The Last Straw?

The straw that broke the camel’s back? The weight that tipped the scale?

Could this be it?

Let Me Explain

I wrote a long time ago about how I was losing faith in social media.

A couple of years ago, I took Facebook off my phone altogether, and limited the time I spent on there to when I actually opened my laptop.

Now, as I am writing on a much more regular basis, I am opening my laptop more frequently. And since I post the blog articles I publish to Facebook, I end up on the platform.

In fact, in July I wrote about how being on Facebook more often makes me feel.

Then, Yesterday…

I’ve seen articles over the years that talk about the spread of negative, or just plain wrong information on Facebook.

Yesterday, however, I was listening to On the Media, a long-running media analysis show. The podcast extra featured an interview with Fadi Quran of Avaaz (a non-profit organization that focuses on identifying misinformation in social media).

The host, Bob Garfield, was interviewing Quran about Avaaz’s latest report, entitled “Facebook’s Algorithm: A Major Threat to Public Health” (link to the full report).

In a nutshell, the report shows that health misinformation spreads like wildfire on Facebook, and the company does very little to stem the tide because doing so would endanger their business model.

Not New Information

This is not new. It is not surprising. But this time, it shocked me.

I don’t know why it hit home so hard this time.

Not after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Cambridge Analytica. Brexit. QAnon. And all the shady shenanigans Facebook has failed to do anything about (or participated in).

And especially considering my own instincts! My own feelings of lethargy, dissatisfaction, and general malaise after spending any amount of time on Facebook (and, increasingly, Instagram).

My better judgment has told me for years that Facebook is not healthy for me.

Why Not Quit?

Honestly?

Because pretty much all the traffic to my blog comes from Facebook. If I were to delete my Facebook account, it would be the death knell for this blog (already on life support).

And because I can see a lot of positive uses for it, too. It’s helped me to connect to people in new places time and again (in Canada, Brasil, Germany, the U.S….)

But how do I get the positives from Facebook while also shielding myself from the insidious nature of the beast?

The feeling of being sucked in, of being trapped into a vicious scrolling cycle. Of being marketed to.

How You Can Help

I’m getting there. I’m about ready to cut the crap and just delete my Facebook account.

But I need your help. If you’re reading this, can you do me a solid?

Can you sign up for email updates from this blog? You’ll get a nice little email whenever a new article is published. It’s super easy.

But who am I kidding? We all know that blogs like mine and small businesses are why Facebook keeps afloat. We can’t survive without it.

*Sigh*

Now I’m kind of depressed about it. Time to pick up my knitting! I’m finishing up the Tempestry project I had set aside a while back. And I also owe you an article about my Weekender sweater.

Stay tuned!

(Sign up for email alerts!)

Starting a Digital Life

A few months back, I had to create email addresses for our kids.

To apply for Global Entry, each applicant has to have their own email address. That’s kind of ridiculous, seeing as only one of my kids can read right now and neither can write.

Anyway. I created Gmail accounts for both of them. Google offers parental control options and a family setting which reassured me.

But that got me thinking.

Is it too early to start our boys’ digital life?

It’s true, they’ve been featured on Instagram since their earliest days.

I always told myself it was because my closest family and friends were on Instagram, and therefore I wanted to share pictures of the boys there.

But let’s be honest: It’s about the little buzz you get at the number of likes on a post.

Lately, though, I’ve gone off Instagram. I deleted it from my phone, because I found myself mindlessly wasting time there (and clicking on one too many ads).

All that to say: the boys are already online.

How far to take it?

I was thinking about it today, because I thought it might be a good idea to create a Goodreads account for our Bug.

We’ve been reading chapter books together for the better part of a year, now. He’s already read a good number, and I’d love for him to have a record of the books he’s read. Then when he’s old enough, give him this profile.

But for now, it’s just a thought.

Not Entirely Comfortable

This is now a thing, I guess. People creating profiles here and there for their kids. Populating them with photos, info, etc.

This seems to be today’s version of scrapbooking.

Instead of creating family albums where we collect birth announcements, photos, holiday cards and other memories, we now do it all online.

Or, we just don’t do it at all.

And that’s fair enough, I guess. Why pay to print out a bunch of photos if we have them so accessible on our phones? And albums are so bulky and take up lots of space.

(Data servers are huge too, but eh, that’s not our problem.)

I guess I’m just not that comfortable putting so much of our kids’ lives up on the internet, without their informed consent.

Scaling It Back

So for now, I’m holding off. I’ve largely kept them off Facebook, only sharing from time to time. I had this idea that somehow Instagram was different (it’s not). I’ve put the breaks on that, too.

I don’t know if this will be forever. There are two very different pulls: the concerns about privacy and the security of our photos and information on the internet, vs. the desire to share beautiful (and cute and hilarious) moments with distant family and friends.

For now, considering the effect social media has on me, I’m limiting my own use of it.

As a consequence, our kids will show up less on social media than before.

We’ll see how it goes.

Remembering Why I Quit

I’ve been spending more time on Facebook lately.

And it’s not a good thing.

I hadn’t really “quit” per se, but I had drastically reduced the amount of time I spent on Facebook before moving to the States.

Here, though, Facebook seems to be an integral part of the social fabric. It seems to be part of finding your community.

Don’t get me wrong, some parts of Facebook are good. I like that community groups are active there, I enjoy friends’ entertaining updates, and I like learning about fun local events.

But at the same time…

Every time I get on Facebook, I become enraged. Sometimes it’s by a news article someone has shared. Other times it’s by a post from a friend.

And then I become further enraged when I remember that Facebook is trying to capitalize on my rage.

It’s a vicious cycle.

No Middle Ground on Facebook

Mostly I get annoyed by the vitriol. The us-them attitudes. The “I’m-right-you’re-wrong” statements. The laments of, “Why can’t everyone be smart like me?”

Sometimes I see posts like this from people I’d expect.

But sometimes I see them from people I know for a fact wouldn’t dare make such strong statements or judgments face-to-face with people.

That gets me even more riled up! That people feel safe saying often hateful things because they’re behind a screen.

So Why Don’t I Quit?

I ask myself this all the time.

I feel like I get very little out of a half-hour spent on Facebook. So is it really worth it to keep coming back?

I don’t have the answer. It’s true that the vast majority of my blog readers find their way here from Facebook. So there’s that…

If I’m honest, though, there is a certain amount of FOMO.

I’m not quite sure what I’m afraid of missing out on, but there it is.

An Uptick in Readership

I got an email from Google Analytics the other day. It told me that suddenly I’d had quite an uptick in readership of my blog. Hooray!

Progress?

This was exciting news!

Don’t get me wrong, my numbers are DISMAL. Absolutely abysmal. It could be because I’ve shamefully neglected this blog over the years. It could also be that I’ve never really written this blog with a mind to SEO or driving clicks.

But suddenly in February my numbers weren’t quite so dismal. (They were still bad, but not rock bottom bad, you know?)

What had happened??

I assumed that this was because I had returned to writing on a fairly regular basis.

I write an article and then automatically publish it to a number of social media platforms, including the (rather neglected) Facebook page I have for this blog.

But as anyone who works in the blogosphere knows, the more you write, the more people read.

So, hooray!

But that’s not all…

Granted, writing more frequently and publishing more on the blog is bound to attract a few more readers. However, what seems to be the catalyst in my readership increase is…

Drumroll please…

RAVELRY!!

Yup! That wonderful website, that glorious database of all things yarn is the reason for my (slight) increase in traffic on my blog.

Let me explain.

I checked out a local Stitch n’ Bitch group back in the fall, and as they haven’t kicked me out (and even seem glad to see me!), I’ve started to attend regularly.

The lovely ladies of this group have generously added me to their Facebook page, and also to their list of Ravelry friends. And since I have links to my blog sprinkled around my Facebook page and my Ravelry profile, BAM! Some of these curious souls clicked! And voilà!

I would never have known the reason for my blog’s sudden surge (HA!) in popularity (GUFFAW!) had one of my fellow stitchers (n’ bitchers) not mentioned to me last night that she had been reading my blog.

So to all you wonderful ladies of the Stitch n’ Bitch…

THANK YOU FOR READING!

It really does mean a lot to me.

And here’s where you can find my Facebook page, and my Ravelry profile.

losing_faith_in_social_media

Losing Faith in Social Media

Up until now, I’ve been billing myself as a social media specialist. I’ve worked as a social media manager, and I’ve done some consulting work in social media for small businesses.

But the truth is, I am losing faith in social media.

Lately, I’ve felt that social media is used far too much for marketing; it’s turned into an echo chamber (especially Facebook); and its value for providing engaging content has dwindled.

Social Media Marketing

I have written about social media marketing on this very blog. It has been, after all, my métier! But while I practiced social media marketing in my professional life, I find myself being put off by it in my personal life.

Ads are everywhere.

Every time I log into Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram now, I am faced with ads. This, of course, is completely to be expected! How else are these platforms going to make money to develop for their users? But what irks me is the way advertising is done.

Facebook right-hand column ads are notoriously bad. Twitter “promoted tweets” are hardly better. Instagram’s sponsored images are, at least, a little less annoying, since the images are usually nice. But for the most part, the ads are tacky, tasteless, and irrelevant–or worse, tastelessly relevant (one particularly badly timed ad for baby clothes showed up after I had had a miscarriage).

To be fair, that’s mostly because the people advertising have no idea what they’re doing, or how to target their ads. It’s no wonder management are constantly doubting the ROI potential of social media advertising.

Most brands get it wrong.

Then there are the brands that pay so that their content shows up in my newsfeed. There are very few brands that inspire enough enthusiasm for consumers to actively engage with them. Nike and others are the exception to the rule.

For the most part, the promos, Facebook contests, and “relaxed language” that brands try to use in social media fall very flat. It’s artificial, forced, and awkward. All things that are poison to social media users.

The Echo Chamber

This mainly applies to Facebook, due to their filtering practices. As soon as you like one or two baby pictures, wedding announcements, or articles of a feminist nature, that is all that you see in your newsfeed.

Just because I got married, had a kid, and have feminist sympathies, does not mean that I want to see only wedding shots, baby photos and articles about why the heating in my workplace is inherently sexist.

Looking at my Facebook feed, you’d think that breastfeeding mothers are being expelled from dining establishments all across North America. I can tell you that I’ve been breastfeeding in public on a regular basis for more than nine months (and in more than five countries!) and no one has ever asked me to cover myself up or nurse my child elsewhere.

The algorithm of boredom

It seems like Facebook is targeting content at me based on what its algorithms think will delight, incense, outrage, move, and otherwise scintillate me.

On the contrary, I now find Facebook extremely boring. It’s a sad, uninteresting person who only wants to hear their own ideas and opinions shouted back at them. There is no back and forth, no debate (I don’t count people hurling insults at each other and spewing vitriol as debate), and very little room for thoughtful interaction.

I’d much rather have a face-to-face conversation over a coffee, than kill even 5 minutes on Facebook.

So what does that make me?

I’ve called myself a social media specialist. I’ve maneuvered myself into this niche of online content marketing. And yet I find it boring.

The one social media platform I enjoy spending any time on is Instagram, and that’s because my closest loved ones are there. I keep my profile private, and share moments of joy from my daily life with those I love best.

But other than that, I’m over Facebook, Twitter, and the lot. So what do I do now? Career change? I can’t very well market myself as a social media expert when I spend very little of my own time there.

Well for the moment, I cannot be said to have a career. I’ll just have to continue writing (which I do like), trying to read broad and varied content, and keeping up my knitting, which is a great way to meet new, and interesting people.

Is there any way I can make meeting people through crafts my career? Any ideas?

useful-content-marketing-strategy

The Key to Successful Content Marketing

“Content is king!”

That’s what marketing professionals and social media gurus all across the web are saying. The truth is, though, that there is already a ton of content out there. What are you saying that no one else is?

Probably not a whole lot.

But don’t feel down about it. Because there is one way to make your content marketing strategy more effective.

Make your content USEFUL.

 

Why Go For Useful Content

useful-content-marketing-strategy
You do not want this said about your content.

The bottom line is that you want your content to answer your target market’s Google search enquiries.

  • Blogging about useful information connected to your products and services will help answer peoples’ searches
  • Providing valuable and relevant information to your target audience will get them coming back to your website
  • Having a wealth of useful content will help establish your business/brand as an authority in your area of specialty

Take the Google Academy example of the outdoor store that runs a blog about all things outdoors. You’d imagine that store’s blog would include tips like “how to pitch a tent,” “5 campfire starting techniques,” and other material.

If your blog or YouTube channel is full of such useful information, you can bet interested people will come back.

My Brand is More Entertaining than Useful, Though.

Eduardo_Vargas_Tattoo
Some Chilean soccer player will probably not tattoo your brand’s logo on his neck. I’m just being honest.

Is it really? Be honest.

C’mon, do some soul searching.

Is your brand (or business) one of those brands that excites such fan loyalty and devotion that they’ll tattoo your logo on their necks? Let’s face it: probably not.

If you’re a sports store trying to be the next Nike but no one has heard of you, you can bet your “funky, entertaining” content will not excite much interest (unless, of course, it’s absolutely brilliant).

You’re probably better off blogging or vlogging about how runners can avoid shin splints.

Types of Content Marketing

There are plenty of approaches to content creation.

Brands like Buzzfeed and others go for the entertainment approach. They produce content that is there to make you laugh, cry, or simply “like.”

Others use the news angle, which is, of course, most appropriate for news and current events sites.

Still others go for shock, some for the elusive “cool” factor. There are so many different kinds of content that it would be hard to categorize them all.

But in my mind, the best content is useful stuff that answers readers’ questions quickly and effectively.

#worldcup

The FIFA World Cup and Social Media

#worldcupA Marketing Love Affair

The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off last week, and already it’s being hailed as the world’s most “social” sporting event ever. It is slated to be the single most talked-about sporting event on social media.

Marketers are getting on the bandwagon. A couple notable examples include Activia partnering with Shakira to support the World Food Program, and adidas and their #allin campaign. Coca-Cola is, as always, an official sponsor, and all kinds of sports channels are getting in on the action (ESPN, etc.).

Twitter is an enabler for marketers

Twitter is making it easy for fans and marketers to connect over the FIFA World Cup and social media. The #WorldCup hashtag center allows you to follow all tweets with the hashtag, to see the teams that are on Twitter and follow each individual game.

Magazines, brands, teams, fan clubs, individuals are all tweeting. Following the hashtag you are bound to find content from all these groups that will appeal to you. Some are trying to not-so-subtly connect their products to football, but others are fully dedicated to World Cup coverage.

How to get in on the marketing action

Offerpop and Crimson Hexagon partnered to make an infographic providing analysis of the marketing opportunity that this world-wide event presents. Take a look for some inspiration for how you and your brand can get involved in the FIFA World Cup on social media.

Offerpop’s World Cup Infographic:

World Cup Infographic

 

how-to-use-facebook-advertising-for-small-business

How to Use Facebook Advertising for Small Business

how-to-use-facebook-advertising-for-small-business

As a small business owner you’ve probably heard a million times that you need to be on Facebook.

It’s true: there are numerous benefits for small businesses to be on social media, including relationship marketing and promoting fun content to your local audience.

But changes to Facebook’s algorithm make it harder for your content to reach your fans (even those who have voluntarily liked your page!). It’s practically become a requirement for businesses to advertise on Facebook in order to get their content out there, despite doubts about how effective it  really is.

That being said, you cannot ignore Facebook. Know the realities and the restrictions in order to best plan how to use Facebook advertising for small business.

The 3 key elements to getting your marketing strategy right on Facebook are to 1. Know Your Audience, 2. Clearly Define Your Goals, and 3. Test, Test, Test!

1. Know Your Audience

As a small business owner, you know your audience better than anyone. They come into your storefront every day, and if you’ve installed Google Analytics on your website you’ll know a bit about your online visitors, too.

It’s no different on Facebook. Invite your customers to like your business on Facebook. Then, try out different content and offers on your page to learn what your fans enjoy, and what kind of media they like best (photos, links to articles, videos, etc.).

Knowing your audience and what gets them ticking is key for two reasons: knowing what to advertise on Facebook and knowing how to target your advertising.

2. Clearly Define Your Facebook Advertising Goals

As you surely know, your marketing goals need to tie into your overall business objectives. Before you start running any Facebook ads, know exactly what your goal for the ad is and how it’s going to contribute to your business objectives. This will help you determine your budget.

Facebook’s latest updates to its platform makes it easy to set your objective for your ad.

Your options include advertising for engagement, clicks to a website, website conversions (purchases, signups, etc.), event responses and more.

One great new option for small businesses is to advertise for offer claims. If your clients on Facebook respond well to promotions like 30% off for a day, then this is a great way to promote special offers or coupons.

Targeting Your Ad

Now is when targeting your ad correctly really becomes important. Facebook offers great targeting options by location, age, gender, interests and behaviors.

Since you’ve already done the exercise of getting to know your audience, you can easily set up targeting by location, age and gender. Interest targeting helps identify people in your area who have similar interest to your fans, and who may also be interested in your product.

Targeting by behaviors helps you find people who like to buy things online, or who post a lot of photos, for instance.

Be careful when narrowing your target audience: Facebook will let you know if your audience is too narrow or too broad. If it’s too narrow, you risk no one seeing your ad!

Track Your Ad’s Performance

In order to track how well your Facebook advertising is performing, read these Social Media Examiner tips for tracking return on investment (ROI) for your ad campaigns.

You can also create unique URLs for links to your website to help you measure how many clicks you’re getting on Google Analytics.

WARNING: Avoid Paying for Page Likes!

It’s not just this video that has put me off from paying Facebook to acquire page likes. In my experience, promoting your Facebook page in order to get more likes usually results in lower overall engagement on your Facebook posts.

Stay focused: promote individual posts, website conversions or something more concrete than just likes.

Besides, can you really say what a Facebook like is worth? Exactly.

3. Test, Test, Test!

The only way to make sure that you’re getting the best results from your campaigns is to constantly test your ads.

Using your tracking information, find out how your ads are performing. By setting up Ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics you can find out how much revenue each ad brings in.

Another way to test the performance of Facebook ads, according to Mashable, is to first optimize your ads for engagement. Based on the success of your ad’s engagement, you can then optimize the ad for reach (meaning, how many people see your ad).

Facebook Advertising is Evolving

What Facebook has on offer for small businesses and advertisers is constantly evolving. If you’re thinking seriously of investing in paid advertising on the platform, take time to read through the Facebook for Business page.

Other resources like Social Media Today can be helpful, and discussing with other small business owners can help you get an idea of their experiences and successes (or not).

In any case, it’s important to be on Facebook, but sadly this “free” platform is getting more and more expensive.

How-to-use-googleplus

Why You Need to be on GooglePlus

google-hummingbird

 

“There’s nothing happening on GooglePlus!”

I hear this all the time. It’s true, fewer of your friends and family are on GooglePlus and its interface is completely different from Facebook’s. But for businesses (even small ones!), brands, and anyone who wants to make a name for themselves on the web, GooglePlus is vital to your success. Here is why you need to be on GooglePlus.

1. Google is the king of search.

Google has become so ubiquitous when it comes to online search that “to google” is now a verb. That means that your brand, business, or whatever it is, needs to show up in Google search results.

According to a presentation by Google at Social Media Week in Los Angeles at the end of last year, they perceive GooglePlus as “the future of Google.” Meaning, content shared in GooglePlus will have a big influence on what shows up in search results.

Basically, instead of thinking of GooglePlus as a social media platform, think of it as a search engine.

With its release of Hummingbird (its new search algorithm), Google has increased the importance of producing quality content in order for businesses and brands (as well as individuals) to establish themselves as experts in their fields and show up in search results. That means: blog, blog, blog! (And Hangout, and YouTube, and, and, and…)

2. An Authorship link will increase your visibility in search results.

You’ve heard it a million times: businesses should blog! We know the supposed benefits, but GOOD LORD it is a time investment!

But you’ve got to do it. And you’re better off using your real name and personal identity when you do, and linking your GooglePlus profile to your blog with Google Authorship.

GooglePlus-in-search-results
Search results will incorporate more information from GooglePlus

The new search algorithm means that more quality content from individuals in your GooglePlus circles (or connected to your circles) will show up in search results. Between two excellent blog articles, a Google search will favor the one written by John Smith who is in 345 circles, rather than the article written by “The BusyBee Honey Blog.”

Why is this? Because Google knows the value of a thought leader; a trusted person who is seen as a credible authority. People are more likely to find value in information provided by people they know (or know through the internet) than a corporate blog.

3. Google demands quality content.

Okay, so you’re blogging, and you’ve learned how to use GooglePlus. You’ve created your profile or your company page, and you’re sharing all your articles. That should do the trick, right?

Wrong.

It’s not just enough to write stuff and put it out there. It’s got to be good. And it’s got to be relevant. Your content needs to answer the questions that people are asking when they do a Google search.

If you’re just writing company news or making heavily promotional videos, no one is going to see them. Sharing them on GooglePlus will get no reaction, and it could, in fact, hurt your SEO standing because you’re spamming up the internet with content no one cares about.

Answer your customers’ questions with your content. If you’re a pet grooming business and people are searching “how often should I groom my dog,” write an article or create a short video that answers that question.

4. Being active on GooglePlus will help establish credibility.

So now you have awesome content AND you’re sharing it on GooglePlus.

How-to-use-googleplus

Now’s when the social media side of GooglePlus kicks in. It’s not enough to just put your content out there. You’ve got to help people find your content by connecting with them and building relationships.

Start out by finding communities to join, commenting on posts, and sharing other people’s good content (giving credit, of course). Then start sharing your stuff, making sure it’s relevant to discussions.

Finally: Have fun!

Contrary to popular belief, GooglePlus is fun. Lots of savvy individuals, businesses and brands are active there, and you’ll find useful and entertaining information. I’ve “met” people on GooglePlus who have enriched my understanding of wider social media, and I’ve followed news sources and joined great communities that cater to my interests.

Invest a little time in GooglePlus and good content, and you’ll see the benefits for your online presence.

The Grinch Hates Noise

Oh the Marketing Noise, Noise, Noise, NOISE!

Sometimes, I feel like the Grinch from Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The Grinch Hates Noise
“Oh the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!”

But in my case, I’m not griping about Whos in Whoville, but marketing noise in social media.

What Is Noise in Marketing?

“Noise” in marketing terms refers to material that distracts from an intended message.

“Good marketing,” according to one source, “engages and informs potential clients” with a “clear, compelling message.”

Bad marketing causes noise. And noise is obnoxious.

Boy, Tweeps Are Loud

As anyone who spends time online knows, advertising is becoming more and more pervasive in social media. You can’t scroll through your Facebook newsfeed or your Twitter feed without coming across an ad in the form of a promoted post or a promoted tweet.

Marketing Noise on Twitter
Pipe down!

Today, Josh Constine at TechCrunch.com wrote about decelerating Twitter user growth. The number of Twitter users is growing, but more slowly than historically. Constine partly attributes this to crowded and overwhelming Twitter feeds.

His article really rang true for me. Lately, I have found hanging out on Twitter more stressful than enjoyable. I follow 880 people and have never organized those people into lists.

The result is, my feed is full of clutter. But rarely do I see a promoted tweet. No, I am talking about individual marketing noise.

Shameless Self-Promoters

We all know them. They look something like this:

Okay, to be fair Jeff Bullas does write some pretty good content. But check out his tweets. They are ALL. THE. SAME. When your Twitter feed is full of variations of the above, it can start to get, well, BORING.

Twitter is full of people, far less credible than Jeff Bullas, who are trying (like me, admittedly) to position themselves as social media gurus (#8 is totally me).

But do you know what? There are only so many “6 tips for this” or “10 ways to do that” articles with which the internet can put up.

How to NOT Make Marketing Noise

“But Jane!” you say, “Didn’t you recently write an article with 7 tips for first-time bloggers?” Well, yes. Yes I did. In my defense, writing this blog has been a learning process. That, however, is no excuse.

The truth is, though, that I can’t promise not to write more articles of the same ilk. Why? Because people do read them.

That said, the way to avoid contributing to social media overkill (especially on Twitter) is to:

Avoid being noise by being yourself

Yup! Interact on Twitter! Post a lame joke! Don’t just shamelessly self-promote. Show that there’s a reason you’re a social media guru. It’s because you are awesomesauce.

Be Yourself in Social Media
Being my goofy self at the Social Media Success Summit 2013 get-together on Twitter

So, can we all agree to stop posting “8 tips” and “3 ways” and “5 reasons” articles over and over again on Google+ and Twitter? We self-proclaimed gurus need to work to make social media a less noisy and more fun place to hang out.