Sprung From The Ashes Of Formspring, Spring.me Raises $5M To Create The “Friendliest Social Network”

Spring.me, the new social network that was previously Formspring, has raised a total of $5 million in debt and equity seed funding from investors including Right Click Capital, Tank Stream Ventures, Nextec Strategic Capital, and Rubicon Project Founder Craig Roah. The company plans to use the funding to expand Spring.me in the U.S., where it just launched.

Formspring’s demise was due in part to the site’s accidental role in faciliating cyberbullying. Though Spring.me, which currently claims five million regular visitors, acquired the Formspring website and database, it wants to create a completely different reputation for itself by becoming the world’s “friendliest social network.” The site lets users engage in Q&A discussions and group chats, share photos and opinion polls, and send private messages.

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5 Twitter Tricks to Boost Engagement

5 Twitter Tricks to Boost Engagement

1. Be interesting. Developing an effective Twitter presence is all about knowing your audience and executing a well-crafted strategy. Your followers will naturally stay interested if you publish content that they find intriguing and compelling. Tweeting images, videos, and links are proven to be more engaging. By sharing relevant content, your business is already on its way to building an interactive audience.

2. Tweet when they tweet. it’s important to know when your audience is online. The best time to tweet will differ depending on your brand and targeted audience. There are various tools, some of which are free, that can suggest the best times to publish tweets to reach the largest audience. Try posting messages throughout the day and review Twitter analytics regularly. Twitter just recently extended its analytics platform to all users. Previously only available to advertisers, your detailed report can be accessed for free at analytics.twitter.com. Examine the impressions and engagement rate of different content to determine what is most popular then adjust your strategy to maximize results.

3. Build community. The sense of community within social media is a great advantage for brands. Engagement is amplified by joining existing discussions within various groups, often by using popular hashtags. These expand your message’s reach to a broader audience that is already interested in similar content. Take a look at what hashtags are trending at that time and connect it to your brand to engage in the conversations or start your own.

4. Talk with, not at. No matter the platform, communication with your audience should be a two-way street. Take the time to acknowledge or respond to all of the mentions that you receive. Twitter users are more likely to engage with and promote brands that they know are responsive and friendly. Add a personal touch to conversations on Twitter and followers will be more comfortable reaching out.

5. Spark discussion. Some audiences are quieter than others, thus it’s possible that your audience requires a more direct approach. If your followers are not taking the initiative to engage with you, start a conversation of your own by posing a question to your audience.  Invite feedback from your followers and include a call to action in your tweets. After all, these conversations show that your brand is receptive to two-way communication, which is what social media is all about.

6 Google Analytics tools your company probably isn’t using but should

6 Google Analytics tools your company probably isn’t using but should

Google Analytics is a powerful and free service that businesses often use to measure the effectiveness of their online marketing campaigns. The system is genuinely intuitive and offers many services that businesses have used since it first debuted.

Many companies use Google Analytics for these more well-known features.

  • Traffic sources and acquisitions. Google lets you track clicks, CPC, conversions, and more with its acquisitions feature.
  • Time metrics. Smarter Solutions CEO Forrest Breyfogle recommends close attention to time metrics as part of a value chain, which can lead to better results and revenue.
  • Content drilldown. This feature lets you look at a given page and determine how often customers arrive there, which pages they come to it from, and where they go from there.
  • Keywords. This feature shows you which keywords and types of words are bringing new visitors to your site.
  • Bounce rates. Many companies harvest this data on their dashboard to see if revenue is affected by poor bounce rate.

While these well-known features can help you determine the success of past campaigns and adjust for the future, they are only part of the story. Many users are nowhere near accessing the full potential of Google Analytics. A number of underused gems can propel your analyses to the next level. Here are six of them:

1. Attribution modeling

A useful way to track a customer’s relationship with you, attribution modeling lets you plot out all existing touchpoints with customers to know when, where, and how potential leads are being reached and which are being converted. A touchpoint is any place where your customer makes contact with your website. This could be through social media, search results, email newsletters, or a link from someone’s blog.

For example, let’s say an e-commerce clothing company sees a number of hits to its site from a blog that talks about summer fashions. Through attribution modeling, the company can determine that of the nine hits to the site through this blog, six converted into purchases. This can help the company make decisions about backlinking and where to place marketing focus for future leads.

With the rise of email marketing as a popular and effective marketing tactic, attributing email list signups to their source is a common request from marketing decision makers. GetResponse blogger Kristi Hines offers a comprehensive set-up guide for integrating Google Analytics with email list signups in her article “How to Set Up Google Analytics Goals to Track Email Signups.”

2. E-commerce tracking

This real-time revenue measurement feature lets you track all purchases to date. Many companies use this feature to understand the breakdown of online versus in-store revenue or to better understand changes in their online selling success rate.

3. Goal flow

In an ideal world, customers would navigate to your site, move through the finely tuned steps you have fostered for them, and make plenty of purchases. The flow feature allows marketing analysts to take snapshots of the progression customers are actually taking, including whether they loop back, get redirected, or exit midway.

This explains customer behaviors and shows areas of your website where customers are getting confused or losing interest or where steps in the process are becoming entangled. When paired with the visualization funnel tool in GA, the goal flow feature is a great way to streamline online processes for better customer interaction.

“You want to use that goal flow feature because a company’s content can sometimes be geared more towards sending the customer down a specific path,” Tyler Brown, social media specialist at Checks-Superstore.com, told me. “If the customer leaves that path, you may instantly need to know why, and plug those gaps so to speak.”

4. Assisted conversions

Wouldn’t it be great if you could tell whether your current influx of customers came from your recent debut of an Instagram page or a well-crafted MailChimp campaign? You can. The assisted conversions feature sources your leads, conversions, and customer loyalty; it can also show where your customer base found you or what specifically inspired them to buy.

Keywords and ads sometimes work together to convert leads. It’s possible that your appearance in results for “Dentists in Seattle” helped the customer link to your site, but it was your ad in the margin of these results that helped the customer choose you over your competitor. This means that being #1 in results is not the only thing bringing traffic or conversion.

5. Advanced segmentation

Segmenting your users and customers into useful groups can help motivate action. Creating a subset for those users who visited your website from a search result as opposed to those who visited it directly will enable you to analyze how efficient your SEO campaigns have been or how familiar your URL has become to visitors. In addition, tracking brand-new hits to the website as opposed to return visitors can help determine if you need to put more funding into acquisition or retention.

6. Analytics alerts

The beauty of alerts for analytics is the customization they allow. In a general way, analytics alerts will let designated people know precisely when valuable changes have been made in traffic patterns or other data. The feature can be fully customized to register alerts when certain shifts occur.

Some companies may choose to be alerted any time a new hit happens on the website. If that’s too much for you, there’s an option to focus your alerts on a given marketing facet, such as social media, and be alerted every time someone clicks through to your website from Twitter, Facebook, and more.

Google Analytics is a strong tool for marketing analysts and offers a variety of data that can serve almost any industry. The platform can be rather exhaustive so there is a lot to explore. With a little bit of investigation, you can access tools that truly make a difference for your company’s bottom line.

6 Ways Fantasy Football is Like Running a Business

If you’re into fantasy sports, you already know fantasy sports are huge.

According to the industry’s trade association (who knew fantasy sports needed a trade association?), each of 41 million people in the U.S. and Canada spends an average of over $100 per year and 8 hours a week playing fantasy sports. (Most popular: football.)

And also know that Matthew Berry is ESPN’s Senior Fantasy Analyst, author of the New York Times bestseller Fantasy Life (a fun read on how he built a brand from scratch), and the founder of RotoPass.

But what you may not know is that some of the principles for winning in fantasy sports also apply to winning at business–and even at life.

Matthew describes those principles as “Lesterisms” after his great-uncle, Lester Gold. Here are some Lesterisms to take from fantasy sports and apply to your professional life:

“Don’t make a decision until you have to.”

In fantasy sports it’s easy to panic and get ahead of yourself. Say you’re worried about what you’ll do when your quarterback has a bye week. Or maybe you’re worried about how long an injury will keep a key player off the field. What happens?

You often act before you need to, which by definition means you act on incomplete information–which is never a recipe for success.

The same is true in business. You just heard a competitor is considering entering your market? Fine–think about it, plan for the possibility … but situations can and will change. Wait until you have to act to actually act.

Create as many contingency plans as you want, but wait to be sure the “if” in your if-then statement moves from if to fact.

“Don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose.”

Most entrepreneurs are optimists–otherwise they wouldn’t be entrepreneurs. By nature small-business owners are dreamers. They see positives where few others can.

Still, every step, every decision, and every deal has an upside and a downside. Putting all your eggs in the Michael Vick basket this year? The upside might be huge … but what if Geno Smith has a huge year and Vick rarely plays? Then what?

Take risks, but always be sure you can recover from the worst that can happen. And if you decide you won’t be able to recover, that’s okay–there are always other deals.

“If a guy is trying to trade in one car for another and asks if the car leaks oil, that means his car leaks oil.”

In a negotiation what you say is important–but what the other person says is a lot more important.

The best deals result from listening, not talking. Say what you need to say and then listen. You’ll never realize all you need to do is throw in your backup tight-end to pull off an awesome trade until you spend less time trying to convince and more time just listening.

The only way to make a deal the other person will accept is to actually know what the other person wants … and needs.

“Don’t trade something you need for something you don’t.”

It’s tempting to want the best–of everything. But almost always what you really need to do is improve your “worst.”

Say you have a great warehouse facility … and another one that is slightly better is on the market. That’s like trading Aaron Rodgers for Peyton Manning. Sure, Manning may be slightly better, but who cares when your running back is Ronnie Hillman? (No offense, Ronnie.) You don’t need Peyton–you need Adrian Peterson.

Your goal is to constantly improve your entire operation, not just one part of it. Always add and subtract parts that will make the biggest impact.

“When a mouse is caught in a trap, he’s not thinking about the cheese, he’s thinking of how to get out. But once he’s out he’s thinking about the cheese again.”

Every deal, every transaction, and every relationship has two sides. Your point of view is important, but so is the other person’s.

Take advantage when people are in need and while you may help them in the short term, you’ll cause lasting damage to those relationships. Take too much off the table in a negotiation and while you may “win” in the short-term, you forfeit any chance of a long-term customer relationship.

Offer a below-market salary to a person desperate for a job and that employee will never develop a sense of loyalty and trust for you or your company.

“Anyone can get along with easy people. A great leader can get along withdifficult people.”

Because at some point all of us, however fleetingly, can be difficult … and how you act in those moments is the true test of your leadership skills–and, sometimes, your value as a friend.

Seven Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make on LinkedIn

LinkedIn calls itself the “World’s Largest Professional Network” and it’s established itself as one of the three biggest must-play properties on social media.

For anyone looking to expand their influence and network–especially important goals for entrepreneurs and startups–LinkedIn, is one of the key place to see and be seen.

“It not only provides the latest information relevant to your industry news and its players, but allows members to showcase accomplishments and thought-leadership which may otherwise be left in the confines of an office wall or personal blog,” Maya Mikhailov, LinkedIn pro and Executive Vice President of GPShopper told me.

As important as LinkedIn is, most entrepreneurs and startups are making mistakes .

Here are seven common missteps and tips on how to get the most out of your LinkedIn platform.

Not being LinkedIn. Even though the system reports more than 250 million users worldwide, somehow LinkedIn acquired the reputation as being primarily a tool for job seekers. Or a sort of online resume database.

As a result, many entrepreneurs don’t see it as a marketing and networking tool the same way they see Facebook, for example. So they tend to give it less value and some avoid it altogether. That’s a mistake. So, first, if you’re not already Linked In, sign up right away.

Having a blank or sparse profile. Signing up isn’t enough. If you just open a P.O. Box and don’t tell anyone who you are why you have it, you’ll only get junk mail.

LinkedIn the same way. Don’t leave things blank. Since the entire system is designed around connecting people to people, the more you tell people about yourself, the more you’ll get out of it. Don’t just add what you’re doing now. Include what you did last. And with whom. And where you went to school.

If you need help filling out your profile, get help. For an entrepreneur, leaving blanks in your LinkedIn profile is like leaving money on the table.

Not connecting to groups. Even users with robust profiles aren’t taking full advantage ofLinkedIn’s groups. Groups are where experts, insiders and customers are. Groups is where you will find people you want to know and, more importantly, where people you care about can find you.

If you can’t find a group that fits what you do or includes the people you want, start one. Not only will that solve the problem, it’s a great way to demonstrate issue and market leadership.

Ignoring influencers. As part of the maturation process of LinkedIn, its news tool–Pulse–is an easy way to find, follow and connect with leaders that matter to you and your business.

Posting too little. With more than 60 million monthly visitors LinkedIn has a reach equal to or more than many top-tier media outlets. And its by-design linking features mean your content is even more likely to be seen by people who matter.

If you’re producing content related to your business–and you likely should be–even cross-posting that material on LinkedIn is a good idea. And if you have the capacity to develop content for LinkedIn exclusively, even better. You can apply publish long-form content directly and that’s the route to being invited to be a LinkedIn influencer.

Making it personal. If you’re going to post content on LinkedIn, as you should, don’t make it personal.

While this mistake is less common for entrepreneurs, it’s a bad one. LinkedIn is not Facebook. It is a business tool. So cat photos and latte reviews should be eschewed. LinkedIn content should be about your business, your ideas and your market.

Selling. Don’t sell on LinkedIn. That includes sending ‘cold’ pitches to people you don’t or barely know. Just don’t.

“LinkedIn should be used as a platform for thought-leadership, industry news and of course any professional announcements. Constantly providing a hard-sell to your product or services is the fasted way to have your updates hidden by members of your network,” Mikhailov said.

Instead, sell yourself by being a good community member and offering your expert opinion on topics which are important to the people who are important to you.

Instagram adds tools for brands, starts to look like a real ad platform

Instagram adds tools for brands, starts to look like a real ad platform

Today is a bit like Christma-Hanu-Kwanz-ukkah for brands that use Instagram in their marketing efforts, as the photo-sharing network just announced three new tools for them.

The new tools, “account insights,” “ad insights,” and “ad staging,” are now available to all Instagram advertisers and are meant to give brands better control over their campaigns and results.

From Instagram’s blog post:

The new tools will help brands monitor their posts and campaigns by providing information on reach, impressions, and engagement. For example, an advertiser will now have access to a real-time campaign summary and data showing how their target audience is responding to each of their sponsored photos. Also, brand marketers will be able to better understand the best time of day to post a photo or video.

We’ve worked closely with several of our advertising partners to make sure these tools meet their needs. We’re now making them available to all Instagram advertisers, whose feedback will help us improve the product before releasing it to additional brands later this year.

Account insights shows brands how their Instagram account is doing, including impression, reach, engagement, and so on, and it appears to be for the brand’s photo activity, not paid campaigns. In fact, it looks a lot like the “Insights” page of a Facebook brand page, which is not surprising, given Facebook’s ownership of Instagram.

instagram account insights

Ad insights provide analytics for a brand’s paid campaigns, including impressions, reach, and frequency. The feature conveniently includes an “Export data” button to enable social media managers to easily use the data in their workflow.

instagram ad insights

Ad staging is where social media managers can create, edit, preview, and even collaborate on paid ad campaigns on Instagram. It’s sort of the sandbox before the ads go live.

Instagram first introduced ads on its network back in November 2013 and has since signed deals with ad agencies (not coincidentally once it introduced videos) and opened up its ad program more widely to brands. Now, it’s adding real analytics and insights tools that are turning Instagram from a fun photo app the teens were using, into a real advertising platform.

Facebook, which acquired Instagram in April 2012, has been beefing up its mobile efforts, and reported a strong second quarter for 2014, largely thanks to its mobile business. Unfortunately, Facebook does not report separate figures for Instagram, so it’s impossible really know how much revenue Instagram’s ads have been generating so far.

Fellow visually-driven social network Pinterest has also been leveraging visual ads amongst its user-generated content in the form of promoted pins.

3 Ways to Leverage Hashtags to Enhance Your Brand

The reason for their popularity? Hashtags allow you to find timely content online in real time. When you search a specific hashtag, you find recent, if not instant, results. These results can be refreshed and updated minute by minute. This is quite different from using keyword terms on a search engine and finding an article that could be several years old.

Also, for companies and their owners, hashtags allow you to track what’s being said about your industry and your business.

While their functionality is pretty straightforward, hashtags can be leveraged in ways beyond doing a simple search.

Want to be sure that you’re using hashtags effectively for your business or startup? Try one, or all, of these three tips:

1. Virtually attend and participate in industry events.

Need to attend an industry event to connect with consumers or experts in your field but don’t have the budget let alone time to attend in person? Virtually participate by using the conference’s hashtag.

You’ll be able to follow along in the comfort of your own home office, with no airfare or conference fees needed.

And you don’t have to wait till the day of the event to get started. Typically, conference and event planners share their specific hashtags well in advance to help attendees connect and network beforehand. By using the conference hashtag, you can keep current on industry trends while connecting with the speakers, too.

Start by searching the conference’s hashtag results on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook on the days leading up to the event. This will help you determine who is speaking, when. Then, on the day of the event, tune into the conference livestream, decide which platform you’ll engage the most on and introduce yourself! Be sure to include the hashtag in your tweets and posts so your comments will show up in the search results.

As a best practice, set a goal. Are you participating to expand your network or connect with strategic alliances? Tweet three attendees. Looking to keep current on industry trends? Read conference recaps and blog posts from the media in attendance.

Last, search the hashtag stream that day to see what topics are being discussed, what attendees have to say. You can retweet comments. You can favorite tweets and share your own thoughts, too.

2. Use hashtags to establish further credibility.

Want to boost your online presence, credibility and visibility? First, participate in a few Twitter chats. You’ll be able to share your expertise while also observing how the hashtag can be used for engagement and tracking online impressions.

Twitter chats, typically an hour in length, hone in on a specific topic and often have a Q and A format. The moderator and participants are able to reply to one another — and the questions at hand — by including the chat’s designated hashtag in their tweets. This allows for conversations to be organized. You will be able to search and filter results versus having to scroll through your followers tweets (without any guarantee that the content you are looking for, and trying to respond to, can be quickly found).

Then, after you’ve had some practice, host your own Twitter chat using a custom hashtag that you’ve create. This will give you further credibility, promote awareness of your company’s brand and provide you the opportunity to connect directly with consumers and influencers.

3. Geotarget hashtags to reach the right audience.

Ready to engage with customers in your city? In lieu of advertising or using broad hashtags (that reach consumers worldwide), drill down and use hashtags that geotarget users in a specific cmomunity. Search your city’s hashtag then “like,” comment and participate in relevant conversations to let consumers know you exist. Make sure to hashtag your own content with your location, too.

As an example, if you own Bob’s Pizza shop in Los Angeles, make sure to add #LA or #LosAngeles to your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts.

As is often the case with social media, there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all approach.” If you have a hashtag strategy that hasn’t been mentioned here, post it below! As the saying goes (which is now a hashtag): #SharingIsCaring.


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