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The power of visual storytelling on Twitter (and beyond!)

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It’s no secret that in the never-ending stream of 140-character messages that is Twitter a snappy visual can make yours stand out; Twitter themselves did a study and found that across different content categories adding an image to your tweet boosted engagement in the form of a higher retweet rate.

So simply adding photos to your tweets is a great starting place and one that we’ve discussed before as Twitter has rolled out more image-friendly updates. But if you want to take it further than just adding relevant visuals to tweets, design a way to tell a visual story on Twitter. Put together something where the pieces can stand individually- after all, your tweets will be part of your followers’ stream- but when a prospective follower or curious fan looks at your homepage, they also see a cohesive visual story that communicates your campaign or company values, whatever it is that you’re trying to get across.

What does this look like?

Starbucks is great about using their timeline to tell little mini-stories, and they incorporate their fans and followers in them by retweeting their tweets as well. A great example is a recent celebration of National Croissant Day:

Starbucks visual storytelling Twitter

 

This example also takes it further, by integrating Snapchat. (We’ll talk more about expanding to other platforms in just a bit!)

Keeping things to Twitter, look at the timelines of any major brands you admire and ask yourself what makes their presentation successful or unsuccessful; do their visuals feel cohesive? Do they work together towards telling a single story and letting you know what they can do for you? Figure out how you can answer those questions and provide value to your own fans, followers, and customers.

Take it beyond a campaign.

Twitter shouldn’t just be about selling to your audience; using it like a bullhorn to shout at your fans and followers is unlikely to result in a reciprocal, engaged relationship with them. Use your social presence to tell any number of stories about your brand. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Tell the story of how your company came to be
  • Tell the story of how two companies came together as one in a merger, or the story of a rebranding
  • Show off company culture: Share spontaneous images your employees take of one another and let them tell daily office stories in their own words
  • Show off company values: Share the story of a day spent volunteering, or the different charitable things employees do on their own time and how you support them
  • Tell the story of an event or anniversary of your company
  • Tell the story of a partnership of two brands or a brand and a celebrity spokesperson around a campaign

All of these are ways to show off the human side of your brand, in addition to giving your employees some storytelling power.

Take it even beyond Twitter.

Go beyond just adding a photo to your tweets and use photos to tell a story not just on Twitter but across platforms: Tailor your story so that it’s told on your Facebook timeline, on your Tumblr, across your Instagram page. You can choose different parts of your story to tell in each place, if that feels more appropriate for your brand. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your narrative as long as you stay true to your brand values and the voice you’re trying to build or strengthen. 

See an example of each for inspiration: IKEA built a catalog on Instagram last year, Charity: Water mixes in stories from their different well-building campaigns with user-generated stories on their Facebook page (also seen below), and Sephora’s Tumblr acts as a combination catalog and digital magazine repository of inspirational images, tips, and tricks for their followers.

Charity Water FB

One woman even used Pinterest to tell the story of her Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler, which eventually expanded to a presence on other networks and a book. In that case a powerful visual story became a brand.

Test content types constantly.

Finally, use the engagement levels on the types of visual content you use- images with words superimposed on them, images without words but with captions, etc- to plan content types moving forward. And you’ll want to keep testing; your audience’s tastes will most likely shift over time.

Written by Sarah

February 18th, 2015 at 9:41 am

Superhero Super Bowl Bet: The stunning conclusion

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Since Star-Lord and Captain America set a wager on Twitter about whose team would win last night’s Big Game, we’ve been watching them and the rest of the social media sphere egg each other on good-naturedly. Good Morning America got into the discussion last week, and some other celebrities even asked to get in on the action:

Since January 19th, 182k tweets and counting have been made around this superhero Super Bowl bet by 93k contributors (and counting). The two most retweeted tweets came from Captain America and Star-Lord themselves wrapping up the bet last night on Twitter:

So while in the end Captain America won his bet, Christopher’s Haven and Seattle Children’s Hospital are the real winners with all of the donations made in honor of this bet and the upcoming superhero visits to the kids.

Stay tuned for more on the rest of Super Bowl XLIX!

Written by Sarah

February 2nd, 2015 at 9:46 am

Superhero Super Bowl Bet: Updated

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The Big Game is Sunday, so how’s that big Superhero Super Bowl Bet going? Since the bet started, more than 50k people have posted more than 88k tweets, and counting.

Good Morning America has joined the conversation on Twitter, and they’re asking their fans and followers to retweet the superhero whose team they want to see win on Sunday. Want to wager who’s winning in terms of retweets as of this writing?

It’s Captain America, with over 4k retweets on “his” GMA tweet to over 2k retweets on Star-Lord’s.

Keep an eye on the conversation on Twitter with the three most popular hashtags:

  1. #SuperBowl
  2. #GMASuperBowl
  3. #SuperBowlBound

The tides can always turn on Sunday. Will you be watching?

Written by Sarah

January 31st, 2015 at 9:00 am

Super Bowl Bet: Captain America vs. Star-Lord

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Super Bowl betting certainly isn’t new, but two superheroes making bets on Twitter certainly feels very modern. Chris Pratt, who plays Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, bet fellow Marvel superhero Chris Evans (Captain America in the Avengers franchise) some acts of charity based on whose team wins The Big Game.

The two tweets laying out the terms the bet have been heavily retweeted already:

In just a couple days, the bet has generated more than 40,000 tweets from 26,000 people. The most popular hashtags around the heroic Super Bowl bet conversation are:

There’s no clear winner yet, but Chris Pratt has a slight edge over Christ Evans. And don’t worry, we’ll keep you updated on how this bet unfolds! Oh, and the rest of the Super Bowl too, just like we always do.

Written by Sarah

January 22nd, 2015 at 11:33 am

The most popular #BlackFriday hashtags (and the most mentioned brands!) on Twitter

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Whether you’re scouring for deals on social, or you’re a brand who’s trying to get the word out about them, check out these top ten hashtags around the Black Friday conversation on Twitter:

  1. #BlackFriday
  2. #CyberMonday
  3. #KohlsSweeps
  4. #deals
  5. #giveaway
  6. #sale
  7. #Samsung
  8. #Christmas
  9. #Thanksgiving
  10. #Retail

What sales are being talked about the most? Here are the ten most-mentioned brands and products so far.

  1. Amazon
  2. Walmart
  3. Apple
  4. Kohl’s
  5. Best Buy
  6. Target
  7. iPhone
  8. GalaxyS5
  9. Samsung
  10. Microsoft

Apple is definitely leading with 4 of the 10 mentions, but Kohls is running a very popular Black Friday Twitter contest.

Feel like you can’t compete with the big brands? Use the knowledge of which hashtags are the most popular to see which perform the best for your brand; it may be that popular hashtags give your content a boost, and it may be that your tweets get lost in the noise. Only testing will tell! Want another tactic? Consider creating your own holiday, rather than trying to compete with big brands that have bigger budgets and resources.

Written by Sarah

November 26th, 2014 at 12:00 pm

The World Series on Twitter: #HunterPenceSigns

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Casual watchers of the World Series may have noticed some interesting signs popping up in the broadcasts of the games; signs aimed at San Francisco Giants player Hunter Pence. Giants fans may have noticed that these signs started popping up in August, and that they even have their own hashtag: #HunterPenceSigns.

We took a full snapshot report to get an idea of what the conversation around this hashtag looks like:

Hunter Pence Signs 1

Our full snapshot reports max out at 1,500 tweets, but you can see that you reach that limit in around two days with this specific hashtag. The conversation is mostly tweets and retweets, with the fewest amount of tweets being replies. This suggests it’s more about creating and sharing these jokes than critiquing them.

Hunter Pence Signs 2

 

The top contributors to the hashtag within the confines of this snapshot were San Francisco news station KTVU, and the “official” Hunter Pence Signs account. A Kansas City news station holds the top spot for most retweeted tweets, however, keeping the rivalry going in every way possible.

The above tweet was retweeted by KTVU

What does Hunter Pence himself think about all of this?

He seems to be a pretty good sport about it.  

Written by Sarah

October 28th, 2014 at 2:28 pm

5 ways universities interact with their students on social media

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In the fall of 2012 Yale University started using our Union Metrics for Tumblr analytics to get smarter about how they were using the social blogging platform to share information and relate to their students. Since then, many more colleges and universities have created accounts on various social platforms in order to stay connected with their students in the places those students already spend their time. Here are a few examples of what universities are doing to reach students across social media.

1. On Tumblr: Share information with targeted groups

Tumblr’s unique position as a blogging platform with a built-in social element works especially well for universities wanting to target different groups of current or potential students. The tagging system means different types of posts can easily find their way to their respective communities across the site, and some universities even carve out separate Tumblrs for different areas of their university and resources. For example, the University of Texas at Austin has one Tumblr for their School of Architecture, one for the Blanton Museum, another for the Harry Ransom Center, and one more for the LBJ Library. That gives diehard Longhorns the chance to keep track of all resources UT offers, while those only interested in what the Blanton has to offer can narrow their focus.

MIT, on the other hand, chooses to focus their approach to just Residential Life & Dining on Tumblr, giving incoming students a chance to learn about their options before they arrive on campus, taking a lot of the stress out of a big life change.

The bottom line? Tumblr is the best way for universities to reach specific communities. (A full list of all the universities with a presence on Tumblr can be found here for those interested.)

2. On Instagram: Capture attention with compelling images

Many universities have a presence across platforms, and they play to each platform’s strengths. Yale, for example, uses Instagram to show off campus and the school’s history, beauty, and people. Instagram images can easily be shared to other platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook to quickly catch the attention of followers in those spaces.

Meanwhile the University of Texas at Austin encourages students to share their photos with them, using specific hashtags: #HookEm, #Longhorns, #UTAustin, #UTTower, and #WhatStartsHere along with specific seasonal or event-based hashtags like #UTsummer. This helps current, former, and potential students feel connected to the university even when they’re not on campus– or feel like they’re not missing out during a semester abroad.

They also have a separate Instagram account just for Longhorn football.

The bottom line? Instagram is the best place to share engaging images that will make students feel more connected to them, or attract them to become students in the first place. 

3. On Twitter: Share information quickly in critical situations

Twitter has already proven itself to be an invaluable resource for quick dissemination of information during a natural or man-made crisis, on a campus or otherwise.

In less serious situations, universities and colleges can use it to answer FAQs from new or prospective students, provide information and reminders about university events and deadlines, and share resources for students.

They can also host tweet chats to address specific topics of interest to current students, incoming students, potential students, and alums. For example, the University of Michigan Medical School hosts tweet chats to answer questions about their program, and the University of Central Missouri has hosted two allowing attendees to chat with the school’s president.

The bottom line? Twitter is the best way for universities to connect with their communities in real time. 

4. On Facebook: Provide an easily-found base

Facebook is the perfect social home base: A university profile can share resources and lead students back to other platforms. Users are comfortable using it to ask questions, and page administrators can answer them in a place that makes it easy for them to be seen by someone who might come looking to ask something similar. There’s also a review system in place, to let potential and incoming students know what life is really like on campus, like these from UT Austin’s Facebook page

UT FB Reviews

5. On Pinterest and Snapchat: Go the extra mile

While most people- especially the younger generation- expect to find some kind of social presence for businesses and institutions, they don’t expect them to be on the newer platforms. Universities with the resources have the opportunity to really connect with their students in these places, providing additional resources that will really make a difference. What do you pack for freshman year of college? How can you decorate your dorm room in a way that’s more unique than just slapping up a Pink Floyd poster? A pinboard can answer those things and more, while Snapchat can give quick and intimate looks at life around campus, snippets of lectures, a look at a spontaneous snowball fight, and more.

Drake University uses Pinterest to share Bulldog culture, while the University of Houston sends snaps to share their story with students and followers:

The bottom line? Meeting students where they are and don’t expect you to be- in a way that isn’t condescending or pandering- will win major bonus points.

The bottom line?

Universities engage their students best when they speak to them and share resources in their own language, in the platforms they already use. Strategies should play to each platform’s strengths, without sacrificing creativity.

Written by Sarah

August 27th, 2014 at 9:39 am

The best back-to-school campaigns on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr

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The back-to-school crowd these days differs from the Trapper Keepers and Lisa Frank folders of yesteryear in that they’ve grown up not only online, but also on social media. Brands that want to connect with the kids of Generation Z understand this and put themselves in all of the places their target audience spends their time, producing campaigns that connect across Tumblr dashboards and down Instagram timelines, and are amplified across Twitter.

The best: Keds, Teen Vogue, and Hollister team up for back-to-school across platforms

Personal style is a big deal for kids, preteens, and teens working out who they are and who they want to be, and Keds embraced this in their #KedsStyleTrial campaign run in conjunction with Teen Vogue and Hollister. The three week long campaign was officially run via Instagram, but Keds and Teen Vogue also cross-promoted it on their Tumblr and Twitter accounts:

Both also used the same image and similar messaging on their Instagram accounts, while Hollister went with a slightly different approach:

#KedsStyleTrial Keds #KedsStyleTrial Teen Vogue #KedsStyleTrial Hollister

The same is echoed in the Tumblr posts from Teen Vogue and Keds; Hollister doesn’t have a Tumblr, which seems like a mistake given their target demographic and the success of visual content on Tumblr, particularly of the fashion variety.

How it could be better

Even the best campaigns have room for improvement, and this one could have increased its reach with more participation from Hollister on Twitter, who chose to promote their own separate contest with Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale in lieu of this one:

Even a simple retweet of one of the contest promoting tweets from Keds or Teen Vogue’s accounts would have increased reach by putting the content in front of Hollister’s Twitter audience as well.

Other lessons to learn

Another back-to-school campaign on Instagram from Target used the hashtag #firstdayofschool to promote a charity campaign donating school supplies to children in need across America:

Target #firstdayofschool

What’s the problem? A hashtag like #firstdayofschool is going to be something posted by a wide variety of Instagram users and most of them will probably have no idea that Target’s campaign exists. This leads to difficulty in measurement; your results will be inflated with non-campaign related posts and it will be difficult to tell how successful and far reaching your campaign really was. A hashtag like #KedsStyleTrial works better as it’s unlikely to be generated spontaneously by other Instagram users, and it’s short enough to work when Instagram updates get cross-posted to Twitter (which also boosts your campaign’s reach on that platform).

The bottom line: Pick a hashtag based on your brand name and that’s unique enough not to be spontaneously used by others.

Final lessons

This campaign was planned to be recognizable and accessible to its target audience on the platforms where that audience spends time, which is the crux of any good cross-platform campaign. It was visually based, another plus for its target demographic.

The retail brands also take audience engagement a step further by sharing (or “regramming”) images from fans and followers on their Instagram accounts: Keds with #FanFriday and Hollister with #HCoStyle. That’s an extra incentive for fans and followers to enter the contest– what if they not only win, but also get their Instagram image wearing their winnings shared to either brand’s thousands of followers? Teen Vogue opts not to do this, but it’s a move that fits in with their approachable-yet-still-slightly-aloof fashion magazine brand.

Got it? Good. This will all be on the test, so leave any questions you have in the comments.

Written by Sarah

August 21st, 2014 at 4:16 pm

When Twitter creates its own, online TV

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Comedy Central now takes requests for its online, sketch series CC: Social Scene, hosted by comedian Paul Scheer. Twitter users can use the hashtag #CCSocialScene to make suggestions based on each week’s topic for a chance to have it included in the next sketch.

This use of a hashtag on Twitter is a natural social extension of the interactive nature of improv and sketch shows at most comedy clubs, taking suggestions from the audience for upcoming scenes. While the episodes haven’t been shared across platforms yet, doing so would maximize exposure to reach each part of their audience where they prefer to spend their time, still drawing them back to Twitter if they wish to participate.

Executing that would make this an excellent example of a cross-platform campaign.

Want tips for running one of those yourself? Check out 3 dos and don’ts for making it work. 

Written by Sarah

July 29th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Snapchat for brands part II: Brands who do it well

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We’ve already covered the basics of how Snapchat works and some of the specifics for how brands should be using the app, so now we wanted to show examples of how some different brands have been using snaps and stories to connect with their fans and followers. Consider their work as a guide and inspiration for how you might want to use Snapchat yourself.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell was one of the first brands to embrace using Snapchat, behind a yogurt chain called 16 Handles who used the platform to send out coupons. Taco Bell initially the app to advertise its Beefy Crunch Burrito:

And since then has used the new features that launched in May to start a Doodle War with its Snapchat friends, among other things:

Mashable

Mashable uses Snapchat as a way to show some behind-the-scenes office culture- birthday celebrations, etc- and more of what the company is up to, such as events they’re attending, like in the snap below:

Photo 6-25-14, 11 59 11 AM

Mashable is a good example of how using simple enhancements like the pencil tool in several layers of text can make a snap more vibrant and interesting. To ramp up engagement, they have also hosted weekly Snapchat Challenges, like this emoji challenge:

MTV

MTV uses Snapchat as a way to share brief interviews with and photos of different celebrities and artists with their Snapchat friends, and to do show promotions like their first ever Snap promoting their show Teen Wolf. (MTVTeenWolf is now its own Snapchat account.) MTV UK previously used it as a way to promote their show Geordie Shore, the UK version of Jersey Shore.

A snap of Teen Wolf star, Tyler Posey.

Audi and Pretty Little Liars (PLL)

PLL teamed up with media sponsor Audi to send out snaps during episodes of the show meant to line up with certain scenes in the first campaign of its kind. PLL fans get exclusive content they can’t get anywhere else to enhance their favorite program, and Audi gets to introduce itself to a new and younger demographic. While that demographic might not be in the market for luxury cars now, they will have an established relationship with Audi for the future.

A fan response snap to PLL and Audi.

Pitch Perfect 2

The cast of the sequel to Pitch Perfect has been sending mostly behind-the-scenes selfies to their Snapchat friends, the same kind most users send to their Snapchat friends who double as IRL friends. This creates a sense of intimacy above what even a 10-second video interview from your favorite artist via MTV does; they’re framed so that it looks like the star themselves might have snapped the shot and sent it to you.

Anything else I should know?

Yes! Be sure you share your Snapchat username with your fans and followers on other social sites who might want to add you! Most audience members won’t think to search for brands there, so you need to be proactive about letting them know that you’re there.

And that’s about it.

Got any questions, or know of anything that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Sarah

June 30th, 2014 at 10:09 am