POV: Motion Graphics

When trying to create content that will tell your brand’s story in a compelling way, you need to have assets that stand out from the clutter. User attention span continues to dwindle, so you don’t have much time to make an impact. It is more important than ever before to be clever, creative and concise with your messaging.

Data shows that video outperforms still imagery, but most brands haven’t figured out how to create video content affordably in house. The main reason is that most are thinking longer form and/or live action video, and both come with a higher cost (financial and opportunity).  While we love live action at Sircle Media, the real gold, when it comes to social content, is in motion graphics.

The format can be fun and simple and can be crafted by someone sitting at a desk, rather than off running around with a camera somewhere.  If you have people on your team that are good at it, as we do here at Sircle, then you can be off to the races. Some of our best content, both from a likeability and data POV, are these types of assets. We find that they make stakeholders happy, whether they are brand (ART) or results (SCIENCE) oriented in nature.

A lot of time is spent on branding and packaging, especially with healthy CPG and beverage brands, which is where we spend most of our time and energy. We think it is only logical to bring some of that art to life. Even if your Art Director prefers real imagery and/or live video, remember that the brand is the most important character in your messaging. Bring that brand to life with motion graphics and thank me later.

 

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What makes Sircle Media different?

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I saw an opportunity in 2011/2012 to capitalize on a white space in the market. There were tons of agencies, but most were not amazing and many provided terrible customer service and products. There was also this emergence of social networks and very few people, if any, understood them and their power. Having been on the client side for a decade I knew all too well how hard it was for SMBs to navigate digital, and social media took it a level further, with the non-static and conversational and social nature of it. You really needed a full-time employee to navigate it all and that person needed to be well versed in a lot of different disciplines. You cannot find one person who can do all of these necessary things at a high level (still have not met one to date) and therefore, you need a group of different talents to win.

The lightbulb went off for me, that if I could provide social media management in an outsourced capacity, with the look and feel of an employee mindset, but the prowess and multi-talents of an agency of individuals, I might be onto something. Add in “Four Seasons” level service and now you had an Agency who cared about service, hard work, and humans above all else. This was a totally different approach and not something most agencies wanted to tackle as they saw it as unscalable. I set out to do just that….scale the unscalable!

In order to deliver on that promise, I needed to run a company that was also different than most. To do so, I put my employees and our culture above all else, even our clients. This is why I have fired various clients over the years. Most service agencies would never do that, but my employee’s happiness and sanity are mission critical and more important than chasing around an unreasonable, unprofessional and/or unproductive client. By treating my team very well, providing solid work-life balance and constantly staying invested in and involved with their work, life, and growth, I approach things differently than most bosses. I think if they are happy and motivated, then they will deliver next level work and it shows.

All these years later we have grown so much as a company and improved in every facet of the business. The original thesis still holds true and is even more central to the client’s needs today. With the evolution of the marketplace, the addition of new social networks and nuances within each’s products, businesses need a team who can deliver at a very high level, against a number of different disciplines now, more than ever before. We deliver upon this promise every single day.

It is not all roses, trust me. Client services businesses are very difficult, defeating and unrewarding at times. Brand partners can be very demanding and often treat us more like an agency than an employee. It still remains a little abstract for some and as a result, it is harder to push thru and get the really great work done. I also have employees who don’t fully understand or value the opportunity and unique structure, and sometimes slip up and fall into bad habits and behaviors they either learned somewhere else OR it is just due to inexperience in the workplace. So, it is on me (and company leadership) to remind them each and every day of the importance of the work, the promise we have made to each client and how their efforts impact real business results for those brands. By humanizing it, I think it makes them want to work even harder for them.

So, when brands hire Sircle Media, they are not just hiring “someone to run social”.  They are hiring a very progressive business unit, with employee and client minded leadership, that is focused on delivering high-level work and outperforming our pay grade. We want to prove that we are a much better choice than any other option in the market, including internal hires OR external agencies.  We care more, work harder, dig deeper and have a better, more well-rounded understanding of social and what it really means for a business. I believe it shows in the work, in our renewal rates, in our partner referrals and our customer testimonials. That is the most rewarding part of it all!

Some feedback from the FAM:

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3 Instagram Updates Worth Exploring For Better Results in 2019

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This is Karin Huynh again, with a hot take on Instagram and some of the changes that are worth investigating this year. I hope you enjoy!

There are two things in this world that wait for no one: time and Instagram updates. In 2019, it seems like Instagram is steadily rolling out features that could potentially benefit brands and businesses more so than ever before. If you’re running a business, potential customers are going to be searching for your social media platforms to see what people have to say about your brand. Now is the time to really leverage the new Instagram capabilities so you don’t get left behind.

For starters, you can now view the mutual follows of the accounts you are following. Want to see how similar another account is comparable to yours? Curious about what other brands your customers follow? This feature allows you to do market research on the go without wasting too much time scrolling on an account’s following list. It was also getting annoying to have to type in the user’s account name in order to find them if scrolling didn’t work. Another benefit of the mutual followers function is that it can convey to users that the account they are viewing is liked by their peers which means solid social proof and conveys trust. It looks like Instagram is trying to crack down on accounts with big followings that consist mostly of fake followers, and is prioritizing the value of building authentic relationships and community.

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Another recently added feature that may sound counterintuitive to those who sweat follower count, is the ability to remove followers from your account. There is no value in having fake names and bots, especially when people can view that more easily. Once again, Instagram is trying to put a hammer down on inactive, ghost followers, that kill engagement rates and organic reach. Brands are getting smarter and know that a bigger following is meaningless if there are no real people behind those accounts. Removing users will reduce your overall follower count, but for a higher engagement rate, and better optics when people go snooping, it might be worth it.

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Last but not least, Instagram has rolled out an “About This Account” section, which allows any user to view the account’s real-time Ads and Stories. In my honest opinion, the new ”About This Account” section is the most beneficial feature for any business. Instagram is really focusing on transparency this year so now you can view your competitor’s paid Ads in one centralized place. The bonus, in addition to seeing the actual creative brands are running, is that unlike Facebook’s section of “Info and Ads”(added last year for transparency after The Cambridge Analytica controversy), you can also observe the number of views, likes, and comments the Ad received and when the Ad was posted, to determine how well it performed among it’s targeted audience. Leveraging this section will definitely give your brand an edge because you can learn from your competitor’s mistakes while also “borrowing” what has been effective in their campaigns, saving you money, time, and effort.

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To learn more about the updates above and other interesting features on the Instagram platform, you can check out Alex Tooby’s article here.

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5 Simple Tips to Boost Organic Reach on Instagram When Everyone is Using Paid Advertising

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unnamed-1Hi, my name is Karin Huynh and I am an intern with Sircle Media and today’s guest blog writer. I decided to tackle this article from Socialmediatoday.com that talks about fighting declining organic reach on social media. I hope you enjoy it

Paid advertising is all the rage these days. It seems like everyone from teenage influencers, to grandmothers with candle businesses, are getting involved. While paying Facebook and Instagram to garner attention has become the trend, does that mean organic marketing strategies will be obsolete? Not exactly. While it is obvious that Instagram relies on paid advertising to keep their platform running, they still reward accounts that are valuable and interesting to audiences. The main goal of social media is to capitalize on attention and to do so, you need to provide good content and be well versed on how best to deliver that content contextually to the platform. Social networks can be hot one minute, and disappear the next (Myspace, anyone?) so you also need to know how to dominate on what is currently hot and glean as much value for you and your brand as possible. Doing this when the going is good is easy, but as it starts to decline, you need to know how to squeeze the most juice out of the fruit before it is obsolete  Here are 5 ways you can improve organic reach on Instagram so your brand can be in front of more customers.

STUDY THE ALGORITHM

First, it is important to remember that Instagram is not random. The posts that are featured on the explore feed were not chosen because it looked the “prettiest” or the platform thought the picture was “cool” and users might like it. Instagram has an algorithm that allows it to show you posts that are getting a lot of comments and likes, along with making sure the post aligns with your own personal interests. For example, the algorithm might show you a post of an orange cat because it tracked that you liked old posts that had white cats. If you were shown a post with an orange cat, you would be more likely to engage with the content because it knows that you are a fan of cats. Another example would be if you were following a fitness influencer, the algorithm would only show you content related to the fitness niche because you already engaged with that specific type of content from someone else. Therefore, to have a chance of being featured on the explore feed of your audience, think about and work with the algorithm. Although no one knows exactly how the algorithm processes content (except maybe Instagram employees, but they’ll never tell), marketers have inferred that it is based on these three things: recency, relevancy, and engagement. Be sure to study the latest data on your audience insights to observe when your following is most active, what posts they liked the most, and what posts received the most comments. Once you’ve discovered what’s effective, post consistently and cater content to your audience’s interests and the odds of hitting the explore page will be in your favor.

BE PRESENT ON IG LIVE

Another way to fight organic reach decline is by taking advantage of Instagram Live. The platform favors live footage and will increase the visibility of it in the feed. At the end of the day, a follower of your brand is a person who wants either entertainment, utility or education. Instagram Live allows you to connect to your followers and build a stronger relationship with them. If you are open to experimentation, think about how you might go about being live and allowing for users to engage with you directly. For a great Instagram Live session, you could always greet your followers by their username while answering some questions or just showing the behind-the-scenes of your business. Don’t feel like you’re ready to go live and face your audience in real time? Not an issue. You can also test out Instagram Stories using the same ideas, and it’ll prep you for when you are ready to tackle it all in live mode.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CUSTOMERS

The more you give, the more you get back. According to this article, ”51% of people say they’d be more likely to continue engaging with and/or purchasing from a brand if it shared their photo, video or post throughout its marketing.” People naturally love attention, so when a brand takes notice of their content and reposts to the brand’s account, it is an action that pays back tenfold. A great example of a brand that does this is Go Pro. With over 15 million Instagram followers, they prove that user-generated content can be super effective. A majority of their posts are created by actual customers using their products, which makes them seem more authentic.

FIND YOUR TRIBE WITH HASHTAGS

Build a small community around your brand. Since Instagram hasn’t rolled out a feature similar to Facebook groups where people with a common interest can come hang out and cyber network, the closest thing would be to use a specific hashtag meant to connect your followers in a small hub where they can meet other followers or influencers like them and engage with each other’s content related to your business. This is also another way to easily communicate with your followers by liking and commenting on their posts in one spot.  One example of a brand implementing this strategy would be FashionNova with its custom hashtag “#NovaBabe”. When typed in the search bar, this one hashtag alone brings up more than 700,000 posts from other Instagram users, mostly curvy young women interested in the brand and hoping to get reposted on FashionNova’s account with over 15 million followers. The more users that use #NovaBabe in their captions, the broader the reach FashionNova has on Instagram leading to higher engagement and an even bigger following.

HAVE AN AFFILIATE PROGRAM

Okay, maybe this isn’t exactly free, but why give Instagram all of your money when you can pay back your customers for their loyalty? Leveraging an affiliate program allows you to partner with users who wield influence and then compensate them for sales. You are capitalizing on their organic reach and using them as a Trojan horse to get in front of their eyeballs, without technically paying for advertising. 1UpNutrition uses this strategy to increase brand awareness and grow their following. The brand enlists a few macro and micro influencers and everyone who wants to be an ambassador to get their own personalized discount code for their audience and every time someone buys their product with that specific discount code the ambassador earns a commission. As a brand, you don’t have to pay for anything until a sale is made, while at the same time getting free exposure to multiple audiences.

The bottom line here is that organic continues to be harder to tackle, but most good things don’t come easy. You need to continue to invest time and effort if you want to stand out from the pack and win.

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Influencer Marketing: Look for transformational relationships over transactional ones!

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When working with influencers, seek out true partnerships over “one and done” post relationships. Of course, a singular post with your product in hand can earn tons of impressions and potentially a bunch of likes and engagements too. However, if you want to really move the needle, you should look to integrate into their life and routine.

If an influencer really has a captive audience that actually pays attention to their recommendations and guidance, as is the case with @sweatsandthecity, then you should look to create a transformational relationship vs. a transactional one. Here she talks about a 9-month journey, to try and get her gut health back in line after a battle with diverticulitis. She credits meditation, cutting out foods found to be an issue in an Alcat Test, Acupuncture AND our client Terra Origin’s Healthy Gut product, as the steps to getting there. What an amazing endorsement!

If you have a great product and believe in it, look for partners who can convey that message for you. It can be the benefit, the clean label and/or the taste that stands out. Have them help you package that story and speak to something they have personally used or consumed and actually appreciate. Then let them do the storytelling in their own way and look at the depth (engagements, actual words in the comments and chances for a dialogue) even more so than the width (impressions and follower count). That is much more likely to INFLUENCE consideration and trial from their audience, which is the whole point of it all, isn’t it?

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As if Amazon didn’t already have enough influence…

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Hi, my name is Leah Hammer and I am a Senior at The University of Delaware and a Social Media Manager Intern this semester.  This is my first blog post for Sircle Media and I chose to write about Amazon’s influencer platform. I hope you enjoy it!

There’s no doubt that influencers have become a key component in promoting products in the digital realm. Brands have long been searching for well-known, reputable influencers to advocate for and promote their products, and for good reason. According to an article by David Bloom at Forbes, a recent study showed that 13 million influencers generated $7 billion in revenue last year. Staggering numbers!

Instagram has seen the most action with these influencers, with 93% of all influencer campaigns happening on their platform. Bigger influencers are typically paid anywhere between $3,000-$5,000 per post, and sometimes even more per campaign.

About a year ago, Amazon created their own influencer program which offers a link for those who participate to publicize on other social media sites. The link then directs to a user profile made up of personalized “lists”, where influencers showcase their favorite products. With every purchase bought from an influencers link, the influencer can receive up to 10% of that sale. This hybrid affiliate program is very smart and will allow all parties to win financially.

Amazon accounts for more than 50% of e-commerce in the United States. With ferocious price wars, consumers are looking to Amazon for the best possible prices. “That’s helping drive Amazon’s growing share of the U.S. advertising business, and now third behind the Duopoly,” says Bloom. Marketers are now predicting that Amazon will gain almost 9% of 2019’s digital ad market. Amazon has already experienced meteoric growth in the marketing space and can go even further, faster by incorporating influencers.

Influencers with a large following will be essential in the new program’s success, but so will micro-influencers. Many brands have looked to these power users because of their devoted fans and followers. Micro-influencers have between 1,000-100,000 followers and are typically more approachable and affordable in comparison to those who might only have a limited number of partnerships available. Because micro-influencers have smaller, more intimate fanbases, they are often seen as more real, approachable and sincere, which makes them more credible to their followers. Finding the right micro-influencers within Amazon’s ecosystem will create a whole new opportunity for businesses, and influencers too.

When searching for the best possible influencer to promote your product, it’s important to search through the ‘explore’ page on Amazon. This page will lead you to popular and commonly viewed lists. Through these lists, you can find influencers who are part of Amazon’s influencer program and willing to work with brands. When searching for the right influencer for your product, remember to keep in mind your audience and target demo and then check to see if the influencer has endorsed competitors in the past.

As an example, for one of our clients, Modern Oats, who creates on the go, organic oatmeal, we could perhaps choose to reach out to Laura Fuentes, an Instagram influencer with 14.2K followers.  She is a mother who loves to travel and share her favorite foods. Laura recently joined Amazon’s influencer program and has already created lists of her favorite products.

As influencer marketing continues to take over the digital realm, taking advantage of Amazon’s new influencer program will be essential in increasing those e-commerce sales. Get in the game and try it for yourself. If you have any positive or negative experiences on the platform, be sure to let us know. We would love to hear some real-life feedback

See you out on the field!

 

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Instagram Trends To Watch In Early 2019

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Square_Lexi-02Hi, my name is Lexi and I am new to Sircle Media. This is my first ever blog post at Sircle and I decided to reference this article about marketing trends on Instagram in 2019 that was put out by Socialbakers. We use Instagram all day long for clients and it was helpful to see some data around usage and consumption. I offer some personal and professional insight sprinkled on top of their list of the 5 platform trends that marketers must know. I hope you enjoy.

As a Social Media Manager and an avid Instagram user myself, I feel as though I understand Instagram’s popularity as a social media platform and how it would be a huge miss for brands not to utilize it for marketing purposes. Whether I’m sending memes to my friends or seeing what Kylie Jenner is up to, I spend multiple hours in a single day on Instagram. I am sure that most people reading this are addicted to IG too!

Since launching in 2010, Instagram has evolved tremendously from a photo-sharing site to the powerful marketing channel it is today. I remember using Instagram solely as an editing tool back in 2011 when I wanted to have cool pictures of me and my friends to post on Facebook during our senior year of high school. Boy, have times changed! Since then, Instagram has grown at a rapid pace, with over 1 billion active users to date.

So, what does Instagram’s dominance in the social media sphere mean for marketers? In this blog post, I am going to tackle and discuss the five Instagram trends marketers should know as 2019 unfolds.

First, high customer engagement is super important and you shouldn’t be against using paid social to find those right customers. Because Instagram is a highly visual platform, this particular social network is perfect for getting your proper target engaged AND keeping them absorbed in your content. For me, Glossier does an amazing job at producing content I like to see on my feed, while also successfully selling me on their wide range of beauty products.

According to Instagram Business, 80% of accounts follow a business on the platform and 60% use it to discover new products. In addition, 72% users buy products after seeing them on the platform. With that being said, I feel that in order to move someone down a purchase funnel, your business must be utilizing all of Instagram’s e-commerce features. For example, add a link to your bio to drive visitors to your website, include action buttons such as “shop,” use Instagram Story links and highlights to show off new products, and create shoppable posts for a more seamless shopping experience within the app.

Not only can you leverage e-commerce features on Instagram, but their Instagram Story feature, in general, is key. I believe the ephemeral content craze began with the creation of Snapchat, but once Instagram Stories were rolled out, they clearly became much more popular. Ephemeral content encourages followers to interact with your brand, allows you to increase website traffic, create buzz surrounding a new product launch, and so much more.

Now when it comes to IGTV, I am still just getting my feet wet. For those who don’t know, IGTV is Instagram’s longer-form video hub displayed as a vertical video on an Instagram account. To be honest, sometimes I forget to check out IGTV, but just recently, IG pushed out a new update, where video previews can be published in the main feed. This is a big update and a clear indication that Instagram is focused on continuing to try and get users to adopt IGTV. I already see influencers actively using it for how-to videos and a behind-the-scenes look at their lives. Which brings me to my final Instagram trend to look out for in 2019….Influencer marketing.

According to eMarketer, 78% of influencers consider Instagram to be the best platform for brand collaborations. When well-respected influencers post about brands they are eating, wearing, drinking, you name it, followers are able to easily find and buy the featured items. I cannot even begin to describe the countless number of times I have purchased a product this way. For example, whenever Arielle Charnas posts about the clothes she is wearing, you bet I am going to swipe up and check it out nine times out of ten. Brands should be making sure they find the right influencer(s) that fits their target audience and that their performance metrics are on point. Since I started working at Sircle, I’ve made sure to keep my eyes peeled for influencers who are engaging with the brands that I manage in order to readily turn them into brand ambassadors.

So, to sum things up, Instagram, just like any other social media platform, is constantly evolving and we will see so many new trends in the future. I recommend that you take the time to apply these tactics now and stay on top of the latest trends!  See you on The Gram!

 

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Food Styling – Sells Product!

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If you want to stand out in the very crowded healthy CPG or beverage categories, it is very important to create high quality and memorable visual content. At Sircle Media, we are big believers in video content, but still photographs can pack quite a punch too.

One of the big differentiators from one brand to the next is the flavor or taste profile and brands need to include some imagery that helps tell that story. Well executed food styling can really make your product stand out and make it crave-able, which can move someone from awareness to trial very quickly. We all want healthy products in our lives and the added bonus is that they taste great too.

Sell that narrative and you will earn more first time users. Follow thru on that promise (meaning the product actually does taste good) and you will have customers for life!

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IGTV – Promotions in the main Instagram feed…

 

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Instagram has stumbled a bit out of the gate with IGTV, but the platform is committed to making this product stick. Not only does it open up a new frontier for creators on the social network, but it steals those same creators and the eyeballs that watch them from YouTube. The added cherry on top is the additional real estate for Ads and the revenue that comes with it. Trust me, they are going to make it work.

They recently rolled out a new feature that allows you to publish your IGTV uploads directly to the feed, where you can tease users back to view the whole video and your channel in the process. They made it super seamless at the time of posting, which will make it easy to adopt for users and is a very smart way to draw attention for sure.

Below you can see how it looks in the Instagram grid as well as the teaser to watch the full video when you click on the actual asset:

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We encourage brands to experiment with this and to use some longer form video content (especially a “hero” video that describes who you are and what you sell) in the process. There are some nuances to consider when doing this and we touch on the topic in a recent episode of our podcast, The Inner Sircle.  Enjoy!

 

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POV: 2019 State of Influencer Marketing Report

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The team at Relatable recently put out a report on the state of influencer marketing for 2019. They partnered up with 350 brands and agencies to source comprehensive data and insights to help hone in on the current situation.

This study showed that influencer marketing is not about earned media and shipping out free products anymore, it is now about working with the right and relevant influential individual that can help companies reach their target audience. Although, 95% of respondents believe that influencer marketing is an effective form of marketing, 24% of them have zero experience with influencer marketing in their company and 8 out of 10 brands will have a dedicated influencer marketing budget in 2019.

Marketing teams are tending to launch monthly and quarterly campaigns, combined with an always-on program, while about 1 in 4 are limiting their executions to when they’re launching new products. 82% of respondents stated that their company is currently advertising on Facebook and 7 out of 10 marketers agree that their Facebook Ads are getting increasingly more expensive and harder to optimize. 76% of marketing teams are operating their influencer marketing manually, without any tools, and although there is no lack of platforms, tools, and technologies available for those who are looking to take their influencer marketing to the next level, many are still not leveraging them.

Half of the marketing teams think finding influencers to participate is a very big challenge. They also fear a lack of control on message and need to make sure that the influencer’s creation(s) will resonate with their audience and will authentically connect with new and existing consumers. On top of this, 75% of marketing teams are concerned about fraud and bots that mess with results.

Awareness and consideration were the most common marketing objectives when running an influencer marketing campaign with only 50% being sales.  Fewer and fewer brands are using follower growth as a KPI, which is good to see.  There is a clear opportunity to combine influencer marketing efforts and content marketing budgets to increase return on advertising dollars.

With 80% of brands allocating a budget to influencer marketing and nearly 1 out of 4 lacking the necessary experience to manage these campaigns, there is a real need for education and support. Influencers should not be in a silo and most likely not run by your PR firm. Your social media manager should project manage the relationships and either grind it out manually or, if the budget permits, they should leverage tools or 3rd party agencies to help do some of the heavy lifting.

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