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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Why I am the Derek Jeter of social media…

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I know this one is a stretch, but hear me out.

So we are both originally from the tri-state area and both were accepted to The University of Michigan in the mid 90′s. Granted he did go on to win the World Series and Rookie of The Year Honors in 1996, while I had a 3.0 GPA and countless hangovers. Despite the rough start, my gritty spirit kicked in and I rallied back to have a 3.7 GPA because I wasn’t going out like that. I digress…

So we both moved to New York and spent our whole careers here. Every single day we got up, put on our uniform and went to work.  We both have confidence but rarely brag.  Both of us are, “rip your face off” competitive, yet we always compete fairly and honorably.  We despise losing, but would never cut corners to win. It really is about legacy over short-term gains, and that is what ultimately earns respect and admiration from others. #Re2pect

Being “The Captain” of my team it is imperative to remain even-keeled. I never get too high when we win new business or receive referrals or accolades, and I brush it off when we lose a pitch or have a client leave the agency. When running your own company it is a long season so to speak, and you need to go in knowing you won’t win all of the games.  Just like batting, if my career average is .300 I am a Hall of Famer.

We both work in highly competitive industries and have tons of competition, but never really sweat them. We know that we just need to work hard, put in 100% effort and just do what we are expected to do, and the rest will work itself out. It really doesn’t matter what the others around us do, because if we play our game then we will win.

We both married supermodels (at least in my eyes) and we are both gentlemen in how we approach the women in our lives. We are excellent teammates and always have the backs of those around us. Life is a marathon and how you treat people comes back around for sure. Act as if…

I even love how he partnered with Jordan, (my childhood hero) for a brand deal. Both are fierce competitors, but if you want the benchmark for doing things the right way personally and professionally then I have to go with Number 2, the best that ever did it!

 

 

 

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On why I sometimes feel like a personal trainer…

SM PT

When clients hire Sircle Media it is very much like hiring a personal trainer.  At this point, (April 2017) they know they need smart social media management for their business, very much like a person knows they should make good diet choices and work out consistently.

When they begin with Sircle, things are awesome for the first couple of months. They are hopeful, attentive, responsive and full of energy.  It is really amazing and we immediately see an improvement in the quality of their content, the consistency of their engagement and if they truly listen, in the results (be it growth, reach, interaction, traffic etc.)!

There is a real parallel here to working out with a trainer. Right out of the gate you psychologically feel good, because you sense you are taking the right proactive action to improve how you look and feel.  You start to get consistent in your efforts, because that accountability partner makes you stick to a schedule and you see some early results. Those could be increased energy, stamina, dropping a couple of pounds OR just that false sense of immediate muscle mass increase that many feel, but isn’t truly there so early on.  Either way, things are good…

Then with both, you often hit a flat period. Results don’t pour in as fast and you start to question the value of the efforts.  With social media, this often leads to quick pivots that include cutting back on paid efforts, reducing or eliminating influencer outreach and/or missing scheduled meetings and punting social media while you focus on “more important initiatives” for the business. With training this can mean missing sessions, reducing efforts/reps/sets or even cheating with stress meals and focusing on other areas of your life, like work, family etc.  Truth is that in both cases, you need to figure out how to balance the social media/training with those other items if you really want to succeed.  It has to be in addition to, not in lieu of.

The main reason for churn at Sircle is when a client loses site of the marathon view and focuses solely on the sprint results. When numbers are flat, they often ignore any of their own contribution to that and will come at us aggressively looking for a silver bullet that will magically turn things around. We explain that they need to remain holistically committed to the cause and need to keep their head down and focused on the end goal. There is no ROI on any one tweet, but there is real fruit if you are patient and let the vines grow their grapes.

With training, it is very easy to blame them. You question why you aren’t seeing faster results, why things have plateaued and whether or not you should seek a new teacher. First off, the real long term results take awhile to see. Secondly, you might be sneaking doughnuts at night (which to me is the same as not spending Ad dollars on Facebook mind you) which will compromise results greatly.  Only the client/individual knows the real truth there.

When you leave a trainer, very much like when a brand leaves Sircle, there is typically a precipitous drop off across the board. Clients move on and we see their imagery, cadence and frequency take a big dip, as well as their engagement and growth efforts. It is so obvious, and just like with a trainer it reflects poorly on us, when they leave and “gain weight and get out of shape” so to speak. We literally have to either remove them from our website or tell new prospects the exact date we stopped working together, so they can see the difference between good (with us) and not so good (post us).

In the end of the day, your north star needs to be that you are fully aware that remaining committed to social media and personal training, is the right play long term. You wont survive professionally or personally if you dont figure out both. You need to then attack either with an unwavering commitment to it.  Most often, switching agency or trainer is not the right answer and working on listening more and developing that relationship more fully is.

I am actually amazed by how many of my former clients still come to me personally with questions, and still respect me and what we do so much, despite having moved on.  They usually know what they had and are fully aware about how things have turned since they left. My recommendation is to lean in, rather than leave with Sircle and the gym.  That is how we start to really see the results and reap the benefits together!

 

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Thinking about winning in Q4.

Sircle- 4th quarter

As we all approach Q4 and start to get really serious about our digital efforts, we think all clients should have some clear plans and objectives in mind.  We always say that the business drives social and not the other way around, so it is so important that brands really think about what they have lined up. The more we know about their internal objectives and plans, the better we can advise on how to approach things digitally.  Here we outline what we think most should be thinking about as this year comes to a close, and 2017 looms.

1. Got goals?

Paint a success picture for the final few months.  What does a home run look like?  The very first step to creating a successful social media strategy is understanding what your end goal is. It’s important to be realistic and set challenging yet achievable goals.

Here are some examples of goals you might want to consider for your social media strategy:

  • Increase overall traffic to your website by 50% year over year
  • Drive 60% more engagement year over year
  • Influence 30% more conversions year over year
  • Increase revenue from social media by 20% year over year.

The above goals are completely random, purely intended to get you thinking of the types of things you might like to accomplish in the coming months. With definitive goals in mind, you can then align everything you do towards achieving them.

2. Who do you want?

Are you looking at data and understanding who your real target audience is?  Who has been buying?  Who is engaging with you on social?  First, we would recommend taking a look at your current customer base and trying to create demographic personas based on needs, spending and whether you want to keep this current customer base or aim for a different one altogether.

If you don’t have a large customer base to vet for that ideal audience, there are tools you can use to see who is naturally gravitating towards your brand via your website and social media channels.

Where to look:

  • Google Analytics – Google Analytics has some awesome tools to help you understand the demographics, location, interests and even behaviors of your website visitors.
  • Facebook Insights / Audience Insights – Facebook is king of the data kingdom and has a wealth of information on users that are connected to your page, visit your website and even engage with your content. Installing a Facebook pixel or uploading an email list will help you unlock this valuable data.

Leveraging data to identify your target audience has always been important, however when it comes to creating a successful social media strategy it’s absolutely a must.

3. What are you saying?

Social networks offer you access and data to tell you how many people are out there and what they are interested in.  You must decide, once armed with this information, what you are going to say. There is so much content and clutter out there, so you have to start to hone in on how you will differentiate. Graphics, photos and videos need to be top notch and really stand out. In addition to visuals, you have to put out well written content too.

  • Look – 90% of information transmitted to the human brain is visual and our minds process visuals 60,000x faster than text. To win attention (and impressions) on social media you’re going to need to create compelling visuals to tell your story.  Don’t sleep on art.
  • Watch – Video, video, video. Almost every social media platform has upgraded their video capabilities and you should follow suit. Videos don’t have to be expensive to produce either, anything visual that is not still, qualifies.
  • Read –If you have a blog on your website, you’re already ahead of the game. If you can create valuable blog content that’s promoted properly through your social media channels, you’ll definitely begin to attract your ideal customer to your website. After all, you’re writing the content and you control the messaging.

4. Pay to play?

To truly reach a targeted audience and see a real tangible business/revenue result from social media, it’s highly recommended to allocate a dedicated social media advertising budget. Within the next five years, social media advertising is expected to comprise over 20% of marketing budgets. Social advertising is the absolute most cost effective way to reach a targeted audience where they are the most engaged.

5. Where are they watching?

Did you know that it’s estimated that people check their phones an average of 150x per day? Since we’re all addicted to mobile devices, wouldn’t it make sense to tailor your social media strategy to be mobile-first? 33% of shoppers do a majority of research on a mobile device and 49% say that they would buy more through their mobile device if the process was easier.

Since the consumer journey is no longer linear and takes place across different devices, we should all make sure that we make our content, social advertisements and website mobile friendly. 80% of social media time is now spent on mobile devices, so not optimizing your social media strategy for mobile could prove deadly.

Spend some time thinking and/or rethinking your POV on these categories right now and then get your house in order before Q4 and 2017 come calling. You don’t need to do it all today, but you do need to be leaning in on all of these categories right away. Set yourself up to win and get to work.

 

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Sircle Sessions: Where do brands go wrong with social?

Sircle-Social Sessions

I sat down for a recent interview and we went deep into a discussion on social media and how brands approach it the wrong way. Most get (or pretend to get) that they need it, but do not invest the right resources into making it work. Click the image above or here, to watch some of that conversation.

It has to be an all in mentality to win and you cannot be half pregnant. You must plant the seeds and then water them with time and dollars to make sure that they not only grow, but flourish. The brands who get this and approach it as religion rather than just tactics, are winning and I am proud to say we work with many of them.

Garyvee said it right when he stated that “social media is just a slang term for the internet-the math is straightforward: people’s internet consumption now happens on mobile, and the thing people do the most on mobile is use social media platforms. That is the internet now. If you don’t understand this, you’re behind. There is zero difference between “digital marketing” and “social media marketing.”

Social media is not a fad, it is the current state of the union. Not creating and putting out content and of equal importance not listening to and engaging with the community, is just not acceptable for any business in today’s day and age. Brands need to wake up and participate, or they are going to put themselves out of business.

 

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Referrals Make The World Go Round

sircle-referrals

As a follow up to my post titled Gratitude Attitude, I want to talk about how happy it makes me to bring value to others. Not only is it great to get referrals from other companies and allies, but it is equally satisfying to bring business to others too. I want to be a contributor to the ecosystem in any way that I can, and every time a referral turns into business I am stoked on both ends.

So far in May I’ve referred out 3 opportunities that all seem super promising for both parties. Also, one introduction I made late last month, just converted into a six figure branding and positioning job for a partner firm and there is another in it’s final stages too. It genuinely brings a big smile to my face!

For the past 16 months I have also been focused on trying to help/mentor one Entrepreneur or new business idea each month, by offering some free time and advice. I try to guide them on how to handle early stage tactics, how to navigate the ups and downs (there are so many) and where they need to focus.  I also try to refer them to others who can help, places to find content/information to arm them on their journey or even to tools like Evernote (to help them be efficient and organized) or Headspace (to help keep them sane).

In the end of the day, I am a big believer in being an active and contributing member of your community, whatever that community might be. If I were a Doctor, friends and family would call me all the time asking me for advice or to offer a quick diagnosis, and of course I would be right on it. This is no different. Though I am no Doctor, my skill is in growing businesses on social media and I want to flood that world, with positive energy all day, every day.

It might result in referred business for me in the long game, (and I will take it of course) but while that will lead to satisfaction, it is not my motivation. The short term upside of showing love and giving back is more than enough.

 

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Win of The Week- Customer Service 2.0

Sircle- Monitoring

With social media, the sexy topics are content creation, influencer collaborations and even the paid efforts that lead back to measurable KPI’s and ROI’s.  Those are the things most clients and prospects want to talk about and will ultimately use to gauge whether social media efforts are working. While they are both important, they are more about talking than listening, and it is in the latter category where brands should be focused a bit more.

We believe that content and growth efforts are 2/3 of the puzzle, but engagement is where you really can set your brand apart from the pack. One of the most important roles that a Social Media Manager fills is – Customer Service Manager. In today’s day and age, people will chime in and comment about bad (or good) experiences and it is mission critical to have your ears open to the feedback.

Our client Bombas cares very much about servicing their community, referred to as The Hive. Like any brand they have had negative and positive feedback and commentary, and together we remain committed to auditing, listening and tackling their needs head on. Sometimes it can turn a negative comment into a positive one, or even a sale.  As you see here:

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Remember, your community is watching and sometimes they will chime in and have your back when others are complaining too.

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They appreciate authenticity and that a brand actually does care. This is the “blocking and tackling” component of social media and while it doesn’t show up on the scoreboard each day, it is everything if you want to win online.

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In general the commitment to being a great community and a brand who actually cares is a long play and not a short one. It is a daily grind and takes a lot of man hours and work, but in the end of the day it is all about creating something that is built to last.

 

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The Customer Is Always Wrong?

customer is always wrong

Well not really, but the subject is sure to get me some eyeballs right?  Hear me out though…

I find that most companies are making bad decisions these days either based on lack of knowledge, insecurity and/or fear. When they are feeling insecure or scared they tend to be conservative and not forward thinking. This is the wrong POV and a surefire way to go out of business. I am convinced that to succeed you must be proactive, confident and be willing to experiment and go outside of your comfort zone.

Many brands hire a Social Media Agency, because they feel pressured to by the market, but don’t really understand what that means. They do it from a position of weakness, rather than a proactive and positive decision to implement what they know deep down needs to get done. Because they are not 100% sold on the value of social media for their business they often are “half pregnant” with the decision and therefore play in the middle of the tennis court.  This sometimes makes for an awkward engagement and it almost seems like they are waiting for them to screw up and/or looking to prove that it was not a good hire. Almost like in some perverse way, they want to show them that the decision was a bad one.  What is the sense in that?  Again, just the wrong POV.

I suggest they take a different posture.  Make a threshold decision that online efforts are mission critical for the brand, determine what they want to see happen and then staff to those goals.  They will need an excellent Social Media Manager (or an agency like ours that serves as one) who is well versed in all nuances of social media, understands the importance of excellent customer service and perhaps most important, feels like a dedicated employee who works each day to outperform their pay grade.  In the end of the day, great companies are driven by great employees who are committed to the cause. Jim Collins talks about that in his book, Good To Great and it all comes down to having the right people on the bus, working on clear objectives.

So when I say the customer is always wrong, what I mean is that in my experience most just have the wrong POV. They either don’t buy in, or they do so half heartedly and don’t allow for the effort to (fully) succeed. At Sircle, our best clients are the ones who have full confidence that social and digital media are a “must have” for their business and either give us full autonomy and/or work with us to solve for X and find the can vs the can’t, in any effort we deploy.  When as a team we believe it as religion over tactic, it takes hold and we see amazing things happen.

Clients want and need me to speak my mind and stand my ground.  Not to be argumentative or combative, but to be a voice of reason and the usher of change.  If I employ a customer is always right mentality, we all fail.  So I try to tell them the opposite, with a smile of course. :)

 

 

 

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Safe is Risky

Safe is Risky quote

I meet with brands each week and nearly every single meeting comes down to a conversation where they know they need social media, but they just aren’t ready to really pull the trigger in a meaningful way.  They see that retail is hurting and they agree they need to do more web business, but it is less than 5% of their total revenue.  They don’t have a digital strategy (let alone a social one) and they think that somehow it is going to change. News alert…it wont!

The problem is that they dont understand digital so it scares them.  They instead choose to “play it safe” and advertise on traditional mediums like TV, outdoor and mailers (that don’t work) OR even worse they don’t market at all.  I would argue (and I think Seth Godin would agree) that this safe approach is the riskiest of all.  Failure to act, is an act of failure.  Brands need to start changing this mentality, before they go extinct.

If you had a heart attack today and survived, it would most likely cause you to assess and adjust things right away. You would start taking better care of yourself, would consult with experts on how to get there, read blogs and articles for ideas on how to incorporate for yourself personally and would generally take a much more serious stance on your health and well being. It would be a catalyst for you to start doing what you aways knew you needed to, but just didn’t.

So, imagine that your business had a heart attack today and get going on improving its health now. Stop wasting money on things that you cannot track and don’t work. Stop procrastinating on social media and stop putting your fate in the hands of ill equipped junior staff members, or worse in a marketing department that doesn’t believe in or understand it.  Start capturing emails and communicating with your customers in a smart and strategic way.  Start creating content that they care about and want to read.  Start spending advertising dollars on highly trackable platforms such as Facebook and Instagram now.

As we have said before, social media is just a new term for the internet and social networks are just part of the ecosystem. Not using the internet and/or thinking about how to engage people on their mobile phones (where the focus and attention clearly is) in 2016, is like eating bacon and ice cream 7 days a week and never working out. Some people might survive, but the vast majority will drop dead too soon. Don’t be part of the latter group.

Playing it too safe, is super dangerous for your (business’) health!

 

 

 

 

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What does Sircle Media do?

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We help brands and businesses win online. Too abstract?  Well let me explain it a bit further.

Most companies are trying to do more online, generate business from their own e-commerce store and/or strike up a conversation with clients/customers/prospects via digital channels and just don’t know how. Either they don’t have anyone on staff who is skilled in these areas (so we fill that void) OR they do, but those people often don’t know how to approach marketing in the year that we live in. So many senior marketers are employing old and/or safe tactics without understanding how to navigate the current terrain. This is a recipe for disaster.

You see, many Marketing Directors have earned their roles over the last decade, and given their trajectory they didn’t have to get into the trenches on social media.  As a result they lack the fundamental understanding of how to use it and how to explain the merits to their bosses. It is safer to stick with what they know, than to experiment and explore with social.  We look to join their team and help them change that way of thinking and really make a difference through their social efforts. We make it clear that their brand is “on social media” whether they choose to engage in it or not. Those that get it, are one step closer to harnessing the power of it.

We believe that business drives social and not the other way around. First we define what the goals are for the company and then we lay in a social strategy commensurate with those goals.  Once we know what we want to do as a team, then we solve for X.  Social is about much more than Tweets and Likes and we create a much deeper and holistic digital plan.  Website traffic is mission critical as it generates opportunities for an immediate sale and also creates a pool of people to retarget, email and/or communicate with via social channels.  We want to get a lot of potential prospects into the ecosystem and then deploy multiple tactics to continue the conversation and move them down the funnel towards transacting with us.

We tell brands:

  1. Don’t try to sell online and then not have Google Analytics (or an equivalent) to analyze the data.
  2. Don’t have Google Analytics setup, but not look at the data.
  3. Don’t spend money on print, radio and TV and then argue about not wanting to spend on social because you can’t measure it.
  4. Don’t stop spending on Facebook because it is pay to play. Start spending on Facebook because it is the most powerful Ads platform ever.
  5. Don’t email “blast”. Have a real CRM strategy in place and email with some purpose.

In the end of the day, stop talking about what doesn’t work (especially without proof) and start focusing on understanding the market and figuring out what does.  Things change and tools evolve.  If Gary Vaynerchuk put the video above out today, it probably would have been posted natively on Facebook first because that is what the times demand.

It is hard keeping up with the changes, that is true.  Good thing we are here.

 

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