On why I sometimes feel like a personal trainer…

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When clients hire Sircle Media it is very much like hiring a personal trainer.  At this point, (April 2017) they know they need smart social media management for their business, very much like a person knows they should make good diet choices and work out consistently.

When they begin with Sircle, things are awesome for the first couple of months. They are hopeful, attentive, responsive and full of energy.  It is really amazing and we immediately see an improvement in the quality of their content, the consistency of their engagement and if they truly listen, in the results (be it growth, reach, interaction, traffic etc.)!

There is a real parallel here to working out with a trainer. Right out of the gate you psychologically feel good, because you sense you are taking the right proactive action to improve how you look and feel.  You start to get consistent in your efforts, because that accountability partner makes you stick to a schedule and you see some early results. Those could be increased energy, stamina, dropping a couple of pounds OR just that false sense of immediate muscle mass increase that many feel, but isn’t truly there so early on.  Either way, things are good…

Then with both, you often hit a flat period. Results don’t pour in as fast and you start to question the value of the efforts.  With social media, this often leads to quick pivots that include cutting back on paid efforts, reducing or eliminating influencer outreach and/or missing scheduled meetings and punting social media while you focus on “more important initiatives” for the business. With training this can mean missing sessions, reducing efforts/reps/sets or even cheating with stress meals and focusing on other areas of your life, like work, family etc.  Truth is that in both cases, you need to figure out how to balance the social media/training with those other items if you really want to succeed.  It has to be in addition to, not in lieu of.

The main reason for churn at Sircle is when a client loses site of the marathon view and focuses solely on the sprint results. When numbers are flat, they often ignore any of their own contribution to that and will come at us aggressively looking for a silver bullet that will magically turn things around. We explain that they need to remain holistically committed to the cause and need to keep their head down and focused on the end goal. There is no ROI on any one tweet, but there is real fruit if you are patient and let the vines grow their grapes.

With training, it is very easy to blame them. You question why you aren’t seeing faster results, why things have plateaued and whether or not you should seek a new teacher. First off, the real long term results take awhile to see. Secondly, you might be sneaking doughnuts at night (which to me is the same as not spending Ad dollars on Facebook mind you) which will compromise results greatly.  Only the client/individual knows the real truth there.

When you leave a trainer, very much like when a brand leaves Sircle, there is typically a precipitous drop off across the board. Clients move on and we see their imagery, cadence and frequency take a big dip, as well as their engagement and growth efforts. It is so obvious, and just like with a trainer it reflects poorly on us, when they leave and “gain weight and get out of shape” so to speak. We literally have to either remove them from our website or tell new prospects the exact date we stopped working together, so they can see the difference between good (with us) and not so good (post us).

In the end of the day, your north star needs to be that you are fully aware that remaining committed to social media and personal training, is the right play long term. You wont survive professionally or personally if you dont figure out both. You need to then attack either with an unwavering commitment to it.  Most often, switching agency or trainer is not the right answer and working on listening more and developing that relationship more fully is.

I am actually amazed by how many of my former clients still come to me personally with questions, and still respect me and what we do so much, despite having moved on.  They usually know what they had and are fully aware about how things have turned since they left. My recommendation is to lean in, rather than leave with Sircle and the gym.  That is how we start to really see the results and reap the benefits together!

 

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On having confidence in the work you do…

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That was my senior yearbook quote and was something that was instilled in me by my amazing parents. You don’t have to be the best at everything, but you have to have the confidence in yourself that you can do anything.  It is very important to believe that each and every day.

I have found that true self confidence is the real differentiator between winners and losers in the workplace.  Whether it be my employees, or our counterparts and client accounts, the ones who believe in what they do and back it up with hard work win.

When employees lack confidence it shows in their work.  Therefore, I try very hard to be a good leader and to create an environment where it is clear that they have the skills to succeed and need to lean forward in their efforts.  I tell them that if I critique them it is not because I don’t believe in their ability.  On the contrary, it is because I genuinely believe they can do it, but are practicing bad habits or not concentrating and/or believing in themselves and that is keeping them from succeeding.

When clients lack confidence it shows in their commitment to the work we do.  If something bounces sideways, the confident clients brush it aside and see it is part of the journey.  The clients (or employees at the clients) who lack confidence, will freak out and have doubt as soon as there is any adversity and/or if things take longer than expected. Therefore, I try to create an environment with them where they feel they can be open and honest and express their concerns, so I can then address head on and assuage them.  If they don’t and remain 50/50 in their commitment to the effort, then they greatly compromise their ability to succeed.

Social media is a long game, especially if you want to do it right. Confidence in the cause is mission critical to it’s success.  Lack of confidence puts them at a great disadvantage and limits their ability to think outside of the box and bank wins.  It comes down to this:

Social media is essentially the internet and social networks are a major part of the ecosystem. If you believe in your product or service and you believe that online is a place to communicate with potential customers, then you need to be confident in both and convey that effectively and consistently in all that you do. Never waiver and remain committed to winning the game.  If you do that, you have won even before you have started.

 

 

 

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On investing (financially and mentally) in paid social…

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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!

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Ready for Reddit?

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A client recently asked me whether or not they should “get involved” with Reddit. Their target demographic is female and they are in a very crowded and subjective vertical, so I recommended they pass. This report which was done in October 2016, clearly shows that the majority of the audience is made up of males 18-25 and offers a lot of other insights into this insanely popular, but very unique platform.

The community is the asset with Reddit and that community abhors self promotion or anything that seems advertorial.  The biggest thing with Reddit is you need to be 100% authentic and if users sense that you are fake and/or somehow not open, honest and transparent, then they will crush you and call you out.  Even if they are wrong and you are being sincere, it is too late once that happens.

I equated it to walking into a comedy club and a comedian starts laying into you. They might be totally off base with their comments or observations and have you pegged wrong, but once they say it and the laughs start rolling in they will continue and it is literally impossible to go back and undue it. Better bet is to just walk out and never look back.

Brands or personas (Elon Musk, Bill Gates etc…) can host AMA’s (ask me anything) in an attempt to strike up an open and honest dialog with potential consumers. This works in their favor as it can immediately ignite massive exposure and chatter within this highly active community. Reddit users are passionate and spend 10+ minutes per session, which is very attractive to marketers of course.  You will get good and bad chatter for sure, but if you are prepared to answer them openly and honestly (and ok with taking a few gut punches along the way) it can be worth the time invested for sure.

I did some research on brands “doing it right” and came up with some examples:

Uniqlo has been on Reddit since 2012. Arielle Dyda, a Uniqlo e-commerce manager, uses her personal account to respond to fans. When Uniqlo has a deal, Dyda shares it with the popular fashion subreddits. Referrals from Reddit have been shown to drive 20% of Uniqlo’s total online sales for a deal.  Uniqlo’s presence is genuine and natural. Their brand is strengthened by using someone who knows the community and is upfront in her approach.

Amazon is equally strengthened by brand ambassadors like AmazonJosh and AmazonAndrew, who monitor game and collector subreddits for questions, and give extremely nuanced product recommendations.

From personal experience I find it to be like an angry and aggressive Tripadvsior or Yelp:

This company recently pitched my company through a random email solicitation.  When my employee (24 year old male) went to look them up, he found this write up:

Have any of you guys ever received an email from brandzooka? Are they scammers? Or can they be trusted

Then some user named PaddyoColorado (coincidence they are in CO) replied with:

Brandzooka is a real company – a start-up in Boulder Colorado – that helps small businesses run targeted video campaigns to specific audiences on all kinds of web sites. They help the little guy advertise where only the big guys used to play.

Then in typical Reddit form, they got crushed:

“It looks like you’ve created this account for the sole purpose of writing this “review”.”

“Brandzooka have sleeper cells everywhere it would seem. Trust no one lol”

“Spam straight from this company in the weed state came into my server’s inbox too. There is no opt-out in the e-mail, and it was sent to a non-public “admin” e-mail account along with a non-existent “yde” account.

“Bounced it straight to SpamCop, as well as sending a PM to a MyWOT user.”

This made me pass on taking the call for sure. That company might actually be great, but I read it on Reddit that they might not be and I am not even giving them a try.  That is powerful persuasion for sure!

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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.

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An important day at Facebook…

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On March 9th, The Facebook product team shipped yet another Snap body blow with the rollout of Messenger Day. The functionality is incredibly similar to Snapchat and allows users to post limited time content to their day, that they can share with all or some of their contacts on the platform.

Here’s how Messenger Day works:

  1. First make sure you’ve updated your Messenger app so you have the latest version.
  2. Open Messenger, and tap on the camera highlighted with a sun to celebrate this launch. Doing so drops you right into the full-screen camera. Or, tap the “Add to your day” button at the top of your inbox to get started.
  3. Snap a quick selfie or take a photo or video of what’s around you.
  4. To add art and effects, tap the smiley face icon in the top right and then tap to add to your photo or video. You can also add text over your images by tapping the “Aa” icon, and you can overlay a drawing by tapping the squiggly line in the top right corner.
  5. Once you have your photo or video the way you want it, tap the arrow in the bottom right corner. You can then add directly to your day, save it to your phone’s camera roll, and/or you can choose to send it to a specific person or group of people. The photo or video that you add to your day will be viewable for 24 hours.

Currently it is only available to users and not pages, because they dont have access to the Messenger app, which is available only to individual users. This makes the feature more accessible to small businesses, contractors, and public figures that have a large number of clients or interested users as Facebook friends. That will likely change soon.

As with all platform developments, it is smart to experiment with ways to leverage for your business. We encourage brands to get involved early so they can get ahead of the field. This piece from Social Media Examiner serves up some early adopter tips on how to use it for marketing. Enjoy!

 

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On Instagram carousel posts…

Instagram made another power move last week, by introducing the ability to publish a carousel of images or videos in one post on the platform.  Now brands (and individuals) can share multiple pictures to better tell their story and not be limited to only one piece of content. This is a game changer for the social network that yields the best “attention grabbing” opportunities already.

While you were able to post up to 5 images as part of an advertising buy already, now you can post up to 10 and it doesn’t need to be an Ad unit. As a result, you can add more context to any story and use a large grip of images and/or videos to do so.

You just select the pieces you want to share, and then post them as a grouping.  Users will see small blue circles at the bottom, subtly telling them to scroll and consume.  This represents another body blow to Snap, Inc., as it pulls more user attention inward with the newness of it. Also, by introducing the swiping of content, which has not historically been part of the IG interface, but has been part of the Snapchat ecosystem.

Over the coming months you are sure to see many carousel posts and lots of creativity, as brands and individuals look to stand out from the clutter. We are all in for sure.

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Win of The Week: Brand collaboration gold…

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Social media is all about leveraging content, engagement and growth tactics effectively. Brand collaborations are an excellent way to attack all three and are very easy to execute. They offer you access to new eyeballs, easy ways to “stage your product” and new conversations with potential would be customers along the way. We are all in!

Here at Sircle Media, we are big buyers of underpriced attention for our clients. Brands are all trying to figure out how to maximize their own social media efforts and are usually very interested in collaborating this way. We regularly seek out partners who have a nice aesthetic, are clearly open to working with other brands and who have a highly engaged audience.  As an agency, companies are even more interested in working with us, as we can be an entree to working with multiple brands and not just a one off transaction. We use this to our client’s advantage of course, to help land more relationships and control the conversation along the way.

Some brands make the mistake of only looking to others who have larger audiences than their own. In every collaboration there is always one who will be bigger and one smaller, and we think they all have value. We care more about the image, the target and the experience. If a brand has a smaller, but highly engaged audience of core customers we want to be in front of, then we are buyers for sure!

These have proven to be a surefire way to grow an Instagram following, to land nice looking content to round out your own feed and to create direct communication opportunities with customers. With content, you get to use the imagery (including secondary shots of the products side by side) in your messaging, which alleviates some of your organic content creation pressure.

When it comes to engagement and growth, we recommend some gaming to help stir the pot. Above, we had an Instagram contest, that required both a follow AND the tagging of friends to enter.  We received 451 likes, 300 new followers and 142 comments, each of which included the tagging of 2 IG users. Afterwards, we engage with those accounts and strike up conversations on a one-to-one level, that can help our client Modern Oats establish a dialogue that would not have existed before.

In the end of the day, these collaborations provide a very powerful punch and should be a core component to any social media strategy.

 

 

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Win of The Week: Leveraging influencers via smart “pay to play” tactics…

Sircle-Influencer Pay To Play

Influencer marketing represents an excellent opportunity to get a brand in front of new eyeballs and to leverage underpriced attention. It is important to have an open mind to the potential that these collaborations can bring and to think about it more strategically than just “paying someone to post something.”

In January we advised one of our clients to rethink their influencer engagement strategy altogether.  In 2016, they deployed a hardline approach when it came to “pay to play” engagements. They would not do them and would only gift products where they had much less control AND limited their potential target list, by immediately canceling out anyone who asked for a fee.

This year they were hellbent on driving more traffic and wanted us to “get more creative” with ideas to help do so. They suggested buying email lists, affiliate deals (where they would pay commissions for converted traffic sent from other domains) and even programmatic marketing, that is very expensive and unproven for their model. It was time to change their POV once and for all.

Rather than denying all paid scenarios from the jump, we recommended they take a different posture. Dropping the term “influencer” from the conversation, we said “if we told you that Jane Doe had taken time to harvest a community of followers, one that actually listens to and cares about what she has to say, and that they are mostly your exact target demo, would you consider paying her for an opportunity to speak with them for a few minutes?” Of course they would, and this is no different.

They begrudgingly agreed to give us $500 to test out our theory “and prove that this wasn’t a complete waste of time.” We went to a couple of influencers who we knew had a highly engaged audience, understood the need to “give value” to their partners (especially an Agency like Sircle Media, who can bring them multiple brands and not just one) and who would work with us from a marketing angle. We also negotiated the price down to $400 ($200 each) and kept the $100 spread to help us boost some of the great content on Facebook down the line.

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We asked that they both post on January 23rd and had them do it on Instagram with a #linkinbio CTA that encourages users to take action and click that link. As a result, revenue on 1/23/17 was $1837.55 on a $400 all in spend (4.5X1 ROAS).  In addition to that, it doubled their referred traffic (one of their main goals coming into the new year) and delivered new ammunition for our retargeting efforts, which have already proven to be our best revenue driving audience on Facebook. We then took that $100 (in negotiated savings) and applied it to those efforts to drive new revenue further down stream.

It is important to not draw a line in the sand when it comes to engaging influencers. Sure, some have more value than others and of course there are some who wont deliver the goods. This is true with any type of marketing of course and cannot be your reason for not participating. I always say “you cant stop dating just because you had a bad relationship in the past and/or just fear the outcome if it does go south. You need to continue to date, to find the right one for you.”

Influencers represent an excellent value play and need to be in your social media strategy conversation if you have a consumer product. Added bonus is that if they take great photos, they also contribute positively to the look and feel of your outgoing content strategy. Bottom line, it just pays to play!

 

 

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Not all social media wins can be counted in numbers…

Social media is about so much more than fans and followers. Sometimes the best wins can come from simply paying attention to your audience, caring about what they have to say and then reacting in a courteous and professional way. If you want a community and want to empower positive WOM (word of mouth) marketing opportunities, then you need to listen and react accordingly.

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This past weekend a follower tagged our client @MichtersWhiskey in a tweet that included the picture to the left and the below message:
“Welp……guess I gotta drink it all. #idontwantto #ihaveto #nochoice #sacrifice #brokencork #qualitycontrol #michters @MichtersWhiskey

The tone was not super negative, but the person was not very pleased with a malfunction on the cork of his newly opened bottle. We sprung right into action and direct messaged him to get more details regarding what happened.

After some back and forth with him we remedied the situation and we explained that quality control is very important to us. We wanted to let him know he was heard and that the brand cares.

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He was very appreciative and thanked us via DM and then went ahead and tweeted out a message letting the Twittersphere know as well. Here we quickly turned a negative situation into a positive brand engagement and forged a deeper relationship with a fan. The WOM from this engagement is also sure to put the brand in a good light with anyone he shares the story with. Mark it as a social “small ball” win.

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