Social Media: Planning For The Now

Social-Media-Tactics

Lately, I have been having a lot of conversations with Founders and Marketing Directors about social media and I find that there are a lot of blanket statements being thrown around that are built on very soft foundations. It is so important to really understand the value or opportunity each social network can provide and then map that against your product or offering. You also need to take into account current usage and tools and trends on each, to make sure you are approaching it the right way, for right now. Sircle Media issues a general roadmap for our clients that is revisited each quarter, but each brand needs to take that a bit deeper for their own business.

We suggest a quarterly re-assessment for brands that reviews the current state of the union on their top platforms and takes into account the most pressing needs for that brand in the immediate future. For example, if a brand just landed their first big order with a major retailer, the most important thing for the company at that moment is likely supporting velocity so they can help ensure that (even more) important second order. If this is the case you might need to:

1- Run hyper-local and super targeted Ads to underwrite the relationship and potentially drive foot traffic.

2- DM local influencers on Instagram and try and get them to engage with you and perhaps even pay them to go to the store and hype the shelf space.

3- Create content that specifically highlights the relationship (your logo and their’s) and then boost that content or run them as Ads at fans of said retailer and your competitors.

When the company needs to triage and be narrowly focused on a top priority like this, you have to have a smart plan of attack in place to improve your chances of winning. You don’t want to be stuck in the mud, with edits and debates over general lifestyle photography when your most pressing need deserves more attention. You also don’t want to be single platform reliant, as I think many Brand Managers are with Instagram right now. You need to have a holistic plan of attack and not dismiss any platform or component of a platform without research and thinking.

You need to have a current game plan built upon what is in front of you and not be so romantic or so set in stone about what did or did not work before. Social platforms and how best to use them are constantly evolving and it is imperative you are evolving with it. Think about what you want to happen and then reverse engineer from there.

You don’t necessarily want a certain amount of Instagram followers. You want a retailer to shelve your product and you think that your Instagram count is a necessary step to get there. I will admit that for a long time it was, but nowadays you have more savvy buyers and some realize that your follower count is not the only measure of your influence. If you are smart about using FB/IG Ads and influencers the way you should in q1 2019, then you are actually accomplishing what your follower count used to imply. You are proving that you are able to support the retail relationship with awareness and attention that benefits you both.

That is playing the current social game the right way…right now!

 

 

 

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Influencer Spotlight: @Headstandsandheels

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At Sircle Media, a big part of what we do for brands is managing relationships and strategic partnerships with influencers. These days, a lot of people are faking it in the influencer space, so it is really important to analyze and understand what makes one great.

We recently partnered with an amazing young woman, who goes by @headstandsandheels on Instagram. First off, I like the handle selection, as it doesnt pigeonhole her as much as others because she can toe the like between health and fashion. She is not a macro influencer with 100K+ followers, but she provides so much more depth than many of those profiles. To me, it is about strategically finding underpriced attention, rather than reaching for overpriced partners that often lack the punch their numbers imply.

We prefer to look for brand ambassador type engagements over one and done relationships that are all too common these days on social. We contacted Melanie and together came up with a multi-dimensional partnership to be run over the next few months for our client, Terra Origin. It involves many posts, online content, offline events and a really comprehensive collaboration that allows her to really get to know and experience the brand and products and provide her take on how they make her feel or perform in general. In order to really wield influence and opine on their value, she had to immerse herself in them. This way she can provide honest and truthful information (the whole point of “influence”) and our client (who of course, believes deeply in their products) gets to show off their wares to someone who is a bullseye target.

Plenty of influencers strike these types of partnerships every day, so this alone is not a differentiator.  What makes her special is that she is a wonderful soul and a pleasure to work with. So many influencers lack business acumen and are hard to deal with. Others don’t actually have influence and are selling follower count over everything else and not willing to put in the work. Melanie acted like a business person and really sat down and negotiated with us to help get us to terms (financial/logistical/creative) that work for both parties.

I also want to point out how she engages with her community. Many influencers post content that is beautiful (and even accomplishes the reach desired from the relationship) but I find that so many don’t engage in their comments on those photos. They treat the relationship like PR (one-way presentation) and don’t get into the weeds and conversation with their followers. To me, an influencer who does not do that religiously is leaving opportunity on the table and extremely vulnerable to losing their influence as platforms evolve. She is in there, having a conversation and providing depth in addition to her width. This makes her a great partner.

Bonus: In the image here, she is wearing Sweaty Betty which is a brand Terra Origin would love to be associated with. I know some marketing folks who would be annoyed that they were underwriting the relationship and another brand was stealing some of the thunder.  I personally love the association upside it brings with it. I look at it as her being authentic and living her life and she is bringing value to that other brand too in the process. To me, it means she either worked with them before and as a truthful influencer, continues to bring value to a brand she had a relationship with because she genuinely likes the product. OR it is a brand she just loves (and has such a solid brand profile, that you could argue it actually raises her street cred) and that brand should pay attention and come work with her. Regardless of the spirit, I love and applaud the hustle and tactic.

Big fan Melanie, big fan!

 

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On Social Media Content That Attracts Audiences…

This week’s blog post comes from our intern, Maria Lozano. Maria currently attends Rutgers University and studies Journalism and Media Studies.

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Social media content has the power to be very effective in growing a business. The first step to successfully executing a social media strategy is generating an audience: those who you think fall into your target audience, a unique set of consumers you can draw in, and existing customers who you hope remain loyal to your brand. Unfortunately, growing and sustaining an audience is a difficult task for brands. Not only are you competing with other brands, or bidding for the same consumer, but you’re also trying to make your product stand out. Paying close attention to the content your audience responds to is the key to keeping their attention. After working closely with brands such as Koia and Cake Beauty, I noticed a growing demand for certain types of content, copy and messaging.

When focusing on Instagram, the most popular content is giveaways for both Cake and Koia. In an age where customers turn to media to find new products, giveaways inspire people to make the first move and force an interaction. A giveaway can generate new followers and new eyeballs for your brand for sure.

In a recent Cake Beauty giveaway, the post earned over 1,000 likes and comments overnight. This generated hundreds of additional followers and 5000+ profile views, according to Iconosquare. People love free products and winning. The experience of a contest is worth sharing with friends by tagging them in the comments. This improves the chances of reaching customers beyond your target audience. I follow certain brands because I know they have giveaways every week. Because of that, I will continue to follow and stay updated on their products.

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Koia is another brand that hosts giveaways consistently. Most often, they’ll include a theme, an example of one being “living a healthy lifestyle.” When deciding to collaborate, the brand should seek out like-minded partners who target very similar demos. With Koia, this collaboration with other healthy food products, generated 650+ likes, more than a thousand comments, and an additional hundred followers.  It also generated some really interesting comments to engage with on the partner brand’s feed. Great social media management ammunition for sure!

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Copy is often overlooked, but optimizing it to its full potential could intrigue your audience. It can help convey your personality in a way that is sometimes more impactful than just the asset alone and/or it is definitely the best way to convey USPs.

From measuring the engagement rate from Iconosquare, I noticed that Koia’s Instagram posts that included the benefits of their ingredients received more engagement than any other content. A recent Koia posting included a “Did you know?” type of message with the fact that the turmeric found in the Mango Creme flavor, is a natural detox. These simple fun facts resonate well with Koia’s audience because it reinforces that Koia products can help sustain a healthier lifestyle.

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With all of the content out there these days, customers need more than just the basics. Spending time creating really compelling assets that stand out from the clutter and writing copy that captures their attention and interest is so important. Spending the time to test and learn with new types of content, copy and messaging will help a brand differentiate and catch on faster than those who do not. It is definitely a worthwhile investment!

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Instagram Is The Social Network Of The Moment…

can_you_buy_50_instagram_likes_for_an_affordable_priceOur Fall 2018 Interns have been part of the #SircleSquad for a little over a month now and they’re getting down to business! This semester, we’ll be sharing a blog post by one of our interns, on a topic selected by them.

First up, is Amanda Arevalo of Fordham University!

Amanda Arevalo

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Instagram is the most important social media platform to invest your company’s time in, plain and simple. Facebook and Twitter are important too, but Instagram takes the top seat. While Facebook offers more total reach, Instagram has a higher rate of engagement with users. While Twitter is ideal for small businesses and organizations, Instagram is more useful for storytelling, since there are twice the amount of users on Instagram than on Twitter, and its photo-based layout allows brands to have a more personal connection with followers. Statistically speaking, Instagram has more than 800 million active users- 60% of whom check Instagram daily and 80% of users following at least one business account. Those are compelling numbers, so having a strong following, heavy engagement, and the right micro-influencers are crucial to building your brand’s awareness.

For that reason, Instagram is essential to any business, especially if they are early or growth stage entities. The good news is, this isn’t the hard part. If you follow another brand on your business’s Instagram account and you “like” pictures of that brand’s content, a number of things can happen. First the chances of that brand noticing your brand and following back, perhaps to create a collaboration, increases. Some of their followers coming across your brand’s content and liking it also increases. It takes a lot of work, but it is well worth it. If you then create interesting content that tells a story about your brand instead of making a generic sales pitch, you’ll also have a better chance of increasing and keeping your following. Over time, your brand’s impact and awareness will grow exponentially.

Many think that the role of Instagram is to simply display content that followers will like. While this is true, it shouldn’t be the main and only focus. Many companies dedicate all of their time to creating attractive photos, but they tend to forget the importance of engagement. You can have all the followers in the world, but if you lack that necessary engagement with your followers, then none of the likes or views will even matter. So if you spend the time to convey a message or stir up an emotion and you actually succeed and get a response, do not squander that conversation opportunity by staying radio silent.

So what exactly should engagement look like? The focus here is to create a personality for your brand. Your brand’s personality is then used as a tool to create a dialogue with your followers. People tend to not care about brands that don’t care about them. If many people are asking questions on your photos, and your brand doesn’t answer, then their questions are simply left hanging. That’s one potential customer that you just lost. While one may not seem like a big deal, having at least one unanswered question on almost all of your photos means that you have many ignored users. Over time, the number of people that will not want to buy from or interact with your brand, because they feel uncared for or unheard, can add up.

One of the most powerful tools in your engagement arsenal is the regram. If a very happy customer or fan/follower posts a picture of themselves with your product, then that’s great free marketing right there. Your customer is happy, and they want to show all the other people on their feed. This WOM opportunity is powerful and you can pay them back by posting their image on your account. This could potentially lead to more customers coming your way. Simply liking that picture will show that you are taking into account their opinion of your product, but regramming the picture takes this appreciation a step further. It shows that you’re really taking into account what they have to say, which many followers will genuinely appreciate. Knowing that they’re on your account makes them feel excited and cared for, because in that way you’re saying, “I’m happy that you’re happy,” and who doesn’t like that?

Asking engagement questions is also a surefire way to create a dialogue with your followers. This is especially useful to do with your Instagram Story content, which is another super powerful feature on Instagram. Asking a question, even if it’s as broad as “What’s your favorite Fall drink?” will create a dialogue that’s fun and interesting. Instagram Stories have different features where you can add polls (such as the classic poll and the slider) and a “Questions!” feature (which would also be perfect for an “Ask Me Anything” session). Because of this, users will know your company is active, well rounded, and thoughtful- and not to mention, you’ll be able to learn a little more about the audience that your product attracts most.

With different engagement tactics in the books, you begin to publicly establish a foundation for your product. This is something that potential customers truly like to see. Now the question is, how can you get followers to move down the marketing journey path from awareness to consideration and trial? Something people like to see is that a product is attainable, especially after seeing that someone they admire uses it as well. If let’s say, someone who enjoys makeup, sees their favorite influencer use a high-end makeup product, then they will be more inclined to think, “If they [the influencer] are using that brand, then why can’t I?” The use of an influencer will make your brand seem much more appealing to the average user.

On Instagram, there are a plethora of influencers that like to post great photos on their personal accounts with all types of brands in tow. Finding the right influencer is also the best way to target a niche market for your brand, especially if you’re able to extend your reach. At the same time, you can also diversify your audience, and speak to a new, niche market. If you have been focusing on one targeted audience, then you might be ignoring a whole different group of people that are also actively purchasing similar products. Therefore, you should experiment with different types of micro-influencers and use them as trojan horses into new communities. Searching for different types of influencers will allow for different types of people to buy your products. Like with any sale, it is better to have a warm introduction, than to make a cold call to a new customer!

At the end of the day, Instagram is not a magic tool. It’s only useful if you make it useful through effort. That’s why boosting your awareness, creating appropriate content, engaging heavily with your followers (and/or with anyone who engages with your content), and finding the right people to further represent your brand should all be taken very seriously.  With all of these in motion, you are setting your brand up to win on Instagram.  The people and the awareness are there, and so it is on you to go and find them!

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POV: The keys to winning as a healthy CPG brand…

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With Expo East looming, it got me thinking about what I think makes for a winner brand in the healthy CPG (Consumer Packaged Good) space. Everyone thinks they have the best (or at least a really great) product, or they wouldn’t be grinding it out in this vertical. It is so demanding and defeating, so you need to have the underlying belief that you have the goods and ride that horse until the end of the race. The big differentiators I have found between the winning and losing brands are:

1- Good taste and health profile. I have some clients with products that taste good but have too much sugar or just aren’t really all that healthy or good for you. Then I have others with great labels and concepts, but a product that consumers won’t like or buy (more than once). You sort of need to nail both.

2- Good operators. I am such a believer that you need smart, compassionate and driven leaders (and the team to follow) to win in this game. There are so many layers and paths to navigate and it cannot be a B- player making the calls, especially at the top.

3- Funding. Bottom line is you need the funds to even sit at the table and be able to deal yourself into the game to have a chance to really make it. You cannot get by with minimal cash because you cannot invest in the mission-critical areas needed to succeed. If you are always making “either-or” decisions then you are always leaving opportunity on the table and greatly reducing your chances of coming out on

4- Solid storytelling. You need to be able to story tell and explain your USP’s to make people listen. Then your DTP’s (Describe The Product) need to be tight, concise and believable. So much of this comes down to your social media messaging, execution and ongoing dialogue with consumers. Everyone thinks their baby is the cutest, but most aren’t and/or others wont see it like you do. You need to be able to clearly convey your why (and your why they should care) if you want them to become customers and brand advocates. Your branding, packaging, website, label, POS, and story all lay the foundation. Then how and where you spread those messages around makes a big difference. Underinvesting in any or worse, all of those, will greatly compromise your chances of winning.

5- Grit. Finally, with all of the above in the right place, you need a leader, team, and brand with the grit and willingness to stick it out when times get tough or you suffer major losses or setbacks. They will come, so you need to have the mental fortitude to weather the storm, bounce back quickly and keep plowing forward. This game is not for the weak, trust me on that!

I encourage all players in this space to look inward and figure out if they are lacking in any of these core categories. The good news is that most can be course corrected and adjusted, but only if you stop, breathe, assess, and are honest with yourself. It does require reflection, forward thinking and serious commitment

Most of my clients have some of these attributes in place and a few have them all. An analogy I like to use is that I feel like a High School or College Basketball Coach sometimes. Working with all of my clients is important and meaningful to me, but collaborating with those really special ones that come around more rarely (like a true NBA star in the making) is incredibly rewarding and a lot of fun along the way!

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Don’t sleep on August: Take some time to assess and plan your social media strategy…

On this episode, I talk about the importance of taking some time to plan during August. When many brands and individuals slow down and go quiet, I think it is a smart move to lean in and think strategically. Don’t want until after Labor Day to turn the engines on and make sure you are in full stride come September.

When it comes to your social media strategy:
1- Look around at the competition and see what they are doing when it comes to content, cadence, frequency etc. Most are moving towards less posting and higher quality!

2- Remember Instagram/Facebook followers/fans are irrelevant. It is a paid ecosystem now and the faster you get your head around that, the better off you will be. Allocate a budget, force rank your KPIs and GO!!!

3- To that end, take a look at the Ads others are running! In an effort to be more transparent with users, Facebook rolled out the ability to see all of the Ads a page is running even if you are not the intended target audience. This translates into a very powerful tool for brands to learn more about their competition and vertical and to see what other “best of breed” brands are doing.

Bottomline is that social media is not static and as it pivots, so too should you. Spend some time really investing in understanding what you want to have happen and then deploy social media strategies for the now and the future, rather than holding onto the past. Use August to learn, and attack and thank me in September!

 

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Long on LinkedIn right now…

I am long on LinkedIn right now and I think you should be too. The platform has really evolved, while also staying true to its roots.  After taking body blows for a while, they really hunkered down and fixed a lot of the flaws and I think that people should be leveraging it more.

It has really become a great place to distribute and consume content on a wide range of subjects and it remains the best way to get real context on people you wish to do business with in any capacity.  I can learn so much about those I am engaging with and lean on my own network to help me with introductions, references after the fact and/or research about what makes people tick.

I find that my University of Michigan degree it probably the strongest asset I have when it comes to this. There are just so many people I come in contact with that went there as an undergrad or to The Ross School of Business and Wolverines seem very motivated to help one another. #GoBlue

Second to that, is my reputation in the work that I do. If you are great to collaborate with and put out solid products and services, then people will be inclined to want to put in a good word for you. Remember it is very easy to look you up and see a connection in common, so it is mission critical that when that mutual relationship is contacted, that they endorse you.

“Doing the right thing is always the right thing” (couldn’t agree more @garyvee) and your legacy will matter in the long run and the short term too.  Your actions create a living resume and you want that resume to be stellar!  Act as if…

 

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On supporting retailers with paid social tactics…

On this episode, we talk about the importance of supporting your retail relationships with smart paid social media tactics. Landing a big order with a retailer is awesome, but once there you need to spring into action to make sure you stay there. We have talked about different ways to influence velocity reports before and it is a major factor in a brand’s success.

You cant just post an announcement and then hope and pray. You need to create compelling assets highlighting the partnership, push that content out via paid social and influencer support and create awareness that drives foot traffic into your partner’s store(s).  Plan ahead and have a campaign ready to launch as early as possible to have an immediate impact. Remember it is not about just getting on shelves, it is about staying there!

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On using Twitter Search to your advantage…

On this episode, I talk about using Search.Twitter.com to your advantage more for business. I think brands have given up on Twitter and/or have really demoted it in favor of Instagram (proper and Stories) and Facebook. That is fine, but it most certainly should not be abandoned.

Whether you use it personally or not is irrelevant, what matters is that a ton of people do use it religiously and are often using it to seek information and recommendations about a range of topics. The search feature is incredibly powerful because within seconds you can take a peek at what conversations are happening and chime right in.

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A simple search for “Vegan Protein Powder” will give you a breakdown of all people who are talking about that topic on Twitter. Not only can you find other brands to collaborate with, competitor brands to monitor and influencers to engage as secondary benefits, but more importantly you will find customers looking for advice.

For a brand looking to sell a product online and to introduce something new to a niche market this is everything.  As you can see below, these are three inquiries for recommendations on this exact topic in the past week.

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For me, this is gold. I can easily see who is talking about the itch that my product can scratch and I can chime into the conversation from the comfort of my own home?  Sign me up…

 

 

 

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Facebook Advertising hacks, for April 2018…

On this episode, I talk about Facebook Advertising in April 2018. With all the news and concerns about Facebook as a platform right now, we are seeing some excellent pricing on Ads and really solid metrics across the board.  Our suggestion is to lean in when others seem to be leaning away and reap the benefits.

I break down two types of Ads that are really performing very well right now. One is a Video Views campaign, which is fairly straightforward. Create some simple, but catchy videos and then run them on Facebook with the intent of targeted reach and consumption of that video as the engagement metric. The second is re-targeting users based on having engaged with your Instagram Account. This is no longer new, but I have found it is underutilized by any brand I work or speak with. Some tips:

Head over to the Facebook Ad Manager and go to the ‘Audiences’ tab. Once you’re on the Audiences screen, you’ll need to click the blue ‘Create Audience’ button and select ‘Custom Audience’.

Select ‘Engagement’ from the list of Custom Audience types.

Instagram engagement ads

You can choose to either create your new Custom Audience based on people who have engaged with your Instagram business profile, OR who have watched one of your videos on Instagram!

Instagram business account engagement or video engagement

Choose the ‘Instagram Business Profile’ option to create a re-targeting audience based on people who’ve interacted with your Instagram account. Facebook gives us a range of options to choose from when it comes to targeting our Instagram audience.

You have the choice of creating an audience of Instagram users including:

  • Everyone who engaged with your Instagram profile (this includes visiting your profile OR engaging with your content or ads)
  • Only people who visited your Instagram profile
  • Only people who engaged with your content or ads
  • People who sent a message to your business profile
  • People who saved any of your posts or ads

I suggest you allocate some funds and experiment with all of these to see what works best. If you have spent time developing your Instagram profile and that is where you are seeing the most engagement and awareness, then this is a way to really leverage it across platforms and see additional benefits.  Get involved!

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