content is still king.

A recent survey from Social Media Examiner shares some interesting (and unexpected) insights into how marketers value social media and content. What really caught my attention was that even in a social landscape that appears to be dominated by visuals and graphics, it’s the written content that still has the greatest impact on sharing a message.

Over half of marketers – 58 percent – claim written content is their most important form of social content. Visual content – the next highest category – came in at just 19 percent. From there the categories become even weaker and more spread out.

But we know visuals grab our attention, so why should we care about these numbers? The results of this survey were from 3,000 marketing professionals that live and breathe social media every single day. They quite literally make it their job to try new trends and monitor the results. Regardless of what we feel is most effective, these people have the data to show us what’s really working. And they’re saying that even the most mesmerizing graphic designs will miss the mark without quality written content to back it up.

Really though, this survey isn’t telling us anything we shouldn’t already know. It’s simply bringing to light the obvious trends that may be so obvious we are completely overlooking them. Social media values (and rewards) original written content. Take for example, LinkedIn. They understand the power of the written word and that’s why they created a publishing platform where members can share their thoughts in an organized and attractive format.

In case you still need more proof to convince you of the importance of written content as part of your marketing strategy, let’s not forget about SEO. Search engines love original written content! Even visuals rely on written content in the file name and captions to help boost their indexing on search engines.

The Takeaway

This is an important reminder to not get lazy with our content and messaging. Your visuals and audio clips will grab your audience’s attention, but your message will be what makes them stay. So often I see a business or brand post beautifully designed graphics to their Facebook page only to combine it with a poorly written caption – or none at all. The difference between these visuals and ones that include a quality caption can be clearly seen in the interactions it receives.

Additionally, original written content is a valuable opportunity to give a voice to your brand or define yourself as a thought leader and authority. Better yet, use it to tell a captivating story!

And finally, there is absolutely still reason to share visuals alongside your written content. When combined, the two will grab the minds and hearts of your readers – and keep them coming back for more.

Do you agree or disagree that written content remains more powerful than visual or audio content? Share your reasoning by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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#YOUREDOINGITWRONG: 7 Common Hashtag Mistakes

hashtagabuse

It’s taken the social media world by storm and nearly every platform has found a way to make it relevant to the way people share and archive content. It’s the #hashtag. This crooked looking game of tic-tac-toe no longer means “number sign” in modern society. Rather, it’s better known as the powerful symbol that turns ordinary text into a hyperlinked portal to a galaxy of content shared around the world on that exact topic.

And just as we have with nearly every other aspect of social media, we have found quite a few ways to royally mess up the use of this tool. Here are seven common ways people are abusing the hashtag way more than they should.

1. It contains a spelling error

Hashtags are very specific. What you type in is what you get.  Unlike a Google search that will offer you a courteous suggestion of “Did you mean…?” hashtags don’t spell check, research or interpret what you type. By design, this is what allows every hashtag to be so unique and to represent exactly what you want to say. This also provides the perfect storm for spelling errors to render an otherwise powerful hashtag completely useless.

Let’s look an example. The very popular #iloveyou has more than 18 million posts on Instagram (at the time of writing this blog). Using this hashtag will get your picture seen by any of the millions of users who would stumble upon this mega-tag by the second. However, one slip of the thumb might cause you to tag #iloevyou which places your content in the ranks of just 45 other posts, earning you hardly any views. Proofread before publishing just as you would anything else! Never rely on auto-correct, which really seems to hate the formatting of hashtags.

This major hashtag fail may not be the direct result of a spelling error, but it is the result of someone not proofreading before publishing…and anticipating how awkwardly this phrase would read when smooshed into a hashtag.

hashtag fail

2. It is too long or too specific that there’s simply no chance anyone else will ever use (or see) it

Let’s take for example a hashtag like #icantwaitforkathysbirthdaypartyintoronto. I didn’t search it on Instagram, but I don’t feel like I have to. Hashtagging the alphabet backwards will have more posts than this. The example I gave is of a post that is both too long and too specific. Only in very isolated instances is hashtagging a whole sentence acceptable (or part of a good strategy). Instead, the post could have been written as “I can’t wait for #kathys27thbirthday in #Toronto!” Toronto is a far more powerful hashtag. And Kathy’s birthday-specific hashtag could become the designated tag for the party and where your whole group of friends collect photos in one place.

3. It is the “off version” of a more popular term

Holidays are among the biggest offenders of this common mistake. Let’s take for example the Fourth of July. Should you use #fourthofjuly or #4thofjuly or #july4th or #julyfourth or ditch the date and go with #independenceday? Don’t even venture down the path of throwing the year in there or your mind will explode with uncertainty!

The truth is none of these options are “wrong” per se. They were all used to tag posts related to the holiday and each earned some pretty hefty numbers. If your goal is to tag the fastest trending term, then do your research! Scan the different options and compare numbers. Another strategy is to simply go with what you like best, but make sure to be consistent and use this exact term across all your related posts.

4. It simply makes no sense

Sometimes it’s the result of a spelling error, sometimes it’s the result of not understanding hashtags and sometimes it’s the result of not understanding the English language. No matter the reason, if your hashtag makes absolutely no sense, you can bet that no one else (unless by sheer mistake) will choose to use this same tag and your post will never gain exposure beyond your own, isolated network. Again, do your research on whether your tag already exists, whether there’s a more trendy option and always proofread before publishing!

5. It is separated by spaces or apostrophes

For as much as I love to see grammatically correct social media posts, hashtags are one of the few times where you need to throw your spaces, commas, hyphens and apostrophes aside.  Here’s why. The hashtag #you’remybestfriend will be broken as soon as it hits the contraction. #You is a strong hashtag, but it’s missing the more relevant hashtag you’re really after here. In this case, you want to write #youremybestfriend, cringe and hit publish. Additionally, posting “# flowers are beautiful” won’t do anything – at all. Things need to get up close and personal for the hashtag to work. That’s right, the words will touch. Same goes for you hyphens and commas! Write #set-up as #setup and #this,thatandtheotherthing as #thisthatandtheotherthing.

6. It is one of 20+ hashtags you’re using in a single post

If the caption under your photo looks like a paragraph of blue links, you are drowning your followers in a sea of hashtags. Worse yet, you’re risking looking as spammy and desperate as those phishing emails from that Nigerian Prince who is still asking me to wire him large sums of money! More is not always better. There is a point of diminishing returns for hashtags. While this strategy will increase the different ways the social media platform shares your content, to us living, breathing humans it will simply look like you care more about being seen than what you’re really saying. Limit your hashtags to (gasp) 5-7 meaningful and relevant tags. We all thank you in advance.

7. It is used inconsistently

Using existing popular hashtags is a great way to promote your content to a broader, more public audience than your own social network. Another strategic way to use hashtags is to create your own as an organized landing spot for all of the content that relates back to your brand. Best of all, other people can contribute to this “file folder” of content by using the same hashtag. This is exactly what these platforms were intended to promote – a social and interactive online environment.

So where does it go wrong? When you use this hashtag inconsistently. Hashtags are, after all, a communications strategy. Just as you (hopefully) know you must remain consistent in your other marketing and public relations efforts, you must also remain consistent in using this phrase with every piece of relevant content you post. Make it a destination to which people want to travel – and stay a while. This requires quality content that is updated frequently.

Now that you’ve learned the most common ways people are abusing this powerful social media tool, I hope you’ll go out and utilize the almighty hashtag with confidence and creativity. #goodluck!

What are some of the most egregious mistakes you’ve seen when using hashtags? Share your funny (and helpful) examples by commenting below (pet peeves are welcome)!

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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Are You Making the Biggest Social Media Mistake?

#fail

These days, everyone is on social media. But really though. There are fan pages for cats, Twitter profiles for cartoons and Instagram accounts devoted solely to food. It’s no wonder every business wants to also have a presence on these platforms because it’s where they can reach their targeted audience with interactive content that sparks discussion and builds brand loyalty.

With everyone diving in head first, this also provides a prime opportunity for a lot of mistakes. For the most part, these are minor errors or forgivable social infractions, but sometimes these mistakes can prove to be much worse – even deadly – for business. So what is the single biggest mistake businesses make with social media? It’s NOT having it be part of a bigger communications strategy.

The danger of a disconnected social media strategy

The most effective social media cannot be done in a vacuum. Nor can it be your only effort to communicate with your target audience. The danger is two-fold. First, you risk presenting a completely different voice on social media, one that does not resonate with the rest of your brand. Second, you turn off the power to all other means of communications that could help to amplify your social media efforts.

If you pique someone’s interest with a great Facebook post, only to send them to an outdated website that makes you look inexperienced or unprofessional, even the best social media efforts in the world won’t close the sale.

How to avoid this mistake

Luckily this is an easy problem to fix. It begins with identifying the missed communications opportunities outside of social media and paying special attention to the brand you want to create so that all efforts work in unison to achieve this end result. Knowing what to do is the easy part, but actually making the time to do it is where the problem most often lies. It can be overwhelming, especially to business owners who don’t consider themselves to be communications-savvy.

It’s good to keep in mind that outsourcing is always an option and the number of firms and consultants who offer these services are ever-growing. But proceed with caution. If you’re thinking about working with a person or company that only does social media, you may want to rethink this decision. It’s okay to be specialized or particularly experienced in a certain niche, but when it comes to your business communications, everything needs to flow together. The various ways in which you communicate with your target audience need to complement one another.

Instead look for a firm or consultant who offers multi-faceted communications strategies that go beyond just social media. You want someone who can also create content for your website, blog, e-newsletter and other promotional materials. This is the best way to ensure that the voice and messaging will stay consistent.

Steps you can take today

One. List your other current communication efforts. Do you have any? Maybe there’s a brochure or business card you hand out, but it’s badly outdated. Maybe you have a website that you push your targeted audience to visit, but it’s a static web page with cheesy clip art and bright fonts. Take a critical look at ALL the messages you’re sending out in various ways. How are people finding you and what is this saying about your business?

Two. Note the areas that need some TLC. So you have social media down to an art – after all, it is kind of fun. Now, turn your attention to the messaging on your website, blog, promotional materials and e-newsletters. How can they benefit from some of the modern messaging you’re putting out on social media? Create a vision for how they can better engage your audience, just like you’re doing on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc.

Three. Dedicate time in your schedule to tackle some of these tasks in order of priority. If you know you simply don’t have the time, allocate this work to an employee or hire a communications consultant to help you keep things moving forward. While you’ll need to invest in their time, if they allow you to keep doing what you do best while they improve your comprehensive communications strategy – that is a worthy investment!

Where have you seen the biggest social media mistake being made? Join in the discussion by commenting below!

 

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How to Cultivate Social Media Relationships (Outside of Social Media)

cultivate2Social media has forever changed the way we connect and communicate with people all across the globe. I’m always amazed to see the many various states – and countries – in which my followers reside. There’s no question that social media has fostered relationships that simply wouldn’t exist without this technology. Although social media helps to make communication easy and automated, there’s one very important aspect of relationship building that we must never put on autopilot or take for granted.

To cultivate meaningful (as well as beneficial) social media relationships, we must continue to build this connection outside of social media alone. Here are four important practices to help you foster your relationships and make yourself more than just an avatar.

Make it one-on-one

Following or friending a contact is only the first step, yet so many of us stop there and think we’ve built a meaningful relationship with someone. Sure, it’s exciting when your favorite celebrity follows you back on Twitter, but this hardly means you’re anything more than a number. To take it one step further, you have to seek out one-on-one interactions.

Once you get a good interaction going with someone on social media, such as a retweet, a like or a comment, follow-up with a private message (or even better an email) to continue the conversation on a more personal level. This could be a potential client, someone you admire or someone who has a question for you. While it’s not exactly face-to-face, in the virtual world, this one-on-one interaction makes you feel like you know the person on a much deeper level and is an important step in building a meaningful relationship outside of the massive, public social media platforms.

Reciprocate

It’s what every social media guru preaches, yet so often we still disregard this advice. To build a meaningful social media relationship, you must both give and take. If you have a connection that loyally supports you by retweeting, commenting, liking and sharing – look for opportunities to do the same for them!

The reason so many of us fail to do this is because we can’t rely on platforms like Hootsuite or Socialoomph to monitor this for us. Sure, they can tell us who interacted with our posts, but we need to take it one step further and closely follow our feeds, looking for appropriate times to reciprocate such support for news our contacts share. In doing so, we build mutual trust, respect and friendship that lay the groundwork for a meaningful relationship.

Put a face with a name

Any in-person, social function like a networking mixer, awards dinner or happy hour is a prime opportunity to take your social media relationships offline. There’s always that awkward moment when you know you’re already connected with someone on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook, but when you meet them in person for the first time you still introduce yourself like you’re complete strangers. Stop the madness!

So long as you’ve kept a clean and professional relationship with them on social media (i.e. no stalking or creepy personal messages), there’s no shame in acknowledging you’re already connected with them. Introduce yourself and let them know you’re connected online; they might be thinking the same thing but don’t want to say it. This will put a (real) face with a name and show that you’ve done your homework. It will also make you memorable. Which brings me to my final point…

Be memorable

To make yourself more than just an avatar, you must first make yourself someone worth remembering. Out of all the people who contact me for various reasons, I’ve found the most memorable ones to be those who feel the most genuine. It’s easy to spot a message that was written just for you versus one that’s being sent out to an entire contact list. Private messages on social media are a great tool for cultivating meaningful relationships, but they’re also heavily abused. Be sincere in why you’re contacting this person – this will show through and help you stand out among the spam. It will also increase your chances of getting a response in return.

In a world where virtually everything is accessible online, the need to build personal and meaningful relationships becomes ever more important. It’s possible to accrue thousands of followers without a single one knowing you beyond your twitter handle. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you should strive for quality – not quantity – of connections. For it’s how well you engage your audience that ultimately determines whether they become a future client or customer.

Do you actively cultivate your social media relationships? Share how you do it!

 
 

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Appearance vs Experience: How social media has changed what we value

taking a photoHow often would you say you check your social media news feeds and see a picture of a friend on vacation, enjoying a fancy dinner, attending an expensive sporting event, meeting a celebrity or buying something big like a car or a house? I would venture to say this is likely an everyday occurrence. It’s common for social media to attract information such as big announcements or fun experiences, but what’s concerning is the trend of sacrificing the full enjoyment of these experiences in order to amplify their appearance.

We are becoming a society that is more focused on the appearance of our life experiences than we are with the actual enjoyment our life experiences. We can no longer appreciate a Valentine’s Day dinner unless we first check-in to the restaurant on social media, share a picture of our pricy entree and finish with an overly mushy (and overly personal) post about our significant other. Why do we need the validation of our social networks to confirm that life is good? Your vacation still occurred whether it’s on your Facebook newsfeed or not and your new car still exists even if your Twitter followers haven’t seen a photo. But maybe the reality of our lives is no longer enough. Maybe now we feel we need a broader audience to really enjoy life’s pleasures. This thought begs the following question…

Do we value the appearance more than the experience?

If you have ever paused, recreated or staged a moment so you could take a photo for Facebook, then the answer is yes. If you have ever updated your status in the middle of a romantic dinner, on vacation or during a massage, the answer is yes. I know I’m just as guilty of this crime as many of you may be and worse yet, it’s a hard habit to break! Next time you’re experiencing something really fun or unique, resist the temptation to update your social media. It seems downright unnatural. In particular, Facebook is becoming a “brag book” where we seek approval and validation for almost everything we do in life. It’s simply not accurate, and a little absurd, to measure the importance of such special moments by the number of “likes” a photo receives. We need to reverse this trend by refocusing on the experience over the appearance. We need to disconnect, even briefly, to allow ourselves a chance to take in the memory of a moment.

While social media has become the catalyst for this problem, it is a platform for sharing. There’s no reason not to update your networks with good news or a photo of something you enjoy. This is only cause for concern if in doing so you diminish the real-life experience for yourself. If you’re too busy trying to capture everything on your iPhone, the world is going to pass you by. Sure you’ll have photos to remind you of these great memories, but wouldn’t you rather simply live them first hand?

Have you seen examples of this emerging trend? Maybe you’re even a contributor. Where do you find your enjoyment – in the appearance or the experience?

 

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The Growing Gap Between Technology and Wisdom

dunce cap

Technology is both a blessing and a burden. It allows us to access people and information all across the globe and has facilitated countless opportunities that would never exist without its advancements. But this doesn’t come without setbacks. Technology is moving at an increasingly rapid pace, a pace that society is struggling to match. A quote from Isaac Asimov sums this thought up quite well, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” This truth is only made more evident every time we see the misuse of social media or turn to a search engine to do the thinking for us. There’s a growing gap between technology and wisdom. Instead of embracing our ability to do more, we’re using it as a crutch to do less. Let’s take a look at a few trends that illustrate how technological advancements have come at the price of conventional wisdom.

Social Media Faux Pas

Spelling errors, outlandish or offensive statements and superficial thoughts are accepted without a bat of an eye on social media. Even if you keep your friend list to just close contacts, you’re still bound to see examples of these faux pas in your newsfeed on a daily basis. Social media has given each of us a soapbox and a megaphone, but not the common sense for how we should use it. The wisdom and better judgment we need to develop our “social media manners” is being outpaced by technology. As a result, we see daily examples of social media faux pas, some of which can be dangerous or hurtful. For the most part, social media is like the Wild West with no rules and infinite freedom. This is both a benefit and a pitfall. It will take time to develop the wisdom to utilize this technology with decorum, and it will also take our personal desire for higher standards. What can we do right now? Take careful consideration to what we share and how we share it. Use the same manners we would use when communicating through any other medium. It may be simple advice, but it’s not common sense – yet.

Lack of Common Knowledge

“I don’t know…Google it!” This is a phrase that’s echoed all across the globe. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s being said right now in multiple different languages. This is the easiest response to any question someone might ask of you. I don’t know if the bigger issue is that we don’t know the answers to so many simple questions or if we do but are just too lazy to retrieve them from memory. We can now type faster than we can think, and this is the ultimate problem. Search engines are right at our fingertips every hour of the day. Thanks to smart phones, they’re only ever as far as our pockets or purses.  I’m just as guilty as anyone else – if I want to know the capital of a state, convert feet to meters or check my spelling, I turn to Google. What did we ever do before? We committed information to memory. Search engines are fast, reliable and easy, but they’re not a replacement for actually learning the information they provide.

Communication Erosion

I’ve discussed before how technology can both bridge a gap and build a wall. It allows us more ways than ever to communicate and gives us instant access to people across the globe. But it also provides a shield that we can hide behind and has contributed to erosion in formal, face-to-face communication. When presented with all of our options, we usually choose email over phone calls and phone calls over in-person meetings. Throw social media into the mix, and Facebook messages and Tweets have become an even less formal way to get a hold of someone. This is a fine option for a quick message to a friend, but social media is not a replacement for sharing a project proposal or soliciting someone for their business. When it comes to sharing hard news or negative feedback, it’s even more tempting to hide behind technology.  Sending a generic Linkedin message to make an introduction or breaking up with someone over text may get the message across, but it won’t earn you any respect and won’t make you any (real) friends.

With all of the information we have at our fingertips, we are the “smartest” society yet. But in exchange, we have seemed to sacrifice our wisdom and ability to think critically for ourselves. Social media doesn’t spell check our egregious grammatical errors or review our half-baked thoughts, search engines have made us lazy and smart phones have made us dumb. These are the rock bottom standards that technology accepts from us, but we can demand better. Let’s aim a little higher. With awareness and commitment, we can maintain our wisdom even with rapid technological advancements. Let’s take an active role in growing our wisdom every day with the help of technology, not despite it.

In what ways have you seen the decline of conventional wisdom because of technology? Do you rely on search engines or smart phones to complete everyday tasks? Share your thoughts and add to the discussion by commenting below!

 
9 Comments

Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Social Media, Technology

 

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