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New_Twitter_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen

Twitter has changed. A new layout puts significant emphasis on visual content, including photos and videos. Popular tweets will be featured more prominently, and users have the ability to ‘pin’ a chosen tweet to their profile.

Here’s how you need to adjust your Twitter marketing to be more effective in the new, image-centric environment:

Choose a great profile picture and brand-building background image

The new Twitter layout provides two opportunities to share your company’s brand: the profile picture and a background image that appears at the top of your profile page. Profile pictures are now larger, both on your profile page and as they are displayed in users’ Twitter stream. Customize your background by uploading your own picture, such as an image of your storefront, for example, or people having fun with your products. These images can include text, such as your tagline. Tootsie Roll Industries provides a great example with their Mr. Owl page, which promotes Tootsie Roll Pops.

Pin Calls to Action to your profile

Another feature of the Twitter redesign that’s ideal for small business owners is the new pin capability. You can choose one tweet at a time to pin to your profile. This tweet will stay at the top of all of your tweets, making it the first thing your profile visitors see.

“This is the ideal place to put a call to action,” says Jessica Redmond, a digital strategist with Kwin Media, a social media and digital marketing agency. “You want to use a really strong image here, something that will resonate with your customers.” Changing the pinned tweet at least weekly is also a good idea, says Redmond. “If you’re having a special event—a one-day sale, for example—make sure your pinned tweet reflects that,” she adds.

Put Twitter cards to work

Twitter cards allow you to add media, such as video or a photo gallery, to your tweets. You can use Twitter cards to share details about your products or to deliver an app directly to your customers via a download link.


“Lead generation cards can be very effectively when used strategically,” Redmond says. She recommends adding lead generation cards to the tweets you choose to pin to your profile. “When a person visits your profile, they’re already at least partially interested in your company. Having the lead generation card right there makes it easy for them to take action.”

While many Twitter cards are free, both lead generation cards and website cards are paid advertising. You can find out more about Twitter cards from the Twitter Developer’s Blog.

Focus on photos and videos

In the new Twitter layout, tweets that have photos or videos attached display larger than text-only tweets. Additionally, tweets that are repeatedly liked or retweeted will be larger than less popular tweets. Tweets that have photos or videos attached tend to be liked or shared more frequently, compounding the effect and increasing the visibility of your content. According to Twitter, tweets with pictures were retweeted 35 percent more often than text-only tweets, and tweets with video links saw a 28 percent increase in retweets.

“Small businesses need to share images frequently,” Redmond says. “Use larger sized images to make sure your photos look great whether they’re seen on the laptop screen or scaled down to smartphone size.” The choice of images is also important. Kurt Wagner, the social media reporter for Mashable, writes, “Each industry has its own secret formula. Users in the television industry, for example, saw more retweets when they included a quote, while those in the music industry saw the most retweets when a video link was added.”

Retweet positive tweets about your company

Every day, search for your company name on Twitter. Many popular social media management tools, such as Hootsuite, can perform this search for you automatically. Retweet any positive commentary you find about your company. This increases the prominence of the original tweet while adding positive commentary to your own Twitter stream.

Additionally, in the new Twitter layout, all of your “favorited” tweets can be easily viewed by clicking on a tab on your profile page. Redmond recommends putting this new feature to work by “favoriting” tweets strategically. “You can use the favorites tab as a testimonials page. It’s a great way to show off what people think about your company.”

Keep mobile in mind

The changes Twitter has made to its platform haven’t all migrated to the mobile app, but that day is not far off. Optimizing your Twitter content to be viewed on smartphones or tablets must include thinking through your communications channel. Can your current website provide a satisfactory experience to the mobile visitor? At a minimum, you’ll want to make sure that the pages you’re driving traffic to through Twitter function well on a mobile device. This will minimize the chances you’ll lose the sale from tweet to shopping cart.

Instagram_body.jpgBy Heather Chaet.

Few would argue that to be successful in today’s business world, you have to have some sort of active social media presence. Whether you run a Facebook contest or a Twitter party, reaching new customers and maintaining current ones has come a long way from simply having a website where folks can find your phone number.


However, with the introduction of new platforms such as Tumblr and Pinterest, the landscape of social media is changing. What worked even a few months ago isn’t as successful today. Facebook is still the leader in terms of users and engagement, but savvy business owners should be looking to a new player: Instagram.


Increasing its number of users by 23 percent in the last half of 2013, Instagram has claimed the title of the fastest growing social media site, according to GlobalWeb Index’s January 2014 report. Due to this surge in users, the photo-based platform is also closing in on Facebook’s lead in engagement levels. Pew Study’s Social Media Update 2013 reported that 57 percent of Instagram users check their accounts daily and 35 percent check multiple times a day, as compared with 63 percent and 40 percent of Facebook users, respectively.


With 200 million active monthly users and 1.6 billion “likes” daily, Instagram offers robust opportunities to grow your business and your bottom line. Here are five reasons why Instagram should be the next tool in your company’s social media toolbox:



1. Instagram is easy

Every small business owner wants to do more, but often doesn’t have the time to learn and research a new platform. Using Instagram is as easy as taking a picture on your smartphone. “Instagram is definitely an asset in my social media campaigns,” says Aja Frierson, founder of Habit Cosmetics, a line of natural, strengthening nail polish. “It’s one of the easiest social media tools to learn, because it's picture-based.” Since the landscape of social media is evolving, adding a relatively simple-to-use social media platform to your existing marketing strategy re-invigorates your overall approach to reach and engage customers without much effort or added time.


2. It builds your brand personality instantly

Unlike large corporations, small businesses rarely have the financial resources to pay for product placement in movies or to have their products “spotted” with celebrities. Despite the lack of resources, a small business can build its brand personality for free using Instagram. You can craft the look and feel of your business by choosing images of your product that projects the exact way you want it to be seen by others. The key: consistency and specificity. Think about how you want your business to be seen. Sophisticated? Philanthropic or trendy (or both)? Play around with different photos and styles of images to achieve that personality within the images.


3. It has better hashtags than Twitter

When using a hashtag on Instagram, instead of trailing a 140-character tweet, the hashtag is paired with a photo. Naturally, the Instagram image creates a stronger emotional impact than the tweet, resulting in more “likes”, more followers, and more customers. Frierson concurs: “Among the most important things I've learned about using Instagram is how to utilize hashtags so that unrelated people can find your photos,” she says. “Figure out what hashtags are popular and relevant to your content, and use them whenever you post a photo.”


4. Instagram shows off all sides of your company

As an accountant or the owner of a cleaning services company, posting photos on Instagram may not be your first instinct in terms of marketing. However, the platform allows you to showcase other aspects of your company by providing customers a glimpse into what makes your business different from competitors. Perhaps you sponsor a Little League team, or have a potluck lunch every Friday with a different theme. Spreading the word via images about what makes your company unique and interesting helps to strengthen customer relationships and build new ones.


5. It can extend your reach

In the small business world, teaming up with other entrepreneurs is a proven strategy to increase awareness of your company and, as a result, increase  revenue. Chris Cooper and Adam DiBella, the owners of the fitness training center Active Movement & Performance in Massapequa Park, NY, use Instagram to motivate clients and spread the word about upcoming events. But their biggest Instagram success has come from connecting with other fitness professionals all over the world. “Making connections with other trainers and other gym owners has been a huge boost to our learning the ins and outs of running our gym,” says Cooper. “Recently we made a connection with a street workout and calisthenics team in Germany and we formed a partnership as the East Coast Training Center for their style of workouts. There is no way that would have been possible without Instagram.


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