Tagged: twitter

Will Social Media Kill the Marketing Industry? Spoiler Alert: No

ArmedTwitterI recently read an article on PolicyMic titled “Can Social Media Totally Kill the Marketing Industry?” and it got me thinking about the future of advertising. Apparently, PolicyMic is a “democratic online news platform,” which I have rather pessimistically interpreted to mean PolicyMic is a site where articles are written by people who want to share their opinions, as opposed to by people who actually have authority on the subject matter. This particular post was written by Cole Johnson, who raises an interesting question, but doesn’t really go on to answer it. He seems to imply that social media will undermine traditional marketing efforts and institutions, but never makes an argument as to why. In fact, Cole’s article actually ends up focusing more on the role technology plays in our world and how its use is influenced by age and other factors, but I’d like to discuss the question raised in the title.

Cole seems to suggest that because social media has been used by many companies – both large and small – to effectively market products and services, we’re on the road to the eradication of today’s marketing industry. And while I agree that we’ve seen a tremendous shift in the advertising industry over the last 5 years, I’m quite sure that the industry itself isn’t going anywhere. While the method of delivering advertisements and product information to consumers has changed considerably, there will always be a need for very creative and well-trained individuals who can create the images and copy to convey that information. Unfortunately, many companies have found out the hard way that putting a random employee in charge of the company Twitter account because they’re “good with computers” can be a pretty terrible idea. It’s not enough to sign up for a bunch of social accounts and start Tweeting about your products and services. There’s an art to crafting compelling messages and balancing self-promotion with providing value to your followers through the content you publish. This is the art of marketing.

In my opinion, social media has actually made the role of the marketer even more important. It’s like auto racing. The car is a piece of technology that the vast majority of Americans feel comfortable operating. Cars are part of our culture and driving one is something we often take for granted because we’ve been doing it for so long. So how come we’re not all trying our hand at the NASCAR circuit? We can all drive a car, right? If feeling comfortable with something and knowing how to operate it was the only requirement, then I should be the next Jeff Gordon. Much to my dismay, this will never be the case because a basic understanding and level of comfort with a piece of technology does not mean you are going to be good at using it. The use of social media at the highest level follows suit. Just because some employee signed up for Facebook in 2007, it doesn’t mean he or she is qualified to operate a Fortune 500 company’s Facebook Page. Just like with NASCAR, the creme of digital marketing rises to the top and they are the ones steering multi-million dollar social campaigns.

The stakes are so much higher now that social media has changed the game. If you released an offensive TV commercial in the 80s, you could pull the plug as soon as the calls started coming in and that would pretty much be the end of it. There might be some word-of-mouth damage done, but it would be relatively containable. These days, one errant Facebook post or rash Tweet in the heat of the moment can spell disaster for a brand’s reputation. Screenshots will be taken and the damage will spread like wildfire. Brands have spent months cleaning up 140 character messes made in a matter of seconds. The burden of creating a measurable ROI and not screwing things up in the process falls squarely on the shoulders of the marketing team or agency. And just because social media is at the fingertips of anyone who wants it, that doesn’t mean just anyone can use it to effectively sell goods or market a brand.

So is social media going to kill the marketing industry? In my mind, the definitive answer is “no.” If anything, social media is actually creating more opportunities for boutique firms like ours. As long as there are products and services to be sold, there will be a profession for people who excel at marketing these goods. The medium used to relate the information will definitely change over time, as we’ve seen with the introduction of social media, but the marketing industry is here to stay.

How has social media affected the way you market your business or are marketed to? Let me know in the comments!

Helpful Hint of the Day? Sign Up for HootSuite

hootsuite-logo-200x200Just a quick post today about a social media management tool that we’ve found to be extremely helpful for managing the myriad of social media accounts on behalf of clients. The tool is called HootSuite and as far as social media management tools go, we think it’s top dog.

If you’re a small business or even a social media maven that manages multiple personal accounts, this web tool will make your life about a million times easier. With an intuitive dashboard and features like link shortening and post scheduling, it’s the perfect blend of simplicity and power. They also have a GREAT iPhone app that makes managing your social presence on the go even easier.

After you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to link social media accounts that you manage to HootSuite. The simplistic design makes for a very seamless linking process. Just click “Add a Social Network” to get started.

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After you’ve connected a few accounts, use the navigation toolbar on the left to move from feature to feature.

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Clicking on “Streams” will bring up the page that you will see every time you launch HootSuite. This is your main dashboard and where you will manage your accounts.

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The social media accounts that you manage are represented towards the top as tabs. The vertical columns that comprise a majority of the screen are called “Streams”. Essentially, Streams are just dynamic feeds of information from the social media accounts you’re managing, like @mentions, direct messages, news feeds, and more. Selecting “Add Stream” on a particular tab will bring up a small window that lists the types of streams you can add, depending on the type of social media account contained in that tab (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.).

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Once you get a few Streams added for each account, you can begin exploring all of the features HootSuite has to offer. Compose a status update or Tweet for any of your accounts, right from the ever-present “Compose Message…” field towards the top of the dashboard.

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The icons to the right of the input field allow you to attach an image, add your location, or even schedule the message to post at a later time or date. For you Twitter users, you can shorten links from here as well. Using this feature will allow you to track the number of people who have clicked on a particular link in the analytics page of HootSuite – a very useful feature, especially if you’re using HootSuite for business.

I can’t tell you how much easier life has gotten since signing up for this service. Being able to see all of our clients’ social interactions from one dashboard has been invaluable and has cut down our management time significantly. And even though this was just a quick run-through of the basic features HootSuite has to offer, I hope it has enticed you to sign up and start exploring what this powerful tool can do. The basic version is free and will allow you to do everything I mentioned above and more. HootSuite Pro is only $9.99/month and gives you access to pretty much every feature you’d want in a social management tool.

So whether you’re a growing business that’s looking for a way to simply manage your various social media accounts, or just a social media enthusiast that’s tired of logging into 5 different accounts throughout the day to manage your social life, HootSuite’s probably the solution for you. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments!

5 Tips When Using Twitter for Business

TwitterforBizAs we have seen many times, using Twitter for your business can be a very useful tool or a headache waiting to happen. But rather than focusing on all the ways Twitter can sink your ship, I’d like to discuss 5 Twitter strategies you can begin using right now to increase your ROIoT (Return On Investment of Time).

1. Recalibrate your expectations

If you run a B2B company and you’re launching a new social media initiative in hopes of attracting 10,000 new followers during your two-week campaign, you’re most likely in for a world of disappointment. Simply put…it jus’ don’t work that way. Sure, Cinderella stories of a company’s Tweets going viral and skyrocketing their business do exist, but they are extremely rare and almost impossible to contrive. I once heard Twitter described as farming, rather than hunting. I thought this analogy was simple and perfect. Building a following is a slow process that takes time and effort. So whether you’re thinking about signing up or have been Tweeting for a while, make sure your expectations are reasonable.

2. Loosen up

Are you a stuffy person? Does your business have personality? If you had no bias regarding your own products or services, would you find them intriguing or interesting? These are all questions you should think about when developing your Twitter strategy. Successful businesses on Twitter provide value to their users. This can be in the form of sharing compelling news or information, contributing humor, or providing insights into products customers care about. If your business doesn’t have broad consumer appeal and you get too wrapped up in coming across as unprofessional, you might not find a lot of success on Twitter. It’s important to give your business personality or if you’re the CEO, you can even Tweet as yourself on behalf of your business. And when developing your voice, make sure you don’t come across as stuffy. If LinkedIn is your white, starched shirt, Twitter should be your Hawaiian party shirt.

3. Be a giver, not a taker

If the main objective of your Twitter strategy is to generate sales, chances are you won’t be successful. Twitter works best when your main objective is to provide interesting content or perspective, rather than market to a wide audience of potential customers. Generally, we follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of your Tweets should be adding to the general “conversation” and 20% can be about your own products or services. But be careful to never get too salesy. Twitter users will spot rampant self-promotion from a mile away and will unfollow you so fast, it’ll make your head spin. And the truly egregious offenders stand to suffer a fate much worse: being torn to shreds in the Twittersphere by a mob of unimpressed and annoyed users. My condolences, your Twitter presence was just destroyed by a pack of angry micro-bloggers.

4. Use hashtags and create conversations

What’s more accurate, a sniper rifle or a shotgun? Now, without getting into semantics or a gun control debate, let me make my point: spraying scattered bits of information into an extremely large area is not a very effective way to hit your target. When using Twitter, your goal should be to create meaningful interactions with other users. Even if you have good information to share, it’s not enough to type out a 140-character factoid and hit “Tweet.” Use hashtags to help collate your input into relevant conversations and use @replies and mentions to begin a dialogue with specific users. This is a much more precise way to use Twitter and will greatly increase your chances of being retweeted or getting a response from someone and, ultimately, starting a meaningful interaction.

5. Have fun

At the end of the day, Twitter is a pretty fascinating place where a lot of very interesting/funny/exciting/uncomfortable/memorable conversations take place. Have a secret obsession with Kim Kardashian? Follow her. Geek out over anything “NASA?” Follow them and let your nerd flag fly. Make your Twitter presence sustainable by not only following people affiliated with your business or industry, but by keeping tabs on the things that you find fun and that help give your business personality. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal (but not this personal) and to show your followers insights into your business that they can’t get anywhere else. Be yourself (Unless you’re stuffy. In that case, see tip #2) and have fun with this component of your business outreach. There’s definitely a lot to be had.

Have any Twitter tips that have proven useful for you or your business? Share them with me! And if you are interested in a more personal assessment of your Twitter strategy, please contact me at tyler@sumseattle.com.

 

Download Vine and Enter the Jungle

urlYet another social media site has taken the web by storm. Vine, Twitter’s newest micro-video sharing platform, allows users to share 6 second looping videos, comprised of smaller video clips. Videos can then be shared via Twitter, Facebook, or your Vine account (where users are encouraged to follow others, much like Twitter). While there are other mini-movie platforms out there, Vine has been able to generate a lot of buzz in the two short weeks it’s been available. As of right now, Vine is only available on Apple devices, but rumors of an Android version coming to market soon are swirling.

We downloaded Vine and started exploring. To be honest, we didn’t really know how much one could do with only 6 seconds to work with. Turns out, you can do a lot.

The interface is actually quite slick. It’s easy enough to connect your Twitter account or sign up via email. As of right now, Vine doesn’t support switching between multiple Twitter accounts. This could be a bummer for users that manage a personal account and a business account.

Once your Vine account is set up, you are led through the process of creating and posting your first Vine. Creating a looping video made out of multiple smaller clips (if desired, you can just record 6 straight seconds of video without taking advantage of the ability to splice together smaller clips) and have the result look half-way decent might be difficult to get the hang of at first. It was for us. But after a little practice, we felt like a couple of Spielbergs and shared our first Vine on Twitter and Facebook.

Here’s some shots of the process involved in creating a Vine:

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One of the features I like most about Vine is how easy they made the process of capturing video. Rather than requiring users to press a small button to start recording (like the native iPhone camera), you can press any part of the screen between the two gray bars. This makes capturing video on the move a lot easier. The rounded rectangular bar at the top lets you know how much time you have left out of your allotted 6 seconds. You start recording by pressing and holding your finger on the screen and stop recording by lifting your finger.

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I held down my finger for a couple seconds and then lifted. The result was a short video clip of my bonsai tree…which is looking a bit sad at the moment. He’s got the winter blues. The partially filled-in bar at the top shows my progress.

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Press your finger a bit longer and it takes another clip. The clips can be as short as it takes you to press down your finger and remove it. I tried to see how many clips I could create (by pressing down and releasing as quickly as possible) and I managed to make a video comprised of 76 smaller clips. With capability like this, people could get very creative and use Vine for stop animation or to create miniature flip books. Very cool.

The green checkmark at the bottom-right signifies that you have taken enough video to allow for an upload. It seems to pop up after you have about 2 seconds-worth of footage. I like that they allow you to upload clips shorter than the full 6 seconds. The flexibility is nice.

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When you are happy with your Vine, you click the checkmark and the “Next” button pops up. At this point, the screen above the button shows the looping video you have created. This allows you to decide whether or not you are happy with your Vine. If not, you can press the “X” in the top-right corner and start over.

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Clicking “Next” adds the Vine to your camera roll and takes you to the page, shown above. This is where you can add your caption, which supports hashtags and @-sign mentions. There doesn’t seem to be a character limit (at least it’s not 140 characters), but keeping the description of your masterpiece short and sweet is advisable if you plan on sharing your Vine on Twitter. You can also choose to share it on Vine’s native social site or Facebook.

As bonsai trees are not particularly interesting to many people other than myself, below you can check out the first Vine SUM shared with the world.

https://twitter.com/sumseattle/status/299958426950320128

So far, we’ve had a lot of fun playing with Vine and we definitely see the opportunity for businesses. Much like the business world’s adoption of Instagram, an app like this allows companies to show a little more of their personalities. The applications of Vine are endless and users are only bound by 6 seconds and their own creativity. All of that being said, there are a few bugs and missing features that should be addressed in version 2.0. Mashable put together a great list of desirable features and we couldn’t agree more.

Because Vine is so new, it’s a bit of a jungle out there. Besides people using the site for lascivious activities, it doesn’t have a firm identity, nor is there a clear understanding of what or how you should post. But where there’s uncertainty, there’s almost always opportunity. So download the app and give it a shot. Let your creativity run wild and I bet you’ll have more fun than you think.

LinkedIn is Playing Catch-up, But New Company Pages Might be the Answer

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LinkedIn – referred to by some (us) as the boring little brother of Facebook and Twitter – has just gotten a little more interesting. They have rolled out a new set of features for their company pages and while they seemed to be a little behind the eight ball in the past, we think this launch just helped them make up a lot of ground.

The improvements are listed in the promotional email we received as follows:

  • Large brand image
  • Streamline design
  • Greater prominence for status updates
  • Featured posts

The email also mentions that the new and improved company pages now appear on LinkeIn’s mobile and iPad apps. Definitely a plus for enterprises using the site.

It seems like just yesterday I was writing a very similar blog post about Twitter. After Facebook and Google+ launched cover photo functionality for companies, the other two social giants weren’t far behind. But LinkedIn is hoping that the extra bells and whistles will attract even more companies to the site and increase traffic, which will hopefully increase their ad revenue.

Our first impression of the new company pages is a good one. They have a sleek look and the new cover photo, which they refer to as a “large branded image”, doesn’t overpower you when you arrive on the page. And as a company page administrator, you are easily able to share articles or post updates, right when you log in. Here’s what our company page now looks like after updating our page. 

SUM Page

Interested in which companies are on top of their social media presence, we started perusing LinkedIn, looking for companies that have already updated their pages. Here’s a screen shot of Dell’s new company page.

Dell Cover

Compare Dell’s page to Sony’s, who is obviously a little slower on the uptake. 

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Most companies’ pages still look like Sony’s. Compared to the sparkly, new pages of some of the companies that have already made the switch, they look a little drab…nothing new on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn claims that their newer page design better highlights the products and careers sections of a company’s profile. The site allows you to either list out your products/services or add multiple customized product photos that can be scrolled through after clicking on the “Products” tab on a company’s page. Only a few companies received a sneak peak and were allowed to make these adjustments early. Dell was one of those companies and made use of the scrolling image option (see below).

Dell Products 1

Dell Products 2

And while Sony was not let into the club early, they haven’t even take the time to list their products under the old layout. Tisk, tisk.

Sony Products

The LinkedIn update is definitely a positive one and a step in the right direction. Companies have been using Facebook to interact with customers for a long time now, but some Business-to-Business companies are still wondering if setting up and maintaining a Facebook page is worth it. They see value in connecting with people, but the CFO’s niece isn’t going to buy a million dollar airplane part. These new LinkedIn pages offer the branding opportunity that Facebook offers, but in a much more professional setting. This could be exactly what the social network needs to take the next step towards even more daily use. Well done, LinkedIn. We approve.

To give you a head-start on your new LinkedIn company page image, the dimensions are 646 x 220 pixels. And if you have any thoughts on LinkedIn’s new strategy for business customers, let us know in the comments section!

Myspace: They’re Bringing Sexy Back (Yeah)

Myspace owners Chris and Tim Vanderhook, along with Justin Timberlake, have debuted a preview of the new and improved Myspace.com and, to be honest, I’m actually quite impressed. They’ve essentially taken components of what has made several other social media giants successful (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest), and combined them in a slick, new layout that stays true to its original purpose: uniting artists and fans around their love of music. 

Header

 

Style Revamp

The first thing that struck me is the overhaul to the basics: background, coloring, typography, etc. The new look is polished, modern, and makes great use of negative space and differences in font size. By letting users customize their original Myspace pages, the site became an amalgamation of obnoxious color combinations and graphics, and it lacked brand consistency. It seems as though they’re moving away from this overuse of customization and, instead, offering users an interface they can all be content with. My first impression left me wondering “Why didn’t they do this sooner?”.

Profile Setup2

 Profile

 

Back to Basics

Myspace has helped launch the careers of many musicians and while a lot of the original users jumped ship when Facebook became popular, the core set of diehard musicians and their fans have stuck with the original social network and are about to be rewarded handsomely with a beautiful, new website. As a nod to its heritage and loyal users, Myspace has improved many aspects of its music-centered features and, again, updated everything with their new look. The preview shows a feature called “Mixes” – much like Facebook’s “Albums” –  that allows users to share photos and event information, all centered around playlists they’ve built. On the flip side, musicians are able to track fan activity and information relevant to their music in a new overview section of their fan info page. Justin Timberlake, an investor in Myspace, is featured heavily throughout the walkthrough and appears to be the celebrity face of the new publicity push. 

Mixes

Fan Map

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The Stream

If Pinterest and Facebook’s Timeline had a baby, it would look like “The Stream”. It’s a collection of posts from your friends and artists you follow, but it’s presented in a very visual way, much like Pinterest. The Stream scrolls across the page horizontally, making for a unique user experience, but one that has yet to be tested en masse.

The Stream

 

Tweet That

And as if not to leave out Twitter, Myspace has incorporated trending topics and 140-character updates into their new site. The “Trending” feature is also presented in a Pinterest-like manner and it definitely captures your attention. And following the rest of their styling changes, their 140-character updates are bold and make use of interesting typography.

Trending140 Characters 

To SUM It Up

To say Myspace got a makeover is an understatement. You can tell they’ve been spending a lot of time collecting the best looks and features from their competition and are rolling it out in a new and exciting way, but one that stays true to their musical background. Who knows if they can be a contender once again…but they’re definitely on the right track.

New Myspace

To preview the new Myspace, click here

Twitter Adds Custom Header Images #CoverPhotosMuch?

In a move towards even more customization, Twitter has rolled out the ability to create and upload what they’re calling “header images” to your profile. Bigger than profile pictures, but smaller than Facebook’s cover photos, the new header image lets users and companies add a little extra flair to their profile page, on top of the already customizable Twitter background.

But in an interesting twist, Twitter has decided to layer your info and your profile picture on top of your header image, presumably in hopes that users will create customized header images that incorporate the profile picture into the image (see below).

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Now, this is not a new concept. Facebook users have been cleverly blending profile pictures and cover photos since they rolled out the new Timeline layout, but Twitter is the first social giant to plant a flag and design a feature around this idea. It seems as though Twitter’s less graphically inclined users might get a little frustrated with having to take the time to create this customized image combination if they want to have a header image, which could land Twitter in a perpetual state of limbo – where some users have embraced the new header image, and many others have not. As of right now, if you don’t choose to have a header image, your profile appears as you’re used to. This way, only users who see value in creating a custom image that works nicely with their profile picture will be the ones with the new feature.

At best, the new header images will offer a creative outlet for Twitter’s users and add another point of interest while checking out someone’s profile page. At worst, they have just created an aesthetic fissure on their site between those willing to take the time to play along and those that are not. While this might be a little overdramatic, it’s one step towards the mess that Myspace found themselves in, due to over-customization and a decentralized look (stay tuned, more on that tomorrow!).

If you’re interested in creating your own header image, here’s a link to a blog post that takes you through the steps. If you want SUM to whip you up something fancy, send us an email at info@sumseattle.com

Social Media – Let’s Cut to the Chase

WebLet’s face it – what started out as an exciting new platform for engaging potential customers, has become a sometimes shallow, polluted environment of over-sharing and “me, me, me” attitudes. I’m talking, of course, about social media.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think (when used properly) sites like Twitter and Facebook can have a profound effect on startups and small businesses and can allow you to develop relationships with people you would have had a difficult time connecting with several years ago. But the focus has shifted from using these tools in meaningful and effective ways, to merely signing up and running a half-hearted campaign with no real idea of what we’re doing and why. Enough is enough.

Below is a list of some of the most popular social media sites and a rundown of what they are designed to do and what impact they may have on your business.

 

Facebook: Perhaps the king of social sites, it’s hard to overlook Facebook. Having signed up for my profile when Facebook still required a college email address to do so, I’m quite familiar with this behemoth of a social site. In addition to being a good way to communicate with and receive feedback from customers and partners, Facebook has become a standard of legitimacy for most businesses. Are there exceptions? Sure. If you have absolutely no consumer-facing products or services and you work exclusively with one major company or client, then you can probably go without. But everyone else should have a profile for their business.

The cover photo provides an excellent opportunity to show off your branding and the enormous user-base makes it a great choice for large-scale messaging campaigns. But be careful; the sheer volume of users can also make it difficult for you to connect with the RIGHT people and you can end up putting in a lot of time and getting out little value.

Twitter: Twitter can be tricky. It is more about giving than receiving and building a large group of followers can take a lot of time. I try to use the 80/20 rule. 80% of things you tweet about should be adding value (sharing an article or interesting thought) and be related to your core competency. 20% can be slightly personal or humorous. By providing good info, rather than adding to the clutter, you will build loyal followers that are likely to retweet you and actually pay attention to the rare tweets that promote your business.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is made up of professionals from all over the world and is geared towards business networking and professional relationship building. This is not the place to constantly post about your latest product and doing so can irritate your peers and damage your reputation. LinkedIn is more of a “rainy day” social site. It is a virtual rolodex, of sorts, and it creates value by allowing you to stay in touch with and meet new contacts that could be key for your business some day. It’s not about the here and now, but rather about building a solid set of online contacts, facilitating industry discussions, and keeping apprised of relevant topics, as well as being an excellent tool when hiring for your business.

Google+: Google+ is relatively new to the scene, but it has grown quickly. With more than 100 million users, it’s definitely worth considering. Unfortunately, many consider its interface to be confusing and less than aesthetically pleasing. I tend to agree, but I have also discovered some inherent value there that may be worth tapping into. You can use the “Circles” feature to disseminate information to a targeted demographic, rather than blasting the information to all of your followers. Share things that may only be relevant to your local customers with your “Local Circle”. This gets your message to the right eyeballs, easier. Google is also starting to use their “G+” feature to help rank websites on their search pages. Websites with a lot of “plusses” (similar to “Likes” on Facebook) will start to show up higher on search results pages than their competitors. This feature should not be ignored.

Instagram: Instagram is a photo sharing app for Android and iPhone that was recently purchased by Facebook for a cool billion dollars. And with Facebook behind them now, it’s no longer a “hipster-only” affair and it’s worth paying attention to. If you have an exciting office space or do a lot of on-site work where photo opportunities are abundant, Instagram is a great way to show your followers a more personal side to your business.

Pinterest: Pinterest is a photo curating site that has been receiving a lot of press recently. Anyone can sign up and surf millions of pictures, looking for inspiration, a laugh, or just something interesting. Businesses have been signing up by the boat-loads and many are left wondering how to extract value from the site. If you have products that are visually appealing or very consumer-facing, Pinterest can be a good opportunity to get your work out there. But if you do B2B consulting or work mostly in the virtual realm, Pinterest might be a waste of time. Time is the most precious commodity in the startup world, so don’t feel the need to sign up, just because it’s the new, hip thing.

 

To sum it up, social media is a two-edged sword. These sites can be invaluable tools for connecting with customers and promoting your company, but they can also trap you in a time-sucking vortex of updating, posting, and sharing. The key is to choose the right websites for your business, outline specific goals for your social media presence, and post in a way that adds to the whole and elicits interactions.

So spend time thinking about what you want to get out of this experience and what you can offer others. When in doubt, default to a “less is more” mentality and be patient. The old idiom “It is better to give than to receive” should be your mantra every time you log into your accounts. So choose right, manage your time, and above all – have fun!

 

For more info on social media and how it can be customized to help your business, contact info@sumseattle.com and ask us about our social media offering.