Order and organization are on trend. Have you noticed this? Marie Kondo and her organization tips are all the rage. People want to get a handle on life by getting their personal “stuff” in order; However, order and organization are no less important for business marketing. This has always been true, a consistent marketing message throughout all forms of marketing and advertising has always been a characteristic of a successful marketing strategy, but it is even truer today now that promotion is fragmented among a wider array of channels such as print, audio, video, and social media.
The danger, especially when the responsibility for each channel is farmed out to a different person, is that the message can become confused and incoherent. What is more, the right hand might not know what the left is doing.
Below are five tips for keeping your social media marketing efforts organized and on point.
Tip #1: Write Out a Plan Ahead of Time
Every marketing campaign has a desired end. In order for your social media marketing (and all marketing efforts) to work towards achieving that end, you have to first define what that end is. Social media should not be thrown out just off the cuff. Each of the stage of the development of your overall marketing plan for your business should be in the back of your mind when crafting your social media posts. How does this post reflect the overall mission and culture of your business? What aspect of the problem that your business solves illustrate? Which demographic group does this post speak to?
Often you will see a business assign social media responsibilities to administrative staff or an intern. It’s perfectly fine to give the task of the posting or scheduling of those updates; however, even in updating and monitoring social media, it is important that the responsible person is familiar with your companies overall mission and values.
My recommendation is to not only have your written corporate mission statement, business branding guidelines, and a defined marketing plan, but to also write out your marketing plan specifically for social media ahead of time.
I know, I know . . . That sounds like so much work! Yes, it is. But if you’re going to promote your business online, make it worth your time.
Having a framework for your social media updates removes uncertainty about the types of things that should be posted and ensures that all channels of your business’s promotion have a consistent message.
Tip #2: Have Consistent Categorization for Creative Elements
My second tip is to have a consistent categorization for all of your creative elements that go into creating your social media posts. There are a couple of aspects to this. The first are the elements themselves. There have been so many times when in reviewing a new client’s existing social media presence that I’ve asked if they still have a particular image or video element that is used in an existing image or video and they aren’t sure if they have it or where it came from. If a particular creative asset was designed or developed by a third party agency, you might not have that particular element; however, make a note of where that asset came from.
For example, keep a record of who created a video, when it was designed, how much it cost, and the formats available. If you have raw footage, write that down as well.
If you are creating social media graphics using images from stock photo sites, keep a record of your business membership details for each site as well as the licensing details. For example, there are a number of stock photo sites that have free images, but the licensing agreement for those images may vary from photographer to photographer, even on the same site. Even when you pay for royalty free images, there are often restrictions on types of use.
My recommendation is to create a document to record the details for your digital assets with all of these details.
But maybe you’ve taken images at your place of business. We all know that the best marketing for any business is happy customers; however, if you have photos of customers, make sure that you also have their permission to use that image in your marketing and media. This means getting a model release signed. These releases should be kept on file in your digital assets documentation.
(I am not an attorney. If you want a legal opinion, please consult your attorney. My opinion as a marketing consultant is that a social media post is not worth getting into a legal battle no matter how cute the picture.)
The other issue related to photos taken at your business is the question of who took them and who owns the copyright. The person who creates the work, in this case the photographer, owns exclusive rights to that work.
If an employee took them, this would most likely be considered “work made for hire” and you, as the employer would own the copyright. However, this depends on the terms of the employment contract. If you bring in someone on a contract basis, unless you have a written agreement specifically stating that the resulting images will be considered “work made for hire,” the copyright is owned by the photographer.
Again, I am not an attorney. Please consult a legal advisor and research your own specific situation. My advice to you is that copyright and licensing of digital assets is important . . . important enough to have a system for tracking the elements you invest in.
To recap, when you look at the variety of images and videos that you have posted online, each of those images and design elements could have a different copyright and usage terms behind them. Your social media manager should have a handle on how those items can be used.
Tip #3: Spell Out Your Creative Process
Henry Ford was known for his Model T’s, but the key to his success was his process. There are many uses for creative elements online: images in articles; social media images for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram; ads for social media, background images on videos, the list goes on and on.
Maybe you wrote an article with an image used as an illustratio and decide you want to use it as part of a Facebook ad. Those two uses will require a different size. Then a few months later, you decide to share it on Twitter, where the ideal size is a different dimension yet again. Luckily, you have categorized your digital elements and know right where to find that image, but have to recreate the styling of the original image to match the other two elements that you already created.
The fastest and easiest easiest way to create multiple version of a particular design is when you first design it. Make a spreadsheet with a column for each format or dimension a social media graphic that you use. Create templates or actions in Photoshop to quickly generate the base file. After the initial design is completed for one of the social media networks, that design can be copied over to the different formats and adjusted.
I’ll give you an example using one of our projects. When an article is published, we create the following images.
- The featured image for the article with a naming format of title_f
- The image sized for Instagram (title_bl)
- An Instagram image with a prompt to read the article (title_i)
- An image sized for Instagram or Facebook stories (title_story)
- An Image formatted for Twitter (title_tw)
- An Image formatted for Pinterest (title_pin)
- An image only graphic sized for a video cover (title_v)
So you see we are up to seven variations for one main graphic design. After the first main design is created, it takes about 10 minutes to create the additional variations and record them instead of having to go back and recreate a design later.
As with your design elements, also have a consistent categorization for your created designs. Unless a client specifiies otherwise, we keep the PSD file of one format, usually the Instagram image. If another variation needs to be created later on, the design can be quickly adjusted to the new dimensions.
I know a number of people like to use online services such as Canva or Adobe Spark. I personally think that Adobe Photoshop is much easier to create and adjust elements, but it also allows you to better organize your design files. A long list of designs on Adobe Spark quickly becomes a mess.
#4: Keep a Library of Created Assets
The fourth tips is to keep a library of all of your created assets including: images, videos, and articles. In our content strategy workbook, we include a worksheet each for articles, images, and videos. The details recorded will vary a little from client to client depending on their needs, but for articles the title, the date published, keywords or hashtags for the article, and the url are normally included. For images, we list the title of the image, the article it references (if any), keywords or hashtags, as well as noting each format the image is available in.
Maybe you’re thinking, “I just want to post a picture, this sounds like a lot of work.”
Whatever type of social media post you create, it took time and resources. If you have an easily accessible record of all your existing creative assets, you can quickly identify and locate those images (or videos or articles) that will be a good fit for future social media campaigns.
The more content you build up, the easier filling that content calendar in the future becomes. But you can’t do that if you don’t know what you have or where it is.
Tip #5: Stay on Brand, Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Remember that your social media postings are part of your brand. Just as you wouldn’t put out a different version of your logo with every new marketing piece, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and come up with a different style with every image, video, or graphic that you post online.
Decide on a design theme and stick to it. Use the same color values or tones. Be consistent with the fonts you use. Not only does this result in a consistent image for your brand, but it makes the creation and design process much faster. When the pillars of the design are already set, it makes filling in the details much faster.
Those are my five tips for organizing your social media content. What tips have you found useful?
 Thomas Maddrey, “Works for Hire: How Not to Get Bitten – ASMP,” ASMP, last modified January 4, 2017, accessed May 28, 2019, https://www.asmp.org/legal/works-hire-not-get-bitten/.
“As stated previously, the distinction between employee and independent contractor can be significant regarding the doctrine of “works for hire.” If a photographer is acting as an employee, then any works created by an employee within the employee’s scope of employment will be considered Works for Hire. However, even this can be overridden in an employment contract if the contract explicitly states that the employee will retain the copyright in any works they create.
But, if the photographer is acting as an independent contractor, then a work will only be a Work for Hire if (1) there is a written agreement between the parties stating that the work is a work for hire, (2) the agreement is signed by both parties, and (3) and the work falls within one of the nine following categories:”[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]
As we begin the new year, you are probably looking back over 2015 and assessing the results for your business: what worked, what didn’t, the challenges and the victories. In a perfect world, each of has a marketing plan in place for 2016 and are in the process now of executing it. That is a perfect world. We don’t live in one.
Most small business owners I know have a tendency to fly by the seat of their pants. Being willing to jump in and facing uncertainty is a necessary characteristic of being an entrepreneur. However, we have to recognize that when it comes to business growth and creating sustainable strategies that strength can become a weakness and a detriment if we don’t put some structures in place for maintaining consistency.
You are wired differently, what excites and energizes you will stress out your employees. Most people that work for you want a plan laid out for them. You want to create your own. They want to know what the goal is, what they are working to achieve, and they want to know exactly what is expected of them. If they know what is expected of them and how they are expected to do it, they will have confidence in performing their job and be excited about working toward achieving that goal with you.
But first, you have to have a plan and set a goal before you can communicate that to others.
Setting Goals for 2016
In my college marketing classes, we created marketing plans for businesses. We had a team of people, spent three months on it, researched all of the available advertising options, analyzed the current revenue and sales processes, ran linear regressions and did market studies to formulate a plan. Let’s get real. That just does not happen with the vast majority of small businesses. That works in large corporations who have departments devoted to marketing and people whose job is to go to meetings to tell other people what to do.
Small business owners are busy doing, not talking about what should be done. But we do need to have a plan so that not only can we be consistent, but that we can communicate that plan to others to execute. Over the years I have seen two major causes of a business failing that have nothing to do with revenue.
Biggest Dangers for a Small Business Owner
The first is divorce. If you are married and have a small business you cannot afford to get a divorce. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen a successful business go down the tubes during or shortly after an owner’s divorce. It didn’t have to do so much with finances, the economy, or the splitting of assets as it was due to the fact that small businesses are usually pretty dependent on the owner for leadership and guidance and no one can be at the top of their game when they are going through emotional upset and turmoil at home. My advice is to guard the health of your marriage as closely as you guard the health of your bank account because the former has a direct impact on the latter.
The other is when the owner has a personal crisis that prevents them from functioning at the same level as they normally do. This may be a health crisis, a family emergency, or some other unforeseen event. One of the most consistent and amazing marketers I have ever met developed a health problem that severely limited their personal involvement in the day to day business. That business eventually closed.
Life can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter how amazing you are at what you do, if it is all in your head and depends solely on you, your business is at risk. There should not be any aspect of your business that is solely dependent on you, or anyone else for that matter. Every function should have the position spelled out so someone else could step in continue to carry on.
There is one goal I would recommend achieving in 2016 above everything else, and that is defining your exit strategy. We will all exit our businesses one way or another eventually. Have a plan and a process in place for that to happen.
Creating a Marketing Plan for 2016
But as my business is about marketing, I am going to be talking about creating not only a marketing plan, but an overall strategic vision for your company. If you don’t already have a plan in place, follow along and work through each section for your own business each week. Be sure you are subscribed to our newsletter for updates. Some of the areas I will cover are:
- Business composition
- On site events
- Community events
- Trade Shows
- Professional Events
- Web site
- Social media
- Personal contact
- New Media
In an article on how to track campaigns in Google Analytics, I explained how to tag urls to your site to track promotional and marketing efforts. As this generates a long url, the recommendation is to shorten them before use. An additional way to brand your site as well as separate tracking data is to use a custom or branded url to use in your promotions.
Branded Short Domains for Your Business
What is a branded short domain, also known as a custom vanity link? It is an extremely abbreviated url that can represent your company. In the original launch of standardized top level domains, the .com extension was set for commercial businesses. It was one of seven original gTLDs, the others being:
- .edu: educational institutions
- .org: nonprofit organizations
- .net: networks
- .gov: U.S. government entities
- .int: international organizations
- .mil: U.S. military units
As the price for yearly domain name registrations dropped along with the barriers to online publishing, the demand for domain names grew and new tlds were released to accommodate demand. In 2001 and 2002, four unrestricted domain names were released for general use: .biz, .info, .name, and .pro. ICANN also released a number of two letter extensions to be used for various country registrations. It was this release that later opened up opportunities for custom short domain urls.
Available gTLDs for Branded Short Domains
As I mentioned the two letter extensions were originally intended for use for web sites based in those certain countries. However, in 2010 the Columbian government release their extension, .co, for public registration. A number of large brands saw the opportunity to use the TLD as a way to stand out among the alphabet soup of the web.
“ . . . dot-CO has found the support of global brands from IBM to Starbucks, from Google to Twitter. The most valuable domains — those with just a single letter, such as “g.co” — have reportedly been sold for seven figure sums. Amazon bought three: a.co for itself, z.co for Zappos, and k.co for Kindle. “
Since then, creative use has been made of a number of other two letter extensions.
How to Choose a Domain for Your Custom Vanity Url
So how do you choose a domain for your custom short url? The most obvious short extensions are .co, .cc, .me, .to, and .us. There are a number of other two letter extensions that allow for unrestricted registration without requirements for citizenship or presence in the sponsoring country. However, make sure that you check the renewal price for the extension that you choose. Some are significantly higher than the more familiar extensions.
My personal favorites for short branded urls are the .co extension for general usage and .us if it is for a location based site. Some ideas for your vanity url might be the initials of your business or an abbreviated form of a keyword related to your business. If you can work the word to incorporate the two letter tld, even better.
How to Use a Custom Short Domain
Once you have your short domain for your url, it is time to set it up with some sort of shortening system that will redirect it to your chosen url. There are several ways to do this. As I mentioned in the article on tracking campaigns in Google analytics, you could even set up a shortening system on your own server if you wanted to.
However, if you are just starting out, that is probably overkill.
One of the easiest ways is to use the shortening service Bit.ly (note the .ly extension), particularly if you are already using the service to shorten links.
Using a Vanity Domain Name with Bit.ly
Entering Domain Information on Bit.ly
- Log in to your account on Bit.ly.
- In the upper right hand corner, click on your user name and select the “Settings” menu item
- In your account information, click on the “Advanced” tab
- Click on “Activate a Branded Short Domain for personal use.”
- Enter the name of the branded short domain that you registered and click “Add”
Redirect Domain at Registrar
The next step requires you to direct your domain to Bit.ly, allowing it to manage the redirections. This is done at your registrar, the place where you just registered your short domain, such as Godaddy or NameCheap. In the domain management, you will set the DNS (domain nameserver) to 188.8.131.52. Each registrar’s domain management is a little bit different, check with their documentation.
Once you have set the A record, it will take a little bit of time for the changes to propagate, up to 24 hours.
Finish Bit.ly Settings
- Return to the Advanced Settings tab and click “verify” to complete the Bit.ly set up.
- Once the domain is verified, select your short domain for the default shortener for your account.
- Finally, set your main domain as the branded short domain root redirect.
Using Your Short Branded Domain Name
The benefit of using Bit.ly as your main url is that a number of third party services have integrations that will allow you to use your branded url due to Bit.ly’s widespread popularity and usage. Buffer, Twitterfeed, Social Oomph and Shareaholic can be set to default to your short url.
If you have a page, service or product that you would like to create a short url to for frequent use, Bit.ly allows you to customize the url generated. However, if the custom short link you enter is already taken . . . taken in their system in general, not just your custom urls . . . You will have to upgrade to the pro tools for more flexibility.