On investing (financially and mentally) in paid social…

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Social media advertising (meaning spending money on Ads products from social networks) is a must have, plain and simple. The faster Brand Managers and CMO’s get their heads around that the better off their brand will be. How much to invest and how to allocate is the next question.

Truth is there is no boiler plate budget to allocate, especially for a brand still trying to figure out its way on paid social.  First, I think it is important to not think about it as paid social Vs. traditional means of advertising, because it becomes abstract and decision makers get gun shy about jumping into an unknown arena. We suggest you think as a human being living in 2017 and think about where people are paying attention and how you can reach them cost effectively. If you can find underpriced areas to reach targeted prospects, you should entertain that, wherever it might exist, right? Make a threshold decision to at least explore those and you’ll find that social media platforms are very attractive in that regard.

One you have made that smart decision, then I do think you need to be able to allocate a healthy budget that is consistent and doesn’t waiver as soon as the winds change.  I suggest brands allocate enough so they can balance between acquisition, retention and R&D/experimentation. Explained further:

You want to be able to allocate funds to reaching brand new eyeballs and bringing them in at the top of the funnel. This is done with clicks campaigns and boosted posts targeted at new audiences. It is very important to allocate a fair amount to this initiative, as this is your method for advertising to brand new prospects. You cant skimp on this and you need to constantly feed the top of the funnel, if you ever wish to convert consistently downstream.

Almost 10 years ago I purchased a billboard placement for 1 month on the Long Island Expressway for $30,000 because it allowed me to put my message in front of “over 1 million commuters” (BS) to create the same type of awareness.  Mind you that those commuters were not all looking at our ad (most weren’t), were not targeted (so our product didn’t apply to many of them) AND there was no CTA at all to move them down the funnel and/or track them. Social networks allow you to target the right audience without overpaying for the reach of others, provides you with a CTA opportunity AND awesome insights and reporting.

You also want to take people further down the funnel with retargeting as part of a conversions campaign and want to message to your earned audiences (visitors, emails, fans etc.) to keep them in the community and engaging with and hopefully sharing your content. It also allows you to have a more receptive group to target when you roll out new products and SKUs. Those who know and love the brand are the most likely to pounce when you diversify and add more options.  Retargeting is a surefire way to convert new customers and repeat customers too, just with slightly varied messaging. New sales are your foundation and turning a one time customer to a repeat customer, is a very important building block for online success.

Lastly, you want to have a budget focused on experimenting with new techniques (different audience segmentation, dark posting etc.) and with new products from social networks as they roll out, so you can be an early adopter and capitalize on underpriced attention before the big guys roll in. Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest continue to roll out advancements (seemingly daily) and you want to have dollars available to put in play.  Whereas Google PPC Ads are very overpriced and flooded in most categories, Instagram Ads optimized for video views, are actually less so and provide great value for their price.  We are big believers in that approach at the moment and the clients we have with those available funds are reaping the benefits of this recommendation.

Bottomline is you need to first commit to the idea that social networks are a real value play for your budget. Then you want to allocate funds to all three of the areas above, and don’t want to deplete an initiative to fund another one, before you give it the chance to really kick in and return nice results. Now I am not saying it needs to be equally distributed into thirds, and at times it will likely lean more heavily in one area.  What I am saying is brands need to fund all three consistently, monitor the performance closely AND remain focused on proving the positive (it works) rather than the negative (it doesnt).

Do that, and you will win!

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On taking the leap with paid social…

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I am constantly baffled by clients who are spending money on traditional mediums like TV, outdoor and print, but are still so hesitant to jump into the paid social game. I think it is more of a “creature of comfort” move than anything else and this really is something that needs to change.  Most just prefer what they know (even if it stinks) over what they don’t know (or worse, just don’t understand) when it comes to marketing.

Paid social media provides highly targeted audiences to brands looking to sell products and in a medium where they are paying close attention. This is not serving banner ads on publisher sites, nor is it competing in the Google landscape, where smaller brands with minimal budgets can get eaten alive. This is about value for your dollar and knowing where consumers are paying attention and this is where we are ALL IN, ALL DAY LONG!

Above is a screenshot from a client’s Google Analytics after our first week with them. We convinced them to assign a nominal budget ($200) to test paid social out, and it produced early and promising results.  They generated $852 on $200 spent (4X1 return) and generated 807 unique visitors and 9000+ impressions for their branded content.  I would argue this might be the best $200 they spent on their business to date, and it should certainly pave the way for a bigger commitment to the platform(s).

With traditional efforts, even if they worked, you wouldn’t have this type of actionable data to prove it. I still have conversations with my brand partner counterparts where they tell me that paid social doesn’t produce an ROI. Some stay away as a result, while others do it begrudgingly and more so as a necessary evil than a real revenue producing tactic.

It is so important that we change that mindset and that brands take that leap of faith with paid social.  The efforts pay off and without a commitment to the cause, you are leaving money on the table and allowing your competitors to take those dollars. That just cant happen, right?

 

 

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Why I own a service based business.

What is selling?A mentor taught me this over a decade ago and I remind myself of this fact every single day. I am an excellent salesman, (which I have been told both as a compliment and an insult mind you) because I genuinely am interested in helping people. I like working with businesses and learning their stories. I like helping owners and marketers craft their message and then present their unique selling propositions and reasons for being. Sales comes easy to me, because the passion and understanding are there and that creates a very solid foundation for working with clients.

I work both in service and in marketing because it allows me to help businesses sell their products and offerings to others. This is the path I chose, because it allows me to play to my strengths and provide an element that most brands are missing.  Everyone thinks their baby is the cutest, but most struggle with conveying that message to the masses. It is one thing to believe you are great, but it is harder to get others to agree.

Social media is such a unique vertical, because it is rooted upon uncontrolled dialogue. You put out content to a community and then want to get them to engage in a conversation. This is very different than PR, Branding or even Direct Response Advertising, all of which are very controlled mediums. With those, you want to convey a very concise message in as few words as possible and tell users and customers what to do. With social, you don’t know how they will respond or react and you need to be ready for anything. The hope of course, is that those tactics will translate to sales. The goal is therefore to help them make a good decision, which in this case is – to buy your product!

Working in service can be very frustrating and unforgiving at times. You can win 99% of the time, but it is the 1% when you don’t that clients remember.  You can work hard to earn and keep the business, but in a blink that can change when a client pivots, or brings on new staff with different agendas. With social media, many (perhaps even most) are still not totally convinced that it is a driver of business and when the going gets tough or revenues and margins are lean, they are quick to pull the trigger on shutting down service partners and/or looking for cheaper alternatives. Needless to say, it is certainly not for the faint of heart.

Despite that, I am convinced that if truth, honesty, hard work AND excellent customer service are your north star(s) then you will win in the end. Four Seasons Hotels and Best Westerns both provide beds to stay in overnight, but the service and overall experience are very different. The commitment to remarkable service cant just be on the surface, it needs to run deep.

Ultimately, business decision makers want to trust a partner, who will have their best interest at heart and will work hard to advance the client’s needs before their own. They want to be sold, if that means you will help them make a good decision for their business. The sale is the forehand stroke, but the great service is the follow thru. I am ready (and always happy) to play that game. Just let me serve! ;)

 

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Win Of The Week-(Indirect) Facebook Advertising $ales

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We have a pretty robust Facebook Ads campaign in motion for our client Deliver Lean, that involves various components including clicks, conversions, lead ads and dark posting.  It has proven to be a very cost effective and targeted method for generating business, especially for this e-commerce focused and geography restricted company, out of south Florida.

The brand recently expanded their regions to go much further north in Florida and we were able to serve up Ads (like the one above) that specifically targeted fans of their competitors who lived within these new zones.  The primary focus is to get people in these cities to click thru to the site, so we can then build up our retargeting efforts with new ammunition and hit them with some additional, targeted content and Ads that speak to their specific needs.  Building this funnel takes a little bit of time, but it is very worthwhile to help convert brand new users to your product or service.

Very early on into this new campaign we had a comment on the Ad, which was a clear buying question and needed to be responded to very quickly. Our Social Media Manager replied and then teed it up to the client’s internal sales team to handle as a hot and viable lead. All the more reason why a brand needs someone managing the community and not just running Ads with “a set it and forget it” attitude.

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The sales team contacted the prospect right away and converted them to a new paying customer.  This is a clear Facebook conversion, but one that didn’t actually click thru to the site from the Ad. It might not show up in Google Analytics, but it is a Facebook produced sale nonetheless. We served an Ad, had an immediate inquiry and closed it out very quickly.  If we weren’t paying close attention, we might have missed it and that would mean lost revenue.  Social media is a full time gig and it needs to be monitored on a constant basis. In this instance, Deliver Lean (and Ashley) benefited from a social media team that was listening. #winning

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On Hiring The Right People

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You know that great employee who goes above and beyond, sending emails on the weekend with an idea, proactively suggesting improvements for the company, or just spreading goodness about your brand? This kind of employee is what makes a business, and I have had the good fortune to work with many of them.

What I have learned more than anything in my four years running Sircle Media is that the right hires mean everything. Without good people who work hard and believe in the cause, it’s very difficult for a business to succeed. The wrong person, or worse, an unhappy employee, can be crippling. (Trust me, I’ve seen that side of the coin, too.) The time spent on your staff recruitment and personal and professional development is critical if you want to win.

Interested in learning how to hire the right people? I’ve noticed that the best employees at Sircle fall into two categories.

1. The farm system

An intern at our company continued to work with us over multiple semesters, knowing deep down that this was definitely the place for them. The nice part for me is that I was able to assess their skills and sense of responsibility. We had the chance to pick the cream of the crop amongst many candidates seen side by side. Most of my best employees have come to me this way.

2. The grass-is-greener system

I have also found success in bringing in people who have worked at other social and digital agencies for a year or so. They have a good feel for what they like and don’t like in an employer. When they feel it deep down in their core, they work harder and they become amazing advocates for the company.
I am a big believer in hiring based on the person, and then training them on the skills. Many other companies will use headhunters to find the individual with all of the boxes checked and the experience in specific areas, but if that person is not a hard and motivated worker and doesn’t play nicely with others, then they are useless in my book. Every company is a community, and that community needs to be comprised of good people who care and contribute positively.

That is one of the things that attracted me to WeWork when I signed my lease in February 2015. I loved that the values at WeWork mirrored mine, and it offered credibility in what I was promoting to my staff. The mantras of working hard, always hustling, and doing what you love are very close to the core ethos at Sircle Media. I have a small company of 10 employees, but now they feel part of a bigger organization thousands-strong and one that espouses the same belief system as mine. It has actually helped me recruit new, great people, as they get the upside of working for a small company that is housed within a larger one.

This post was originally published on Creator by WeWork.

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Instagram Ads- It Is Time To Join The Party

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Instagram (Instant Camera + Telegram) has been a real social media darling for the past few years.  A true mobile platform, one which everyone has readily available in their pockets, it has dominated the content sharing landscape and has become the “go-to social network” for everyone from 17 to 70 years old.  It is so simple, yet so powerful as a messaging and communication medium and one which had yet to be ruined by marketers.  That was until the platform rolled out ads earlier this year, right?

When they first came out (only to a select group of massive brand advertisers) it was met with a lot of skepticism.  It was sure to destroy the purity of ‘the gram’ and users would start fleeing right away.  Well that didnt happen, and the platform opened up to the masses, but many didn’t jump in at first (Sircle and our clients included).  As the year went on we began to dabble with the ad units and started to see some real improvement and results, and now we are big buyers of IG Ads. Remember, Instagram is owned by Facebook which has an incredible ads platform with insane targeting capabilities. The ads are integrated right into the same dashboard, making it very intuitive and powerful if you are well-versed in Facebook ads.

Studies have shown that organic reach on IG is down and it is becoming a ‘pay to play’ platform now too.  While others are up in arms over this, we think it is great, because you are able to do some excellent things at very competitive costs.  As an example we took the below creative and ran some tests with it.  Organically this post received 40 likes, but when we put some money behind the same piece of great looking content, we were able to earn 412 and 334 likes (split audiences) with a $3 CPM. Even better, the target was to two different, hyper-local audiences (where the client is available for purchase) and made up of fans of direct competitors.

When we ran the same piece of creative as a dark post on Facebook, (with the same audiences) we had a CPM of $7.68 and very little engagement of any kind.  The Instagram ad was less expensive, earned them many more impressions and 748 likes.  At Sircle, we are all about content, engagement and growth as the foundation of social. Here we created a beautiful piece of content and found a way to cost effectively garner engagement, while seeing a huge uptick in reach. = Winner.

proyo IG blog

 

 

 

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Content Marketing + Facebook Retargeting Ads = Revenue!

We are big believers in using onsite content as a tool to drive traffic to your website. Sure you want to sell them products or services, but sometimes you need to court them with something of value before you sell to them.  You must have different “fishing poles” in the water when trying to corral new (or repeat for that matter) customers online.

Sometimes content can even work as the closer of business, rather than the driver of new traffic. We employ retargeting both on the web and on Facebook to bring back visitors, and getting really specific with the content can be the difference maker.  Below you can see a little snapshot from a random 3 day period, that showcases just some of the retargeting experimentation we did for one of our clients.

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Veestro-Fbad-Juice-01_1024x1024We saw that users were coming to the website and looking at their ‘Juice Cleanse Product’ and were staying awhile, but not purchasing. We inferred that they were interested, but perhaps the price point and the fact that it was online were deterrents to making an immediate purchase.  So we immediately published a blog titled “Why Do A Juice Cleanse” and then ran an Ad with the creative to the left, that targeted visitors to the Juice Cleanse page in the past 7 days, but did not purchase.

The results, (highlighted in yellow) were fantastic. On this specific strategy, we spent $14.40 and generated $1,768 in revenue. That is some “juicy” ROI (see what we did there)!  Bottom line – you need to be creating content, looking at your Google Analytics (religiously), employing Facebook Ads and experimenting constantly.  Get in the game, and don’t leave money on the table!

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Promoted Pins = Potential Purchases!

We are running Promoted Pins for many of our clients these days and we are seeing some amazing results.  We only encourage them for those with an e-commerce focus and who are willing to pay to acquire a new customer. Pinterest offers you access to a lot of really engaged users and those who are ready to spend.  We recommend having a discount code (we actually refer to it as an acquisition code for those who don’t like to “discount their products”) to help fish for users and get them back to the domain.

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Recently we ran the above campaign for our amazing client Veestro to promote some of their delicious products. We spent a total of $23.20 and earned 57,000+ impressions served up to a very targeted and specific audience.  On top of the reach, we earned 58 clicks to the domain, 67 REPINS to specific boards and 21 LIKES from targeted users.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 9.55.41 AMPromoted Pins have an ancillary benefit in that once you see these REPINS and LIKES you can then click through and engage those users directly as the brand on the platform.  Now you can strike up a one to one conversation with someone who saw your Ad, and went so far as to pin it to a personal board (REAL EXAMPLES: Food I love, YUM, Food I need to try) which clearly showcases their thoughts on the item. This is a unique opportunity that is not available on any other platform.

We then go in and curate these engagements for our clients and engage the users in a friendly conversation to further the relationship.  This is a manual process, but very well worth the effort in our opinion.

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Here is an example of that conversation turning into a potential sales opportunity with a user who has a real interest in Vegan food (perfect fit for our client). Some brands stay away from Pinterest because they don’t fully grasp the true potential of the ecosystem.  We engage regularly with users by way of repinning, liking and even commenting on user pictures. Promoted pins are excellent because they give you exposure, tee up a bunch of immediate engagement opportunities and if you strike while the iron is hot, you can facilitate sales opportunities right then and there. = $ocial Win!

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Remarketing and Retargeting- A Must Do!

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If you are marketing online and have an e-commerce component to your business, then you MUST BE retargeting. There is so much data out there on user behavior and you can/should be marketing to people based on their website visits, email signups, social actions and even search, if you want to get really nasty.

This piece by Kissmetrics is a really solid primer on some of the tools out there to help you with your efforts in this arena. Here is an excerpt from the piece that really dumbs down the premise:

“A customer steps into your shop, inquires about a particular product, and then leaves without buying. You know there’s a potential sale, and there’s every chance that person will be buying a similar product sooner rather than later.

How would you like to send some of your sales people to follow that visitor, reminding them of your business wherever they go? In fact, reminding them to the extent that your business/brand is the first and only name that comes to mind when they are about to make a purchase?

Sounds like an insane idea in the real world. Even if your sales staff doesn’t get beaten up for stalking, the cost alone would make it impossible to pull off.

But that’s exactly what remarketing (a/k/a retargeting) services enable you to do in the online world.”

Retargeting helps assuage some of the biggest ‘areas of concern’ when it comes to social media marketing. Such as:

  • Reduced cost per impression
  • Better conversion rates
  • Improved ROI
  • Precise targeting
  • Cost effective branding

Read up, arm your brain and then get going.

 

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How To Create Instagram Ads

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Instagram Ads are a hot topic lately and advertisers are intrigued.  We have been seeing the ‘sponsored posts’ more and more in our feeds and with the amount of users and attention being paid to the platform it is a very sexy place to be for a marketer.  At first it was only available to the big brands, but with a rollout to the masses now here it is time to start brushing up on your skills.

This piece by Social Media Examiner was just published today and it shows you how you go about setting yourself up to create Instagram Ads.  It breaks down the how and the what behind the platform and really makes it very easy to follow and understand.  Give it a read and get ready to start marketing on “The Gram”.

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