Monthly Archives: March 2013

Social Media Fast: Unplug without Feeling Disconnected

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We are nearing the end of the Lenten season, where millions of Americans sacrifice one or more of their indulgences for about forty days and forty nights. Most of my friends and coworkers have given up the usual, carbs, sweets, or sodas—but I have others that have attempted the impossible—a 40-day social media fast.

I hear you skeptics out there; you think this idea is brilliant, a way to reconnect with the tangible world around us rather than dedicating hours to the Internet time suck. I have to admit, a part of me agrees—it’s a good idea to unplug every now and then. But here at Creatine, we understand that maintaining a social presence for your business is very different than logging into Facebook to chat with your friends.

There is nothing wrong with you, or your social media management team, stepping away from being online, however, you can’t simply ignore your company’s social networks altogether. If the circumstances arise, and you decide you need to take a break from blogging, tweeting, and sharing—but you know that you cannot completely leave your followers in the dark, create a strategy that aids you in making the most of your time while you’re connected.

Construct a streamlined approach to shorten the amount of time you spend at your computer by concentrating on managing six major social networks. Your channel mix may vary from the ones I cover in this article, but you should still isolate a few specific activities for your networks and set yourself a time limit for each one.

twitter Twitter: 10 minutes

Take a few moments once or twice a day to respond to any tweets that may have been directed your way, nothing lengthy, just a quick acknowledgement of your gratitude.

Continue by scheduling out tweets for the next week to promote any recent content, current and upcoming events, or any news that you feel must be shared immediately. The act of automating tweets has caught some heat lately, but remember, you aren’t an individual who has the time to update Twitter with every single thought in your mind; you are running a business and automation is key to productivity, efficiency, and consistency. Schedule out some funny jokes, an interesting quote, or a statistic and your followers aren’t frustrated—they are aware of your presence and perhaps even comforted in the change of pace. Additionally, your automation tool allows you to see and revisit any scheduled tweets in one place—this is convenient and dynamic because if you realize you need to make a change, you have that opportunity.

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Use the remaining minutes to share the content of others in your industry to help build relationships. Retweet interesting articles, images, or ideas—don’t go nuts here, scrolling through your feed for an hour is over doing it. Stay focused so you can remain dedicated to your fast.

facebook Facebook: 6 minutes

A business has to utilize Facebook the same way a normal human might. Over-posting is obnoxious, and posting the same exact content every time becomes monotonous. Because Twitter is a live-feed it is important to update more frequently so your content isn’t obscured by other information—but on Facebook this just isn’t a concern. If you post every day, reducing your activity will not necessarily hurt your campaign. But disappearing completely isn’t an option either.

Schedule out some core updates, like with Twitter, about new content or upcoming events. Focus on producing timeless content. Anything that is highly visual will perform the best—share some behind-the-scenes images of your staff caught in the act of performing their work, share a trending and relevant YouTube video, or ask a question to which your audience can respond.

Take a minute or two to respond to any comments on your wall or on your content, and spend about one minute liking the content of your partners, clients, and thought leaders in your industry. Then it is time to move on to the next network.

linkedin Linked In: 6 minutes

Linked In offers you the opportunity to share your more professional content. Post an article or two in your industry specific groups and engage in any notable discussions. Perhaps take a few minutes to pose your own discussion questions in order to start a dialogue of your own. Let the conversation build and then subside; only jump back in if other questions are directed exclusively to your company. Otherwise, let people chat and respond to one another and check back in a few days to gather any information or to reengage.

pinterest Pinterest: 4 minutes

PInterest Meme

Alright, I know I’m pushing it with a suggested four minute time limit. I have never been able to sit on Pinterest for less than an hour, but it’s time we all restrain ourselves. Pinterest can be one of the most useful social media marketing tools, or it can suck you into its wonderfully fascinating black hole of random content. Create what I call a mind-anchor before delving into this network. Concentrate on the tasks at hand, and remember—all of the recipes, exercise tips, crafting ideas, and cat pictures will be there next week too.

Take two minutes to pin any recent internal or external content and obviously make sure there is some form of graphic to accompany it, considering the platform. If you want to highlight your blog article, pin the image. Also you should search for some infographics, staff, or client photos. Then take the final two minutes to engage with your recent pinners. Return the favor by repining an image they have contributed, following one of their boards, or just leaving a comment that thanks them. Saying thanks on a new social channel can be extra engaging.

google_plus Google +: 2 minutes

For now, Google+ demands less attention than all of our other social networks. This may be changing quickly, but in the mean time—be where your friends and followers are and dedicate more of your time there, but do not forget the underdogs and up-and-comers.

Share your recent content on your page and use your circles to segment our only the most relevant audience. Google+ is a fantastic forum for longer posts like blogs and news articles.

Your audience on Google+ is receptive to longer form content like engaging questions and discussions. Perhaps you could try to facilitate a dialogue between your customers about certain products or services you offer.

instagram Instagram: 2 minutes

Instgram offers your business a chance to be social, relevant, quirky, and fun all while marketing for your business and building your brand. You only have two minutes here, so make the time count by taking your fans behind the scenes with pictures of your staff, events, and office space.

Offer your followers a deeper and more personal look into the personality of your company. You can highlight each staff member and explain some of their responsibilities and roles; you can snap images of work and creative spaces, or banners and logos.

If you are out if ideas for pictures, inspire your followers with motivational or relevant quotes in a stylized format. Those images tend to receive a lot of attention on Instagram.

So there is a short breakdown about how to rock your social media in 30 minutes; enabling some down time without becoming a ghost. Remember that disconnecting is healthy, but your customers and followers may be depending on you for news, deals, and content. Rather than dedicating each and every day to your social media marketing campaign, learn to use your time wisely and efficiently in order to build a clean, but solid and strong presence for your business. Sometimes taking some time off is just what we need to clear our heads—that works for social media the same way it works for any other responsibility.

By Sasha Novikov

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Creatine Marketing | Newsletter March 2013 Issue

Creatine Marketing | Newsletter March 2013 Issue

This month it was my responsibility to create the newsletter template in SNAP. I also chose all of the images, created the banned with photos I took myself, and wrote all of the content in this particular issue of Creatine Marketing’s newsletter. 

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Through the Social Media Grape “Vine” | Popular Mobile Apps

vine-app-for-iphoneEarlier this year Twitter released a new mobile application called Vine. The software lets users add 6-second videos to their tweets or Facebook updates. You simply point your mobile device, (you can call out “ACTION!” If you’d like), touch the screen and the app records the scene.

What makes Vine different, however, is the ability to stop and start the recording instantly. You just lift your finger, and the recording stops—you touch it, and it begins again, right where you left off. You can create frame-by-frame animations, montages, or (really) short films.

Vine is already one of Apple’s most popular mobile apps; users are increasing every day— and with a few creative, yet simple ideas, you can enliven your Twitter feed, entertain clients and followers, and have fun as an amateur filmmaker. Vine offers individual tweeters an opportunity to catch their cats doing funny things, and professional tweeters a fresh and innovative new tool for their social media campaign! It’s a win-win.

Images really catch our attention, and moving images—well that is just a bonus. With six whole seconds you can broadcast a message from your company, include your logo, showcase some recent projects or products, invite your followers to suggest ideas for clips, or personalize your brand with a video of your employees performing a simple action—like we have in this Vine video!

Another great idea is to ask your customers to wear your logo, or use your product, record themselves, and submit the videos to your marketing team. You can make it a friendly competition, and feature your favorite videos via social media—or you could just compile the videos into a longer-form advertisement. Hold contests where you encourage your consumers to create videos that

help with brand recognition and visibility, and simultaneously make them an equal part of the process they will remain interested in your business.

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Use Vine to create short instructional, how-to videos for services or products that are perhaps a little confusing. Additionally, you can entice your followers with short 6-second teaser ads of a longer video that you plan to release in the future.

Perhaps this is your opportunity to be a little silly as a company. Turn your smartphone into a candid camera situation. Sneak up on employees and catch them texting or checking their Facebook page. Surprise people out on the street or in your store by asking them questions about your brand, food, or service. Use your imagination to create hilarious and memorable clips, because those are the ones that are the most popular—and wouldn’t you like to be the one who records the next viral video?

But be careful, because Vine is enticing and easy to use. Don’t be tempted to upload a dozen videos a day. Think twice before uploading a collection of poorly thought-out videos. Just like any other social networking platform, you want to seem organic, original, and human. If you are bombarding your Twitter followers with 6-second ads, do not be surprised if your engagement decreases and you’re hit with some bad publicity. Reward customers for their click by offering fun and creative videos so they come away with a positive image of your brand.

By Sasha Novikov

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Engage Your Classroom | Social Media and Education

Social Media and EducationSocial networking tools aren’t just for advertising, flirting, and making us jealous of the dessert you’re eating. The evolving world of Internet communication—blogs, podcasts, tags, file sharing—offers students radically new ways to research, create, and learn. Computers and tablets should not be used solely as glorified workbooks, teachers should be embracing networking because certain platforms have the ability to transform and improve education.

It seems obvious, right? Social media allows people to come together around an idea or topic of interest, to discuss that topic, to lead and follow debates, to add new information, to share existing information, and the data can be shared all over the world—why isn’t every single classroom utilizing these resources? Bloggers write detailed pieces about Shakespeare, Greek history, advancements in microbiology, and grammar. An instructor could use this information in his or her classroom and encourage students to leave comments, ask questions, or even write their own articles. We live in a social world, and it is crucial that we teach students how to be effective collaborators in that world, how to interact with other people, how to be engaged in current events, and how to be well-informed citizens. And, here’s the kicker; it’s free. Even in low-income communities, one computer and a projector in each classroom can offer unlimited educational potential.

Teachers all over the United States have already attempted to incorporate social media into their teaching strategies. Here are a few examples of how three movements, using social networking, are making significant impacts in the lives of students and working to change the face of education by bringing it into the twenty first century.

The Buffelgrass Shall Perish Facebook “Fan Page”Social Media and Education

In Tucson, Arizona a science teacher at a local middle school called upon his eighth grade class to pick a problem in their local community, and solve it. The students converged and came to a consensus. Buffelgrass is a weed that grows rapidly, is flame resistant, and is being imported by some states as a cheap alternative to control erosion and as cattle feed. This grass is a menace; it has the shelf like of a Twinkie, and where it’s left to spread, it destroys the natural ecosystem by hording all the water and depleting the soil of nutrients.

The students were sure they needed to educate the community about the dangers of this plant, and began by creating a Facebook page devoted to uncovering the horrors of its behavior. They also created a YouTube video to promote their cause, and used the Facebook page to update the world on their progress.

Using the networking tools of their generation, they became advocates for their town and spread their message to politicians, farmers, other schools, and parents.

Digital Youth Network: Remix World

Screen shot of Digital Youth Network Webpage

In Chicago, the Digital Youth Network runs a private website called Remix World, which emulates popular online social networks like Facebook and MySpace. Students create profiles and include images, profile information, and links to their friends’ pages. They use this platform to post digital artwork, videos, and other creative work to their pages, and then they interact with other users. They can comment on the work of their friends and participate in discussions with other users through the Remix World forums.

By providing these students with a safe space to share their work and ideas, Remix World allows them to solicit feedback and offer constrictive criticism—some have even found the process so enriching that they have continued to post their work on public sites, like YouTube. Children ranging from middle school age to seventeen years old are posting graphic art, original videos, and computer games.

When students are motivated to create work that they can share online, it ignites an independent learning cycle driven by their ideas and energized by responses from peers. Through trial and error, they are able to add new media skills to their repertoire. These innovative skills are critical when looking for work after high school or college, and the activity helps to stimulate the mind.

The Khan Academy

The Khan Academy is a “not-for-profit organization with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” The academy offers an extensive YouTube video library that includes thorough lessons in all levels of mathematics, science and economics, computer science, history, civics, art history, SAT prep, and more. The website also includes interactive challenges and assessments that are available to students, teachers, home-schoolers, adults returning to the classroom, and pretty much anyone with access to the Internet who is looking for a quick brush up on biology.

Khan Academy- Math Problem Screen ShotThe system is customizable to suit each individual student’s needs, and the lessons are self-paced—so unlike a live classroom, where if you day dream and miss the crucial part of a lecture, you panic—when using the Kahn videos, you can rewind the material multiple times until it makes perfect sense. Some teachers will assign Kahn lectures to their students, and use class time to go into detail on that lesson. They let students work problems out, or ask questions in order to clarify ideas—so rather than teaching a topic at one pace, and hoping every student keeps up, the teacher lets the student learn at his or her pace and then uses class time to let students put the lessons into action.

The Academy’s content is used in classrooms and by individuals in over 20 languages around the world. More than 920,000,000 interactive math problems have been solved, and the videos have been viewed over 225,000,000 times. This virtual classroom offers a high quality education to students all over the globe. Even Bill Gates uses this software when teaching his children.

This project, and others like it, is possible because of the ubiquitous power of social media. YouTube enables the founders of the Kahn Project to share university quality knowledge, for free, with eager minds all around the world. Instructors are able to share groundbreaking research with their students, and students are able to share their work with others using Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Reddit, YouTube, and Pinterest, just to name a few. In this way, social media has been repurposed—it has evolved from being solely a means of chatting and following, into a remarkable tool that fosters immeasurable advances education.

By Sasha Novikov, Creatine Marketing

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Tips for Protecting your Privacy Online

Tips to Protecting your Privacy OnlineCyber privacy is a hot topic in the media right now. Millions of Americans fear that their personal information is at risk, and the scary thing is, they aren’t wrong. If multinational corporations like Apple, Twitter, Facebook and Evernote cannot deter hackers, perhaps that means we all need another lesson in protecting our private information online. When 250,000 Twitter accounts are hacked it is frightening news because that means 250,000 passwords are now potentially public information. And anyone who has had their credit card information stolen via the internet, knows how a situation like that can turn your entire world upside down.

When a company that has access to your private information is attacked by malware, there is very little you can do to protect yourself in that instant. That is why it is wise to be proactive about your online identity. Stay vigilant by updating your passwords regularly, be discreet about the information you offer to any website, and be wary of which sites and people you trust.  While you shouldn’t be scared to death of using useful ecommerce websites like Amazon or Etsy, you should be prepared to invest time into shielding yourself while doing it. If you are one of the 100 million American consumers that shop online, these tips to protect your online persona can be a real cyber-life saver.

Tips to Protecting your Privacy Online

  1. Passwords: Change them from time to time. Do not post on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed anything that may give them away, like your birthdate, pet’s name, or the street you grew up on. In fact, if your passwords are that simple, you are asking for trouble. Your passwords should be some what complicated, random, and difficult to guess. Include capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Sometimes using a word or phrase you pluck out of thin air, is smarter than choosing your child’s name. Create different passwords for every site you use, your email, bank, Facebook, Ebay, etc. Also, there are applications available via mobile device, like Password Keeper, that can store and protect all of your digital passwords.
  2. Cookies: Mmm Chocolate chip, these sound harmless? Wrong, Block them! When you surf the Internet, hundreds of data points are collected by the sites you visit. These pieces of information, referred to as cookies, are stored and complied into your “digital profile,” which is then sold without your consent to companies around the world. Ever wonder why adds that seem to perfectly cater to your every want and need bombard the margins of each webpage you visit? Block cookies. Yes, you may have to enter passwords more often, but it’s a smarter way to peruse the web.
  3. Familiar Emails: Be cautious. There is a new trend in phishing scams, which use the name or handle of someone very familiar to you. The email may appear to be from your mother, your boss, your university, or your cable provider but when you open it, the message asks for your social security number or credit card information. DO NOT open attachments from these emails, do not reply, do not download any information from that email, and forward it to spam@uce.gov.
  4. Geo-Location: Seems awesome, but be wary. First of all, this is another way for Tips to Protecting your Privacy Onlinecompanies to track your purchasing habits. If you check into Taco Bell three times a week, you can expect advertisers to notice and fill your newsfeeds and web-surfing experience with advertisements for Mexican food, and who knows, possibly weight management products. You may think it’s cool to let all of your friends know where you are at every second of your day, but you are also letting people know that you probably ARE NOT at home- guarding all of your valuable possessions. Never publically post that you will be leaving your home unattended for days or weeks, unless you are positive that your home security is more dependable than your cyber security
  5. Shred, Shred, Shred: Before tossing out credit-card offers, billing statements, or any other hard copies that arrive to your house with your information—rip them up into tiny microscopic, unreadable, irreparable, pieces.
  6. Privacy Settings: Always become very familiar with the privacy settings of each website you choose to subscribe to. If you become a member of a site, usually that page requires some information—make sure that material is protected. Especially on social networks, max out your privacy settings.
  7. Tips to Protecting your Privacy OnlineFree WiFi: Is like a shining beacon in a dark, disconnected world! Sometimes I choose my hangout spots based on whether or not this service is offered to me. But did youknow, that an Internet connection without password protection opens your device up to hackers? For example, if I am sitting at a Starbucks, working on my screenplay so that everyone can see how busy I am, while simultaneously surfing the web—another user on that network, depending on his or her hacking savvy, can access any information that is stored in my computer. If you have a wireless router at home, set a password and enable the encryption to scramble the data you send online. Do not let everyone in your apartment complex hop onto your Internet. You will be paying for a service that they will use for free, they will siphon your bandwidth, which will slow your connection, and while the chances are minimal, someone could gain access to your personal computer.

Most people aren’t even aware of how much information can be found about them with just a few clicks. Search the web frequently by Googling yourself or your friends and family members and make sure to remove yourself from websites that store your private information. If there is an old networking site that you are no longer frequenting, like Myspace for example, go delete your account.

It helps to monitor your banking statements as well; browse for suspicious purchases at least weekly. If you feel like your card details have been stolen, you need to contact your financial institution immediately and report the fraud. They will help you cancel your card and order a new one. Also, place a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus and put a security freeze on your files. You can even file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

A physical invasion of privacy, like a home robbery for example, is terrifying and unsettling which is why many families have security systems in place. We offer so much information over the Internet, yet enforcing the same systems of security are often ignored. A digital invasion of your privacy can destroy your credit and leave you financially in limbo until your case is resolved, so take these tips into consideration and protect yourself while surfing the web.

By Sasha Novikov, Creatine Marketing

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Business Blogging

Writing for your business can be challenging. Treading the line between being inappropriate and being dull is not always easy. You want to keep your readers engaged while simultaneously sharing important information about your field or your company and its services or products.  Don’t fret; there are some practices that you can implement to make your posts dynamic and relevant to your brand at the same time.

It’s All About Personality

Make your words stand out by letting your own unique voice shine through. Boring and repetitive content exists all over the Internet. Even if you’re going to say something for the hundredth time, say it with a character that is all your own. Be funny; it is one of the greatest assets any writer has. It puts your reader at ease and is generally more accessible and interesting to read. Use puns, make pertinent and times-related jokes, tell stories—your readers will be absorbed because they can identify with you—who doesn’t love a good anecdote?

Business Blogging

Just because you are writing for your business doesn’t mean your blog has to read like an instructional pamphlet. If you are bored writing your articles, chances are your reader will fall asleep half way through and drool all over his or her keyboard. (Check the comment section for a confusing jumble of letters, numbers, and symbols to see if this has happened). The writing doesn’t have to be stand-up worthy, but colorful language can really jazz up an article about a seemingly tedious subject. Clearly, there is a time and place for humor—but most likely your reader will not be annoyed that you made him laugh. He may be annoyed, however,  if he spent his valuable time reading an article that put him to sleep.

One more note on language—jargon and technical speak are usually confusing and can be off-putting for readers. You may know what you’re talking about, your colleagues may know what you’re talking about, even your mother may know what it is that you’re saying—but there is a good chance your customer might not understand. Evoke simplicity and practice explaining complicated business terms using informal language. Plain-ol’-English is the best way to appeal to a broad audience.

Be Consistent, and Mindful of your Audience

Try and write something down every day. Brainstorm ideas, create vague outlines, and at least once a week dedicate your time to constructing a solid article. You may not be ready to publish every single word you write down, but practice is crucial when writing, just like when playing sports or mastering a musical instrument. Once you start your blog, it pays to stay committed to creating new content—even if your articles aren’t all gems, keep in mind that it takes 50 posts for Google to index you, so if you stop after two or three, you wont drive as much search traffic to your blog or webpage.

Business Blogging

Be mindful of your topics as well, and remember to be diverse. While your blog is obviously a marketing tool for your business, you don’t need to remind readers of that in every single post.

Mix it up; have posts from other writers on related topics, post photos and memes, and always keep your audience in mind.

One easy way to remember what your audience may like is to think selfishly (this may be one of your only outlets for that, so take advantage!) Think about what you prefer to read; what kind of prose captivates you? Reading an informative blog with thought-provoking tips, amusing little quips, and a few pictures is, hands down, more effective than monotonous industry news that specifically applies to the business and always manages to force in twenty links to its products. Odds are, if you find something interesting, others will, too.

Take it Personally, and Build Strong Relationships

Most successful bloggers are not shy about offering their readers an insight into their personal lives. Whether you blog for business or for pleasure, make it personal. No one wants to read extensive details about your colonoscopy, however, but a short narrative about your daughter’s school play (if relevant to your main point) is usually a welcome topic.

Let your readers get to know you. Your business is an extension of yourself and you’ve put incredible amounts of energy and time into creating it. If people know you, they will feel more comfortable with whatever you are selling or offering. Humans like interacting and doing business with other humans, show that you are approachable by being transparent and you will build valuable relationships with your customers.

Being a dependable business owner doesn’t mean you need to be pitching, selling, and closing 24/7. If you identify with your customers on more levels than one, they will appreciate you as an individual and see the services you offer as a benefit, without any added pressure of your persistent salesman chatter.

A few final thoughts:

Business BloggingThis article is lengthy—the majority of people who browse the Internet want their information in concise packages. Three hundred words may be short, but 1,000 words is an essay.

Spell check and grammar check are your friends; please use them.  Good writers are usually people who read a lot, so you may think you have some down time, but you should probably be searching for an article to peruse.

Let others read your work before it is published, as the author, it is sometimes difficult to see mistakes or awkward phrases because you become attached to every sentence you write.

If you practice these steps, and attempt to improve with every blog you post, soon you will see a spike in subscribers and an increase in revenue for your business.  Who knows – with such a great avenue for stress release, maybe you’ll even see a decrease in your blood pressure.

Written by Sasha Novikov, published on Jeff Pulvino’s blog.

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