Brand Presence On Instagram: A Lesson From Starbucks

Starbucks Gets Artsy With Photos

Brands On Instagram: Lessons From StarbucksEvery brand has a story, and every social media platform is different. So how do you tell that story and tailor it to a channel like Instagram?

To find the answer, Ebyline turned to the one of the most successful brands on Instagram, Starbucks. With 2.5 million followers, they’re the second most popular brand on Instagram, and Starbucks has a true knack for telling its story on the visually appealing social media site (for those wondering who’s in first, Nike holds the top spot, according to Nitrogram, a company that tracks the top 150 brands on the Instagram).

We asked Starbucks to share a few of its storytelling tips to help us navigate the Instagram landscape.

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TIME Social Media Editor Kelly Conniff talks Sandy, election coverage

Time Magazine Twitter

Time Magazine TwitterWhen news breaks, readers turn to social media to read and post updates, presenting opportunities for news outlets to engage with them and challenges in keeping up with multiple platforms and a 24/7 news cycle.

Ebyline recently discussed these challenges and opportunities with Kelly Conniff, who started as social media editor at TIME in September after working as social media manager at the National Geographic Society since 2009. Excerpts from that interview follow.

What social media platforms does TIME focus on?

Really the number one platform we’re on is definitely Twitter. We actually just hit four million followers today, which was amazing. Beyond that we also are on Facebook, and we just actually hit 600,000 [Facebook likes]. We’re one of the biggest news brands on Google +, and we should be in the neighborhood of hitting two million next week, which is just amazing.

We’re also on Pinterest and Instagram. We actually have two Tumblr’s. One is TIME magazine proper, and it’s very much kind of our behind-the-scenes look at how the magazine is made, how we put together our amazing covers, and basically how we do what we do. We also have one for LightBox, which is our photography blog that is very popular in the industry. That one focuses a little bit more on the photo projects that we feature every day as well as kind of promoting what’s happening in the photography community.

Tell us about the social media strategies you used during Sandy.

With Sandy, we had people without power and without heat, and it was an interesting situation in trying to wrangle people together to work out ideas. We realized that what people were looking for in this scenario were stories from people on the ground. People wanted to know what it was like to be in Staten Island, Coney Island, or in the Rockaways, or in Connecticut, or anywhere in New Jersey where they were hit really bad.

We decided to just go with a very low-fi hashtag campaign of asking people to submit their Sandy reports. I was so surprised at what we got, not in terms of the volume but the depth that people went into when it came to telling us about their stories. We aggregated up some of the best, most poignant, funniest, responses on our newsfeed blog. That was also a really great way to say, “Hey look, we asked you guys for something, and we definitely heard what you had to say and here’s what happened.”

Time Magazine CoverWhat about that amazing cover image from Sandy? Tell us about that.

We have a great photography department here. They worked with us to come up with the idea to hire five photographers who were covering different areas of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and areas that were really affected. These people are professional photographers who have shot for TIME in various capacities, including Ben Lowy who is well-known as very much an iPhone photographer.
We actually used one of the photos that was taken by Ben Lowy on the cover of TIME magazine, which is pretty amazing. I was so impressed that we did it because that week was such a huge week for politics and just everything that was happening in the world. We actually closed three issues that week. We had one with a Romney cover, one with an Obama cover, and then easterners in the Northeast got the Sandy cover.

There’s a lot of pressure to be the first on social media, especially around the election. How do you balance that with the need for accuracy?

For us, we were really more interested in what people were feeling and thinking and doing about voting instead of making sure that we were first. We had a hashtag campaign that was just #TIMEVote, and we asked a series of questions that were kind of the day before and the day of. It was a little different from what everybody else was doing, but we’re there for that analysis and thoughtfulness.

The night of the election when Twitter was going crazy and Facebook was going crazy, we focused on having a live blog that pulled in tweets from all of our correspondents. They sat there and looked at the projections and the results and gave their commentary in a way that not many other brands can. I think we really focused on being thoughtful instead of just predicting and trying to be first. I think at the end of the day that’s really what TIME is about.

Does TIME have a social media policy for staffers?

We do. It’s mostly informal and that’s actually something we’re working on kind of updating. One great thing about most people who work at TIME is that they’re very proactive in having their own accounts and being very thoughtful when they tweet.

TIMES has some impressive social media stats, but are there other ways that you measure ROI?

Yes, I think that’s something that all brands are struggling with right now because there is no hard and fast rule of how to do it. For me, I sit solely on the edit side, so I’m always looking for new ways to engage. When you sit there every day and you’re looking at your followers and you’re seeing what they say when they comment on a Facebook post or re-tweet you or comment back, it’s really all about making sure that people are not just pushing our ‘Retweet’ button or the ‘Like’ button and then just moving on to the next post.


What the iPhone 5 says about small screen journalism

iPhone 5

Like Apple’s high-flying share price, it appears nothing can bring the iPhone 5 down to Earth. Not even what many critics pointed out were incremental improvements over past models. That smarts for the over 2 million folks who pre-ordered the 5 but it’s a boon for journalists: we’ve entered what The Times’ Nick Wingfield aptly called the age of “technological bunny hops.” After years of relentless technological shifts in the media, now may be the time for journalism to assess the mobile landscape without worrying that it will look radically different in 18 months.

As a tool for creating journalism, the iPhone 5 is decidedly a bunny hop: an added mic, a panoramic photo feature, faster connectivity. Basically, a handful of features that help backpack reporters do a tad more. As a platform for publishing journalism, it may not even be that: most serious news operations have in-house app teams and a robust—if not always innovative or classy—presence on smartphones and tablets. It seems unlikely that this, or the next, iPhone will radically change how publishers bring their content to the mobile market or what content they create for it.

So what lessons can we apply from today going forward?

Stories must work across platforms

That’s not the same as saying stories should be on all platforms. That was the mantra a few years ago when newsrooms decided that the audience should get content where and when they want it, regardless of compatibility with the medium. Poorly designed, cluttered and unusable newspaper web sites are a legacy of that thinking. Creating stories that extend to mobile means finding the bits that work best there: the most shareable, easiest or fastest to consume, or enough to tease users onto more mainstream platforms.

“Think ‘shareable’ content,” says Joe Pulizzi, a consultant and founder of the Content Marketing Institute (@juntajoe). “When you begin construction of a story, understand how many ways you can tell that story in the different platforms.”

For smartphones, graphics, video and other visuals appeal on the small screen.

“Visual storytelling is becoming king on mobile devices,” Pulizzi explains “Whereas longer-form text rules the desktop, infographics and videos rule mobile devices.”

Write better headlines

Though mobile technology has actually increased Americans’ news consumption, there’s a lot of competition for eyeballs. A 2010 study found that many adults with a smartphone check for e-mail updates, social updates, and so forth around 34 times a day; but the interactions usually only last for 30 seconds or less. Mobile content favors short and to-the-point.

Writer Nick O’Neill made a compelling case for the importance of  headlines in his article, “How Forbes Stole a New York Times Article and Got All the Traffic.” In it, he points out how a Forbes writer took a long and well-researched NY Times article called “How Companies Learn Your Secrets,” and successfully repackaged it for the web with the sexy headline, “How Target Figured Out a Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did” – garnering more than a million page views and outshining the original NY Times article in the process.

Keep it under 60 characters. Even with a larger screen on the iPhone 5, short, direct, compelling headlines will win the most traffic.

Don’t forget the story

With smartphones in the hands of 44% of U.S. adults, and an estimated 27% of the population receiving news from a mobile device according to data from the Pew Research Center, demand for mobile content is going to grow, even if technology doesn’t continue to wow. So transmedia storytelling—that is, building upon a story on a mobile screen where it left off on a stationary one—is going to become a more mainstream activity in newsrooms. Smartphones will do for great journalism and freelance writers alike, what honor boxes and above-the-fold spreads once did.

The ability to advertise content will be especially important to brands and other non-newsrooms that are just now getting into the production of serious editorial product.

“The majority of journalists and storytellers in the world, in my opinion, are now being hired by non-media companies,” says Pulizzi. “Brands need to be telling better stories, but most are horrible storytellers. They are hiring journalists to help position them as true experts and thought leaders, and to help move consumers through the buying process with great content. We’ve only seen the start of this.”

Photo used under a creative commons license.

How Google’s Recent Changes Affect the Online Content World


There’s been a sea change in the world of search-engine optimization in the past year, thanks to Google.

In February 2011, Google changed its “Panda” search algorithm to penalize sites that focused on low-quality, poorly researched content. “Content farms” that pump out hundreds of articles each day saw a huge drop in search traffic. Mega-sites like, Demand Studios’ network, and Yahoo’s Associated Content were all hugely affected.

More recently, Google launched its social network, Google+, which displays search results that friends have “liked” above organic results.

Elements such as duplicate content on multiple pages, empty content page, articles that repeat the same information, a high ad ratio, and auto-generated content are all subject to Panda penalties, according to SEOMoz. Chances are, such content won’t get a “+1” from Google+ users, either.

Both these changes mean that sites with well-researched, high quality content—such as that provided by professional content writers—are likely to gain more traction in search results. Does it also mean the end of SEO as we know it?

Not necessarily, says Rich Brooks, owner of the web marketing agency flyte new media in Portland, Maine. “While Google+ and personalized search results are part of the mix on a search engine results page, they only flavor what’s already there, and only on specific searches,” says Brooks. “For now, you still need to focus on good SEO if you want to be found on the web.”

Social media is important as well. Brooks recommends that writers should focus on building up their own social media platforms by attracting followers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, and their personal blogs in order to become more attractive to online publishers.

“Most writers will tweet or otherwise share their stories with their audience, and even ask for comments and feedback,” he says. “That will definitely drive more traffic, and improve the social/search algorithm publishers need.”

In terms of the types of content that will rank well in today’s Google searches, there’s space for both news-driven blog posts and original long-form reporting.

“Companies like Mashable (multiple, news-worthy, short shelf-life posts) and Social Media Examiner (one longer, researched, “evergreenier” post a day) are both successful in their own right,” says Brooks.

What’s most important is creating compelling content that will attract links from authoritative, highly ranking sites. A focus on high quality work—with some attention paid to SEO keywords and social media outreach—will help your content climb to the top of the search results.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /

50 Journalists and Bloggers to Follow On Facebook ‘Subscribe’


By now you’ve probably heard about Facebook’s new Subscribe button, which allows you to follow journalist and web content writers that you respect on Facebook. It essentially works like Twitter, feeding your information cravings with a healthy helping of news and views. But who do you subscribe to? Today, Facebook’s journalism program manager Vadim Lavrusik provided a jumping off point for “subscribe” newbies, and listed 50 journalists and bloggers who are available for subscriptions.

With the launch of Subscribe last week, we wanted to show an example of some journalists who are using Subscribe to enable readers and viewers to keep up with their public updates and also subscribe to sources they are interested in keeping up with.

To help you satiate your own media diet, we’ve published his list below so you can start subscribing right away!

To turn on Subscribe, go to

  1. Ann Curry, TODAY Show/NBC News
  2. Brian Stelter, reporter at The New York Times
  3. Ayman Mohyeldin, NBC News, Egypt Correspondent
  4. Elizabeth Spiers, editor of The New York Observer
  5. Brian Storm, executive producer at MediaStorm
  6. Craig Kanalley, Huffington Post, senior traffic and trends editor
  7. Esther Vargas, editor at Peru21
  8. Pete Cashmore, CEO and founder of Mashable, CNN columnist
  9. Anthony De Rosa, Social Media Editor at Reuters
  10. Saul Hansell, Big News Editor at Huffington Post.
  11. Liz Gannes, AllThingsD reporter
  12. Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist
  13. Robert Scoble, Scobleizer
  14. Nick Bilton, The New York Times reporter and lead technology writer
  15. Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media
  16. Jenna Wortham, New York Times reporter
  17. Franz Strasser, video journalist at BBC News
  18. Om Malik, founder of GigaOmniMedia
  19. Jessica Vascellaro, Wall Street Journal repoter
  20. Jeff Jarvis, CUNY prof, writer
  21. Mathew Ingram, GigaOm writer
  22. MG Siegler, writer at TechCrunch
  23. Ben Parr, Editor at Large at Mashable
  24. Bilal Randere, Online Producer at Al Jazeera
  25. Laurie Segall, CNN Money producer
  26. Daniela Capistrano, Online Producer at “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”
  27. Mark Milian, reporter at
  28. Jason Kincaid, TechCrunch
  29. Brian Ries, The Daily Beast social media editor
  30. Jenn Van Grove, senior reporter at Mashable
  31. Liz Heron, The New York Times, social media editor
  32. Jason DeRusha, WCCO reporter/anchor
  33. Walt Mossberg, AllThingsd columnist
  34. Amanda Zamora, Washington Post, social media & engagement editor
  35. Gregory Korte, reporter at USA Today
  36. Jen Lee Reeves, Interactive Director at KOMU
  37. Martin Beck, Los Angeles Times engagement editor
  38. P. Kim Bui, KPCC Social Media Editor
  39. Alexander B. Howard, Gov. 2.0 Washington Correspondent at O’Reilly Media:
  40. Doug Crets, tech blogger at RWW
  41. Jeff Sonderman, Poynter writer
  42. Patrick Witty, international picture editor at TIME
  43. Tyson Evans, assistant editor of interactive news at The New York Times
  44. Mark W. Smith, web editor and columnist at Detroit Free Press.
  45. Irina Slutsky, reporter at Age Age
  46. Dan Ackerman, senior editor at CNET
  47. Paul Takahashi, multimedia journalist at the Las Vegas Sun
  48. Rosa Golijan, contributing writer at MSNBC
  49. Jim MacMillan, journalist in residence for War News Radio at Swarthmore College
  50. Dan Petty, social media editor at The Denver Post