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