Archive for Online Networks

The Art of Social Image Curation and Visual Linking

Photo courtesy of Vermin Inc

It seems like everyone is jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon these days and creating boards of their favorite images. I have to admit, I too, have found it quite pleasurable to browse the hundreds of pictures that range from cool products to delicious food to interesting architecture.

During my time on the site I’ve noticed that Pinterest is creating a new type of online sharer, the social image curator. This activity goes way beyond normal photo sharing that’s done on Flickr or Facebook. Users are connecting with images to self-identify with their needs, wants and desires. And it’s interesting to see how people are approaching this new art form by the items they “pin” and the boards they create. It’s important for marketers to understand this trend and learn from it in order to create and display images that users want to pin and share.

Visual Bookmarking and Storytelling

The truth is Pinterest gives users a care-free way of categorizing content on their terms. It’s such an effortless process without the labor of the creating a series of tags.  Frankly, it’s the modern equivalent of online bookmarking. It’s no wonder that bookmarking tools such as Delicious, PearlTrees and others have developed sophisticated visual interfaces for their platforms. Finding and consuming information is much easier and quicker when it’s in a visual format.

Let’s not forget the current fascination with data visualization, a.k.a. infographics. Those creative illustrations combine information with compelling graphics (hence the name) to create perfect vehicles for storytelling. The popularity of them has many companies clamoring to produce their own infographics that convey authority or tell a story associated with their business. It’s no surprise that infographics have made their way to Pinterest as well with users collecting them like baseball cards.

Developing a Visual Content Strategy

While users are busy searching for images that resonate with them, marketers are looking for ways to attract those users and integrate this activity into their outbound efforts.  Professionals in marketing, PR and social media functions not only need to quickly learn how to curate images for business-branded accounts, they need to think about content marketing in the visual sense. That means developing a visual strategy for blog posts, white papers, research insights, and other collateral produced for external consumption.

The challenge for many marketers will be how to represent text and numbers into compelling visual references. If your organization has a dedicated graphics designer on staff then you should leverage them to full tilt. If not, you should consider subscribing to an image database such as Getty Images where you can select and purchase images that suit your brand and content. I’d also recommend Flickr for its large inventory of images labeled under the Creative Commons license.

Visual Content Drives Traffic

The visual display model that Pinterest has built is actually an enormous driver of website traffic. It was reported by Techcrunch that Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than Twitter, according to recent research from Shareaholic. With a growing number of people being conditioned to click on images for more information, it’s an opportunity for marketers to take note.

This is quite the eye-opener since most images we create and post online do not have links embedded in them. Start inserting URLs into your images to seamlessly create digital pathways to destination sites. In doing so, you may boost your SEO rankings in the process on sites that follow directives for links. (Note: Pinterest has implemented a “no follow” rule on their site.) While the majority of images on many sites represent consumer goods, there’s also plenty of opportunity to drive interested buyers of B2B services through imagery as well.

 

Content Curators Playing a Larger Role Online

Photo courtesy of Rafeejewell

With the ever increasing amount of online information from social networks, the need for organizing it has never been greater. Look around and there’s no shortage of aggregation tools to help us filter out the important stuff. Services like Summify, Scoop.it, and News.me offer ways to identify, organize and share the most relevant content online. Another such tool is Paper.li, which scans the posts of your Twitter followers and automatically publishes the news from your network on a single webpage. Personally, I like the easy-to-read format since it resembles a newspaper with photos, bylines, etc. I use it to review content on a daily basis since it’s a lot more enjoyable than reviewing linear feeds in Hootsuite.

Recently, I came across a discussion thread on LinkedIn that slammed Paper.li claiming that the automated curation tool was nothing but an annoyance. The biggest complaint from folks was that it created “comment spam” on Twitter with its daily promos alerting followers that a new edition had been published. People are up in arms that those little promos only name the Twitter followers who retweeted the story and don’t credit authors of the stories themselves. Guys, sorry to break it to you but Paper.li is ahead of the curve on this one.

In this world of information overload, there’s now a new layer in the media ecosystem: the curator. If it wasn’t for that person who retweeted the story in the first place, you probably wouldn’t have seen it. So naming the retweeters in daily promos is the right course of action. Twitter is like a fire hose and Paper.li is selecting random tweets that would have otherwise been missed. Yes, they’re randomly chosen but I find a lot of value in them because they praise others for their contributions. It reminds me that they’re part of my network and I can appreciate their contributions that much more. I know when I’m named in someone’s newspaper it motivates me to continue sharing that type of content.

While I don’t believe that Paper.li is the perfect tool, it does provide a valuable service. The market for content curation is still in its infancy. New products are being launched every month thus giving the role of the content curator an even larger role in the online media world.

Personalized Social Networks Help Solve Privacy Issues

Photo courtesy of Exey Panteleev

An interesting thing is happening online, we’re moving towards personalized social networks. The newest feature among the top social networks is the ability to organize your friends, family and work colleagues into separate, meaningful communities. When you think about it, being able to send selective content to a pre-defined group of contacts  is a great way to solve the online privacy issues we’ve been facing for so long.

Historically, Twitter and Facebook have allowed members to group friends and followers into lists for the sole purpose of tracking updates. For example, you can set up a list of business colleagues and track their updates. But what if you wanted to send a customized message only to that list of people? Not possible. Er, ok, it was possible on Facebook but not easy. It wasn’t until earlier this year that people really got excited about customized contact lists when Google introduced Circles as part of the Google+ platform. Google+ members are able to set up personalized lists or “circles” of their contacts based on relationship and send customized status updates and/or messages to them.  Talk about a major step forward in selective content distribution.

This week, Facebook upgraded its “Lists” feature to allow members to organize friends and send specific message to them. To help familiarize members with the concept, Facebook has created three generic “Smart” lists for every profile: 1) close friends, 2) acquaintances, and 3) restricted. The idea is to segment out your good friends from people you work with or may not know intimately. Of course you also create your own lists and call them whatever you like. A common complaint I’ve heard from dozens of colleagues over the last few years has been, “How do I balance my personal life with my professional life on Facebook?”  With Facebook Lists, you can be selective with the content you distribute and control who actually sees it. Problem solved. Privacy advocates should be jumping for joy.

Dan Zarella Offers Tips for Maximizing Twitter

I recently listened to an insightful webinar featuring Dan Zarrella, Social Media Scientist at HubSpot. To my surprise, Marketing legend, Seth Godin was on the line to introduce Dan and informed us that he was the author of the most popular e-book in the world. I thought that was pretty impressive. Dan took the microphone and began his talk about the viral nature of online content and the behavior of sharing.

Dan’s area of study is memetics or memes as coined by Richard Dawkins. He talked about content being “contagious” and how that results in people wanting to share it. Overall, there are three drivers of viral success: 1) Exposure (the act of following and friending on social networks), 2) Attention (the consuming of content) and 3) Motivation (clicking/taking an action).

Dan put these concepts into context by using Twitter as the platform for his research. Based on his in-depth analysis, Dan offered some great tips for maximizing Twitter with greater success.

  • Sharing content on Twitter in the form of links drives more followers than engaging in conversation
  • Define yourself and tell people why they should listen to you (use terms like official, founder, speaker, and expert in your profile)
  • Self-reference doesn’t always attract new followers, don’t talk about yourself too much, instead focus on the subject
  • Negative content turns off people and it won’t be shared – they want positive content
  • Research shows that people with more followers on Twitter are less conversational because they tend to broadcast more
  • Friday, Sat and Sun are bad days to publish unless you want to bury your story
  • Use verbs in your tweets since are more powerful than adjectives and are more shareable
  • Asking readers to “Please RT” actually works – on average it will generate 4x more retweets

Dan did a great job and I urge you to view his Science of Social Media 2011 presentation and transcript for yourself.

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