2016 Social Media Predictions

social media

So you think you’ve got time to start planning for 2016? Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t. Not anymore at least. It’s already December and 2016 is coming fast. There are always seemingly hundreds of predictions about the future of social media going into a new year. This year is no different. We know there’s no time to read them all, so we picked some of the most interesting and original predictions from Social Media Today’s top 30 predictions.

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Move Over Facebook, Pinterest Is Back

pinterest

Pinterest seems to always be just two steps behind other social media giants. Well, it looks like that’s about to change. The reason Pinterest has been behind for the last nine months is because they’ve been creating their newest search feature. This new technology allows users to focus on a single item in a post and find similar-looking items, all without a text search.

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Optimize and Utilize Houzz for Brands

There’s a new social media platform in town and it’s called Houzz. With 15 million users a month, the Pinterest-type network attracts people searching for home improvement ideas and those in the industry. If your brand falls into the home improvement, contracting or interior design industry, this tool is for you.

Why Houzz?

So why should you be using Houzz? How about this statistic. In the next two years, 84% of homeowners plan to decorate or redecorate their home and 48% plan to remodel, build-on or build a custom home. And If you have done and remodeling on your own, you know what people don’t take process too lightly. Homeowners spendlots of time online researching companies to help their dreams a reality. Whether it be searching for reviews of a company or perusing previous projects completed by a company, Houzz offers this service and more all in one place.

Getting Started

Setting up a Houzz account is simple for both homeowners and business owners. The first step is to create an official profile here on the Houzz website. You also download the extremely user-friendly app, which I find a lot easier to use than the desktop version. The more detail you put into your profile, the easier people will be able to find you. Here are some other helpful hints to getting your Houzz profile started:

  • Use high resolution photos
  • Add all contact information
  • List services you provide
  • Be strategic when creating keywords
  • Share your Houzz profile on all other social networks

Keys to Successfully Marketing on Houzz

Just like other social media platforms, you want your Houzz profile to reflect the “best version” of your business. Here are a few ways you can create a successful marketing campaign using Houzz for your brand.

  1. Engage and Connect

Although Houzz is a sales-driven platform, there is also that opportunity to connect with users and engage in different activities throughout the network. Create Ideabooks and fill them with your own photos or even photos that aren’t necessarily yours, but they inspire you. Just lie Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, if you aren’t active outside of your own profile, you will fall to the wayside.

Optimize and Utilize Houzz for Brands

  1. Be Prompt

Because this is a sales-driven platform, users are constantly asking questions to gain more information about companies via Houzz. It’s very important to respond promptly and professional to questions you receive through your inbox or comments on photos. Houzz does a great job of making sure you receive notifications when someone makes a comment. You can also change your notification settings to best suit your business. And remember on social media, users expect an answer within 24 hours of sending their question.

  1. Be Visual

The industry of interior design and contracting is very visual. Make sure your Houzz profile reflects that. The more photos you can upload the better. If a user wants to hire you, that obviously will want more than three photos of your work. Be creative with the photos you upload by creating Before & After shots. But keep in mind, when creating Before & After include both images in the same photo. This way users won’t get confused. Houzz does allow you to put a Before & After watermark on photos. Last, but not least make sure your photos are professional. If photography isn’t a strong skill for you, it wouldn’t hurt to hire a professional to take pictures for you. Cellphone photos are a definite NO-NO on Houzz.

Optimize and Utilize Houzz for Brands

Now that you have all the tools you are ready to tackle Houzz! Remember to have fun with it and show off your creative skills. While still new to the game, Houzz is taking great strides and will be a top contender among other social media platforms in the near future.

Are you already on Houzz? What tips do you have for optimizing and utilizing Houzz for brands?

Canva: A Social Media Expert’s Best Kept Secret

The key to becoming a successful social marketer is to constantly be thinking of innovative ideas and always work creatively. Enter Canva: a graphic design tool for everyone. Canva is an Australian based start-up that sky-rocketed back in August 2013, when they raised over $3 million from distinguished technology-based investors. It has a major emphasis on creating graphics that are friendly for all social media platforms including, but not limited to: Facebook and Facebook Advertising, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube.

Recently, I’ve discovered how to use Canva as an essential social media tool for anyone wanting to enhance their digital presence.

Canva’s Top Features

Customized Dimensions: Canva offers several types of social dimensions including ads, cards and blog post headers.

Pre-made Content: Templates make creating designs easy but you can also have a creative guide.

FREE Stock Images: Choose from several FREE stock images from a variety of categories. There are also images available for purchase.

Fonts Galore: Several fonts make creating unique designs.

Drag & Drop Tool: Users can easily place their graphics using an easy-to-use drag and drop tool.

Simple User Interface: Canva makes creating your designs easy by not including all the extraneous editing tools other photoshop tools have. This saves time because users can’t constantly second guess themselves with several filters and other art tools.

Creative Stream: Designers block? Click the Stream tab to view in real time other Canva user’s designs.

Accessibility: Canva is available for desktop and iPhone/iPad mobile apps.

Getting Started with Canva

Like I mentioned, Canva is extremely user friendly. Follow these steps to begin your first design.

  • Choose Dimension
  • Choose a Template
  • Create Content or Insert Photos
  • Let your creativity run wild!
  • Download as a PDF or Image File

How Can You Use Canva?

Canva is perfect for creating images for a client or even for personal social platforms. Even with a full-time graphic design team on your side, sometimes it’s nice to take a shot at creating your own designs. Below are some of my personal ideas for using Canva in my career as a digital media account manager:

Holiday Graphics for Social Media

Holiday Graphics for Social Media

Blog Post Headers

 

Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads

Pinterest

Pinterest Graphics

Expand Your Skills

In all honesty, one of my major future goals is to develop design skills so I can be a triple threat in the industry. Canva allows me to do that. I get to use my way with words and turn them into a visual piece of art. As every social media expert knows, imagery is essential for creating top-notch campaigns: especially professional looking imagery. Using this tool can help you stand out in a crowd and even impress your clients.

What are you waiting for? Sign up for Canva NOW… It’s free!

Or, if you’re interested in other social media tools I keep in my back pocket, check out this blog on Instagram Marketing Tools or this one on Optimal Social Media Posting Times.

Increase Holiday Sales with Social Media

It’s that time of year again! Halloween candy is now 70% off and Christmas lights and garlands have taken over the shelves. This year it’s predicted that November and December sales could hit almost $617 billion, which is a 4% increase from last year’s holiday sales. As for online sales, they are expected to increase as much as 11%, a 3% increase from 2013 sales. So what are you doing to help increase your sales this season?

As we’re finding with our StrataBlue clients’ campaigns, social media advertising is key to any company’s efforts to reach large, targeted audiences in order to increase holiday sales. Below are some ideas we recommend to help increase holiday sales with social media.

Create a Pinterest “Gift Idea” Board

Millions of people every day are flocking to Pinterest for ideas on what to get their loved ones for the holidays. Make their search easier by creating Pinterest boards specific to whom the gift will be given. Giving your holiday Pinterest boards creative and engaging names is paramount to increasing traffic. Try some of these titles:

  • 50 gifts under $50
  • Gifts for The Person Who Has Everything
  • Last Minute Gifts
  • Gifts Your Boyfriend Will Love
  • DIY Christmas Gifts

Be sure to keep in mind the pain funnel when creating boards and pinning your products. What might your potential customer’s challenge be when shopping this holiday season? This could include:

  • Trouble finding the right gift
  • Shopping on a limited budget
  • Shipping costs
  • Gifts for the right occasion

Last, and most importantly, remember to link your product pins to your website for fast and easy access for your potential buyers. (And once they get to your site, consider having remarketing code in place so that when they continue on their search quest, you can re-appear in order to stay top of mind.)

holiday3

Steve Madden pins their gift guide on Pinterest.

Run Facebook Ads

Running Facebook Ads is a must this season if you are wanting to increase your holiday sales with social media. As for which type of objective to choose for your Facebook Advertising campaigns, I would suggest either a Clicks to Website, Website Conversions, Offer Claim or Local Awareness campaign.

Don’t forget to include a call to action in your ad!

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Target advertises free shipping for online orders on Facebook.

Exclusive Deals with Email Marketing

Give your email subscribers the upper-hand this season with exclusive deals, coupon codes and offers right to their inbox. Not only will your current subscribers be thrilled to receive special offers, but this will also open to the door to increasing your email list subscribers with those who want the same deals. Here are a few tips to make the most out of your email marketing this season:

  • Consider Cyber Monday, December 1st– the biggest day for online shopping
  • Don’t spam your lists!
  • Personalize messages to increase brand loyalty
  • Consider sending emails on the weekends
  • Use creative subject lines to entice opens
holiday2

TJMaxx gives a sneak peek to subscribers.

Create Twitter Cards

The recent roll-out of Twitter Advertising cards makes targeting online shoppers a breeze. Be sure to include an engaging card image along with a catchy headline. Remember Twitter cards appear on your audiences’ Twitter feeds, so step out of the box with your Twitter card and catch the eye of your potential customers.

holiday1

Choose the “Shop Now” button as a call to action.

Deck the Halls with Data

To make sure you are getting the most out of your social media efforts, be sure you are tracking and assessing your performance throughout the entire campaign. This way you will be able to tweak and re-target to see what’s working and what’s not working. Consider these tracking systems:

Whether it’s pushing in-store sales or online sales, running several social media campaigns across several different platforms can be very effective. Don’t be afraid to hand the reigns over to a digital media marketing firm to help you reach your highest potential this year.

Best of luck this season and Happy Holidays!

5 Tips on How to Optimize Pinterest for Business

Pinterest may not be as widely used as Facebook or Twitter, but it is certainly giving its kin a run for their money! The social media platform where someone can search for visual content relating to everything from recipes to Ryan Gosling memes and from B2B infographics to home repair “how-to” instructions has taken the cyber-world by storm. Recent studies have even shown that Pinterest is the fastest growing social media platform out there! And with the rollout of Promoted Pins in May of this year, I predict Pinterest to be a frontrunner when it comes to social-media sharing sites to use for gaining brand awareness, and possibly even direct sales.

Unfortunately, Pinterest has been written off as a content sharing network just for women in their 20s to daydream about the wedding rings they’ll never receive, workouts they will never try and outfits they can’t afford. While those facts may be true, Pinterest has much more to offer. Pinterest is a great place to build brand awareness for any large or small business, along with providing useful information for anyone, whether they are male or female, 13 or 63.

So, let me have your attention for approximately 4 minutes to change your mind about Pinterest. Below are five, very simple tips to optimize Pinterest for business, to increase your success rate in leveraging this social platform for brand awareness and website traffic.

  1. Engage with Followers

If you know anything about social media, engaging with your followers is key to a successful campaign. What some people might not know about Pinterest is that they are several ways to engage with followers. Included in this are commenting on others’ pins, repinning pins relevant to your brand, liking pins and creating groups boards that invite others to pin items to your boards. Remember: Pinterest is a social network, not a billboard. Don’t be afraid to become a part of the community.

  1. Make Your Page a Business Page

Taking the step to become a business page is a huge, yet simple step. Follow this link to set up your business account profile. Personal accounts may also be turned into business accounts; you just have to have Pinterest verify your website address. In this case, if you have a blog domain or something similar, go ahead and use that. One of the most important features of converting your profile to a business page is the ability to access your page’s analytics and measuring metrics (GOLD!). Those analytics include impressions, visits to your site, unique users and of course the number of repins.

Pinterest Business Accounts Set Up 1

Pinterest Business Accounts Set Up 2

Pinterest Business Accounts Set Up

 

  1. Name Your Pins

It’s all too easy just to pin a pin and neglect to change its description. Changing the description of your pin could create all the difference in the discovery of your brand by relevant audiences. Wouldn’t you be more inclined to pin content that is accompanied by an engaging meesage? One study showed that pin descriptions which are about 200 characters are more re-pinned than others. Pin descriptions with relevant keywords also make it easier for pinners to find your content. The occasional hashtag doesn’t hurt either!

  1. Mix-Up Your Content

Content is what Pinterest is all about. Don’t bore your followers with just photo pins. Stand out from the competition by incorporating different types of visual media. Here are a few to try:

  • Videos from YouTube and Vimeo
  • Podcasts
  • Audio from SoundCloud
  • GIFs
  • Slideshows

pinterest vimeo pinterest youtube

  1. Timing is Everything

Personally, nothing is more irritating than a brand that pins 30+ pins all at once. This “pin dumping” is a surefire to lose followers. I recommend pinning twice daily, once from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then in the evenings between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. In fact, as a helpful hint the optimal time to get your golden pins out there is on Saturday mornings.

How do you utilize Pinterest for your brand? Have any of these tips worked for you? Let me know in the comments below!

No Time Like the Right Time: A Guide to Social Media Posting

If your social media campaign goals involve wanting your organic posts to be seen by the largest possible audience, then timing is everything. So what are the dead zones and prime times for posting to social media profiles?

Social Posting Times StrataBlue

Below is a general guide to the best social media posting times for optimum reach, along with dead zones to avoid when getting your content out through various social media platforms. Note: This information applies to the time of day for your audience, assuming the majority of your audience is in the same timezone as you.

Facebook

Prime Times: 6 to 8 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., 3 to 9 p.m.

Dead Zone: 10 p.m.-4 a.m.

Note:

  • Here you are sure to catch the early birds, lunchtime crowds and the night owls.
  • The worst time to post is on weekends before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

Twitter

Prime Times: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Dead Zones:  8 p.m. to 9 a.m.

Note:

  • Avoid posting after 4 p.m. on Friday—many people have already checked out for the weekend.
  • Interestingly, according to Dan Zarrella’s research, Twitter engagement for brands is 17% higher on weekends. So while you may not receive a lot of engagement on a Friday night, be sure to schedule posts to go out on Saturday and Sunday to see how your audience responds.

Pinterest

Prime Times: 2 to 4 p.m., 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Dead Zones:  1 a.m. to 7 a.m., 5 to 7 p.m.

Note:

  • Peak time is Saturday mornings.
  • Weekends are the best days to post.

LinkedIn

Prime Times: 7 to 9 a.m., 5-6 p.m.

Dead Zones: 10 p.m. to  6 a.m.

Note:

  • Keep in mind LinkedIn is a professional network, so it is acceptable for your audience to be active on the network during business hours.
  • Best days include: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Instagram

Prime Times: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Dead Zones:  6 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Note:

  • Sunday is the best day to post.

Google+

Prime Time: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Dead Zones: 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Note:

  • Unlike other platforms, avoid posting in the evening.
  • The peak time is during work hours.

Keep in Mind

When it comes down to it, knowing when your brands’ fans and followers are most active on social media is key. You can learn what these times are through Facebook Insights or most social media analytics programs. You can also get a feel for what is the best time to post for your brand depending on when you get the most engagement on posts. When narrowing down your optimal times for posting, also keep in mind the demographics of your audience.

As a last piece of advice, think of what your audiences’ “downtimes” are and play off of that. Get their attention in the morning on their way to work and while they are checking their emails. Catch them during lunch time, and of course, anything after rush hour is fair game.

What times have you found work best for your social media accounts? What advice do you have for posting times? Leave your comments below!

Facebook Monopoly: Retail Edition

Facebook

Facebook is currently testing out its newest feature: the “buy” button. Although it is only on a preliminary basis at the moment, many believe it to be the new frontier in online retail. With a respectable sample size of 1.28 billion active users and 40+ million business pages registered, should this feature become standard it would make Facebook the largest and most data-rich retailer on the internet.

facebook monopoly pic

Photo Courtesy of dashburst.com

How it works:

Facebook will be implementing their “buy” button for a select bunch of small-to-medium sized businesses. The way this works is that the user will store their card information on file with Facebook and by doing so, they will never have to worry about filling in all of the checkout fields again. Of course, the option to check out without storing your card information is still available for those fearful of security breaches. The simplicity of clicking the buy button, and once more to confirm the order (pending that you’ve stored your card information), is believed to help with higher conversion rates of purchases.

facebook retail blog pic

 

The more steps in the purchasing funnel (i.e. going off page, filling out credit card information, etc), the more likely a consumer is to change his/her mind. This is what makes the simplicity of Facebook’s retail premise so enticing: it couldn’t be easier and you never leave the comfort and familiarity of your own news feed. In addition, if the buy button can prove to be successful at raising conversion rates, it would make advertisements on Facebook even more valuable and prices would inflate, causing the social media site to become an all-intensive money making machine.

Evolution of the buy button:

The buy button as it is currently used has evolved from several other sample features that Facebook has rolled out since 2012. First, was the “collect” button which worked much the way pinning does on Pinterest. By collecting items from your news feed, it created a wish list on user profiles that had a buy button directing you offsite to a point of purchase.

collect button

Next, Facebook started introducing an auto-fill feature in an attempt to increase conversion. It memorized credit card information and would auto-fill in the offsite that traffic was directed to, in order to assist in the purchasing process.

pre populated payment fb 7-24

Finally, Facebook issued the “donate now” button which took pledges for various nonprofit organizations. This feature collected credit card and billing information to assist with the auto-fill, and also included a pop-up window that allowed you to remain onsite rather than being directed to a new window.

donate now button facebook

Competition:

Although this buy button is merely in a testing phase for a select sample of small-to-medium sized businesses, people are not hesitating to speculate about how Facebook as a retailer will measure up to an already established online retailer like Amazon.

Amazon online sales pic 7-24

Amazon has an active user base (those who have made a purchase within the past 12 months) of 244 million people that contributed to $67.9 billion in sales in 2013. That’s 49.6 billion more than the second largest online retailer, Apple (who sold $18.3 billion in 2013, largely due to their iTunes sales). Those numbers are staggering, but with over five times the amount of active users, a simplified checkout process and the potential for impulse purchases lurking within each one of our news feeds, Facebook may prove to be a true contender in the e-commerce market going forward.

Move Over Pinterest, Make Room for We Heart It

Pinterest is one of the most popular social media sites. With 70 million users, it is third behind Facebook and LinkedIn and ahead of Twitter and Instagram. When it first came out in 2010, many people were asking themselves “why didn’t I think of that?” Pinterest is a lot like a scrapbook, a dorm room pin board, an inspirational quote book or even a cook book.

We Heart It, established in 2008, is Brazil’s equivalent to Pinterest. It is a place to find the most beautiful images of all the things you love, discover and save quotes, pictures that match your mood or research images for an art or fashion collage.

In 2011, the We Heart It site had 460 million page views with 7.7 million unique – far greater than Pinterest at 91 million page views and 1.5 million unique. Investor funds have allowed Pinterest to develop a huge lead over We Heart It in their user statistics. Now valued at $1.5 billion, Pinterest boasts more than two billion page views and 34.5 million monthly unique.

The explosive growth of Pinterest is directly attributed to its ability to generate investor financing. The creators of We Heart It turned down investors, choosing steady growth driven by strategic ad revenue. Roughly 80% of We Heart It’s monthly users are under the age of 24. Pinterest’s demographic is very much the opposite. Roughly 80% of Pinterest users are over the age of 24.

 

pin1

 

We Heart it and Pinterest have a lot of similarities and also a few key differences. Here are a few of them:

Similarities

  • “Heart it” and “Pin it” buttons allow you to attach images or any web content you find and like to your profile.
  • Hearts and likes identify your favorite images and are saved.
  • Sets and boards classify your favorite images into subjects such as quotes, inspiration and summer looks.
  • “Image” and “Pin” buttons add original content.

Differences

  • Instead of a profile page and Pin Boards, We Heart It users have a canvas and collections.
  • We Heart It users can only “heart” photos, which automatically adds the photo to their canvas.
  • Comments are not allowed on We Heart It to ensure no bullying, negativity or spam occurs.
  • We Heart It users can tag photos; Pinterest users can add descriptions only.

Basically, We Heart It (now with 25 million monthly users) works and feels like a younger, artsier Pinterest. Images of beautiful celebrities and peaceful sunsets replace the wedding dresses and home cooked masterpieces synonymous with Pinterest. The owners are now considering outside investors. They’ve announced their first round of formal partnerships in December and currently have a half dozen partners, including publications like Teen Vogue and Lucky. These relationships are not financially-driven, but they do demonstrate that We Heart It is commanding outside interest from other brands.

 

pin2

 

Pinterest and We Heart It share another resemblance: they both recognize that at the end of the day they are a business and their survival will depend on their ability to generate revenue.

What are your thoughts on Pinterest versus We Heart It? Do you have an account on either platform? Which one do you prefer to use or do you use both of them? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me at @yuppitsdebbie. Feel free to follow me on Pinterest or We Heart It.