Instagram POV – further explained…

In this episode, we go a bit deeper into our current POV on Instagram. We have recently shared our take on what matters on Instagram, as well as why we love Instagram Ads so much right now.  Here we frame how to rethink your strategy for the platform and be able to better explain the right approach to retailers, investors and/or even yourself.

Instagram (just like Facebook before it) has given away a lot for free to build their brand and user base.  Now they are saying to brands that if they want to reach people and leverage the platform, they will need to pay. This is a good thing and if done right, it actually provides much more value than your follower count OR how many likes your last photo received ever did.

Hope this helps shape the conversation a bit more…

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On what matters on Instagram right now…


On this episode, I talk about what metrics really matter on Instagram in January 2018. Followers and even engagements and/or engagement rates with those followers are rapidly becoming less important as the platform moves towards a “pay to play” ecosystem. Nowadays, and even more so going forward, it will be more about how well you deploy smart paid social tactics, than how many user accounts follow you or how many likes your last picture received.

Key Takeaways:
It is still important to story tell on this visual platform and to continue to publish branded content that conveys key brand messaging. If you want that key messaging to be seen AND to be seen by the right eyeballs, then you should boost that content at a very specific audience and guarantee delivery.

If retailers, partners or even your boss ask about why you don’t have more followers (or likes on your posts), tell them you don’t play in that game, as the platform has shifted away from it. Instead, show them real data that supports where you have deployed paid marketing dollars and how that has delivered targeted reach and attention for your messages. If those messages benefit them, they will be all ears.

Instagram stories are where attention is most being paid and an area where you can still stand out from the clutter and deliver key messages proactively. Commit to posting more consistently and look at the data to tell you what is resonating and where you might want to pivot and deploy different tactics.

Instagram is still “THE PLATFORM” of the moment, but the way you use it has definitely changed.  Change with it and reap the benefits.

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On under-investing in social media…

I am continuously baffled by brands under-investing in social media. While many say they want exposure, engagement, and access to targeted consumers, most don’t want to invest the time or energy into their social efforts. What is the alternative?

First off, you must market your business in order to tell your story and even put yourself in play for consumers to make a buying decision. So where else are you doing that? Print? Out of Home? Word of Mouth? Demos? All of those are less measurable and harder to scale than leveraging social networks. Are they not?

I think brands get lost in the unknown aspect of it all, and they fear that since they don’t understand it they won’t be any good at it. As a result, many stand on the sidelines watching other brands succeed. No expert was labeled that way on day one. It takes time and effort to develop expertise. Just like developing a good product or service takes careful thought, planning, trial, and refinement, so too does your social media efforts.

Also, brands take a long time to come around to action and by the time they do the ball has moved. Newer brands to social media are looking at fans and followers and the metric for success, yet those are 2016 KPIs. These days it is about paid social prowess, influencer tactical warfare, and true content marketing. So some put their toe in and when they get it wrong they recoil and almost take an “I told you so” posture. This is the wrong move, because not only do you need to stay the course, but you need to be all in and on all fronts.

With anything good in life, what you get out of it depends on what you put in. You must invest the time and resources now if you want to succeed and just like working out, you must not get discouraged if you don’t see results after your first session. You must believe in the religion over the tactics (shoutout @garyvee) and play the long game. It is a matter of survival…

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On winning customers back…

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In 2017 we had a stellar year at Sircle Media and I am very proud of all that we accomplished. We grew our staff, expanded and diversified our offerings and brought on a number of new and higher profile clients. By all measures it was solid.

What I am perhaps most proud of, are the clients who returned to Sircle after leaving us prior. In the agency space, there is a lot of churn and turnover on retainers and contracts. Sometimes you lose business because you messed up and deserve to, but more often than not it can be for silly reasons outside of your control. Losing clients sucks, especially from a competitive and passionate person like me. Unfortunately, this is what I signed up for and it is a way of life I have had to become accustomed to.

Our number one reason for losing clients is a new Marketing Director or decision maker of some sort transitioning in and pushing us out for no rhyme or reason. The analogy I always use is that it is comparable to a new President who wants to come in, flip the table over and put all new people in their cabinet seats. A new leader wants to make moves to earn their keep and often doesn’t want to inherit a legacy agency that they didn’t select. We would argue that if you have a great Secretary of Defense in place, you shouldn’t just fire them, just to fire them. They just might represent the stability you need to make that new role a success. Unfortunately, they don’t even want to hear that.

Regardless of their reasoning, when we do get the notice from a client that they want to leave our agency, rather than getting angry, frustrated or even petty we go the opposite direction. I teach my team to deploy empathy first and foremost and realize that the other party is doing it, for what they think is a good reason for their business. We immediately pivot to customer service and hand-holding mode. We look to set them up to win without us and shower them with love and attention during our winddown month. Every former client would attest that we were rock stars in our darkest hour and that is a distinctly different posture than they are accustomed to.

I then try to keep in touch and root for them from the sidelines, in order to stay on their radar and to let them know that while we are no longer dating, they are still a former love that we care about very much. In a rough and sometimes unforgiving world, they appreciate that more than you would think. We invested a lot of time and energy together and developed a loyalty to their brand, that doesn’t just disappear because they’ve stopped paying us.

When your team handles adversity like professionals and does everything with integrity and class, you create a long-term impression that has lasting effects. Life is a marathon and if you treat it that way and stick around long enough, good things tend to happen. So to all of those returning customers in 2017, I say thank you. To all of the other ones out there, it is never too late to come back. You know where to find us.  #Squad4lyfe

 

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On the long and winding road of entrepreneurship…

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Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It is a constant barrage of stress, issues, fires and losses, balanced (only sometimes) with flickers of greatness and short-term wins along the way. I have heard it often compared to jumping out of an airplane and only first starting to build the parachute mid-air. I think that visual is a fair one.

We are living in a time, where it seems kind of cool to run your own business and I think it is seen as the easier option when compared to being an employee at someone else’s business. It is not, this I can promise you. Sure, calling yourself a founder and hanging out and not working all day is very easy. Actually creating an enterprise that is built to last and showing continuous growth year over year, is a very different task. If you want to win in that game you need to know that:

1. The buck stops with you: You are now responsible for all of the decisions. Entrepreneurs have an incredible opportunity to create something from nothing, which you cannot generally accomplish when working for someone else. With this upside, comes the downside of making all of the big decisions about what must be done, when and how. You can’t wait for things to happen, or for someone to tell you what to do, you must make them happen for yourself.

2. You must always be working on “the now” and “the later”: You need to execute efficiently on the day to day work, while also planning and prospecting for the future. As an entrepreneur, you have to project your mind forward and think about next month, quarter, year etc. Nobody else is out there bringing you new business, managing your renewals and developing the brand. It is grounding to know that what you do, or don’t do, today, will have an impact on your business down the line. This creates a sense of urgency and forces the winner to constantly put in the “extra reps” to produce better gains.

3. You have to have thick skin and be able to endure rejection: When you try and sell your products or services you are certain to hear a lot of no’s. It never feels good, but it is much more personal and harder to take when it is your own baby. You have to be able to set (and then stay) the course, despite the many rough water days that lie in your path.

4. You have to constantly be learning and tweaking: You can never have a “set it and forget it” mentality.  I think a lot of entrepreneurs want to set up their business, get it to a point where it is humming and then work less and enjoy the fruits of their labor. While that might be the case for some very lucky ones, that is definitely an outlier. For most of us, you need to be iterating, researching and modifying processes each and every day. You cannot get comfortable and can never put your feet up and relax. It is a constant uphill climb, and while it is ok to look down and be proud of what you have built from time to time, you do need to look upward nearly all of the time.

5. You must know your numbers:  While this is admittedly not my strongest skill, it is such an important element of success.  Meaning, if you aren’t watching cash flow and managing your pipeline religiously, it can be game over, real quick. You need to set substantial “reach goals” and drive towards hitting them from an offense POV constantly.  On the defensive side of the ball, you need to plan for potential puddles along the path and manage your overhead each month. I personally lean towards being more aggressive and investing in my people (compensation, perks, food, and fun) and marketing (website, collaterals, video), so I need to make sure I score a ton of points on offense to win my games.

8. You are always on: As an entrepreneur, especially one with employees and paying clients, it is an all the time thing. While you definitely have more control over your hours and location, you will always be thinking about the business. Usually, those thoughts are about what can go wrong and/or what you are not doing well. It is an interesting feeling of never being good enough, which is an uncomfortable and sometimes defeating view for most.  There is no reprieve, it is always there.

At the end of the day, you have to be totally focused and committed, super gritty and the kind of person who is ok with constantly being consumed by your brand and it’s success.  Plenty of people are in this role without these traits, and they will not make it long term. It doesn’t make anyone better or worse, it is just the way it is. It might take a very long time to build, and you might never feel as though you have truly succeeded. I can say that the road is long and winding, but beautiful and exciting too. I wouldn’t have it any other way…

 

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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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