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A Few Predictions for the Social Media Landscape in 2016

2015 has been a big year for social media ' Facebook announced new video experiences, Instagram opened up its long-exclusive ad platform and Snapchat launched its 'Discover'? feature to name a few. So, what can we expect to see next? Here's a few trends we're expecting to see impact the social space in 2016. 1. Everything, LIVE! Live-streaming and live social are becoming an obsession and it only appears to be gaining momentum as we head into the next year. From Periscope to Meerkat, Facebook Live to Kanvas, brands will be challenged to find innovative and engaging ways to use these apps to deliver 'in-the-moment' content. Not ready for live-streaming yet? Invest in video in general. While not a new trend or recommendation, if you're not producing short-form, easily digestible video content for social yet you're missing out on a whole world of social engagement. Especially when you consider that: Videos average 62% more engagement than photos Video shares have increased 43% since the beginning of 2015 Facebook recently announced it sees an average of eight BILLION video views a day from 500 million people 2. Influencer Impact People have been talking for a while about the impact online reviews and comments (even from strangers) have on consumer purchase intent. But now, instead of automatically heading to Google to type in your latest query, you can go to YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook and more for advice and opinions. In fact, a Pinterest study done earlier this year reported that 87% of respondents claimed Pinterest helped them decide what to purchase. Make the most of this by sharing special offers, social-exclusive discounts, and reviews and testimonials from customers (or social media influencers) that provide real feedback and authentic content, over glossy ads. 3. Social Commerce With a number of platforms rolling out 'Buy'? buttons, attention is being put towards making the mobile and social commerce process seamless. However, transitioning users scrolling through engagement announcements and memes to purchasers will likely prove more difficult. In fact, according to Custora, whose software is used by many big-name retailers, sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram drove a meager 1.7% of total online sales this Black Friday (compared to 25% of online orders from e-mail promotions). That said, there are definitely social commerce opportunities to be had and it's likely we'll see the major platforms experimenting with various executions over the course of 2016. 4. Key Players Here to Stay Remember the app Yo? It let you send a message to friends that literally just read 'Yo.'? Nothing else. Sounds ridiculous, right? But it blew up, gaining momentum and national attention on a huge scale before a just as quick crash and burn. In the last few years there have been a number of new platforms like Yo that emerge and either die off quickly or skyrocket to popularity before being bought up by one of the bigger players (think WhatsApp which was purchased by Facebook in late 2014). In 2016 though, as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google focus on innovations, new offerings and expanded capabilities, it's likely the focus will be on the established big players figuring out how to gain new users versus emerging opportunities.

Twitter's New Profile Means New Strategy for Brands and Users

This past month, social media darling and now publicly-held corporation, Twitter, announced an upcoming redesign of its user profiles. The updates were first unveiled on select VIP profiles, including equally cool First Lady Michelle Obama @flotus and band @Weezer. The changes are now being rolled out to all users. How can you adapt your personal or corporate brand? Follow these 4 simple step. Focus on visuals & video Profile photos and header images receive much more real estate on the new Twitter page. User photos are now 400-by-400 pixels, and the header image is recommended to be 1500-by-500 pixels ' larger than even Facebook's cover. Videos, too, are gaining prominence. Now, video content can be filtered and exclusively searched by users. More image and video space means that individuals and brands must use higher-resolution visuals to maintain a professional image. As social media content quality improves, the strategy behind it must improve as well. Companies should curate visuals to accurately and clearly represent brand message, given that this material is most prominent on the page. Now that both Facebook and Twitter showcase large graphics, it may seem efficient to use the same images for both.  However, brands should differentiate content strategies for each platform in order to keep both micro-bloggers and social networkers intrigued. Aim for engagement Twitter has also shifted away from equal post display to showcase each user's most engaging content. Tweets that generate more activity in the form of retweets, favorites and @replies now appear slightly larger in your feed. Twitter's new sizing puts more emphasis on a brand to have an engaging content calendar. Teams must now plan for marketing opportunities during big events and strategize larger social media campaigns. Otherwise, it will be easy for users to identify a lack of engagement with the audience. Recognize your strongest messages Twitter is slowly moving away from its steadfast practice of showcasing tweets in reverse chronology. Users can now manipulate their accounts and pin a preferred tweet to the top of their profile, in an effort to build more engagement around important messages. Tweet pinning gives brands an opportunity to highlight their most important messages, particularly timely news such as sales or promotions. Pinning also allows users to make a second impression with the audience. If an important message was overlooked, it can now be reestablished it at the top of the feed. This may eventually eliminate the need to focus on posts' timing; however, brand and individuals must continue to monitor top performing tweets as only one tweet can be pinned at a time. Know what you're looking for With over 645,000,000 users on Twitter, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Twitter's new profile allows viewers to better organize their viewing experiences by filtering others' tweets. Tweets can be viewed alone or with replies, and tweets with photos or video can be organized separately. Twitter's filtering process again places emphasis on engagement, rather than content generation. Brands should continue  to engage with their audience in the form of retweets, @replies, and ongoing dialogue. These interactions will not only build brand loyalty, but may also invite other customers to begin a conversation with the brand. What's your Twitter strategy given the new layout? Share with us in the comments section below.    

How Celebrities Use Twitter to Build Their Brands

Move over Ashton Kutcher. While he was the first Twitter user to get one million followers, many other celebrities have joined the Twitter bandwagon and many of them now have several million followers. Justin Bieber (46 million), Katy Perry (46 million) and Lady Gaga (40 million) reign as the top three most followed Twitter users.  There is undoubtedly no single traditional marketing vehicle that is able to reach such a wide audience, and celebrities have been able to capitalize from the attention they gain from Twitter by using the social media site to build their brands. One way Twitter helps users draw attention is through the use of the hashtag to bring important pieces of the message out. While some may need to be censored at times (Alec Baldwin, anyone?), here are some ways celebrities are using Twitter to leverage their brands: Creating brand awareness Who would have thought that Twitter could help launch celebrities into the world? One Direction fans did. What started as a group of British followers on Twitter trying to garner attention for the band has led to worldwide recognition and awareness. The boys of One Direction have a combined 70 million followers for their individual accounts, plus 16 million followers for the group account. The speed at which celebrities, such as One Direction, have been able to launch their careers using Twitter is unprecedented.  Celebrities realize how much their success is driven by their fans and how important it is they share it with them. #followthatceleb Building emotional relationships People define brands by their emotional connections and how the brands make them feel. Twitter gives celebrities a platform to connect on an individual level with their fans, with the fans becoming heavily invested and loyal. Followers get a chance to see that celebrities are actually human and relatable by getting a glimpse into their personal lives, making them closer than ever before. Earlier this year when Justin Bieber tweeted about being ill, it was retweeted 130 thousand times and there was an outpour from followers sending him get well messages.  I guess 'Bieber Fever'? is real, no pun intended. #bestfansever Maintaining brand image Some celebrities employ teams to manage their Twitter accounts because 140 characters are too much for them to handle. For those who monitor their own accounts, they get the chance to address rumors and defend themselves against negative criticisms directly. When someone questioned Oprah, the Queen of Daytime herself, about not giving back enough within the US, she took to Twitter to clear up any doubts about her philanthropic efforts. Some of her followers even came to her defense as well. It's no surprise that celebrity gossip and news sells, but Twitter gives them the chance to get their truth out quickly and to the point. While gossip columnists are hard-hitting news reporters who claim that their 'sources confirm'? the information, readers and fans get to hear directly from the source. #sooverit Staying relevant I hear show business is not easy and so it is important for celebrities to maintain their spotlight and stay relevant with their fans. From tweeting about wearing the latest fashion trends to posting infamous selfies to being a trending topic, celebrities build buzz around themselves.  Twitter gives celebrities an opportunity to get fan feedback on products and projects, so that as their fans grow so can their brands. One way is through live tweeting which has become popular for actors and reality stars to do while their TV shows are being aired. Of course I couldn't mention shameless celebrity self-promotion, without referencing the Kardashians. From tweeting about their shows to their clothing lines to their wide range of products, the Kardashian sisters have a combined 37 million followers who literally follow their every move. Singers can use Twitter to drive iTunes sales, actors can use Twitter to get fans to their movies, and the Kardashians can use Twitter to promote whatever it is that is making them famous. #intheknow Even though some celebrities have shut down their accounts at times (Welcome back Miley Cyrus), Twitter creates a unique opportunity for celebrities to build their brands and gives them more control over their brand messaging. Twitter allows followers to show their loyalty towards celebrities, as following a celebrity shows commitment. So while it's true that Lady Gaga has more Twitter followers than President Obama, celebrities have been able to successfully use Twitter to maintain their brands and draw fans in. Tell me, which celebrity has best used Twitter to build their brand?

This Is Not About Marketing

It's about the behavior enabled by social media and how we still have a lot to learn about being a community that lives, breathes, watches, shares and does just about everything including listening to police scanners ' online. Being a Bostonian and living through last week's events has made me reflect on a lot. My deepest condolences go out to those who have a suffered loss or injury. And, when it hits 'home,' it really does. No longer are there 6 degrees of separation, everyone knows someone who has been affected.  And, throughout this experience, our city has shown an un-surmounted pride that reigned strong throughout the airwaves, digital or not. But, what's got me is that this 'always on' movement of social, content and communities is bigger than any of us can even imagine ' and it came to light last week. Social Media is a Game Changer Social media, especially Twitter, has completely changed the game. Sure, there is the issue of speed vs. accuracy in the race to 'be the first' to break news, but we aren't even skimming the surface here. Friends were alerted about the marathon explosions seconds after they happened, so they could get off their bus; loved ones used social to alert others they were safe in the absence of cell coverage; and words of encouragement, pride and support were shared near and far. But, what you didn't read in your social channels was the deep-rooted fear that existed behind each in every tweet. We will always be #BostonStrong, but social had an adverse effect as well ' building fear and anxiety as people obsessed over every detail. From fake social profiles to the real ones, to the brilliant use of social for donation solicitations, I found myself in a love/hate relationship with my social channels. Rumors spread faster than the speed of light and what made it worse was the media was now even retracting statements. Who Controls the News? Coverage on TV was delayed and just didn't feel as detailed as what I was seeing on Twitter and Facebook. When you have homeowners reporting live with video, photos and tweets to update the public on what was going on in their backyards, how can you wait for a generic statement from the newscasters 10 minutes later? Gunshots vs. Flash bombs, evacuations and threats ' it's crazy that I found myself 'trusting' a complete stranger that others were endorsing as being the my most accurate, up-to-date source of information online. I also have to mention the hundreds of thousands of police scanner app downloads that occurred during the course of last weeks' events. So much sharing was happening that police asked the public to stop talking about what they were hearing in fear of jeopardizing the safety and security of their mission. It's confusing, trivial and makes me wonder if any marketing course will ever be able to put definition behind this proliferation of sharing especially when I 'found out' we took the bad guy into custody at least 5 minutes before I saw it on 'live' TV. It's hard to tell if this organized chaos will help us catch the bad guys sooner or if it will lead to riots, mass hysteria and even ultimate unraveling of our society in the near future. The Power of Real-Time Information Real-time information sharing enabled by social media is undeniably powerful and altering the way in which we communicate. In the case of this past week, I must say it was scary, exhilarating, and powerful'all in one.  Now, all I can do is hope that by the time my daughter is my age, we've figured out a way to use its powers for nothing but good. Until then, put your seat belts on. The way we are living our lives is changing before our eyes and screens, as we know it.

Why Twitter Is Like a 7 Year Old Human

This week Twitter turns 7 years old. So let's use PBS's child development tracker to see how the social giant compares to an actual 7 year old human.  'Seven-year-olds enjoy having the opportunity to share their knowledge with others.'? I'm not sure if there's a more dead-on accurate description of what Twitter is than that.   'They display a longer attention span'?¦'? Obviously one of Twitter's most compelling features is its bite-sized content focus. However, over the past few years Twitter's increased integration of photos (sorry Instagram) and expandable links directly into the news feed has certainly increased its ability to showcase more content while still remaining true to its 140 character beginnings.   'Seven-year-olds enjoy having and making friends." While this may not exactly speak directly to the growth and development of Twitter, it sure does speak to the over 200 million active users. One of the things that has always driven the popularity of Twitter is the ease of connecting with others and building your following.   '[They] typically develop several close friendships that are mutual.'? Over the past 6 months, Twitter has made a few strategic "friendships" (read: acquisitions) that have helped improve how users share content (Vine), how the overall platform performs (Crashlytics) and how Twitter can monetize the millions of conversations generated around TV events (BlueFin Labs).   'They may imitate the actions of friends in an effort to feel sense of security and belonging.'? Let's go back to the monetization discussion again. We can all agree that Facebook is far from perfect when it comes to making money, but Twitter might even be more behind. Here's a great article that discusses the 'Facebookification of Twitter'? and how Twitter is becoming a bit more like Facebook with certain features. And on the user front, I can't quite think of a better way to imitate the actions of friends and peers than a well-timed RT.   So what do you think? Is Twitter making good strides in its development? Should we look at this 7 year old as a future, well-adjusted adult? Or, are there signs that this little darling will be every parent's nightmare and someday turn into an out-of-control rebellious tween? Only time will tell.

Reaching Teens through Social Media

'If you are not online, you are completely out of the loop ' you don't have a life, you don't really exist,'? is how one thirteen-year-old describes the importance of being online. For teens, it seems as if online is the new real world. Teens spend an average of 31 hours per week online and much of that time devoted to social networking. To get a better understanding of their social media usage, AMP conducted an online survey of 114 teens, ages 12 to 18. We found that social media consumes most aspects of teenagers' lives with no signs of stopping. In fact, 62% of teens report using Facebook more often this year than they had last year. This may be due to the fact that many consider social media to be more real than their real lives. For brands to have the greatest impact with teens on social media, they must cater to teens' online behavior. Where Teens Are Our findings uncover behaviors that brands can leverage to reach teens in this space. Facebook is by far the most often used social network with 91% of teens having an account. Furthermore, 86% of teens report that they like to get information about brands on Facebook. Youtube is the next most preferred site with 71% having an account, and 31% looking for brand interaction. Twitter follows in a close third with 50% having an account, and 25% wanting to tweet with brands. Brands should focus on communicating with teens on Facebook but also consider reaching teens on Twitter and YouTube, depending on which channel is most appropriate for their objectives. When Teens Are Online Between classes, sports, and part time jobs, teenagers lead busy lives. So, when should brands connect with teens? The sweet spot is between 2pm and 8pm. 79% of teens report that they typically are online after school, and 68% are online before bed. Although many teens log on in the morning (41%) and between classes (31%), speaking with them after school will allow for a more in-depth, meaningful interaction. What Teens Want from Brands To optimize interaction with teens, brands need to consider who teens are and what they want. It is important for brands to understand that teenagers "want a genuine experience, they want to be heard and recognized by the brand.'? For brands, this data suggests brands should not just continuously self promote. They should converse with teens, especially encouraging teens to include the brand's products in teenagers' status updates and pictures, as 63% of teens say posting status updates and pictures the main activity they do do on social media. It also allows brands to reach teens' online networks. 40% of teens have more than 300 Facebook friends, and 30% have more than 100 Twitter followers. So, these posts can be seen by a great number of other teens. When your brand is trying to reach the largest audience possible, it can be difficult to resist posting too much. The likelihood of being un'followed' or un'liked' is relatively low as 90% of teens have never un'followed' on Twitter, and 60% of teens have never un'liked' a brand on Facebook. However, it is important to build a positive relationship with teens, so try not to post too often. No matter how interesting the content, frequent posts come off as spam. 38% of teens consider it an annoyance to clog up their Facebook news feed, and 60% cited over-tweeting as a reason to un'follow' brands. Teens report that they do want to hear from brands about new products, coupons, promotions, and giveaways - just not six times in one day. Brands that understand where, when, and what to post will have the greatest impact on teens through social media.

Understanding the Social Web: Social, Interest and Brand Graphs, Insights Lab Episode 15

There's been lots of buzz recently around social, interest and brand graphs. In this week's Insights Lab episode, Michelle Goodwin, Account Executive on our PR & Social team, explains the difference between the graphs and what these graphs mean for brand marketers. This video is no longer available   Tweet us @AMP_Agency to let us know what topics you want to hear about!

Coachella: Youtube's Livestream, Tupac Hologram and More, Insights Lab Episode 8

Music festivals aren't a new venue for brands to market to consumers, but State Farm's partnership with Coachella has taken it to a new level with the live streaming via YouTube (#coachellalive) and the Instagram, Facebook and Twitter integration. While the live streaming was big news, Tupac's resurrection performance stole the headlines. AMP's Director of Integrated Marketing, Matt Jacobs, discusses what this technologically advanced hologram means for marketers in this week's Insights Lab episode.

Coachella: Youtube's Livestream, Tupac Hologram and More, Insights Lab Episode 8

Music festivals aren't a new venue for brands to market to consumers, but State Farm's partnership with Coachella has taken it to a new level with the live streaming via YouTube (#coachellalive) and the Instagram, Facebook and Twitter integration. While the live streaming was big news, Tupac's resurrection performance stole the headlines. AMP's Director of Integrated Marketing, Matt Jacobs, discusses what this technologically advanced hologram means for marketers in this week's Insights Lab episode.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Sharing Buttons

I've spent some quality time with social sharing buttons mostly because of my experience developing a social sharing plugin for WordPress. Most of that time was spent researching best practices and analyzing implementations on some of the more popular blogs I could find. Did you know: Among the 10,000 largest websites, those that feature Twitter share buttons are, on average, mentioned in 27 tweets that contain a link back to the site, whereas those not featuring tweet buttons are mentioned, on average, in only four tweets that contain a link back to the site. via Entrepreneur.com Without getting too much into which social sharing buttons you should be using on your site, I wanted to share some additional insights into how you can make those buttons display faster and how to measure their effectiveness. Sharing Analytics You have a few options when it comes to measuring social media engagement on your website. The easiest being to just look at the button counts of the share buttons on your website and manually tracking their success over time. I prefer a more integrated approach. Google Analytics It's actually not too hard to track social engagement on your site with Google Analytics. The problem is only a few buttons can do it (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus as of when this post was written). Joost de Vaulk has some excellent posts to help get you up and running with trackable social sharing buttons if you decide to go down this road. AddThis AddThis could be credited with starting the social sharing button revolution in my opinion. I remember using their buttons in the early days and watched closely as they expanded the services features to compete with similar services popping up. One of my favorite features they added was analytics which is not only easier to set up than Google Analytics tracking but can also integrate Google Analytics tracking to your AddThis buttons on top of the AddThis analytics. This option definitely seems like a win for everyone. Bit.ly Remember tinyurls back in the day? Well, bit.ly quickly took over with a short but lucrative relationship with Twitter that made it the undisputed king of short urls. One of bit.ly's coolest features has to be it's analytics which come with every URL you shorten and can be easily accessed by adding a "+" sign to the end of your shortened bit.ly link. Many people use bit.ly to measure their social media reach by tracking click throughs on their links. This is definitely a good solution and something we do on top of our Google Analytics integration here at AMP. Optimize Load Time Social sharing buttons can be resource intensive and are the number one culprit of slowing down many website. The easiest way around this is to limit the number of buttons we show which I'll get to in the next section. Assuming you do not want to limit the number of buttons you display it might be worth investigating asynchronous solutions. Asynchronous loading allows multiple files to load parallel to each other instead of the files loading sequentially. Usually this is done once the document is fully loaded and displayed on the screen so the user can begin navigating the page while the buttons finish loading. There are a number of ways you can approach this and most people using WordPress will resort to a plugin that manages the asynchronous loading for them. We use the Socialize plugin here at AMP but there is also Digg Digg. Other solutions include custom implementations of the official sharing buttons as mentioned in this post from w3-edge or using a third party library like Socialite.js. Be Selective As I mentioned earlier, displaying multiple social sharing buttons on your site can have a dramatic effect on your page's load time. Also, displaying seven social sharing buttons with big fat zeros on them doesn't do much to help establish any social proof. Instead you should focus on the few buttons that are actually performing. This will keep your page's load time down and drive more clicks to those services you already have a presence on further increasing your posts reach. Be Aggressive Just because you're being selective about which social sharing buttons you display doesn't mean you can't remind your readers to share your posts in the first place. It can be as easy as a call out next to your social media buttons asking your readers to share and subscribe. Every little bit helps. I also see a lot of blogs abandoning the default social sharing buttons and widgets for their own homegrown solutions that are often smaller and less actionable then their counterparts. I prefer the default buttons with share counts because they are both actionable and people are used to them. Share counts are an important part of establishing credibility and social proof on your blog, and the actionable buttons with share counts are necessary to encourage more shares and increase time on site. Give Us Your Tips I could turn this one post into a series of posts if I wanted to get into all the other ways you can track, measure and optimize your social sharing buttons ... and maybe I will. In the meantime, leave a comment with which buttons you think perform best as well as any other tips you might have for faster loading or better tracking. Image by webtreats

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