So 2015, what you got for us?

Here we are, three weeks into January already and I’m wondering how the festive season flew by so quickly. For most of us, fabulous summer holidays at the beach are but a distant memory. Perhaps, like me, you’ve stubbornly resisted the urge to wash the sand off your thongs in a vain attempt to deny reality, but on the whole, it’s all work work work.

Bugger! Never mind though, Scoot has been hovercrafting over that other tropical paradise – known as the web – on your behalf and has compiled this list of really cool social media and content marketing tips and trends to help skyrocket your business in 2015. No need to thank us, just share the article instead. And of course give us a shout if you need a hand with any of it. There’s a good poppet!

  1. Two words … video baby!

    Video is now the most shared medium on social media. ReelSEO reported that in 2014 there were 75% more videos uploaded to Facebook than in 2013. If that doesn’t impress you, this will. Facebook users watch a staggering 1 billion videos every day, 65% of them on mobile devices. According to IT giant Cisco, video will account for 70% of all internet traffic by 2017. Clearly then, if you’re not using video as part of your digital content offering, you are dudding yourself out of a vast bucket of potential followers, advocates and customers.

    Don’t panic. We’re not talking epics like Ben Hur. Short and sweet is definitely best. 15 seconds on Instagram, 6 seconds on Vine or up to a couple of minutes on other channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter. By all means make longer films, but if you want people to actually watch them you’ll need to put the effort into creating a slick and engaging production. Lights, camera, action!

  2. Pictures paint a thousand words.

    You’ve never heard that before, right? Well, cliché or not, a great photo will beat a great essay every time. Which isn’t to say don’t write and share essays and other wordy content, but be sure to include an eye-catching image or two to entice readers. Even Twitter’s truncated format responds to a bit of photo love, with posts containing an image statistically more likely to be retweeted than those without. Yes, you do sacrifice around 20 of your 140 characters by adding an image, but wouldn’t you rather your posts were shared? In a nutshell, society has become steadfastly image-driven, so make it easy on yourself and give the people what they want.

  3. Be as smart as your Smartphone. In fact, be smarter!

    Mind boggling as it may be, 1 billion people will access the Internet exclusively from mobile devices in 2015. That is a huge number of people to ignore, which is effectively what you are doing if you haven’t gotten around to making your website ‘responsive’ yet (which means it automatically detects whether visitors are using a desktop computer, mobile phone or tablet, and adjusts the layout accordingly). Put another way, if your website doesn’t work properly on Smartphones and tablets, you can kiss goodbye to 1 billion potential customers. So, if that isn’t 1 billion reasons to take action, I don’t know what is!

  4. Driftnet prospecting is out, targeted content marketing is in.

    Forget the old 10% rule of mass mailouts to your entire contact database in the hope of scoring a few hits through sheer weight of numbers. Aside from the obvious wasted effort, such ‘driftnet marketing’ methods can be irritating and spammy for recipients, and damaging to your brand. Thanks to social media, you can now identify people with some degree of interest in your brand, product or service, and market specifically to them. As an added bonus, analytics allows you to easily measure the success of digital campaigns so you know exactly what return on investment (ROI) you are getting every step of the way. Happy days!

  5. You get what you pay for.

    Yep, time to wave bye bye to unlimited free publicity across the social media universe. Facebook’s departure from allowing business pages to share content with followers for free was widely reported in 2014. By tweaking the site’s algorithms, content now reaches less than 1% of followers organically (ie for free). So if you want your posts to reach as many of your Facebook fans as possible (of course you do), you’ll need to allocate some budget towards paying to ‘boost’ posts. No need to boost every post, unless you’ve got deep pockets, because fans sharing your brilliant posts will do some of the grunt work for you (so make sure they are indeed brilliant!). But you’ll certainly want to boost the big stuff like product launches, sales, fundraising initiatives and events, to make sure people don’t miss them.

    The good news is it’s really easy to specify how much you’d like to spend, for how long, and on which posts etc. And it’s economical in the scheme of things. The bad news is, well, it used to be free and now it isn’t! Other channels like Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are heading the same way, but for the time being at least, you can still reach up to 20% of those audiences without paying for advertising.

Everything you ever wanted to know about hashtags

Back in 12th century Italy, an entrepreneurial friar named Allessandro della Spina launched a revolutionary new product to help people see a little better. Although rudimentary by today’s standards, his ‘eyeglasses’ were a game-changer.

Suddenly, smashed thumbs from errant blacksmithing irons and pricked pinkies from misjudged sewing needles became solely the domain of the clumsy. People with less than 20/20 vision could now differentiate between a tuppence and a thruppence – or the Medieval Italian equivalent – thus saving themselves a pauper’s fortune in miscounted disbursements. And best of all, long-sighted lovers could gaze into one another’s eyes and actually see who they were looking at. A pleasing development, most of the time!

If Twitter had been around there would undoubtedly have been a frenzy of hashtags to celebrate the arrival of eyeglasses: #notblind #ICanSee #NoMoreBlackThumbs #DidntRealiseHubbyWasSoUgly. That last one is unkind, but you get the drift. The topic would have trended for weeks.

Fast forward 800 or so years, and today hashtags give us infinitely greater vision than eyeglasses ever could. If social media is the mouthpiece of the masses – and only a fool would suggest otherwise – hashtags are its eyes and ears.

Excuse me, I’ve been living under a rock. What are hashtags?

In a nutshell, if you stick a hashtag (#) in front of a word or phrase (as per the litany of examples throughout this blog post), it will then be searchable (and stumble-onto-able) by others on that particular social media network.

As an example, if you posted a tweet containing #auspol (the tag for Australian politics) and I then typed #auspol into the Twitter search bar, your tweet (along with any others using the #auspol tag) would show up in my results – even if I wasn’t following you. If I liked your post I would check out your profile and hopefully start following you, and ideally others would do the same.

Bingo. One relevant hashtag, many new followers!

(Note that cross-platform searches are not possible, you can only search Twitter from Twitter, Facebook from Facebook, etc.)

Too easy. But why bother? People can find me through Google

Yes they can. If they know what they are looking for … and you have a strong Google ranking at the top of page one … and you don’t mind being overlooked by new audiences who might have found you had you used hashtags in your posts … and who as a result go to one of your competitors … and … I could go on you know!

Okay, I get it. So when is it best to use hashtags?

Any old time. Hashtags can be used within posts, or as an adjunct to them, like the examples below. Rarely should hashtags be used on their own. Rather, they should accompany a passage of meaningful text, ideally with an image, video or link to round out the post and pique maximum interest from readers.

The main benefit of hashtags is to enable you to quickly find relevant posts on a chosen social media network, from known and unknown sources, without having to wade through loads of irrelevant content.

The above example uses hashtags as part of the message 

This example uses hashtags as an adjunct to the message 

Other ways you might use hashtags are to project your mood to the world (#tiredandemotional), or your political views (#MyCatForPM), your preferred brands (#levis101), a classy restaurant (#notKFC) or a shambolic flight check-in (#NoUpgradeForMe).

You can also use hashtags to search for stuff (#melbournevolcanoes), participate in TV or online forums like ABC’s Q&A program (#qanda), join in the conversation at an event (#hillsfestival) or to monitor a crisis such as a bush fire, cyclone or even a missing airliner (check out #MH370 to see what I mean).

Finally, you can create your own personalised hashtags to promote events, products, launches or whatever, that relate to your organisation. Say your company, XYZ, was holding a conference. You could advise delegates to tweet or post questions and comments to #XYZconference. Not only would the unique hashtag make comments easy to find and respond to, but if enough people got on board you may even find your own event trending on social media – what a coup that would be!

Which social media channels use hashtags?

Most of the popular social media channels now support hashtags, including Twitter (the originator), Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest and others. This means searching for things, promoting your own products and causes, creating that elusive flurry of excitement known as a trending topic, and being generally more efficient in your use of social media are easier than ever. Interestingly, after initially jumping on the bandwagon, LinkedIn have now dropped hashtags from their repertoire. Likewise it’s been widely reported that adding hashtags to Facebook posts may actually reduce engagement (go figure!).

Remember to use analytics to help you identify popular keywords that are relevant to your organisation as well as your target audience. Combining hashtags and keywords in an appropriate way will help you attract new followers. This doesn’t mean sticking #angelinajolie at the end of a post about community banking just to attract zillions of eyeballs – trust me, people are smarter than to fall for that old chestnut! Suffice to say, analytics is a crucial part of any successful digital communications strategy and a future edition of Scootalicious will cover it in greater detail, but it would be remiss not to touch on it here.

What not to do

You certainly don’t want to overdo it by ‘hashtag stuffing’ – which means posting a string of #too #many #hashtags #and #no #actual #caption. These types of posts are an abuse of hashtags and an eyesore, and should be avoided at all costs. People do this in the belief that their posts will turn up in more searches and result in more followers, however I find it crass and would never follow or like a business that used such methods. As with all things in life, moderation is the key.

These are just some of the ways to use hashtags. For others, consult your imagination or check out what’s ‘trending’ on Facebook or Twitter to get up close and personal with topics ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.

As for dear departed Friar Allessandro, were he still around he might offer this sage advice: #Don’t #be #a #dinosaur #hashtags #make #your #content #roar #!

…or maybe not!