Monthly Archives: December 2011

My Personal Top 10 Instagram Photos of 2011

This has turned out to be my most popular photo on Instagram.

By now I am sure you have all read plenty of top 10 lists and ‘best of 2011′ countdowns. I promise you, however, I am not just sticking with the trend on this one. I could write a typical list of the year’s biggest stories in PR or social media, but I want to write about something that has truly changed me for the better.

When I joined Instagram a little over a year ago, I mostly used it to capture some of the little moments in my life–attending a concert, ogling over a sandwich I just made or posting a snapshot with friends. I mostly just snapped a quick picture and applied one the awesome filters from Instagram–without giving it much thought.

As the months carried on, I started participating in the many photo challenges and playing a more active role in the vast Instagram community (now with more than 15 million users). Soon my creativity started to blossom and I began using many extra photo apps to edit my photos. I began pushing myself to take photos from new angles and to bring about extra meaning to my images.

Throughout the past year I have grown as a photographer. While I still maintain a rather traditional approach when I have my Nikon D90 in-hand I do feel the creative power of Instagram and “iPhoneography” has brought me to a level beyond novice photographer. Shooting a wedding, doing outdoor portraits and low-lit concerts have helped refine my skills as a photographer and they have definitely helped me gain a better understanding of my equipment. However, Instagram has opened up my imagination and allow me to be more accepting of the editing process as a whole. After all, photography in its most premitive form does entail a certain amount of manipulation. Rarely (if ever) will a photograph appear exactly as it would in real life. Even if you are the perfect photographer who can almost always get that near-lifelike image; photography is an art form and should be treated as such.

The photos below represent my personal top 10 from the past year with my most popular photo at the top of this post. If you’re on Instagram, please follow me: @eric_wheeler. You can also view my full list of top photos of 2011 by searching the hashtag #wheelers_best_of_2011.

I should note all the photos above were taken and edited with only my iPhone. I had a few worthy shots from my Nikon D90, but wanted to only post photos from my iPhone. Probably my most notable non-iPhone photo I took involved using my Nikon D90 and a tripod during a July Fourth fireworks display in St. Cloud, Minn. Cheers to another year of Instagram!

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5 quotes from Buddy the Elf and what the social media manager can learn from each

Buddy the Elf quote: The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.When I watched Elf with Will Ferrell for the first time, it was instantly placed in my top five Christmas movies–alongside National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Home Alone and Scrooged. I usually pop in the DVD several times throughout the year and laugh all the way through. Like most good films, Elf has many lessons to be learned. The following list has some of my favorite quotes from Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) throughout the film and what the social media professional can learn from each.

The best way to spread Christmas is cheer singing loud for all to hear.

Buddy the Elf is easily the best brand advocate for Christmas you could possibly come across. He truly believes in every aspect of the holiday and shares his enthusiasm with everyone he meets in a positive manner. If you are managing a brand in the social media space, make sure you really believe in the brand’s culture and values. Dig deep and learn everything you can about the brand. Maintain a human voice and cultivate a following of brand ambassadors who feel as passionate about the brand as you do. If you find it hard to believe in the brand, it might be best to let someone else serve as social media manager.

I just like to smile, smiling’s my favorite!

As mentioned above, Buddy the Elf remained positive throughout the entire film and always served as an advocate for Christmas. When the inevitable social media faux pas creeps up on an account you’re managing; remain calm. Never take down a post. Instead, sincerely apologize and keep a ‘smile’ on your brand’s face. Always remain positive even when things aren’t going so well. Just how people can tell when you’re smiling while talking on the phone; it’s easy to tell if person behind the brand is happy when interacting with an audience.

Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?

I believe this quote directly relates to social media monitoring. Monitoring social sites can serve as an integral first step of any social media marketing campaign. Monitoring helps in reaching and relating to your target audience. But simply monitoring is not enough–ask questions to learn more about your audience. Ask your followers anything: What is everyone doing tonight? Elvis or The Beatles? Where is everyone from? Heck, ask them what their favorite color is–you never know, it might help you in product displays or developing new branding materials.

We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.

If there was one word you could use for Buddy the Elf, it might be focused. He was always focused on spreading Christmas cheer, gaining his father’s love and pursuing the companion (er, Zooey Deschanel). Just as monitoring is important to a social media campaign; setting clear goals is also important. Both short-term and long-term goals are important to the success of a social media marketing campaign. A daily content calendar can help you stay on track as you work toward your overall goals. Set clear goals and stick with it.

Deb, you have such a pretty face, you should be on a Christmas card!

I love this quote. You could really see the flattery in Deb’s face when Buddy told her how pretty she was. It truly brightened her day and set the tone for her relationship with Buddy throughout the rest of the film. You should always be an advocate for you brand and truly believe in its values, but be careful not to be too self-serving. Compliment/reward your audience and they will become true brand ambassadors through positivity.

Merry Christmas and remember: Sharing is fun!


Setting up a Google+ Brand Page: A few tips

Google Plus LogoA few weeks ago, I set up a Google+ Brand Page for KVSC-FM. The basics of setting up a Google+ Brand Page is pretty self-explanatory. However, you should be warned that Google+ currently requires Brand Pages to be linked to a single gmail account. I was unaware of this and now have the KVSC page linked to my personal gmail account. This is nice because it’s easy to switch back and forth between accounts without having to sign out/in, but this is actually very bad news. Now I am the only person who can make any changes to the KVSC Brand Page–there’s no way to add admins. I’m refraining from going on a rant here, but just beware of this Google+ flaw. In hindsight, I should have created a gmail account for the station first (such as kvsc.gplus@gmail.com). I should also note this is the second time I have had a bad experience with creating accounts using Google’s services. The KVSC YouTube channel is also linked to my personal gmail account and I have not been able to fix it in nearly two years. Moving on…

KVSC 88.1FM Google+ Brand Page example of a profile banner.

Using the Google+ Scrapbook to create a profile banner can be a fun branding opportunity.

Once the basics are completed in setting up your Brand Page (basic info, links, profile photo, etc.) you should make a nice banner at the top of you profile using scrapbook photos. This is definitely a cool feature and should be used to showcase your business–either through creative branding or by using the photos to highlight an upcoming promotion or event.

KVSC Google+ Brand Page profile banner for Trivia Weekend.For KVSC, I used the scrapbook photos to showcase the station’s tagline “Your Sound Alternative.” I recently changed it to feature the annual Trivia Weekend contest coming up in February. Be aware of another flaw though: you currently cannot rearrange photos in scrapbook. Without the ability to rearrange photos, you will need to delete the old photos and replace them with your new images in order to get a new banner. This also means you will need to upload the photos in the correct order to make the banner image. A bit of a pain, but I still think this is some cool branding real estate. Also, remember to save your old photos before replacing them.

The hard part with setting up a Brand Page will probably be to actually build a following. All I can suggest here is to post frequently and cross-promote on other social networking sites–namely Facebook and Twitter. With posts, I suggest using lots of visuals. Intriguing images and video coupled with headlines that inspire comments are key. All posts do not necessarily need to relate directly to your business or industry. Find images that are funny, inspiring or otherwise interesting. There are many other suggestions on what to post and how to get the most of your Google+ Brand Page. Here’s a good article I found on HubSpot that may help.

I believe Google+ is one of the easiest social networking sites to use. It is not as personal as Facebook and a little slower in pace compared to Twitter. Google+ has found a happy medium and just needs to get past the initial early adopter phase–once users start posting more frequently it will become more popular. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around how to use Google+ Hangouts from a marketing perspective (especially for a small business or non-profit), but I have heard of many organizations using it for some pretty cool things such as free conference calling, a virtual press conference, celebrity chats or a behind-the-scenes look.


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