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What does your Digital 2016 look like?

Last year more and more of my friends decided to change their approach to social media.

It wasn’t a digital detox as such, but an attempt to win back some time from the online world. In particular it was a recognition that some of their Facebook experience was not fruitful or enjoyable – for all sorts of reasons, including reading endless mundane posts or experiencing FOMO.

I’ve had other friends turn off their phone notifications in similar moves to halt online distractions and ‘be in the now’.Alienware M17x

It’s become popular for this type of digital assessment to take place during New Year, the traditional time for focusing on your life and setting healthy goals.  But as this fantastic piece in The Conversation in April last year relates, it may not be a digital detox we need to commit to, but a  rethink of our relationship with technology because tech can often be good in our lives.

A piece in today’s Guardian Australia points out that we may love the online world and the person we are there – but is there a point where it is a destructive disruption, in particular for artists. “… this overlay and the constant disruption that occurs can be the enemy of creating anything of depth and substance, whether it is writing a novel or making a garden.” It’s recommended reading.

What does this mean for us?

Perhaps it means taking a moment to think about your digital world. How much time are you spending online / when / doing what / and what is this stopping you from doing? Indeed, what could your online experience enable you to do?

Could you be doing something differently online to support your learning or hobbies or careers or friendships?

Your digital 2016 might mean many things:

  • Switching notifications off
  • Starting a new hashtag
  • Culling Facebook friends
  • Checking social media only in the evening/morning
  • Committing to writing a new blog
  • Joining a ‘Photo a Day’ project (this year 366 for the leap year!)
  • Subscribing to new spaces

So I’m not calling on you to do less online – you might do more. It’s worth taking a few minutes to think about the options and the exciting possibilities. Happy New Year.

 

 

 

Making your own Facebook cover: amazing free tools

Recently I’ve been trying out some online tools that enable you to easily create Facebook cover images.

As many of you would know, cover images are that big slab of real estate at the top of your Facebook page. Once upon a time, Facebook ruled over them with a set of terms and conditions to rival your insurance papers. You weren’t allowed to have more than 20% text in there, you weren’t allowed to have calls to action or telephone numbers and so on. Now, those restrictions have been thrown away but it’s still nice to have some standards for your cover. After all, it makes the big first impression when people look at your Facebook business page.

My own Facebook fans recommended Canva to me. It’s sensational. Head over there to look at all the templates you have to choose from, beginning by choosing the Facebook template. All the measurements have been taken care of for you.

Choosing the Facebook template in Canva
Choosing the Facebook template in Canva

Then you’ll see a wealth of ready-made beauties to choose from. If you’re cautious about using the same thing too many others have used (like me) there are a lot of ways you can tailor your Canva-made cover to look different. This includes changing the colour background.

Sample Canva designs
Sample Canva designs

Canva allows you to drag in your own images and overlay with text, which you can also reformat and manipulate.

Prior to using Canva, I’d been enjoying PicMonkey. I initially used PicMonkey to make my own meme-like images. I say meme-like because they weren’t funny and they weren’t viral … but they were another, creative way to communicate a message on Facebook. I found that with PicMonkey I could easily drag in an image from my PC and overlay it with text. I  made the image below after I took a photo at Monarto Zoo that made me giggle:

SOON
SOON

PicMonkey also lets you start out by choosing the Facebook cover template.

Choosing the Facebook cover template in PicMonkey
Choosing the Facebook cover template in PicMonkey

You then get a wealth of editing options, ranging from filters (like the Instagram world) through to background effects, colours and text formatting. Again, you can draw in your own images.

Some design choices in PicMonkey
Some design choices in PicMonkey

Both Canva and PicMonkey are relatively straightforward to use, although I found Canva to be slightly more intuitive.

The good folk at Bufferapp recently published a blog post about more ways to make engaging images for social media posts  I recommend you read that article too.

Of course, the best cover image I’ve had was created by my graphic designer and brand manager Melba Gounas of blank studio. Sometimes it’s good to leave things to the professionals, right? Thanks Melba! See her professionalism below:

A Prakky Facebook cover by blank studio
A Prakky Facebook cover by blank studio

Aside from Facebook? Talk talk and talk!

2014 will be a year of challenges for Facebook business pages.

It had to happen eventually.

The platform’s been available publicly since 2006. There are a billion users – almost 13 million in Australia.  Facebook page management is professionalised. There are multiple ways to learn more about Facebook from online courses to university lectures. Every day more brands are creating a Facebook page. The newsfeed is an incredibly competitive space to appear in.

Facebook.com/PrakkyCom

If you read about social media much at all, you would have come across articles about Facebook’s so-called change of algorithm and drive toward boosting its bottom line; a new era of “no free lunch”. You might also have read about Facebook’s desire to show less memes and ‘more relevant news’.

Justin Lafferty recently proclaimed “Anyone remotely serious about utilising Facebook as a marketing channel will need to accept that paid (post boosting in this case) will become the norm”

Mashable reported that “after Facebook tweaked its News Feed algorithm earlier this year, companies and their social media marketers had to watch as years of work were undermined seemingly overnight.”

And Business Insider recently wrote “Facebook brand pages are suddenly getting a lot less traffic, and it’s threatening the entire social media marketing industry.”

What does it mean for Facebook page owners?

Good social media consultants counsel their clients not to put all their eggs into the Facebook basket. In fact, don’t put all your eggs into the social media basket.

One of my first questions to clients is: do you have a communications strategy?

I have a PR background and so your wider comms strategy is of enormous interest to me. There’s so much that can be attained through other methods and channels. I firmly believe that Facebook pages can be great for maintaining a higher profile, opening up to two-way conversations, being available to customers and more. A lot of your stakeholders would expect you to be there. But it takes dedicated resources, creativity and now – more dollars – to have your stories appear in your fans’ feeds.

So please don’t forget methods including:

  • Traditional media or mainstream media (MSM). A lot of your customers, stakeholders, partners and peers read newspapers (online too) and listen to the radio. Build your media networks. Be available and generous with your expertise and commentary. Become that ‘go to’ person for your industry.
  • Events. I mean everything from launches and parties, through to boardroom lunches or networking coffee meetings. Bring people together in real life, build warm relationships and get to know them. You’ll find there are remarkable results if you do this regularly and strategically.
  • Enewsletters. They can still work. Not all of your stakeholders want to hear from you via Facebook or other social platforms. Some will prefer an email and they will read it. Make sure your content is targeted and high quality and useful.  Using a tool like MailChimp will help you keep on the right side of spam legislation and serve up neat metrics.

Ensure you have an overarching communication strategy and be ready to talk to people about your business in all sorts of forums using all sorts of methods.

NewspaperTalk talk and talk!

If you don’t like talking, have someone in your business who does.

  • Be the leader in your industry
  • Be interesting and be interested in others
  • Be a good networker in the old sense of networking
  • Social media will support the stories and content and networking you produce naturally

Don’t beat your head against the wall trying to get Likes and engagement

December: time for your social media clean-up!

My eldest son is sitting on his bedroom floor wading through bits of paper from his first year in high school. He’s on holiday and throwing some things out, while ensuring he keeps work he’s particularly proud of.

It’s a good time of year to do this, especially if your office is winding down or you’re finding it hard to focus on larger projects.

How about your social media accounts? Are they looking a bit messy? Finding it hard to keep up with the people that mean more to you?

Try some of these quick wins to tidy up your social media activity:

  1. Unsubscribe from Facebook Pages you don’t want to hear from any more.
  2. Perhaps there’s a Page you really don’t want to miss out on – see the images below for instructions on how to help them appear in your newsfeed.
  3. Check your Facebook friends list – do you really want to keep them all? Are there a few you could … let go? Look through your Facebook newsfeed. You may want to hide some updates from some friends.
  4. Using Twitter Lists yet? If not, maybe it’s time to start. They’ll give you an easy way to sift through your tweetstream, especially if you follow hundreds or thousands of others.
  5. Check out your LinkedIn profile. Does anything need updating? New title? Maybe your Summary could be improved. Don’t forget to capitalise on the ability to add links and video to any part of your profile.
  6. Reading a lot of blogs? If you don’t have an RSS feed yet I recommend Feedly. It’s super-easy to add blogs (in fact, updates from all sorts of spaces including your favourite Instagram hashtags) and also to put them into categories that are meaningful to you.
Click below 'Like' on your Pages to see your choices
Click below ‘Like’ on your Pages to see more choices
Select the level of updates to suit you
Click Settings, then adjust the level of updates to suit you

I could go on, but nobody needs a long To Do List at this time of year, do they?

Let me know how you go with these recommendations. You’ll be all prepped and ready for 2014!

Take a breath: how to deal with customer complaints on social media

No business owner likes customer complaints.

But a public complaint on social media? That can have a larger impact – and it can feel so much worse.

Customers with smartphones: sharing coverage of your venue
Customers with smartphones: sharing coverage of your venue

Yesterday I came across a story about a Sydney café owner and the colourful response to a complaint posted on the business’s Facebook page.

The customer’s complaint was six words; the response from the business was lengthy, fluctuating between reasonable and vitriolic, and full of emotion. It shared some frustrations about running a business and lashed out at customers who don’t take the time to share their feedback directly with venues while they’re there.

I don’t want to dwell on this one example of social media argy-bargy, but offer some broad tips when it comes to dealing with published customer complaints. These tips may seem like commonsense, but they’re very important especially in the heat of the moment when you may be feeling incensed.

Tips for dealing with complaints on social media:

  1. Take a breath.
  2. Don’t respond immediately. You may regret what you publish.
  3. Write a draft response first – on paper or in a Word document or whatever – but not on the platform. You might even want to write a mock angry response to let your emotions out. You might want to show your draft response to a colleague or friend or partner.
  4. Think of it in context. What platform did it appear on, and where? On a Facebook Page for example, one fan-initiated comment does not get sent to all fans of your page – it appears in the Recent Posts by Others panel (see below). You may be the only person who ever reads it. Was it a complaint directly tweeted to you? How many followers does that person have, and was the tweet phrased so it would reach them or just you?
  5. How you respond will reflect on you perhaps more than the original complaint. Be diplomatic, generous, interested and tactful.
  6. If the customer is wrong, diplomatically put forward your side of the story. Don’t be afraid to correct them – nicely. They might have confused you with another business, they might have published incorrect pricing or menu details for example. But be succinct. If you find yourself ranting about supplier prices, your employees, the state of the economy … it is definitely time to stop typing.

 

The 'recent posts by others' panel on a Facebook business page
The ‘recent posts by others’ panel on a Facebook business page

Also remember:

  • This happens to a lot of organisations. It’s the social world we’re dealing with. It’s not just you. In your personal life, you probably value other people’s reviews and recommendations.
  • An occasional bad review can lend more veracity to your good reviews  – there’s balance on your page and you’re clearly not censoring or stacking feedback.
  • Other people will look at the overall context of published reviews on your social media accounts – and they will make up their own minds. One of the things they’ll take into account is how you’ve responded to complaints in the past.
  • Most people can spot unreasonable gripes and whingers. They’ll be on your side – just make sure to keep them there by demonstrating your empathetic customer service skills.

Have you ever had someone complain about you online? How did you deal with it?

LIKE to win: Facebook’s new competition rules

It feels like I’ve been banging on about Facebook terms and conditions for years.

Oh wait, I have been banging on about Facebook’s terms and conditions for years.

When I work with clients and they use Facebook as part of their communications strategy, I’ll make sure they know about the rules that govern Facebook.  And when I deliver a training session, I’ll outline the T&Cs that, if broken, will get you into a lot of trouble.

Two rules I always highlighted related to 1) cover images and 2) competitions in status updates.

This year, Facebook has thrown both of them out the window.

Cover images had their rules relaxed a few months ago, as outlined in my post Facebook Covers, the good, the great, the ugly.

And today comes the news that Facebook will relax its rules around competitions (which it calls ‘promotions’) in status updates.

According to Facebook:

“We’ve removed the requirement that promotions on Facebook only be administered through apps. Now, promotions may be administered on Page Timelines and in apps on Facebook. For example, businesses can now:

  • Collect entries by having users post on the Page or comment/like a Page post
  • Collect entries by having users message the Page
  • Utilize likes as a voting mechanism”

This is both extraordinary and not surprising at the same time.

Extraordinary because professional Facebook page managers / community managers have been striving to meet that rule for years. Facebook app development companies like Offerpop, Shortstack, North Social and Wildfire have thrived because of that T&C. Digital agencies around the world have billed clients to build Facebook competition apps to stay on the right side of Zuckerberg law. Not required anymore. Thank you.

Extraordinary because I always assumed Facebook wanted to keep competitions out of status updates because it had some standards. Standards around collecting data for competitions, sharing comp T&Cs, and generally not having Facebook become a Wild West of ‘Like to win a new ironing board!’ and ‘Like this photo of a duckling to win a pair of new fluffy slippers, *pick up only’.

Not surprising because a helluva a lot of people flouted the rule! Every day I saw company pages running ‘like to win’ competitions through status updates (mainly smaller businesses, but not always). This was immensely confusing to other businesses, who then took that lead and published their own ‘like to win’ updates (because nobody reads the terms and conditions first, right?)

So maybe Facebook gave up? Maybe it was tired of all the complaining. Maybe it realises brands are getting tired of all the ‘boost post’ messages it’s pushing out, and it’s decided to give a little bit back.

What happens now?

I’m waiting for the competition floodgates to open.

I’m waiting in particular for retailers, manufacturers and anyone with a pile of stuff to give away to begin to flog that through quick ‘like to win’ comps.

I’m  waiting for the backlash. For the:

‘Wait. Where’s my entry? Did you delete it?!!!!!!!!!’

‘What happened to that comp?’

‘What date does it close?’

‘Is this open to residents of the UK?’

‘How do I collect my new ironing board?’

‘My 14 year old son just won a bottle of bourbon, how dare you!’

It didn’t take long to wait for this:

2Day FM status update
2Day FM status update

2DayFM published that status update today (hat tip to the community management group I’m part of that shared that today; thank you). The last time I checked, that status update had 25,810 comments.

They haven’t even said what the prize is. OR IF THERE’S A PRIZE!

I kinda liked that we had to use competition apps to try to manage the world of Facebook competitions. (Yeah, I kinda hated it too).

To end with some clichés: it’s the dawning of a new era. Welcome to the Wild West.

6 Facebook covers: the good, the great, the ugly

Anyone who’s been in one of my Facebook 101 classes will know that we talk about the platforms’ terms and conditions including those surrounding cover images (those large banner images at the top of your Facebook page).

For a long time, Facebook had some pretty onerous rules around what we could do with our ‘covers’. Facebook said they couldn’t have calls to action, they couldn’t have more than 20% text and couldn’t contain contact details.

I think a lot of this was related to ensuring we didn’t turn our cover images into big, ugly, text-filled  (and non-paying) advertising spaces. This of course didn’t stop some Facebook cover images from having big, ugly, text-filled cover images. There’s always a plethora of organisations on Facebook that aren’t aware of the rules or just don’t care.

But now, you can throw those rules out of the window.

  • Your cover can contain more than 20% text.
  • You can have contact details in your cover.
  • You can have ‘calls to action’ in your cover.

Since this change (at the beginning of July), I’ve been looking at Facebook cover images to see how organisations have responded. This post will look at some examples. I aim to give you some food for thought, when you’re choosing your Facebook cover. What looks good? What looks icky? And what functional purposes might your cover image serve?

Woolworths cover image
Woolworths cover image

Woolworths – one of our major supermarket chains, has a cover image which reflects its slogan but is largely clean, symmetrical and easy-to-absorb. It might change its cover occasionally to support a new product or campaign, so it’s one Facebook cover to keep an eye on if you’re keen on gaining ‘seasonal ideas’.

Food SA cover image
Food SA cover image

 

Food SA, the food industry body in South Australia, has a cover image which supports an ongoing campaign in this state to ‘buy local’. Under the previous cover image regime, this amount of text would have been against the guidelines. But now cover images can contain more complex messages. It’s been used on other food-type Facebook pages.

Stereosonic cover image
Stereosonic cover image

Stereosonic, the two-day music festival, has a sensational cover image supported by the images for its Facebook apps. It has a few key phrases that don’t clutter the overall image.

Joseph Joseph cover image
Joseph Joseph cover image

I came across the Joseph Joseph kitchenware page while roaming the platform, and was captivated by the cover its used. The image features a lot of products set out neatly in a compelling format that’s ecstasy for homeware hoarders. There’s no need for text there – the catalogue of images says it all.

Now, let’s get onto some Facebook pages which are cramming a little more text into their covers. Not always to good effect.

Dominos Australia cover image
Dominos Australia cover image

What do you think of the Dominos Australia cover image? It looks like a cut-out voucher, no? It’s reminiscent of all the messages we see shared in letterbox leaflets and on Domino shop windows. That’s not a bad thing. For Dominos fans, this is important information. It could have been immensely ugly, but somehow I think they’ve gotten away with it …

For this post, I absolutely needed an ugly cover image. I don’t like offending people (and potentially clients and friends!) so I looked for international pages and found Hike Those Holidays. Enough said, I think. The abolition of the 20% text rule is no excuse for this! Incidentally, it has a lot of partner Facebook pages with the same cover images.

Hike Those Holidays cover image
Hike Those Holidays cover image

So think about these things with your Facebook cover image:

  • What first impression do you want to make? (Many people will only see your cover image when they first Like the page)
  • Can you use images of what you offer? Eg, product shots arranged attractively?
  • Is there an important slogan or service promise you’d like to include as text?
  • Is there a current campaign you want others to understand – do you have one sentence explaining it?
  • Do you operate in a seasonal industry? Consider changing covers for summer/spring/winter/autumn
  • Is there a big piece of news you want to share? Could your cover image illustrate that?

Of course, it’s not a case of ANYTHING GOES with covers:

“ Covers can’t be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else’s copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines.” Facebook page guidelines.

Read the cover-specific guidelines and size recommendations too.

I’d love to know if you have any favourite Facebook covers to share. Link to them in the Comments below.

To find out more about my social media training sessions, visit my Training page.

What the Facebook crowd needs to know about hashtags

Big news in the social media world today, is that Facebook will begin making hashtags clickable and searchable within Facebook (eg useful).

I’ve written about hashtags in a few previous posts (Hashtags can mean business and Hashtag champions to name two) and don’t want to rehash the detail of how they work now (geddit?)

For those Facebook users who have never ventured into Twitter, or used hashtags in another platform like Instagram or Tumblr, I want to point out one of the great side effects of hashtags that might blow your mind:

Hashtags unite you with people you didn’t even know existed.

That kind of flips Facebook on its head.

In Facebook, we generally connect with people we know – real life friends, family, colleagues. Granted, some FB users connect with thousands of people including some they have not met in real life, I know. But broadly, many Facebook users have between 200 and 300 friends and they’re people we actually have met.

Facebook hashtags are coming!
Facebook hashtags are coming!

Twitter is my favourite platform because it doesn’t work like that. You can meet new people. And one of the ways to find those new people is through hashtags.

For example, I found a cool coterie of people who were fans of The Good Wife like me, because they used #goodwife on Twitter to discuss the show while it was airing in Australia.

I can find people in South Australia who are into food by searching the hashtag #SAfood on Twitter.

I can find South Australians into political discussion by searching and reading the #Saparli hashtag on Twitter.

Again, hashtags unearth people you may not have known were online – people potentially interested in the same things you are, potentially your next best friend, customer, client or partner. And this is on its way to Facebook.

They’re pretty amazing and I’m looking forward to seeing how they appear in Facebook feeds and search. We won’t all have the hashtag capability tomorrow (in terms of being able to click them and be linked to search results) as they’re rolling out gradually. #buttheyreontheirway

Dig down and get specific with your social media posts

Creating good content to share on social media can be hard work.

So it’s no surprise that sometimes we’ll take the easy route and fall back on sharing vague posts about our work and ask followers to click a link to find out more.

The danger in sharing vague posts is that your content can become bland and fail to demonstrate relevance to your online community – and they won’t engage with it. Any meaningful online relationship you have will disappear in a veil of vanilla.

I’ve been noting a few examples over the past month, in particular on brand Facebook pages. So today’s blog is focused on encouraging page managers to dig deeper when sharing stories and be more specific. Share details. Tell us what you really mean. Illustrate your point.

Prakky shovel
This is an image of a shovel to help you remember that I’m encouraging you to ‘dig deeper’ with your social media content.

Here’s where I get specific with some examples:

“Our new magazine is out now”

That’s a post I regularly see on a few Facebook pages. Businesses tell fans that their latest magazine has been printed.

Wow. Great.

Rather than simply say the magazine is out now, dig deeper and be specific about the articles inside. Over several days, share the headlines of the most interesting articles and snippets of what those articles are about. Remind people about the regular segments of that magazine. Let them know who’s an author in this edition and write a little about that author – what makes them interesting or qualified to write about their subject?

People are on Facebook to access your content now: if you must refer them to a magazine, at least make the transition easier for them by giving them details on what they can read there and why they should make the effort.

“Don’t miss our guided walks”

A city institution sometimes shares a vague status update about guided walks with a link to its website, along the lines of “we offer guided walks”.

I’d recommend that the Facebook page manager digs deeper and shares photographs of some of the sites on the tour. What can people expect to see?

Who’s leading the tour? What sort of knowledge and experience do they have? What have other people said about the tour? I’d like to see them dig deeper, bring the tour to life, and use specific calls to action (ask people to book now or Share the tour idea with their Facebook friends). 

“It’s National Volunteers Week. We’d like to thank our volunteers.”

That’s nice.

Thank them for what?

Who are they and what do they do?

It was National Volunteers Week last week and I saw a few Facebook pages share this type of post, sadly missing an opportunity to dig deeper and be more specific about their volunteers.

I would’ve liked to see stories about:

  • What work the volunteers carry out
  • What the impact of volunteers is: what would life be like without them around the organisation?
  • Stories of individual volunteers: how long have they been helping out? What’s their name and life story? What motivates them? What is their favourite part of volunteering? What would they say to others thinking about volunteering?
  • Whether the organisation needs more volunteers and how their social media fans/followers can sign up.

And of course, photos of (willing) volunteers at work or being thanked – with cakes or parties – would have been wonderful. As a volunteer, how would it make you feel if you were thanked with one vague sentence? It’s not ideal.

Another Prakky shovel
Here’s another shovel. Dig deeper with your social media content. And occasionally share naff photos if they’re all you have.

“Don’t miss out on our amazing Mother’s Day sale”

A jewellery chain’s Facebook page makes vague references to Mother’s Day. There are “don’t forget Mother’s Day is coming” and “Come to see us to find that perfect gift” status updates.

It’s vastly more useful if they would share information that digs deeper. Jewellery is an ideal product to showcase in photographs with detailed descriptions and also modelled on someone who appeals to the target audience. Share photographs of those new necklaces, bracelets and earrings: show how they drape on a model.

I’d like to see detailed status updates with information on what the jewellery is made from, what some stones symbolise, what some stone cuts mean, and so on. How special are the pieces and how impressed might your Mum be?

A lot of people lean on social media for detailed recommendations and help: don’t make them work for it. Tell them now!

I’m sure I’m guilty of sharing vague updates on my Facebook business page. I’m trying to beat the temptation by sharing detailed social media tips, ‘how to’ relating to the major social sites, and details of my services and what I’m doing currently.

I’m going to try to dig deeper and spend a few more minutes thoughtfully crafting my social media posts. How about you?

I provide organisations with social media strategies. I also provide social media training to organisations, staff teams and individuals. Email admin@prakky.com.au to ask me for a quote for your next training day or conference, or to start planning an improved approach to your social media communities.

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