Monthly Archives: May 2016

Express More: What 140 Full Characters Means for Brands

In a world of increasing information and decreasing attention spans, social platforms must evolve to survive. This is extremely evident in Twitter’s announcement this morning. Via Twitter’s blog, Senior Product Manager Todd Sherman introduced the newest modifications to the online social news service: in the next couple of months, photos, @names in replies, and much more will no longer count toward the distinctive 140-character limit.

Currently, photos, videos, GIFs and polls take up 23 characters of a tweet. Include more than one and they quickly eat away at your characters of valuable text, even with automatic shortening. In a venue where every character counts, having these back will allow users and brands the chance to have more freedom and provide additional context within their posts. Tweets can be more descriptive, quotes more rich, and all 140 characters utilized to their maximum potential.

In addition to character modifications, Twitter is also adjusting a few other ways in which users view and engage with their own tweets, including the way mentions are viewed in user’s timelines. New Tweets that begin with a username (the @ handle) will now reach all your followers. Furthermore, users will soon be able to quote and retweet their own tweets, an action previously unavailable.

 

 

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In January, CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted his own thoughts about character constraint, and argued that he and his team see users tweeting screenshots of text anyway, so why not just expand the character limit and allow those words to be included in the tweet? The idea of allowing up to 10,000 characters per tweet, while previously tossed around, may be end up being just that: an idea. While these tweets could potentially still appear in one’s timeline in a shortened format, with an option to “expand” similar to existing tweets that now employ additional media, critics argue that not only is this amount excessive (10,000 characters is approximately three pages, single-spaced in 12-point font) but also goes against Twitter’s trademark of quick, concise and impactful information. While 140 characters minimizes space, it maximizes the potential for creativity and forces users to be intentional with each letter, exclamation point, hashtag, and emoji.

 

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In the beginning, the 140-character limit had more to do with practicality than brevity. Back in 2006, when the platform launched, the creators wanted users to be able to send tweets via their phones. If you’re having a hard time visualizing what a cellphone looked like in 2006, it may help to remember that the best-selling phone of the year was what was lauded as the “ultra-slick” Motorola Razr. Full QWERTY keyboards hadn’t yet been widely adapted, and music-capable phones were beginning to rake in big money for companies like Verizon Wireless.

 

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In order to send tweets from a flip phone, they had to fit within the character limit of a text message, which just happened to be 140. It was one of the first platforms to allow this sort of on-the-go accessibility, in a time where logging on to the internet via your cellphone was often a rare and expensive accident rather than part of your daily routine.

Ten years later, it seems ludicrous that critics at that time saw little potential in a flippant, character-limited communications platform. Today Twitter boasts over 310 million active users and has proven value as a catalyst for creating real and tangible change, breathing life to revolutionary uprisings, giving a voice to the underserved or highly controversial, transforming politics and reinventing customer service. This next line of modifications will continue to serve these needs, in addition to those that will undoubtedly come along with each tap of a finger.

 

This post was written by Kelly Arnold, a sophomore at Hope College studying communications and a summer 2016 #UMSocial intern. #StaySocial with her: @KellyAArnold

Copy edited by @NikkiSunstrum, Director of #UMSocial  

Evaluating The Instagram Evolution

Cultivating direct brand-consumer connections continues to dominate the marketing industry and the trend is seeping into the practices of several social platforms. The ability for consumers to communicate directly with a brand via social is appealing to both parties as organizations seek to generate increased revenue through relationship building and individuals look to find a higher level of customer service and satisfaction. Websites like Etsy have already established the consumer-originated stream of contact through direct messaging between sellers and buyers. It comes in handy when a shopper scrolls through a page on the site and has questions: the direct-contact messaging can be seen as the online equivalent of a sales associate wandering around the front of the store.

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Facebook is continuing to expand similar resources for its business pages, including the recently announced ‘bots,’ and their subsidiary Instagram is now following suit. Instagram is currently testing business profiles, due to be released in the next few months. Instead of the same profile layout for every user, consumers will now be able to tap a “contact” button (placed next to the “follow” button) for each brand or business.. The  “contact” button allows consumers the option of emailing the business via the app and finding the location of the business in the Maps app.

Consumer-originated messaging is on the rise because of the real-time opportunities it affords both sides of the conversation. For the consumer quick, genuine responses to their questions provide not only improved customer service but brand authenticity as well.   For the business, having the ability to leverage a new and instantaneous line of communication sets them apart from the pack, enabling businesses to strengthen the loyalty of their consumers.

Instagram is also using analytics to learn more about its user base. The analytics look at two user segments, called post and follower. Follower analytics include three main categories: location, gender, and age. Location allows you to view where those who engage with your content come from, whether local or global.  Location also takes various time restrictions into consideration across audiences to maximize posting time across time zones. Gender and Age provide a more in-depth look at followers; the analytics also show how many followers were gained in a certain time span.

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The post analytics section, which Instagram calls “Insights,” will allow users to track the engagement of their contact from a variety of perspectives. Insights can be accessed by both business and personal accounts alike. Similar to Facebook Insights, there are four categories within post analytics: impressions, reach, website clicks, and follower activity.

Impressions will count the total number of times a user’s content has been viewed, and website clicks show how many times a displayed profile link is tapped. Reach displays how many distinct accounts have interacted with any of a user’s posts. Lastly, the follower activity portion of post analytics neatly displays the amount of time users actively spend on the application, to assist in gauging the best time to post their content.

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Each analytic increases the ability for brands to more adequately target their content and increases the potential for Instagram to develop monetization avenues through paid or sponsored advertisements. These new features paired with the recent rollout of multiple account management capabilities and the rebranding and redesign of the entire platform demonstrates Instagram’s dedication to providing users with the opportunity to maximize the impact of their content with ease, while keeping them and users within the application itself.

This post was written by Kelly Arnold, a sophomore at Hope College studying communications and a summer 2016 #UMSocial intern. #StaySocial with her: @KellyAArnold

Copy edited by @NikkiSunstrum, Director of #UMSocial  

April 2016 @ UMSocial

Tempus fugit! It seems like only yesterday we were welcoming Wolverines hoMe to campus for the 2015–2016 school year, and now it’s almost May. There were so many incredible moments during this semester, and we’re sad to see it come to a close. However, the end of the academic term doesn’t mean a shortage of activity on campus, so we continued to bring our audience a plethora of engaging, compelling Michigan stories. It’s once again time to reflect on the successes of this past month. Follow along to discover some of highlights from the past month.

Facebook:

            Each year, the U-M student organization MUSIC Matters produces SpringFest, a daylong celebration of music, art, innovation, sustainability, and service. SpringFest attracted thousands of students with performance art, gourmet food trucks, a showcase of local startups, and free musical performances (this year courtesy of artists SonReal and Luke Christopher). The popular hip-hop group Migos capped off the day, with a sold-out performance at Hill Auditorium. We worked with MUSIC matters to publicize the event and emphasize its goal of bringing the community together. By re-posting video coverage of last year’s event, as well as releasing the promotional video “Why does Music Matter?”, we were able to reach more than 45,000 people and draw significant attention to the event.

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Twitter:

            April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and we recognized this by using our monthly #UMichChat to open a conversation about sexual assault, mental health, and general student well-being. Sexual assault is a highly charged issue on many college campuses, and we know that our audience wants to see these topics addressed in an honest, transparent manner. We brought together a panel of top-level representatives from various campus departments to discuss: SAPAC (Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center) director Holly Rider-Milkovich; Dr.. John Greden, founder and executive director of the U-M Depression Center; Todd Sevig, director of Counseling and Psychological Services; Cooper Charlton, former CSG president and co-founder of the Wolverine Support Network; and Dr Robert Winfield, executive director of University Health Service. The result was a candid dialogue that addressed issues around stigma, the availability of resources, and ways for students to seek help. Plans for the future were also discussed. The chat had an impressive impact, generating more than 4 million impressions, and was trending regionally despite competing topical hashtags such as #OpeningDayDET and #NationalBeerDay; the chat also received coverage in the Michigan Daily. Community members joined the conversation, including one alumna who bravely shared her experience with sexual assault and how SAPAC was able to offer her support.

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            We also utilized Twitter to cover several special lectures and events that occurred on campus, such as a talk by the creators of Buzzfeed’s popular podcast Another Round. We live-streamed the event on our Youtube channel to allow all of our audience members to access the talk’s entertaining and thought-provoking content.

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Instagram:

We were delighted to reach 100,000 followers on Instagram this month, effectively doubling our audience since April 2016. We saw our channel flourish with content that promoted both departmental initiatives and seasonal posts that reflected student sentiment about spring, finals, and graduation.

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Following the success of last year’s #MyUMCap Instagram campaign, we once again collaborated with the Office of University Development to encourage U-M graduates to submit their customized graduation cap designs with a chance to win premium seats to the Spring Commencement ceremony. Over the course of the month, we received more than 100 submissions! We were blown away by the creativity and artistic talent the #Victors2016 possess, and choosing a winner was certainly not easy. In the end, we chose to feature this beautiful tribute to Ann Arbor.

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            Finally, we collaborated with SAPAC to produce a five-day photo series promoting the many free, confidential resources U-M offers for survivors of sexual assault. The campaign also highlighted U-M’s new Policy and Procedures on Student Sexual and Gender-based Misconduct and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence, placing a link to the electronic version of the policy in our Instagram bio during the week of the campaign. Because sexual misconduct is such a highly controversial and sensitive issue, we had to carefully synthesize talking points with messages of hope, support, and understanding. The campaign proved to be highly effective, with images receiving many heartfelt comments

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Snapchat:

            The UMSocial team was busy on Snapchat this month, creating at least one story nearly every day. Besides utilizing the platform for covering noteworthy events such as SpringFest, MRelay, and the FestiFools parade, we also used Snapchat to spread awareness about top-down institutional initiatives. We once again collaborated with SAPAC to create a story observing Sexual Assault Awareness month:

One of our most informative and intensive stories was our daylong coverage of the TEDxUofM conference on April 1. The theme of the conference was “Subject to Change,” and it showcased the work of some of the most innovative and forward-thinking members of the Michigan community. We alternated beween capturing soundbites from participants’ TED Talks as well as conducting 10-second interviews with each speaker. Having the opportunity to attend the conference and share it with our audience was immensely rewarding, and we hope that the story inspired followers who couldn’t be there in person develop and spread their own “ideas worth sharing”:

 

Finally, we had the opportunity to bring our followers behind the scenes of two major musical events on campus: Vic Mensa & Lil Dicky, presented by Big Ticket Productions; and Migo, the featured performer at SpringFest. Featuring footage from the performances as well as some backstage activity, the stories provided a fun, exclusive look at these sold-out concerts. Best of all, we were treated to a guest appearance from Coach Jim Harbaugh in both stories. We caught a glimpse of him performing the national anthem with Lil Dicky, and we saw him receiving a personal one-on-one tutorial on Migos’ signature dance move, “The Dab.”. Although it was different from the academic-oriented content we typically feature, it was a wonderful way to authentically capture student life.

The end of the academic year is always bittersweet, but looking back on the our successes is incredibly rewarding. We’re looking forward to a productive summer and hope you’ll follow along! #GoBlue and #StaySocial.