WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA ASSETS WILL BRING YOU THE BEST RESULTS?

Social media is much less about being social these days – it’s more about being heard. But how do you raise your voice above the clamour? How do you choose the right social media platform that’ll amplify your message the loudest?

With so many social media platforms out there, it’s hard to know which ones will work best for your company.

From a business perspective, having an online social presence is essential. Of course, social media is a great place to market your product or service, but it’s also an opportunity to gain trust and create diehard fans of your brand who will follow you and your company’s journey.

With this in mind, you need to choose the right platforms carefully so you’re connecting with the right audience. You also need to consider which particular social media assets are going to work with your brand best.

Here are the five important elements and one golden rule for choosing the right social media platform for your company:

  1. Audience

Where does your ideal customer spend most of their time and have most of their trust? Work out if they love clicking through from Facebook posts or if they’re more of a Twitter kind of person.

Work this out and you’ve got half the battle won already.

  1. Industry

When you’re choosing a social media asset, think about your business and your industry. There’s no point trying to ramp up a super-enthusiastic audience on Pinterest if your product isn’t photogenic or if your workplace doesn’t photograph well.

You can still get visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram to work – you just have to be more creative.

  1. Time

Some social media platforms require more time than others. If you have a very limited amount of time to allocate to social media, look for channels that you can do quickly or can schedule easily.

For example, if you’re time poor, but want to promote more video, Snapchat or Facebook is probably a better option than YouTube or Vimeo.

  1. Budget

Work out how much money you can invest. Social media – by its very nature – is free to use. However, to get the reach you’re after, investing money in promoting your content is going to make things happen faster. You’ll also reach a higher ‘quality’ of customer in relation to how interested they are in your product.

There are still plenty of effective social media platforms out there that are free to use, but the big ones like Facebook expect businesses to pay to access their ever-growing list of subscribers.

With Facebook, you can spend as little or as much as you want, but you can narrow down the type of people you can put your posts in front of with incredible accuracy and reach. Here’s a Mashable article discussing whether paying for Facebook ads is worth it.

  1. Expertise

Work out what you’re good at. Or if you have a team, what they’re good at. If your expertise is in written content, play to your strengths. If you’re more into photography, look at visually inclined platforms. If it’s video you’re good at, go for video-heavy channels.

And if you’re trying to use a social media platform that you have no experience, interest or talent in, either improve that skillset, hire someone who can do it or choose another platform.

The golden rule

Don’t try to be across all social media platforms. You’ll go mad. Even with a team of people, covering all social assets out there is not only impossible it’s pointless.

Your audience won’t be on every platform, so why should you be. If you’re doing it yourself, you’re better off focusing all of your social media brain energy and time on three platforms at most. Get these working to optimum capacity and you’ll see a much bigger return than trying to manage 10 different platforms.

Also stay up-to-date with the social media platforms you choose. If the channel starts a live element, use it. They’ll set their algorithms to promote the users who are creating with it.

But the most important thing to remember with social media, whether you’re using it for fun or as an amplification and marketing tool for your business, is it’s supposed to be enjoyable for you. If it’s not, your tone will come through and people will sense it.

Be authentic and your message will always resonate louder.

The first in a series of five blogs that will discuss issues of education – particularly understanding modern learners and how they learn; technology; meme culture and slang, plus the day-to-day experience of our dedicated teachers.

One of the biggest achievements a student can have is the ability of critical thinking. As teachers, we talk a lot about developing critical thinking or ‘higher-order’ thinking, as described by university textbooks. But actually making it part of lessons and coaxing it out of some students can be a daunting task.

Information Age

The nature of the ‘information age’ means we can access with more ideas than ever before. The nature of social media has allowed us to choose which information we receive and when.

Sometimes this happens consciously – when we choose to follow or unfollow a Twitter personality. Or unconsciously – when our pattern of ‘Likes’ and interactions on Facebook goes through its algorithm. And news content, images and links, which we approve of, become filtered.

This type of information environment is an ‘echo chamber’. Helping students navigate out of it while retaining their ability for ‘higher-order’ thinking is a challenge for every educator.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy has been in use by teachers for over 60 years. It determines what ‘level’ of thinking students are achieving during lessons. It has evolved over the years, by teachers and teacher educators alike to identify what works and when.

A diagram of Bloom's Taxonomy from Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching

Throughout your schooling your teachers would have spent time leading you through the six categories. First, their task would have included teaching you to identify then remember information. Next you would learn to analyse the information and discuss it. This would then be followed by more academic activities wherein you either evaluated the information with a more complex form of analysis, or using your deep understanding of this information created something original. This is generally considered to be the highest form of critical thinking.

As with any hierarchy, the fundamental ‘base’ of this structure cannot be overlooked. This is because students must have the necessary skills to engage in the ‘higher-order thinking’ processes.

With today’s unprecedented technological expansion, teachers and parents now face the challenge of the growth of end-user information devices. The rapid penetration of smartphone and other device ownership is changing schools every single day. Students have been quick to google any of my claims that sound incredible.

So information access, particularly in tech-savvy teens, is not the issue. Students in the generations below mine (read young whippersnappers) are comfortable hunting for information on the internet.

Propaganda

The issue, as any Modern History teacher worth their salt will tell you, is propaganda. The last decade has seen the rise of a level of propaganda that would make Joseph Goebbels giddy.

The packaging of information has made it big business for political power structures. To generate their own narratives, twist information whichever way they want or to lower trust and support in credible information. The political pundits got their predictions wrong on the two most significant votes of the year for the Western world. (Brexit and the U.S. Presidential election). This should be enough to concern any thinking individual who values concrete knowledge. Lacking any political opinion, these were concerning events because they proved that knowledge is becoming far too problematic.

In essence this is the heart of critical thinking – questioning and evaluating the information presented to us. This was much easier when information was delivered at a slower speed, in books, telegrams and via newspapers – now, it is just too much.

We can become jaded and our poor brains too tired – unable to apply a level of critical scrutiny to EVERY piece of information we receive. So this overload goes straight into the ‘too-hard’ basket and we move DOWN Bloom’s Taxonomy.

We begin approaching each piece of information from a lower-order – ‘identify’ being the only style perspective. This is where the danger emerges. Unfortunately, life and reality are far too complex to break down into digestible information. But the repetition of lower-order tasks is creating a generation of lower-order thinkers. They become satisfied that they can solve the answer to any puzzle with a quick Google search.

We as educators have a duty to move on from the lower-order tasks as quickly as possible. We need to open up our students to the opportunities that can emerge when we teach them to apply their minds to critical thinking. We must teach them to smash their ‘echo chambers’, which are far too restrictive.

Donald Trump’s recent ascent to the White House caused shock waves of disbelief around the world. Over in New Zealand, another unlikely aspiring politician also caused a stir — albeit on a much smaller scale – by placing third in the race to replace Len Brown as mayor of Auckland.

The politician in question is Chloe Swarbrick. If the name is unfamiliar, you may be curious about her background. Well, she’s not a seasoned local-body politician, a well-known businesswoman, or a celebrity.

Chloe Swarbrick is, in fact, a precocious 22-year-old who, up until October’s elections, no one had heard of.

Now, to you, third place may not sound all that impressive. However, consider this: Chloe collected around 5,000 more votes than the previous election’s main contender and one-time reality-TV personality John Palino. The two who finished ahead of her were ex-Labour Party leader Phil Goff (he won the mayoralty) and ex-Xero managing director Vic Crone.

She’s got to be rich

Perhaps surprisingly, Chloe didn’t have a bottomless ‘war chest’ to draw from – she had about NZ$9,000. As a result, her face was absent from the thousands of billboards that littered Auckland’s streets – billboards that were much too expensive. And, predictably, mainstream media showed little interest in her.

So, how did she do it?

While everyone else used the dusty old strategy of putting up billboards and posting pamphlets – which most of us never read – Chloe took a 21st century approach.

You see, by day, Chloe is a social media strategist. So, knowing too well that traditional media would gobble up her funds before she had a chance to say ‘down with Len Brown’, Chloe stuck to what she knows.

Social media lets me, as it does with all candidates, create my own content. What social media and the internet did was democratise informationpeople can ask questions and get answers in real time,” Chloe told the New Zealand Herald.

Five social media tips

Of course, just being on social media isn’t enough. To be successful, you must:

  1. Add value – don’t create content for the sake of it. Make sure what you produce is informative and answers your audiences’ questions.
  2. Be relevant – stay on message. Being an expert baker doesn’t mean that talking about chocolate cakes will help your cause.
  3. Choose the right medium – what type of content does your audience prefer? Chloe made a lot of videos; however, you could write blogs, create memes or run competitions.
  4. Be consistent – set a publishing schedule and stick to it. This shows you are active and keeps audiences engaged.
  5. Be responsive – one wonderful thing about social media is that it enables you to engage with your audience in real time. So, be around for the conversation; when people comment, make sure you respond.

What can we learn from Chloe?

Most of us hold no political ambition. However, if you are reading this post, you probably run a business or a not-for-profit organisation. To achieve your goals, you need to reach out to your target customers or donors.

Before social media, ‘reaching out’ usually meant buying expensive advertising – something that is much easier for big organisations.

Incidentally, during the recent US election, as of late October, Hillary Clinton spent US$141.7 million on advertising; Donald Trump, on the other hand, spent just US$58.8 million.

What Chloe’s campaign demonstrates is that social media evens out the odds – ‘David really can challenge Goliath.’

Viral videos

The internet is a place of communication, creativity, and cats. Not only does it allow you to talk to friends and family from across the globe, the internet acts as a limitless forum for users to share anything from their latest personal opinion, project or favorite video of a cat being terrified by a cucumber.

Watch the clip that started the latest viral craze
A 14-year-old boy named Daniel is a big, although possibly fleeting, star. For those still unaware of the ‘Damn Daniel’ craze, the video is a series of clips of Daniel strutting his outfits around school, whilst his friend comments: “Damn Daniel, back at it again with those white Vans”.
Simple subject: huge reaction. The Damn Danial clip has had more than 40 million views, Daniel and his friend Josh have ended up on Ellen, and Danial now has a lifetime supply of white Vans and Jake a surfboard that says “Damn Daniel, I’ve been on Ellen”.
What is all the fuss is about? The Damn Daniel video incorporates

All the elements of viral marketing

• The actors (Daniel and Josh – via voice over) are pretty cool looking kids from California. They are attractive and have a natural following.
• The subject matter – fashion – is popular with their target group.
• The treatment – short clips, catchy music and a signature slogan (Daamn, Daniel) results in a catchy video that is completely authentic.
• And, because they test marketed it with their peer group on SnapChat before going to YouTube, they were able to tailor it based on user feedback.

1) You can’t bottle lightning but you can study it

Whilst you never quite know what is going to go viral, you can make an estimate based on an audience’s response and customise media content to be more ‘viral friendly’.
The two teens behind the clip never quite realised what they were getting themselves into when it first started. Originally, the Damn Daniel videos were sent by Josh (the person filming) as Snapchats. Due to the popular responses the clips were receiving, the two teens collaborated to film the clips daily for a week. From there on the clips spread.

2) Make people laugh

When you can make someone laugh, you create a positive emotional connection with your target audience. Creating a positive emotional connection with your viewer is perhaps the most important element in making a viral video.
Think about the most recent viral videos that have been shared with you. Do you think you would be inclined to share it if it didn’t make you laugh? You wouldn’t!
Viral videos need to give people a reason to want to share the content with others, and the most effective way to do this is though laughter.
In the instance of the Damn Daniel Video, It’s funny, it makes people laugh. The video works to almost all audiences, allowing practically anyone with an Internet connection to watch the video, and enjoy a laugh.

3) Know your audience

It is very rare that the advertisement campaign you are publicising will be suitable for the entire population. To get the best response rate on your video, you need to identify a target market.
The Damn Daniel videos were no exception to this rule. When first publicised, the clips were shared over social media to a relatively selective circle of friends who the video was of interest to. Then, due to popular response, the clips were shared further on social media platforms and gained traction with teenagers of a similar demographic around the world.

4) Clarify your aim in #goingviral

Regardless of what the topic of your video is, you are going to have some kind of aim in #goingviral. Whether it is to promote a business, social justice issue, or just to lighten up someone’s day similar to the Damn Daniel clip, having a purpose in mind is useful before publicising a potentially viral video.

5) Satisfying your Audiences needs

It’s not all about the money, trying to give something of value to your viewers is always beneficial. You want your audience’s mood to improve after watching seeing your content, by doing this it is more likely they are going to share your message.
If your video is trying to advocate a business, a hard sales approach is generally less likely to draw on viewers emotions and encourage them to share your message. Today the most effective advertisement campaigns are those that are entertaining and make your audiences laugh.
Be sure to know your audience, what are their interests? Will this video make them feel better after watching it? Will it inspire a changed perspective? What need do they have that your video can satisfy?

The Damn Daniel trend is being used all over the internet. The craze has inspired copies and remixes of the video to emerge. The video has been so popular that Vans gave Daniel with a lifetime supply of their sneakers. White Vans are being offered on eBay for over $300k.

A successful thought leader knows how to build a reputation and maintain a presence that provides them with the means to make their mark and reach a large audience. Such a leader who is an education communications professional also needs to be able to:

  • Walk a diplomatic tightrope
  • Please a range of committees
  • Push to get things done, and
  • Generate and distribute ground-breaking content

Content Marketing

Content marketing is all about delivering your product straight to potential clients and ‘building your brand’. Whether you want to please your current masters or attract desirable new ones who might offer you advancement, writing can be how you stand out in a crowded market place.

Publishing thought-provoking and engaging content about your industry, particularly through more substantial white papers or infographics, are key to this. Social media is a prime way to get your message out and establish a presence.

While many organisations have incorporated social media into their marketing, you need to see yourself as a brand. Ensure you are establishing your worth as a leading professional – and a cohesive marketing strategy for yourself will help you achieve this.

How do you do this while juggling a demanding job and paying the mortgage?

Automate

Setting up automated platforms will save you time that can be spent working on content. There are many systems available such as HootSuite, Buffer, CoSchedule, and If This Then That.

Delegate

Delegating work amongst your team is both good for time management and helps to build a strong team who can communicate and work effectively.

Depending on your organisation or personal willingness to pay to get things done, you can outsource much of the grunt work – either on the home front or for social media efforts.

There are online services through which you can delegate tasks such as fancyhands.com. Real people who act as virtual assistants can research, schedule appointments or do your online shopping.

Promulgate

Use assets, such as social media, to establish and promote yourself as a thought leader. LinkedIn is particularly good for this as it is an easy-to-use, professional setting that allows you to be found with ease by those who have an interest in you and your subject.

Publishing thought-leadership pieces on LinkedIn allows a central place from which to build your presence. Learn the difference between posting and publishing and see your personal (professional) following grow.

You can also keep the wide world of social media updated on your work through a professional Facebook page and Twitter profile. These strategies mean that you, and the subject of your work, is frequently found in places where you and it can be seen by a large audience.

If you get lost in the maze of social media assets, want a thought-provoking piece ghost written, think it’s about time you had your own Wikipedia entry or just want your LinkedIn profile smartened up, call us at The Copy Collective.

You’d be surprised by which of your competitors we are making look good already (sorry we can’t tell you). Rest assured, if you decide to spruce up your online presence, your secret will be safe with us.

While it’s tempting at this time of year to switch off and focus on Christmas cheer, remember that the social media juggernaut never stops.

The festive period could be your time to build brand awareness, cultivate die-hard fans and hit the ground running in the New Year.

Think about it. All those folk flopped on the couch digesting turkey and mince pies. Presents are all open. The TV’s on – and there’s nothing much to watch.

What will people do? All those who aren’t in a food coma will pick up their phones and tablets and search social media. It’s a captive audience.

How to win at social media over the Christmas break

1. Be social

Remember why people are on social media. They want to be entertained, in contact with friends and see what everyone else is doing because we’re all essentially quite nosey.

Do shout-outs to fans and readers – interact with those already looking at your pages. Everyone’s full of the warm fuzzies over Christmas, so mention loyal readers and customers, and that may turn them into fan-girls and fan-boys.

2. Sharing is caring

Encourage customers to talk about you to their friends by sharing your readers’ posts on your account. Storymaking (as opposed to storytelling) was the buzz trend of 2015, so foster fans to ‘friend’, follow and favourite you by promoting them and their experiences.

Then you don’t have to worry about having new content to post over Christmas when your team might be on holiday.

3. Trendjack the season of giving

Why not jump on the bandwagon of people’s generosity? Holding a giveaway over Christmas or telling people about a donation your company’s making will plug into the spirit of the season. Offer to donate a percentage of the proceeds from any new business gained during the festive season – and tell your would-be customers you are doing it.

Here’s more about trendjacking and how it works.

4. Timing is everything

To maximise your social media participation, publish your posts during your audience’s prime-time. Get inside the head of your ideal customer and think about when they’re most likely to be on social media. We will be writing more about marketing to ‘personas’ in the New Year, so look out for How to Target Your Ideal Customer in 2016.

Post just after Christmas lunch when everyone’s relaxing and vegging out.

If you’re not sure when’s the best time, follow the rule of thumb. The time when you’re looking at your social media is when you should be posting, because that’s probably when your audience is browsing too.

5. Get festive

Think about how you can incorporate a bit of festive glow into the social profile of your business. Even if it’s just superimposing a few well-placed comedy Santa hats on your Facebook or Instagram profile photo, it’ll tell people you’re in the spirit.

This makes your business look friendlier and more approachable, and also shows that your content is current.

6. Stay in touch

Customer service is most important over Christmas – it’s when people have the time to be extra fussy! Make sure the times for when you’ll respond to complaints and questions are clearly marked on your website and Facebook page.

Perhaps ask people to Tweet you instead. That way you only have to keep an eye on Twitter rather than emails, phone calls etc.

7. People will be all shopped out

Keeps sales posts to a minimum – be more social and personal during Christmas. By all means tell people about your sales or new products. They’re still buying online, but be subtle.

As with all advertising platforms, Christmas and other significant dates in the calendar have a fascinating impact on social media. It’s something that’s changing on a yearly basis.

There was a significant downturn in social media activity during Christmas 2012, but 2014 saw little or no change to social media use between November and December.

This Christmas will see more people engaging online. Make sure Santa – and everyone else for that matter – stops at your door by keeping your business social these holidays.

August, it seems, is the Month of Romance Awareness. The furthest it can get from February and Valentine’s Day, August is now the month of love. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but maybe it isn’t.

Either way should we be letting calendars dictate when we allow romance into our lives?

Jim Butcher – co-author and owner of the blog MrAndMrsRomance.com – writes about travel, food and lifestyle and is all about bringing romance to your everyday.

The site has taken Jim and his wife Christina all over the world, writing with romance along the way.

Here are some insights from Jim into what it takes to blog.

Why do you write MrAndMrsRomance.com?

My wife Christina and I started this site initially because we travel quite a lot, and we wanted to have a record of our adventures together.

We also wanted to start a kind of ‘he said, she said’ platform to start discussions. The travel, food and lifestyle areas online are quite saturated, but there aren’t many publications written by couples for couples.

We’ve developed our site to be a resource for people looking for inspiration on ways to fill their stomachs or their passports.

Most of all, we do it because we love it. Creating new stories to share with people that will help or inspire them is a great gig.

 

What do you focus on?

Our focus is on bringing romance to your every day, so August being the Month of Romance Awareness is right on brand for us.

Romance doesn’t have to be about the big or traditional gestures. It’s more about the small things; giving each other time, doing simple things with one another, living life together and enjoying each other’s company.

Most of all, we try to avoid the cheesiness that’s synonymous with the word romance. We try to evoke an ‘ah!’ and a nod rather than an ‘aw!’ and a shrug.

 

What goes into writing a blog post?

All articles – wherever they’re published – need to be at least one of three things: entertaining, educational or empowering. If they’re more than one of these, that’s great.

The key to engaging people quickly online is with pictures. As much as we can, we use our own images and edit them to look as good as possible.

We mostly use Snapseed to edit photos and Wordswag for text. Wordswag also has a great selection of free images from Pixabay. These are both phone and tablet apps and are much easier to use than Photoshop.

Images exemplify, but they also break-up text too. With so many people reading from their phones and tablets these days, we try to steer clear of writing blocks of text. A four-sentence chunk of text is too much for people to take in, so we keep our paragraphs to three sentences max.

We only ever write about things we’ve done or seen or tasted. Our readers come back to us because of the relationship we’ve built with them.

We like to occupy the positive part of the internet. If we don’t like something, we just don’t write about it. We give constructive criticism and realistic reviews, but we’re not in the business of slating things or people.

We always finish a post with a question or two, inviting our readers to share their experiences. It’s a great way to make readers feel active in the relationship we’re developing.

Jim also wrote 5 Tips for Creating Content to Make Your Website Win.

 

Who is your target audience?

Although our content is aimed at couples between the ages of 28-40 with a reasonable income, we have a much wider readership. We don’t give relationship or dating advice, and we don’t write to exclude.

We talk about the places we go and the things we eat, and we usually mention what dynamic would best suit the destination or venue. However, we don’t see why romance should be limited to a holding hands moment at sunset with your life partner. I mean we’ve all heard the term ‘bro-mance’, right?

The love you feel for your friends is still love after all.

 

How do you measure success?

There are a few ways to measure success in online journalism.

Google Analytics, social media reach data, brand interest, receiving awards, being listed and media attention all suggest success to some degree.

Being known as an authority in the field you write about would probably be the ultimate success for a blog. Our friends Caz and Craig Makepeace have been writing Y-Travel Blog for many years now. They were recently invited to the Whitehouse to meet the President, which is just amazing.

Success is a tough one to measure though. I think all the time we’re providing useful, entertaining information to people, we’re winning a bit more every day.

 

It was a hot sticky day in Sydney as I walked along the leafy suburban street with my first guide dog Jordie. I was wearing shorts and T-shirt, so I put my phone and keys in the little backpack she used to wear — it’s usually filled with plastic bags for when I go on poop patrol.

As I walked past an outdoor cafe my phone rang.

“Hey Jordie,” I said, “your phone’s ringing,” as I stopped to unzip the backpack and take the call.

I laughed out loud when I heard one of the latte sippers say to another — “Oh look, that guide dog has its own mobile phone.”

Guide or assistance dogs often draw attention to the user. This can sometimes be positive — they can be an excellent “chick magnet” — but sometimes the attention is not preferred. And sometimes the questions that are asked will range from funny to bizarre, as perfectly captured in this song by Emma Bennison.

Here are some I have experienced. I’d love to hear your stories to celebrate International Assistance Dog Day.

  1. As I arrive (usually from a female): “Awww, isn’t he cute!”

My response: “Thanks, and the dog’s not bad looking either.”

  1. As I get off the train, from an amazed schoolboy: “Wow, how does the dog know which station to get off?”

My reply: “She listens to the announcements, just like I do.”

  1. Question to me: “Is this the first time you have been here? How did the dog know the way?”

My reply: “I let her borrow my GPS.”

  1. I walk into the supermarket, and ask for some assistance to locate the items I need: “But can’t the dog find them for you?”

5. As I get into a taxi: “Does your dog bite?”

My response: “Only when she’s hungry. That reminds me, I haven’t fed her today.”

All of these stories are true. Please share your experiences with The Copy Collective readers in the comments.

It was an evening like any other. I certainly wasn’t expecting to become a Facebook sensation. It was Tuesday, 19 May 2015 and I needed to change my bed. As usual, my greyhound Bruce was sound asleep on the bed and showed no signs of moving. It was such a common occurrence that I had developed a way to change the bottom sheet without kicking Bruce off.

Given his levels of resistance, it’s actually easier to work around him than it is to get him off the bed. A friend found our ‘slip and slide routine’ to be very amusing, and so he convinced me to post a video of Bruce and my bed-making antics on Facebook. And so on the night of 19 May, I did.

Launch 19 May – night

Once I had captured the moment, I posted the video on my Facebook account and I shared the video with the Greyhound Adoptions WA Facebook page around 8pm that night. Their organisation had rescued Bruce in 2012 and I adopted him shortly after. I know they’re always keen to receive updates about their rescue dogs, and I knew they would appreciate the video. Greyhound Adoptions WA reshared the video the next morning. What I didn’t anticipate was how much everybody else would love it…

The next day:

Wednesday, 20 May 6pm

8 hours after Greyhound Adoptions WA reshared the video

Views: 4,500

Likes: 102

The day after that:

Thursday, 21 May 7am

Views: 40,910

Likes: 262

Bruce the video star was spreading like wildfire! Greyhound enthusiasts had shared it with other greyhound rescue groups and related pages. Then there were other dog lovers in the general public, who had shared it with their immediate networks. Facebook was sending me multiple notifications per minute as people liked, shared, and commented on the video.

Three days later:

Sunday, 24 May 10am

Views: 200,000

Likes: 998

In a week Bruce had travelled from his quiet home in Perth, Western Australia to all the continents except Africa and Antarctica. I couldn’t read half the comments made on the video because they were in languages other than English.

The wind-down

After a week or so, the frequency of notifications had slowed down. And after a fortnight it was a trickle. By this stage I had uploaded the video to YouTube and while it didn’t go viral like on Facebook, it had still received a healthy number of views (260 or so) for a non-celebrity like me. On Wednesday, 3 June the video was shared with another private greyhound rescue group and the notifications kicked up again.

The results… for now

A month after I had shared Bruce’s video, I still receive several notifications a day – sometimes per hour.

As at 21 July the video has had:

Views: 248, 700

Likes: 1,160

Shares: 4,448

Comments: 270

So, this is what I have learned from watching my video go viral:

  1. “You can’t bottle lightning”

Simon Low from Buzzfeed said “you can’t bottle lightning” when he was discussing #thedress. However,  while you can’t predict what will go viral,  you can make a ‘best estimate’ and tailor your videos and other content to be ‘viral friendly’. You need to have a plan for riding the wave of popularity. Read this great analysis from the team at McCann who created the award-winning Dumb Ways to Die campaign.

Have your team ready to respond to comments – learn from me and make sure some of them speak languages other than English!

  1. Make people laugh

If you can make somebody laugh, you will instantly build a positive and lasting emotional connection. One wouldn’t expect a campaign about safety around railway tracks would go viral – it’s a serious topic, it’s on behalf of a government body – these aren’t the elements that we associate with wildfire social media contagion. But the Dumb Ways to Die campaign demonstrates that with great content – and making people laugh – you can achieve anything.

What sets laughter apart from other emotional expressions is that it is uniquely human and contagious.

When a person finds a funny video they share it with their friends.

The greyhound and the bed-maker is a heartwarming double act. There’s this gangly dog, in a coat, who is just too chilled out to move. There’s me – the bed maker – just getting on with the job. Clearly, I’ve long ago given up trying to move that dog off the bed. It’s a classic animal video and it makes people laugh.

You may think that your content isn’t going to make people laugh. Seek inspiration from this great board on Pinterest.

  1. Know your audience

Sharing a heart-warming video of a greyhound to a group of ‘houndies’ (what greyhound rescuers like to call themselves) is going to be a success every time. Houndies are known for their obsession and evangelical commitment to the breed. Houndies are a niche audience, but they’re a niche audience with connections that spread far and wide. From there you only need a few more dog lovers, animal lovers and people who just need a break — to share as well.

So what demographics or characteristics do your audience members share? The people at Sprout Social are experts in demographics. Learn from them!

  1. What’s your aim in #goingviral?

What do you want to achieve with #going viral? While making the video was the spur of the moment thing for me, by posting it I hoped to achieve a few things.

Firstly, I wanted to thank Greyhound Adoptions WA. By adopting Bruce, we gained a much-loved member of the family. That wouldn’t have been possible without the hard-working team at Greyhound Adoptions WA. By sharing the video with them, I was giving them some content that they could share and re-post on social media. Our good friends at CoSchedule write some great posts on reposting and repurposing content.

Greyhound Adoptions WA has approximately 130 new followers on Facebook and at least half of those liked the page during the week following Bruce’s video. Hopefully, those 130 people are actively engaging with the group by adopting, fostering or donating – I wouldn’t know. If Greyhound Adoptions WA has good social media analytics and can track their audience they will know what they actually gained. Analytics are crucial when it comes to #goingviral. If you’re the type to yawn at data, try reading this delightfully-short guide to social media ROI from Buffer.

Another thing I wanted to achieve was to make people laugh. While my video of Bruce may not have achieved anything tangible knowing that some 200,000 people were motivated to watch it and most likely ended up laughing is a great feeling. We know that laughing is beneficial, so try to make people laugh – even if only for a few minutes.

Finally, I also hope the video has helped to dispel the common myth that greyhounds are a high maintenance, energetic pet. While Bruce might need some maintenace – he needs a coat and clean sheets on his my bed – you can clearly see he’s not the type to be jumping up and down. Educating an audience is a great aim for social media content.

Plan in advance what you want to achieve – is it brand recognition, a change in people’s behaviour, audience education or some other call to action? Whatever your goal, make  your call to action (CTA) clear and compelling.

  1. Satisfying your audience’s needs is important

It’s not always about money. I was able to share a touching moment with my dog and show how Greyhound Adoptions WA’s rescue efforts and hard work really do pay off. It was a small thank you to the people who work to save greyhounds from pointless death.

Watchers of the Bruce the video star were all left with a warm fuzzy feeling and, in that respect, my video did exactly what it was supposed to.

I didn’t make any money from my video of Bruce. I have no merchandise to sell and I haven’t angled for any sponsorship deals with pet food companies. As far as I know, Greyhound Adoptions WA didn’t receive a sudden influx of donations or people wanting to adopt rescued greyhounds (although they may have).

However, the video brightened people’s lives, it gave Greyhound Adoptions WA some great content to repost and it made me realise that while making the bed with an unresponsive greyhound is just a typical part of my week it’s interesting to hundreds of thousands of other people.

What interests your audience? What would make them feel good about watching, reading or listening to content that you have created? What need do they have that you can satisfy?

So what is next for Bruce?

Bruce won’t be getting a Facebook page or YouTube channel any time soon… Mostly he will be sleeping and eating, sleeping some more, and walking… and sleeping, and looking awkward, then sleeping again… Honestly, he’s the laziest greyhound that’s every lived. But I wouldn’t replace him for the world.

How I learned to love crappy Facebook statuses

If you’re a regular user of Facebook, you scroll past inane statuses every day. Maybe in the last hour. It might have even been the last one you posted.

If not, you probably know the type. They usually serve no purpose but to alleviate the momentary boredom of someone who has picked up their phone or sat down at their computer. They say nothing, accomplish nothing, and nothing ever really comes of them.

So why are they there?

Recently, a Huffington Post article on this topic posited that: “A Facebook status is annoying if it primarily serves the author and does nothing positive for anyone reading it.” It then proceeded to outline seven different ways in which one could produce such insufferable cries for attention, basically describing my entire news feed.

We’ve gotten to a point where the instant affection and gratification received through Facebook comments and ‘Likes’ have become too sweet to resist. As people explore their own social media space in their own ways, the modern Facebook status can serve a variety of purposes other than simply updating our friends and family about our lives. It can often be a cry for attention, a passive-aggressive opinion, or perhaps an attempt at ‘image crafting’, a practice where we essentially run the PR campaign of our own life stories.

As 2013 hurtles inexorably forward and we start getting our 2014 party hats ready, we are posting the minutiae of our daily lives at unprecedented levels: photographing our food to humbly fish for love hearts on Instagram (throwing off all hint of pretentiousness with an off-beat hashtag in the caption); publicly crying out for attention with an anecdotal humble-brag regarding how we’ve handled a recent crisis; or simply pretending like our mundane afternoon of waiting on hold for three hours is hilarious to anyone – as long as it’s in the form of a passive-aggressive BitStrip.

The fact that ancient peoples never had the means to communicate information to each other at the rate that we modern folks do means the Great Pyramids of Giza, Angkor Wat, Stonehenge and the other great human-built structures of the Earth become a whole lot more impressive, if you really think about it. No ancient Egyptian slave got to gripe about his team’s cinderblock being particularly heavy on social media, even to release just a little bit of stress (or maybe try to score a ‘Like’ or two). It’s probably how the ancient civilisations actually got these monuments built; because those societies weren’t full of citizens pissing about on Facebook.

Though the stream of consciousness people provide when the status bar inquires ‘What’s on your mind?’ may seem at times like a symptom of an over-indulgent, narcissistic and insecure society programmed to behave based on an ever evolving user interface powered by code, then, let me tell you – oh wait, no, that’s actually what it is. Got it in one. However, the point of this blog post is that there is real, intransient, human truth behind the daily inanity of your newsfeed.

The Great Facebook Exodus

People often talk of ‘culling’ their Facebook friends list; removing people who post terribly dreary updates on their life, or people that they no longer associate with or talk to. Some even do the ‘reverse cull’, and leave the website altogether, removing themselves from everyone else’s’ lists.

A recent SMH article explored the growing trend of teenagers leaving for other forms of social media as the user base gradually becomes older with more over-30 users logging on. Just a few days ago, I was greeted by the below survey as I signed into Facebook.

Facebook is losing users, and it knows it. As this blog so eloquently puts it: “Speaking on a stage in front of a mixed audience of family, friends, and acquaintances makes it hard for most of us to be our genuine and authentic selves.”

This survey was an attempt to get me to rate what I wanted to see, but it already eerily knew what friends I interacted with, including who I Chat with (and *gasp* Poke) the most. So I wanted to see pretty much all the survey showed me, even when it was my friends being insufferably self-indulgent. I find in a vacuum, one piece of information, like a tweet or a status, doesn’t really tell you about a person. Over a long enough timeline (no Facebook pun intended) a more complete picture starts to form.

For instance, if you Snapchat me a picture of a cup of tea, then I can pretty reasonably deduce that you are probably having a mind-numbingly boring day at work. You’re literally photographing your 3pm beverage to delude yourself into thinking that your Snapchat friends are going to want to see this slice of your day, because well, there’s probably nothing else to do.

But despite that Snap setting me back 10 seconds of my precious time (or less, depending on how long you’ve set it to), I like there is an inherent value in people openly volunteering to share this minute slice of their life with me, whether it be a Snap or a status or a Tweet or a text. It may be narcissistic, sure (‘Look at what a great/shit life I’m having!’) but it often contains deeper meaning about a person than they may have intended.

A window to your social circle’s mind

Status exclaiming how excited for a particular event you are (“I’m going to Stereosonic in 4 days!”) Like. Scroll down.

Status about the daily activities and momentous epiphanies a person’s child has. Usually a pretty generic epiphany that most people have. (“Little Billy worked out the fire was hot today! Kids, am I right!”) Every twenty minutes. Usually accompanied with pictures. Like. Scroll down.

Status checking in at a swanky café in town with friends. (‘Super cute dinner date at the Ivy!’) Like. Scroll down.

Status about a political figure, artist or other such celebrity. Particularly if they died and their movies/music etc. were universally cool and liked. (“RIP Lou Reed. #notsuchaperfectday”) Like. Scroll down.

Or, my personal favourite, the ‘indignant open letter’ status, addressed to someone that is never going to read it. (“Dear Arsehole who just splashed my new outfit with muddy water by driving through that puddle – thanks for ruining my job interview.”)

Technophobes often exclaim that this addiction to updating the world on the status of our lives is going to lead to the downfall of civilisation. You only have to walk into a nightclub (a place people ostensibly go to have fun and be social with each other) and gaze around at the throng of makeup-swathed faces being illuminated by the soft light of their smartphones amongst the din, to admit that there perhaps may be merit to this argument.

Digital ‘Likes’ are validation in its purest form. I know I love receiving them. They, retweets, saved snapchats, and polite comments on my Facebook status provide the self-esteem nourishment no parent could hope to provide. (Sorry Mum. Raising and feeding me for 18 years was pretty swell too.) As I have matured along with social media, however, and seen how others use it to connect with the social universe around them, I have come to understand how all the various platforms to share your voice come with one striking similarity: from your perspective, YOU are always at the centre of every interaction. Just like life. And like life, these sites come with a confirmation bias. We present ourselves in the manner in which we see ourselves, and as such getting digitally ‘rewarded’ for being us encourages these behaviours, in turn encouraging us to share more and more with one another.

In our brave new world, we all tend to drown our minds – emotions, thoughts, worries, little wins, conversations we had or want to have and much more – we drown all of it in manufactured emotions (social media, games, TV) which contain interesting, and valuable, but ultimately unnecessary information. The human connection, the stuff behind the status, is still important. It is a human typing a way at those keys, or snapping away at that camera. A fragile, complex, multi-faceted individual human with an almost infinite spectrum of thoughts, beliefs and behaviours. We all wear masks, and social media is just our digital mask — a self-edited life story.

This blog is not meant to discount or discourage ‘true’ human interaction. When you are physically present with another person, it requires an immediacy of thought or action that communication through Facebook etc. filters out (even though people can see when you’ve ‘seen’ a chat message now). Human contact, even if being in a room with someone requires body language and tonality, even if it is harder to engage all 5 of your reflexive senses at once, is still a billion times better than the detachedness of modern social media communication. It still is. It might not seem like it, but it is. In our new world of millions of light-speed communication connections flying around, try to remember that beneath the inanity, there lies a person who, much like yourself, is trying to navigate around this complex three-dimensional universe full of people and passions and ideals without going insane. And, well, if that doesn’t deserve a ‘Like’, then I don’t know what does.

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