Wednesday, August 27, 2014

6 Backstage Social Media Platforms Every Marketer Should Be Using

By now, most marketers understand the importance of social media marketing; not only is it an inexpensive way to build a following and promote your brand’s content, but participation in social media could also become a major factor in the ranking algorithm for search engines like Google. If you’re like most marketers, you’ve focused on the “big three”: Facebook for the biggest audience, Twitter for the fastest updates and public profiles, and LinkedIn for the B2B business professionals.
In addition to the big three, there are a number of other social platforms that have gotten attention: YouTube is the biggest and most popular platform for any video-based marketing, and Google+ is used often because—let’s face it—it’s a Google product, and they reward its users with better rankings according tocorrelation studies by Moz and SearchMetrics. But there are countless platforms beyond the most popular options, with hundreds of millions of users between them, that most marketers aren’t taking advantage of yet.
Let’s take a look at some of the powerful social media platforms you can use for your brand beyond the major players:
1.Pinterest. As I wrote in The Top 7 Social Media Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2014, the popularity of image-based platforms is on the rise, and Pinterest is one of the best and most popular image-based platforms around. Pinterest’s format allows viral content to spread quickly, since its share feature “re-pinning” encourages fast travel from user to user, and there are no signs of the social powerhouse’s momentum slowing down anytime soon.
If your business has products that can be shown off with well-taken photos, Pinterest is perfect for you. Create boards revolving around your main product categories and promote your material in new, creative, or artistic ways. You can also create infographics or share pictures of your company if you don’t have tangible products in your business model. No matter what you do, keep your brand voice consistent and work Pinterest into a rhythm with your other social media profiles by cross-posting your images. The more consistent you are and the more visually appealing your images are, the better you’ll fare.
2. Instagram. Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms around, with 200 million active users and an average of 60 million photos shared every day. Since Instagram is mostly populated with individual users sharing photos with their close friends and family, marketers have overlooked it as a viable social media option. However, the sheer number of users alone makes it worth exploring.
Create an Instagram account for your business and connect it to your company’s Facebook and/or Twitter account. Instead of using the Pinterest strategy of showcasing highlights of your products and services, use Instagram to demonstrate the personal side of your brand. Take pictures of your office and coworkers, and of any events you are attending. Use hashtags wherever it’s appropriate (just don’t overdo it) and engage with other users on a regular basis by commenting on their photos and responding to their comments on yours.
3. Tumblr. With over 130 million blogs, Tumblr is a blogging powerhouse, yet it’s still overlooked by most marketers. Tumblr used to be a semi-underground refuge for teens and young adults looking for a new way to express themselves, but since Yahoo purchased the platform for $1.1 billion in 2003, its “hotness” factor has started to wane.
That doesn’t mean it’s no longer useful. Think of Tumblr as a social version of a traditional blog. It’s a new outlet for you to publish and distribute your content, and since other users can connect to your blog with ease, it’s easier to build long-term connections. The best way to use Tumblr is as a niche division of your brand—for example, Target uses Tumblr to advertise and promote different fashions associated with the brand. Tumblr users do tend to prefer images and videos over written content, but it’s a good idea to use both if you want to attract the largest possible audience.
4. Sulia. Sulia is a relatively new platform that’s attempting to segment and filter the endless stream of content that social media users tolerate. Twitter feeds and Facebook feeds in particular tend to be filled with unnecessary updates and pooled results, forcing users to embark on a hunt to find the content that’s relevant to them. Twitter lists attempt to control this by allowing users to segment who they follow, but Sulia is an entire platform dedicated to a more refined experience.
Sulia is a content platform like a communal blog, but it allows users to categorize their content and search based on user-tailored “suggested posts” and posts that are trending within the community. With Sulia, you can write to a focused section of your audience and build a more relevant readership. You might get fewer readers with Sulia compared to a mainstream publisher, but the types of readers you get will be more relevant for your brand and therefore, will be more likely to convert.
5. Bubblews. If nothing else, Bubblews is a great business idea. Instead of posting all its own content or relying on its users to generate free content it can leverage, Bubblews shares all its ad revenue with its contributors. Right now, there aren’t that many people using Bubblews, so the revenue being shared is miniscule and the readership is limited. However, as it grows, there is a key opportunity for brand promotion.
Think of Bubblews as a guest blogging platform that can generate a separate stream of revenue. Write, post, and syndicate your content regularly on Bubblews and you’ll get the benefits of greater visibility and more possibilities for links and external brand mentions. Plus, if your content is catchy and starts to become popular, you’ll receive a share of all the ad revenue it helps to generate. Again, right now you can’t count on much revenue to come in, but over time, Bubblews could evolve to become a formidable platform in the social media world.
6. Snapchat. Snapchat started back in 2011, but because it’s been used mostly for personal exchanges, it’s slipped by the eyes of most marketers. However, as I mentioned in my article Your Guide to Using Snapchat for Marketing, about 400 million snaps are sent each day by about 26 million users in the United States. Pictures and videos sent via this app are self-destructing as a privacy measure. That means your target audience will only have a few seconds to read and remember your message. In a way, that’s advantageous considering the painfully low attention span of your average user—it’s a way of almost guaranteeing their attention for those few seconds. But at the same time, you need to compress your messaging to ensure it is memorable.
Compared to other image-based apps, Snapchat is somewhat less efficient. It takes more time to follow and get to know your potential users, and it takes significant effort to create an image or message that will only last for a few seconds. Still, it’s worth considering as part of your broader strategy.
You certainly don’t need a presence on every one of these platforms in order to run a successful social media campaign, but if you want the most relevant audience and the best potential results, it’s important to think outside the “Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn” box.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Slow Web Hosting May Be Related to Server ‘Packing’

Did you know that the loading speed of a website is sometime directly related to how many other sites are on the same server? If your business touches websites you will probably find these articles on website security and website hosting 'packing' extremely useful.

Slow Web Hosting May Be Related to Server ‘Packing’

There’s no denying that some shared hosting is just slower than others, especially when the site utilizes a Content Management System, CMS. We decided to investigate a way to measure how many websites each of these four popular shared hosting providers ‘pack’ into each server:

  1. GoDaddy
  2. Network Solutions
  3. Bluehost
  4. HostGator

In our personal experience, GoDaddy is the worst offender here, followed by Network Solutions. Bluehost used to be one of our top choices, but have recently started getting slower and having uptime issues. HostGator has been our solid choice for a while, but is it only a matter of time before they begin to pack their shared hosting as well?

In an attempt to determine how many shared hosting clients each of the above providers packs into each of their servers, we used a reverse IP lookup tool to see how many domains share the same IP address. Here’s what we found:

  • GoDaddy - 4171 sites
  • Network Solutions - 1730 sites
  • Bluehost - 1390 sites
  • HostGator - 92 sites

GoDaddy we found to be consistently slow during working hours had 4171 sites attached to the sample IP address. This is three times the amount of the next highest, Network Solutions.
Network Solutions and Bluehost are roughly in the same boat. HostGator is clearly doing something different with only 92 sites coming up for our sample IP address. This is certainly what we’ve experienced with this hosting provider to date: fast, reliable, and consistent.

A few things to remember, this is only a single sample from each hosting provider, and each provider likely has different hardware, network setup, etc. Another proviso is that we’re not hosting providers, or system administrators, but there seems to be a correlation between number of site per IP and the level of performance experienced from that hosting provider.

So for today at least, HostGator is the least slowest, but that may change at any time. Also, don’t assume that you will be able to contact your hosting provider and get a straight answer. You’ll probably get all the mumbo jumbo about “rebuilding your database” and all those fun tasks, so run while you can!

These companies rely on on inexperienced people creating their own websites for cheap. It actually turns out to be quite expensive after they have upsold you their many many 'vital' options. If you can find a trust worthy web developer...go with them. They have your best interest in mind and if they're any good, they don't use any of the companies above. 

Credit to: Al, Dan, Carlos, Michael, et al.
WordPress Website Specialists

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Facebook Timeline Covers For Businesses

Facebook changes are coming up very soon. Make sure your business is prepared for the dramatic new look and features that will happen whether you want them or not. North Star Web Services is happy to assist you with this change if you'd like. Just call (603) 752-3089 or email for more information and prices.

Once you log into your Facebook profile account now, see your home screen carefully – there might be the invite to try timeline waiting for you at the top of the page. This is a kind of omnibus, dual-column look everyone’s going to have on Facebook until the end of March 2012.

So based on the content you’ve shared on your Facebook profile, this timeline page will show the most interesting of your stories made up of widget-like boxes in a reverse chronological order. But in the first spot there will be a profile cover – the large image banner of the user’s choice at the top of the page. User’s content can be also displayed in the apps section (can be viewed when page visitors click the dropdown arrow) and the status update box (it is where users can share new photos, links, updates, places). Mention that as you scroll down the timeline, the right-hand column for fast navigation and the toolbar at the top of the page will remain static. Some examples below:

Summarizing the changes, in the new Facebook layout we can see:!/butterfinger
 •cover photo: now the large banner image of a user’s choice will sit at the top of the timeline along with an inset of a user’s profile photo. The cover photo dimensions are 851×315 pixels (if the image is smaller than these dimensions, it will get stretched to this larger size). Here you can choose any image that is representative of your brand, still it is not allowed to use the cover photo as a fan gate replacement, meaning that you cannot include there any call-to-action, point to the like button, price or purchase information, contact info (it should be in the page’s about section), references to Facebook features or actions, such as ‘like’ or ‘share’ or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features, and similar techniques;!/peoplemag

 •real-time ticker: this new element being placed on a top right of the screen will help users see what is happening in real-time, including posts update, photo uploads, comments and friend activity, and will be able to join these activities;

about section: in this section you can show a description of your brand’s identity, an address, and contact info. Once users click on the about link, they can unfold a map and view other basic info;

 •page apps: page owners can now not only highlight custom apps but also update the app icons and names to describe the app purpose. Apps are now replaced from the left navigation sidebar to the right side of the about section. They can include likes, videos, photos, events, home, map and custom apps for your promotions, contests, games, coupons, media, and signup widgets;

 •revamped friends lists: with this new feature it will be easy to see just the updates you care about;

 •better news feed: it will be easy to hide updates you don’t care about from news feed and spot most interesting stories since you last checked Facebook (top stories and recent stories will be in one place);

 •no more fun gates: previously page owners were able to set a default landing tab for non-fans who first visited the page to entice them to like the page and turn into fans. This functionality is no longer available as a default landing page option, because the users will now see the main timeline view instead. The app will still exist, so once linking from your website or elsewhere to your Facebook page, you can link people directly to a particular view or drop them onto the fan gate page;

 •you can star, hide, and pin: this means that users will be able to modify the items in their page’s timeline, making individual stories wider by hover, highlighting them as important with the star icon, hiding them with the pencil icon or deleting from the timeline. Plus page owners will be able to pin or anchor a specific story, marketing offer, remarkable event or promotion to the top of their timeline up to 7 days.

These Facebook changes are still in a beta stage, so we can expect to see bugs that should be worked out. Right now the like button does not refresh the page once being clicked.