Social Media Publishing 101

Social Media Publishing

An Overview of HootSuite, Tweetdeck and Social Oomph

Social publishing programs are essential for managing a business’ social media presence, especially for those who maintain multiple accounts. The primary function of these programs is to allow users to organize and schedule posts in advance on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. By using these programs to schedule posts and space out your content, businesses can ensure that they have a consistent presence on social media. This article will provide an overview of the three major social media publishing platforms: HootSuite,TweetDeck and Social Oomph.

While all of these programs are free to join, provide helpful URL shorteners and allow for multiple social networking accounts, each of the three has certain benefits, disadvantages and unique capabilities. Depending on your organization and personal preferences, one of these platforms may be better suited for your needs than the others.

HootSuite

HootSuite, which many consider to be the leading social media dashboard, allows users to manage multiple networks, schedule updates and create custom analytics reports to monitor your success. Using HootSuite’s unique social networking dashboard, users can connect multiple social networks, such as TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and WordPress, in one place.

  • Advantages — HootSuite’s greatest strength is that it provides users with excellent custom analytics reports to share with clients or colleagues. Through these reports, users can track brand sentiment, follower growth and also incorporate Facebook Insights and Google Analytics right in their dashboard. Also, while Google+ is currently unavailable on these publishing tools, HootSuite will be given first access to Google+ business and brand pages. This is so important because, when this update is unveiled, users can update all of their social media pages, including Google+, in one place. Also, like Social Oomph, HootSuite users can schedule messages in bulk to save time by uploading a CSV file. HootSuite also has a mobile app so users can access their dashboard for free on iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys or Android mobile devices.
  • Disadvantages — The most notable disadvantage of HootSuite is that the free version only allows users to manage up to five accounts and there is a limit of 10 columns on your dashboard. This can be a major setback, especially for users who need to maintain multiple accounts on each social networking platform. To avoid this problem, users can upgrade to the premium version for $5 per month.

TweetDeck

TweetDeck also allows users to manage multiple social media accounts, schedule posts and organize social networking feeds. This real-time browser can connect you with contacts and information across TwitterFacebookLinkedInMySpaceFourSquare and more.

  • Advantages — One advantage is that all of the features on TweetDeck are free – there is no premium, paid membership like HootSuite and Social Oomph require for certain features. With a free membership, TweetDeck users can manage and post to an unlimited number of social media accounts, unlike HootSuite, where basic users are limited to only five. Also, many users agree that TweetDeck’s dashboard is the cleanest and most user-friendly of the three, although this depends on personal preference.
  • Disadvantages — On May 25, 2011, TweetDeck was bought by Twitter and since this acquisition, many users have complained about missing features, bugs and certain tools not working properly. Apart from these technical problems, there are two major setbacks with TweetDeck. Unlike HootSuite and Social Oomph, there are no analytics reports or bulk scheduling capabilities available. This is a huge disadvantage, especially for businesses, since they cannot monitor the effectiveness of their social media marketing strategies.

Social Oomph

Social Oomph performs the same functions as the previous two programs but unlike HootSuite or TweetDeck, users have the ability to “Auto-Follow” and “Auto-Direct Message” users. Depending on one’s personal preference, this feature could either be seen as an advantage or disadvantage, as further discussed below.

  • Advantages — The benefit of using Social Oomph is that this service has the most detailed and informative analytics reports, especially for those who are managing several social media accounts. Like HootSuite, you can also schedule posts in bulk but only Social Oomph makes this process simpler by allowing users to upload posts from a Word document. Social Oomph’s “Replies Digest” is another unique and useful feature, especially for businesses. This tool will send you a daily email with any @Mentions of Re-tweets your business has received. This email is extremely helpful for businesses to easily monitor interactions on Twitter and respond accordingly.
  • Disadvantages — Unlike TweetDeck and HootSuite, there is currently no smart phone app available for Social Oomph. As mentioned previously, Social Oomph is the only service that allows users to set up “Auto-Follows,” “Auto-Direct Messages” and “Auto-Responders,” but this tool is only unlocked when users upgrade to premium accounts. There is a biweekly cost of $3.97 for Social Oomph Premium. “Auto-follow” refers to being able to follow someone on Twitter automatically if they have followed you. “Auto-Direct Messages” and “Auto-Responding” refer to sending Twitter users automatic, prewritten responses. While some users may see this as an advantage, since this practice is only available on Social Oomph, it has its flaws and most social media users look down on auto-responses. It’s far more powerful to interact with users on a more personal level rather than just send them computer-generated responses.

For more information about social media publishing, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or johnzaher@theprmg.com. You can also visit our blog for more valuable articles, advertising spotlights and more.

Marketing with FourSquare

Photo Courtesy of Whole Foods Market
FourSquare - Photo Courtesy of Whole Foods Market
Photo Courtesy of Whole Foods Market

FourSquare is an immensely popular social networking game that allows users to “check-in” to a certain location through text messages or a phone application. Upon checking in at a business establishment, the users’ location is confirmed by their phone’s geolocation technology to prevent inaccurate or unfair check-ins. Members are awarded points for their check-in progress and the user with the most check-ins at a location earns the coveted title of “mayor.” For certain milestones, members can also unlock badges and share their progress with friends. A list of available FourSquare badges can be found here. Those who are new to the world of FourSquare can watch an introductory video here under “What is FourSquare?” on the right-hand side of the page.

Apart from being a fun and competitive game, FourSquare can also be a powerful marketing tool for businesses. For example, according to a recent report from Radio Shack, the average FourSquare user spends 3.5 times more than non-members because of their special offers. What makes FourSquare unique is that by playing the social media game, users can gain real-world rewards. With over 10 million members, as of June 11, your business can benefit from tapping into this explosive social media site.

Why Should Businesses Use FourSquare — FourSquare users will be far more likely to stop by your location if they can earn points or unlock specials on FourSquare. This social networking site offers a free set of marketing tools to venue owners that will help to attract new customers and keep current customers coming back. The best part of FourSquare marketing is that it is completely free to set up and create specials. Any retailer, restaurant or hospitality industry member should use FourSquare. Most likely, someone already created a profile for you, so all you have to do is claim your venue by finding your business’ page and clicking “Claim this venue.” You can learn more and claim your venue here. FourSquare will verify your ownership either by phone or mail and provide you with a 4-digit PIN to enter on the site. Follow the subsequent instructions and once your venue has been confirmed by the FourSquare staff, you can start creating special deals for FourSquare users. For example, Radio Shack offers 20% off to 1st time check-ins, 10% off for every check-in and mayors receive 20% off their purchase. Businesses can not only attract new customers but reward their most loyal ones by offering these FourSquare specials. When a user opens up the FourSquare app, they will be notified of special deals in their area by clicking the “Special Nearby” icon. Upon clicking the icon, users are presented with the offer details and store’s location. This feature is a highly effective marketing tool because often, a user wasn’t considering stopping by a location, or never heard of it, but they were enticed to visit solely because of a FourSquare special. Once you’ve created the specials that best suit your business, you can monitor your FourSquare marketing success by using the data in your “Venue Stats Dashboard” to determine what’s working and what you may need to alter.

Available FourSquare Specials and Examples:

Friends Special — “Come with 4 friends and unlock a free appetizer for the table!”
Swarm Special — “If 20 FourSquare users are checked into this bar at one time, members will be awarded 1 round of drinks on the house!”
Flash Special — “The first 5 people to check-in after 5:00 get a free dessert with any entrée!”
Newbie Special — “Take 25% off any item in the store for your first check-in with us!”
Check-in Special — “FourSquare users can take 15% off any spa treatment on Tuesdays!”
Mayor Special — “The mayor gets one free drink each day of their reign!”
Loyalty Special — “20% off for every 5th check-in with us!”

Promote Your Venue’s FourSquare Activity — It is essential to let people know that your venue is active on FourSquare. Once your ownership has been verified, you will receive a FourSquare window cling so customers know you are a FourSquare-friendly establishment. After you’ve clearly posted this decal to your venue’s window, add the FourSquare icon to all of your marketing materials such as your business card, email signatures and Web pages. You may also consider sending an e-newsletter or e-blast to your email subscribers, announcing your presence on FourSquare and any special offers you may be running.

Recently, FourSquare has proved victorious in its battle with Facebook with the death of Facebook Places. Facebook decided to remove its Places function inside of its mobile app, which was unveiled a year ago and, like FourSquare, allowed users to check-in to various locations. Although its goal was to provide competition to FourSquare, the project never became popular and didn’t find the same success. While reigning supreme in the realm of location-based social media sites, FourSquare continues to flourish and attract new members. This July, FourSquare partnered with several Daily Deals sites, such as LivingSocial and Gilt City, to offer better deals in exchange for check-ins. Users can now views these new deals, along with current local business specials, under the “Explore” tab of the application. This is very good news for FourSquare users, venue owners and marketers alike.

The Public Relations and Marketing Group highly recommends FourSquare for just about any retailer, restaurant or other hospitality industry member.

Google+’s Advanced Technology Addresses Facebook’s Shortcomings

Google recently launched Google+, a new social media giant that has taken the Internet by storm. Although it is still in its field-testing phase and by invitation only, Google+ has reached 10 million users in just 16 days, from June 28 to July 14. This remarkable feat took Twitter a total of 780 days and Facebook 852 days to accomplish. According to the latest official estimate on July 18, Google+ now has over 18 million users.

google-plus-graph1

Google+ improves upon the features of existing social media outlets. Like Facebook, you can create a profile, complete with personal information and photo albums, comment on other users’ content and share posts. Like Twitter, anyone can follow you and you may follow any user by adding them to your “circles,” no matter who they may be. For example, you may choose to add Google+’s founder, Larry Page, to your circle and you will not need his approval to do so.

Although there is no functionality for business pages or advertisements at the moment, we would encourage you to seek invitations from those you already know on Google+ and create personal profiles. Google+ also automatically imports your Gmail contacts so it is simple to find people you know. The company plans to add a business feature within the next couple of months. Google+ is rapidly evolving, with more features soon to come.

This article will provide you with an overview of Google+ features such as the +1 button, Circles, Hangouts, Sparks and its unique mobile and privacy capabilities.

+1 Button — This button is very similar to the Facebook “like” button. To click +1 on a blog post, article, photo or any other content is to give it your stamp of approval. You can get the code to put the +1 button on your own website and blog here.

Circles — On Google+, you can group your contacts into circles. For example, you may have a separate circle for friends, co-workers, business contacts, family and so on. You can create as many circles as you like. To add a person into one of these groups, simply drag them into a circle. Your contacts can be added to multiple circles as well. When you post text, photos, videos, links and location to your Google+ stream, you can select which circles to share the information with. For example, you may want to share a photo only with your friends, or you may share an interesting industry-related article with your business contacts. The Circles feature helps to address one of the shortcomings of Facebook which will help fuel the popularity of Google+.

Hangouts — This unique feature allows users to engage in live, face-to-face chats involving multiple people at a time. You can notify friends of who you’re hanging out with and they can choose to drop into your chat.

Sparks — Sparks delivers popular content from across the Internet on any topic you choose, in over 40 languages. Add your interests to Sparks and the tool will provide you with the videos and articles that would be of the most interest to you.

Google+ Mobile — Cell phones have become the ideal outlet for sharing information with our contacts. They are always by our side, always connected to the Internet and simple to use. Even in its beginning stages, Google+ has superior mobile capabilities. Now available on Android Market, the mobile Web and the App Store, Google+ allows users to announce their location, upload multimedia and join in “Huddles.”

Location — With Google+, you may choose to add your location to every post. Like FourSquare, this is a good tool for letting your friends know what you’re up to and recommending places for them to visit.

Upload Multimedia — Google+ has made sharing videos and photos from your phone to the Web effortless. Using Google+’s mobile feature, your photos and videos are uploaded automatically from your phone to a private album on Google+ that you can then moderate. After they are uploaded, all you have to do is decide who to share them with.

Huddles — Huddles is a unique group messaging feature that allows multiple people to chat in one place. Think of it as a texting conversation involving as many of your friends as you like.

Privacy — For those who are concerned about their privacy on social media websites, Google+ is a breath of fresh air. Google+ allows you to share any information on your profile selectively. For example, you can choose to show your occupation to business contacts but not your relationship status. If you only want your friends to be able to see your phone number, simply set up this information in your “Friends” circle only. A tip is to create a circle specifically for people who you don’t personally know and set restrictions on what they can and cannot view on your profile.

Getting Started with Social Media

Social media is a crucial marketing tool to help you make connections, rapidly build your business’ online platform and get your message out. Just about every business should be using social media in some capacity. Social media sites allow you to interact with clients, customers, competitors, critics, employees, prospects and referral sources. Through the user-generated content of social networking sites, businesses are able to learn what people are saying about them and to respond to criticism and praise. These sites also make it possible to spread your message to a larger audience than ever before in a quick, cost-effective manner. The keys are choosing the right social media platform(s) for your organization, while developing and committing to a content plan you will use to feed your network with information they will value.

Here are some tips to help your business get its message across:

Choose Which Sites to Use — With so many social media sites out there, it is important to choose the ones that best suit your business. It is much more effective to actively use a few of these sites than to just be present on all of them. Popular social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Flickr and MySpace. Research these sites and others to decide which ones are right for your business. As a general rule, if you’re in B2B (Business-to-Business), use LinkedIn. If you’re trying to reach the general public with your services, then consider using Facebook and Twitter.

Create a Memorable Logo/Username — Pick a username that is available on all or most of the major social media sites. Develop a logo to complement your business name, not overshadow it. Use the logo in your profiles and websites.

Know and Target Your Audience — First, determine who your target audience is. Using social media sites, post relevant content that your clients and prospective customers will find useful and interesting. Use your social media sites as a valuable tool for your audience rather than merely for your business’ self-promotion.

Advertise to Your Target Audience — Advertisements on Facebook, MySpace and YouTube micro-target based on demographics, age, interests and location. Facebook ad campaigns, in particular, are highly targetable and effective. Facebook captures postings to create analytical data of what members have as listed interests. This data can be used to target market certain keywords.

Build Business Contacts — LinkedIn, for example, is a business-oriented service that allows members to network and gather professional contacts. Users can find potential clients, search for jobs, land deals and get professional introductions. Creating a LinkedIn profile for your business is a great way to put your company on the map in your industry. You may also upload your existing contacts from Outlook or a CSV file to LinkedIn and Facebook.

Interact — Follow up quickly to every comment or direct message on your social media sites. Make friends and treat your connections respectfully. Be authentic and actively participate in the conversation. Remember, you are setting the tone for your business through every conversation and post online. Always encourage people to contact you.

Don’t Forget About Content — Content is far more important than technology or design. Write exceptional articles, recommendations and blog posts and load them with keywords so they are easily found. The text and quality of the content on your sites is what compels people to stay and return. It should be organized, well-written and complete with easy ways to link to information. Excellent content is easily and quickly spread on social media sites and search engines. Think about the type of ongoing content you can generate that relates to your organization and builds upon its credibility and expertise.

Track Your Social Media Success — Be aware of how effective your social media profiles and websites are. Compete.com allows users to compare the estimated traffic to their site against that of their competitors. Twitter.Grader.com will run your business’ Twitter profile through and compare it to each competitor. This allows you to not only measure your own business’ online success, but to keep track of your competition.

Don’t Slack Off — Social media is a long road and a way of doing business, not a campaign. Your social media marketing success requires commitment and long-term support. Actively update your pages with news, conversation and multimedia, such as videos and photos, to stay at the top of search engine results.

This is the first in a series of articles to be followed by closer examinations of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Visit The Public Relations and Marketing Group’s website here for examples of social media performed on behalf of its clients.