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Posted by on Apr 18, 2017 in Social Media

How Social Media Algorithms Impact Your Digital Presence

When you unlock your cell phone and scroll through your favorite social media apps, you are likely to notice those social media apps are starting to look a little … similar.

As social media mega companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have evolved, they’ve started to borrow product ideas from each other in the hope of building an all-in-one experience. Although these apps are beginning to show great similarity, the algorithm behind each platform is truly unique.

What is a platform algorithm, why are they here?

Algorithms are certainly becoming gatekeepers that consumers have grown to love, while brands have found them to be a pain. Prior to social media algorithms, posts on social platforms were created equally and the only factor to seeing a post was when it was posted. Every post had the same chance of getting in front of followers regardless of company size.

However, as the number of accounts on each platform began to grow, what once seemed like a few vehicles on a popular digital content expressway turned into rush hour on a congested two-lane highway. To help traffic flow, social platforms began implementing strategic formulas of code to utilize information dedicated to pages and content you have interacted with. Through these formulas (algorithm), users are now fed content that the social platforms have deemed “relevant” to your lifestyle.

Why does each platform have a unique algorithm?

On social media, users tend to over share personal content that holds little relevance to the general population. Each algorithm uses unique engagement factors (Facebook Reactions, Twitter RTs, Instagram’s saved feature, etc.) to leverage their unique forms of engagement to help lift meaningful content above less relevant content.

How do algorithms help consumers?

If each algorithm works to its potential, consumers are fed content tailored specifically to them. Based upon on how they have reacted to past content, each platform is able to evangelize which content is most meaningful to its audience.

How do algorithms work?

When a piece of content is published on a social platform, it is shown to a small group of your followers. From there, the platform in which you posted will try to mathematically analyze the engagement the content is receiving, and will receive in the future.

When Facebook first released the reaction button feature, many were left curious to know how this would affect the algorithm. Would certain buttons carry more clout than others, if it all? And was the introduction of reactions a way to further decide which content should be shared with an individual?

Facebook Reactions + Labels

(Image Source: Facebook Brand Resource Center)

Tips to leverage and understand algorithms:

1.) Understand that high quality content can be seen at any time

Since all popular social platforms have algorithms built into their content distribution, thinking you need to post at a certain time everyday isn’t as critical. The timing of responding to comments and engagement is important in the essence that higher response times can help nurture relationships and show platforms that you are an active contributor. Each social platform is finding ways to show tailored content when you return to the app.

For example: When scrolling through the Twitter app, your scrolling will cross the “in case you missed it” section of tweets where the accounts you engage with most will appear.

Instagram stories also shows a similar dynamic by showing content from engaging accounts first, instead of timing.

2.) Keep an eye on the destination URLs you are linking to

Platforms have started to track which URLs you are linking to in your call to action. To avoid any potential algorithm hazards for repetition, be sure to direct links to different pages on your site.

3.) Take advantage of new platform features

The purpose of social media posting is to take advantage of engagements with followers. As new features are introduced, higher quality of content production and guest experience soon follow. It is crucial to experiment with new features within social platforms. In the past, utilizing features can result in boosted placement within the algorithm. When Instagram rolled out the ability to share a carousel of content, brands were given the ability to share more content and further enhance potential experience in a streamlined fashion.

For example: Properties looking to expand the awareness of their onsite dining restaurants were previously forced to create multiple posts which often resulted in an inconsistent post. Thanks to the carousel feature, properties can create a post highlighting their outlets while sharing multiple images within one post. Users who view the post are being served more content in less posting.

4.) Create content that consumers will react to

Not too long ago, Facebook introduced the reaction tool bar. What seemed like a clever way to show your reaction to a piece of content has become a new factor within the algorithm. Facebook has been secretly tracking user reactions to content and tailoring each newsfeed to accommodate content that will further enhance your experience. Have you noticed that pieces of content you react to negatively don’t seem to enter your newsfeed? That’s because Facebook wants to bring more positive engagement.

Please note: If you react negatively to a piece of content, and comment, Facebook is likely to share similar topics. This strategy is not to make your experience less positive, but instead encourage further engagement on the platform.

Meaning: Reactions alone can affect your newsfeed. Reactions + Comments will be given a boost in awareness and likely will appear more frequently.

5.) Do not ask for engagement

We have all seen contests that ask you to share a piece of content and comment on the page. Facebook and Twitter have acquired AI startups to target accounts that ask users to share or comment. Every algorithm has been built with a series of punishing consequences for soliciting engagement. If you would like to encourage follower engagement, be sure to create copy that asks a meaningful question and does not clearly note a sweepstakes or contest.

Digital Services is dedicated to better understanding social algorithms as platforms evolve. We are excited to learn more about how each platform leverages your favorite pieces of content, and are excited to share these lessons with you in the future.

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Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 in All Matters SEO, Social Media

Everything WeChat

Ever wonder what Chinese consumers use as their social media platform? Well, it is not Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

As of January 2017, there are over 846 million active WeChat users, making WeChat the 4th most popular mobile app in the world and 2nd most popular in China.

So what exactly is WeChat? WeChat is a free instant messaging application that provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, sharing of photographs and videos, as well as location sharing.

WeChat Features

  • Moments, a blend of Facebook and Twitter, is WeChat’s main social media feature. It allows you to maintain a user profile where you can post photos and status updates. One of the main selling points of WeChat is that it offers users an enhanced privacy experience where you can control which of your friends can see what you like and comment without having to block the user.
  • Heat map allows the Chinese government to track irregular assemblies of people to determine if more security is needed. Users can also use this map to determine when they should visit a certain location based on the crowd and how busy it is.
  • WeChat wallet is a convenient, secure and efficient  tool that allows users to pay via their phone. Over half of WeChat’s users have linked multiple bank cards to the app. This is a huge win because China is known for fraud and cyber security issues. Like Venmo and Facebook Messenger, WeChat allows you to pay your friends while texting.
  • WeChat also allows you to generate your own personalized QR code. This feature allows you to transfer money to people you are not friends with by simply scanning the code off your phone.
  • Shake is another feature that WeChat offers that allows you to meet new people. You can simply shake your phone and if someone is in the same area shaking their phone, their profile will pop up and you can send him or her a greeting.
  • In China, a red envelope or red packet is known as a symbolic monetary gift which is given during holidays or special occasions. The color red symbolizes good luck and is a symbol to ward off evil spirits. During the Chinese New Year of 2016, 8 billion payments occurred via WeChat.

Types of WeChat Official Accounts

There are three different types of official WeChat accounts:

  1. Subscription Accounts are commonly used for daily news and broadcasts. They allow businesses to send one message per day to their followers. However, users can only access the content by accessing a subscription subfolder.
  2. Compared to a subscription account, Service Accounts will offer advanced features and focus on providing services instead of message broadcasts. Followers will receive push notifications from the businesses once a week and businesses can build their own applications within a Service Account.
  3. Enterprise Accounts, also known as Corporate Accounts, are an enhanced version of how Western businesses use platforms like Slack. Companies can set up private group chats, share memos, and project management systems within the account.

International vs. Mainland China

Due to China’s business requirements, WeChat has differentiated the benefits of WeChat accounts between mainland China and the rest of the globe. If a business has a Chinese phone number, the business qualifies for a Mainland China WeChat Official Account. This allows users all around the world to access the business’s official account. On the other hand, if the business is outside of mainland China and owns an international account, then only non-China users can access the international account.

Currently, only mainland China registered businesses can have their WeChat accounts verified. There are no differences between an unverified and a verified subscription account. The main disadvantage of an unverified service account is that the business does not have access advanced features.

Mini Programs

In the next few years, WeChat’s main focus will be on mini programs. Essentially, this feature follows a “one app rule them all” concept where users can use an app just by scanning the QR codes or searching on WeChat. Even though there are no official WeChat app stores, mini programs are directly competing against the Apple Store and Google Play App Store.

WeChat Mini Program

(Image Source: Chozan)

There are a couple main benefits to mini programs:

  • Using an app within WeChat allows a user to skip the registration process because his/her personal and payment information is already available on WeChat. Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, will support WeChat to protect the customer’s information. With a secured wallet, users are more willing to purchase via mobile app, therefore will increase the mobile spend in the future.
  • Only light apps, simplified applications, are allowed on mini programs. Therefore, the apps will be fast and easy to use. On top of that, users are more willing to try new apps as the apps take up less space on a smartphone.

As WeChat continues to grow in China, companies around the world are incorporating this app as part of their marketing campaigns. The future of WeChat remains as a leader in mobile apps and technology.

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Posted by on Mar 7, 2017 in Social Media

The Evolution of the Content You Click On

Prior to social media, getting a variety of opinions on a topic required multiple trips to various websites. For example, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first premiered, getting film reviews was no easy task. I remember having to jump to the New York Times, Washington Post and a few other sites just to get an opinion on whether or not to see the movie.

Prior to popular social sharing platforms, experience online was what I refer to as “fueled by boredom.” Previously, there wasn’t an effective way to share content. At work when a coworker would find an entertaining video, they would call over colleagues to share it in the moment. There was not yet a way to quickly share content with a large group of friends while simultaneously communicating much like today’s social media feed.

Covering a Wall with Bumper Stickers

Thanks to a multitude of social media channels, consumers have become evangelists for the brands and topics they share on social media. What was once an avenue to share what you ate for dinner on Twitter, has now become an endorsement for the latest hashtag, with each post becoming a modern day bumper sticker of endorsement.

Personalities Over Personalized Websites

In 2016, nearly every social platform found its way to Moz top 500 domains further proving that brands need to pay attention to how they are positioned on each social platform. In many cases, I prefer to use Facebook to find information rather than the brand’s official website. But what tempts me to click the like or follow button to continuously receive content? Personality.

Personality can be shown in a few different ways. On Twitter, brands who continuously respond to playful tweets (Cinnabon, Dominos, Taco Bell) are notorious for having an engaging audience. Much of this can be attributed to the content being more than just a quick response for an inquiry. But what if your brand wants to create content that redefines the laws of virility with every post?

In late 2015, I experienced a perfect example of Buzzfeed using personality to build their audience on social media while never needing to visit their website. Buzzfeed has been a long time powerhouse for content that drove traffic to their physical website. That was until they introduced the world to freshman personality, Matt Bellassai, through a weekly segment called Wine About It. Through this weekly segment, Matt would spend time talking about his issues with a certain topic, while casually enjoying a bottle of wine. In most cases his issues were highly relatable, enticing users to share with friends (who had not yet been introduced to Buzzfeed). Through the sharing, Buzzfeed was able to create communication within their Facebook while increasing exposure.

Growing a Personality as a Brand and the Rise of the Fan Group

Not long after generating a proven track record of success with Wine About It on Buzzfeed’s social channels, Matt Bellassai left his Buzzfeed video success to start his own brand. For many this came as a huge surprise as Buzzfeed boasts the right amount of exposure not only on Facebook (number 1 ranking domain on the Internet) but also the physical Buzzfeed website presence (234th ranking domain on the Internet). Many were also left asking, will this momentum continue with a smaller audience?

What made Matt’s transition possible is a fraction of Buzzfeed’s followers being what I consider to be a “fan group.” These small, passionate fan groups are often smaller subsets which have built a reputation of not only sharing content on their social platforms, but also specifically target sharing relatable content. For example, if you were to see a piece of content that triggers a relatable moment, you are likely to share the moment by tagging a friend/follower on a platform. In addition to displaying the share on a social network, this occurrence is also creating a targeted notification to users the content has been shared with. Meaning, fan groups are now helping brands/personalities extend relatable moments.

The Rise of the Fan Group Model

A variety of digital brands have already started to action on creating content for a “fan group” under a paid model. Popular anime streaming community, Crunchyroll, has implemented a paid subscription based model (roughly $7/month). It is designed for dedicated fans of anime and manga storytelling by leveraging a vertical approach. Crunchyroll has utilized fan groups to dive deep into a specific niche audience to generate revenue. From there, slowly expand its following by providing extras like news, forums, e-commerce, live events and manga, all on a very niche website with a large percentage of subscribers under the age of 35.

Popular subscription based sites like Netflix, Hulu and Crunchyroll have seen great success with charging a small fee for subscriptions. Does this mean that subscriptions for niche audiences for nearly $40 a month aren’t possible? Tech news site The Information has been making a strong case for higher priced subscriptions with a goal of appealing to business professionals. Through a subscription to The Information, subscribers are given deep analytic reports and written articles for tech professionals, while still reaching a broader pool of entrepreneurs or people who don’t pay for content today, but may be willing to do so. Again, the target of tech professionals willing to spend money for news could be barren. However, The Information has shown multiple cases for subscriptions as a business experience to for businesses that allow for subscription based budgets.

 Relating to your Fan Group

Developing a fan group can be difficult at times. However, the beauty of passionate fan groups is that through effective messaging, brands that make content for a specific group will often find the greatest engagement. In many cases, brands initially believe that in order to gain any traction, all content must appeal to the masses. But actually, starting small (with fan groups) and through a snowball effect, could generate the greatest reward. If you were to make a piece of content, instead of trying to attract an entire country, try making it for a smaller area (like a city or state).

If you were to create a piece of content about a specific area, you are likely to appeal to a fan group of some kind. For example, if a hotel in Chicago was to create a “Top Ten Local Pizza Pies,” the odds of finding a fan group for local pizza is highly likely. Local pizza experts are likely to read the article, and share a memory with their network friends for nostalgia purposes. In most cases, within the share, will be a direct tag of fellow friends.

Crafting for the Click     

When creating content, please be advised that your content can fall into two content categories: tempting to click and tempting to share.

Users’ experience with tempting to click content is often in the form of advertisements for clothing sales or content described as “click bait.” Content of this category rarely generates much publicity from consumers, due to lack of interest in sharing with others. I have found a great way to test if content falls into this category, is by applying Betteridge’s Law. This law states that all headlines with questions can be answered “no.” To try for yourself, read an article that asks a question in the headline, if after reading the article, the answer is no, you have likely digested tempting to click content.

Tempting to share content is often shared and endorsed across social accounts are a noteworthy article. By sharing these articles, your post becomes a modern day bumper sticker showing that you endorse the given viewpoint on a topic.

Personal vs. Social Clicks on Content

When creating content, it is important to be aware of whether your content will generate a personal click, social click or both (depending on the topic). To illustrate types of clicks, you can apply the diagram below.

Two Types of Clicks

(Image Source: Ryan Sanecki)

Content that appeals to your guilty pleasures will often generate a personal click. These clicks tend to remain private with consumers and are not shared with their followers. Certain shopping experiences can also fall into this category, depending on the item. Someone who recently bought a new appliance might not feel the need to share their new purchase with the world. With the addition of Facebook’s Recommendation feature, shopping can often position itself into a social click which will generate engagement.

Social clicks tend to be the driving force for fan group content. Brands that appeal to specific cultural experiences can often generate a personal click, which can transition into a social click. Using the pizza pie example from before, a reader might utilize a personal click to check nutritional information and leverage a social click for a pizza buying rewards program. Nostalgia has been a long time catalyst for consumers and continues to show growth. Causes often create an emotional appeal and generate sharable clicks on a much greater level than nostalgia in that emotional connections are highly relatable where as nostalgic experiences are more exclusive.

The Next Step

It is important to understand that fan groups are not built overnight. When creating content on social media, create content that can resonate with others and can be related to specific cultural experiences.

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Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in Conference Recaps, Social Media

State of Search – Social Takeaways

Since accepting a role within Digital Services, I have experienced varying perspectives on search. From weekly videos of Rand Fishkin from MOZ, to weekly calls with other teams at Marriott. Much like every winter snowflake, each perspective is slightly unique compared to the next. That is why I didn’t hesitate when asked to attend State of Search’s 3rd Annual marketing conference in sunny Dallas, Texas.

State of Search Conference

(Image Source: State of Search)

As I stepped off the plane at Dallas Love Field Airport for the conference, I had three questions lingering in my notebook, all of which were I answered during my trip.

1.) Is social media a direct ranking factor in search?

Mark Traphagen State of Search 2016

(Image Source: State of Search)

To find the answer to this question, I sought out Mark Traphagen’s presentation from Stone Temple Consulting. Through his presentation of “Social Media & SEO: Separating Myth from Fact,” Mark leveraged video interviews from SEO Power Players. A video with Google’s Former Engineer, Matt Cutts, concluded that Google constantly monitors how they view social media pages, specifically Facebook and Twitter. In a later video, Matt Cutts goes on to say, “Sites that get lots of shares are so good, they likely also earn signals that do affect rankings, such as links.”

Google has been slowly indexing tweets for quite some time, and many believe the search engine favors higher authority users. Since the digital landscape has grown to an endless field, complete indexing will not be possible overnight (or any time soon). This does not mean brands with small followings should think any less of social media in search, it simply means that instead of being on social specifically for search rankings, use this space to build your brand and drive qualified traffic.

2.) How can I help others create more engaging content?

For any problem or question I have, the first place I visit is YouTube. From installing a new SSD on my MacBook, to jumping my car battery, YouTube has never let me down. With this in mind, I decided a presentation from former YouTube star Deandre Upshaw was going to be a presentation I wasn’t going to miss.

In “Creating Video Content that People Will Actually Want to Watch,” DeAndre was quick to point out that for moving content, the future continues to function in 60 second segments. This doesn’t mean each piece of moving content should be in this proximity, it means the total content digestion should take no longer than 60 seconds. On episodic platforms like Snapchat and Instagram stories, profiles can provide small segments that result in no more than 60 seconds of content.

The importance of having a stable shot is a given, but the importance of clear lighting and audio are proving be a heavier weighted factor. If you were to search for the first videos of the current viral phenomenon, you are likely to find poor audio or bad lighting. There is a constant desire to be an innovator and have your video posted first, but it usually results in violating the importance of lighting, audio or stability.

3.) Where should I go for dinner?

Before each conference Digital Services attends, we reach out to the team for suggestions of activities after the conference concludes for the night. In addition to asking my Digital Service coworkers, I enlisted the help of the Marriott Traveler website for all necessary recommendations.

Although State of Search had a fun filled schedule intricately planned, I found myself with a final night of dinner unaccounted for. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to get a recommendation from Marriott Traveler’s website. After a quick conversation with my coworker who also attended the conference and a few scrolls on our smartphones, we found ourselves in a trendy area of Dallas with sidewalk lined boutiques and quaint restaurants. Among the restaurants was “the Porch” which Traveler highlighted with a heading “Graze Over Modern, Moderately Priced Meals.” From the candle lit tables to the pristine food presentation, Marriott Traveler had delivered a great recommendation and perspective for a first time Dallas visitor. My answer for navigating new cities was quickly answered for future occasions.

The Porch, Dallas Texas

(Image Source: Ryan Sanecki)

Working in the digital emporium, we are bombarded with a variety of opinions and perspectives to answer various questions. With the opportunity to continue to grow my digital knowledge at conferences and trainings, I look forward to sharing my perspective on further digital growth.

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Posted by on Dec 22, 2016 in Announcements, Social Media

Using Social in a Different Way

Make location the heart of your marketing with geofencing. What is geofencing you ask? Picture an invisible line surrounding a hotel or a storefront, where you can capture public User Generated Content* posted within the set boundary. This enables hotels and brands to identify with customers on property and engage with them in real time. Geofencing makes it easier to find, collect and engage with user generated content, without requiring the user to use a hashtags or mentions. With geofencing, you can tell who is geographically in the hotel. Engagement as well as surprise and delights from social posts are designed to make the customer feel special, not spied on. Various marketing teams throughout Marriott have found people are delighted to have brands and hotels engage, which in turn amplifies our company.

Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hyper Image

(Image Source: Shawn Paley)

How businesses can use geofencing technology to benefit their social media strategy:

1.) Engagement

Have real time conversation with guests, via their public social channels. When leaving a personalized comment on a guest’s picture, the user will often come back with positive feedback about the hotel. As a result, all of their network can see this comment.  The engagement is not supposed to be sales orientated or pushing an offer, rather elevating the experience and forming a personal relationship with guests.

Example: When a guest posts a picture of a property, engage with a welcome post to spark conversation and spread excitement among the user and their friends.

CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa Hyper Image

(Image Source: Shawn Paley)

2.) Content

JW Marriott Austin Hyper

(Image Source: Shawn Paley)

After requesting permission for rights and the user approves, brands and hotels are able to utilize user’s UGC in future uses for their website, social channels and marketing collateral. When users are looking at images, they resonate better with UGC vs. stock photography. When UGC is repurposed in social media content and advertising, UGC yields 88% more engagement on social and 25% higher ad performance.

3.) Control Reputation management

Research is being conducted on the connection between engagement on social and Trip Advisor/other review platforms. As of now, marketing teams throughout Marriott have seen positive reviews result in return on engagement from personalized and additive conversation.Hyper Engagement Example

(Image Source: Shawn Paley)

4.) Influencer identification

Determine which individuals have an engaged audience, and recognize them with surprise and delight moments. In return, influencers often share hotel’s personalized treatment with their following via social channels, which leads to increased awareness about your property.

Example: The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong team surprised an influencer with 16,000 followers to thank her for capturing and sharing highlights from her stay.

Hyper In-person Engagement Example

(Image Source: Shawn Paley)

5.) Listen to users on their platforms

The benefit of this is brands and hotels are able to see what people are saying organically on their own channels. They aren’t asking customers to fill out a survey or go out of their way to hear their thoughts.

6.) Be involved in special moments

Make someone’s special moment even better by engaging in the event, or sending surprise and delights for the special occasion. Whether it’s a birthday, engagement or anniversary, hotels and brands are able to be involved in it. In addition to engaging in the post, the hotel can send a surprise and delight selection of chocolate, or a bottle of champagne to amplify the guests’ special moment.

Hyper Wedding Proposal Example

(Image Source: Shawn Paley)

Everyday more than 300,000 guests post from Marriott International properties. Previously, engaging with fans on location has been a challenge, and hotels miss the opportunities to engage with fans while experiencing Marriott hotels. HYP3R is a geofencing platform that enables hotels to identify everything that is shared from their location and engage with their customers at specific locations on a personal level, in real time. HYP3R has an easy and efficient user interface which allows users to easily access a variety of features which include: utilizing insights and analytics, requesting permission and collecting UGC in an assets bin, setting up alerts for certain key words (engagement, wedding, anniversary, etc) and identifying top influencers and collectively view their information and follower base.

*User-generated content (UGC) is defined by Wikipedia as, “any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcast, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements, and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites.”

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