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!

 

 

 

 

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On Instagram Stories data…

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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. ;)

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On social media and the right POV for brands…

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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!

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

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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…

Instagram-Followers-hack

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 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…

Instagram-Growth

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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