Thursday, March 13, 2014

9 Surprising Things You Can Do With Twitter

Twitter is to social media what cheese is to a great sandwich – pretty much essential for great flavor, but often taken for granted.

While many use it as a newsfeed, a trend barometer or a way to keep in touch there are so many other things you can do on Twitter … some of them unexpected. I present…

9 Surprising Things You Can Do With Twitter

There are many surprising things you can do via Twitter
1. Book a hotel stay: Loews Hotels and Resorts now allows travelers to book rooms at 16 of its 19 properties via Twitter. Interested travelers tweet to @Loews_Hotels with the hashtag #BookLoews to express interest in a room. Then a Loews travel planner joins the Twitter conversation. The same Twitter account answers traveler’ questions and occasionally offers special deals. For more see Loews Hotels & Resorts Goes Social.

2. Gift a cup of coffee: Starbucks has a Tweet-a-Coffee program that can send a $5 Starbucks eCard to Twitter friends and followers. To do this users connect their Twitter account with Starbucks. They send a tweet that starts with "@TweetaCoffee to @recipientname because…." The @TweetaCoffee account then sends a tweet on the user’s behalf to the recipient, with a message. A few seconds later, a follow-up tweet from the official account will be sent with both parties mentioned in it, providing the recipient with a link to claim the coffee. For more, see Tweet-a-coffee sign-up page.

3. Buy, sell or fundraise: Chirpify is one app that allows users to buy and sell things or raise donations via Twitter. Both buyers and sellers need Chirpify and PayPal accounts. The system works by having buyers use certain keywords, the Twitter handle of the recipient, the amount being paid or sent and the reason for the transaction in a tweet to Chirpify. That platform then sends a confirmation tweet and a follow-up email. According to Buy And Sell On Twitter With Chirpify the service can be used for such diverse things paying bills to sending a friend a beer.

4. Get recipes: Gourmet recipes written in 140 characters or less? Twitter followers know it can be done because @Cookbook, by Maureen Evans (@Maureen) posts highly abbreviated recipes for dishes that range from omelets to souffle to tiramisu. Just be sure you understand all of the measurement abbreviations!

5. Water your plants: When your houseplants need watering a company called Botanicalls has a kit for a device that allows a plant (that’s right, the plant) to tweet its needs to you. With a Botanicalls Kit, an electronic sensor, ethernet connection and a bit of patience, you can set up an electronic sensor for your plants; it will automatically send out a Twitter message when a plant needs to be watered. Users even get a thank you note when they complete the task.

A house that tweets is just one surprise thing you can do on Twitter
Tom Coates' house tweets to him and a 1,000+ followers
6. Have your home talk to you: Yes, appliances and household items that tweet at you are not new (see this 2009 Wired piece: Toaster, Toilet Lead Appliance Invasion of Twitter), but an entire house telling you via Twitter what is going on at home takes it to a new level. Such is the case with Tom Coates in San Francisco. According to a New York Times story (Home Tweet Home) the home has its own Twitter account called @houseofcoates where it shares tweets about unexpected movements inside the house and the owner’s coming and goings.

7. Manage your tasks: Remember the Milk for Twitter is a reminder app that functions across multiple digital platforms, from smartphones to tablets to Twitter. Send instructions to the app via a Twitter direct message/DM (after following the app's Twitter account, @rtm), and Remember the Milk will add the task to your account. You can also change your preferences and view specific to-do tasks using Direct Message commands.

8. Pray: Practice the centuries-old Jewish tradition of placing prayers in the Western Wall (a k a the Kotel) in Jerusalem via Twitter. Alon Nir of Tweet Your Prayers (@TheKotel) delivers 140-character prayers to the Western Wall - considered one of the most sacred religious sites in Judaism. Since 2009, Nir has been printing prayers that he received via Direct Message on Twitter and sticking them into the Western Wall on behalf of those who couldn't travel to Israel.

9. Share files: Yes, file-sharing is no terribly new on Twitter, but large numbers of users apparently still don’t know that it’s possible on Twitter. Twileshare allows users to upload files and share them with followers, all in one tweet. The files are hosted on Twileshare’s servers users are able to share a variety of file formats such as PNG, GIF, JPG, DOC and PDF files. Also on Twileshare you’re able to see the numbers of views your files get.

What other surprise uses do you know of for Twitter?

Related posts:
Twitter 101-1: Twitter – You Hardly Know Her
Twitter 101-2: Getting more from Twitter
Twitter 101-3: Getting even more from Twitter
11 Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter

Saturday, March 8, 2014

5 things brands should be doing on Instagram

Instagram, the free photo-sharing application which allows users to share photos and short videos on its own service and across other social media networking services, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr and Flickr, has become immensely popular among brands and consumers alike.

The latest statistics reveal 75 million people use it every day while 25 percent of all Fortune 500 brands are active on it, as well.

And while some brands “get it” as to how to best use the platform to benefit their particular brand, some still struggle.
To those struggling to find their way on Instagram, I offer…

5 things brands should be doing on Instagram

1. Monitor Instagram for mentions, because every mention is an opportunity for marketers to engage (see No. 4 below). Since the platform introduced tagging last year (see Instagram Now Lets Anyone Tag You [Or Brands] In Photos….) it is important for brands to see what, or if, they are being tagged. When they are, and presuming it is in a positive image, brands should consider a ….

2. Regram. This is re-sharing others’content that reflects well on your brand, your products or your services and your values. A brand adding re-shares to its own Instagram is building an image-based community – it’s not just the brand’s images but also the fan’s images. To do this you’ll need one of the tools that makes this possible with Instagram. For a list of these tools see How to Repost Instagram Photos.

3. Profile yourself on Instagram. Using the Profile page feature that Instagram added a little over a year ago smart brands now use their collected images as a way to tell their story. This visual storytelling drives interest and possibly regrams of your images by others. To learn more, see  Announcing Instagram Profiles on the Web.
Ben & Jerry's Instagram profile
Ben & Jerry's successful Instagram profile
For examples of brands doing Instagram Profiles see Ben & Jerry’s with its 340,000+ followers and the NBA page with its 1.8 million followers. Notice how both use a combination of their own images and videos to tell a behind-the-scenes story and to highlight the content of real fans (see “Regram” above).

4. Engage. This can be by responding to others’ posts on Instagram, the aforementioned Regramming, offering special deals to Instagram followers and running such things as photo contests. The latter is easy to do on Instagram: Ask Instagrammers to follow your brand, give them a topic to photograph and a hashtag to use (so you can easily search for the posts). If you offer a prize or two people will remember your hashtag. Heightened engagement in this way places your brand in the social feeds of others, thereby multiplying your reach. For solid tips on contests see the Instagram blog post How to Host A Photo Contest on Instagram.

5. Feature your customers and employees. What is your brand without these two important groups? Find ways to make stars of your customers and show how they use your products and services and mix in images of your employees on the job or out in the community. This humanization of your brand will feed into the growing desire of all social network users for authenticity. By its nature Instagram images look less polished and more genuine. Displaying your people and your customers in this way will make your brand come alive for viewers.

For a great read on “…brands that are using Instagram in unexpected and creative ways…” see Stay Authentic, Build An Instagram Cult Following: 6 Brands That Get It Right from the The Idea Lists blog.

So, what will your brand do to leverage Instagram on social media marketing? Do you have other ideas? Please share in the Comments section.

NOTE: This post was originally written for the Responsys New School Marketing Blog

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hey baby, not on social media? This might help …

Newbies, like babies, need to start exploring social media
We were all newbies in social media once
It’s been 15-20 years since social media began (depending on who you believe) and 10 years since Facebook launched and yet more than 20 percent of Americans are still not using social media.

If you find that hard to believe, the latest Pew Internet & American Life Project survey - Social Networking - has some interesting data. It found that only 69 percent of men are using the Internet for social networking while 78 percent of women are using it for that purpose. This despite there being slightly more men than women in the United States who are on the Internet (85 percent of men vs. 84 percent of women, according to the Pew Internet study How Americans go online)

So, is it too late to join the social networking party? Absolutely not. Here, for you or someone you know, are… 

5 Questions to Help You Decide Where to Start in Social Media

Why do I want to be on social media? Whether it’s to keep in touch with family and friends, rediscover old acquaintances or keep up with news and information most people find being on a social network adds value to their lives. Not knowing why you’re starting on social media or being there "because everyone else is" are reasons you won’t give this a fair chance. 

How much time will I be able to spend on this in the beginning? You don’t need to spend a lot of time in the beginning. Fifteen minutes a day, once you’re set up on one social network is plenty … if it proves valuable you can always spend more time later.

Am I missing out on something important? For some it’s not seeing family photographs. For others its being the last to hear about big news. Still others are looking for new ideas and insights. Whatever your reason you should know it going in so you can decide if the time you spend is worth it.

Am I willing to give and take? It’s called "social" media and so if the idea of sharing a little of yourself with others is repellent then perhaps social media will never be for you. But if you are willing to share then it’s likely you’ll find kindred spirits on a social network. In fact, if you have an obscure interest or hobby there may be no better place to connect with the like-minded than on a social network.

Will I give it a fair chance? As the numbers of abandoned social accounts shows there are a lot of people who think they want to be on social media, who start an account only to lose interest in a short time. A good plan might be to commit to a daily look in on your social page for one month. If, after that time, you don’t feel it is working for you then you can walk away. At least you will have given it a fair shot. 

Now, all you need do is pick a social media network where you know some people and get going.

Easier said than done perhaps, but here are some resources that might help:

4 Resources for Social Media Newbies

 So, are you ready to jump into social media? Do you know someone who might need a nudge? Please feel free to share this post with them. If I can help, please just ask.

Attention Rochester,N.Y. area folks: I'm teaching a class called Social Media for Beginners at the Rochester Brainery 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 (you can click the class name for details).

If you know someone struggling with "why," "how" or "if" they should join social media perhaps you could pass this information along. Thanks

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I nominate @mikejny for a Shorty Award in #education because he shares freely

The 2014 Shorty Awards are underway and honor the "best of social media, recognizing the people and organizations producing real-time online short form content."

the Shorty Award logo
The Shorty Awards are underway
This year’s awards are the 6th Annual Shorty Awards, and the winners will be revealed at the ceremony on April 7th, 2014 at TheTimesCenter at the New York Times building in New York City.

Eventually the Shorty Award winners are chosen by members of the Real-Time Academy of Short Form Arts & Sciences comprised of leaders in technology, journalism, business and culture. But to reach the finalist stage individuals and organizations rely on a popular vote carried out on Twitter.

It’s easy to nominate someone. You simply tweet out the following message I nominate @username for a Shorty Award in #category because... - where the "category" can be any of those listed on the Shorty Awards Categories page.

There has been some criticism of this process as seemingly random people and groups end up leading in seemingly inappropriate categories. For example, a Brazilian pop singer dominating in "Customer Service" a few years back or this year Misha Collins, who stars as Castiel the angel on TV thriller Supernatural, dominating the "Government" category.

Despite its shortcomings the Shorty Awards have, over the years, given attention to interesting people on Twitter and other social networks and the awards show (live streamed on the web if you can’t make it to New York City) is usually very entertaining.

So, take a moment or two to nominate some of your favorites on Twitter, YouTube and other social networks. When good people don’t nominate, weird things happen! You never know one of them might win a Shorty Award.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Twitter 101-3: Getting even more from Twitter

Let’s continue our look at more tools and tips for making Twitter your favorite social media platform. 

A short list:

Twitter can help you find useful stuff
• Probably the least-used and least-understood function on Twitter is its Advanced Search. It makes finding relevant and useful content so much easier. To locate it: After you have done a regular search on Twitter you will get a results page with the little cog icon to the right. Click on it and one of your three options will be Advanced Search. This is where you can narrow down your search with word choices (including or excluding, for example), people, places and sentiment (positive or negative, for example).

For more on Advanced Search see Using advanced search by Twitter or check out this piece from Mashable: 10 Tips and Tricks for Powerful Twitter Search

• Understand how hashtags are used and why you can both use them to be found and to find others and their relevant content. In a nutshell a hashtag is any series of letters (a word or several words typed together without spaces) preceded by the # symbol. These hashtags started on Twitter and are now common across many social media platforms. For more see How to Use Hashtags With Twitter on WikiHow.

• Perhaps you would like to start using Twitter more for business purposes. This post 12 Most Twitterific Ways to Use Twitter in Your Business by Rebekah Radice (@RebekahRadice on Twitter) has some good basic starting points on the how to use Twitter for business purposes.

• Last, but certainly not least, be sure to start sharing your Twitter @name everywhere so that people know this is one more place they can connect with you. Having it on business cards, in your email signature and on your other social media pages (such as Linkedin and Facebook) can only help more people connect with you.

So, now do you feel ready to get more from Twitter? I hope so, but if you have questions that haven’t been answered in these posts please don’t hesitate to ask … I’m on Twitter as @mikejny.

Related posts: