On being truly committed to social media in 2018…

Bubble speech with cut out phrase social media in the paper.

2018 is in our crosshairs and conquering social media is on top of every brand and business’ to do list. Owners, Chief Marketing Officers, and Brand Managers, are trying to answer a myriad of key questions including – “What is the ROI, what KPI’s should I be assessing? Do I outsource, handle internally, use a hybrid model etc.?”  You must have confidence in your product or service, have some goals you want to achieve and then you can deploy strategies and tactics that can work.

Of course, Video, Stories, Paid Social, Influencers, Voice (and others) are the hot-button topics that forecasters and marketers are chattering about, but before jumping into any of these you have got to get your head around the fact that social is not a sometimes thing, it is an always on-all of the time thing.  You have to believe it in your bones and you must be all in and not half-hearted in your execution. This is about your brand’s survival, act as if!

First, it is important to remember two very important facts: 

1)   Social Media is not a vertical like PR or Direct Response.  It is a horizontal layer that touches all aspects of a business and therefore shouldn’t lie solely within the marketing department.  It cannot only be assessed by ROI and KPI measurements, both marketing metrics.  It must be looked at more holistically than that.

2)   Prior to choosing whether or not to outsource or handle internally, you must sit down and really map out the business objectives.  Once you really know what you want to accomplish, you can then have a social media plan that is commensurate with your real objectives.  An expert can help you get there and internally everyone must be onboard.  You will quickly learn that it is impossible to dominate in social with one junior level salary allocated, so you either need to hire an agency (who can provide the bodies and skills) or invest in an internal team of more than one.

Business owners and senior management need to focus on growth and the underlying business and they often struggle with how to get social media started. A company’s voice in the social realm needs to be driven from within and then shaped and broadcasted by someone who knows what they are doing.  In the end, your goals don’t change with social media, they drive it!

The problem is that while businesses are sitting on the sidelines and reviewing proposals and plans, they are still doing most things wrong.  A sound marketing strategy is always recommended of course, but there is a very important interim step that is being overlooked.  It is mission critical to get “your house in order” as soon as possible so as to tie the tourniquet and stop any bleeding (i.e. loss of opportunities to engage).

Social media is just a new and en vogue term for the Internet as a whole, and social networks have just made the sharing of relevant and “important” information simple.  In order to be successful, you need to create content people care about and then give them reasons to share it.  You must have your own branded platforms that tell your story and encourage fans/followers and customers to engage with them. Simple right?

Once you really know what you want to accomplish on the Internet in 2018 (and beyond) then, and only then, can you really have a roadmap for a social media strategy.  Based on your real objective(s) you can craft a make sense plan to leverage the web accordingly.

With e-commerce, the main objective is to sell a product to a customer. It is highly recommended to have all platforms work to seed sale opportunities and to invite traffic back to product pages.  Try to reduce how many clicks it takes to get the user to take out their credit card and buy. There are different nuances associated with a website looking to sell product and the business should be thinking like a “store” in their online/social efforts.

For all brands (e-commerce focused or not), the main objective should be new user acquisition and not necessarily a direct sale on their own website. It is imperative to make the transition from social platforms to the website a seamless one and to use content outside of just product promotion to get them there.  It I also highly recommended to make signing up very easy and front and center wherever possible. Social platforms need to be tributaries to sign up pages where new users can/will be converted.  It might all begin with simple awareness campaigns, such as boosting posts, IG Ads and other reach based efforts, to initiate the acquisition. These should be a part of the mix for sure and then efforts need to be made downstream to pull them out of the river and onto the boat.

Regardless of your goals, social influence will dictate behavior.  Whereas a website is so important to help convert your objectives, it is often only a one-way conversation.  Nowadays consumers care less about what you say about your product and more about what others say about it.  The power of social is in helping customers become brand ambassadors and influencers about your product or service.

In the end, the most important thing is to not overthink social, or even worse to sit on the sidelines until you feel that you have it figured out.  There is a foundational responsibility to your business, to get started and to allow for users to spread the word about you.  Know your plan and then lay a social media strategy over it to help you get there. Just keep in mind that your business drives social and not the other way around. Every day that passes without a plan to improve will translate into lost business or lost WOM (Word of Mouth) traction.  What’s the ROI on that?

Good luck next year, I hope you crush it!

 

 

 

 

Add a comment

Tags: , , ,

On Instagram Stories data…

slide-1-1

Instagram stories have been adopted by more than 300 million daily users and there have been a number of recent integrations with Facebook, that have made the reach and exposure that much more compelling. I have talked about our POV on stories before and the data just continues to prove out that stories are a place to be if you want to market where people are paying attention.

I recently read Delmondo’s Instagram story analytics report, that reviewed more than 800 active Instagram accounts and there were some key findings.  I pulled them out and highlighted them below along with my quick take:

- User consumption is high and brands are (tentatively) making grabs for their attention- Of the 800, only 16% had posted a story within the last 30 days. 

16% is low, which means many brands are not taking advantage of this medium.  So if you are a marketer at a brand, you should be paying attention and capitalizing where others arent!

- Influencers are right At home- A key performance metric of interest during the analysis was completion rate. Who watched a story from start to finish? Influencers are in the lead for completion rate, given that high post performance is part of the criteria in needed to be an influencer. 

Influencers are leading the charge and seeing excellent consumption rates. When working with an influencer, stories are great and perhaps should be the first choice!

- Keep your storyboard tight- There is a strong correlation between story length and completion rate, with a downward trend synced with an increase in the number of posts per story. 

Think about your message flow and don’t just go on a posting spree. Also, consider front-loading more important brand messages in a storm or collection of stories.

- Leverage early afternoon and late evening key posting times- This is when completion rate was at over 70%.

Be thoughtful about when you post to maximize consumption potential of your content!

Instagram stories have got to be in your marketing mix if you are looking to broadcast messages on social.  If you sit on the sidelines, then the story about you, will be that you blew it. ;)

Add a comment

Tags: , ,

On social media and the right POV for brands…

social-media-trends-2014

When I started Sircle Media in January of 2012, the social media conversation was an uphill battle for sure.  I would meet with owners, and/or Marketing Directors and would have to hard sell (READ: convince) them on why this was an important frontier for their business.  75% of the initial conversation was about proving their initial preconceptions about social media wrong. It was exhausting but so necessary.

These days companies are more “hip to the game,” meaning they are committed to being active in social, but that being said, I think that many brands are still half pregnant on the topic and are not fully committed.  They don’t know if they should treat it like marketing, customer service or sales and they are often too singular in their focus. They are just not committing where they need to – let me explain:

1- They spend too much time overthinking content - Yes you need to be on brand, you need to be consistent and you should think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. That being said, many brands spend too much time overthinking their content in my opinion. We have talked about documenting over creating before (thanks, @GaryVee) and we suggest doing more and learning, as opposed to carefully crafting every single word and image. It is not branding, PR or even direct response where you want to say as much as you can, in as few words as possible to elicit the desired response. Those are controlled mediums, whereas social media is uncontrolled.

RECOMMENDATION: Be more flexible and fluid with your content and copy and see what happens.

2- They are thinking of social media as “a silo” - Sometimes I speak with some clients who think social media is just about branding and doesn’t create sales (WRONG) and then I speak with others, who think it is only a digital and e-commerce play and doesn’t help offline business (WRONG AGAIN).  It really is a horizontal layer that touches all parts of your business and stretches across different departments and initiatives.

RECOMMENDATION: Think about your different departmental needs and goals and then think about how social media might be able to help in each. Solve for the positive, rather than for the negative and unlock ways that social can be more useful. 

3- They are not investing in paid social - Many brands are active on social but are not leveraging the Facebook and Instagram paid social ecosystem. Some feel social should be organic only (myopic POV) and some are using paid, but strictly for e-commerce acquisition. These are the most powerful advertising vehicles on the market and provide more real actionable and supportive data than any predecessors.

RECOMMENDATION: Invest more in paid social, learn the platforms and products and leverage them to grow your business. Whether you want more exposure/reach, more engagement and/or more traffic and sales on your website (or in your store), paid social is your number one vehicle for this. It is highly effective, underpriced and extremely targeted. Start budgeting and implementing paid social ASAP!

4- They are not focusing on video - I have talked about the importance of video before and while the majority of brands I speak with these days totally seem to follow and want video, most are not backing that up with action. Video helps with storytelling in a more effective AND efficient way and will shorten the learning curve for consumers.  You can hack better reach, engagement and action on your social content, as well as your website, email and other advertising efforts with video.

RECOMMENDATION: Commit to video and start creating a lot of it. I’m talking about motion graphics, live action AND even going live on Facebook and Instagram, which will provide more depth and insight into your business. 

5- They are not paying influencers - Most of my clients are working with influencers in some capacity, which shows they fully understand that those influencers bring with them an audience that is worth reaching. So if this is the case, why be totally closed to the concept of paying them for that service? If you aren’t open minded to at least exploring paid partnerships, then you are going to leave a lot of opportunity and money on the table.

RECOMMENDATION: Allocate some budget to paid influencer engagements and then court, review and select partners who offer real value for their price point. Pay close attention to the types of engagements they offer, how they have performed in the past and what type of engagement they get from their community. Negotiate best case pricing and explore the most creative ways to work with each individual influencer. 

It is my opinion that if you are going to be active with social media, then you should be all in.  You have to have the right POV on content and benefits and then be deploying the best tools to help you succeed. The mentality is the swing and paid social, video and influencers are the nasty topspin follow thru…Your serve!

 

 

Add a comment

Tags: , ,

Be our guest, be our guest!

instagram-live

Instagram took another shot at their competitors last week, with the rollout of being able to add a guest to your Instagram Live broadcast. Live streaming is a major frontier and the ability to do so with a partner is very intriguing for both people and brands alike.

You can read about the product and watch the video put out by Instagram to visually showcase the concept here.  What we like about it, is that it is super simple to execute and gives users another reason to stay and tinker around in an ecosystem they already know, rather than getting bored and poking around elsewhere. Instagram has proven to be a master of that move.

From a brand POV, you can strike up a dialogue with a fan/customer OR bring in an expert to hammer home a USP of your product or service. i.e.

Have a healthy CPG product? Bring in a dietician to discuss the positive attributes of the ingredients in a conversation with you.

Are you an apparel brand? Bring in a designer to discuss the cut, fit or general reasoning behind a design to help educate a consumer through some back and forth with your marketing team.

Working with an influencer? Perhaps bring in two at once, to offer their perspectives on a “shared with” broadcast and get a dialogue going rather than just a monologue promoting your product. A conversation brings much more depth to that positioning and was a big reason for Twitter Party success back in the day (and still we would argue)!

Users in all age brackets are spending more time on Instagram than Snapchat these days and 25% of that time is spent “above the feed” in Stories and Live broadcasts. Social networks are a competitive landscape, so it is important to experiment and to try and be an early adopter of new tools such as this. If you are a brand looking to market your wares, then you need to join the fray!

 

 

 

Add a comment

Tags: , ,

Snap strikes back…

Snapchat-2
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!

 

 

Add a comment

Tags: , , ,

On winning in Q4…

Social-Media-Tactics-01

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!

 

Add a comment

Tags: , , , ,

On investing (financially and mentally) in paid social…

Social-Media-Advertising-01

Social media advertising (meaning spending money on Ads products from social networks) is a must have, plain and simple. The faster Brand Managers and CMO’s get their heads around that the better off their brand will be. How much to invest and how to allocate is the next question.

Truth is there is no boiler plate budget to allocate, especially for a brand still trying to figure out its way on paid social.  First, I think it is important to not think about it as paid social Vs. traditional means of advertising, because it becomes abstract and decision makers get gun shy about jumping into an unknown arena. We suggest you think as a human being living in 2017 and think about where people are paying attention and how you can reach them cost effectively. If you can find underpriced areas to reach targeted prospects, you should entertain that, wherever it might exist, right? Make a threshold decision to at least explore those and you’ll find that social media platforms are very attractive in that regard.

One you have made that smart decision, then I do think you need to be able to allocate a healthy budget that is consistent and doesn’t waiver as soon as the winds change.  I suggest brands allocate enough so they can balance between acquisition, retention and R&D/experimentation. Explained further:

You want to be able to allocate funds to reaching brand new eyeballs and bringing them in at the top of the funnel. This is done with clicks campaigns and boosted posts targeted at new audiences. It is very important to allocate a fair amount to this initiative, as this is your method for advertising to brand new prospects. You cant skimp on this and you need to constantly feed the top of the funnel, if you ever wish to convert consistently downstream.

Almost 10 years ago I purchased a billboard placement for 1 month on the Long Island Expressway for $30,000 because it allowed me to put my message in front of “over 1 million commuters” (BS) to create the same type of awareness.  Mind you that those commuters were not all looking at our ad (most weren’t), were not targeted (so our product didn’t apply to many of them) AND there was no CTA at all to move them down the funnel and/or track them. Social networks allow you to target the right audience without overpaying for the reach of others, provides you with a CTA opportunity AND awesome insights and reporting.

You also want to take people further down the funnel with retargeting as part of a conversions campaign and want to message to your earned audiences (visitors, emails, fans etc.) to keep them in the community and engaging with and hopefully sharing your content. It also allows you to have a more receptive group to target when you roll out new products and SKUs. Those who know and love the brand are the most likely to pounce when you diversify and add more options.  Retargeting is a surefire way to convert new customers and repeat customers too, just with slightly varied messaging. New sales are your foundation and turning a one time customer to a repeat customer, is a very important building block for online success.

Lastly, you want to have a budget focused on experimenting with new techniques (different audience segmentation, dark posting etc.) and with new products from social networks as they roll out, so you can be an early adopter and capitalize on underpriced attention before the big guys roll in. Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest continue to roll out advancements (seemingly daily) and you want to have dollars available to put in play.  Whereas Google PPC Ads are very overpriced and flooded in most categories, Instagram Ads optimized for video views, are actually less so and provide great value for their price.  We are big believers in that approach at the moment and the clients we have with those available funds are reaping the benefits of this recommendation.

Bottomline is you need to first commit to the idea that social networks are a real value play for your budget. Then you want to allocate funds to all three of the areas above, and don’t want to deplete an initiative to fund another one, before you give it the chance to really kick in and return nice results. Now I am not saying it needs to be equally distributed into thirds, and at times it will likely lean more heavily in one area.  What I am saying is brands need to fund all three consistently, monitor the performance closely AND remain focused on proving the positive (it works) rather than the negative (it doesnt).

Do that, and you will win!

Add a comment

Tags: , ,

On native Facebook video…

If you are trying to sell products or services of any kind, you need to be creating video content, posting it natively to Facebook AND putting money behind said content, to promote it on the social network. In the video above we talked about the importance of video in your online storytelling efforts, and in this post we talked about the benefits of posting it directly on Facebook.

If you are making video and you are thinking about how to best distribute and/or use it, then you should read this report to learn about the compelling stats behind Facebook video that is posted natively Vs. linked elsewhere.  The numbers are staggering and make a very strong argument to think Facebook first when creating. If you already have an inventory of videos, then you should be uploading the video file and not the link to the video on YouTube or Vimeo. Don’t compromise your results by doing the latter.

We also recommend that brands seriously consider allocating a unique budget to Instagram advertising right now, with video as the creative. We are doing this because we are seeing CPM’s that are very low, when optimizing for reach and this represents very underpriced attention on a platform where attention is the most likely given. The smart hack is to post creative content, seeking video views with an optimization for reach, because it is the best way to get the most visibility.

You earn really solid exposure, with low cost and you put some of your best content in front of targeted eyeballs. The added bonus with this tactic, is that it is a surefire way to get new followers (which everyone is looking for these days) as an ancillary benefit too. The reasoning being that with all of these new eyeballs, comes new followers once they see your content and learn your story.

Add a comment

Tags: , , ,

On content and why you need to up your game…

content is king

Social media content is an important area of focus for brands wishing to communicate online. Content is king and queen (perhaps even the whole castle) and you have to be committed to putting it out there for the world to see of you want attention. We tell clients that the business drives social and not the other way around, so the content plan begins well before it shows up on social.

First a brand must define who they are and what sets them apart from the pack.  It sounds crazy that you have to remind them of this, but we constantly explain that their story, should be their story. Not some other contrived fabricated tale, not what they think people want to hear, but their actual narrative. In this new age of brand transparency, if you aren’t honest and forthcoming it will be hard to land and keep customers.

For a healthy CPG brand this is so important to do, because it is a very crowded vertical and everyone thinks their baby is the cutest. Meaning they are so passionate about what they sell and why customers should care, but they struggle with how to explain that. Sircle encourages them to just start documenting and putting out a lot of content that conveys the why, behind the what.  It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it should be clean, concise and helpful in some way.

Gluten free, allergy conscious, all natural, non-GMO the list goes on and on.  Why should I care and why is your product a solution? Document some longer form content to answer those questions and ideally use video (more context, more organic and paid reach and more likely to be consumed) as your main format to do so.  Then take that content and push it our via social.

Remember content needs to:

1-Stand out from the clutter (the goal is to capture attention)

2-Be on brand (the goal is to get some of your branding out there and in front of consumers)

3-Be native to platforms (think sizing, clarity, length when talking videos)

4-Be experimental (don’t just be safe, experiment with new ideas)

5-Feel original (be careful of being too “cookie cutter” AND copying from other brands)

You need to put out consistently good content, do it at a reasonable and aggressive frequency AND not get complacent or lazy.  Don’t worry about social posting frequency, before you figure out what you might want to say.  If you have a lot to say and share (NOTE: playing DJ and passing along content from publishers can help covey your point too, and put less pressure on you to be the actual songwriter) then you will know how often you should post on the various social platforms. Let the content dictate your actions and then leverage social to win.

Add a comment

Tags: , ,

Win of the week: Facebook’s new custom audiences drive revenue!

Last month we wrote a piece about Facebook improving their targeting game and then we got to work for some of our clients, looking to hit hard in the final month of the year.  We have seen some really nice results early on.

One brand in particular, is our client Birdie’s Slippers. They are a new fashion brand, without a big budget and only sell through one channel, E-commerce. Every dollar is super important at their stage in their life cycle, and they don’t have enough marketing dollars to get into the Google AdWords game.  Facebook marketing is their only allocated spend and they were looking to really glean as much value out of that campaign as humanly possible.

15380653_10158191857325643_5010609888673797858_n

We started targeting people who engaged with their page over the past 30 days and here you can see we spent $17.36 and earned $336, using this technique on just one piece of creative.

15380365_10158196248710643_1781615209652302970_nWe have done a great job with their content this year, and through collaborations, page post engagements and empowered word of mouth, they have a highly engaged fan page. Even though their fan base is still relatively small, they are engaged and interested which is much more important than total fan count.

Here we took a fun and attention grabbing post and then targeted that audience with a moderate spend. We know this group had already engaged with the brand so there was some familiarity and we then deployed this new targeting technique to move them further down the sales funnel.

Marketers have a real winner on their hands here and they should get involved right away. Brands (and other “traditional” digital agencies) seem to always be looking to pick holes in the Facebook Ads game, which is just insanity. This year, do the opposite – and win!

Add a comment

Tags: , ,