Archive for the 'Social media' Category

Why you need web-only staff

May 22, 2012

I’ve been observing a trend lately in the industry of more positions being labelled as cross-platform – i.e., that editor works on print, web and everything else – which is awesome. I mean, all editors should be thinking of the brand and readership in all ways they reach them and have the opportunity to create content in multiple ways.

However. Print timelines being what they are, and production schedules, we all know too well that it’s easy to forget about the website when you’re focused on finishing up a print issue. The trouble is, websites don’t work that way. You can’t just ignore them for seven to 10 days of the month and expect that they’ll be successful when you make up for it the rest of the time.

Which is the main reason that I strongly believe that all editorial staff should be encouraged to contribute to all platforms – but that at least one person (obviously small mags with tiny staffs can be forgiven for not reaching this goal) should have the website as their primary focus. A good website needs ownership, someone who is knowledgeable about and can advocate for the best web experience for web readers – which includes social media. It doesn’t mean this person should have to do all the work, but it does mean they should have the experience and power to make decisions and recommendations on what happens with digital properties.

For instance, I really like this quote from Anjali Mullany, social media editor at Fast Company:

The most valuable thing that social media editors [and] community managers bring to their newsrooms is not all the great tricks that they have up their sleeve when it comes to using new technology, although that’s really important.

I think what they bring is they solve problems. They solve problems of the digital age.

They figure out how am I going to bridge the gap between what you want and all the demands you have on your time. I think social media can totally help with that but you have to be really thoughtful about it.

Wherever I’ve been able to make any change or bridge that gap, a lot of it has come from trying really hard to understand what people’s workflows are, what demands are already on their time and what they’re trying to achieve and then trying to make what I do fit that.

Beyond that, making sure that you are using all these interesting platforms and trying to think creatively about them and using them in your own reporting and being an example of how to use those tools is really important too.


A visual guide to Facebook Timeline

April 4, 2012

You may have noticed that on Friday, all Facebook brand/business pages were forced into the new page layout, with new features. This infographic is a good overview of what the changes mean.

Got gorgeous photos? Get in the game with Pinterest

February 6, 2012

Pinterest, the social tool for visual types, is the darling of the internet this year – and for good reason. It’s easy and pleasurable to use and it completely sucks you in.

Even better, according to a story on Min Online, Pinterest can turn into a traffic boost for the right brands. The piece quotes Tina Imm, general manager for Time Inc. Lifestyle Group, as saying that it’s the number-one traffic referrer for recipe sites and – and for the latter, the third-highest referral site overall.

But the catch, notes the article, is that Pinterest referrals aren’t really coming from the brands’ own accounts. Instead, they’re coming from completely independent “pins” – saving of images by site visitors – which then are shared around the community. In this way Pinterest is like Facebook – for many brands, traffic referrals are invisible, as they come from user shares rather than your own Facebook page.

What does this mean for the rest of us? Well, if your site has lots of pretty images – especially if they’re related to fashion, decor or food – you’d better make sure your site plays well with Pinterest. Sign up for an account (it’ll take a few days to go through – they’re still limiting registrations, presumably to prevent server melt-downs) and try pinning images from you site. Is it easy or is it hard? Is there a way to make it work better – for you and for the user?

This is one of those cases where signing up for and running a brand account might not be worth your time (unless you’re really interested). But checking the tool out and making sure it works well – and watching the numbers – definitely is.

Some tips on using Pinterest

January 16, 2012

Pinterest is the latest darling of the social media world, with its pleasing focus on saving, organizing and sharing images. And a number of Canadian magazines have joined in, including House & Home, Canadian Living, Style at Home and Weddingbells.

Min Online has a new story on Pinterest, quoting Mashable as saying that the top (American) media brands on Pinterest include Martha Stewart, Better Homes & Gardens and Real Simple. Why?

Pinterest tells Mashable that good behavior on the site means posting items from many sources, not just one’s own. “Repinning” someone else’s image in your feed is a sort of visual retweet that is regarded well. And creating multiple themed boards on one’s page to categorize and segment different topics is considered good Pinterest form.

Do you use Pinterest? What do you like or dislike about the platform?

If you do social media, make sure to do it right

January 10, 2012

I’ve long been a believer, when it comes to social media, in only committing to what you know you can achieve. Yes, your brand should probably be in the space, but if you’re only going to get around to checking your Twitter account once a month, then you might as well not be there at all.

I’ve had personal experience of this as a consumer. Twitter has become an easy and efficient way to communicate with companies for customer service reasons. (And the companies should be happy – wouldn’t you want all communication to be forced down to 140 characters?) When it’s a good experience – they write back promptly, listen to what I have to say – it boosts my opinion of the brand. When the opposite happens – they have a Twitter account, but my request goes unheard – it makes me think, well, not-so-nice things about them. (I’m not going to name any specific brands here, but I have a few on my list. Ask me after a drink.)

And according to this article on Brafton News, I’m not the only one. They report that a study by Conversocial showed that pretty much half of respondents have an extremely negative view of a brand with unanswered questions on its Facebook page.

Now, this doesn’t mean your entire interaction with a customer has to occur in public. But always, always, answer people, even if it’s to say “We’d like to take this conversation offline – please call or email us at ___.” And if you don’t have the bandwidth to manage all your social media accounts, then kill one. Cut back. Just make it clear to followers that that’s what you’re doing, and why, and give them alternative ways to contact you.

Oh, and if you are staying on Twitter? Make sure to set up a search for your brand name as well. People aren’t necessarily going to tag you properly, and you might catch some feedback that way, too.

Simple tweaks to make your Facebook page better

November 22, 2011

Want to get more likes on your Facebook page? Start by implementing these basic strategies from Natalie Sisson on, like creating a custom landing page (just ask people to like you) and offering fans a benefit for joining.

Experimenting with Tumblr, and should your magazine be on it?

November 10, 2011

I’m sure I’m not alone in my tendency to get a little obsessive with new toys. A few years ago, when Twitter was still fresh and shiny and I was web editor at Best Health, it wasn’t unusual for me to stay late and spend hours browsing and scrolling (this was before Twitter had decent search abilities) looking for Canadian women with the right interests to follow – and, hopefully, to follow us back.

Lately, my obsession is Tumblr. You may have heard of Tumblr as that thing the kids are into – and you’d be right, as it’s definitely packed with teenagers. But I’m not really an early adopter when it comes to technology – more like a mid adopter – and I’m convinced now that Tumblr is going to hit the mainstream. So convinced that when I decided to finally start a blog oriented around my freelance writing topics (shameless self-promotion: A Health Writer’s Notebook focuses on health, fitness, nutrition and travel with some beauty and food thrown in, and lots of pretty pictures), something I’d been planning on for months, I settled on Tumblr as the platform to use.

So what makes Tumblr different from everything else? For one thing, it’s ridiculously easy to use – it puts the Facebook “like” button to shame for its one-click-ability. Think of Tumblr as a hybrid of Twitter (you follow people, they follow you back, but it doesn’t have to be reciprocal like Facebook; reblogs are a major component of the culture) and a blog (reverse chronological posts with dates, you can post at will, it’s out-of-the-box easy to use with preset templates).

Other than the reblog, perhaps the most important feature is the Tumblr button you can add to your browser’s menu bar – click it while visiting any web page (though this can be blocked) and it will give you an option to share that link with your followers; or a photo from the page; or, if you highlight certain text, a quote. You can also easily post video, audio, a chat transcript or just plain text; the beauty of all of this is that Tumblr automatically preserves the original link in your post so that credit is given where it’s due and people can follow a post back to its original source. (Of course, this depends on users not deleting that information, but the good intention is there.)

The question remains: I’m busy enough with everything else – why should I be on Tumblr? And perhaps you shouldn’t – very few Canadian magazines are. (I’ve come up with three so far – En Route, Flare and Worn – but I’m compiling a list, so if you know of more, please let me know.) But know that a number of US magazines believe Tumblr is driving subscriptions, and Tumblr’s pageviews and signups have been growing this year at a ferocious rate – as of the end of September, they’d surpassed 30 million blogs and Tumblr now competes with WordPress on monthly visits. My recollection is that Twitter’s true move to the mainstream was Christmas 2008 – when people had a bit of extra free time to play around – and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens with Tumblr this year.

There are downsides, of course. For one, Tumblr currently hosts all its blogs – unlike WordPress, you can’t install it on your own server. This makes perfect sense for a community platform, but for a media brand it means giving up a certain amount of control. Tumblr isn’t as customizable as other blogging platforms, though it’s getting there, and there are some excellent themes available for under $50 (though many are free, the quality isn’t as good and they don’t stand out as much.) And Tumblr currently doesn’t offer a way to export posts (though I’ve heard of third-party widgets that will do it for you), so what happens on Tumblr stays on Tumblr.

That said, especially for brands with sharable, bite-sized content available for use – think great photos, news snippets, quotes and recipes – Tumblr’s a great place to be. It’s easy to use and it’s fun. At the very least, I recommend signing up for your brand name, if you can still get it, even if you don’t plan to use it right away.

These articles have more information on Tumblr:

Tumblr tips – Jaclyn Schiff
Tumblr is the next great social network – Steve Rubel
What media companies should learn from Tumblr’s success – GigaOM
Journalists, take another look at Tumblr – Teaching Online Journalism
3 ways publishers can use Tumblr – eMedia Vitals

Are you using Tumblr, or have you played with it? Any thoughts?

Canadian magazines and newspapers on Tumblr

November 10, 2011

As part of my experiments with Tumblr, I’ve been watching what media brands are doing in the space. Many American magazines are doing well on Tumblr – GQ, the New Yorker, Vogue and Glamour are just a few – but I haven’t seen a lot of Canadian brands experimenting in the space. (Related: Read more about Tumblr here.) Here’s a list of what I’ve come up with, and it’s pretty short so far. If you know of any more, please let me know and I’ll add them.


En Route


The Globe and Mail
The National Post
National Post Sports
The Vancouver Sun

Should you be using Instagram?

June 30, 2011

Instagram is a social tool that has had steady rather than meteoric growth, probably because it’s only available for (and best suited for) iPhone. Its beauty is in its simplicity: It’s about sharing photos with your followers, who can then like or discuss them. Like Twitter with images instead of words. What makes Instagram special is the built-in effects (along the lines of Hipstamatic) and the forced square format that give images an old-fashioned feel, and make them look better than you’d expect from an iPhone camera (which is actually pretty good these days).

I really like Instagram for its culture, which, as with all social-media tools (and all societies in general), is still evolving. The bulk of the people I follow on Instagram share images because they’re interesting, or cool, or funny, or different, not as self-promotion like you’d see on Facebook. (At least, not as much.) The focus, I would say, is more on the photos than the subjects. That’s the niche they’ve found and they’re doing it well.

Which is why I had mixed feelings reading this story from 10,000 Words on four ways news media can use Instagram. They are:

1. Give Users A Behind-The-Scenes View

2. Display The Work Of Photographers

3. Share Breaking News

4. Crowdsource

I like all of these ideas, in the right context. But I think all of them need the caveat that it’s really all about the photography. If you have fantastic photos to share, Instagram could be the right social tool for your brand. If you’re more interested in sending out news, information and links, I don’t know that it’s the right fit.

Do you use Instagram? What do you think about its use for media?

(Pictured: Part of a wall of magazines at the Vancouver Anthropologie.)