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Dissecting the Anatomy of a Five-Star Email
4 Things You Need to Know About the New Pinterest
Facebook Working on Incorporating the Hashtag
Secrets of a Lucrative Social Media Campaign
How My Site Gets Tons of Traffic From Pinterest
Instagram and Top Brands: Engagement Up as Audiences Grow
For a professional writer the success of Pinterest could be terrifying. In half a year it has exploded to become the third most popular social medium in the world. Out of nowhere the network is expanding faster than even Facebook’s initial growth. Marketers gush about its potential; Forbes just declared it a $7.7 billion company. In the month of March Pinterest received over 100 million visitors. The suddenness of these figures is striking, but the real concern for writers is a fact behind the growth: it came about almost entirely without words.
The site hardly uses them. Everyone who’s visited it knows instead of headlines and pithy copy Pinterest relies on imagery to draw in visitors. Anyone who’s analyzed the metrics knows it retains them better than Twitter’s abrupt wall of text. Comic book advertising long ago revealed that photos engage people better: a sea-monkey illustration continues to sell plastic jars of brine shrimp. The benefit of good imagery is undisputed fact, but writing has never looked as comparatively obsolete as it does now.
The New York Times cheekily reminded readers that a picture is worth “about seven Twitter posts.” Marketers have always understood that a well-created image is more valuable than a sentence, but the success of Pinterest implies they’re not even comparable. The network doesn’t just use pictures; it relies solely on them and still succeeds. With a pigeonholed demographic (80% of pinners are women), this site can’t devalue language on its own, but it does reveal a larger, more expansive trend.
Pinterest isn’t as important as a case study in itself; it’s more useful as a portent, a sign or warning that visual revolution is in the air. For a site to succeed so tremendously without language proves humans have entered a new cultural era. Communication is rapidly evolving. The old exchange of information is no longer viable. Words continue to matter, but only as contextual frames for imagery. A company or brand with any hopes of success needs to see this, accept it, and begin to strategize accordingly.
The attention spans of people may have shrunk over the last century, but more likely they’ve changed. Browsing pins and boards is entrancing. Some have called it an addiction to images. The mind remains focused, but it’s now trained to concentrate on pictures not sentences. Pinterest flourishes because of this shift, and while it might someday dissolve, its use of imagery is enduring. It succeeds now because it reflects a cultural evolution, and any brand that doesn’t adapt itself will die out.
Technology is the driving force behind this change. Expanding 3G networks and high speed Internet have made the distribution of photos and videos possible. Capturing attention and selling products both relied on imagery for centuries, but consuming and sharing them have never been easier. As more brands leverage this, language as a foundation is eroding. Visual content will continue to rise as a prominent form of strategic marketing. Writers probably won’t encounter a sudden burst of unemployment, but they may begin to replace photographers and graphic designers as the world’s supplemental artists. The marketers not in this field aren’t facing doom; they just need to invest in good visual content creation, and soon.
Earlier this week, when Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook was buying Instagram, people balked. Market analysts publicized the $1 billion price tag; bloggers questioned the motives; and most others were just furious about the conglomeration. Twitter exploded with people declaring they’d just deleted their Instagram accounts. Facebook comparisons ranged from a monopoly to an imperialist force to the Borg. Calmer voices like The New Yorker theorized the move was nothing more than a power play, and the fact that The New Yorker weighed in so quickly (or at all) seemed to strike no one as strange.
Facebook is, after all, just a social network, but we don’t need another blog analyzing its power and influence. Zuckerberg himself has said he wants Facebook to be a site where all online needs are met. Already users can read articles, stream music and videos, and e-mail friends. Over 483 million people use the site daily. It’s the most popular online destination in the world, which is why some people fear it like a fascist regime. The social network possesses immense power, but people forget that despite his lofty ambitions Zuckerberg isn’t a fascist. Even if he was, other e-mail, video, and news platforms are individually more popular. Facebook is still a diversion at best, a business at worst.
From an economic standpoint, the acquisition makes sense. Instagram is all about sharing photos, which has arguably always been the main allure of Facebook. Grandmothers create profiles to see family pictures; disinterested users keep their accounts to access old photos. TheFacebook.com was first created to browse others’ portraits. Instagram works under the same premise. They’re both social networks that share images; of course the larger network would acquire the other. The most interesting element in all of this was the cost—something Jon Stewart pointed out (see below) as seemingly absurd. Facebook paid $33/Instagram user. Whether Zuckerberg saw the app as that worrisome of a competitor or that complimentary of a platform depends on whom you ask. But it needs to be asked in business terms, not hyperbole.
This deal isn’t, as some people claim, a conspiracy. The people who rail against Facebook are descendants of the people who railed against e-mail, television, and the telephone in decades past. It isn’t the Matrix or Skynet. It’s a business, and its purchase of Instagram had nothing to do with world domination. Not everyone likes Facebook, but most people use it, and those who don’t miss out on events, social updates, and news generated by friends and brands. The public outcry about Instagram will fade, and people will keep using the app, happily or not.
The only real reason this deal caused a hullabaloo is Facebook’s immense popularity. Commercially, politically, and culturally, the site has become an engrained part of our society. This is an age where the Secretary of State submits memes and Internet tycoons are featured in celebrity magazines. Of course Facebook’s acquisition of an app will make headlines. Everything Facebook does will face scrutiny. It isn’t an apocalyptic sentient being, but it is a powerful social and economic force, and every billion-dollar ripple it makes will create cultural tidal waves.
B2B marketers and business owners often ask me if the benefits of social media only exist in the B2C realm. The answer is a resounding no. The core concepts of social media: establishing your brand as an industry influencer, engaging with your customers, leveraging brand advocates, and nurturing leads along a sales cycle are just as powerful in connecting with companies as they are with consumers. In fact, B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who do not , and 57% of B2B companies have acquired a customer through LinkedIn . However, just like any other marketing tools, here are some best practices that will get you started in the right direction.
What do you want? More customers? A better relationship with your customers? Both? As a biz dev guy I love “to do lists,” strategies, and most of all accomplishing objectives. Often, companies that I talk with are either focused on driving more leads or improving their brand’s perception and share of voice. Dependent upon your company’s objectives, you need to understand which, or both, of these categories your company falls into. Without defining your objectives, you stand no chance of measuring success or understanding the effect of your actions.
2) Understand Your Demographics
It may seem obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me how few companies actually understand who their demographic is, what their buying cycle looks like, what motivating factors/events cause them to take action or where they get information on products and services.
Social media is not the place for old-school messaging tactics, and the concept of protecting your secret sauce is dead. Company decision makers typically go to your website, not social networks, to learn the benefits of your products or services. Companies and consumers alike are actively searching for value-based content that makes their lives and their buying decisions easier.
4) Leverage Your Current Marketing Mix
A common and dangerous myth is that social media replaces traditional and costly marketing channels with free messaging. This is simply not true. Social media is at its best when it is amplifying other marketing efforts or when integrated in to a well thought-out campaign.
This is not rocket science and it’s not revolutionary. Instead, this is a new application of what the heart and soul of American business was when companies took the time to connect with their communities and develop relationships with their customers. As a B2B marketer your audience might be smaller than your B2C counterparts, but that means you can be much more targeted and strategic with your marketing. While a B2C marketer may segment their demographics down to niche communities, you can target specific decision makers within your target companies and develop a value-based relationship that not only nurtures the current sales cycle but also sets a positive framework for a long and supportive business relationship.
 Source: Hubspot, State of Inbound Marketing Lead Generation Report, 2010
 Source: http://www.hubspot.com/social-media-monitoring-in-10-minutes-ebook/?source=hspd-affiliate-PID-3701805-txt-ad-social-media-10-min-day-ebook-20110819&AID=10933127&PID=3701805&SID=skim1024X498223X8a5f920e568fa93e07c8561649950bf2
 Source: http://www.business2community.com/social-media/b2b-social-media-marketing-statistics-to-ponder-099980
 Source: http://socialmediab2b.com/2011/09/b2b-decision-makers-smartphones/#ixzz1jmUIeJul
When it comes to real time messaging, there are few better networks available than Twitter. Twitter is easy to understand, navigate and search for conversations. But some media outlets use Twitter as a crowd sentiment tool and here is where I think it may fall short. Twitter messaging can be very temporary. If a user is not paying attention, millions of pieces of information will pass them by in seconds. That is why it seems sometimes conversations with critical mass are poorly orchestrated visually with Twitter. Take the Occupy Wall Street (or #occupywallstreet) movement as an example. Growing press coverage would lead you to assume Twitter chatter has steadily increased over the past 30 days. But in reality there have been very distinct spikes, followed by times of low mentions.
In contrast Google Trends gives us a much better visual interpretation of online mentions because Google indexes everything online. You can see a much more sustained growth in mentions and activity that was absent in the Twitter graph.
My point to this very short post is to always cross reference your research. Twitter is only used by 13% of online U.S. users and many of those users are not active. Open up your scope and investigate the truth in numbers.