Blog - Look
By Amy Mullins, Social Media Coordinator
The rollout of the new Facebook Timeline for pages on 30 March, 2012 took some Australian businesses by surprise.
As Facebook has in some cases become the first online contact a customer has with a business, it is very important for any consumer-facing Facebook page to be strategically planned and regularly maintained.
icon.pr has been developing tailored social media strategies for our clients in order to specifically utilise the new aspects of Facebook Timeline for businesses and brands.
Facebook Timeline was created to tell a chronological and visually engaging story about a person or brand. Page content, like text and photos, have become more prominent with a larger font and individually separated post boxes, which are now viewed in two infinitely scrollable columns.
Screenshot taken on April 23, 2012.
Sound a bit confusing? Don’t worry. Here are icon.pr’s three basic tips on tackling Facebook Timeline for businesses:
1. Create a cover photo that best represents what your business is about. It will also help form the Facebook user’s first impression of your page and company so choose carefully. The cover photo can be abstract or expressive, it could be a photo of people in your workplace, or even just a beautiful-looking zoom on a company graphic. “It’s just the vibe...” The optimal size of a cover photo is 850 x 315 pixels.
“This space is not meant for promotions, coupons or advertisements. Your photo should not be primarily text-based or infringe on anyone else’s copyright.”
2. Add a founding date to your page. The founding date you choose is usually the date your business came into being. Facebook allows businesses or organisations that have a long history to start their page’s Timeline anytime from 1000.
The best part about this feature is that you can add Milestones to tell the history of your business or related area with key events, illustrated with a photograph and a few interesting facts. See the Timeline pages of Coca-Cola, The New Yorker or The New York Times for excellent examples.
And if ‘founded’ doesn’t work for your business you can also choose from, ‘born’, ‘started’, ‘opened’, ‘created’ and ‘launched’.
3. Make your page beautiful with large pictures linked to text or URLs. Instead of attaching a link to the ‘Status’ section, which will automatically display a thumbnail image with the post. Upload an appealing photo in the ‘Photo’ section that illustrates the link you want to attach. In the description section write a comment about the website and then paste in the link, shortened by bit.ly, to make it look neat.
This is a little trick that makes your page more visual, engaging, and as I like to say, “pretty”. This can be especially useful if your business area is text-heavy and information-focused.
Best of luck!
By Amy Mullins, PR Account Coordinator (Social Media)
Instagram is a social media success story, a fairytale, if there ever was one. First released in October 2010 on the iTunes App Store, it gained more than 1 million users in three months. As of December 2011, it had 14 million registered users and continues to grow and evolve. To cap off a truly outstanding year, Instagram cemented its place in the digital hall of fame when Apple named it ‘iPhone App of the Year’ for 2011.
So what exactly is Instagram?
Instagram is a free photo-sharing application for iPhone (though an Android app is currently in development). It combines the best of Twitter and Facebook, whereby users are able to follow and be followed, as well as ‘like’ and comment on photos. Recent photos posted by users you follow will automatically load into a visual feed to scroll through. And those handy push notifications will let you know when somebody likes or comments on your post so you don’t have to keep checking it like a paranoid social media addict. Note: I might (definitely) have been guilty of this pre- the existence of push notifications.
In practice, Instagram connects friends, acquaintances and strangers across the world with each other and allows them to instantly share snapshots of their life and what captures their imagination. Any person can be creative with Instagram, though I’m a little skeptical about the urban myth that claims you can never take a bad photo with Instagram, I’ve taken a few ordinary shots in my time.
Instagram is really about sharing your world and how you see it, visually. The natural correlate to this is that Instagram builds intimacy, connections, insight, closeness, understanding, curiosity, involvement, respect and ultimately leads to an investment in relationships.
Its efficient functionality and ease of use has been key to its success. You can post a photo on your account simply by completing these steps:
Step 1: Take a photo or select a pre-existing photo
Step 2: Preview photo with a selection of 17 filters (below is an example, but is missing the new Sierra filter)
Step 3: Choose the final look and write a caption
Step 4: Upload to your Instagram feed and automatically distribute through personal social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous and Foursquare.
And now, the hook… why should your business be using Instagram?
On the surface, it would seem that Instagram is only a personal photo-sharing platform, but that’s just not the case. For any business, Instagram can play an essential role in building relationships between its staff and its potential customers by appealing to their shared humanity.
It seems obvious, but the most successful businesses recognise that some values have universal currency and that they are generally based around our humanity and experiences of it. By taking this into consideration in real life business conduct, these savvy companies build a reputation as a friendly, caring, reliable, loyalty-creating and customer-focused organisation. The same thing can be done online with a visual social media platform, like Instagram. It is the one simple tool that can soften and help bypass the ugliness that is the harsh transaction of commercialism. I’ll show you what I mean…
To illustrate just how powerful Instagram can be for a business I have chosen Melbourne’s The Hungry Workshop as a case study.
The Hungry Workshop, initially based in Brisbane, moved their letterpress printing business to Northcote, Victoria towards the end of last year. How do I know that? Because I’ve been following ‘thehungryworkshop’ on Instagram for a year now and saw the relocation process, including the cranes required to lift some remarkably old and heavy printing presses, via my Instagram feed.
Each day, Jenna and Simon Hipgrave enticed me and their 513 other followers with the business cards and wedding invitations they were designing and printing. They took photos of fluoro yellow paint blobbed onto a spatula, or some metallic plum-tinged rollers, or a moth camouflaging itself on the wooden windowsill of the studio, or some quirky new Valentine’s Day cards they had just printed and put up for sale on their website. This simple, intimate and artistic sharing of moments demonstrates how ‘Instagrammers’ can begin to feel, to some degree, part of each others’ lives. This is how I felt about The Hungry Workshop and when I realised it, I was certainly surprised.
I often think about ordering business cards from The Hungry Workshop just so I can have my own piece of art to hand out to people I meet. It has taken a gigantic amount of self-restraint and the reluctant recognition of my budget to stop myself. That said, I can’t help but share my enthusiasm for their work with friends, designers and businesses.
And this is what I like to call, ‘The Instagram Effect’; that true and often subconscious investment in a person or business from following their Instagram feed, that causes gushing excitement and prompts a person to share and recommend them to their friends.
I’d bet you a blog post on MySpace that you’ll feel the same way about The Hungry Workshop too. Take a look at a selection of their Instagram photos and tell me you don’t drool over the thick grainy card and that debossed inky perfection.
In all seriousness, Instagram isn’t about pictures, it’s about people.
The way he took that photo of the Empire State Building peeking over the top of some dilapidated shop fronts in New York City and then filtered it through black and white fascinates me. The fact that he saw an intimate moment between a couple on the Paris Métro and framed the shot so that their intensely expressive faces were the only visible part of their bodies. That her golden retriever puppy means so much that she takes photos of it as though it were her child. And that a picture of an orange sunset over the ocean sums up the warm and admiring feelings a Londoner feels towards their new summery home, of Melbourne, Australia.
Businesses can, in fact, do the same. Take our shared icon.inc and icon.pr office, for example. The people who design your marketing and advertising material and the people who devise and implement your PR strategy are a diverse bunch of people with interesting personalities and hidden talents. These people care about each other and they care about their clients. I know this because, among other things, I work with them. I have a drink with them every Friday afternoon and funnily enough, I follow their personal Instagram accounts. But how could other people come to know this?
What if your business had its own Instagram account that shared with its followers those funny, beautiful or memorable moments that happen in the office, at the work Christmas party or on the way to work? Instagram photos can even offer insights and glimpses into the behind-the-scenes energy that is required for a pitch, the crazy ideas that come from a big brain-storming session and the effort and heartache that goes into designing a shiny new logo that represents a company in just the right way.
"Look at the magic Luke, our print designer, just weaved on InDesign with his Pantone colour charts. Guess which soft and mischievous baby canine just visited our office? It's official, Penny makes a mean sundried-tomato cous-cous salad. Check out our funky new hand-painted boardroom table. And look who just turned up to work wearing mismatched high-heels to work (the identity of that person shall remain unknown – though I’m sure they found it just as funny as we did)."
For the most part, a business is its staff and that is the rationale behind Instagram for businesses. It personalises a company and enables anyone looking to buy from or request the services of that company to feel confident in, reassured by, and even invested in, the people who work there.
Instagram isn’t for every business and personal discretion can be used to figure that out, but it can be the essential layer of social media, fed through Twitter and Facebook, that shows the human side of a brand or business. Common sense tells us a major commercial motivator is that people buy from and support people or businesses they like. Instagram is one un-tapped way businesses can embrace the digital age of social media to connect with and relate to people locally and globally.
In the meantime, check out some Instagram photo’s Rom Anthonis, ‘romnine’ on Instagram, our resident photographer has taken of the recent Melbourne "summer" weather…
A special thanks to Simon Hipgrave of The Hungry Workshop who gave us permission to reproduce a selection of their Instagram photos in this blog post. Thank you also for the personal inspiration they have given me.
You can follow them on Twitter: @HungryWorkshop
You can like their Facebook page
You can visit their website
And of course, you can follow them on Instagram – search ‘TheHungryWorkshop’
Photo credits (in order of appearance): Instagram Filters - created by Jessica Zollman, Instagram Workshop Photos - taken by The Hungry Workshop, and The Melbourne Rain - taken by Rom Anthonis.
By Amy Mullins, icon.pr PR Account Coordinator (social media)
In this era of increasing digitisation of communication, consumer behaviour and information transfer it is highly uncommon to discover a major company or business that does not have a Twitter and/or Facebook account.
Yet, the potential for micro-blogging tools to connect people and inform and influence opinion measures far beyond their current use. There is a great opportunity for organisations to grow their brand and reputation through an authentic engagement with potential consumers. And when I say authentic engagement, I mean to use the platform for its intended function. Many businesses in Australia still lack a complete understanding of how to effectively use these platforms, so should you engage, in most industries you will set your business apart and become a socially digital pioneer.
One of the most common examples of an inappropriately applied strategy is to solely broadcast media releases and company-related news on Twitter and/or Facebook. When this is done a business is guaranteed to discover a disengaged, diminishing and often mildly hostile list of followers. This is simply because Twitter was not designed for that purpose nor is it generally utilised by users for that reason.
Twitter and micro-blogging was designed to enable peers to instantly share brief ideas, memes, images, information and experiences that they subjectively believe to be important. As the information is transferred, the receiver will judge the importance of the information for themselves and read, share or dismiss the content.
Thus, in order for a business to transplant their ideas into this forum and build a favourable and widespread reputation, they need to have a conversation with users. This can understandably appear daunting in a fairly un-moderated new media environment where criticism and praise are both easily broadcast, but the benefits of effective micro-blogging, with few exceptions, outweigh the negatives.
So how can businesses overcome their Twitter timidity and harness its power to communicate with the ever-expanding and engaged online community?
1. Tailor the style, type and content of your information to each particular platform’s purpose. For success, Twitter requires businesses to tweet with brevity and wit or in a friendly tone, and for the information being broadcast to have potential sharing value. Users can perceive when an account is only interested in engagement that will lead to a direct outcome for the company - and it’s not a good look.
2. Encourage and support those who tweet relevant, useful and interesting content in your field of business by re-tweeting their tweets and perhaps by adding a comment before the RT. The beauty of Twitter is that it often provides you with access to unique web pages otherwise undiscovered and can expand your own business approach.
3. Respond to questions, comments and recognition in a humble, honest and good-humoured way. The only time when it is best to not respond to tweets is when they are spam or deliberately attempt to provoke a negative response for its own sake.
4. Follow back users who follow you (some discretion can be applied) and in addition always be on the lookout for other valuable and interesting users that are mentioned in your feed.
5. Remember that social media is not a one-way street. It is a discussion that requires personal investment and a reciprocal relationship between users. There is no halfway. To have a Twitter or Facebook account for appearances- or promotion-only will signal to the user that you are not socially engaged, technologically savvy or customer-focused, whether this is true or not.
6. After you have engaged in this way, we at icon.pr would love to hear of your progress and wish you all the best. Business micro-blogging can be a genuinely rewarding experience, personally and professionally.
Further reading at the very informative Harvard Business Review blog:
Separate Social Media From Marketing. Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald
Social Strategies That Work Mikołaj Jan Piskorski
Social Media Success Is About Purpose (Not Technology) Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald
Social Media versus Knowledge Management Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald
How Social Digital Is Your Company? David Armano
And for inspiration here are Australian Twitter accounts that are of successful business and organisation micro-bloggers:
Realm Camberwell is the latest premium housing development from Cedar Woods Properties. To read about the development, take a look at this article, which was published at the weekend in The Saturday Age, Domain.
The article, arranged by icon.pr, explains that the development will offer potential homebuyers a selection of 3 and 4 bedroom homes from $795,000. The premium modern homes available at Realm Camberwell provide purchasers an idyllic setting within an established and highly sought after area.
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