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5 Key characteristics every Social Media Community Manager should have

Social media is an effective tool to engage your target audience, drive website traffic and, ultimately, boost sales; so why do so few companies employ a social media community manager? You know, the person that manages the whole thing?

It seems crazy, in the midst of a global financial crisis, to suggest that companies should go to the expense of hiring a community manager to oversee their social media presences. But at our company, Tomorrow People, we’ve been developing our community management team and processes to real effect over the past 16 months. I also know that HubSpot invests in employees dedicated solely to managing their social media presence, as well as many other companies we work with — and they’re all seeing great results from it. So how do you make the leap? This post will tell you everything you need to know about integrating a community manager into your marketing department.

First, what are the benefits of having a community manager?

By employing a team of full-time and part-time community managers, we’ve cut down on the number of sales people we need to employ because the inbound leads we’re producing are highly qualified. We’re doing the same for our clients, such as LinuxIT and Workbooks; by engaging effectively with communities online, their sales teams are more efficient because they’re receiving far more qualified leads.

We’ve also noticed that employing a community manager drives approximately 30% more traffic to our website every month. Additionally, our average visitor-to-lead conversion rate for our B2B clients is 8%. Some of our clients even have no sales people, as they sell online: so the community managers are driving their sales directly!

For us, it has made sense to hire a community management team, but it may make sense for other companies to retain these skills — it’s all about finding people with the right skills and enabling them to develop a community for you in the long-term.

Where does the community manager role fit?

Building efficiency into our process to generate more leads, we apply the lean manufacturing continuous improvement methodology Six Sigma to our internal processes, assuming the leads are the final output. We use HubSpot to measure our traffic and social media engagement.

We have packaged the model into a 5-step methodology we call Zoober: listen, create, engage, transform, grow. This is a process of continuous improvement, where we constantly measure and amend our approach. Our community management team delivers the ‘Engage’ stage of this model — telling people what we’re doing and bringing them to our website.

What are a community manager’s roles and responsibilities?

1) Sets Up and Manages Profiles – Nothing makes your company look like it doesn’t care like half-filled in, out of date employee and company pages on LinkedIn or Facebook. Our community management team sets up and manages our company and employee social media profiles and groups. This involves setting up the content within our social media publishing tool — we use HubSpot, but just transfer this step to whatever tool you use — and ensuring profiles are standardized and present the company in a professional light.

2) Listens to the Buzz – A good community manager should listen to the buzz already online — finding out what groups your target audience is joining on LinkedIn, for example, and who they’re following on Twitter. What are they talking about? Who are your rivals? What are they interested in? When are they most likely to read a tweet, or an update? Are they aware of your brand? Who are the key influencers within your industry who you should develop a long lasting relationship with?

Community managers should also investigate the various social media automation tools available, and stay up to date with technology, marketing, and industry news.

3) Grows the Network – A good community manager should then grow your networks by engaging every day online (via forums and owned communities) and offline (via events, conferences, and meet ups). They should also, of course, craft status updates, posts, and tweets — because like most of your other marketing channels, social media also depends on sharing excellent content.

They should also increase your Facebook fans and quality Twitter and LinkedIn contacts. Quantity is important to establish reach, but your community manager should also focus on creating a larger base of high quality social media fans and followers. A thousand Facebook friends from the wrong industry may not be as valuable as 20 very influential friends with the right connections.

4) Distributes Content – Your community manager should promote your blog and website content to your network. They should help your company foster meaningful business discussions that will allow you to reach your target audience and gain more clients. It’s about dialogues, not monologues.

This should include blogger outreach, too — finding the right person to get to know and ask for guest blogging opportunities. You could also consider reaching out to the publications, forums, and Q&A sites your target audience uses.

5) Joins the Conversation – This involves replying to online questions and comments immediately, giving your brand a face, and creating a relationship with prospects. The community manager should represent the client’s voice, but should also be able to get their individual personality across. Especially in blogger outreach, conversation should come naturally to them — they shouldn’t be struggling to find a voice when contacting strangers.
What does the community manager not do?

A community manager isn’t responsible for:
– Marketing strategy
– Content creation
– Email marketing
– Lead nurturing

These tasks detract from the central role, but are all too often lumbered on community managers.

Is it worth it?

It’s definitely worth the effort for us — and we’re sure it could be worth it for you, too! Too many companies don’t bother with social media engagement, or engage with it in an ad hoc fashion. Simply asking your copywriter to tweet every now and again, or getting the intern to update your company LinkedIn profile, won’t cut it; you need people who can focus on this role strategically and consistently to engage your online audience effectively. The benefits are clear — but the process requires a professional.

You should also remember that while hiring a community manager is certainly an expense, you could save money hiring sales people or in other marketing hires. Develop a process or methodology to ensure you continually improve your social media results each month, and document & review those processes every month. Give your community management team great tools & remarkable content to get the best results. Managing social media communities is a highly skilled, challenging role — which is why we’re amazed how many companies think they can get their intern to do it in their spare time.


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10 Creative ways to use Instagram for Business

Are you thinking about putting your business on Instagram? Are you looking for content ideas for this increasingly popular mobile social platform?

Read further to discover how you can use Instagram to give your business extra visibility and better engage with the Instagram community.

What Is Instagram?
Instagram is a free mobile photo-sharing app with 80 million users and counting. It has seen many changes lately. Instagram was acquired by Facebook in April 2012, launched a redesign on iOS that includes a new “Explore” tab and is rumored to be developing a web presence (so that users can see photos online, not just on the mobile app).

Social media management platform HootSuite also recently announced the addition of Instagram to its app directory. This gives HootSuite users access to almost all of Instagram’s features, which include searching, viewing and liking content, adding comments and sharing photos to other social platforms.

Clearly, Instagram is an up-and-coming photo-focused social platform not to be ignored. So what can your brand do with it? Here are 10 creative ways your business can use Instagram.

#1: Show Your Products
Everyone loves to browse products, so let your followers do some mobile window-shopping! Show off a collection of the products you offer, share a photo of a new or lesser-known product or zoom in on a product and engage your Instagram followers by asking them to guess what it is.

Got a service-oriented business? Show off some of the equipment and supplies that play a role in the services you provide. For example, fitness trainers could show off their favorite workout equipment, photographers could reveal their most prized camera lens and mechanics might give us a look at their most sophisticated diagnostic equipment.

Rogue Ales, a craft brewery based in Newport, Oregon with over 3,000 Instagram followers, shared a photo of its many varieties of ales, porters, lagers, stouts and spirits, effectively reminding fans that they have something for everyone.

Rogue Ales shows off its beer selection.

Rogue Ales shows off its beer selection.

#2: Show How It’s Made
The longevity of the show How It’s Made is a testament to our curiosity about where our manufactured goods come from. Let followers in on the origins of their favorite products with snapshots taken at various points in the manufacturing process. If that process is a long one, you might consider making it a multi-part post that follows the process from planning to production to delivery.

Bloomington, Indiana-based Oliver Winery used another app such as PicStitch or PhotoGrid to create a collage of photos to demonstrate how its wine goes into its bottles.

Oliver Winery takes its Instagram followers through its bottling process.

Oliver Winery takes its Instagram followers through its bottling process.

#3: Go Behind the Scenes
Getting ready to launch or promote products and services is hard work, but presents many opportunities to get some great content for Instagram. Doing a photo shoot for a catalog or ad? Filming a commercial? Getting made-up for a media interview? Or getting ready to step out on the red carpet? These are moments that very few people get to experience in real life. Think of Instagram as a way to give all of your followers an exclusive backstage pass!

The fashion-forward retailer Nordstrom treated its 27K Instagram followers to a rare look at what goes into the production of its catalog.

Nordstrom takes fans along on a photo shoot.

Nordstrom takes fans along on a photo shoot.

#4: Show What Your Products Can Do
Sometimes our imagination only takes us so far. Use Instagram to create demand by helping consumers imagine new or novel uses for what you offer. This is also a perfect opportunity to invite user-generated content. Have fans submit their own photos demonstrating creative use of your products and pick the best ones to post on Instagram.

If your business provides a service like makeup or hair design, landscaping, decorating, auto body repair or interior design, show your Instagram followers the impact of your work with a shot of your subject before and after you work your magic. The side-by-side comparison will add the wow factor to your Instagram content and maybe even get you a few new customers.

Cosmetics retailer Sephora used Instagram to spotlight an unusual product that most of us do not have in our makeup bags, giving followers a better idea of how it might look out of the package and on someone’s lashes.

Sephora helps makeup enthusiasts imagine what it would look like to don lashes with spots and highlights.

Sephora helps makeup enthusiasts imagine what it would look like to don lashes with spots and highlights.

#5: Give a Sneak Peek
Everyone likes to be the first to know… well… anything. Make your Instagram followers feel special and give them exclusive previews of products and services, or virtual tours of your new stores, production facilities or offices in the making. Things never seen before make for particularly shareable content, so be sure to publish the post to Facebook and Twitter as well, since Instagram does not yet have a sharing or reposting function.

Makers of rugged bags and footwear Keen posted a picture of its future headquarters in the midst of construction to satisfy the curiosity of those who might be wondering where their favorite shoes will be coming from.

Keen shows off its future home.

Keen shows off its future home.

#6: Show Your Office
People who follow their favorite brands on social media have probably asked at one time or another, “I wonder what it’d be like to work there?” Well, show them!

Post photos that provide a glimpse of a-day-in-the-life at your office—work areas, the corporate gym or play-field, decked-out cubicles, brainstorming meetings in progress, training sessions, employees at lunch, employees at play—the opportunities here are countless. If you’re hiring, be sure to point people to your online job postings in the caption.

Beloved online shoe store Zappos shows fans that even its employees work in cubicle-land, albeit a very fun, colorful one that matches its friendly brand personality.

Zappos shares a glimpse of its colorful workspace.

Zappos shares a glimpse of its colorful workspace.

#7: Take Us With You
Going to a trade-show or sponsoring an event? Use that as an opportunity to take your Instagram followers with you wherever you’re going. Followers in those locations will be tickled to know you’re in their neighborhood. Folks can also get a better feel for your brand by learning about the events or causes you attend, support or sponsor.

Major League Soccer team the Seattle Sounders gave fans an off-field glimpse of its players doing something quite ordinary, standing around waiting at an airport with luggage in hand.

The Seattle Sounders soccer team takes its fans along to LAX.

The Seattle Sounders soccer team takes its fans along to LAX.

#8: Introduce Your Employees
Humanize your brand by using Instagram to introduce your fans to the people who make your company what it is. Spotlighted employees will enjoy the recognition (and a few seconds of fame) and Instagram followers will get a chance to see the people behind the brand. You might even want to make this profile an ongoing campaign that takes fans around the office to meet staff serving a variety of roles within your company. Be sure to punch up the post and share a little about each employee in the caption.

Keen put a human face to its brand with a shot of a spreadsheet-wielding employee.

Keen employee at work.

Keen employee at work.

#9: Share Celebrity Sightings

Let’s face it. We live in a society that is crazy about celebrities—we know who they’re dating, what they’re eating and where they go to vacation. Cash in on celebrity cachet and share pictures of them interacting with your brand, whether they’re signing autographs at your sponsored event, speaking, visiting your office or even using your products or services. These posts will be sure to get followers talking.

Sony Electronics shared a photo from a celebrity appearance at an Xperia event to grab the attention of Maroon 5 fans on Instagram.

Sony shares a shot of Maroon 5 signing autographs at one of its events.

Sony shares a shot of Maroon 5 signing autographs at one of its events.

#10: Share the Cuteness
There is no denying the appeal of animals in social media. Lolcats, Cute Overload and the countless other awwwww-inducing blogs out there are proof that there is capital in cuteness.

Whether they’re pets visiting the office, starring in your ads or animals sporting your schwag, never miss an opportunity to get a snapshot to share on Instagram. Our furry friends can be counted on to get likes and comments from followers.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art gave its followers the warm fuzzies (and collected many likes) with a photo of a dog sporting an SFMOMA t-shirt.

Canine decked out in SFMOMA schwag.

Canine decked out in SFMOMA schwag.


Read full article: 10 Creative ways to use Instagram for Business »


3 key components of building an Instagram Community

Building a large Instagram following can often be quite challenging for brands. To date, the photo sharing super-network is almost completely a mobile one, and to further the challenge, Twitter recently cut off Instagram users from being able to find out which of their Twitter friends are also on Instagram.

Instagram is tough, but it is worth it. Images are such a gigantic part of social content sharing these days and Instagram does a great job at simplifying the process. If you have a visual story to tell, Instagram should be part of your digital marketing playbook.

So how the heck do you build a following on a network that is so tough to find people on? Here are some of the basic components of a successful Instagram community building campaign. Master these and you are on your way to Instagram success.

Hashtags

Hashtags are a critical component of building an Instagram following. They are a great way to find users that share the same types of content as you do as well as a great way for those users to find you.

You always want to include one or more hash tags in every photo you upload. Just as important as including the hashtags is making sure that they are tags that are commonly used. After all, what good is tagging something if nobody is ever going to search for that tag?

A great way to find trending and popular hashtags is to use a third-party tool like Statigr.am. You should never mislead users by loading your post up with unrelated but trending hashtags, but trending hashtags lists are usually diverse enough to include one or more related to your photo. For example, if your picture is of the front of your new office building, your company name may not be the best hashtag, but #architecture or #building maybe better for attracting more eyeballs to your image.

On the flip side, you should be actively seeking new followers by searching on the hashtags most related to your brand. There is a great deal of reciprocity on Instagram so if you find someone who looks like they may be interested in your brands, follow them. Look through their images and like and comment on the ones that have relevance to your brand. You should see this outreach pay off in reciprocal follows, likes and comments.

Activity
To build a solid Instagram community, you really need to post regularly. As with just about any social network regular, smart network activity results in a larger following.

Try to post daily and at different times of the day. Instagram is an international mobile network, so it is generally more difficult to pin down a time that is best to post at. In building a following, you don’t want the same people seeing your photos every day. Mix it up to broaden and grow your audience.

Promotion
Use your existing digital properties to promote your Instagram photos. As with any new social account, you need to let your base know that it exists. One way is to create your own hashtag and promote it offline and on. You should also connect your account to your social networks to amplify the reach of your account. Currently, Instagram allows users to share photos to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and foursquare. Use your success on these other networks to your advantage here.

The Takeaway
Unless your brand is top of mind for the average consumer, Instagram isn’t the easiest network to build a large community on quickly, but the value it offers to your digital marketing campaigns makes it an important tool. The good news is that just about every other marketer out there is up against the same challenges. With knowledge of the tools available and a little creativity, you should be able to build a solid, engaged community for your brand.


Read full article: 3 key components of building an Instagram Community »


Women prefer Pinterest, young adults choose Instagram

If you’re someone who likes to post original photos and videos online, there’s a name for you. You’re a creator, according to research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “Creators,” who post photos and videos online that they made, make up 46% of Internet users. The 41% who gather videos they find elsewhere and post on image-sharing sites are called curators.

“The Internet has always been a platform for creators and curators,” Pew Internet’s Joanna Brenner, co-author of the report, said in a statement. “Now, as social media services continue to grow and expand, the tools are more visual and social, and that seems to be attracting special audiences of early adopters.”

These creators and curators are responsible for sharing and posting their photos and videos on social network sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr. For the first time, Pew researchers have asked questions about these social media services, and their findings are not all that surprising. Women are more likely to use Pinterest than men, and young adults are heavy Instagram users. Here are some of the key findings:

  • 12% of online adults use Pinterest, which is dominated by women. Nearly one-fifth of online women (19%) use Pinterest, a site that allows users to organize and share content from around the web by “pinning” photos and images into “pinboards” that are organized by categories and themes. Each “pin,” which includes a caption, links back to the site from which it originated.
  • 12% of online adults use Instagram, which is dominated by young adults. Some 27% of the Internet users between ages 18-29 use Instagram, which is a photo-sharing service built around a smartphone app that allows users to filter and tint photos they’ve taken and then share them with those they are connected to through the service on a photo feed. Facebook recently bought the service.
  • 5% of online adults use Tumblr. Some 11% of young adults use this social blogging service that allows for easy sharing of various types of posts, including text, photos, quotes, links, music, and video.

The report is based on a phone survey of 1,005 adults taken early last month.


Read the full article: Women prefer Pinterest, young adults choose Instagram »


Better Social Media Strategy: Show, Don’t Tell

When Pinterest came onto the scene it instantly became more than a playground for scrapbooking fans. Business owners quickly learned the benefits of adding a visual component to their social media strategies. As a result, Pinterest has experienced astoundingly rapid growth, already passing Tumblr and Flickr.

Facebook’s recent purchase of Instagram, is another great indicator that it’s time to expand your social media content by adding photos, graphic images, and videos. Why? There is plenty of research indicating that messages depicted by pictures penetrate the brain more quickly and with greater impact. It’s no accident that fast food chains have added food images to their menus; the growth associated with this strategy has been exponential. If you want someone to buy, don’t simply tell them about your product or service–show them.

David Lee King, author of “face2face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections” (CyberAge Books), helps entrepreneurs understand what it takes to make their company “human” and approachable via social networks. “Connecting with people, both customers and potential customers, doesn’t always come easy,” King says. “And this can be even harder to accomplish online. However, as customers begin to heavily rely on social media tools to learn about products and companies, business owners must learn how to transpose their traditional marketing tactics to resonate in the virtual world.” Adding visuals to your social media updates is one way to achieve this.

King offers these five tips to help you get started in creating great visual-based content. They key is to keep it simple, and to post with your customer in mind.

1. Show off your stuff. – If you are a small business selling a product, this part is easy. Simply take some photos of your products, and post them on the social networks that most of your customers use. Don’t think of these images as some sort of extended product catalogue. Instead, share images of new products that you’re excited about. Post the photo, and write a paragraph about the product, too. Sharing your enthusiasm helps get your customers excited too–especially if they can see the thing you are excited about.

Not a product-based business? That’s ok–images work here, too. Service-based businesses can use lifestyle shots to connect their audience to the essence of what they do. You can purchase stock photography on sites like Shutterstock, iStock, and other royalty-free sites.

2. Show off your staff. – Take some pictures of your staff and post them to your social networks. Somewhere in your business plan is the idea of creating ongoing relationships with repeat customers, right? One way to do that is to help your customers connect with your business. When someone “likes” your coffee shop page, for instance, they want to be reminded of Jenny, who’s really nice and makes that amazing soy latte for them every Tuesday. They want to know more about your culture and stay connected to the aspects of your business that they enjoy. Photos are the best way to achieve this.

See the idea here? Show your customers the friendly faces behind your business. That helps customers connect with your staff, and therefore, your business. One caveat here–no posed “suit and tie” photos! Also, no “t-shirt and beer” photos either (well, unless you own a sports bar).

3. Get close. – Here’s an important tip. You don’t need to use fancy-schmansy cameras–your iPhone will work fine. But please, do get up close to your subject! Make sure to fill the frame with the image. In many cases, images uploaded to social media sites will be viewed in a small, thumbnail-sized box first. So the subject of your photograph needs to be clearly visible, even at a small size.

4. Great lighting is key. – You don’t have to buy expensive studio lighting systems to achieve better lighting (though it certainly doesn’t hurt). To get better “natural” lighting, try these simple tips:

  • Turn on the overhead lights before you take a photo, even if the room you’re in seems brightly lit.
  • Make sure the light is behind you when you take a photo. If you are outside, make sure you hold the camera with your back to the sun. This way, your subject will be well-lit. If you are inside, put your back to a brightly-lit window.
  • Move a floor lamp closer to the subject.

5. Make your photos helpful to customers. – Sharing photographs of products, services, and staff can be helpful because when customers come visit your business, they will already know who to ask for, and what they’re looking for. You have created a connection with them and that makes their job as a consumer much easier.

Share a photograph of a new sales rep; if your building has had a recent addition, make sure to share that as well. Some companies share photos of how their product works, or how to fix a problem.

Finally, make sure to associate relevant text with your images; don’t give them generic names like, ixo987.jpg. Make names and descriptions key word rich. Also make sure that you are honoring property rights and protecting your intellectual property. Seek legal advice if necessary.

It’s time to dust off that iPhone lens and start sharing visually with your customers. If you have tips or success stories please share them here!


Read the full article: Better Social Media Strategy: Show, Don’t Tell »


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