LinkedIn, Facebook and PitchEngine all have paid options that provide benefits that their free services cannot. The real question, however, is which social media accounts are worth paying for, and which are not.

Out of all the social media tools, LinkedIn provides one of the most helpful paid services. LinkedIn offers different levels among their paid accounts geared towards job-seekers, recruiters and businesses. Paid LinkedIn accounts expand your search options to allow you to search for jobs based on salary, see detailed information about who has viewed your profile, and perhaps most importantly, send “InMail” messages to people not in your network. But who should pay for LinkedIn is the more important question. LinkedIn is highly effective for recruiters to source names and consultants who use a lot of specific vendors.

Facebook has recently expanded its paid options. Targeted ads have long been part of Facebook and provide businesses a possibility to increase their customer engagement. The new paid option for businesses is sponsored stories, which appear in your news feed and are the only ads that can be displayed on Facebook mobile. Whether you should pay for any of these services largely depends on your type of business and the audience you’re trying to reach. The beauty of Facebook ads is that due to an active user base, loads of information is collected and allowing businesses to target niche group of customers.

For sending out announcements or press releases, PitchEngine is a tool that offers both free and paid options. It allows you to embed videos and pictures into your announcement, publish an unlimited number of announcements to search engines, social media sites, mobile sites and email. There are two paid options at $39 a month or $99 a month, which both make your announcements SEO friendly.

Instead of signing up for all paid accounts on social media, decide which paid social media sites would be most helpful for your brand. If you want to connect with people outside of your network, LinkedIn’s paid feature may be appealing to you, whereas if you want to optimize your press releases for SEO, one of PitchEngine’s paid plans may suit your needs.

This January we start our third year in business—in L.A. and Hong Kong!

We launched our Trufflepig Search division to help client companies find social media and digital communications, marketing and PR professionals below the executive level. We are proud to have served clients including GE, Gap and Coca-Cola/Japan out of our Hong Kong office, and AEG Live, AutoTrader.com, Forest Lawn and R&R Partners out of Los Angeles.

As the economy builds momentum in 2013, Trufflepig Search is here to help find your next great social media or digital communications team members.

We wish you a profitable new year, full of health, enjoyment, and digital happiness.

At Trufflepig Search, we often collaborate internally.  When creating a blog post, we crowdsource topics, assign them collectively, and then collaboratively edit the finished posts.  By brainstorming topics together, we come up with the most timely topics and infuse more value by differing perspectives.  Having multiple eyes allows for a more thoughtful treatment of the subject matter.  In one of our most recent blog posts, several members of our company added their own thoughts to the topic.  After everyone added their reactions, we curated the post to best reflect and incorporate everyone’s perspectives and opinions. By integrating our different ideas in our writing and editing processes, we hope to create more meaningful and unique content for our audience.

Companies that fail to encourage collaboration risk losing out on productivity and profitability.  Even high-profile companies have lost out because of lack of teamwork.  According to Corporate Visions, 33% of B2Bs do not collaborate in message development.  And of the companies whose employees do collaborate with each other, only 3% create collaborative strategies that can be repeatedly used.  The vast majority of companies are missing out on the innovation that collaboration can bring.  Collaboration helps lead to creating more valuable content.  In an age where social is making collaboration, this news is more important than ever.

Social tools that facilitate such collaborative dialogue within companies.  Instant messaging, unlike emailing, is fast and informal–it’s a good tool to use when sending information back and forth between team members.  We use instant messenger to communicate throughout the day instead of having to get up or wait for an email response. Basecamp is another great tool for corporate collaboration–you can share a schedule of projects with everyone else in the team, as well as being able to delegate and assign between team members.  Editorial calendars are also useful in sharing a timetable of all upcoming projects with all team members, which will keep everyone on the same page.  

Collaboration between team members and between divisions leads to innovative ideas and products.  Social tools are a boon to teamwork and the creation of original content.

A lot of emphasis is placed on having a well-written resume and the importance of cover letters is often overlooked.  While cover letters are not always required, they have the potential to make a candidate stand out to an employer.  

The growth of digital has caused a shift from the pre-digital days of fax or snail mail to the current use of online portfolios and interactive resumes.  Another change in cover letters is the recommended length and the formatting of the letter.  Cover letters can easily become a long, somewhat unnecessary recap of a resume–but we recommend short, to-the-point cover letters, especially for email. Simply recapping your resume could hurt you instead of helping.  

David Silverman, blogger for the Harvard Business Review and former executive, explains that the best cover letter he received was three sentences long and basically an introduction to the applicant’s resume.  If your cover letter is a summary of your resume, keep it short and to the point, there is no reason for your cover letter to be an overly wordy, overly long summary of your resume.  But the point of a cover letter is to further explain what you will bring to the job, therefore, only focus on experience and qualities pertinent to the job, including accomplishments that demonstrate traits you can’t communicate in a resume.  

Yes, some employers like David Silverman prefer a concise cover letter or even no cover letter at all, this is by no means a universal sentiment.  Some industries, particularly  law and architecture, depend on cover letters to distinguish candidates from one another.  These industries take into account more than just the basic qualifications when looking to hire.  Furthermore, for jobs that require a substantial amount of writing, cover letters provide the opportunity to showcase your writing ability.  

Finally, there are some basic guidelines that should be followed when writing a cover letter.  Avoid antiquated phrases such as “To whom it may concern” or “Dear sir or madam”. You should always address the person who is reading your resume directly. If you do not know, and cannot discover, the name of the person who will be reading your resume, consider omitting the salutation line altogether. Also, make sure to follow the employer’s guidelines for sending a resume.  Some employers will specify to attach the cover letter in an email instead of putting it in the body of the email, or vice versa–follow these instructions.  And thoroughly read through your cover letter for any spelling or grammatical mistakes.

For a guide to writing resumes read our previous posts here and here.

Ed Keller and Brad Fay discuss the shortcomings of social media in their new book, The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace.  Brad Fay explains that the effectiveness of social media marketing lies in its ability to connect people.  In their research, Fay and Keller found that only 3% of product talk occurs online, with the remaining 97% occurring in person.  The key to advertising and marketing is to create a desire among people to talk about the product whether online or offline.

When creating a marketing strategy, keep in mind that popularity does not necessarily equal marketing success, and remember that you now must integrate social and traditional means to optimize success.  A marketing campaign may end up being popular, but without relevant content, it is necessarily going to be effective.  Content is still king.  Fay explains that the viral success of a commercial may not necessarily lead to person-to-person discussion about the actual product.  A marketing campaign should make people talk about the product or service, not about the campaign itself.

Brad Fay and Ed Keller certainly do not diminish social media marketing, but they emphasize social media to be used as a tool to enable discussions among people.  The focus of marketing, social or traditional, should be to transform customers into ambassadors of the brand.

Companies are proving that Twitter gives their brand a voice that stands out and encourages a dialogue between the companies and the community.  Twitter is a place to be yourself and speak your mind, and successfully branded Twitter pages have done just that.

Consumers are able to have a dialogue with a company through social media, instead of only viewing traditional advertising.  Many companies approach social media differently, and what works for one company, may not work for another.  Some businesses create an individual persona for their social media accounts (like using the voice of the CEO or specific employer), others create a  forum led by customer comments and conversations, but all successful social media campaigns create a unique voice for their brand that serves to enhance and support their overall mission.

  • Starbucks perfectly exemplifies the community-based dialogue that can be accomplished on social media. On Twitter, Starbucks responds to both compliments and complaints, even if it is simply someone tweeting about their morning cup of coffee.  Starbucks has established a brand voice that is engaging by tweeting daily to specific Starbucks customers.
  • Coca-Cola is another dialogue-driven social media campaign.  Most of their tweets are  written to specific Twitter users who have engaged  with the brand.  Like Southwest and Starbucks, Coca-Cola creates a personalized brand by creating conversations with customers.   

Ask any expert, mobile is the future of social media.  Online media is integral to the success of many businesses, and mobile social media sites are gaining traction with the  increasing number of smartphones users.  Instagram started out 2012 with approximately 15 million users and has grown to 80 million users in seven months.  Instagram surpassed Foursquare, a mobile site that had been available for a year longer and on more mobile phones.  Since Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, Instagram has 100 million users as well as 11 million daily users (up from 860,000 daily users).  

With the prevalence of smart phones comes a greater demand for websites optimized for mobile use.  More importantly, as mobile use becomes more the norm, consumers will grow frustrated with companies that have not optimized accordingly, sometimes tarnishing the brand’s public image.  Businesses that do not have an innovative and user-friendly mobile site automatically put themselves behind businesses that have invested in mobile technology.  Even though about half of Facebook’s 900 million users access the site from their mobile phone, Facebook has had difficulty in optimizing its mobile site.  Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram will hopefully help Facebook become more mobile-friendly.  

Mark Zuckerberg has explained that Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram does not mean that Facebook intends to integrate the two. He said earlier this month, “We want to help it grow to hundreds of millions of users. We have no agenda into making them going into our infrastructure. We’re going to do the things we would have done if they were an Open Graph partner, but we’ll be able to prioritize them.”

For part 1 of our instagram series, click here

For more on Instagram

Klout is a social media tool designed to measure how influential you really are recently changed its algorithm taking into consideration both online and real-life influence.  The Klout team boasts that it now uses 400 signals, instead of 100 and 12 billion signals, instead of 1 billion to develop a more accurate reflection of a user’s influence.  It even takes a user’s Wikipedia page into account when creating a Klout score–the minds behind Klout allege that Wikipedia is a true gauge of real-world influence because it shows how you affect the world and people.  Joe Fernandez, the CEO of Klout, explains Klout’s new algorithm in an interview with Brian Solis.  In Fernandez’s opinion, having a “number” associated with influence is empowering and encourages people to build an audience and increase their influence.  Furthermore, Fernandez believes that Klout cultivates a more thoughtful social media presence.  But is Klout oversimplifying influence?

The question remains if Klout really accomplishes Fernandez’s goal of successfully grading each user’s ability to impact others and is good gauge of a person’s presence, not impact, on social media.  Blogger and consultant Mark Schaefer explains that Klout finds, “the people who are experts at creating, aggregating, and sharing content online and creates a measurable reaction. Nothing more. In the old days, we called this ‘buzz’.” Schaeffer is correct in his assessment that Klout does reward those who create and share content online, but people who are active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. can have high Klout scores without being true influencers.

Klout falls short in its attempts to accurately depict real-world influence, but does so without using quantitative data.  Wikipedia is a great resource, and yes, many of today’s influencers have robust Wikipedia pages, but not all robust Wikipedia pages are an accurate indicator of real-world influence.  It is not difficult to write your own Wikipedia page or add links to your page.   Wikipedia’s strength is in its ability to curate accurate information on anything you want to learn.  After implementing the new algorithm, Obama finally has a higher Klout score than Justin Beiber.  Obama’s score is now 99 whereas Bieber’s is 91–but it is election season.  Klout has the tremendous limitation of only being truly pertinent in an online context, but it can be valuable to measure your online influence against more traditional measures.

The real limitation of Klout is not with Klout itself, but with how people use it.  A professor at Florida State University plans to grade his students by their Klout score in an attempt to prepare them for job-hunting, when Klout scores may matter.  The problem with this is that while Klout may be a good initial indicator of online popularity, it cannot fully judge a person’s influence.  Klout should be considered as a complement to other information, it should not be the only important factor in deciding someone’s influence and success.  On Klout, blogger Matt Owen  explains, “if you have a million followers then it’s a bit more likely someone will click on a link in your tweets. If I advertise sofas on national TV, more people will see that ad than if I put it on a card in my local newsagent’s window. Will they purchase? Only if they’re looking for a sofa.”  A high Klout score is not necessarily correlated with a high influence.  The content that someone publishes on social media is what matters.  The context of different user’s scores needs to be taken into account.  A social media user with a small audience that covers a specific niche effectively is more valuable to users than an “online celebrity” that dishes on everything to millions.

If you want to understand someone’s ability to influence others, you can take a look at their Klout score, but realize that this score does not fully measure total influence.

40% of the top 100 brands are all on Instagram.  Out of the top 100 brands, 37 regularly post photos, and 17 of these 37 brands have over 10,000 followers each.  The top 10 brands on Instagram have a 96% engagement.  

Instagram can easily help you optimize content by noting which photos garnered the most feedback, and what time during the day you get the most feedback from followers. However, make sure not to post photos that are overtly promotional– top brands on Instagram post photos to build their brands, not promote.

Instagram’s new business blog features MTV, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, EOnline, and Burberry as the most followed brands on Instagram.  MTV is the most popular Instagram profile with over 846,000 followers. These accounts all try to post photos that they think their users will enjoy and ultimately comment on or “like” instead of photos that directly promote their brand. Successful companies become tastemakers on instagram instead of touting their products endlessly.   

Not every company is suited to Instagram.  As shown by a study in April, Instagram’s users are predominantly in the 18-35 age range.  The most popular companies on Instagram are product-driven brands that appeal to younger generations, if your brand doesn’t fall into that category it will probably be difficult to market your company towards that demographic.  

Instagram allows businesses to grow their mobile audience–the next frontier in social media.  

Facebook and Google+, as with most social networks, force users to give up their privacy to get more out of the service, but are there any benefits to this loss of anonymity?

Facebook and Tumblr deal with online privacy very differently.  Facebook requires you to use a real name and is designed to connect people.  There is no anonymity on Facebook–it even started as a closed network that required a verified .edu email address to become a member. However, Tumblr doesn’t require any personal information, and allows people to anonymously share pictures, ideas, etc.

In an interview with BloggingHeads, Andrew McLaughlin, VP of Tumblr,  and Marne Levine, VP for Global Public Policy for Facebook, explained how anonymity and transparency effect Tumblr and Facebook.  McLaughlin and Levine provide completely opposing viewpoints on the importance of anonymity.  McLaughlin praises the freedom that comes along with anonymity, while Levine criticizes the lack of comfort and lack of security that stem from anonymity.  While Facebook is a networking tool used to connect people, Tumblr is creativity tool used to share ideas–anonymity has a different role with each.  In Facebook’s case, the lack of anonymity allows users to connect with other users, but since the network has opened up it is nearly impossible to verify identity.  In Tumblr’s case, anonymity allows people to share ideas, but this also makes people less accountable for their ideas and opinions.

Full Video of the interview

Anonymity may allow people to express themselves without consequences, but it also creates a false sense of security.  Anonymity allows people to express themselves without reproach.  Free, anonymous expression makes sense for Tumblr, as it allows users to explore creative interests that they wouldn’t explore without anonymity, but it does not make sense for Facebook, which is meant to be an online extension of real interactions that happen between people.

The real question may be whether this anonymity is truly possible.  If you engage in social media, your information is going to be in their database forever.  Even if you don’t have an account, however, your information may not be as private as you think–everything that you have ever searched on Google is tracked and saved.  If you choose to delete your Google search history, your search history can still internally be used by Google for 18 months.  Nothing that you do online is anonymous, the only question is if you know your anonymity is being violated or not.  Google has agreed to pay a 22.5 million dollar settlement to the FTC for violating users privacy, without their knowledge.

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