Could you help me out? I’m writing an article about starting blogging.
Let’s say you were to go back to when you first started blogging. How would you get your first 100 Facebook fans?
1. Write an article
2. Post a link to the article on your Facebook page
What’s the next step?
Go back to when I first started blogging? Well, that was around May of 2010. How would I get my first 100 Facebook fans? I’d have to create an account first.
After disagreeing with Zuck’s views on privacy, I deleted my personal account. But then in late 2010, I had to create another account for managing clients’ pages (which I also ended up deleting).
There are hundreds of reports, which are saved somewhere in the cloud, with details of my recommendations, methods, and results for growing an audience on social networks. Thing is, most of the specific advice is outdated.
Best practices are meant to be broken, and the people who push boundaries get the furthest.
You can google the latest tactics for inspiration, but successful marketers are the ones that devise their own experiments. If you’re starting a blog today, treat it like a business. Start with a marketing plan, and then use trial and error to figure out what work best for attracting your target audience. Oh and remember to avoid making the pinball machine mistake. Getting 100 fans might be a strategy you consider to increase readership, but it shouldn’t be your high level objective.
My last few posts have been social media audits. Each one assessed a single online channel of a well-known startup. While trying to figure out what brand to feature next, I considered Nasty Gal. The only problem being, Nasty Gal is killing it on Instagram.
Of course there’s always room for improvement, but with no major shortcomings I wondered if I should keep looking. When a brand is doing well, I think it takes skill to point out its weaknesses. More importantly, I was hoping my actionable advice was heard and helped the startups improve their online presence.
After following Nasty Gal’s Instagram account for a couple of days, I realized that even though they don’t need my unsolicited advice, other brands are bound to be inspired by their success.
I often get asked if Instagram is worth it. This depends if your customers are even using the social network. You should also know that Instagram may not drive much traffic (and in turn sales) overnight, but it’s invaluable for building a loyal community. This is partly due to the Instagram feed being one of the few that is still viewed in its entirety by many users.
Below are some actionable lessons that translate to most consumer brands, and will help you tap into Instagram’s captive audience.
Open NastyGal.com in a new tab, and soak up that feeling. Now open up another tab with the Nasty Gal Instagram account. The brand has managed to duplicate the experience, with Nasty Gal’s Instagram being as vibrant as their site, and full of attitude.
The risqué tag line appears on their Twitter account, though it slightly differs from their Pinterest and Facebook bios. This might be intentional, as you should always keep in mind the type of users on each social network. However, your target audience might not change much depending on the medium. Consistent messaging can help with SEO and with conveying a stronger and more memorable image.
The only hyperlink on Instagram is the one in your bio, so be sure to use that space wisely. Nasty Gal links to their homepage. You can follow suit, or be creative and link to a landing page personalized for Instagram followers.
The Nasty Gal logo is used as a display picture for the main account, while a slightly revised image appears on their careers account. You might be tempted to switch up your display picture, but exhibiting a consistent logo helps improve brand recognition.
Sophia Amoruso is no stranger to social recruiting, and having a separate careers account allows Nasty Gal to stay true to their brand. If you plan on sourcing talent and distributing open positions on Instagram, consider that the content that appeals to your customers might differ from what you’d like to share with potential hires.
The majority of Instagram users capture moments as they occur, but creating appealing content that represents the Nasty Gal brand sometimes means carefully stylized product shots and Photoshop fun. These custom images do well since they don’t go as far as pushing generic marketing messages or shooting merchandise on boring mannequins.
Even when a product shot features a model against a white background, she is fully accessorized and looks like she stepped out of a glossy fashion magazine, rather than a dimly lit warehouse. You want your brand to stand out in the feed, not look out of place.
Nasty Gal takes full advantage of Instagram’s video feature by announcing contest winners and sharing GIFs. Recently, Nasty Gal created a very short and funny ad for a new app. Understanding the sense of humour of your audience, can help you create entertaining videos that don’t offend your followers. Nasty Gal has also been promoting Sophia Amoruso’s new book #GIRLBOSS by portraying successful women. These insightful videos are well received, as they provide followers with valuable advice and inspiration.
Aside from sharing the classic Nasty Gal look, new fashion and internet trends are also incorporated into images. This goes further than acknowledging seasons and holidays. These images make Nasty Gal part of the conversation, if not an authority, on festival wear and even wildly used emoji.
Nasty Gal also understands which famous personalities resonate with their audience. Photos of them wearing the clothing brand are posted along with a custom url. Followers can then learn more the product showcased, and other favourite Nasty Gal picks.
The custom url is added both in the caption and as a ‘location’. Neither of these links are clickable, so you will likely see very little traffic if they are only used on Instagram. If you do decide to include links, always use a custom url. This way you’ll be able to test variables and improve your results. Nasty Gal’s loyal community, solid call-to-actions, and striking images are all factors contributing to increased visits as users type out the url or copy and paste the caption.
While Nasty Gal mostly includes a url in place of a location, they do sometimes include a physical location. Adding a place increases your reach to Instagram users browsing images at that location. There have been some issues with location since Instagram replaced Foursquare with Facebook Places, so be sure to pick an accurate address.
Regardless of where the shot was taken, if the people in the photo have an Instagram account, Nasty Gal @mentions them within the caption. This makes it easy for your followers to engage with that person. Instagram also allows you to tag people in the photo itself, but you might want to get permission first since tagged photos will appear publicly in their profile. Either way, the person will get notified which encourages more activity and hopefully a repost of the photo for their own followers.
Adding hashtags to the caption can also increases likes, comments, and followers. Hashtags improve engagement by targeting users that aren’t yet following your brand. Nasty Gal could include popular, yet relevant, hashtags such as Fashion (114M+), Style (87M+), and Vintage (12M+). However, they mostly use their own branded hashtags. Event though these have been gaining momentum, the branded hashtags are likely to only be used by current followers. A balance of the two can have a significant impact on your brand awareness and engagement metrics.
Creating your own hashtags can help you build a community around a shared love for your brand. However, the above only works if that sentiment already existed among your customers. Nasty Gal was able to build a large audience, because it offers high quality products that their customers desire.
Nasty Gal has 1.2M+ Instagram followers, hundreds of comments per photo, thousands of images with their branded hashtags, and yet they still take the time to interact with fans. Initially this will be easy to do, but as your online presence grows you will have to make an effort to ensure engagement remains a priority. Nasty Gal knows the value of listening to customers on social media, and this has helped them become a stronger brand with a growing loyal community.
FreshBooks’ bio features a succinct tagline, consistent with their other social media accounts. Seeing as many Twitter users reach out to brands for a quick answer, FreshBooks invite inquiries within their bio and assures users that they are available and ready to respond. FreshBooks also proudly displays their location and tracks clicks from the url. A shortened link tends to discourage clicks, but a referral link is a great way to measure how many signups are generated through Twitter.
Twitter’s profile pictures are pretty small, and appear even smaller in the feed. Instead of the FreshBooks’ text logo, their profile picture is of the green leaf which also appears as the favicon on the FreshBooks website. The green leaf is quickly recognized, and the full logo appears on FreshBooks’ customized background image.
The custom background image includes additional information that could not fit within the bio. The information is presented in bullet-points, and doesn’t showcase a list of unclickable links. Twitter users viewing the account on the web might have different screen sizes, which often affect custom backgrounds negatively. However, FreshBooks took the time to match the background colour to their branding. Upon a closer look, their header and link colour are also the same blue.
In addition to tracking their website link in the bio, FreshBooks also uses Bit.ly to measure the performance of their individual tweets. Identifying the type of information that your followers prefer can help you plan an effective content strategy and in turn offer superior value to your audience. Bit.ly, Buffer, and similar third-party services, can also inform you of the best frequency and time for updates in order to maximize results.
FreshBooks has a deep understanding of their audience and shares valuable updates, however, they all seems to be from the company blog. Twitter can be a great tool for driving traffic to your own site, but the focus should be on listening. Monitoring relevant keywords, and influential accounts, can serve as a source of quality content and better position FreshBooks as a leader within the space. Freelancers and small business owners are undeniably interested in FreshBooks’ advice, but they will benefit even more from a variety of expert sources.
Twitter is known for delivering real-time news to users, and often the first place customers visit when they encounter technical difficulties. FreshBooks alerts their followers of any downtime through updates marked with the hashtag #status. Assuring customers that the issue is being taken care of minimizes the pain of the outage as well as the volume of individual complaints.
In their bio, FreshBooks states that the team is available for assistance directly on Twitter. FreshBooks delivers on their promise and provides users with superior customer service. In addition to actually responding to inquires, and those @mentioning the brand, the team does so promptly. The one thing that can be done better is follow-ups. Once an issue has been resolved or passed on, be sure to check back with the individual to make sure everything worked out.
FreshBooks taps into an existing community of small business owners and professionals by engaging with Twitter users through the hashtag #smallbiz. The use of hashtags can increase the reach of each tweet, resulting in additional RTs, favourites, and @mentions. Instead of only using the hashtag to push relevant content, another way to boost engagement would be to interact with top contributors.
FreshBooks has created several lists within Twitter to organize relevant accounts, which can help the brand better retweet and engage with others. Retweeting other Twitter users provides followers with a variety of information sources, leads to increased discussion, and may even result in people returning the favour. Twitter also allows for private lists that may be used to observe competitors’ best practices and reach out to their followers.
While scrolling through FreshBooks’ tweets, it was apparent that they have not shared any images for the past couple of months. Multimedia is highly engaging, as seen by the response to a recent SlideShare update (below). Different forms of content can help brands better tell a story as well as enable your company account to better connect with followers on a personal level. In addition to positioning FreshBooks as approachable, visually appealing content is highly memorable and often leads to increased word-of-mouth.
FreshBooks makes the most of their bio and highlights their commitment to customer service. Due to the past-paced nature of Twitter, be prepared to provide prompt support, as users will expect it regardless of your brand’s promise. This can be a blessing, as a simple reply recognizing the issue will delight your customers.
Be sure to create a profile picture, header, and background that are consistent with your site’s branding, but also be mindful of Twitter’s specific limitations. In addition, don’t expect links in your background image to have an impact as people will rarely take the time to type a url into their address bar.
FreshBooks has successfully grown their account over the past years; however, conversion can be improved by spending more time proactively interacting with others. Monitoring keywords and trends can help brands share timely content, and have memorable discussions that will result in higher customer satisfaction as well as customer acquisition.
If you’re interested in uncovering your company’s social media strengths and weaknesses, please contact me here.
While Square’s logo naturally looks better in a square, LinkedIn’s rectangular space offers a chance to input a logo as well as a company name and/or tagline. Square doesn’t take advantage of this, but they have created a unique header for their LinkedIn audience.
Another custom header image appears on Square’s career section. Seeing as LinkedIn is a professional network, often individuals that browse company pages are interested in that company’s culture and openings. The header invites candidates to click through to Square’s career listings on their website, but doesn’t neglect to list openings directly on LinkedIn. The careers section also has a beautiful, and relevant, video about working at square.
The number of people listed as Square employees further demonstrates the passion of the individuals in the video. Whether you have 5 or 5,000 employees, it is important to get them on board as representatives of your company. A stronger LinkedIn page is one where employees are proud to publicly list your company as their place of employment.
Rarely do companies take advantage of LinkedIn’s product section. Square does a wonderful job of displaying a full list of their products complete with images and succinct descriptions. Creating a custom header of your product in action might be a bit more difficult if you only provide services, but the text below will allow you to go into detail about your offering directly on LinkedIn to encourage visitors to visit your website for additional information and purchase.
Lufa Farms’ Pinterest account has a powerful bio and a quality image of their logo, consistent with their other social media accounts. While Lufa Farms plans to expand beyond Montreal, they’ve proudly added their current location, which is a great way to appeal to local prospects.
Pinterest allows for both brands and individuals to verify their website, an important feature that conveys ownership to other pinners. Lufa Farms has yet to verify their website, which is also a crucial step in obtaining access to Pinterest’s built-in analytics.
Before website verification, pinners were able to confirm the identity of accounts by clicking through to other social networks displayed below the bio. Pinterest doesn’t allow brands to connect their Facebook page, but Lufa Farms should consider displaying their Twitter. Connecting the official Lufa Farms Twitter account would enhance their Pinterest account and it’s authority, while providing pinners with an easy way to follow the brand on Twitter.
Stripe has taken the time to create a clean blog design that complements their main site.* Individual elements, such as background colour and font style, shouldn’t be neglected as they can affect your visitors’ experience. Stripe achieves seamless branding by customizing their blog to convey the same professional and trustworthy image as their site.
Incorporating the standard ‘stripe’ logo that appears on the main site, along with hand written ‘Blog’ text, is a nice touch for the title. Stripe also links each word to either the site or blog home page. Linking to your site from the blog’s header is a great way to drive traffic to your offering, as readers are more likely to convert.
Stripe has neglected to add a bio on their blog, which may also serve as a way to increase conversion. A description of their services, or even a short tag line, can further educate visitors on Stripe’s offering and encourage them to visit the site for more information.
Some brands have started to experiment with Snapchat, but it seems many still don’t take the app too seriously. While Snapchat may seem silly, and has yet to offer business support, other innovative communication channels like Twitter were also discounted. Seven years later, Twitter IPO’d, so why not promote on an app that has already attracted 26 million users in the U.S. alone.
Snapchat currently attracts a younger audience, as the majority of Snapchat’s users are between 18-29. If your brand targets a younger demographic, you might want to consider following your customers to Snapchat, as many are spending less time and slowly leaving other social networks. Businesses intending to reach tech-savvy early adopters should also consider promoting their product offering using the innovative platform. While these users may be less active on Snapchat, older early adopters are likely to have more disposable income.
Building an Audience
Having a presence on the network isn’t enough; the crucial part is building up your audience through a friend list. The best way to do so is by offering users an incentive to send you a friend request. You don’t necessarily need a large budget, instead think of creative campaigns that incorporate Snapchat’s unique features and capture users’ attention.
It used to be tricky proving the value of engaging customers online, let alone the fact that people were actually interested in talking about brands. Currently, there are useful tools which visualize brand chatter and prove that people are talking about ‘boring’ industries, such as banking and healthcare. Other advanced tools were also developed to aid in calculating ROI, in order to demonstrate that social media done right is good for the bottom line. However, support hasn’t been rolled out for recent social networks, namely Snapchat.
Snapchat itself has yet to offer built-in analytics or cater to brands. Since there are limited metrics available, only a small number of companies have chosen to experiment with the platform. Regardless, the absence from any social network isn’t stopping users from talking about your brand on that very platform.
Increased Word of Mouth
There is no doubt that social media buttons boost word of mouth and drive ecommerce sales. However, there are certain products that consumers would rather not share with their network. Consumers may opt to send a formal email or a text, but the time it takes likely deters many from spreading the word.
Snapchat’s design is optimal for sharing, as the app is quick to load and opens directly to the camera screen. Doodles and text can also be included for additional context. Product images can be sent to a decision maker, the user herself, or even be saved and accessed for later viewing.
Even though Snapchat can be as intimate as a text, especially with Android push notifications, the app has more of a casual feel. Since images disappear after viewing, the pressure is off and users are more inclined to share moments without thinking twice.
Ecommerce businesses benefit from increased word of mouth as one customer browsing their products can easily let others know about a new item or an upcoming sale. Even if the user isn’t sure their friends care about the deal, she knows they can stop viewing the image at any time. Further more, since the emphasis is on sharing rather than conversations, users don’t feel obligated to reply to every snap unless they are interested in more information.
New clients often ask me for a sample of my work if they weren’t obtained through referrals. While this is a completely fair request, up until recently I couldn’t comply.
The startups I work with often insist on an NDA, and the small businesses simply ask that I keep the documents confidential. Seeing as my reports involve strategic planning, or are based on analytics that aren’t publicly available, it’s understandable that the client prefers to keep the information private.
Approximately a year ago, I was able to dig into the data of three clients in order to get some quantitative results to present to future clients. I’m proud of the results as they showcase some of my achievements, however, the document doesn’t go into much detail in terms of planning.
When preparing a social media plan, I like to combine my knowledge of best practices as well as examine successful accounts in the client’s space. Learning from the mistakes of well-established brands, and identifying effective activities, can help clients better understand key concepts which will in turn lead to improved performance.
Pinpointing specific strengths and weaknesses of a social media account, or overall online presence, can be thought of as a social media audit. Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken the time to create several social media audits, which are available for sale will be available as posts over the next few months. These documents are based on brands I admire, and are full of actionable advice.
If you’re interested in learning how to boost your Pinterest account, or what is the one thing missing from Square’s beautiful LinkedIn page, please subscribe and keep an eye out for future posts or contact me at for a custom report.