Once the realm of hipsters and the dedicated social media disciples, Pinterest and Instagram are now positively thriving. Whilst Facebook continues to stagnate, these alternative social media platforms are proving that the big picture is big money. 

New data from Experian has shown that the popularity of both Pinterest and Instagram is burgeoning. Just take a look at these figures measured between July 2011 and July 2012:

Worldwide Instagram growth

  • 17319% in North America
  • 8121% in Singapore
  • 2028% in the UK
  • 843% in New Zealand
  • 362% in Australia

Worldwide Pinterest growth

  • 5124% in North America
  • 2373% in Hong Kong
  • 1489% in the UK
  • 798% in Australia
  • 643% in New Zealand

As you can see, both networks have experienced impressive growth in the short space of a year. This success, it appears, is down to both sites having found their respective niches. According to digital insights manager at Experian, James Murray, “the reason for their success is that they haven’t tried to be ‘another Facebook’”. Instead, they have both concentrated on providing a unique, high-quality user experience to a cult following – which is proving extremely and increasingly popular.

The niche social media platform is set to become more and more successful in the next 12 months as users begin to tire of the Facebook one-size-fits-all monopoly and start looking for new ways to express and share their identity online. Already doing well are Google+ in Brazil, Reddit in Australia and FanPop.com on our very own shores.

What this means for your social media campaigns

So what does this mean for the future of online marketing and, how can businesses hoping to utilise social media for interaction with customers and building brand identity, make the most of these platforms?

Well for one thing, widening scope to include more than just the generic, obligatory Twitter and Facebook profiles gives businesses an awful lot more freedom, reach and flexibility. The beauty of niche social networks is that, very often, they attract a very specific demographic. 

For example, around 80% of Pinterest users are female, and over 25% of all Pinterest users are between 25-34. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to target an older male audience you’d be better of getting involved with a platform like Slashdot where 30% of users are between 35-44 and over 80% are male. As you can see, knowing your target market and knowing your social media platforms can really pay off when you’re looking to get your message to the right people.

To make the most of social media, particularly niche platforms, you need to know the web inside out and the ways each platform can work for you. It is important to understand where your content will find the right audience and how to speak to your demographic using the appropriate tone, tools and techniques. To learn more about how to make social media work for you, in an ever changing online world, fell free to get in touch with the Liberty team for a chat.

Even with the best online marketing services to hand, rankings do have a horrible habit of fluctuating. You can spend huge amounts of money on strategy, but - if your online marketing agency isn't prepared for Google updates - it could all go out of the window very quickly indeed.

So what are Google updates and why do they cause such havoc with your place on the search engines? Above all, how can you make sure that you're investing in online marketing services that are future-proof and will withstand even the more radical change in Google's algorithm?

What are Google Updates?

In basic terms, a Google update occurs when the techie team at the search engine giant make changes to the way websites are viewed and ranked. Google uses an algorithm to work out where your website belongs in the rankings. There are hundreds of different factors, which Google's algorithm takes into consideration, some of the most crucial factors are:

  • Internal links
  • External links
  • Anchor text
  • Web copy (originality)
  • Keywords
  • Social metrics
  • Site architecture

Agencies providing on-the-ball online marketing services will make sure that your site ticks all of the right boxes with regards to these factors. This will get your website ranking highly. Yet it isn't quite so simple because Google are constantly changing the goal posts. To paraphrase one person's remark at the recent Brighton SEO conference: "Google are the opposing team as well as the referee, plus they own the ball, the pitch and the goal posts!"

Every time Google updates their algorithm, the way they rank websites shifts. There are hundreds of updates every year and usually they are very subtle, but sometimes these updates are big news and can make a big impact. For example...

Google Panda

Many online marketing service providers will shudder at the mention of Google Panda. It was a huge update to the algorithm, which was designed to eliminate the use of unhelpful, duplicate and plagairised content and give priority to highly original, high quality websites. It hit the UK in April 2011 and dramatically impacted 11.8% of all search queries.

Many high profile websites took a real beating and many online marking agencies were left blinking in horror at the un-doing of all their hard work.

How to Get Google Update-proof

Google keep all their updates thoroughly under wraps, which means that online marketing agencies can't really do much except wait and then work with what they're given once changes hit. Even if they do hint at what changes have been made, they usually don't give too much away...

Although it's impossible to know which changes are going to happen, there are ways to help protect your website against any negative impact that updates might have. As the motivation of Google updates is to weed out low-quality, spammy webpages, an ethical online marketing strategy which places quality at the forefront of its approach is vital. If your online marketing agency or in-house team implement this sort of plan, Google is unlikely to make changes that majorly (and negatively) affect your site rankings. By creating the kind of content and links that Google likes, you're less likely to be penalised by an update.

To run a good, ethical, high-quality online marketing strategy the basics need to be covered:

  • Good, unique, keyword-rich content,
  • A large, varied in-bound link profile, with lots of domains, a variety of anchor text and a mixture of dofollow and nofollow links,
  • A blog/news section will help keep the site seen as fresh,
  • Social integration and social media work will be important in the months/years to come.

If you want to succeed online, you’ll need to work with an ethical SEO agency that provides quality-driven online marketing services. As staunchly white-hat SEO and PPC experts, Liberty Marketing can help you weather Google updates and make a big splash on the web.

So many businesses gear the social media element of their online marketing strategy around a few select sites, but to get the most out of social media, it’s important to remember that there’s many more opportunities out there than those provided by Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn alone. Compared to these giants, other social media sites may pale in comparison, but they are certainly no minnows and should not be ignored. So what other social media sites should you be sure to consider when devising your online marketing strategy?

Scribd

Scribd is the world’s largest social publishing company. It makes it simple to share PDF files which can be viewed as blogs, websites or social networks. Scribd can be used by businesses to generate additional views of documents on the search engines. The added exposure your company and brand will receive is likely to impact favourable on your sales.

Google+

Google+ is still very much in its infancy and it is yet to be seen whether anything will really materialise from the much hyped network. As yet it has been largely ignored by businesses, but as with all things Google, its functionality is expected to catch up quickly with some of the more established social media sites in the industry. For now it cannot hurt to include Google+ in your social media strategy as it is another way to increase fans and build online exposure.

Tumblr

Up until recently, Tumblr was seen as the new kid on the block of the social media world and as such has featured in many a web savvy company’s online marketing strategy. However, lifespan for social media sites can be short, with more recent additions capturing much of Tumblr’s limelight. With over 33 million users, Tumblr is far from forgotten and is an excellent platform on which to share blogs. With the vast majority of Tumblr’s users under the age of 35, companies with products and services aimed at the younger generation would be daft not to consider it as an option well worth exploring.

Pinterest

The latest social media online marketing platform to step out of the shadows of the industry giants, Pinterest takes the form of an online pinboard which allows companies to share information about new products, allowing them to connect with potential customers. Having reached 10 million users in a short space of time, a branded Pinterest site is not for everyone, but well worth looking into if your product range suits Pinterest’s demographic.

Here at online marketing agency Liberty, we explore every avenue to maximise your social media marketing strategy, ensuring your targeted campaign receives the exposure it deserves.

Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has become a powerful platform for businesses looking to develop a closer relationship with customers as part of an effective, social media based online marketing campaign. With over 300 million users, Twitter helps even the smallest businesses create a big web buzz and connect with their demographic on an engaging, personal level.

Now, Twitter are masterminding new ways for small and medium businesses to promote themselves. After teaming up with American Express, Twitter are taking the online marketing potential of their platform to an entirely new level. Currently only available in the US, Twitter's new online advertising scheme is set to make the hop across the pond later this year.

The new online marketing scheme will make it even easier for businesses to grow their online visibility and boost their business using Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts products. To get the ball rolling American Express and Twitter are offering a fantastic introductory offer to small business owners and other parties looking for an even better way to promote themselves on Twitter. For the first 10,000 eligible businesses to sign up for the scheme, each will be rewarded with $100 of totally free advertising.

This exciting introductory offer is an opportunity for the social networking giant to show small-to-medium business owners just how easy and profitable their online marketing services can be. It is also a sign of things to come. Part of the appeal of Twitter is that it is free of the intrusive ads found on other social networking platforms, now Twitter are finding clever online marketing solutions which don't jeopardise the user experience or the streamlined features which make Twitter so compelling.

For smaller UK businesses looking to use online marketing and social media marketing to increase consumer awareness and maximise customer participation in their brand, these new Twitter online marketing services are set to arrive on our shores later this year, so keep your eyes peeled!

In the meantime, there are dozens of alternative online marketing services out there which can give your online business a real boost. To find out more about how to create an online presence and maximise your business on the web get in touch with the Liberty team today.

It seems that Google launches a new service or upgrade to its infrastructure every week! The latest addition to its services, Google+, has left many scratching their heads wondering what it’s all about - especially seeing as most people can't access it yet. That's why we have put together this brief guide to Google+ and what it means to businesses looking to market themselves on the social media networks...

What is Google+?

Google+ is the latest attempt by the search engine giants to create a social network designed to rival Facebook. Launched on June 28, 2011 as a private Beta, the project was led by Vic Gundotra, Google’s SVP of social media.

Google+ could have many possibilities especially for social media marketing. The network is a series of social products including:

  • Stream – A newsfeed service
  • Sparks – A recommendation engine
  • Hangouts – A video chat service
  • Huddle – A group newsfeed
  • Circles – Friend management service
  • Photos – Photo albums and photo sharing

Many more features such as Games and Questions are expected in the very near future.

So, why the name Google+? Google want Google+ to be an extension of the main Google search engine. It’s actually designed to be an enhancement of Google which may explain by they opted to alter the Google navbar to incorporate a link to a user’s Google+ profile. You can also see a new icon displaying the Google+ notifications the user has received. This is very much designed to emulate the Facebook notification service.

Social media marketing is big news on Facebook and Twitter, with many companies building branded pages and online communities in a bid to win more business and increase online exposure. Google+ looks set to be the next in line to get attention from big business and it could work out to be very lucrative for the search engine moguls.

Why Use Google+?

Okay, so Google have launched a social network. You may be wondering why you should use it. After all, you’ve got the Facebook and Twitter accounts. Why move to or use yet another social network?

The only way to find out how good a service is rated, is to ask the users themselves. When questioned why somebody should use Google+, users answered that Google is a much cleaner way to share data with friends, Google integrates well with Google’s cloud products such as Docs and Calendar, and the whole interface and sharing processes seem to work faster. Users also described Google+ as being a more grown up alternative to Facebook and Twitter allowing for more control and a more organic experience. Because each component is broken up into separate areas, this reduces the distracting features that you get with Facebook for instance. After all, does everybody want to know how many virtual sheep you just bought for your virtual farm?!

How to Start Using Google+

Right now, you need to be invited by a friend to join Google+. This restriction will be lifted soon and it’s best to have your invite sent to your Gmail account so that you can use this account to sign in to your Google+ area. Once you accept the invite, you will be asked to create your Google+ profile, entering personal information such as your name and date of birth. Setup is very straightforward and once you are set up you can start inviting your friends to Google+ too. You may choose to use Google+ to sort the wheat from the chaff – so to speak – building a network of your closest friends or work colleagues.

Google+ Circles – Categorising Your Friends

Understanding what Circles is all about is one of the most essential parts of mastering Google+. Instead of finding friends or following people, Google+ allows you more control over who can see your content.

You can choose to drag and drop friends into groups, for example, a family group, or a group for close friends. You can also create a Business circle and plonk your boss and colleagues in there for easy sorting and sharing. Once you have created your circles, you can get more granular controls by clicking on each circle and setting its individual settings. Circles allows you to share different things with different people and also gives those in your circle a better experience, as they don’t need to filter through so much content in order to see what they want.

Google+ Stream – Sharing Data

Google+ Stream is very easy to get the hang of especially if you’re already a Facebook user. It’s really just a newsfeed that you share with your circles. You can choose to share anything from a status update to a video or photo.  

The differences between Google+ Stream and Facebook are few. The main difference is that instead of a ‘like’ button you can choose to ‘+1’ a post or photo.  Status updates are also very similar to the Facebook updates.

Google+ Sparks

If you are stuck as to what to share on Google+ first then Sparks will lend a hand! This content recommendation engine finds the most interesting and relevant articles and videos across a wide range of subjects and genres. If you can find it online then Spark can reference it and find the latest information on your chosen topic.

Google provides an automated list of subjects, but you can customise this as you wish, ensuring that Sparks only retrieves the data that you want to see. Spark content can also be shared with your Circles.

Google+ Hangouts

If Google+ is to have one killer feature then Hangouts may just be it. This interesting twist on the conventional group video chat feature has received a very positive response from the current Google+ community.

You click on the ‘Start a hangout’ button and invite friends to ‘hangout’ with you online and to join a live video stream. Other friends will also see your open hangout and choose to join in if they wish. It’s a great way for up to ten people to chat via video link and because it’s not available on Facebook, this could be the one feature that attracts the masses to Google+.

Photos

Google+ also includes a fully-fledged feature for photos and photo albums. Powered by Google’s Picasa (as you would expect), Photos allows you to display photos uploaded by friends, share your photos, and to organise them into albums. You can also view photos in slideshow format and tag yourself or a friend in any photos you can both access. You can also drill down to other information such as what type of camera was used to take the snap.

Google+ and social media marketing

With its clean interface and sharing features, Google+ is great news for those wishing to promote their business through social media marketing. Google+ keeps some of the best features of Facebook, but also allows users to filter out unwanted information and to tailor news feeds to their exact needs. This means information overload is a thing of the past and that companies can design their Google+ pages and campaigns to drive clear messages to those interested in specific services and products.

But before you start to build your company’s Google+ page it’s worth knowing that Google is going to release a dedicated Google+ platform for businesses. This will take some time to build, but is set to have some interesting and useful features. This feature is expected to be released in Beta format in the next few weeks.

As with any social media platform, the social media marketing opportunities are many and it’s only a matter of time before companies large and small start to make use of Google’s new communication and sharing medium. Once the communities start to grow and the service gains momentum, there’s no telling how big Google+ may become. But one thing’s for sure, with the Google name attached, it’s sure to be a threat to Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter, the popular micro-blog, will soon be introducing an advertising system that allows businesses to place sponsored messages amongst Twitter search results.

Following the very profitable example that Google set with its AdWords system, Twitter will allow third-party advertisers to buy their way into the search results, via a 140 character advert.

According to an article on All Things Digital, from the Wall Street Journal, the social media website will launch the new advertising platform within the first half of 2010.

The report states that “Ads will be tied to Twitter searches, in the same way that Google's original ads were. So a search for, say, 'laptop', may generate an ad for Dell. The ads will only show up in search results, which means users who don't search for something won't see them in their regular Twitterstreams.”

Initially, the advertising will be sold through agencies, while Twitter works on creating a self-serving model. Eventually, the plan is one where anyone with a website can purchase an ad, just like they can on AdWords.

Twitter has long sought a revenue model, especially since becoming one of the most popular websites on the web. Over 50 million tweets are being written every day, yet the business has received criticism as it has been unable to create a profit from this popularity. It is no surprise that they turned to Google for inspiration, as the majority of the multi-billion-dollar revenue that the search engine receives is from the sponsored listings served through its AdWords system.

A few days ago, Google announced that they would be launching their new social media service: Google Buzz. It’s currently being rolled out across the world, with some users still waiting to receive full access to the service, while others have already been able to try it out.

How does it differ to other social media platforms?

Google has worked hard to differentiate Buzz from other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which it does in a few different ways:

1. Integration with email

Google has integrated its successful email feature Gmail into Buzz, giving it an advantage over even the most popular social media platforms, whose email functions – if they have them – tend to be poor. Google is confident that Buzz users will see the advantage of not having to log into both a social media platform and separate email account.

2. Fast, full screen photo presentation

Buzz offers a photo viewing feature, which allows its users to view large, high quality photos that fill the screen and can be scrolled through at a high speed.

3. Buzz places high emphasis on location

Google believes that location is an important indicator of how relevant information is to you. Buzz can work out your location and is even able to ascertain the name of the building you are in.

4. Only shows posts which will interest you

Google has used it extensive knowledge of algorithms to create Buzz and shows this off by claiming that it will filter out posts that are not of interest to you – even if they are by your contacts – and vice versa: interesting posts by people you don’t already know. Then, depending on which tidbits you choose to approve or hide, its algorithm will attempt to gear more relevant and interesting results your way, personalised to your tastes.

Can it rival Facebook and Twitter?

What’s interesting is Buzz’s integration of other social media platforms, including Flickr and Twitter, but not with Facebook. Perhaps a deal is in the pipeline between the two, but until then it almost suggests that Google is content to live in harmony with Twitter (after all, Google recently paid $25m to index Twitter’s content), but with Buzz containing similar features to Facebook, it seems like Buzz’s main intention is to topple the current social media king.

It’s no secret that Facebook is currently dominating the social media market, with an official blog post on the site recently reporting that it had reached over 400 million users. While a completely fresh and unknown social media platform may struggle to compete with such a giant already in place, Google’s advantage is in its brand, which is already popular and established in almost every other aspect of the Internet - if anyone is going to compete with Facebook and Twitter, it’s going to be Google.

What should businesses do?

It’s too soon to tell whether Google’s new venture will take the world by storm or end up as a failed attempt, but at the very least, it’s certainly worth taking a look at and registering a profile, even if simply to get to grips with the interface and reserve your company name. For those who already have a Gmail account, getting started is easy, with current contacts automatically becoming friends/followers and therefore eliminating the registration process - not every social media site can claim to start off with millions of users raring to go.

Significant results have emerged from a nationwide survey which concluded that the majority of journalists now use social media as an essential source for finding information. The survey, conducted by Cision and Don Bates of The George Washington University, stressed that although PR firms are still used to verify and expand on information, social media sites are the first point of call for journalists who are researching articles or uncovering stories.

These findings will have major implications for many companies’ current PR strategies. Of the journalists questioned, 65% use social media sites including Facebook and Linkedin as part of their research process with a further 89% using blogs to obtain information. Micro blogging sites were also found to be popular among journalists with 51% consulting twitter when conducting research.

The use of social media is widespread throughout the profession, the survey found that those journalists who had greater experience (20 or more years) relied on blogs almost as much as those with fewer years experience (under 9 years) with only a 2% difference between the two groups. Of the journalists questioned 71% claimed to use the web ‘far more’ than they did five years ago when writing an article.

If your business wants to be successful when engaging in public relations then you must ensure that your firm or your PR agency is effectively using social media marketing techniques and consider it an imperative part of all PR work.

Google is showing a growing fondness of social media sites, Twitter in particular. Pages from the micro-blogging site are being displayed higher and given more respect than ever before. Twitter is now a viable way for businesses to place their brand at the top of the search engines, but only if they treat the micro-blogging site with the same SEO rules that are commonplace in the rest of the web marketing world, namely keywords and links.
 
Most of these tips are based on keywords use and how to maximise your twitter account for your main keywords. Doing so will help it rank in the search results independently of your main website. Remember, Twitter uses the nofollow attribute on its out-bound links so they do not help with the SEO of your main site. Twitter shouldn't be used as a way of getting lots of free links to your site, but as a way of finding traffic and directing it there instead.
 
Here's five quick SEO tips to bear in mind when using Twitter:
 
1. Use keywords in your account name
 
If possible, then keywords should be included within the Twitter account name. This is easier said than done as with only 15 characters to choose from and most of the popular word combinations taken, it can be hard to select something that fits and is available. Take a look on the Google Keyword Tool to see what people are searching for and try to pick keywords which  receive a fair amount of searches each month. Include one or two of these in your account name and you are already off to a strong start.
 
2. Make the most of your bio
 
Choose a handful of your most important keywords and make sure they are included within the Twitter biography section. You have 160 characters so can construct a nice meaningful, keyword-rich sentence or two, which the search engines will be sure to look at when evaluating the page.
 
3. Always tweet with your keywords in mind
 
When posting ("tweeting") messages into your Twitter account, try and include your main keywords at the start. It is important to place them here as only the first 40 characters or so are displayed within the search engine results. Remember that even though we are trying to grab the attention of Google, Yahoo! and Bing, it will be humans that eventually read the content, so make sure that in addition to your keywords, each tweet contains a valuable message that will draw people back to your main site.
 
4. Follow people from within your industry
 
An important factor in SEO is relevancy between web-pages. If there are Twitter accounts that are already well respected by the search engines for a topic that matches yours then it will be worthwhile following them. Search engines will spot the link and see that the pages are related, something they will take into consideration when deciding where to place your account within their index.
 
5. Now go tell the world
 
Just like with your website, an important factor in the ranking of a Twitter account is the quality, and quantity, of the links pointing towards it. Can you add some links to your Twitter account to give it a healthy boost up the search engines? Place a link to it from your website or your company blog. Add a link from the signature or profile page of a business forum you contribute to. Seek out some Twitter directories and list your account amongst them.

Google has announced a big change to its web search, which it plans to launch very soon. Codenamed “Caffeine”, Google hopes the alterations will improve its search engine in every aspect, making it faster, provide more relevant results and index more sites. A test version has already been unveiled here; allowing webmasters to try it out and compare the differences with the current search, something Google has never done before.

Whilst the look and feel of it are very familiar, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s anti-spam team, has given assurances that the updates are strictly “under the hood” and that the differences in the search results will be subtle, maybe even unnoticeable to some users. That said, with Google also claiming that this is a change to the search engine’s architecture and infrastructure, it’s a bit of a bigger deal than one of their regular algorithm changes.

They’re right about the subtlety. Many people who have tested it (ourselves included) have only noticed minor differences to the results. However what’s interesting to note is that social media websites such as FriendFeed, Facebook and Twitter have been given a big push, featuring much higher for results in the new version.

This could be a big sign for businesses to start considering social media in their future online marketing practices. Many companies have already taken advantage of this increasingly-popular online phenomenon, having created Facebook Pages or set up profiles on Twitter. Also known as mini-sites, they might not be as important as a company’s official website but social media marketing can certainly still be implemented to promote and raise awareness of a company.

After all, Search Engine Optimisation is not only about raising the profile of a business solely through its website, but rather through their entire online presence. In other words, social media platforms can be another means of finding a business, and given that their growing popularity is also being highlighted in Google’s latest evolutionary step, your company could be found more than once through the search engines: not just directly through the official site but also via the most popular social media websites.