Thursday, June 30, 2016

3 Steps to That Unplugged, Peace-of-Mind Vacation People Talk About

3 Steps to That Unplugged, Peace-of-Mind Vacation People Talk About

It is officially summertime. The good news is that vacation season is upon us. The bad news is it can be really hard to fully disconnect and engage in a true vacation these days. One tap on a mobile phone and you’re checking email. A click of a button and notifications alert us with an update from one of many social media platforms. Truth is, it can be hard to be fully present in anything these days, especially vacation. Sure you can go away physically, but what about the mental and emotional parts of you? The fear of returning from a vacation behind on your work and having to spend nights and weekends catching up can make a sunny day seem a little gloomier.

Vacation is important. Rest and relaxation is good for the soul, and even positively affect your productivity. Taking time to disconnect from “it all” and reconnect to yourself, your hobbies, your dreams can be very beneficial and rejuvenating.
"Disconnecting from our technology to reconnect with ourselves is absolutely essential for wisdom." -- Arianna Huffington
Spending uninterrupted time with family, out in nature or simply by yourself has the potential to re-inspire you. Vacation gives you the opportunity to reflect on why you’re working so hard and for such long hours. Maybe so you can provide for your family or to be the best you can be. Your hopes and dreams are the foundation of those reasons, so it is important to take care of you during your time away from the office.
“I didn’t want to be alone. I just wanted to be free of obligations, most of which asserted themselves digitally” says Baratunde Thurston in his article #Unplug: Baratunde Thurston Left The Internet For 25 Days, And You Should, Too. If you have a vacation planned soon and you’re about to take time away from work, here are three things to consider before heading out that will help you enjoy your time away unplugged and with the peace of mind you desire, just as intended.

1. Before you leave.

Discuss your MITs (Most Important Things) that need to be done before you leave. Clarifying what absolutely needs to be done before you leave for vacation will make it easier to leave. Write your priorities down and mark them off as you complete them, this way you are visually watching your to-do list shrink while your confidence in leaving is growing as your mind is becoming clearer and freed from the impending list of things to do. Take care of the essentials so you don’t have to give any mind to them while you are away.

Bonus tip: Ask for help. Consider implementing a morning “stand-up” meeting with some of your coworkers the three to five days before you leave. Each morning, identify the one priority you have for that day, and ask for any help they may be able to give you. You want to complete as much as possible before you leave the office.

2. While you're on vacation.

Agree on your MITs (Most Important Things) for the time you’re on vacation. Be willing to define what is most important during your vacation. It may be one simple thing or it may be a few things. Regardless, keep them at the forefront of your mind. Write them down if you need to. Put them on a sticky note to stick on your mirror while you are gone as a daily reminder of what is truly important to you while you are away. If you need to check into work at least once, give yourself the grace to check in. Not all vacations are the relaxing and peaceful kind, but find time in each day to refresh your mind with what is most important to you during your time away.

3. Catch up days.

Schedule two afternoon “catch-up days” for the week after you return. After being away for an extended period of time, it can be very overwhelming to get back into the swing of things at work. Feeling buried under papers or drowning in emails, it can seem hopeless and stressful coming back. To avoid feeling like you will never recover, schedule a at least two afternoons that you can dedicate to catching up. As Muhammad Ali said,It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe.” Make the time to get the pebbles out of your shoes by getting caught up on what you missed so you will be ready and available to stay on top of what is current and in need of your attention now.
By taking the time to consider these three things before you leave for vacation you will not only have a peace of mind while you’re away from the office, but you will fully be able to engage in your time away. Prepare for your vacation at work, just as much as you prepare for vacation at home. Make the list and tackle your to-do’s one at a time. Vacation you will thank you.

5 Up-and-Coming Social Media Tools You Should Know About

 5 Up-and-Coming Social Media Tools You Should Know About

Social media marketing is still a new business tool, relatively speaking. There’s no magic formula for success, and the potential benefits of your efforts are broad and not entirely predictable.
That promise is appealing, especially to young entrepreneurs, but results don’t come automatically -- even if you have a solid strategic foundation for your campaign. In fact, it requires a tremendous amount of planning, effort and refinement before you start to see results. And in most cases, the tools and features offered by social media platforms straightaway aren’t typically enough to give you the edge you need.
Social media operates in a hyper-competitive arena, and if you want to stay alive, you’re going to have to use the newest tools to support your efforts.

The key measure of success in social media, as in most other forms of marketing, is your overall return on investment (ROI). When most people think about ROI, they focus on the return they’re getting, and how to improve it.
Some tools will help you do this by providing more data you can use to target your demographics more accurately or allowing you to reach wider audiences than you have up to this point. However, most tools are directed at the other side of the equation -- the investment side.
They help you work more efficiently, to reduce the amount of time and money you expend in managing a campaign, and increase the power of everything you create or direct. In theory, at least, this should boost the potential of every dollar or hour you put in.

With those goals in mind, we want to show you five incredibly powerful up-and-coming social media tools you should be using to enhance your campaign:

1. Notifier.

One of the biggest trends in social media marketing right now is influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is the art of engaging with prominent authorities to earn more visibility for your posts and brand. Notifier is a tool that helps automate and improve your influencer relationships. By plugging in your content, it will automatically search it for references you’ve made to other brands, and pull up their social information so you can notify them that you’ve cited them. This gives you an “in” for engaging with new influencers, streamlining your influencer marketing campaign.

2. Real Geeks’ Facebook Marketing Tool.

If you’ve ever been intimidated or frustrated by the process of Facebook advertising, but are convinced of the potential value there, Real Geeks’ Facebook marketing tool is perfect for you. Designed for realtors, the tool connects your Facebook ad campaign directly to your website. From there, it automatically pulls data (such as home listings, images, etc.) and generates the type of ads that tend to generate the best results. You’ll be able to monitor and adjust these ads before they go out, and create your own if you so desire. The tool also provides detailed, easy-to-follow reporting, so you can track your progress accurately.

3. SocialOomph.

SocialOomph doesn’t have a particularly fancy user experience layer, but its functionality is powerful. With this, you’ll be able to connect all your social media profiles into one area, schedule posts in advance, and even “bulk upload” updates to have them roll out periodically over a preset schedule. It’s fantastic if you’re in the business of content syndication (as you should be), and it offers a number of audience insight tools as well.

4. Sprout Social.

Sprout Social is similar to Hootsuite in concept, but offers more robust functionality. You can connect to almost every major social media platform, schedule posts, monitor progress in terms of likes, engagements, and user activity, and easily see how your content performs over time. Sprout Social also furnishes social listening functionality, which allows you to perform better content topic research and market research by plugging into your key users’ social media conversations. Perhaps best of all, Sprout Social was designed with teams in mind, so you can establish different user roles and delegate tasks here too.

5. Crate.

Crate is a relatively new content curation tool designed to help you find the best-performing content on the web. Plug in the types of content and social media feeds you want to see more of, and Crate will generate a list of the topics that have performed best on social media. You can use this list to fuel your own social sharing strategy, or use it as inspiration to write better content for your blog. Either way, it’s incredibly useful.
Before you go out and start using these tools indiscriminately, let’s leave you with a pertinent cautionary note about automation in a marketing campaign. Automation can be incredibly valuable; it can give you more objective insights and save both time and money.

However, if you rely too much on automation, your campaign could suffer. Here’s how:
  • You could develop a false sense of security and assume your campaign will go perfectly, and end up overlooking vital signs of weakness.
  • Your creative muscles could atrophy, and give you less innovative material to work with.
  • Your campaign could become stagnant and repetitive, which risks alienating your audience.
  • You could lose touch with the key demographics your business needs to survive.
  • Your biases could misinterpret the data provided to you, thanks to confirmation bias.
You don’t need to worry actively about these weaknesses or forgo automation tools because of such concerns. You merely need to acknowledge them, and keep them in mind when you choose to employ such tools to complement and build your campaign. It’s all about achieving a proper balance.

Monday, June 27, 2016

10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

Leveraging the power of content and social media marketing can help elevate your audience and customer base in a dramatic way. But getting started without any previous experience or insight could be challenging.
It's vital that you understand social media marketing fundamentals. From maximizing quality to increasing your online entry points, abiding by these 10 laws will help build a foundation that will serve your customers, your brand and -- perhaps most importantly -- your bottom line.
1. The Law of Listening
Success with social media and content marketing requires more listening and less talking. Read your target audience’s online content and join discussions to learn what’s important to them. Only then can you create content and spark conversations that add value rather than clutter to their lives.
2. The Law of Focus
It’s better to specialize than to be a jack-of-all-trades. A highly-focused social media and content marketing strategy intended to build a strong brand has a better chance for success than a broad strategy that attempts to be all things to all people.
3. The Law of Quality
Quality trumps quantity. It’s better to have 1,000 online connections who read, share and talk about your content with their own audiences than 10,000 connections who disappear after connecting with you the first time.
4. The Law of Patience
Social media and content marketing success doesn’t happen overnight. While it’s possible to catch lightning in a bottle, it’s far more likely that you’ll need to commit to the long haul to achieve results.
5. The Law of Compounding
If you publish amazing, quality content and work to build your online audience of quality followers, they’ll share it with their own audiences on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, their own blogs and more.
This sharing and discussing of your content opens new entry points for search engines like Google to find it in keyword searches. Those entry points could grow to hundreds or thousands of more potential ways for people to find you online.
6. The Law of Influence
Spend time finding the online influencers in your market who have quality audiences and are likely to be interested in your products, services and business. Connect with those people and work to build relationships with them.
If you get on their radar as an authoritative, interesting source of useful information, they might share your content with their own followers, which could put you and your business in front of a huge new audience.
7. The Law of Value
If you spend all your time on the social Web directly promoting your products and services, people will stop listening. You must add value to the conversation. Focus less on conversions and more on creating amazing content and developing relationships with online influencers. In time, those people will become a powerful catalyst for word-of-mouth marketing for your business.
8. The Law of Acknowledgment
You wouldn’t ignore someone who reaches out to you in person so don’t ignore them online. Building relationships is one of the most important parts of social media marketing success, so always acknowledge every person who reaches out to you.
9. The Law of Accessibility
Don’t publish your content and then disappear. Be available to your audience. That means you need to consistently publish content and participate in conversations. Followers online can be fickle and they won’t hesitate to replace you if you disappear for weeks or months.
10. The Law of Reciprocity
You can’t expect others to share your content and talk about you if you don’t do the same for them. So, a portion of the time you spend on social media should be focused on sharing and talking about content published by others.  

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Is social media making people depressed?


Anyone who regularly uses social media will have had the experience of feeling envious of the fun their friends all seem to be having. This might especially be the case if you’re are sitting at home on a cold wet evening, feeling bored while everyone else is partying or having a glamorous holidays in the sun.
But is it possible that these feelings could be the start of something worse? Could using social media actually make you depressed? A recent US-based study, sponsored by the National Institute for Mental Health, identified a “strong and significant association between social media use and depression in a … sample of US young adults”. The study found that levels of depression increased with total amount of time spent using social media and number of visits to social media sites per week.
Previous studies have painted a more mixed picture. It would seem that the relationship between social media and depression and well-being is complex and likely to be influenced by a number of factors.
At its best, social media allows us to connect and keep up with friends and people we don’t see very often. It allows us to have short interactions with them that keep the relationships going when we don’t have much free time. At its worst, social media can, it seems, feed into feelings of inadequacy.
There are likely to be many complex reasons why social media use might be associated with depression. For instance, it is possible that people who are already depressed might be more inclined to rely on social media instead of face-to-face interactions, so greater social media use may be a symptom rather than a cause of depression.

An unsatisfactory fix

We all have a basic need to be liked and accepted by others and social media can play into this vulnerability. “Likes” are the currency of social media, and people who have low self-esteem may place great value on seeking validation from their social media use by trying to attract likes to their comments as a way of increasing their self-esteem. In this way, social media can be a bit of a popularity contest. Of course, “winning” the popularity contest by garnering the most likes is only a short-term boost to morale. It’s a precarious way to boost self-esteem.
How everyone looks on social media.
It is human nature to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes comparison can be a way to inspire ourselves to improve in some way, but, more often than not – especially when someone is feeling down or is prone to depression – the comparisons become negative, and erode self-esteem. One problem with social media is that the image people portray of themselves tends to be positive, interesting and exciting. Let’s face it, most of us would rather post a photograph of ourselves looking great on a night out than one where we are in our pyjamas, washing the dishes. If someone is feeling down or dissatisfied with their life then, instead of being a bit of a distraction, social media use can give the impression that everyone else is having way more fun than we are.

Not all bad

Many parents have misgivings about their children’s use of social media and more than one parent has had to console a tearful teenager, distraught over an online argument. Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay and, for many young people, opting out of social media would mean losing access to their network of friends. For them, it is not a viable option.
At the moment, we don’t know enough about how the way that social media is used and its impact on mood and longer-term mental health. Until we do, perhaps the best option is to recognise that social media can be a valuable tool to keep in touch with friends and that our interactions on social media should not overly influence our self-esteem. It might also be worth remembering that, although everyone else might seem to be having a great time, newsfeeds are more biased towards showing all the fun, interesting things that people are doing. So they are just curating the best bits of their life – not necessarily having a better time than you are.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

How to Keep Your Social Media Images Looking Fresh

How to Keep Your Social Media Images Looking Fresh

Consistently posting high-quality content is the lifeblood of a great social media strategy. But it’s easier said than done.
Not only do you have to post consistently to gain traction, the content has be to timely, relevant to your audience, and engaging. Social media is for conversations after all, not megaphones.
Whether it’s a plane in the Hudson River or a crying boy hugging a police officer, social images are unique in their ability to communicate so much information in just a snapshot of time.
And social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest have built-in features to make it incredibly easy for users to share great images and spread them across their entire network.
In this blog post I am going to cover several strategies to keep your social media images fresh as well as 10 types of images you should try out.

Balance consistency vs. content fatigue

Why is ‘fresh’ content so important? Two words: content fatigue.
If you just share the same images over and over, your followers will tune you out. In advertising this is known as ad fatigue. Essentially, what this means is, when consumers are shown ads too many times and start to ignore them, making click-through rates fall and lowering the ROI.
The same is true for your social channels. Without fresh content, your engagement rates will fall and your fans will start to pay attention to less and less of your content, or every marketer’s worst nightmare: they ignore you.
The trick is to find a balance between consistency and fatigue. And there is no perfect answer for everyone.
Every audience is different. Some brands can get away with posting six Instagram photos a day and still have high engagement while others will see their engagement drop off after only two posts. At Buffer we’ve found that we can post 13 times to Twitter per day and three times to Facebook without seeing any significant drop off.
Make sure to periodically do some experimentation with the quantity of images you post each day, the results might just surprise you.

Develop a style guide for your social photos

Having a unique style is essential to a great brand and the same goes for your social media strategy. Consistently using the same Instagram filters, typefaces, colors, or visual cues can help viewers instantly recognize your content.
Everyday Carry is a great example of an Instagram account that has found a style of photos (knolling) that works for their brand. If you see a top-down photo with a phone, pen, & wallet in your feed, there’s a pretty good chance that it is by Everyday Carry.

The attention-grabbing copy with a consistent typeface and highlighted players with the black and white background make for an impressive image. There is also minimal copy in the Tweets, letting the images speak for themselves.
Creating a style guide for your social accounts can be massively beneficial when you have multiple team members with content creation duties. Every member of your social team should know the ins-and-outs of your style guide so there is no loss of quality when someone steps in.

Read more  How to Keep Your Social Media Images Looking Fresh