Bitstrips: Do You Love Them or Hate Them?

Has your Facebook News Feed suddenly turned into the Sunday comics? You can thank Bitstrips for this new, trending way to update a Facebook status.

Just as the Candy Crush and Farmville invites started slowing down, we have started seeing these comic strips popping up all over our pages. For those that don’t know, Bitstrip is a Facebook app that allows users to create an avatar that looks similar to them and then use it in a template with their current mood or status update. This app has been around since last December but only became popular last week with their mobile update for iPhone and Android users.

In July, there were around three million users and as of now there are over 11 million users. The sudden popularity of these strips has come with a severe backlash as well. A lot of people are already turned off that their News Feed is now cluttered with these strips. The general consensus is you either love them or hate them…and the people who hate them are definitely voicing their opinions loud and clear.

“I’d like to thank Bitstrips for allowing my most annoying Facebook friends to complain in comic form.” [email protected]

Another user on Twitter posted:

“I don’t really understand bitstrips…they aren’t funny and quite annoying when one posts one for every status update.” [email protected]

Some people are blocking their friends or defriending the guilty parties, but there is an easier, friendlier way:

  1. Go to your Account Settings.
  2. Click on Blocking.
  3. Go down to Block Apps and type in Bitstrips (it will autofill for you).
  4. Don’t worry, you have the option to unblock the app whenever you want!

Bitstrip’s servers crashed last Friday, and the website just came back up yesterday. Having this downtime could potentially help their popularity because people were quite simply getting burnt out of them in such a short time.

With the average person’s attention span well under 10 seconds, these fads on Twitter and Facebook have a very limited shelf life. It doesn’t look like Bitstrips will be the force that was Farmville or Candy Crush because it’s not a game. But they do have plans for adding premium content and even plush toys in the near future, so it doesn’t look like they’ll be going away any time soon.

Which side are you on? Are you a Bitstrip fanatic or have you already blocked them from your timeline (like I have)? Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @Cbyron11.

Transform Your Facebook Posts With Facebook Insights

After last week’s blog, I’m sure you are all experts with Facebook Insights, right?

The average Facebook user likes 40 Pages on Facebook, so how do you make your business stand out? I’m going to highlight some of the more important tabs and features to help make your posts more engaging. Sure, every bit of information with within Insights is important, but as a business owner you just do not have the time to continually analyze every bit of it. All I need from you is a small commitment of time every week to go over the information.

The first tab to pay particular attention to is the Posts tab. This tab gives you two bits of great information that will help you out. The first graph you see shows when your fans are online. Like I mentioned last week, this graph does not portray the number of people that see your posts but the total number of people who have liked your page and are most likely to engage with your content. Now you won’t find the exact perfect time to the minute to post, but it will give you a general sense of when you should be posting. For instance, if you are a restaurant or bar that is only open at night, you will quickly notice that if you post in the morning those posts will get lost throughout the course of the day.

Further down the page, you will also see a list of your most recent posts, what type of posts they are and the posts’ engagement levels. One thing you should take notice of is the time of each post. This information, along with the graph, will help you when determining when to be post. You will also get a good sense of what type of posts your fans enjoy the most, whether it’s a link, picture or just a few lines of information. We always recommend posting some type of media with each post; posts with images get the highest amount of engagement on Facebook (the perfect picture size is 800×600).

Another great tab to focus on is the People tab. Here you will get a good understanding of the demographics of your fans and the people who are engaging with your posts. Knowing the age group and sex of your most engaging fans will help you keep your posts tailored to those groups. Did you know that 66% of millennials (15-34 year olds) use Facebook? Unfortunately, you can’t assume that is the target age group on your Facebook Page, so check out your specific statistics.

These are two very valuable tools for you to better understand your fans, but don’t ignore the other four tabs. Facebook is continually making it easier for businesses to market on their Page and I will always be helping you understand how to get the most out of it.

Put the Stage Hook Down, Companies Can be Funny!

When it comes to business, there are several things that one can do to help promote and enhance their interactions with their customers. Now for the time being, it seems that the most effective way to market to clientele is through social media. While sounding like a relatively easy and simple process, there are many facets that go in to effective communication through various social media websites. Humor is a delicate area that should typically be handled with care when engaging with potential customers. One wrong step, and a business can risk damaging their reputation, losing customers, and even worse find themselves in the middle of a controversy.

To some, it may come as a surprise that humor would be considered an effective way to advertise to current and prospective clients. Integrating humor with your social media presence is found to be a highly strategic method of obtaining people’s attention. The logic behind this approach is that if you are able to appeal to one’s emotions, you will be able to find a stronger and longer lasting connection with them. This can be crucial to a business’ success because it will help the customer develop a strengthened understanding of who you are as a company.

There are several areas that a company should consider before taking their stand-up act to Twitter and Facebook. The golden rule when representing a brand and using humor is that what you think is funny, not everyone thinks is funny. If by chance you post an inappropriate response, there is a very real possibility that you can lose clients over it.

In order to protect the success of a business and reputation, you should always consider the fact that humor is a risk. Humor is 100% subjective to its audience, so it is always smarter to take the safe route and keep your posts clean. If you’re about to make a post and it relates to something that people have an opinion on, chances are you will receive negative responses in some degree. This means you should always steer clear of controversial issues such as politics, gender, or religion. It goes without saying that a good rule of thumb when posting something humorous on social media is “when in doubt, always leave it out.”

However, other strategies will make a positive impact on a company’s growth. When responding to people who have engaged with a company’s social media account, wit and banter is a highly overlooked tactic when it comes to online conversations.  As with everything else, the stance of a response needs to be professional because the company’s reputation is still at stake. However it is safe to say that most people will appreciate a slight degree of sarcasm and cleverness in their interaction with a company. The reason it can be appreciated is because users do not typically expect to a personal response from an account that represents something that is more machine than human-like. In a sense, it will catch a user off guard and they will naturally want to interact more to see what a company’s next response will be.

When it comes to selling your brand online, you should always remember that even though you represent a serious business, it doesn’t mean that your marketing has to be. It may not sound like an orthodox business practice, but in some cases, it is more than acceptable to not take yourself so seriously. People will respond to spoofs and parodies in a much more positive way, than if you responded in a way that made the company show a lack of light-hearted nature. People in general are playful, so when it comes to online engagement, it is more than okay to embrace that area of interaction!

While there are many ways that a company can use humor in their online presence, there are three main things they should always keep in mind. Its humor (not comedy), keep it clean and sometimes it’s okay to be silly. Using humor as a strategy can result in a very positive growth for a company in the business world.

How Black Hat Are You, Really?

Black Hat through the Ages. The term “Black Hat” isn’t new. It popped up as soon as hackers started using their skills for personal gain and malicious intent. Black Hat hackers weren’t breaking into systems to free information for the world. They were all about personal gain. The term really exploded when SEO came into the mainstream. If you have any experience with SEO, then you’ve heard of Black Hat practices. I was contracted to do SEO for an Indianapolis company in 2010—back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. Even in those dark ages, we were all told how evil Black Hat techniques were, and how we were creating organic, useful content for the web.

Of course, our white hats look a little more dirty as time passes. If you’d like to waste one hour or so, just look up Black Hat SEO. No one fully agrees on what applies. I could have sworn that forum linking—even manually—was considered bad form now, but I find just as many positive statements as I do negative ones. Of course, maybe I was in one of Google’s bad neighborhoods.

The Black Hat terminology has even permeated social media management. And it’s not a new idea. The real problem with all this Sharks vs. Jets banter is that the line is constantly shifting. If you happen to read the Facebook TOS, you’ll find a list of commandments when it comes to advertising. Twitter has a similar—admittedly simpler—list of rules as well. Don’t get me wrong; these pages are important. You need to be checking them often to make sure your brand is still in compliance. But this is a tricky field. For every rule you find and roll your eyes at due to obviousness, there will be another one you’re guilty of at this very moment.

The issue with Black Hat is that everyone knows what’s very bad, but no one can agree on what’s kind of bad, or mostly good. This is doubly true when it comes to Black Hat social media management, because creativity in our industry can outshine edginess. If you do something interestingly, you can usually be forgiven for doing something a little Black Hat. At least the first time.

What to Do? Sadly there is not an ancient tomb of rules about what is and isn’t Black Hat—no matter how many blogs you read claiming such. Aside from abiding to various social media contracts, the advice here is more about media production than social media rules.

Is your content good? No, really. It’s easy to look at your Facebook calendar, your mounting influencer list, and then shrug your shoulders about one little crummy tweet. Forget about engagement and conversion for a moment; are you saying a damn thing with this content? If you were on the other side of the screen, would you LIKE your brand? If you waver, it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing.

Are you following or mimicking? We all look to brand leaders to learn. We’re also looking for potential customers that those leaders have already found. So we borrow what works. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But somewhere along the line we have to start innovating and creating our own content. If all you do is mimic the top brands, you aren’t creating anything.

Are you spamming—but not really spamming? We all know—and hate—spam. But spam isn’t just an annoying, poorly worded email trying to get you to buy something bad. Spamming is bothering people. Are you giving people interesting content 75% of the time so you can then throw products at them in an annoying, obvious fashion? If so, you’re still spamming. You’re just a really good spammer.

Are you not doing evil? There are plenty of brands out there that have done harm without ever turning Black Hat. It may seem obvious, but there is more to the world than the brand you are creating content for. Know when to back off. More importantly, know when to say nothing at all.

Whether it’s 2010 or next Tuesday, we’re all going to get our white hats scuffed up at some point. The key is to be deliberate in your actions. Even on social media, reputation outshines one bad campaign or tweet. Now make sure that reputation is shining.

Welcome to the New Age: Marketing’s Adaptation to the World Wide Web

Being a part of the “Millennial” generation, I can proudly say that I have experienced both the new and old way of doing things in life. As a proud 90’s kid, I still remember what life was like before the age of the World Wide Web and high end technology at the fingertips of consumers. For me, growing up with hand held electronics was closely associated with the game Simon and beep, bop and boop noises.

Now things have changed and we are closer to living in a world that only science fiction had dreamed about. In this day and age, everything has changed regarding technology. For the most part, it seems that people have a mobile device that allows them to stay communicated to the outside world through videos, social media and pictures. So yes, there has been a great deal of change since the 90’s. The most interesting aspect in all this change is how marketing strategies have changed to keep up with the consumer world.

Back before the social media boom that happened in the last ten years, marketing to consumers seemed to follow a standard formula that worked for the most part. Sales and print advertising were two highly successful methods of reaching consumers and persuading them to consider purchasing a specific product. If not speaking with someone first hand, you would read about a discount in the newspaper, a magazine or even a flyer stuck on your windshield.

Now, a new formula is being used that has changed the game entirely. Marketing has found that the most successful way to reach people is online through websites due to the frequency of how many people use the internet on a daily basis. The difference in methods is that people are being sold to through social media sites. Every day, people at some point will scroll through their News Feed on Facebook and Twitter to see what is new in their world. Coming from a business standpoint, it’s the easiest way to put a small post about a weekend sale, new product or event happening. Even for a brief moment, a follower will glance at this post and that’s what truly matters.

A key aspect to marketing that many companies use to reach consumers is through online engagement. While technically not sales, these are simple interactions with a consumer, and engagement through Facebook and Twitter can improve someone’s view towards a company.

There are several benefits to utilizing this type of marketing strategy from a business standpoint. First, interacting with followers provides the opportunity for real time updates about the company and any programs currently in place. That means the consumer is able to see what is happening right now, as opposed to looking at a newspaper ad that has been in circulation for the past month. The next and most lucrative aspect is cost. Every business is continuously looking for ways to turn a profit and cut down on quarterly spending. Through online interaction, a company is eliminating paying for advertisement design, printing and distributing to the masses. Online engagement comes at the cost of your electric and internet bill (we will let you break those numbers down), or the cost of a social media manager (which is usually significantly less than print advertising). Lastly, the value of interaction and what it does for potential consumers. Online engagement at its core is just a conversation with a hint of sales. Having a real person communicate with a real customer can have endless positive outcomes. Through engagement, a company can communicate with people on a daily basis and simply check-in to see how they are doing. Selling to a customer should be done lightly. The last thing a company wants to do is spam someone’s feed because that will quickly translate into people unfollowing a company.

Engagement is much different than old timey methods of “spray and pray” advertising. This method makes a consumer feel recognized as a person and not a sales target. In sales terms, engagement is a different take on approaching customers. For example, humor can be used in a very successful way to interact and keep a brand fresh in someone’s mind. Netflix has most notably conquered this technique by constantly engaging with customers and even joking with them using witty responses and references. In one particular case, Netflix approached a customer complaint as a make believe Captain of the Netflix ship, and maintained character through the conversation with the customer. As a result the customer was so taken back by the service provided by Netflix, they posted the online conversation to a blog, which later received a fairly large amount of attention from people all over the world. That is a true testament to the lengths of what good online engagement can do for a company.

What this all means is that the world of marketing has changed in a very big way. It has transitioned from a slow moving buggy into a face paced advertising machine that is all about precision marketing to consumers. Yes, print advertising still works, but it’s cold and impersonal. Online marketing through social media has proven time and time again that interacting with people as a company has a much more beneficial outcome not only for business but the overall brand.

Welcome to the New Facebook Page Insights

If you manage a Facebook Page for a business, you might have seen how the analytics have recently changed. While most people usually complain about Facebook changes, this is one change that is for the better! Facebook has stated that they changed their insights in order for Page Admins to better show how people interact with their Page and content. A better understanding of this information will help you make more engaging content for you fans!

Let’s first talk about the six new tabs you see when you go to your Facebook Page Insights: Overview, Likes, Reach, Visits, Posts and People. Let’s start from the left side with the Overview tab and make our way over.

The Overview tab shows you what’s been going on with your page over the last seven days. You get a quick view of how many Total Page Likes you have and the percentage that it is up or down from last week (hopefully the number is green). You also see your Post Reach and how it compares to last week’s posts. The third box shows how many people are Engaged with your Page.

The next tab is the Likes tab and we all know what a Like is by now, hopefully. One powerful tool they have added is “Where Your Likes Came From” graph. You can find out if people are liking your straight from your page, if it was suggested to them, if it was a mobile Like or if they liked your page because of someone else’s post about you.

The next tab is the Reach tab, which covers metrics that influence Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, including likes, comments and shares of posts. You can also check by week, month or quarter. When looking at any graph, you can click on a certain day or click your mouse and drag in across the graph to get numbers for a specific time period.

The Visits tab shows you where people came from and what they engaged with on you page. You can check out the number of times each of your Page tabs was viewed, the number of actions that people took that involved your Page (mentions, check-ins, offers, etc.) and what external referrers brought people to your Page.

The Posts tab shows you when your fans are online along withy Post Types and which posts your fans are most engaged with. If you are posting photos that are getting a lot of engagement and links/plain text that aren’t, you know you should start using more photos on your posts moving forward. The graph that shows when fans are online does not portray the number of fans that see your posts, but the total number of people who have liked your page and are most likely to consume your content.

The People tab gives you a run down of the demographics of your fans and where they are in the world. Two other important tabs in this section are the People Engaged tab and Check-in tab. The People Engaged tab is important because it shows you demographics of the people engaged on your Page, even if they haven’t Liked it. After 30 people have Checked-In on Facebook, you will also be able to see statistics which you previously couldn’t see.

This is just a brief introduction to the new Facebook Insights. Be sure to check back next week when we dive further into this valuable tool for you and your business.

Paid Promotion & Social Media Strategy

If you know a musician, say the phrase “pay to play” to them. I guarantee they will groan, complain or roll their eyes. Pay to play means that an artist is paying the club or venue to perform, and the performer will (hopefully) earn their money back if enough fans come to see them. Of course, if no one shows up…

Last week, Instagram dropped the news that users will be seeing “an occasional ad” in their feeds. Their CEO has promised that these videos will be tasteful and light, and that they’ll only be coming from brands that have a lasting relationship with Instagram. It has been pointed out that Instagram’s video capabilities will offer advertisers commercials on 150 million screens—whether those viewers want them or not.

In a similar blog statement, Foursquare has opened up a self-service advertising platform for smaller businesses. This just seems to be the newest platform for Foursquare to try to jump into the pay to play market. Foursquare’s pitch is that small business owners will be able to tell if a customer “actually walks into their store” with simple analytics. I’m not sure how simple this approach will be, though.

Is the world of social media going to a paid promotion format? It’s no secret that promoting Facebook ads with cash helps. It gets your brand in front of more people, and even targets different demographics. It works. So, logically promoting your business with Foursquare or even Instagram (eventually) will help as well, right?

Paid Promotion is a tool. It’s just like scheduled Facebook posts and Google Analytics. Clients will come to you, frantically waving their smartphones and asking why you aren’t promoting their Foursquare presence. Keep it cool; you really need to do your homework before jumping right into pay to play. Ask yourself some questions.

  • What do I know about this? Have you researched paid promotion in the past? Have you dug into how it will help that particular brand? If not, you shouldn’t start spending money yet.
  • What am I trying to achieve with this? Paid promotions are great for getting your name in front of a lot of people. However, it won’t help you engage with your current fan-base. If you’re trying to get more engagement, consider another option.
  • How much should I pay for this? Facebook allows you to boost your posts at a variety of levels with different dollar commitments. These different levels are very important based on your fan following and size.

Make sure you also know if your client is even ready for paid ads. Are they, quite frankly, punching at that level? Theoretically, a boosted Facebook post or two could help a business at the beginning of their social media life. But once the initial flash is over, it’s time to get down to the real work of engaging with your new found followers. That means interesting, appropriate content aimed at the right people. Content marketing is heavily discussed and analyzed for a reason.

So what does this all mean?

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom wants to see his app “on every platform, on every kind of phone and tablet and wearable…” I don’t know if all the marketing content on there will be paid for or organically created. In a world where you can see ads through your watch, it will be quite important that those ads are engaging and well-crafted either way.

Running Contests for Repeat Customers

So you’re looking for a way to reach new fans and potential customers on your Facebook page. Have you considered running a Facebook contest on your business page? For a long time, Facebook only allowed contests to be run through third-party applications. but now they are allowing any business with a Facebook page to run their own contest. Before actually starting your contest, there are a few steps you should go through in order for yours to be successful.

Running a contest just because you can will not provide you the results you are looking for. What is your ultimate goal for the contest? Do you want more engagement on your page, more likes or both? What about adding to your email list or introducing a new product or service you plan on rolling out? When you figure out exactly what you want to accomplish, it will be easier to find the right kind of contest to run. There a numerous types of contests to run and here are a few popular ones.

  • A sweepstakes contest is great way to gather more email addresses. People give their name and email address to enter in a drawing for your product or a gift card. Make sure that the prize is relevant to your business. One downfall of this kind of contest is there is little engagement on your Facebook page, but you can build your email list rapidly.
  • A photo contest allows fans to upload a picture to your Facebook wall. The contest could be held around a holiday, theme or something that pertains to your business. You can either pick a random winner or have people ‘Like’ the photos and the person with the most Likes wins. You can also use video instead of picture of that makes more sense for your business. For example, if you’re a flower shop, you could run a contest around Christmas time and have people upload a picture of their front door wreath. The picture that gets the most likes wins a gift card. By using this type of contest, people will get their friends to like your page and like their photo to help them win.
  • Asking a trivia question is another great way to build some engagement. You can ask a question about your business, industry or even location. The more specific the question, the more likely people will want to answer. You can also choose a random winner or have the first person to answer be the winner. For example, if you are a record store, make a contest to win a new album and ask a trivia question about the band.

One thing to keep in mind is to keep your prizes tied to your business. This can turn Facebook fans into repeat customers. If someone wins one of your products as a prize, hopefully they will love it and buy more! Sure, a Visa gift card might seem like a great prize, but it has nothing to do with your business so after the contest is over people are more likely to stop following you.

Have you entered a company’s contest before? What did you like or dislike about how the company ran it?

Facebook Home for Android Users

Facebook Home

This week, through rumors of a Facebook phone, we were introduced to Facebook Home. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement using the phrase “people first,” meaning that your friends are front and center on your mobile device instead of the apps. Zuckerberg tells us that we can now keep up with what our friends are doing and easily communicate with them using Facebook Home, personalizing your home screen and making it as if Facebook Home was the phone system and not a third party app.

Want to learn more about this new development in the world of Android devices?

Facebook’s “See What We’re Building” Event Recap

  Facebook Wall

For Facebook’s first big announcement at their new campus in Menlo Park,CA, Mark Zuckerberg announced, “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected, we do this by giving people tools so they can map out the stories of their lives. We believe in this concept called the social graph, the sum of all these connections.”

Basically, Facebook offers two kinds of services: making new connections and staying connected. Before the News Feed, the way people used Facebook was to browse around and discover new things in their networks.

There are three pillars of Facebook ecosystem. First is the News Feed, which is what’s going on with people around you. Second is the Timeline, telling you something about this person. The third pillar is the big announcement: Graph Search. Graph Search gives people power and tools to take any cut of the graph that they want. Graph search is designed to show you the answer and not links to answers.

It’s not web search; Facebook is not indexing the web but rather indexing each individuals’ map of the graph. This large and constantly-changing graph is made up of things such as friend connections, locations, likes, comments and tags, which all adds up to indexing all this content and making it so you can retrieve it instantaneously. This search is privacy aware; every piece of content has its own audience, most content is not public and you can only search for content that has been shared with you. “It’s a completely new way for people to find information on Facebook,” said Zuckerberg.

Graph Search can be used in many ways. For example, you can search “My friends who live in Palo Alto who like Game of Thrones” if you want to have a viewing party. The results are ranked by people you care the most about and the rest are sorted by mutual friends and other signals in the Facebook system. There is a “refine this search” bar on the right that lets you narrow things down.

Using the map on the right, you can refine your search by place type, liked by, places in (location) and visited by (my friends), which is similar to Foursquare.

Let’s say you want to find a person you met through a mutual friend or at a party. You can search “People named Chris who are friends of Lars and went to Stanford.” This is a pretty amazing part of the new Graph Search. Want to try dating queries? Search “Friends of friends” or “Friends of friends who are single men in Indiana.” You can narrow down even more by adding “who are from India” in that search.

Graph Search can be a powerful recruiting tool. “Friends of current employees” is a good place to start for recruiting. Search for “People who have been product managers” or “People who have been founders” to get the exact person you’re looking for. You can get some pretty all-star job candidates through this type of search.

Graph Search makes searching through photos much easier on Facebook. Search phrases such as photos of my friends taken in France, photos of my friends taken in national parks, photos of my friends before 1990 or even photos I’ve liked. Want to see photos of a landmark or destination? Search photos of Berlin to see pictures your friends have taken there. It all ties in directly to Facebook’s privacy settings, such as Only Me, Friends and Public.

Search through your friends’ interests. Instead of staring blankly at your Netflix queue, search movies your friends like. If you search for  TV shows your friends’ like, video clips pop up of those TV shows. Narrow your search down to shows liked by groups of people, such as TV Shows liked by software engineers or liked by doctors.

The same goes for music. Find out the music preferences between supporters of Obama and Romney. When a search is done for music liked by people who like Mitt Romney, results include Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Nickelback and Pink Floyd. Search for music liked by people who like Obama and results include Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Michael Jackson, Will Smith, Madonna. Graph search is a great way to explore the world around you.

Do you need something translated from French? Search the languages your friends speak and you can see which of your friends speak French.

Places will be a huge factor for local businesses. Looking for a dentist? Search for dentists liked by my friends and you’ll get a list of dentists, maps, hours and addresses, and a list of which friends like that dentist. Find the most popular restaurants in Indiana to see what’s most popular, and you can even use tools to narrow down places to one type of cuisine. If you’re traveling, find restaurants and bars in different countries that are liked by the locals. You can even click on a country and see which of your friends have been there.

While Graph Search is still in beta testing, there is a limited beta rolling out today at http://www.facebook.com/graphsearch. It will be a slow rollout, incorporating data from how people use is before it is rolled out to the public, but is estimated to launch over the next few weeks and months.