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…

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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…

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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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On influencers and KPI’s…

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We have written several pieces on the power of influencer marketing and the need to have it as part of your marketing mix, if you are looking to sell a product to consumers these days.  Our position on the topic has only strengthened over time, and we once again encourage all readers to really consider the potential and to get into the game.

Don’t get caught up in semantics, and most certainly don’t be stubborn about being anti-pay to play engagements with micro influencers. Some brands we speak with feel they are a vanity play and don’t drive real results.  We would argue the exact opposite, as the data points to these types of engagements being real KPI winners.  You have to be smart about who you engage with, what the goal is and the metrics for success should be outlined up front of course. This is true for any marketing tactic though.

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As other digital advertising becomes more competitive and intrusive it is very important to find new ways to penetrate and create awareness for your products or services.  Influencers (especially the good ones) provide an entree to captive audiences who trust their marketing messages and endorsements.  You must seek out the right partners and capitalize on these opportunities.

TapInfluence put out this compelling report, that highlights some telling statistics and is worth a download. Here are some that they collected and posted on their website:

Influencer marketing content delivers 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing. (TapInfluence study with Nielsen Catalina Solutions, 2016)
Twitter users report a 5.2X increase in purchase intent when exposed to promotional content from influencers. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
74% of people turn to social networks for guidance on purchase decisions. (Ogilvy Cannes, 2014)
40% of people say they’ve purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, or YouTube (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
73% of Millennials see it as their responsibility to guide friends, peers, and family toward smart purchase decisions. (Fleishman-Hillard PR & Hearst Magazine)
71% of marketers believe that ongoing ambassadorships are the most effective form of influencer marketing. (TapInfluence & Altimeter, June 2016,)

These stats jump off the page and should make it pretty clear that this is a frontier that needs to be in the mix. Influencer collaborations drive real business results and cannot be ignored. In the end of the day they are just people with a POV and a captive audience that seems to care about what they have to say, and takes direction when they give advice. Perhaps I just influenced you to get started?  Case in point…

 

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On Facebook TV…

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Facebook is making moves to get onto your TV screen and it is coming sooner than most think.  Mark Zuckerberg said back in 2014 that the platform would be mostly video within 5 years and they are moving quickly to carry through on that prediction.

This piece on CNN Tech back in February highlighted some updates on this front and shared insight from a Facebook earnings call:

“I see video as a megatrend on the same order as mobile,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and cofounder, said on an earnings call this month. “That’s why we’re going to keep putting video first across our family of apps and making it easier for people to capture and share video in new ways.”

Facebook advertising is already the most powerful and competitively priced marketing vehicle out there and this represents a potential new frontier for marketers and the social network. It is an interesting and exciting time for both parties.

In this piece on Social Media Today, Andrew Hutchinson breaks down some recent moves Facebook has been making on the “TV” front.  It is interesting to see them go after Houseparty marketshare. This is yet another example of FB listening to the success of a social media darling and fast growing platform, and then potentially taking it from them. Perhaps even more interesting is the prospect of watching The Ball Family on Facebook TV.  Whether you like them or not, original programming like this is likely to capture a lot of attention for sure.

What nobody can ignore, are the consumption trends when it comes to video and like it or not we will all be consuming content via very different channels in the coming years. For consumers this means more access to great content, in what many argue is already the golden age of programming. For marketers and storytellers it means thinking video first, as well as what formats they will be consumed on.

If you aren’t solving for how your brand or business will put out video content, including live action, motion graphics and Facebook Live, then you are already late to the party. That is something all brands should be looking to remedy….quickly!

 

 

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Twitter: The party isn’t over…

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At Sircle Media, we are buyers of underpriced attention and we are not overly romantic about where that attention comes from (amen @garyvee). Social networks have made communication at scale so easy, that sometimes we lose site of how each can add value.  We always want more, and we get lost in the shiny newness of the next big thing. We encourage that you think about what you want to have happen and then reverse engineer from there.

While some brands are moving away from Twitter, we are finding some pockets of attention that are very attractive on the platform. Last month, we executed a Twitter party with the micro influencer @heyaprill for our client Paula’s Choice Skincare. The client decided to run a last minute promotion to push their 2% BHA liquid exfoliant and came to us looking for a quick program to help generate awareness, buzz and most importantly sales. Of course we looked at Facebook and Instagram organic and paid efforts first, but we also recommended they consider leveraging the captive audience which can come from a Twitter party.  They gave us the green light and we got to work.

18222259_10154348693051861_549624885018734284_nAll Aprill needed from us was a graphic (seen above) talking points (which we crafted and made about BHA specifically), hashtags to track the chat, and prizes provided by the client.  We arranged all of this on their behalf, within 24 hours. Prior to the party, she teased the giveaway on her website where people could RSVP for the chat and 1995 people did!

On the day of the chat we had her give away bottles of 2% BHA (every 10 mins), a $100 visa gift card (from @heyaprill), and a grand prize of a year supply of 2% BHA. These were incentives for people to want to join the chat and ultimately keep them participating for the full hour.

The actual chat was amazing and people were so engaged throughout. We monitored all chatter around it on Hootsuite and the notifications were literally non stop. Participants were active and passionate with their messaging and were using the hashtag #BHACHAT as requested. The conversation centered around real issues and the benefits and value of the product to help remedy those problems. This was excellent and highly targeted content consumption.

On top of all of that active and consumed content about the brand and the product, the client also netted 202 new followers in about 10 hours.  The party didn’t stop there though, because in the days that followed, we started to see tweets trickle in about people buying the product because of this chat which is a home run and stamp of real measurable ROI and success for the client. That is what really matters and was super sweet coming from a platform and tactic they were quick to dismiss up front.

While not as sexy as Instagram and Snapchat these days, Twitter is a valuable resource in your social media arsenal. #Respectthebird!

 

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On Instagram numbers being down and why it doesn’t matter…

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Instagram follower growth and engagement are down across the board, and that is OK.  Brands have been seeing a slow down in their growth and engagement KPI’s for awhile now and that has really accelerated over the past few months.  There are various reasons for this that we break down below, but first let’s explain why it doesn’t matter.

First off, Instagram is a storytelling platform where we argue it is about depth and not width. Meaning brands should focus on putting out great looking content that helps convey their story, personality and USP in their vertical and make sure their house is in order and looks attractive when any individual comes to consume them on the platform. The quality of consumption is more important that the quantity here and you want to make sure you don’t send someone backwards in the sales journey.  By being dormant, non responsive (meaning pushing out content only but not engaging with users) or pushing out low quality imagery you are actually decreasing your chance of ever transacting with that individual.  So your own content and brand side engagement are actually the most important.

Also, Instagram has a great advertising platform and you can specifically target any audience you want with your content. So we tell clients who are freaking out about Instagram follower growth and/or like and comment numbers, that they should really be focused on CPM’s and Click Thru Rates on their Ads.  We have talked about the importance and value of paid social here on this blog before and we are seeing CPM’s below $5 on Instagram Ads optimized for video views, which is excellent on a platform where people spend the most time consuming content.  I think it is really time for a shift in which KPI’s to focus on.

All of the above being said, we fully understand and respect the concern about engagement and follower growth being down. Let’s take a look at why this is happening:

First off, the user count continues to grow at a torrid pace. As more and more people are using Instagram, there is just more noise and only so much that can show up in feeds.  For brands this means that consumers now have a lot of other distractions (more friends, celebrities, brands etc…) and it is just like having more TV channel options….it is harder to get their attention and loyalty because the supply is so high. If a user follows 500 accounts and they each post 1x per day that is 500 posts to sift thru, which just doesn’t happen from the vast majority of users.  All the more reason to focus on better imagery and videos, so when they do see it, it is compelling content that they remember.

Also adding to the noise is the rapid increase in businesses using the Ads platform.  As they understand the potential of Instagram, they are starting to invest more money there. The downside to each individual account is it eats up some previously available attention, but the upside is that with a small investment you can put your brand into that slot and in front of the right eyeballs, via smart targeting.  Brands should be lining up! (and many are…)

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Picture taken from Trak.in

Instagram Stories have also eaten up a lot of the platform attention.  If each user has only a limited amount of daily time spent on IG, these unique content pieces right at the top will reduce engagements on your photos. Smart Instagrammers post many stories a day to keep their profile appearing at the top and as a direct result less of your followers may actually scroll until they reach your photos.

I explain to clients that Stories are like Netflix.  They came on the scene and quickly starting chipping away at attention that was previously spent on IG proper (like traditional TV). Both have a place, but Stories/Netflix have an immediacy to them and are just so easy to access and consume.  So our recommendation is that you don’t just shut down and give up. You remain committed to putting out great looking content so the quality is always high AND you experiment with Stories to join them, if you cant beat them.  Make sense?

Despite all of the reasoning above, we believe you should still be scrappy and continue trying do whatever you can to capture attention and turn the spotlight on your content and account.  This article form Social Media Today offers 7 ways to boost your Instagram Engagement and the key takeaways are:

1. Research and A/B split test your hashtags

2. Be active

3. Tie images in with compelling storytelling

4. Find the Right Time to Post

5. Add a Call to Action

6. Cross Promoting

7. Instagram Ads – Pay to Play

In the end of the day, it is just a shift in POV and time to deploy different tactics. You don’t run from a problem, you assess what you want to have happen and then deploy tactics to help you achieve that end goal. Having more followers and/or an extra hundred likes on your next post are not end goals, right?  They are just one way to assess performance, which is quickly becoming outdated. It is like Nielsen Ratings being used to determine advertising rates on TV.  An Ad might reach a lot of homes, but does anyone consume it?

Success on Instagram today comes down to great looking, quality content (no screenshots, no low quality or blurry images) depth of engagement (meaning closing our the comments and commentary you actually do get, even if less than before) and targeted exposure (advertising and Influencer and brand collaborations).  Focus on these religiously and quality followers, likes and engagement will follow.

 

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