Vine – Being creative in social media

February 5, 2013

How long does it take you to showcase your creativity? Twitter proved you just need 140 characters and its newest offering Vine demonstrates how you only need 6 seconds. So, after a week in Vine what do we predict will be in store for the future?

Vine has so far created controversy over its nonexistent privacy settings, which allow videos to be seen by anyone regardless of age and has already led to extremely graphic footage being shared. It has experienced problems with spam and Facebook has distanced itself from Vine by refusing to allow access to your friends list. However, any new app experiences initial problems and these shouldn’t mask the potential of Vine and the wealth of opportunities it offers for originality.

The app is easy to use, meaning that so far it has proved just as popular for people sitting at their desk as big brands. Although predictably there has already been an overload of people using Vine to share images of cute animals and  babies some Vine’s have already been truly  inspirational and there is clearly a huge potential for a truly great Vine (or even a truly hilarious bad one) to go quickly viral. Vine has great potential for estate agents and travel companies to capture the look and feel of a place, for short ‘how to videos’ and for the fashion industry to showcase the latest trends.

Vine is important for brands as video is a richer experience than photos; it is a great alternative to Instagram and can allow brands to demonstrate their personality. Brands are all already aware of the power of video, but often concerns over budget and a desire for a professional look and feel prevent them from being impulsive and fun – Vine has the potential to bridge this gap.


On your marks – going social for the Olympics

April 12, 2012

The London Games begin in just over 100 days’ time involving many thousands of spectators, participants and sponsors:- the physical architecture is more or less in place, the infrastructure pretty much on track, the athletes are reaching the apex of their training, games volunteers have been recruited, and trade in tickets, travel and accommodation is ramping up.

Heralded as the ‘Social Games’ (following on from the ‘twinter olympics’ in Vancouver 2010) the challenge for one of the most tightly-protected super brands is to nourish authentic social engagement around what is arguably the biggest show on earth. A snapshot of the twittersphere shows that push marketing is in evidence: – the obvious messages are getting traction [who IS coming down to the CocaCola Olympics Gig in Hyde Park]; along with issues that reflect the UK national news agenda [anti -cuts ‘street parties’ to rival Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Olympics?]; and the troubled global backdrop [somali Selectors worry will people they choose now still be alive come July?].

The learning from recent Games is that the three ‘Cs’ – conversation, collaboration and community – that underwrite successful social campaigns can be achieved with planning, structure and insight. Not all of which is yet in evidence in official Olympic channels.

By Rachel Moses

Time to make clients fully aware of the Cap Code

December 9, 2011

Back in March 2011 we reported on a significant day in the history of digital and social media marketing and advertising. When the ASA’s (Advertising Standards Authority) remit was extended to cover all brand owned websites, their social media pages as well as video and mobile campaigns.

The changes to the Cap Code meant the ASA had the power to regulate all online and mobile marketing communications and ensure compliance with the Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (The CAP Code). This covers all businesses, regardless of size, and extends to other non-paid-for space online under your business’ control (e.g. messages you post on social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook).

This Code also extended to cover not just what the brands themselves posted but also rules on how brands should not retweet messages or Like comments on Facebook that a user has written which are incorrect as they will still be liable based on them endorsing the content.

The intention was to make all online communications more transparent and ensure people reading online content are receiving honest and truthful messages. However, since the laws have been implemented brands have still unintentionally broken the law within social media, and the IAB has had to launch guidelines to help brands comply with consumer protection law around the payment for content to promote products within a social media environment.

Recently Saville Home Management was found to have Tweeted misleading and unsubstantiated claims on the Twitter feed of cmRENT estate agents that “cmRENT have 93 Rental properties available” and “cmRENT have 105 Rental properties available”. They were reprimanded by ASA and the offending tweets were removed.

It is clear that brands need to be more mindful of the laws that have been put in place and agencies need to be offering their clients greater guidance as to what is and isn’t allowed as part of the Cap Code.  At agency:2, as one of the Founders of the DMA, we have constantly adhered to strict ethical guidelines. We are proud of always working ethically and legally for the good of our clients – brands must be increasingly aware that whatever they post on social platforms must be transparent and clear.

How to Use Content to Gain Social Media Success

November 29, 2011

The last year has seen the rise of ‘social’ within search. The huge growth of social media, together with search engines now increasingly focussing on providing the best possible user experience, has resulted in a greater prominence being given to social platforms when search engines return results.

Google, Yahoo and Bing now index social comments and use this information to tailor and personalise users’ search results. Google’s ‘+1’ button now has a large impact on page rank, while Bing has partnered with Facebook to display data from the Facebook ‘Like’ button as well as users’ profiles.

One of the most important effects of this shift towards social is the impact content now has on improving your brand’s online visibility. The phrase being constantly repeated is that ‘content is king’.

Brands therefore need to devise a highly effective social media content plan that takes into consideration the importance of search optimisation. This means creating fresh content which is optimised with relevant keywords and encourages people to share, retweet and engage with it across the social web.

Yet, competition is fierce. There are 27 million pieces of online content shared daily and 1 in 5 social media messages include links to content on the web.

So, as a brand, how do you stand out? With SEO success focusing increasingly on a brand’s social presence it is not enough to just ‘have’ content.

Your content needs to provide something unique and valuable to your audience. Ask yourself: does it convey your brand accurately and provide value to your audience?

The aim is to create active content so that your audience are participating and interacting. Onsite this could be encouraging them to comment on posts and rate articles, while offsite you need to maximise the number of social reactions, such as Facebook ‘Likes’ and tweets.

Here are my recommendations on key considerations when creating content:

WHERE you say it

Social media offers a range of tools that will provide unique insights which allow you to understand your audience. It’s vital you use these tools to research, monitor, understand your audience and make sure that you are where your audience are and using the most relevant and effective platforms.

Your social media content plan should reflect this. It also needs to be continuous and flexible as well as multi-channel. Brands must leverage a range of relevant channels. Twitter and Facebook seem the obvious choices but there are several channels that will help boost your SEO – these could include blogs, LinkedIn, Q&As, podcasts as well as virtual events. Also consider creating a presence on video sites, photo sites, social bookmarking sites and review sites. These will all help to boost the amount of ‘high quality’ content you have and boost your search optimisation.

WHAT you have to say

When creating content, think about the user’s online journey – how will they find your content? This is where search engine optimisation is vital. With the rise of social search, investing in original, quality content is essential to your SEO success.

Google itself has stated that their algorithms are aimed at helping users easily find high quality content. The launch this year of Google Panda, a major upgrade of their ranking algorithm, has resulted in what can be seen as a transformation in search optimisation.

Preference is now given to websites that publish high quality, original content on an ongoing basis. There is also a new focus on social mentions so that the more times people retweet, +1, ‘Like’ or share your online content the higher it ranks.

It means that brands must have a strategy in place for creating regular, relevant and optimised new content as well as growing and engaging your presence on social media networks.

Keywords, meta-tags, alt tags, anchor tags, page titles and heading structures all need to be optimised with the keywords that are most relevant for your brand. It is also vital to be aware of what your competitors are doing and what keywords they rank for and bid on. Putting in place an effective content marketing strategy that is fully optimised and continually updated will have a significant effect on your ranking position on search engines.

However, remember that optimisation of your content shouldn’t be to the detriment of the quality of the user experience or how compelling the content is – it needs to be both optimised so that search engines will find it and compelling enough that your audience will read and share it.

HOW OFTEN you say it

It’s often said that the secret to social media is timing. This means that you must schedule your social media activity and make sure you post at the optimum times for your audience.

Brands often ask how frequently they should post on their Facebook Page and when is the best time to post. The answer is that each campaign and brand is different. As a rule of thumb early mornings as the working day commences, lunchtimes and early evenings straight after work provide the most engagement. Facebook’s Insights data provide an invaluable understanding of how often and when your fans are engaging with your content – and help to ensure that you connect with your audience at the optimum times. Posting at these peak times will have an impact on the viralability of your content, with people more likely to connect with it and share it.

When it comes to frequency there is a delicate balance to be found: post too often and, though you will see an immediate increase in impressions, you will also see a loss in fan numbers. Post too infrequently and you will miss out on opportunities to reach your fans. In general, tweeting 1 – 4 times per hour and posting at least once a day on Facebook will provide the best results.

HOW you say it

As a brand you will have a tone of voice that permeates your organisation. When you create a social media content plan you need to consistently communicate this tone of voice across all platforms.

There are several fundamental factors and ideas that you should focus on when creating your content plan: use your brand narrative to tell a story through social channels. And present this story in a fresh and interesting way by using a range of media – videos, polls, photos as well as text.

One of the most important things, and one that many brands often seem to forget, is that social media is about having conversations. Be engaging, start conversations with your audience and build a real community – this will make your audience much more receptive to your brand and more likely to share and comment upon the content that you are posting.

You must use your content to associate your brand with specific topics and segments that are relevant to your brand and will position you as the experts within your field. It must also be entertaining, informative, and deliver some quantifiable value such as exclusive deals or products.

Quality AND quantity

The rise in the importance of social media to search requires brands to devise a content strategy that provides both quality AND quantity. The real time nature of social media means that content has to be posted frequently in order to stay ahead of your competitors. However, if you want to really stand out your content must also be compelling enough for your audience to engage with it.

Creating optimised content that is tailored both for your audience and for search engines will result in conversations, sharing and high visibility on search engines – in other words, social media success for your brand.

Top 5 Twips for Twitter success

November 3, 2011

Twitter has grown more in the last 9 months than in the last 5 years. This staggering growth is fantastic news for brands. Twitter is a platform which offers a range of opportunities to brands, with companies having used Twitter in innovative and effective ways to increase online visibility, communicate key messages, provide customer service, promote themselves and, most importantly, engage directly with their audience.

Working with brands and developing a Twitter community we have found that people who follow brands on Twitter are more likely to both buy and recommend those brands’ products. Indeed over 50% of users are more likely to recommend a brand to a friend after following them on Twitter.

This ability to increase customer loyalty means brands must be ready to take advantage of the opportunities Twitter provides. Yet, it is not a simple or straightforward process – building an audience on Twitter requires you to both attract and continuously engage with your fans and build a longstanding relationship with them.

So, how do you attract and keep the audience that you want? Here are our top 5 tips:

1.       Set out objectives

The first and most important question must be: what do you want to achieve with Twitter? Before embarking on any social media activity it’s crucial to have tangible aims in mind and a clear vision of what success means for you. There is no point (and, most importantly, it’s a wasted opportunity) launching a Twitter account with no clear objectives in mind. You need to decide: is it a customer service tool? Is it a promotional tool? Is it simply for brand awareness?

At the outset you must carry out research on your competitors so you can analyse what they are doing on Twitter and uncover the gaps in the market. Brands can use this information to devise a way to differentiate themselves and offer their audience something new.

When formulating your Twitter strategy you also need look at the broader marketing and strategic goals of your business – this will give you an understanding of what you want to accomplish. The most important thing to ascertain is if Twitter is right for your business. If it doesn’t make sense for your company, then don’t use it.

If you decide it is the right platform you must set out measurable goals and KPIs so that when you launch you have a clear focus and are able to measure exactly what you have achieved.

2.       Monitor to understand your audience

When it comes to understanding your audience Twitter is an invaluable source of information and insights. Its real-time search engine provides you with an immediate pulse of public opinion and it’s vital you use this to discover what your audience or clients want. Utilising this information will be invaluable in understanding the public perception of your brand and devising an ongoing strategy that responds to audience needs.

There are also a range of external tools you can utilise to track your brand on the platform. By creating search queries for key industry terms and tracking them throughout the day using a tool such as HootSuite you can uncover and understand the conversations that are happening around your brand.

Utilising Twitter monitoring tools allows you to track conversations about a problem your business can solve and gain insights into what is happening in your industry. You can also understand if one of your customers is making a complaint about you (and respond immediately) as well as receiving direct and immediate feedback on promotions you are running.

3.       TwOptimise your Tweets

Optimising your brand’s keywords on Twitter is crucial to your brand’s social success and must form the foundation of any strategic plan.

Think carefully about your keywords and create a content plan that schedules what you are saying and sets out which key terms you will be using in your posts. Keeping a very clear focus on the core essence of your brand – and the keyterms you will be using – is crucial for optimising your brand for search.

While Twitter is about being flexible and responsive, it’s also crucial to have this content strategy in place so you stay focused on achieving key objectives. This doesn’t mean you can’t vary the type of tweets you are posting but it does mean that you have to regularly publish ones that are on-topic and keyword-rich. This will ensure that your Twitter page ranks higher than your competitors.

There are other ways you can make your brand easier to find for search engines. Your Twitter profile is like any other page Google is indexing, with a headline, body copy and links. Therefore, you must ensure that the copy is keyword dense – while not forgetting that it needs to be compelling enough so that whoever reads it will want to follow you.

4.       Remember: Twitter is a value exchange

Many brands, particularly smaller businesses (but also some bigger businesses as well), are misusing Twitter as a platform to simply push out promotional messages onto users’ Twitter streams.

This is a mistake. At the forefront of your mind should be that Twitter is not about you – it’s about providing something of value to your audience. People follow brands for specific reasons: for example, to receive exclusivity, promotions and be “in the know” (67% of brand followers expect unique content from them). As a brand you need to be offering all of these things – and more – to ensure that people read your tweets and are engaged enough to click on your links and retweet you.

Carry out research to uncover what your audience want to hear about and tweet it. Understand which tweets get the most interaction and refine what you are saying until you have perfected it. You must also follow relevant people and use the features on Twitter, such as hashtags, to engage in conversations and make your brand more visible.

Through all of this you must remain strategic about how you tweet. This means focusing on your brand proposition, providing value and not focusing solely on ‘the sale’. In this way you will develop a style that matches your brand personality and engages with your consumers in a consistent, compelling and helpful way. Such an approach ensures that when your audience need what you offer, you are the brand they choose to use.

5.       Fit Twitter Into Your Social Media Marketing

Your online and social media marketing needs to be integrated and connected and it’s crucial to constantly keep in mind how Twitter fits into your overall social media marketing strategy. This can help to build stronger relationships by offering value across the social web. There are a number of ways to do this.

At the simplest level you must make sure that there is a clearly displayed link to your Twitter account on the homepage of your website.  In addition to this add a link to your account in your email signatures. It’s also best practice to add your profile to popular Twitter directories such as WeFollow, Twellow and Just Tweet It. These directories increase the chances of relevant audience groups finding you as they allow you to put your brand in the most relevant and popular categories.

Another effective way to ensure a ‘connected strategy’ is to link your tweets through to relevant content you have produced on other platforms. Linking through to blog posts will allow you to drive traffic and engage in industry debates with your followers. If you are running a competition on Facebook use Twitter to promote it, and vice versa. This kind of cross platform promotion is a great way to keep your audience engaged and aware of everything you offer.

However, remember that each platform demands its own strategy – so don’t have tweets that are synched directly to your Facebook Page, as hashtags and the way tweets are presented do not often lend themselves well to Facebook.

Your audience is out there

The great news for businesses is it’s clear that if you get all of these elements right the audience on Twitter are very open to having a relationship with your brand. Too many get it wrong and don’t understand why their follower numbers are low or why there is no interaction. However, brands who do provide value and engage with their audience are really seeing the benefits of using the platform. Your audience is out there, you just need to understand what they want – and deliver it.


Cleaning up after the riots using social media

August 9, 2011

If there was ever any sign of the importance of social media as a form of communication then the riots in London and other cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool have provided it.

Social media is a neutral tool – and though it has been used by the minority to instigate violence it has also been shown to be an incredible way to share up-to-date news, a way to offer support and now, today, as a way for communities to join together and start the clean-up operation after the last few nights of destruction.

The ways in which social platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow messages to be quickly shared between large groups in real time and for instant communication to happen, have been invaluable to cleanup organisers who need to quickly and efficiently gather together followers in the aftermath of the rioting.

On Twitter people attending the clean up sessions are using the hashtags #londoncleanup and #riotcleanup to organise themselves. A Twitter account RiotCleanUp was set up last night providing a vital source of information for people looking to help rebuild city centres. The account tweeted places and times where community clear-ups were happening and also posted offers of help and resources. The @RiotCleanUp account has already gained more than 55,000 followers in less than 14 hours.

It quickly gained the attention of celebrities such as Rio Ferdinand, Simon Pegg and Tinchy Stryder  who tweeted about it. TV presenter Clare Balding wrote: “I’ve been trying to find some ray of sunshine amid the chaos, anger & violence. @riotcleanup can allow Londoners to show our real character.” Comedian Dave Gorman commented: “Went to bed depressed by the news. Now feeling strangely emotional as I read about @riotcleanup #riotcleanup Amazing.”

It wasn’t just Twitter that was being used to mobilise communities. One Facebook group called “post riot clean-up: let’s help London” had gained more than 7,000 followers at the time of writing with people offering help and posting about how people can donate to charities who are supporting those affected.

Other platforms have also been used to help people know what is going on. With many rumours about what has happened within London this Google My Map attempts to map verified locations that have been affected by the London rioting and looting.

You can also check out this London Riots Clean Up Storify created by Mashable to see how the story is unfolding.


Twitter growth – enhances search, adds ‘Follow’ button and photo sharing service

June 3, 2011

There has been a flurry of activity at Twitter recently. Last month it spent $40 million on desktop app TweetDeck which represents 13% of its user base. This week things have been moving on at an even greater pace. The micro blogging service has launched its ‘Follow’ button, a new version of Twitter search and has also revealed details about its own photo sharing app which will be rolled out within the next couple of weeks. This is all a part of Twitter’s movement towards a stronger social graph with more connections and greater usability.

Here’s a more detailed look into each element of these developments:

Twitter Search

With Twitter search serving an average of 1.6 billion queries per day it was vital that they enhanced their search functionality. Twitter says its new version of search will deliver more relevant Tweets when you search for something or click on a trending topic. Not only this, it will also show you related photos and videos on the results page.

This new version is a ground-up rewrite of their whole search infrastructure with the aim of making the results as personally relevant as possible. “Our ranking function accesses the social graph and uses knowledge about the relationship between the searcher and the author of a Tweet during ranking,” the company explained. This means that Twitter’s search index will now incorporate dynamic information such as information about the searcher and how users’ interact with tweets.

In addition to this if you access Twitter using the newest version of Firefox, you can type a #hashtag or @username into the address bar to take you directly to a search results page – for example you could type #bing or someone’s profile page like @bbcapprentice.

Twitter Follow button

Twitter’s ‘Follow’ button, their equivalent of the Facebook ‘Like’ button, allows users to follow Twitter accounts directly from an external website with a single click. With a prominent tweet button already in place the launch of the ‘Follow’ button helps Twitter further grow its social reach and makes Twitter’s reach even more accessible, which can only help grow its users.

More than 50 sites including AOL, The Wall Street Journal and MTV have already added the ‘Follow’ button. The use of the button by these brands means that Twitter is gaining more reach on the social graph. You can also see the profile and latest Tweets of the account you want to follow by clicking the username next to the button.

Twitter photo and video sharing service

Having left photos and videos to third-party services like Twitpic and Yfrog, Twitter has now partnered with Photobucket to launch its own photo and video sharing service. This week Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told the D9 Conference that “A native photo sharing experience will be rolled out to 100% of users over the next couple of weeks.” This will allow Tweeters to upload a photo and attach it to their tweet directly from Twitter.

The service means that photos and videos will be directly connected to tweets. They will be viewable on Twitter without having to leave the site (unlike, say, Twitpic). Costolo also said Twitter will “surface the most popular videos and tweets” in a new section of the homepage. You’ll also soon be able to easily do all this from its official mobile apps.

Twitter’s advertising model

Add to this Costolo’s words on advertiser’s performance on Twitter and there is much to be excited about for the micro-blogging service. Costolo presented the example of an ad run by Volkswagen for the new VW Beetle. He said the promoted tweet for the campaign had an engagement rate of 52%. “These are amazing statistics that marketers just can’t believe when they first hear them…So the business is working phenomenally well.”

Twitter had been projecting to have around 100 advertisers by the end of last year. It managed to sign up with 150 and in 2011 they have 600-650 advertisers. It will be interesting to see how this grows as the platform matures although Costolo noted that “We’re in no hurry to go make sure [that we jam Twitter up with ads]. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Opinion Piece: Freedom comes with responsibility

May 24, 2011

Sharon Baker, Co-Founder at agency:2

The views expressed are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of agency:2.

I may be unpopular within social media circles but I’m going to say this… I think it’s wrong that people can tweet about a famous football player. I think it’s wrong that on my Facebook feed today I was told countless times who the footballer was who had taken out a super injunction to protect his name. I think by citing parliamentary privilege to overturn a law simply because 75,000 Twitter users had already done so, MP John Hemming has set a very dangerous precedent.

Why? Because I believe that we need a legal system in a democracy which holds people accountable and regulates online spaces. When we don’t have law the result is anarchy, injustices and people power that becomes lawless. There are plenty of examples in recent history which show what happens when people follow the masses without thinking of what they are doing. With Twitter based in California there is also the question of which law is being followed?

Whatever you think about the footballer’s actions in taking out the injunction and attempting to sue Twitter users (and I believe this was an (unpopular) mistake) the law is in place and needs to be respected. While I do think that social media users should embrace their right to talk about what they want I also believe that the users and the owners of these sites have to have some responsibility to society and must take this into account before they tweet or update their status. The fact that Jemima Khan and Gabby Logan were also, incorrectly, named just goes to prove this.

Using the Wikipedia model could be the way forward. Wikipedia allows a user to have access to incredibly important information. It’s free; it’s accurate and is hugely popular. Wikipedia works because individuals take it upon themselves to make sure that what is posted is factual and accurate. The Wikipedia foundation has been developed to ensure it’s self-regulated. This causes people to think before writing and allows moderation that everyone supports because they believe in the community and the dissemination of accurate information. Maybe this is a model that could be replicated around other social media networks?

Popular networks have a responsibility to their societies. As for the law on super injunctions I’ll leave this to the lawyers – who hopefully still have some say in our democratic society.

Branding and social media: living the brand

March 9, 2011

For brands one of the central goals of social media is to create communities who are passionate and interested in what you are saying – and as social media continues to play an increasingly important role in people’s lives it means that the opportunities for brands to do this are growing.

Brands need to take advantage of this. That means not just creating short-term campaigns, but long-term programmes that build the brand and foster a loyal audience. Brands can no longer simply push out a campaign message – they must deliver a brand experience. It is, in short, all about living the brand.

This is because social media offers unique ways of conveying a brand’s personality in a more tangible way than traditional media ever has.

Social media has allowed businesses to focus on understanding their audience further, how they can actualise the brand and provide a unique relationship that benefits advocates.

This is not a simple task. It’s a long-term process and brands need to create conversations and content that engage, entertain and keep the audience coming back. However, the rewards are vast. It means brands and businesses have the ability to impact on all areas of the buying cycle – from the initial consideration of the brand and the moment of purchase right through to creating loyal customers who come back again and again.

Here are 3 crucial ways businesses can achieve this:

Interact with your target audience

Brands must engage. It sounds simple but it’s crucial. Your consumers need to know that if they comment on your brand’s Facebook or Twitter Page, or any other community spaces your brand have a presence on, that they will get a reply within an hour.

They also need to know that your brand is authentic and transparent in what you are offering. This real time customer service means they are talking directly to the brand – and it is this personal touch that provides your brand with authenticity and trustworthiness.

Brands must also encourage user generated content and get people to share this content. The goal? Get as many relevant people as possible engaged with your brand. Word of Mouth marketing in this way is extremely powerful. The ripple effect of users receiving and viewing information about your brand from their friends and followers not only puts your brand name in front of millions of online users but makes users more receptive to your message.

Create valuable relationships

Social media offers the perfect tools to engage with customers, ‘live the brand’ and have meaningful interactions that add value. From conversations with their target audience to the promotion of special offers and events, there are a number of ways in which businesses can actualise their brand. By utilising the right platforms at the right time brands can create an emotional connection with their target audience and ensure they are front of mind.

Actualise the brand

Actualising the brand proposition online is all about ‘Why?’.  A customer’s attention is hard to maintain. With so many channels and businesses vying for attention, if brands are not relevant and interesting they will not be listened to. Social media incentivise people to become advocates – brands need to communicate their USPs, provide engaging content and offer a unique community experience. This is living the brand and means you can create brand ambassadors and ensure customer loyalty.

Ask The Experts: agency:2 interview with MDC Magazine

February 28, 2011

As part of their Ask The Experts feature  Mike Filsaime of interviewed agency:2’s Joel Davis for MDC magazine. The interview covered a range of topics concerning social media marketing, including how to successfully utilise social media, best practice and the future of the industry. Here are Joel’s answers:

1) What should an online marketer’s primary goal be when utilising social media?

The primary goal when creating a successful social media strategy must be to maximise ROI. Social media is uniquely positioned to provide businesses with measurable results – allowing them to spend less and invest smarter. At agency:2 we believe that driving ROI must be at the heart of all social media activity.

Another fundamental principle of social media is the need to follow strict legal and ethical practices. Being honest and open is not only ethical and legal but will protect the client’s brand and online reputation. That is why all the social media marketing campaigns that we run are completely transparent.

2)  What, in your opinion, is the most effective way for online marketers to use social media?

We are obviously big believers in what social media marketing can help brands achieve. It means we can provide businesses with unique insights into their customers so that they have a clear picture of how they relate to their brand.

There are a range of highly effective ways in which online marketers could – and should – use social media to interact with consumers at every stage of the buying cycle. By listening and engaging in a timely and useful manner with the target audience, brands can enhance their proposition and drive leads.

3) Facebook and Twitter are often cited as the two primary social media sites that online marketers should use.  What other social media sites are also worthy of attention?

If you have an international brand with a global reach then an understanding of the social marketing landscape within each country is crucial.  Whether it’s RenRen in China, Mixi in Japan or Orkut in Brazil and India, you need to know the big players in each country so that you can reach these netizens in the most effective and efficient ways.

4)   What tools and software would you recommend for assisting with social media management?

We use a mix of our own in-house tools together with best of breed monitoring tools to ensure that we know exactly what is going on. Workflow and project management tools are also vital in streamlining your processes and ensuring that you are able to track and respond to all opportunities.

5)  What new social media opportunities can we expect to see over the next 12 months?

With social media continuing to grow and develop so rapidly, and in so many directions, it is always difficult to predict whether there will be a new, big start up just around the corner. However, recent developments suggest that the existing industry leaders – such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – will refine and develop their offering, incorporating new technology, such as geo-location, into their existing offering and cementing their dominance of the market. Facebook’s development of Places and a messaging service, together with other innovative features, are prime examples of this.

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