Snap strikes back…

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Snap, Inc. stepped up their game last week, with the introduction of Context Cards. The newly public company has taken a number of body blows of late, most at the hands of their main competitor, Instagram.  This new feature, provides a great user experience and a solid way for businesses to integrate.

Just like Google Maps offers the ability to access a business’ contact information, hours, and reviews, these cards will provide the same information within the app. This is an intuitive feature in the mobile experience for most users and will feel very familiar and seamless, which will help with early adoption.

What I really like about this move from a local SMB lens, is that it will sync to commonly used convenience apps, such as Uber, OpenTable, and TripAdvisor and give users immediate access to reviews, reservations and even a ride to get there. My guess is that many other apps and tools will be joining the party very soon too.

The feature seems to be very easy to use, as you just swipe up when you see a card on a snap, and any additional information on the tagged place appears. If you are a native Snap user already this will be super simple and straightforward, which means it should catch on quickly.

This piece on SocialMediaToday.com, highlights the potential impact on influencer marketing – “despite recent reports showing that more influencers are moving away from Snapchat, and towards Instagram, Snapchat influencers still have significant sway, and audience reach. The introduction of Context Cards could facilitate a new partnership option for businesses, where they could pay for relevant influencers to visit their stores or events and add the relevant tags to have the Context Cards show up in their Snaps.

Imagine if one of your favorite celebrities was at a location nearby and Snapped about it – you could immediately find out the details and get there ASAP to meet them in person.”

We love that angle too, and think it might be time for SMB’s to get in the Snap game!

 

 

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On winning in Q4…

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Another Q4 is upon us and it is time for brands to really lock in and focus on finishing the year off strong, if they want to win the social game. We shared this piece on our thoughts about how to think about the 4th quarter last year and all of it remains super relevant again now. Give it a read!

This year we are encouraging our clients to really be smart in these key areas:

VIDEO:

We have published a bunch of pieces on our POV on video this year and all brands should read up and become better versed on the topic as they tackle Q4 and/or start their budget planning for 2018.

This doesn’t mean that they should just be pushing out random disjointed videos with no plan. We recommend that brands rethink video and make sure to put it where it works best. Some should be simple and native (slideshows, boomerangs, GIFs and live) and not only super structured or stylized ones.  Others should be of higher quality, and showcase the product and/or key attributes and USP’s.  Assess top KPI’s and create videos against them!

INSTAGRAM STORIES:

All brands should be highly active with Instagram Stories in Q4, as it represents underpriced attention on the platform where users pay the most attention. Given the ephemeral nature of the content, we encourage clients to not overthink it. We recommend a “document over create” mentality and it warrants some experimentation. It should be looked at as inexpensive impressions, in front of an interested and highly attentive audience.

We wrote this piece highlighting Instagram Stories back in August, that is worth a read.

LIVE (Facebook and Instagram):

All brands should be getting involved with Facebook (and even Instagram) Live. Once again this represents very underpriced attention and it is a way to hack increased exposure on Facebook. Fan bases are mostly irrelevant these days when it comes to organic content and for brands looking to contact more people on Facebook with their content, this is now a must. Rather than talking about why it won’t work, you need to be cracking the code on what will.

We created this post on Facebook and/or Instagram Live that highlights the need and breaks down some small ball tactics to help clients glean even more value from their efforts. Live video is watched 3x longer than videos that aren’t live anymore, AND users comment on Facebook Live videos at 10x the rate of regular videos.

ANCHOR:

For brands really looking to put out consistent content about their brand or industry, Anchor represents a very easy way to get into the podcasting/audio game. Some people might prefer audio over video, and this would be a path to do so seamlessly. This is only a recommendation for the most consistent content producers, as it takes time and commitment to stick the landing. It is probably a little early for most, but given the emergence of voice and podcasting it is worth investigating at this point. Don’t sit on the sidelines and get involved!

These are just some of the key areas of focus right now, and ones that we feel will pay dividends for our clients. Get your team in position and go and win this quarter!

 

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On the decreasing value of Instagram followers…

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It seems like all any brand wants to talk about these days, is growing their Instagram follower numbers. So many are caught up in that vanity metric and are losing sight of some of the more important elements such as engagement, reach and the emergence of the platform’s awesome Ad’s platform.

If you are growing a follower base of highly engaged users who want to hear about your brand, that is great. The problem is that most of your followers aren’t even seeing your content these days as Instagram constantly adjusts its algorithm and more and more brands and users are publishing content. It is just very difficult to get your content in front of those user’s eyes.

Many experts predict that the platform is also most likely going to migrate to a real pay to play model next year, (remember, they are owned by Facebook who did the same years back) whereas you will need to pay for content to be seen by targeted audiences. As a marketer who is well versed on their ads platform, I think it is great as they are teeing up very affordable ways to target super specific audiences.

If/when this happens, your follower count will be as irrelevant as your fan count on Facebook. If your metric for success on Instagram is follower numbers then you are swimming against the tide here. You should be focused more on your ability to reach audiences with your messages, and less on aggregating that follower count number on your own account.

We are big fans of Iconosquare here at Sircle and they just released some new tools to help you delve deeper into your Instagram metrics and performance. One standout is their reachability report, which we screenshot and added below:

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This is from a client of ours with over 30,000 followers on Instagram. As you can see, about 45% of their audience is deemed “rarely reachable” or “unreachable”, meaning their content is almost never seen by almost half of their audience.  Upon deeper investigation you can see their average reach per post and average reach rate below:

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The image on the left shows the average number of people who have seen one of their posts in the last 30 days. The image on the right shows the average reach rate per post, which is the number of people who have seen the post divided by their number of followers.  Both are in the 20% neighborhood which means 1 out of every 5 followers.

For this same account, we currently average $4 CPM’s with IG Ad’s.  That means that for $24 we could hit 6000 users and those would be more targeted and valuable than their follower base, which has been collected over the past few years. Also, when we gift and/or collaborate with influencers in the 50-100K follower range, we see similar exposure too.

The bottomline is that while Instagram follower count growth feel nice, it packs much less of a value punch than most think. As brands contemplate the ROI and value of social media and start planning for Q4 and/or 2018, they might want to revisit that as a KPI or at least move it way down in the pecking order.  If it is targeted reach they are after, there are better options and they don’t even need to leave the Instagram platform.

#Facts

 

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On understanding digital, for your business…

Almost every single meeting I go to these days, involves a conversation around brands wanting to grow their own e-commerce, so they have more margin control and customer data that is truly their’s, rather than a partner like Amazon’s. The problem is that most founders, brand managers and even CMO’s lack the digital chops to get it done. That is not an insult, just an observation from the field.

Truth is there are plenty of great branders and marketers out there who never had to learn digital, especially this current landscape we live in. Nowadays many are just a bit outside of their comfort zone. As a result, they either try silo’d tactics with shiny platforms like Curalate, HubSpot, Mixpanel, Bounce Exchange etc., that ultimately fail because they are not part of a bigger, more strategic plan OR just sit on the sidelines and don’t actually do what they know deep down needs to be done.

We created a product called The Digital Deep Dive a couple of years back to help brands change that trajectory and get a handle on their digital footprint. With each passing month the need gets stronger and the ecosystem becomes more diverse and difficult to navigate. You must be looking under the hood to assess if you are doing things the right way and that you are setup to win. It is not a complex concept and the impact is a powerful and meaningful one for any online business.

Ready to get serious about content, analytics, email, marketing and conversions?  Just DIVE in!

 

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On seeing the light with dark posting…

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If you are not deploying Facebook Dark Posts into your paid social efforts, you are missing the boat. As a reminder, Dark Posts are News Feed style ads that look just like regular fan page posts, but actually go unpublished to your page. So they don’t show up on your Timeline or in your fans’ feeds organically. They are essentially dark to your page and only visible to the targeted audience you choose to show them to. They can only be created in the Power Editor, which means you need more that a layman’s level skillset to bring them to life. It is important to take the time to start learning how to do them or find a partner who can execute them for you. #facts

They are great tools for A/B testing creative and copy, especially if you want to really speak directly to a specific subset. Let’s say you post on your timeline and want to promote a protein product. When creating the post, you need to have the asset and langue be universal and applicable to all viewers so you don’t alienate parts of your audience. With a dark post though, you can go very specific (i.e. Are you a woman in your 30′s who likes to shop at Whole Foods?”) which as you can imagine is highly effective at capturing the attention of users that fit that profile.  The possibilities are endless.

One highly effective usage case we like to deploy for our clients, is promoting retailer relationships. First off, that is a mission critical component to the success of the brand, because if they don’t help massage velocity reports at their retail partners, they could end up off of their shelves. Buyers these days will ask brands about their social presence and will often look at follower counts on platforms like Instagram and Facebook as a proxy for their brand’s social prowess. To be honest that is the wrong metric for success in this equation. It is irrelevant how many followers they have, what matters is how many people they reach. If a brand can show a buyer that they have figured out how to support their orders with hyper local and narrowly targeted ads, that facilitate awareness and foot traffic, then they really pique the interest of those buyers, most of whom have never heard of dark posting in the first place.

Below is an example of a campaign we created for our client Kidfresh Foods, to support one of their biggest retailers, Walmart. We targeted fans of Walmart and added in some other qualifiers too (can’t share it all with you here) who live in specific geo-targeted areas. We then made sure the copy and asset had the retailer’s name most prominent so we could capture the attention of those users, on the back of their household name. We included the two most important brand messages; the fact that they are tasty (they really are BTW) and that they can be found in the frozen aisle. These are two key messaging hurdles that the client feels are most important to convey via social and we put them front and center with this Ad.

The post was a real success. It reached 40,000+ people and earned a ton of engagement, including a lot of shares and comments, which were almost entirely super positive. It served up a number of opportunities for us to go in and answer questions and/or strike up a real dialogue with our fans and local consumers, which is the whole point of social media in the first place.  Added bonus: this one dark post created a nice audience of “people who recently engaged with our page” that we can specifically target with additional messaging now too.

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We then took these findings (with proof of concept in hand) and ran them back against all of their key retailers. We also gave their sales team a real weapon to show to new prospects and buyers out in the field.  This is a real winner when it comes to converting those types of sales and helps the company grow.

If you aren’t pivoting, learning and adjusting to the new ways of marketing and using tools like Dark Posts, then it could be lights out for your brand.  See what we did there? ;)

 

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On Instagram collaborations and giveaways…

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At Sircle, we run all kinds of Instagram collaborations and giveaways for clients every day it seems. We do so, because they are surefire ways to hack new exposure for a brand and typically come with very little cost, other than some hard work and logistics management. They carry a lot of upside with little downside in our opinion, as you try to harvest and grow an Instagram community.

Working in this way is a “religion over tactics” (@Garyvee) type thing, as it takes commitment and consistency to see the results. You need to remain dedicated to the initiative and must not just put your toe in the water and be half sold on the mission. You also cant jump in and out and/or sweat the details of any one engagement, if you want to see real success.

The floor in this equation, is that these gain you new eyeballs and an endorsement from the brand or influencer you collaborate with in front of their earned audience. As a ceiling, if the ask is compelling and your content is attractive, then you gain new followers and engagement on your own account. Either way, you are displaying your product front and center with a group of people, who have likely never even heard of your brand before. Isn’t that the whole point of marketing?

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Earlier this month we ran this giveaway/collaboration for our client Wala Swim.  We partnered up with another brand, @mydevcurl, that brought with them 257K followers and exposure to a new and more diverse audience (another KPI for the client). We also lassoed in an influencer, @mzbiancarenee, who has a solid and engaged following, for accelerated reach and exposure.

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The table above is from Iconosquare and displays follower growth over a week in early August. When we posted on August 2nd we saw a big pop in followers (+1753 net) and had another solid day on August 3rd (+509 net) too. Both were well north of their average organic (125) and contest driven (300) daily growth numbers. Most clients focus on net growth numbers as their proxy for success with these, and though we think they are important, I am even more happy with the impressions, likes and comments it earned. I also like the engagement opportunities is teed up for us to strike up a one-to-one conversation with those who engaged.

Either way, this one did particularly well given the creative, timing and partners that were selected. The truth is you never know which will really pop until you take it for a spin. If it is an evergreen component to your strategy, then you are at least putting yourself in a position to win.  If you aren’t in the game, there is zero chance for success like this – that I know for certain!

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What’s the story with Instagram Stories?

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A year ago today, Instagram rolled out their “stories” product. It was a direct shot across the bow of Snap, Inc. and many wondered if it would stick the landing as a real and viable product.  That month we posted our thoughts on the product and gave recommendations on how brands might want to go about tackling the shiny new toy.

A year later and Instagram Stories are a powerful force in the social media ecosystem.  According to this post on Instagram’s blog, which was sort of a birthday wish to itself, over 50% of businesses posted an Instagram story last month.  Even more amazing is that it has drastically increased the time spent by their 250 million+ active daily users, making it a more valuable platform for consumers and creating increased consumption opportunities for brands.

It quickly went from a dip your toe in situation to a front and center focus for many brands and we have found that it produces a power punch of impressions, accelerates reach and engagement and helps produce better results from brand and influencer collaborations. This is top billing placement, on the platform where the most users are paying the most attention. If you have a brand that is looking to communicate with customers and followers online, then this is a story you want to write yourself into.

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Its all about the ‘tude

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I have been practicing a new routine of late and I have found that it has really elevated my mental game and overall work output. I call it the ‘tude check and I will break it down for you here.

I create set slots on my calendar to signal that I should check in with a mindset, and reminds me to zero in on a specific and sometimes overlooked area of focus. As disciplined as I am (or at least think I am) I still find that this set calendar date with my brain really helps make sure I keep the commitment and really think about it tangibly.

1- Attitude- Here I remind myself on Sunday nights how much I love what I do, how much I cant wait to get into work and how much I am committed to building a really successful company for me, my clients and my employees.  I am a pretty focused and upbeat guy anyway, but that reminder is just a little nudge in that direction to make sure I am employing the right attitude to win.

Every week at that time (when I am in a great attitude mindset) I literally draft an email to my entire team and set the stage for their week. I read articles that motivate me to push harder, work deeper and never sit back and coast. I even pick out the Monday morning Instagram post for my company that will set the stage for us to kick a@# and take names that week. The right attitude sets the altitude for the week for sure.

2- Latitude- On Wednesdays around 3PM, I have been doing what I call a coordinates check in. I have written before about how I try to regiment my days/weeks and cover a lot of different areas for my company. So at this time, I stop and look at my compass (if you will) to gauge where I am at for the week? Am I ahead or behind pace? Is there anywhere that I need to pivot or adjust?  This allows me to course correct for Thursday and Friday and make sure I over-index in any area(s) that is/are lagging or that just needs heavy focus given the ever changing landscape of running my own business, especially one in the service space.

3- Gratitude- I have also written before about having a “gratitude attitude” and it is really so important for your mental success. On Fridays I will spend time sending some sort of thank you message to a client, employee or referral partner to let them know I am truly thankful for their contribution to my success personally or professionally. Sometimes I will even just call a parent, to check in and let them know I am thinking of them and want to see how they are doing. I do this because it is the right thing to do and to be honest it selfishly feels good which helps fill my tank with some good energy.  Once again after a week in client services, it is a much needed reprieve from the constant barrage of negative energy (sometimes warranted and much more often, unwarranted) that comes my way.

I wanted to put this down in a post, so I could share it and potentially convince others to “cop a ‘tude” too. Being positive, thankful and focused on staying on course and not getting too distracted or off target is obviously a smart approach to business and life in general. This is just a roadmap to potentially help you get there.

 

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On why you can’t afford to not create video…

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With all of the compelling stats behind the need for video today, brands should be sprinting to get in the game, yet many are still mostly on the sidelines. I would say that the number one reason I hear as to why, is that they “can’t afford it right now” and will revisit it later. In my opinion this is a big mistake and I would strongly argue that they cannot afford not to spend on video. Let me explain.

If they are already committed to social media, trying to grow their own e-commerce platform (to earn better margins, have a direct dialogue with consumers rather than a 3rd party partner such as Amazon etc.) and really any type of online messaging, and they actually care about results and ROI, then video has to be a part of the mix.  It offers increased exposure, cheaper CPM’s and higher engagement. So if you are in digital marketing and looking to optimize your game, then you cant leave your 7 iron in the bag.  It is literally your number one tool to improve performance and get more for your dollar.

I think one of the fears with video is that it is just cost prohibitive. Historically this has been true as the market pricing has been high and for the most part is still out of whack. So if and when a brand actually takes the leap to create a brand video and shells out a lot of money, they say to themselves or their provider that the video “has to go viral”. They say that because they need massive reach and game changing results to rationalize the high price tag. You don’t need video to “go viral” (what does that really even mean anyway?) you need it to help augment your social content and storytelling and improve your website experience, email marketing and paid social efforts. With video, the performance in all of these categories skyrockets. You immediately compromise your results by not finding a way to “afford” video.

Now the problem is that most pure play video shops don’t really want to create micro content videos for social media, as they see it as the underbelly of the video space. They want to do longer form, higher priced and more intricate pieces. I get it, those are great, profitable and more fun. That doesn’t mean that the market doesn’t still need these videos in a very big way. On the other end of the spectrum there are interns, freelancers and even young and resourceful internal employees who can create one off videos. The issue there is the messaging is typically disjointed, not pursuant to a real strategy and these players don’t typically understand what works and does not work on social/digital. You really need a partner who gets it.  (ahem…Sircle Media…ahem)

Most brands (especially in a crowded category such as the healthy CPG space) need at least 3 core videos:

Product Front and Center Video: Puts your main product(s) on display so potential customers see your packaging and/or get a feel for what your product is. We recommend you feature your hero lineup and present that on Facebook and Instagram.  This you would boost to fans of competitors perhaps.

Describe The Product Video: Puts your main USP’s on display and can highlight the WHY behind the WHAT for one or all of your products.  This would target special interest groups for your ingredients or perhaps even be used as part of your retargeting efforts to move buyers further down the funnel that have already signed up for your email, visited your website and/or even engaged with your Facebook or Instagram content.

Retailer Call Out Video: Lets consumers know where to find you (i.e. Whole Foods) and conveys that the brand is “bigger/better” as it is in many stores/doors. These can be used to target fans of that retailer AND/OR can be used as part of your dark posting strategy, set to really drive foot traffic locally into a specific retailer without muddying up your timeline.  This is a very important tool to help your sales people out in the field, who are trying to get and keep your products on shelves.

All three of these video types are simple, yet impactful for your business online. The game has changed and brands need to adapt to it.  I spoke with a prospect this week and they had a brand/hero video (they paid a lot for back in 2015) front and center on their website.  It was actually uploaded on YouTube (because that was the default back then) and was just playing through a viewer. The video is cute and actually had thousands of views, but the problem was that YouTube was actually showing ads against the video and those ads were for another CPG. So if a consumer saw that and then clicked on the ad, it would actually take them away from the brand. In that sense it actually hurt that the video had a lot of views on YouTube.

So the bottomline is that any brand or business looking to win online needs to rethink video completely. They need to solve for a way to get videos made, to create many rather than one (why put all eggs in one basket?) and to understand how and where to use them in today’s online ecosystem.  Our recommendation is to not sit back and watch others in your space do it, while you wait til you can afford it. That is something you definitely cannot afford to do.

 

 

 

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On influencers and KPI’s…

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We have written several pieces on the power of influencer marketing and the need to have it as part of your marketing mix, if you are looking to sell a product to consumers these days.  Our position on the topic has only strengthened over time, and we once again encourage all readers to really consider the potential and to get into the game.

Don’t get caught up in semantics, and most certainly don’t be stubborn about being anti-pay to play engagements with micro influencers. Some brands we speak with feel they are a vanity play and don’t drive real results.  We would argue the exact opposite, as the data points to these types of engagements being real KPI winners.  You have to be smart about who you engage with, what the goal is and the metrics for success should be outlined up front of course. This is true for any marketing tactic though.

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As other digital advertising becomes more competitive and intrusive it is very important to find new ways to penetrate and create awareness for your products or services.  Influencers (especially the good ones) provide an entree to captive audiences who trust their marketing messages and endorsements.  You must seek out the right partners and capitalize on these opportunities.

TapInfluence put out this compelling report, that highlights some telling statistics and is worth a download. Here are some that they collected and posted on their website:

Influencer marketing content delivers 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing. (TapInfluence study with Nielsen Catalina Solutions, 2016)
Twitter users report a 5.2X increase in purchase intent when exposed to promotional content from influencers. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
74% of people turn to social networks for guidance on purchase decisions. (Ogilvy Cannes, 2014)
40% of people say they’ve purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, or YouTube (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
73% of Millennials see it as their responsibility to guide friends, peers, and family toward smart purchase decisions. (Fleishman-Hillard PR & Hearst Magazine)
71% of marketers believe that ongoing ambassadorships are the most effective form of influencer marketing. (TapInfluence & Altimeter, June 2016,)

These stats jump off the page and should make it pretty clear that this is a frontier that needs to be in the mix. Influencer collaborations drive real business results and cannot be ignored. In the end of the day they are just people with a POV and a captive audience that seems to care about what they have to say, and takes direction when they give advice. Perhaps I just influenced you to get started?  Case in point…

 

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