With many social media platforms available to businesses at the moment, it can be difficult to figure out which ones are worth focusing on.

By identifying which platforms will generate the most engagement and conversions, you’ll be able to save huge amounts of time and resources. Rather than trying to maintain a consistent presence on every single platform out there, why not focus your time and energy on curating content and imagery for the ones that will serve your business best.

Here’s a breakdown of the top social platforms on the scene to help you figure out which social media platforms will boost your business.

Facebook

Description/How to use: Create a business page and regularly post images, videos & links that appeal to your target audience. Your Facebook business page is also an extension of your website, where you can share basic information such as address, contact number and telephone number.

Main audience: With over 1.44 billion active users across a wide demographic aged between 18 and 65+, Facebook is the market leader for social networking websites. Your business should undoubtedly have a presence on this platform.

Pros:

  • Good engagement – You and your users are able to ‘like’, post, comment and share posts as often as you want
  • Easy to share new products and services as well as provide basic information (such as contact number, address and opening hours)
  • Easy to post a wide range of content
  • Use of hashtags make it easy to spread your company message to an audience searching within Facebook

Cons:

  • Negative feedback on your business page is highly visible to other users
  • If your followers ‘like’ a large number of pages, your posts may get lost in the mix
  • Investing in paid advertising has become the most optimal way to gain exposure on Facebook. In other words, organic content is no longer cutting it – you need to have a paid advertising campaign to see results.

Summary: Facebook is a highly-effective platform to connect with your target audience and share products, services and other relevant pieces of content that will promote your brand and encourage loyalty from your customers. It also provides a useful platform to gain feedback from your customer base, whether they post on your wall or send you a private message.

Star Players: Skincare company Burt’s Bees Facebook page has an impressive 2.7 million fans and features, polls for market research, discount coupons, rich visual imagery and allows customers to purchase product directly from Facebook.

Twitter

Description/How to use: Create a Twitter handle and start tweeting to get involved in discussions that are relevant to your business and target audience. To encourage engagement, ‘reply to’, ‘favourite’, ‘retweet’ other users that are participating in the same discussions. Users are also able to post photos, graphics and video, however due to the 140 character limit, Twitter remains a text-focused social media platform.

Main Audience: The majority of Twitter users are aged between 18 and 29, making the platform suitable for companies skewered towards a younger crowd. Initially Twitter was utilised by a male-dominant user base, but in recent years there has been a sharp increase in female users.

Pros:

  • Great way to increase engagement as long as you tap into the right discussions that attract your target audience so that you can gradually build up a following
  • Your followers can easily ‘favourite’ and ‘retweet’ your posts, which will be visible to all of their followers and lead to high levels of engagement
  • Effective platform for companies with the time and resources to get their branding and messaging out there
  • A valuable customer service or tech support outlet allowing customer queries to be answered quickly

Cons:

  • For business’ with limited resources, constant Twitter activity may be difficult to achieve
  • While you can post pictures and videos, this will take up some of the 140 character limit, making it hard to fit in both media and text into one post
  • Think before you tweet! Negative tweets can spread very quickly and have unrepairable effects to your business

Summary: If you and your brand have a lot to say then Twitter is the perfect platform for you. Make sure you decide on your Twitter personality and develop a content calendar to ensure consistency.

Do you want to be funny? Informative? Controversial? The possibilities are endless, but at the end of the day your posts should fall in line with your company’s key messaging. You have the potential to gain a huge amount of followers (and customers) so make sure you come up with a rock-solid strategy before you start tweeting to your heart’s content.

Star Player: Etsy’s Twitter presence is a perfect example of how quality content keeps people coming back for more. The peer-to-peer e-commerce site specialising in handmade and vintage items does a great job of mixing up products they tweet about – not just targeted towards women. They also have a great sense of humour and often retweet followers when they’re mentioned.

Instagram

Description/How to use: Create an account and start posting images or videos that showcase your brand’s products and/or services. You can choose from a series of filters to enhance your images as well as use hashtags so that your content is easily searchable within Instagram. Instagram only allows users to post using mobile devices as it’s a social media platform that’s geared towards people on the go.

Main Audience: Instagram has a community of more than 300 million users and 60 million photos daily. More than half of Instagram users are aged between 18 and 29 years old, with the dominant gender being female (although not by much).

Pros:

  • A great platform to encourage followers to post their own images or videos of your products, which can then be re-purposed to use across other platforms (user-generated content)
  • The use of hashtags makes it easy to spread messaging to an audience searching within Instagram
  • Great for companies whose products are highly visual in nature, such as fitness, beauty and lifestyle brands
  • Brands can get creative with photos, videos, captions and hashtags to appeal to their target audience

Cons:

  • Not able to post links in individual posts (only in bio on the users main page)
  • Isn’t as effective for service-based businesses, although this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a presence on the platform.
  • Posts can only be made through a mobile service, not on a laptop or desktop, which may prove to be inconvenient for some

Summary: Instagram is the perfect platform for brands to communicate visually with their followers, which will in turn increase engagement, build loyalty and increase website traffic. Think of Instagram as a form of free advertising for your business, which can gain huge amounts of exposure if your strategy is done correctly.

Star Player: Fashion label Topshop’s Instagram account features a variety of different visual content that appeals directly to their target audience, such as products in diverse settings, behind the scenes imagery from fashion shoots and photos of customers and models wearing Topshop pieces.

LinkedIn

Description/How to use: Create a LinkedIn business page start building your profile. Make sure to include background information about the company (specialties, website, industry, company size etc). Start connecting with other businesses and individuals in your industry and post regular updates and pieces of content that will help distinguish yourself as an expert in your field. You and your employees should all have professional and up-to-date profiles as this has a direct effect on how the company is perceived.

Main Audience: Unlike most social media platforms, LinkedIn users are an older demographic, with the majority of users falling within the 30-49 age group. They are usually business professionals who are interested in growing and maintaining their network as well as accessing useful information and advice from key influencers in their industry.

Pros:

  • Once you publish a post, the content is available site wide, not only to your followers but to potential new customers or connections that could be of benefit
  • LinkedIn is segmented by industry, so you’ll naturally fall into your niche with like-minded peers that will appreciate your original/unique content.
  • A convenient place to share latest company news and updates as well as basic information, such as website url, contact number and address.

Cons:

  • LinkedIn’s audience is mainly skewed towards business professionals, making the platform unsuitable for companies targeting demographics such as stay-at-home mums and teenage boys.
  • Because of its discerning audience, it may take a bit longer than other platforms to establish yourself and your business as an influencer in your industry.

Summary: LinkedIn is the largest social media platform for business and your page serves as your company’s online calling card. It’s the perfect place to research company and people for employment recruiting, lead generation and job searches.

Star Player: Mashable has tons of content to share, which makes LinkedIn the perfect platform for the online media company. Although they publish a wide range of subjects on their website, the Mashable team sticks to more business-oriented topics to appeal to the professional demographic on LinkedIn. They regularly well-written, relevant content that generates high levels of engagement, such as ‘If ‘House of Cards’ characters used LinkedIn’.

Pinterest

Description/How to use: Sign up for an account and create different boards that are reflective of your business. For instance, a bridal company would create boards that focus on wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, venue inspiration, wedding favours etc. Now for the fun part! Start pinning items of interests from your own product line and other products that inspire. Don’t forget to repin posts from within Pinterest as well. The goal is to create a carefully-curated scrapbook for your brand.

Main Audience: Pinterest attracts a predominantly female-based audience who are interested in aesthetics, DIY, fashion, fitness, lifestyle and food.

Pros:

  • Each pin links back to the website it was ‘pinned’ from, which will increase referral traffic back to your website if you regularly pin your own products.
  • Pinning to specific boards will help you easily save and keep track of your content
  • When a user repins one of your posts, it is automatically shared to their followers

Cons:

  • Doesn’t lend itself well to service-based companies due to its visual nature
  • Targets a very specific audience – Pinterest users are made up of 85% females, of which 70% are under the age of 45.

Summary: If your social media strategy falls within the niche target audience that Pinterest appeals to, then it’s worth the time and effort to ‘pin’, ‘repin’ and ‘heart’ on a daily basis. However, if your main audience isn’t spending time on this platform, then it might be worth using your precious resources elsewhere.

Star Player: Pinterest ticks all the right boxes for Sephora as a social media platform: plenty of visual content to share, female target demographic and the perfect way to link back to their website product pages. Sephora’s Nailspotting board takes it a step further by encouraging Sephora community members to share nail designs, hence connecting to their customers and creating pins to their products at the same time.

Snapchat

Description/How to use: Once you sign up for a Snapchat account, you have the ability to post photos and videos (up to 10 seconds long) that will stay on a recipient’s device for 24 hours before it disappears.

Main Audience: Snapchat has increased dramatically in popular amongst the 13 and 34 year old demographic and is a great opportunity for businesses to create clever campaigns to reach their target audience.

Pros:

  • Snapchat generates 7+ billion video views daily, making it an ideal platform to increase brand exposure
  • Gives customers a ‘behind the scenes’, personal view of your business
  • Easy to include Snapchat scannable code on other marketing materials and social media platforms to allow users to add your business.

Cons:

  • If your target audience falls outside of the millennial demographic (13-34 year age group) it may not be worth the time to dedicate resources to regularly post video and imagery.
  • As more and more businesses get on board with Snapchat marketing, the potential for ‘spammy’ posts to increase will eliminate the personal and fun aspect of the platform.

Summary: If you’re looking for a fun and creative way to connect with your customer base then Snapchat may be perfect for your business – just make sure your target audience is frequenting this platform. Visual communication is becoming the driving force of engagement across all social media platform, so Snapchat is an obvious platform to get on board with.

Star Player: McDonald’s is well known for their high-profile ad campaigns, and the fast food giant uses Snapchat to give their followers a sneak peek into what goes on behind the scenes with their favourite celebrities and athletes, such as LeBron James. Connecting with their audience on a more personal level gives McDonald’s the opportunity to break away from the corporate angle they’re usually associated with.

 

kristine-bioKristine Stone is a copywriter at Sydney-based design agency Orion Creative. She’s obsessed with social media, blogging and keeping up with the latest digital marketing trends. A self-confessed word nerd, Kristine has experience writing about women’s lifestyle, bridal, technology, interior design and a wide range of other industries.


You’re probably already aware that maintaining a social media presence is absolutely essential for any type of business to gain brand exposure and engaging with your consumer audience. But have you been keeping up to date with the social media trends that are set to dominate in 2016?

This year is all about fresh and up-to-the minute content through visual forms of communication, such as video and emojis. Users are also getting more social media-savvy and expect to be able to do everything they need in one app. “Tell me more!” you exclaim excitedly. Here are 5 social media trends that can’t be ignored when considering your social media strategy for 2016.

1. Real-time engagement rules

Towards the end of 2015 it became very clear that users are hungry for real-time video content. Live streaming app Periscope’s rapid rise in popularity since its official launch in March 2015 is a perfect example of the demand for live content. Once logged in, users are able to post live, unedited video segments that are viewed and commented on by their followers. In a similar fashion, Snapchat and Twitter Moments allows users to post live updates to their followers at the tap of their fingertips.

Give your audience a deeper look into your brand

Businesses who are taking advantage of these social platforms are quickly seeing results. By posting live video streams, a company is showing a more authentic side to its consumers, which in return builds trust and loyalty. People love the idea of getting live, behind-the-scenes peeks at what goes on with a company. For instance, retail chain Target used Periscope to provide a behind-the-scenes peek into their new Lilly Pulitzer line which resulted in such huge demand that 90% of the collection sold out within days. Behind the scenes, interviews and product announcements are just a few ways that Periscope and other live streaming apps can benefit a business.

2. Data-driven marketing will increase its dominance

It’s no secret social media helps you figure out who your audience is and how you can tailor your content to promote engagement and encourage conversions. Marketers haven’t previously had access to so much information about consumer preferences before and are quickly trying to cash in on this benefit.

Benefits of breaking down your data

Social media analytics can be used to determine when consumers are going through significant lifestyle changes, such as getting married, having a baby or buying a house, businesses. This is a time when consumers are more willing to change their spending habits and a sweet spot for gaining their loyalty. Plus, these consumers are also more likely to be advocates for your brand.

Coca Cola used Twitter’s Tailored Audience function to create personalised tweets that used consumers’ first names for their Share-a-Coke campaign in 2015, and increased sales by 7% in Australia and 3% in the US. These results strongly suggest that when marketing platforms are micro-targeted by audience segments, there is a noticeable increase in brand exposure and engagement.

3. Major leaps and bounds with in-app functionality

Long gone are the days when a user has to jump from one app to another to achieve what they need to do. Social media platforms and messaging apps are providing everything you need within one app for a seamless and time-saving experience. A perfect example of this is the messaging app WeChat, which currently has 549 million active users worldwide and contributes $1.76bn in lifestyle spending in China. Aside from allowing users to send messages to their contact list, WeChat gives users the ability to:

  • Express emotion with emojis and stickers
  • Send money and pay bills
  • Purchase products
  • Get one-on-one customer help
  • Make a call
  • Send voice messages
  • Host Group Chats
  • Post images, videos and status updates

Other messaging apps, like Whatsapp and Viber have developed similar functions although they’re not yet quite as developed as WeChat.

Jumping on the bandwagon

Due to its huge popularity, particularly in China, businesses worldwide are quickly realising the need to corner this lucrative market by setting up their brand on WeChat. By setting up a WeChat platform, companies can give users a range of functionalities, such as purchase products, access customer service and view regular updates and announcements.

Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo increased sales by 30% in China and doubled their WeChat followers from 400,000 to 1 million in just six months with the launch of their Style Your Life campaign in 2015. Consumers were able to try on outfits and use their mobile phones or in-store monitors to take photos and load them onto WeChat to superimpose them against different backgrounds (snow, tropical island, etc).

4. Gifs, videos and emojis.. oh my! 

Visual communication has become driving forces of engagement, with micro-videos, gifs and emojis becoming a common form of expression, especially amongst young consumers. Facebook, Twitter and Google are all vying for more video and integrated gif content to deliver the demand and retain users.

Press record to encourage engagement

Facebook is set to dominate the video scene with the introduction of 360 video, a camera system that simultaneously records 360 degrees of a scene, allowing viewers to pan and rotate to watch the video from different angles. For instance, ABC NEWS used 360 on Facebook to allow their viewers to take a look into Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Utilising new video apps to gain brand exposure and increase engagement will show that your business is focused on creating buzz and staying

Making sense of emojis

Emojis are another trend that marketers are using to their advantage. Think what you want about Kim Kardashian, but her release of the Kimoji app generated 9000 downloads per second which generated $1 million revenue per minute! The app was so in demand the servers crashed due to its inability to keep up with demand.

At first glance, they might just seem like a fun way to express yourself but if you take a closer look you can gather important information about your consumer base. “But how?” you ask (insert frustrated emoji here), “they’re just cute little images people use when messaging their friends.” Consider the following questions:

  • Do you know what emojis are associated with your business and what they mean?
  • Do you know the context of such conversations?
  • Can you convert that information into actionable insight?

By analysing the actual meaning and logic behind the use of emoji characters, you should be able to discover valuable information about your target audience.

5. Buy buttons will become the norm

The ability to purchase products in social media apps has already been introduced by Facebook and Pinterest, who’ve introduced ‘buy’ buttons for advertisers and users. Facebook are currently testing their ‘call-to-action’ button across small and medium-sized business in the US with the hopes of rolling it out worldwide this year. Pinterest ‘buy’ buttons are displayed on pins, which allows the user to click and purchase without having to leave the app.

A new way to reach your target audience

By the end of 2016 most major social media brand will feature a ‘buy’ button in some kind of capacity as an element of their advertising campaign. This will allow businesses access to a whole new realm of advertising, giving them the ability to push specific products targeted towards segmented audiences. For example, a baby products company is able to target women who are due to have a baby or recently given birth, to advertise newborn products such as clothing, nappies and nursery accessories which can be purchased at a click of a button.

So there you have it… another exciting year in the always-changing world of social media. Are there any other social media trends that you think are set to take over in 2016? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Kristine Stone is a copywriter at Sydney-based design agency Orion Creative. She’s obsessed with social media, blogging and keeping up with the latest digital marketing trends. A self-confessed word nerd, Kristine has experience writing about women’s lifestyle, bridal, technology, interior design and a wide range of other industries.


Image credit: Tara Moore | Taxi | Getty Images

A new collection of stock photos launched by Getty Images offers an escape from the cliché of gender stereotyping that we’ve become accustomed to in the stock photo market place.

Stock photos are a fantastic resource for marketing materials, websites and blog posts for those times that we aren’t able to take our own pictures or arrange professional photography.

And if we have the budget available to choose between both free and paid images, we have a huge amount of images to potentially use to illustrate our point (and that’s without mentioning scraping images from Google because no one does that, right?).

But while there are literally millions of images available, quantity does not automatically mean diversity. Many stock photos have come to perpetuate stereotypes as a consequence of targeting ‘mass appeal’. Spread all around us, and increasingly all around the globe, these images offer inadequate role models and can have a limiting effect on our cultural perceptions of what is both acceptable and achievable.

“You can’t be what you can’t see. In an age where media are all around us, it is critical that images provide examples that both women and men can emulate.” Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook, Founder LeanIn.Org

The Lean In Collection, launched by Getty Images this month, is the collaborative effort between women’s empowerment non-profit LeanIn.org and Getty’s own visual trend experts. Curation of the Collection focused on more accurate portrayal of contemporary women and incorporates a library of over 2,500 images.

The Lean In Collection allows us to see a range of women being themselves; trying new things, being confident, skilful and not limited by what others think. Models for the Lean In Collection include unconventionally beautiful and real women of all ages and backgrounds.

In freeing up stereotypes of women, the images also bring a welcoming sense of reality to the world of the men and children who also feature in the collection. Children aren’t stuck doing ‘boy things’ and ‘girl things’, and men are allowed to be shown doing the myriad of activities unrestricted by tired roles of business man/ action man/ weekend dad.

The benefit to women’s empowerment goes beyond the message that these images spread, too, with a portion of the proceeds raised by licensing to fund two new grant programs. These grants are designed to further the work of both an individual documentary photographer and a team working to support the empowerment of women. Grant applications can be submitted between April 1 and May 15, 2014.

As women leaders in business, we are already carving alternative paths through society’s expectations. By choosing to use images of authentic women in our business communications we can help promote the kind of society we wish to move toward.

If you are in need of stock photography, you very well may find your next image in the Lean In Collection.

Heidi McElnea

Heidi manages written communications for the various digital and print design services offered by Orion Creative. It’s a colourful blend of website and social media content, email marketing, e-learning, copy for print and scripts for voice overs.


Are you one of the estimated 425 million people with a Gmail account? If so, take a minute to understand how Google’s new ‘email anyone’ feature can deliver emails from total strangers straight to your inbox.

We’ll also take a look at what else we may have inadvertently signed up to when we become part of Google’s world, as Google decides to opt us in to arguably the largest email marketing experiment to date.

When we sign up to a service like Gmail, we’re required to accept the terms and conditions – even the one that says that the terms and conditions can change without notice at any time!

Sometimes settings and features do change overnight  – such as the introduction of tabbed inboxes – and we just simply stumble through until we figure out what on earth is going on.

Other times Google may hint at, or notify email users about a change, as it has with the new ’email anyone’ feature. But it’s easy to miss these signs, and we need to dig deeper to find out more about how to make these changes work for us.

So what’s changed?

Google made a couple of significant changes to its privacy terms in recent weeks. Perhaps the most significant is that anyone who has a Google + account can now email you, whether you know them or not. Google claims your email address is secure, and that your actual email address is not revealed to the sender unless you reply to their email. But if you make the mistake of replying – such as to say you don’t know them or you’re not interested in what they are offering – then they’ve got you.

Google advises that if you do receive an email from some random person you’re not interested in, just ‘Report Spam’ or ‘Abuse’, and hope that Gmail’s spam filter recognises them the next time they try to email you.

On the flipside, if you did decide it was worth doing some ‘cold calling’ via Google + accounts, it’s not clear whether your email address could be blacklisted through Gmail’s community filter if people are only given the option to class your email as spam or abuse . Perhaps introducing a ‘Delete and Block Sender’ option would better way of sorting malicious contacts from purely undesirable ones.

Is Google’s new ‘email anyone’ feature set to unleash a new wave of spam?

Quite possibly. Spam is simply defined as ‘unsolicited messaging’, and Google has now rolled out the tools to allow you, and everyone else, to do exactly that. Basically Google has compiled the world’s largest email subscriber database.

Legally, the debate is likely to revolve around whether simply signing up to use Google’s webmail service is sufficient to be considered ‘inferred consent’ – that is, that by signing up to use Gmail or Google +, you’re likely to want to be in direct contact with potentially every other person who uses the service worldwide.

We have been ‘opted in’ by default

Perhaps the key take-away of this article is that if you are a Gmail user it is likely you have automatically been opted in to this mass marketing exercise. This does not appear to be different if the email user is a child (in most countries, Google allows users 13 and over to open a Gmail account).

If this level of exposure doesn’t suit you (or your child!), it is easy to take control of new Google privacy settings.

If you  select the ‘cog’ icon from your inbox, scroll down and select ‘settings’, then you are able to choose the level of privacy you need.

Review your other settings

While you’re tweaking your Gmail privacy settings, why not also log in to your Google + account and see what default settings are recorded there. Among other things, you’ll be able to choose whether you allow Google to show your profile picture and reviews as a ‘shared endorsement’ to users who are searching for companies and services you may have reviewed in the past.

Google offers users an amazing service, and most of us would be happy to give something back in return. But just because you buy us a drink Google, don’t just assume we’re going to want to stay the night.

Image credit: Notoriousxl

Heidi McElnea

Heidi manages written communications for the various digital and print design services offered by Orion Creative. It’s a colourful blend of website and social media content, email marketing, e-learning, copy for print and scripts for voice overs.


While some of us regularly self-Google to check the health of our public profile, others avoid it. It might be to avoid embarrassment or a sense of narcissism. It might be we’re just too busy, or it hasn’t even occurred to us to check.  In which category are you?

With studies showing that 90% of recruiters will Google you before they even meet you, it’s a good idea to get a sense of what information they will find. If there’s anything there that might affect your chance of landing a job or a client, it’s good to be proactive and implement a solution. It’s like having your skirt tucked in your stockings: you may be oblivious to the wardrobe malfunction, but it doesn’t mean that others aren’t looking. And it’s way better if you notice it before someone else does!

Ace the first two pages

Ideally, the first page or two of results of an online search on your name will present you as capable and relevant to your industry niche.

Have a quick check now. Google yourself (or Bing yourself if you’d rather) and scan the first two pages. Impressed? If so – nice work! You can stop reading (but perhaps bookmark this page for later). If you’re a little underwhelmed, read on.

Cultivating a healthy online identity is all about emphasising positive results, and minimising negative ones.

Emphasise the positive

When search engines determine which sites to include in a search engine results page (SERP), they aim to give  the most relevant pages from the most credible or ‘important’ sites. Social networking sites will feature prominently – so it’s a timely reminder to both assess your privacy settings on your Facebook account (if  it’s not a professional or semi-professional account) and monitor the content that you post there. While it’s a great idea to make use privacy controls,  they’re not foolproof.

LinkedIn is a highly credible site. If you have a profile on this network, it will almost always appear in the first three entries on a SERP page. If you have one, it’s worth giving it a polish. If you don’t, and you could do with some better results, think about setting up a profile. It’s free (for a basic account), and can be a handy resource in its own right.

You could also consider joining a  Q & A site like Quora, where you can contribute to discussions on topics you’re knowledgeable on.

Generating quality content is key to seeing some great search results:

  • publish your own blogs
  • upload relevant videos and photos
  • guest contribute articles and content to other sites

and you’ll give search engines plenty of opportunity to afford you a healthy online profile. Google has  set up Google+ and Author Rank to help the search engine index content individuals generate – it’s worth looking into if you’re posting regular content.

Minimise the negative

If you come across images or content that are troublesome, it’s worth contacting the friend/follower or site which has provided the content and asking kindly for it to be removed. Having the content removed won’t necessarily remove it search engine results, but at least if the link is clicked on, a 404-Not Found error message will be displayed and not the site itself.

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, for example, and your results are blighted by a negative review (such as a Google review) you may be able to flag it as inappropriate. If it’s a genuine review, the only real recourse is to encourage your happier clients to submit reviews of their own – pushing the bad one to the bottom of the pile.

A key strategy to deal with negative search results really is just to out compete them with positive ones. Better if that cranky comment you put on a blog post a while back – or that piece of erotic short fiction you submitted in your experimental phase – show up way, way down on the SERP.

Name variations

If you have a common name, you risk being mistaken for someone else online. Rather than taking the blame for others’ mistakes, look for ways to differentiate yourself (an exception could be if you share the same name as someone awesome – however that could just get complicated).

For example, consider including a middle name or initial, or even job title (eg GP, Filmmaker).

It’s also a good idea when Googling yourself to use variations of your name. Use your full name with and without your middle name, plus shortened versions and nicknames. If you haven’t already, choose the variation that suits your purposes best and build on that one.

Which search engine?

Not every search engine reveals the same results. While Australians largely use Google, it’s worth searching others. Search engines will keep cookies on your server too – so for an objective search experience you can use an anonymous search engine like duckduckgo.

A self-search can be a trip down memory lane, and may yield some surprising results. Have you discovered anything interesting about yourself this way?

 Featured Image Credit 

Heidi McElnea

Heidi manages written communications for the various digital and print design services offered by Orion Creative. It’s a colourful blend of website and social media content, email marketing, e-learning, copy for print and scripts for voice overs.


Whether it’s writing content for a single business blog or an entire website, if we understand how a web user processes content it helps us build the the best experience for visitors to our site. Plus, we’ll get more bang for our buck as it makes better use of those hours we put into writing and rewriting content.

Understanding online reading behaviour

Studies into online reading behaviour began as early as the late 1990s (by the Nielson Norman Group) using eyetracking and heat maps to determine user behaviour when taking in information from a screen. You may have seen these images, which gave rise to the term ‘F-shaped reading pattern’.

f_reading_pattern_eyetracking

The findings show that in many contexts, we scan rather than read content to find what we are after, and that there are patterns to the way we scan. Exceptions to this will be when we are specifically visit sites in order to read features or long form articles – and there’s certainly a place for these.

Whatever the nature of our web-browsing, we more often than not are there to find what we need to know – as simply and quickly as possible.

How to write scannable content

As web users dip into content, it’s important to make sure the most important information they need to know is structured and positioned where it is unlikely to be missed.

Borrow the inverted pyramid structure

When a journalist writes a hard news story, the most important facts are delivered straight up. Once these have been communicated, the journalist knows that he or she can elaborate on the story, knowing if the reader only gets to paragraph three and goes no further, then they have absorbed the essential details of the story.

We need to think about why visitors are coming to our pages. If we are marketing an event, what information should we be providing straight up? Most likely it will be performers, dates and venues, with instructions or access to tickets. Other details like the festival history, information about the event curator etc. can certainly be included but are placed later in the page. For those who are really interested, the information is there to discover. For those who just want to get tickets, they’ll be able to do so quickly, and won’t have bounced off to another site in the meantime.

Write headings

Headings are a simple way to highlight the topic of the following paragraphs and to break up blocks of text into more digestible chunks. Put the most important content or keywords to the left of the heading if possible, as this is where they stand the best chance of being noticed, by both search engines and the reader.

Use short sentences and punchy paragraphs

One idea per sentence and one topic per paragraph is a useful basis for your structure. If you bury an insight toward the end of a paragraph, it will likely to be missed. Trim sentences also improve the readability of your page.

Make time to re-read your page or post several times before you publish it online. Any repetition or tautology? Have you taken 20 words to say what you could in 10? Concise text is rewarded by both readers and search engines alike.

Highlight with bold text and anchor text

If the essence of a paragraph can be summed up in a few words, consider making them bold. Anchor text is another way to emphasise texts, as words which anchor a hyperlink are generally highlighted. It’s worth spending a few moments about which words you want to emphasise. There’s rarely any benefit to glean from ‘click here’!

Organise with bullet points and lists

Lists can present certain information quickly. Some tips for bullet points  include:

  • keep each point short
  • keep punctuation to a minimum
  • 5 (or 10 at most) items per list
  • ordered logically to allow easy comprehension.

Illustrate with images and graphics

It turns out that our experience as consumers of information on the Internet has made us develop some pretty finely-tuned sh*t detectors. We are much more likely to spend time scrutinising an image if we feel it is closely related to the content; and next to no time if we perceive it to be a fluffy, feel good image with only superficial relevance.

A relevant image makes for great content, as does graphic elements such as tables or illustrations which present information visually. Just remember to include ‘alt text’ if you are able. Alternative text is a simple captioned explanation for users and (Googlebots) who are visually impaired.

The importance of communicating clearly in a fog of information

There are many web sites offering information for users seeking certain answers, but much of it is not optimised for an online audience. By providing well researched content that is also well organised and easy to scan, visitors will be more likely to find the content they are after – and return there next time.

Featured image credit

Heidi McElnea

Heidi manages written communications for the various digital and print design services offered by Orion Creative. It’s a colourful blend of website and social media content, email marketing, e-learning, copy for print and scripts for voice overs.