On Blogging and Tweeting: Best Practices

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BestPracticesDisclosure: this post is part of my course project at SNHU. For more information, please go to mySNHU page. Also: I'm an Office Champion and that relationship has facilitated this giveaway. This week's post (the final one for my Social Media class) brings us to the question of best practices for blogging and tweeting. Being in social media means that I am forever culling through blogs, webinars, workshops and classes to glean more information on the topic.

Most days I feel like my brain is oozing with too much information. However, I think one of the primary best practices is having a plan. Social media isn't sitting in front of the computer and just putting thoughts into 140 characters. I mean, it is. Don't get me wrong, I do this all the time for my personal accounts. But when looking at the business of it all, a plan of action is necessary.

An editorial calendar is key. I think I mentioned it in a previous post. My first interaction with one was with Mel over at MomComm. She provided us with a cool one in Excel that has served me well.

I think that having a plan and having the tools to execute those plans will ease some of the pains found within social media. I don't know where I'd be without Office 365. I use OneNote extensively to maintain information and notes (brainstorm of ideas/thoughts/potential posts). The good ones eventually make it to the editorial calendar.

Ease of use is also important. As with all of my schoolwork, I keep my files in SkyDrive which means I can access my information at all times via any one of my devices. When I'm working with a client, it is easy to create a shared folder where images and ideas for posts can be shared. I can also share my brainstorming notebook from OneNote thereby closing, at least in part, the circle of information and how I access what I need for blogging and posting on social media channels.

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

What is it that they say about using it? Ah yeah, if you don't use it, no one will Tweet it. Consistency is key. Making sure that you post regularly and that you interact regularly is so important.

For Twitter, I try to have lists of people I follow (and that sometimes follow me back) so that I can take a quick look and catch up to see what they're doing and interact accordingly. While this is something that's done for "work" don't forget that these are genuine interactions with real people. Making sure that the conversations are authentic organic real is important.

Blog What You Know

Why are you blogging? Why is your business blogging? What do you bring to the table? These are all questions that we must think about when we blog. Making sure that we are able to provide content that is informative and engaging goes a long way in establishing a business as a thought leader in their space.

Tools of the Trade

I've told you guys about how I use Sprout Social to keep me organized as I post for my clients. Sprout Social is definitely a must have tool that will allow for the use of best practices. With built-in reports, the ability to do smart searches and data on-hand that allows you to see the interactions you've had an measure that day after day, this is definitely a tool that facilitates best practices in my industry.

I think a plan of action and the right tools are important for any industry. Especially those of us that are in school. I mentioned Office 365 here and recently found out that there's an Office 365 University available to us studious masochists. It includes the new Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. You also always have the latest and greatest version. No need to upgrade, just keep up with your subscription.

What's different between Office 365 and Office 365 University? You pay $79.99 for a four year subscription! Yah. You read it right. And if you don't finish in 4? You can renew for a 2nd term, so to speak. This version gives you the ability to have it installed on 2 computers: Mac or PC. Read more about the great benefits! And here's how you can get it: enter the giveaway below.

I use Rafflecopter for my giveaways and it's a nice integration tool that will keep a list of entries and uses Random.org to help you select a winner. This is another important tool and best practice for a giveaway. I don't do them super regularly but it is definitely a tool that is pretty standard across blogging for giveaways. There's also something called PunchTab. I've used it in the past and found it to be not as intuitive for the readers to enter giveaways. I heard some updates have been done but, I haven't gone back to it. My readers complained when I used PunchTab which is why I've stuck with Rafflecopter.

And that leads into making sure that the tools that you use are...well, user friendly. Who wants to come to a site and not be able to leave a comment because you have to do 3,000 different authentications? There are now cool plugins (that I plan to install when I work my redesign) that allow you to comment right from your FB account. Easy peasy. With Rafflecopter, readers are able to share a preset Tweet that gets them an additional entry to win the prize. No muss no fuss.

I think at times we can get wrapped around the axle a bit. Remembering our readers as we work through all of the new "must follow" rules of blogging and social media will go a long way.

What's a best practice within the social media industry that facilitates the use of blogging and Twitter?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Driving Business: Instagram

I'm at 30,000 feet, headed to Seattle to participate in the Champions Summit put together by Microsoft. This year, I was selected as an Office Champion. I'm headed to learn more about products and services as part of the Office boutique as well as Windows. With the advent of Windows 8 came apps which leads nicely into today's topic of mobile social media applications that drive business.

Twitter and Facebook, definitely. No need to discuss those, right? Two applications come to mind outside of those two: Instagram and Pinterest. While I think Pinterest definitely has seen astronomical growth since its inception, I think the advent of Instagram serves for a better discussion since this was initially a mobile application that took off to great success.

These days businesses use Instagram almost the way that they initially used the web based Pinterest. To pique the interest of consumers. But more than that, it has become a way to further connect with consumers.

Bloggers use Instagram to share posts about their lives in a different way than Pinterest which in turn allows them to grow their following and gives products and brands that they represent further exposure.  The ability to seamlessly share to Facebook and Twitter when posting to Instagram is also a great functionality that allows business to further expand their reach.

While someone might not be aware that a particular brand has an Instagram account, seeing it flow through their timeline as they are perusing Twitter further exposes them to the brand and products. There are small businesses that typically have an Etsy page for all of their creations but now can (and do) post pictures on Instagram directing their followers to buy or check out a particular product or service.

This gives businesses quick hits for both brand exposure and connection to new and existing clients. Businesses also benefit when their products are photographed by their consumers. Instagram has the ability for images to be tagged and a consumer can always mention the brand either by their Twitter handle or with a hashtag.

Contests abound on Instagram. While initially this was a mobile app only, you can now manage your account from a desktop (a feature previously unavailable). With the increase popularity of Instagram, we find a site like Statigr.am which gives you some great metrics regarding the images posted. A business is able to see the impressions (likes/comments) of a particular image and can track to see what does well with regards to exposure.

The popularity and importance of Instagram is evident by the fact that it was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion.

I think any business looking to garnish more business and connect more closely to their consumer (especially if they are offering a product) should definitely look into getting an Instagram account.

Tell me, do you think Instagram can drive business as a social media application?

Disclosure: this post is part of my course project at SNHU. For more information, please go to mySNHU page.

The Social Pulse of Blogging

I groaned when I saw the assignment for this week. I feel lukewarm about how I am going to respond.

Discuss the current state of social media within your industry. What tools does your industry use or should use to improve their standings in the social media environment?

If you're reading this you know that social media IS my industry as it relates to my blogging and my business. So sometimes it's hard looking at specific tools or how we can improve our standing within the broader spectrum of social media. I have thoughts on this. Some of them you've heard before and some you may not have (how dare you not be subscribed to my RSS feed!).

I think things are changing in the blogging world. This past year has brought a shift. A change in our social pulse. Have you felt it?

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Have you noticed the terminology changing? No longer are we being called bloggers, per se. We are being referred to as influencers. That has become the new "organic" or "authentic" of the blogosphere. Overused and under-defined.

As social media grows and evolves, I feel that a writer's role also evolves. Partly because there's a need to do so especially when in the past, firms and brands have not necessarily understood the best way to work with us. And partly because we haven't made it easy.

I spoke at two conferences this year. Both topics similar: the business of blogging. I think the biggest tool that my industry can use to improve our standing is more of an idea and an ongoing practice: documentation and reporting.

Okay so, you guys know I'm all project manager brained over here. So yes, some of this comes because of my previous role in the world. But, ultimately, the only way that we can prove what we bring to the table is with metrics. Information and education for both the PR firms and the brands.

You can check out the last presentation given at the Florida Blogger's Conference here in Orlando. Our workshop was called The Business of Blogging: Building Relationships with Brands. It was given by myself and the other co-founders of Social Influenz.

These are all things that we have done as we have grown and as we have found a need when working with brands. Being able to show that a campaign was successful, prove that the reach was there and educate our partners so that they understand how that translates to visibility, positive impressions in the community and as Ted Rubin says, a return on relationship.

I think as blogging and social media morphs into its next form, we will find that those that are going to thrive in it will do so by going back to some of what is done in more traditional jobs.

For example, I can't imagine having a company pay for me to go to a conference while I was working as a category or project manager and not reporting back as to what I learned, what was discussed, etc. In that same way, I think we will see a need for more transparency and visibility from us influencers. In that way, we will be able to thrive and grow with social media as opposed to having it leave us behind.

Tell me, what tools do you think the blogging industry should use to improve their standing in the social media environment?

Disclosure: this post is part of my course project at SNHU. For more information, please go to my SNHU page.

Tools of the Trade

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I love social media (yes, I'm sure you already know this about me). But it's more than just the awesome interaction I get to have with all of you. Don't get me wrong, that's more than enough for this gal to have a permanent smile on her face. But the geekery behind social media? The way that you can track, manage, explain and regurgitate information that's tied to those interactions and the building of relationships? Well, that's just a little too much for this nerd!

I spoke about some of social media management tools at Niche Parent and the gals from Social Influenz and I got into them at the Florida Blogger's Conference. Here are some thoughts on 2 in particular.

Sprout Social

Sprout is my go-to app. It's the way that I am able to keep my client profiles for social media accounts, schedule posts, listen to conversations, etc. I love that I am able to create one profile and then add all of the components to it. So, for example, the "Mamihood" profile in Sprout Social currently has the following components:

  1. My Mamihood Twitter account
  2. Mamihood Media Twitter account
  3. My Mamihood FB page
  4. Mamihood Media FB page
  5. Personal FB page
  6. Google Analytics

I also have the option of adding a Google+ page and my LinkedIn profile which is pretty neat. The beauty of the tool is that it provides you with one comprehensive report and quick hits list that you can compare over time. I have a few "oh yeah's" within Sprout Social as well. I have the ability to schedule posts for any of the accounts listed above. Of course, this is a feature that we find within FB for pages but having a place to schedule everything make things so much easier. The ability to see who posted what is also helpful. While managing social media for a hotel, we were able to pull information and if there was ever a question about who posted what, Sprout would provide an answer. The caveat here being that all transactions needed to happen within Sprout Social. Along the same lines, I was able to add a team member to that particular group which makes it easier when delegating social media management tasks.

My next favorite thing is that Sprout Social uses algorithms to determine the most active times for your followers (by profiles) and allows you to add up to 5 outputs to the "queue" which will send these messages out during those active times where your followers are more likely to read them.

Membership is on an individual basis and there is a cost incurred for usage. Pricing varies and is dependent on some of the bells and whistles as well as the number of profiles allowed.

You also get some reports with snapshots of the various activities taking place. Here's a screenshot of the homepage for the grouping mentioned above.

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Messages that come through can also be triaged from a customer service standpoint as they can be turned into tasks and assigned to other team members.

HootSuite

HootSuite provides some of the same perks with multiple profiles, reporting, managing of posts, etc. This application, however, allows you to add additional profiles like FourSquare, Tumblr and YouTube. With Hootsuite, you're able to have a free personal account that allows you up to 5 social media profiles for management.

Reporting is available and you are able to customize those reports a little more than with Sprout Social as they have over 40 different reporting modules to choose from. Each report is different for each profile though a comprehensive one could be created by copying and pasting the information after its downloaded into a CSV file.

HootSuite can be easier to use when you are managing your personal social media accounts. Though I have not tested their premium plans, the ability to manage your social media accounts via this tool is certainly useful.

Where I Stand

From a personal standpoint I think HootSuite more than serves the need for a blogger/influencer. Though I am curious to see what the premium plans would feel like and like the idea of being able to add a wider range of social media profiles, I prefer Sprout Social.

I am better able to keep my clients organized and ensure that posts don't go on the wrong profile/account. I also prefer the navigation and usability of Sprout Social. It's a bit more in line with the way my brain works (and that's saying a lot!).

Do you have a preference?

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Disclosure: this post is part of my course project at SNHU. For more information, please go to my SNHU page.