All posts by amy

Social Media Management Tools

In January I completed the Hootsuite Certification course to become a “Hootsuite Certified Professional“, it was quite interesting and, since I was taking on the job of doing all the social media posts for Mr Droogle, I decided it would certainly come in handy.

Hootsuite is a pretty cool tool for anyone using social media on a professional basis – it allows you to post to all of your connected social media accounts from one place, it also allows bulk upload of posts, scheduling, and analytics – so it covers basically everything you need for business social media use. The basic free account allows you to connect 3 social media accounts but to get the full use out of it you really need to have a paid account. There are quite a few advantages to having a paid account but I ended up downgrading after the free trial – purely because I can’t really justify the additional costs.

Regardless, I’ve been using Hootsuite for a while now and I don’t think I could do without it – scheduling is an absolute life-saver! However, I have found that I prefer the Google+ and LinkedIn integration on Buffer (another social media management tool) – purely because it seems easier to control whether you want link content or image content to appear as the feature on your post (something I need to be able to do with some of the Mr Droogle posts).

While they’re often hugely helpful at cutting down amount of time spend on posts one major drawback among all social media management tools is that their tools are limited by the social site’s API limitations – e.g. images uploaded by hootsuite don’t use the Twitter image upload feature so when someone is viewing your profile any image you’ve added via hootsuite won’t show in the “Images” section of your profile (N.B. Hootsuite have recently announced that paid accounts would get native Twitter image functionality). I usually try to post twitter images natively if I have time.

This is also particularly apparent when trying to tag users/profiles in posts – while you can do this on Twitter posts with great ease, it does not work on Google+ because their API is pretty much non-existent (another fine example of Google cutting corners on their “next big thing”). This feature has never worked on Google+. Despite this, I see people (obviously posting from a social media management tool) trying to tag users in their scheduled posts and literally all they end up with is plain text with +[brand username] – where [brand username] is sometimes different to how you’d ususally refer to the brand in plain text. This really irks me for some reason – it doesn’t end up linking, the user won’t get any notification, it won’t have the same SEO value, it’s not really any use to people viewing your post, and it just looks silly in my opinion.

The moral of the story is that yes, social media management tools are amazing, but you need to exercise caution when trying to use the full range of native functionality – and, really, if you want to tag something in a post please just write it on the social network natively (unless it’s a post to Twitter).

Hashtag Tips

#Hashtags #drive #me #nuts #when #they’re #overused. Above all, what you’re trying to do with your posts is appeal to your customers, keep them up to date with your brand and with what you’re doing without coming over too salesy (because then they are likely to just unfollow you). Yes, you need to reach as many of them as possible, otherwise you might be wasting your time and yes, hashtags can help you do that. However, they are horrible to look at, and when you stuff your sentences with hashtags it starts to look more and more like you’re posting spam – there needs to be a balance between hashtags and content.

Many sources say two hashtags is probably the most acceptable maximum amount. Even Twitter themselves – one of the main champions of hashtags – actually goes as far as to say that your account may be filtered from search results if you over-hashtag your tweets so there are real downsides to hashtag overuse.

If you want to achieve a higher view-rate on your tweets then one of the best methods is to piggyback on trending topics. Try to remember that while there are benefits to using incredibly niche hashtag terms (e.g. you’re more likely to reach the right people), you risk appearing spammy, you risk being filtered out of search results, and also, there may well be people out there who are looking for your product/service who may not know the correct terminology to search for (ever tried googling for something when you don’t know the correct search terms? That’s what you’re effectively making your customers go through if you’re using specific terms.).

There’s also the point that, contrary to popular opinion, Twitter trending topics aren’t always made up of hashtags – sometimes they are words or even phrases:

trending topics

Also, if you add “Apple” to your tweet, it may still appear in the page results when you click on “#Apple”. Yes, searching on Google for “#Apple” will bring different results to “Apple” (and it may actually be more likely to return rewards in that case) but there is clearly more to be considered than just “ADD MOAR HASHTAGS”.

That said, there are times when hashtags just plain shouldn’t be used –

LinkedIn – LinkedIn stopped supporting hashtags in 2013. You’ll notice they don’t get linked in posts, they’re no longer used in their search facility, and you’ll also notice that they look horrible! Stop it!

Website metadata such as page titles – just no.

As a last point, please do not try to turn anything with punctuation in it into a hashtag – hashtags break with special characters. Rethink your hashtags.

RIP FriendFeed

friendfeed-logo

A website called FriendFeed shut down last week after years of being disassembled and neglected after Facebook bought them over. It’s been about 7 or 8 years since I first stumbled upon it. In its heydey, FriendFeed was a vibrant social network with realtime updating and interactions, it connected to all of your other social networks and provided all your updates in one place – so you didn’t need to traipse round half the internet to see what your friends were up to. The design was simple, the themes were fun (there was a Duck Hunt one with a flying duck you could “shoot” at – which was amusing for all of about 5 seconds, but still, it serves as a nice illustration of the “feel” of the site), and it worked seamlessly. Admittedly, it didn’t really take off with the masses – only with a few, but the few who used it absolutely fell in love with it.

I spent hours on FriendFeed and made friends with a lot of lovely (and awesome) people I’d never, ever have come across otherwise (I still keep in touch with them even years after we all stopped using FriendFeed) and I know that this is a sentiment that is shared with many from the FriendFeed community. For me, FriendFeed was a place to come and get away from it all, where I could confide, laugh, and see the world in a completely different way. I found a group of people who didn’t know anything about me in real life but we all connected in a way and FriendFeed almost encouraged silliness and fun – the fact that we could bounce ideas off each other in real time meant for some really lively conversations.

Everything was awesome until Facebook took over the company in 2009 – then it became the black sheep of the family. It seemed like things stopped working left and right and they’d be left like that for days or weeks (or in the case of the Advanced Search, just never get fixed). It became more unreliable, and as that sense crept in people lost hope that it’d be improved. The community started to dissipate (something that FriendFeed cited as one of the reasons for closing – a bit of a catch 22, I’d say).

Facebook took on some of the attributes of FriendFeed when they bought it over, but they changed them in ways to fit their own rigid design and almost seemed to take the soul out of them. Facebook is far removed from FriendFeed, despite having similar functionality when you boil it right down.

I logged back in just before it was closed down to salvage my posts and comments, and to save some memories (pages) from being lost in the ether. I was really surprised how much it made me reminisce about the days when I’d used it daily and the fondness I felt seeing the old site again (admittedly, I was mildly irritated to find that the search feature still hadn’t been fixed after about 3 years). I found some old posts that were downright hilarious, the group live-chats about Eurovision which had about 60 people involved from countries all around the world, silly posts about ridiculous things – we had a great time.

This may sound like I’m describing some kind of IRC chatroom uber-nerd session but I’m not, and that was the best thing about it – these were all regular people (OK, some of use were pretty nerdy). If you ask me, the internet lost something special in the closure of FriendFeed.

Posting to Twitter from Facebook

These days everyone is busy, and we all know it takes a lot of effort to run social media for a business (while also trying to run said business). It may seem like maintaining numerous social media accounts is too much effort, and often particular accounts get left by the wayside if they are found to be less effective – while, some don’t get the attention they deserve, and some just get neglected. Leaving an account unattended for long periods of time gives a pretty bad impression to potential customers – imagine it as being like leaving your customers unattended in a shop with no staff in sight.

A common solution is to set up Facebook to post to Twitter automatically. However, while it’s nice to save a bit of time (and automation is a fantastic way to do that), there’s not really much point in doing it if it won’t work to your advantage – and might actually be detrimental to your brand. I’d equate this to having only self-service tills in your shop and no one to help when there’s a problem.

There’s a couple of drawbacks of using Facebook to post to Twitter:

  • Images aren’t posted – this is a big one. There are stats readily available everywhere that will tell you that people pay more attention when a tweet is accompanied by an image.
  • If you’re relying on the image to convey the content, and there’s no accompanying text (e.g. you’ve put competition details in a banner image) then all you end up posting to twitter is a link – which could be extremely detrimental as it appears quite spammy. twitterThe other issue with this type of post is that search engines like text – they can’t read text from images, so it’s pretty bad practice from a SEO perspective too – and you really want your content to reach as far as possible.
  • If you’re not writing your content with Twitter in mind (as well as Facebook) then your tweet may come across as ‘clickbaiting’. This is when someone posts a potentially exciting or enticing comment but relies entirely on the user clicking on the link in order to find out exactly what they’re referring to. It’s a practice commonly used by spammers or tabloid news websites – and many people find it particularly irritating. It also relies on the user being so interested that they click on the link to find out more – it’s much better to just give them the information straight up and pique their interest that way.

A better way to automate posts is to do it via a social media management tool e.g. Buffer or Hootsuite – this way you can post to basically all your social media accounts. They often have the addtional benefit of better analytics on your posts – so you can monitor what’s performing well for you. It also takes you out of the mindset of posting to one particular medium and should eliminate the risk of writing content which is fine for one medium and detrimental to another.

TrueTwit

Recently I followed someone using this service – TrueTwit. Basically, when you get a new Twitter follower it sends out a Direct Message asking them to go fill in a CAPTCHA so they can tell whether your new follower is a real person or a bot. If your new follower passes the test then you get an email saying they’re not a spammer.

As a user, I find this pretty rude. Following an account on Twitter is essentially you singing up to receive their updates – it’s you telling them, “I’m interested in what you’ve got to say, I want to read your news”. For them to then turn around and say, “Well, we think you’re a spammer, complete this test” right off the bat is a pretty cheeky first impression to give fans/potential clients.

How big of a problem is having spam followers in the first place? Let’s not forget that this service sends a DM when they follow you (effectively doing no harm), not when they tweet at you. It’s not going to eliminate unsolicited spam tweets, therefore I don’t really see it as adding enough value to outweigh the drawbacks.

Does it really matter if you have higher follower numbers than is 100% accurate? If you’re looking at metrics, then yes, it matters a little – it means your numbers will be off by a fraction. Welcome to life. However, most of the social media metrics aimed at follower numbers are geared towards “Higher number = better” so surely having more followers is a good thing anyway?

On the TrueTwit website they point out that the tool helps you “save time managing followers”. If you are going through and deleting followers then I can assure you that is time which would be better spent doing something more productive – just leave them! The top twitter accounts are definitely not doing this – and you don’t have to either.

Accusing genuine users of being spammers and making them jump through hoops to get your updates for the sake of weeding out a few spam accounts is a downright terrible idea and I can imagine leads to a lot of people unfollowing (I certainly did).

UPDATE:

TrueTwit evidently weren’t too chuffed with my post and, in another great display of ‘how not to do social media’, have blocked me for it.

truetwit

I did a quick search and it turns out this is standard practice for them – true professionals.

More blog posts about TrueTwit from around the web:

The Truth About TrueTwit Validation – Inbounderish
How TrueTwit Helps You Help It Make Money – And Waste A Ton Of Time – Adweek
Stop using TrueTwit to stop being used by TrueTwit to make money for TrueTwit – Examiner
Why TrueTwit Doesn’t Work for Me – Confluence Media
Why I started @StopTrueTwit – by @Spacefem on Medium

Facebook tagging bug

For the last week or so, it seems that Facebook tagging on Pages has been broken for me – Mr Droogle posts a “Business View Tour of the Day” daily (obviously) and this should mean tagging the appropriate business in the post, however, recently, no matter how many times I try to tag them, they just don’t appear in the popup.

Posting a link to the profile didn’t work, writing @ followed by the client name didn’t work – it would just suggest some other, incorrect, Pages. I searched the Help pages and found a bunch of people all having the same issue. Some claimed adding in the URL of the Page would add the link correctly (it just adds a link), others claimed different methods worked – none worked for me.

Then I happened upon a link on Twitter – someone was having the same issue and had worked out a (hacky but successful) way around it by editing the source code of the textarea.

The article with the fix – “Top tip: How to force a Facebook Tag in an Update” by Andrea Vahl

When you add a tag it adds in some JSON with the Graph API data for that object, and it turns out you can just change the ID to the desired Page tag (you can leave all the rest of the data the same – it will change automatically) and it will appear as the correct details when you hit “Post”.

facebook

I can’t believe that Facebook haven’t noticed this bug – it seems pretty sloppy of them.

Limit on adding to circles in Google+

I recently started maintaining the Mr Droogle social media outlets – along with it, the Google+ account. I’ve never really been much of a fan of Google+ but the SEO benefits are undoubtable so it’s definitely advised for businesses and anyone who wants to be found online. I found that when I was logged in as the business account I would only be able to add a maximum of 3 people/businesses to my contact “circles” before I received the message:

google plus

After a few days I found this got a bit irritating – expanding your circles is a great way to increase your post views – and I’d already found out that the limit was supposed to be 50 not 3.

The solution?

It turns out that Google+ looks for a specific amount of account interaction before it will let you add 50 accounts to your circles per day. Basically, while we’d been posting daily, we hadn’t been liking or commenting on enough posts for Google’s liking. If you’re not interacting with enough people then their theory is that you may be a spam account. (Admittedly, I’d have thought pretty much the opposite – that commenting too much would be considered spammy but never mind.)

So, basically, you just need to like more posts with your account and then magically, the limit will be removed. Arguably, Google should probably make this a bit more obvious in the error message because it’s not obvious and there’s a bunch of people in the help forums asking why this is happening to them too.

Fabric

I suspected the twitter feed on my website was broken the other day when I was fidgetting – it wasn’t displaying posts at all. It turned out the social feeds plugin had decided to wipe my API keys for some reason (I updated it recently and assumed it’d save settings during the update – apparently not). However, in the process of getting the keys from twitter I stumbled upon their latest project – Fabric. (Bit of an odd name but let’s not ask questions.)

Fabric is apparently a cross-platform mobile app development suite they’ve developed. It promises to streamline mobile app development and looks quite spiffing if it’s anything like the website.  According to the project page it says they’ve made it really modular – with the ability to add more modules later as you need them.

Has anyone used it? Is it any good? I recently had a go at making my own android app (and didn’t enjoy the experience much given that the same install issues seem to exist as when I tried last time about 3 years ago).

Impressions on Android: Redux

I had an Android phone several years ago – the HTC Hero.  You may remember it as the one with the weird ‘chin’. Initially, I was quite pleased with it but I slowly started to notice issues with the apps and general ‘feel’ of the OS.

I kept getting a ridiculous ‘Socket is not connected‘ error. WTF? Signal strength in hilly Scotland back then was, let’s say, patchy at best – so I assume it was due to that but still, I don’t think that’s something an end-user should be viewing. Then there was the lack of finesse in the apps. They looked basic, like no one had bothered to design them beyond using bog standard UI.  The whole phone slowed down when it was downloading app updates, lockscreen clock lagged (which I found incredibly irritating) etc. etc.

Then I became most irritated when I discovered that my 6 month old phone wouldn’t be updated to the next version of Android.  Meanwhile, the shiny new Windows Phone 7 OS came along with its slick design. Android & I parted ways shortly afterwards – with me vowing never to go back.

Cut to last year, when, after several years of insisting that I had no use for a tablet, I decided that for £100, I could find a use for one. I bought a Nexus 7 (2013 edition) and I actually quite like it. Contrary to my previous beliefs I do have a use for it too. Don’t get me wrong there are moments when it’s installing things in the background & it lags the keyboard etc. where it drives me absolutely potty but on the whole, it’s pretty good. Continue reading Impressions on Android: Redux