My First 5k

Twitter, Arthur Catalanello, @acatalanelloRecently, my personal Twitter account reached the 5,000 followers benchmark.  Having joined Twitter in June 2009, it’s taken me 7 years to the month to reach that milestone.  I wanted to share some observations and musings about my journey and strategy to 5k.

I’ve tweeted just shy of 13,000 times on Twitter.  I’ve watched some accounts delete older tweets to give the impression that they’ve built a large following based on fewer tweets.  That may fool the uninformed, but if you built your following organically, there’s no way you reached 5k followers on 128 tweets unless you’re a celebrity.  Besides, tweets are great for SEO, so if you want to be found on Google, your tweets should stay.

Speaking of organically growing your following, my following count is is 100% organic.  I have not purchased 1 follower to reach that number.  While I can see that helping a business get started on Twitter, I would otherwise not recommend it as I believe it’s better to have quality over quantity.

I don’t automatically follow-back the accounts who follow me.  I do look at each follower and read their bio, look at their number of tweets, the number they’re following and the number of followers they have.  I also look at the industry they’re in and/or the topics they tweet about.  I scroll through and read their last 5-10 tweets.  If the account seems legitimate and that I’d get value from their content, I follow them.  It’s time consuming compared to automating the process, but I believe it makes my Twitter stream more valuable to me.

I believe consistency is key to growing your following on Twitter.  You need to be consistent with the topics you tweet about and the frequency with which you tweet.  It’s also very important to be familiar with Twitter etiquette (or Twitiquette) and engage with other users.  Remember the basic rule of thumb that no more than 20% of your tweets should be self-promotion (and perhaps no more than 10%).

I’ve seen numerous accounts try to game the system by following several accounts, waiting for those accounts to follow back, then unfollowing those people.  This makes their followers count larger than the number of accounts they’re following, giving the false suggestion of importance and influence.  Because I’m active on Twitter multiple times a week, I use a tool (https://web.crowdfireapp.com/#/grow) to see who has recently unfollowed me.  Almost always it’s an account trying to manipulate their followers-to-following ratio.  If someone unfollows me for that reason, I unfollow back.  Once or twice a year I’ll review the accounts I’ve followed and will unfollow accounts that have been abandoned or haven’t tweeted in 12 months.

Use metrics and apps to enhance the Twitter experience.  You can learn about best times and days of the week to tweet, where your engagement comes from and which accounts provide the best interaction.  Twitter by itself is somewhat basic, so if you’re wishing it could do something bigger and better, chances are, there’s an app for that.  Some are free and some are paid.

Try to minimize the automation.  While it’s fine to schedule tweets ahead of time (I use https://hootsuite.com), your account should not be so robotic that you neglect to interact with others.  As far as automatic direct messages, does anyone read them or like receiving them?  Just turn those off and reach out to me after we’ve engaged each other a few times.  It may work on some, but I think the quantity that are annoyed by that practice is significantly larger.

Lastly, know your audience and goals.  How I’ve chosen to use Twitter for my personal account is quite different than how I’ve used it for clients I’ve worked with.  Why?  Different audiences and different goals require different strategies and methods.

How are you using Twitter?  As a wise woman once said to me, “Twitter isn’t stupid if you follow smart people!”

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An Accidental SEO Experiment

Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls Canada, Horseshoe FallsIt’s been 50 days since my last blog post.  Fifty!  That’s a long time for me since I aspire to post weekly (or at least 3x/month).  The reality is, summer simply got the best of me.  I was busy with work, busy with consulting, busy with college visitation road trips, busy with networking, busy with public speaking and busy relaxing.  Busy, busy, busy for fifty days!

My unplanned absence from blogging led to an accidental SEO experiment.  Even though my site contained relatively no new content, I had enough blog posts published (77 of them!) that it still produced a decent number of site views.  While the average number of weekly visits saw a small but gradual decline compared to previous months, it was relatively unchanged during that period.  One could argue that a slight downturn in the summer isn’t necessarily unexpected, given vacations and other distractions compared to other times of the year.

So what does this mean?  Can you simply stop what you’re doing, put your feet up on the desk and wait for the phone to ring?  Absolutely not!  My previous 77 posts took time and effort to write.  There was SEO coding that went with it.  The posts were promoted using social media channels and sometimes referred to in comments left on other blogs.  It’s because of that effort my site continued to attract daily visitors to multiple pages.  Imagine how many more visitors I would have had with new postings on a weekly basis . . .

Whether a business, freelancer or job seeker, my accidental SEO experiment illustrates that original content, SEO coding and social media promotion and activity will bring visitors to your website.  The simplest analogy I can make is to gardening…  If all you do is scatter seeds, you’ll probably see some growth in your garden.  But if you take the time to organize what you plant and spend some weekly maintenance on it, you’ll see a bigger return on your (work) investment.

Mixing Work With Work

Harvey Research, Harvey Research Inc., Magazine Research, Advertising Research, Editorial Research, Print Advertising Research, Publication Research, Advertising Effectiveness, Tablet Magazine Research, Publisher Research, Ad Effectiveness Study, Magazine Apps Research, Reader Profile Study, Content Publishing Research, Magazine Research Analysis, Media Research, Magazine Ad Research, Audience Research, Website Research, Apps Research, Mobile Apps Research, Panel Research, Digital Media ResearchMy “day job” is Vice President, Senior Research Officer with Harvey Research.  It’s a small market research company in Fairport, NY that specializes in advertising and publishing research.  We work with B2B/Technical publications as well as B2C/Consumer publications from virtually every industry and special interest category you can think of.  One of the things I love most about my work is that I get to learn a little about many different industries!

Harvey Research recently launched a new website, which contains a blog.  I thought the regular readers of this blog might find it interesting to get a peek into my work at Harvey.  The first two posts I’ve written for the Harvey blog examine the impact that ad size and ad color have on advertisement recall.

The impact of ad color:  http://bit.ly/Z5K6nR

The impact of ad size:  http://bit.ly/14PuAkK

If you like the Harvey blog, we’d love to have you subscribe to it.  🙂  And if you have ideas for future blog posts (this blog or the Harvey blog), I’m certainly open to suggestions and ideas.  Thanks for reading!

Super Social Bowl 2013

Following last year’s Super Bowl, I wrote about some of social media’s impact on the big game as well as the greatly hyped commercials.  I didn’t intend to write a similar post this year, but there were some interesting developments that provided inspiration.

As happened last year, many of the ads were leaked in advance of the game to build awareness and hype.  Did that strategy work?  Perhaps, but it’s often a double-edged sword.  Think of it in terms of getting presents for a holiday or your birthday.  You’re most excited when you first realize what the gift is.  If you happen to find out in advance, that is when the biggest impact is made.  As the chart below suggests, ads leaked in advance didn’t generate the biggest ratings.  Not that this is different than “viewer favorite” polls.

Super Bowl XLVII commercials, Ratings, Super Bowl Commercials 2013

25 Super Bowl XLVII commercials with the biggest TV audiences, according to Kantar Media

Doritos aired spots that were voted on in advance via Facebook.  Another one of the interesting commercials this year was from Coke – not because it was a creative masterpiece, but because it was a two-part commercial with the second spot dependent on audience voting and engagement throughout the evening.  If you’d like a glimpse into a “social media war room” I’d encourage you to read this article from Ad Age.

Beyonce’s halftime show was a spectacle with viewers split on how good (or poor) it was.  These armchair entertainment critics took to Facebook and Twitter to share their opinions, pro or con.  And just as viewers put their cell phones and tablets away to concentrate on the second half of the game, the now infamous power outage occurred.

As CBS scrambled to make sense of the blackout, many viewers returned to social media for their entertainment.  This is when social media surpassed television for the Super Bowl advertising I’ll remember the most.

Savvy brands seized the moment to create memorable social media posts about the blackout, including Oreo, Audi and Tide.  The one for Oreo received 15,830 re-tweets and 5,918 favorites.  That’s phenomenal free exposure that lasted well-beyond the 30-second spots selling for $3.8 Million.

If there were any ads you’d like to re-watch, or some that you missed entirely, you can view them in one spot here thanks to Ad Age.  Which ads were your favorite this year?

Is Social Media Right For Your Business?

I recently consulted with a business regarding their various marketing needs.  One of the topics we discussed was social media.  After our initial consultation, they decided to hold-off on moving forward with social media for a few reasons/concerns.  I hear these a lot, so I thought I’d share them (and my opinion) with my readers.

“I’m not sure I’ll do it correctly.”  While it’s not super-complicated, there is a marketing science (and etiquette) to using social media correctly.  In a nutshell . . . you need to determine if your customers are using social media, what platforms they engage in and what their expectations are.  You need to determine goals and objectives for your social media and create a strategy/plan to meet those objectives.  You’ll also need to determine what metrics you’ll use to evaluate your strategy.

“I’m not sure it will pay off.”  If you’re expecting an immediate and significant boost in sales by suddenly engaging in social media, you will likely be disappointed.  Social media is more about relationship and community building, interacting with customers and a gradual build.  It’s about sharing and providing something of value.  It’s about the art of attraction.  It’s not a soapbox to promote your business with 90%+ of your posts.

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to generate content.”  Don’t let that stop you! Chances are, if you Google the product or service you sell, you’ll find millions of hits on that search.  Which is a good article?  Which is a trusted source?  Use your industry knowledge and experience to become an information filter for your audience.  That filtering of quality information provides value, builds trust and attracts others.  Over time, it positions you as someone with subject matter expertise.

Is social media right for your business?  It can be, if you use it correctly (or hire someone who does).

Twitter Players

If you’re on Twitter, chances are, something similar has happened to you. . .

You receive a notification that you have a new follower.  You view this person’s Twitter account and see that he/she has 4-5x as many followers as they are following.  In other words, 20,000 people follow this person’s Twitter account yet he/she is only following 4,000 people.  A few initial thoughts may pop into your head:

  1. Wow, this person must be really popular – look how many followers they have!
  2. Wow, this person must be really exclusive – he/she doesn’t follow too many people back!
  3. Wow, what am I tweeting about to catch such a popular and exclusive Twitter user’s eye?

If you’ve been on Twitter long enough, chances are you no longer have those thoughts but view your latest follower with a somewhat more suspicious and skeptical eye.  Chances are, someone with such a large follower:following ratio is only adding you to pad his/her numbers.  Chances are, someone like that will unfollow you within a few days or weeks.

How do I know?  I check my account regularly using a free app called SocialBro.  I run the app a few times each week and it lets me know who my recent unfollows are.  When I view their profile summary in the app, I can see how recently they added me and visa-versa.  I’d estimate that 95% of the time, my unfollows are people I never followed-back for various reasons.  The other 5% are from “Twitter Players” – those who clearly view Twitter as a numbers game and put quantity ahead of quality.  Apparently, they never read my post on why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.  When this happens, I immediately unfollow “the Player.”

If you’re not familiar with SocialBro, I’d encourage you to check it out.  As a “research guy” I find a lot of their analytics, trending and filtering interesting. How about you?  Do you watch your Twitter account that closely?  What apps do you use to monitor your account?

Happy 1st Birthday!

First Birthday of Arthur Catalanello Consulting's Blog

October 3, 2011 was when I officially launched my blog.  Today is the one year anniversary of that first post, so I’d like to mark the occasion with some cake!  Actually, I’d like to devote this post to sharing a few statistics and thanking those who have helped and inspired me over the past year.

As of this writing, my site has received over 7,800 visits in the past year.  My most popular post has been 6 Ways To A More Contact-Friendly LinkedIn Profile (Part 1).  My post on The Lost Art of the Thank You has generated the most comments to date (so, thank you!).  I’m still on a quest to have the country visits map completely filled in.  I’ve had readers from 86 different countries visit my site at least once since February 2012 (when this metric became available).

When I first launched my consultancy business, several people recommended that I blog as a way to demonstrate my expertise.  I’d like to sincerely thank Greg Taylor, Chris Bigelow, Dorothy Johnson, Bill Griffin, Kelly Mullaney, Luis Martinez, Rob Ewanow, Fred Kopp, Ed Ritter and Deb Mourey for their advice and encouragement to start blogging.  I’m sure there are others who provided similar sage advice who I’m inadvertently leaving out (my apologies to you if I did).

I’d like to thank those who have subscribed to my blog.  There are literally millions of blogs out there, so the fact that you find mine worthy to subscribe to is both flattering and inspirational to me.  I’d also like to thank those who have shared my posts along the way via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and via email.  Thank you to those who have taken the time to comment on one or more of my posts.

Last but not least . . . I’d like to thank my wife, who is my confidant, cheerleader and proofreader when it comes to my blog.  I regularly run ideas and draft posts past her for feedback.  Her suggestions for improvements and corrections are always spot-on.  Without her support and help, my blog would be half of what it is.

Thank you all for a great first year of blogging!  I look forward to year two and hope you’ll continue to join me each week!

Authenticity in Social Media

I intentionally try to avoid traditionally controversial subjects in my blog such as politics and religion to name a few.  I have other things I’d rather write about and want to keep my blog on more of a professional level than personal level.  I’d also rather not add fuel to the fire of a rumor.  So, it’s with some hesitation that I write this post.

I read an article on The Hill about Mitt Romney’s Twitter account that I thought was rather interesting.  Presidential candidates seemingly have everything scrutinized with a magnifying glass these days.  Someone noticed that Romney’s account, which had been averaging 3,000-4,000 new followers daily had suddenly picked up almost 100,000 followers in a two-day period.  And, this increase occurred without any significant change in his engagement with followers.  Immediately the speculation was that his campaign was buying Twitter followers.

This certainly is not very newsworthy, especially since it’s speculation at this point.  But fact or fiction, it is a great example of the importance that authenticity plays in social media.  In a previous post that still generates weekly views, I offered 3 reasons why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.

The number one reason I listed in that post is that when fans/followers can be bought, your authenticity comes into question.  Whether it’s a politician or a consumer brand, most people won’t tolerate a fake.  Engagement cannot happen with fans/followers who do not have a true interest, let alone may not exist in the first place.

Don’t just take my word for it.  A recent research study from About.com demonstrated that activity (i.e., engagement) on a Facebook page was a better indicator of trust than the number of “likes” a page had.  In fact, 84% said that being trustworthy is a requirement before interacting with a page or info source.

Again, fact or fiction, here’s a current reminder why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.  What are your thoughts when it comes to authenticity in social media?

Do You Signal?

No, I’m not talking about driving – although that could easily apply to half of this blog’s readers based on a recent vacation.  😉

I’m talking about LinkedIn’s under-utilized feature called Signal.  Do you use it?  Have you even heard of it?

Last week I wrote about how Twitter’s decision to discontinue automatic cross-postings to LinkedIn has helped reduce clutter in your network update stream.  If you’d like to further reduce the noise and fine-tune the relevancy of the LinkedIn status updates and news in your stream, you need to use Signal.

Signal allows you to filter your stream based on one or more of the following:  network, company, location, industry, time, school, group, topics, seniority and/or update type.  You can search within checked filters on keywords or people.  As with your “regular” network update stream, any new updates will get pushed in real-time so that you can refresh for the latest update that meets your filter settings.  You can even view trending links and who has shared them.  Lastly, you can save your searches and even share them as a status update, post into a group or send via private message.

So where can you find this handy LinkedIn tool?  Look under “News” in the gray toolbar at the top of your LinkedIn homepage (between “Companies” and “More”).  It’s the last choice in a 3-choice drop down menu.

If you’re not familiar with Signal, I encourage you to check it out.  Play with the different filters and see how it changes your update stream.  As I write this post, I have 5,579 network updates I could read.  If you don’t have the time to read that many updates (who does?!), using Signal could turn LinkedIn from a casual “read when I have time” to a highly filtered daily must-read.

Let me know your thoughts on Signal.  Are you ready to start using it?  If you have been using it, what’s your experience been like?

10 Ways to Increase Blog Comments

A friend recently asked for my advice on increasing comments for her blog.  That’s not necessarily an easy question to answer. In general, it’s a lot of little things working together that help increase blog comments.  Here’s a quick list of 10 tips:

  1. Write something that can be read quickly and easily. People are busy and tend to want something they can “digest.” If the topic is worthy of a lengthy post, consider splitting it into 2 or 3 parts.
  2. Try to end the blog post with a call to action. Ask a question that cannot be answered with just a “yes” or “no” response.
  3. When people comment, thank them for taking the time to read and comment. Depending on what they write, see if you can engage them further (via the commenting section) by asking a follow-up question, or having them explain something in greater detail, etc.
  4. Entertain and enlighten. I try to make sure that I’m doing at least one of those and preferably both. You’ll get repeat visitors if you can accomplish both often. Over time, they might become more comfortable commenting.
  5. Make sure you promote your blog heavily via social media channels. I’ve found LinkedIn Groups to be a great source, although I do get visitors from Twitter, Facebook, my LinkedIn status update, and Google+ too. Some LinkedIn groups are completely open and will allow you to post without joining the group. It’s a way to extend your reach beyond the 50 groups you’re limited in joining.  Better promotion can bring new readers.  If you’re getting the same response (or lack thereof) from your regular readers, new readers could bring a new response.
  6. Don’t expect instant results. Readership is a gradual build. Even your most loyal readers may not read all of your posts, nor find all of them relevant. To borrow from the movie Field of Dreams, write it and they will come.
  7. Sometimes the comments aren’t where you’d like them to be. When you promote via social media, sometimes the comments are made in social media rather than on your blog page where it “counts.” That’s okay – still thank them for taking the time to read and comment.
  8. Try to follow a regular posting schedule. Whether it’s 1x/week or 1x/month, try to communicate your schedule and follow it so people begin to expect it. It then helps build a relationship with your audience.
  9. Try to avoid controversial subjects.  If “spun” properly, it could generate comments as people might take one side vs. the other because controversy breeds attention and passion. But, it could also backfire if people feel alienated or afraid to comment on something controversial.  For me (a personal decision), I avoid it.
  10. Comment on others’ blog posts and “like” their posts if that’s an option. Blogging is very much a social media platform. There are many who will “return the favor” after you’ve liked and/or commented on their posts.

Fellow bloggers, what tips or suggestions did I miss that you can add?