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.

What I’ve Learned from Using QR Codes

Intrigued? Scan this QR code with your mobile device to see where it takes you!
Intrigued? Scan this QR code with your mobile device to see where it takes you!

QR codes are the latest marketing craze. The QR, or Quick-Response, code was invented in 1994 by a Japanese company called DENSO Corp., a subsidy of Toyota and was initially used to track parts in vehicle manufacturing. Though QR codes have been commonplace in Japan for some time, they are only just now becoming popular in the United States. With over 73 million smartphone users in the US, marketers are embracing the technology in some very unique ways. In this post, I will give a few examples of how I have used QR codes at KVSC 88.1FM, at a personal level and what I have learned along the way.

My first venture with QR codes was in promoting “Superheroes of Trivia,” KVSC’s annual Trivia Weekend. The poster I was designing for the event was to resemble a retro comic book with a modern twist. After I had placed a traditional (non-scanable) bar code at the upper left of the poster to make it look more like a comic book, I got the idea to make it interactive by using a QR code.

Superheroes of Trivia Table Tent.
I used a QR code in a table tent for Trivia Weekend.

The idea was simple enough; I would place a QR code on the poster and have it link to an MP3 file that could be changed out with different audio files. This seemed like a great idea because this was for a radio station that was running a three-part promo on air and we could use the poster to bridge a connection to the series. However, it didn’t quite work out. The QR code worked fine, but the audio file would only play on Apple devices. When the audio file was opened on any other device, it would not play due to some type of Apple encryption with MP3 files. So I learned two things:

1. Always test your QR code on multiple devices/operating systems.

2. It’s better to link to an HTML document with an embedded audio file than to link directly to the source.

Also for Trivia Weekend, I placed a QR code on a table tent (shown above) encouraging students to volunteer for the event. The QR code simply linked to our volunteer resource page on the KVSC website. Though not as cool as opening an audio file to be entertained by a three-part trivia epic, the QR code on the table tent raised curiosity and drove traffic to kvsc.org.

QR Codes on Business Cards
On my business card, I used a QR code to link to my online portfolio.

At a personal level, I am in the midst of an aggressive job hunt and have placed a QR code on the back of my business card. Most people use QR codes on business cards to link to contact information. Personally, I have linked it to my online portfolio at eFolioMinnesota.com. I feel this is more appropriate for me since I am advertising myself as a job candidate and not myself as a business. Another tip to keep in mind when creating a QR code is to make sure the link is easy to use on a mobile phone. I initially wanted to link the QR code to my about.me page because it is much more visually appealing. However, it takes too long to download on a mobile device and is simply not sized correctly to be viewed on a 3.5 inch screen.

Another way to avoid compatibility issues with a URL or media file is to simply link to a text file. This can be used to direct the user to take further action or act as a coupon with instruction to the customer and cashier on how to redeem the offer. A good example involving text was with the concert venue First Avenue promoting an upcoming concert. A QR code was posted on its Facebook wall with the caption “We’re going hi-tech with today’s Etix ticket giveaway and it’s a doozy. Decode the QR for your chance to win.” When scanned, the QR code directed users to a text which simply read “Leave a comment with where First Avenue tickets will be available this Friday.” This is a great use of a QR code because it not only integrated social media, but also prompted users to learn about the venue’s new online ticket purchase option (eTix).

Here’s a list of ways I’ve heard of QR codes being used:

What are some ways you can think of to use QR codes? Do you think QR codes will be around for a long time or are they merely a fad? Please comment below, and remember: Sharing is fun!

**UPDATE: Read “What I’ve Learned from Using QR Codes Part II.”

Learning Skills from KVSC’s Biggest Annual Event: Trivia Weekend

In front of my billboard for Superheroes of Trivia.
In front of my billboard for Superheroes of Trivia.

KVSC 88.1FM’s 32nd annual Trivia Weekend recently came to an end. Trivia Weekend is a staple in Central Minnesota and consistently sees around 70 teams compete in a 50-hour non-stop contest with nine questions asked over the air every hour. The questions range from sports and popular culture to science and general history with many theme-based questions asked throughout the contest.

This year’s theme “Superheroes of Trivia” was especially fun for the competing teams and question writers alike. The questions are very tough as the writers attempt to “Google-proof” them and the contest is complete with audio sound bites and visual trivia. This is a great contest and is one of the longest-running annual events at St. Cloud State University.

Personally, I never really get too excited about hearing the questions over the air or for putting in volunteer hours for this weekend-long event. However, this being my second year as a graduate assistant at KVSC, I did get excited about putting my public relations knowledge to the test and in exercising my social media and graphic design skills in promoting Superheroes of Trivia. From designing the promotional poster to teasing the Trivia Weekend junkies via Facebook and Twitter, I had a lot of fun building some hype leading up to Superheroes of Trivia and in keeping the conversation going in the social media world all weekend. Most of the design work was based on the poster and included designing T-shirts, small flyers, images for web/social media and even a billboard (pictured above).

Promotions for Trivia Weekend began before the theme was even picked in July. With social media, we were able to get trivia enthusiasts involved by including them in choosing a theme. By creating a social media contest around the idea of helping us pick a theme, we were able to interact with our audience and make them feel more closely connected to the station.

The privilege of being a graduate assistant at an award-winning college radio station has been the perfect supplement to my academic career at St. Cloud State. Jo McMullen-Boyer is a great station manager to work with and she really gives me a lot of freedom to make my position at KVSC my own. The position is mostly geared around creating content for kvsc.org and general public relations for the station as well as some basic graphic design when necessary. The freedom to make the position my own means I have put a strong focus on building the station’s social media platforms and driving traffic to its website. I also get to work on my skills as a photographer at concerts and other special events.

Soon after Trivia Weekend came to a close, postings on our Facebook page were popping up thanking the station for making the weekend so much fun and on what the theme should be for next year. Sadly, I graduate in May and am (hopefully) moving on to bigger and better things and will not get to contribute to picking a theme or teasing the “trivia junkies” via social media during the months leading up to Trivia Weekend. I’m sure my successor (whoever that may be) will carry the Trivia Weekend promotions torch well.

Tutorial: The Social Media Contest

How would you do a social media dance contest? I would use YouTube of course!

Feel free to consider this part three of my Twitter tutorial. In this entry however, I will walk you through the steps of a social media contest at KVSC 88.1FM where we incorporate both Facebook and Twitter. So far at KVSC, we have only done concert ticket giveaways as a social media contest. We are planning to do a costume contest during Trivia Weekend to coincide with the theme Superheroes of Trivia. That contest will be on Facebook only and participants will post photos of themselves in their superhero costume on our wall and winners will be chosen by number of likes and comments. That should be fun.

The process is really pretty simple and it gets even easier when you limit the contest to just Twitter (Mashable has a great “how to” on Twitter contests). First, decide what your marketing goals are–create brand awareness, find out more about your customers, increase engagement, etc. Once you decide why you are doing a social media contest, figure out how you want to achieve your goals. At KVSC, our main focus is to increase engagement with our listeners and hopefully drive traffic to our website and to increase overall listenership.

Second, you need a game plan. Now that you know your marketing goals, it’s time to lay down some rules. This is almost too simple for something such as a concert ticket giveaway. For Facebook, just state the rules in a status update. That’s basically it. Remember to tag appropriate pages (in this case KVSC and First Avenue) and provide any additional links. Here’s an example:

KVSC – 88.1FM is giving away ONE pass to ALL CONCERTS at First Avenue & 7th Street Entry for the remainder of 2010! Simply hit the “Like” button at the bottom of this message to win! For and additional entry, visit http://twitter.com/kvsc881fm and retweet the contest message. Visit http://www.kvsc.org/ for full details.

Then do the same on Twitter, only now, you are restricted to 140 characters or less. Also, you may want to add a unique hashtag to monitor and help in promoting some aspect of the contest (or your company, cause, etc). Remember to use @mentions where appropriate:

@kvsc881fm – giving away ONE 40th Anniv. Pass to ALL concerts @Firstavenue for ALL OF 2010! Retweet to win! http://kvsc.org/ #KVSC1st_ave

Be sure to have information on your website with full details and promote in anyway possible. For KVSC, we usually make an on-air push and promote in our monthly e-newsletter. Once you have made your posts and promoted the contest a little bit, sit back and watch. When the deadline comes, compile all the valid entries and draw a winner (or winners) from a hat. Notify the winners and do a simple follow-up to everyone else via another post, and you’re done!

The best thing about social media contests is it’s very easy to measure your success. For Facebook, look at the number of likes, comments and any increase in new people who like your page. For Twitter, count the number of retweets and any other interactions.