Monday, March 22, 2010

The Business Case for Social Media - Why You Can No Longer Ignore It

Yesterday, Sunday the 21st March was Twitters 4th Birthday. Last month Twitter hit 50 million tweets a day and Twitter as a word is to be accepted into the Collins English Dictionary. When was it you first heard about Twitter? I suspect for most it was within the last year.

This months NZ Business Magazine has a cover story headlining “The Business Case for Social Media - Why You Can No Longer Ignore It”. In this story they make some bold statements which include “Anyone that says they don’t have time for Social Media is just ignorant of what the benefits are” and “The longer you leave getting started in Social Media the harder it will become”.

This is of course opinion. Should we just accept this form of scaremongering journalism on face value, I think not. I would recommend though that if their claims have any sort of merit it may be worth the effort of a little research. I would suggest a great way to do research about Social Media is by using Social Media itself. Here are some great places to get started:

  • Twitter – people will give lots of shorts sound bites and point you toward some valuable online resources, and it’s free.
  • Facebook – Join a group of likeminded folk and share in some discussions, and it’s free
  • LinkedIn – this one is for the grownups. Join groups that are oriented toward your industry or niche then watch or engage in the forum discussions, and this one is free too.
While you are conducting this research you may accidentally discover some alarming side effects of the Social Media platforms you have just introduced yourself to:
  • You may become a little better informed
  • It may actually become apparent not everyone in cyber-land is a con artist and that there are some genuine folk that are there offering good advise that will help you grow as a person and develop as a business
  • You may gain a better insight into the power of Social Media
  • You may actually get noticed by existing or potential customers who will be reminded of why you are more important, accessible and relevant to them than your competition are.
If you still don’t get it and decide that it’s still a waste of time then simply delete your profiles, turn off your computer and go back to the counter to wait for the customers to file in the door like they always have.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Twitter And The Missing Cat

This post is dedicated to those who use Twitter to listen rather than just make noise, to the few who genuinely care enough to take some time out and help others who ask for it and make the lives of those around them that little bit better. Thank you, thank you.

Our cat Yasmin went missing last week. Cats do that sort of thing; they demand food and respect and have the run the home on their terms. If they decide to go on a roaming adventure then so be it, that’s what they do.  Yasmin was a rescue cat, found on the street in a terrible state as a kitten; she needed a lot of care and attention at first. She was a timely gift for our daughter Maggie on her 8th birthday and much loved.

At first we were not too concerned that Yasmin was not in the kitchen demanding her breakfast on Wednesday, we just assumed she was off having another one of her adventures. Though not a year old she was a tough cat that had ensured all other cats in the neighbourhood respected her territory, though often spotted venturing over the fence investigating the domain of others. She loved climbing trees, especially when we were watching (such a show-off) and was always waiting on the drive for our kids to arrive home from school so she could stretch out and get lots of attention.

After an absence of two days we were touched by a handwritten note from Maggie saying “I miss my cat but don’t know what to do, I need your help”, it was a timely call to action. We checked the usual websites and uploaded her details. It was then I said to Maggie that we would try Twitter. I didn’t think this was going to find our missing friend but what did happen was quite amazing.

The great thing about Twitter is its immediacy, as soon as I had posted a picture to TwitPic and done a couple of Tweets we started to get all sorts of valuable advice and encouragement. People gave suggestions of useful websites and tips on getting attention in the neighbourhood. People gave their own stories of how their cats went missing and turned up days and weeks later.

The greatest effect here, apart from some good advice, was hope. Maggie went from being so very sad to extremely excited that so many people genuinely cared about her issue and were taking the time to talk to us about it. So a big thanks for that to Vicky @
vickytnz Tara @tarasutherland, Rebecca @becs355, Sandra @sandrareidnz, Kirsten @kistenmcrae, Simon @simcmanus  for the advise and to the others who passed on their wishes.

I’m sorry to say that this tale doesn’t have a happy ending. We, as recommended, posted posters and did a regional mail drop. Within minutes of doing so started receiving phone calls, one of which directed us to a place a block away saying a cat of that description had been hit by a car. Sadly it was our cat, it had been quick at least and the lovely person there had taken as much care of Yasmin as possible.

Unsurprisingly Maggie has taken this hard, its one of those cruel life lessons we have to accept with the loss of something we love. If you have taken the time to read this I’m sorry if it seemed pointless and self indulgent but I genuinely wanted to thank those that helped. You did made a difference and it was very much appreciated.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

How to Create your Own Custom Twitter Background

With a relatively small time investment you can create a Twitter background that can align with you existing branding and help stand you out from the crowd.
Twitter does not supply an official guide on creating Twitter backgrounds so I have made a few notes from my personal experimentation.

In this simple tutorial I am going to give some of the key considerations for designing your own Twitter background and will make available a downloadable Photoshop template to get you started.

The options for creating a background vary, it’s a little like creating wallpaper for your computer, you can tile an image (repeats over and over) or you can create a solid image.

My personal preference is for the solid image so as to make use of the space available to create some branding impact. With the solid image you have to either fade to a colour that matches the background colour to ensure a visually seamless transition or make the image large enough to ensure it will fill the screen for those fortunate enough to have large monitors set to high resolution. For this I would suggest an image size of 1600x1200 pixels though be sure to optimise the image so file size does not become a problem.

Resolving the Resolution
One of the main considerations when creating a Twitter background is that not all viewers have the same monitor size and resolution settings. The Twitter menu, logo and frame are floating over the background so they will centre on any screen. This will change the amount of viewable space either side of the main panel. 
Some of the popular resolutions are: 800×600, 1024×768, 1280×800

The 1024x768 is what I would recommend that the design should be targeted for. The space at the left of the main twitter frame is the best for your visual branding the remainder is free to be filled with graphics or colour. 

Dimension Detail
  1. Use Adobe Photoshop to open the downloadable template (link at bottom of this post)
  2. Fill the full 1600x1200 pixels with your design. If you want to use a smaller space be sure to fade out or edge with a matched background colour in the settings to ensure colour continuity.
  3. Use the 1024x768 pixel space to contain the most impact as this will be the most visible space to the majority of viewers.
  4. Use the “Viable Branding Space” shown in yellow on the left of the template space to create your branding or message impact (123x658 pixel area)
  5. Ensure that you optimise the image to ensure a fast download when viewed. (less that 100kb is recommended)
To download the free Adobe Photoshop Template visit our website here.