POV on Instagram Stories

If you are alive and have a smartphone (read: everyone) then you probably already know that Instagram rolled out their “Stories” feature in August as a way to compete with their growing competitor, Snapchat.  By rolling out this easy to use feature, natively on the already popular Instagram platform, they took an increasingly growing and popular format (short term “must see” disappearing content) and served it up in a seamless way (via Instagram’s app already on most users phones).

Facebook has historically either purchased their growing competitors (i.e. Instagram) or outflanked them and beat them at their own game (Facebook Live > Periscope and now Stories >Snapchat). Many influencers jumped right in, as did some major brands. Over the past couple of weeks smaller brands have dabbled, including us on some of our client accounts. Our approach (as it always is with these things) was to sit, watch and consume both content put out by brands AND the many articles written about the topic in the past three weeks before we jumped in with a recommendation for our clients.  Now that we have done that and a new month and a new season is afoot, here it is.

We think Instagram stories are great for offering up context as opposed to content. Whereas we are big believers in using Facebook and Instagram proper for staging attractive looking content that stands out and is appealing visually, with stories we are much more about “documenting rather than creating”.  So it should feel raw and semi abstract. Less structured, no edits and just real deal storytelling about what the brand is up to.

For now it is a great way to document the how, why, where and even the who, behind the what. Some ideas:

1) Give followers more context into who you are and what your personalities are about? Are you fun? Do you clown around? Do you like dogs? Do you like memes?

2) Document growth and inertia. Palettes of product going out? Perhaps a shipment headed to a customer, a blogger or model visit to the studio etc.

3) Celebrate your fans, followers and even retail partners. Have some fan photos queued up on a screen and create a story saying “we see you @ABC and @DEF and @RST and we appreciate you!” OR go to some of your retailers and shoot on location!

4) Show off product being eaten in the office? Create a story about the making of the product. Show off your point of sale displays, so perhaps people recognize them when they see them in a store. Give an inside look into your warehouse or studio filled with product, or even your production line etc.

5) Show off ingredients and/or USP’s with quick story clips.  What is in it and/or what makes it different? Tell the followers first hand without the need for a fully stylized video shoot!

In the end of the day, be fun and whimsical.  Don’t feel the need to stage, light or refine.  Experiment and remember, it doesn’t last an eternity.  So take some risks and be a bit more carefree and real.  Instagram could be your buttoned up self at work, but Instagram stories can be you at home in sweats and a scrunchie.  Got it?

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Why I pay for my team to go to WeWork Summer Camp.

SircleSquad Bunk

Every summer WeWork hosts it’s employees and member companies (for a fee) at summer camp in upstate NY. They spare no expense and bring unlimited food and booze along with entertainment (i.e. Ice Cube) and amazing speakers (i.e. Lin-Manuel Miranda). It has become a legendary event that people talk about all year round. This year Business Insider even wrote a piece about it and it has really hit the main stream as something truly special.

Last year I made a decision to send my employees as a perk of working for Sircle Media and inside of WeWork and as long as we are members, I will continue to do so. Here is why:

1) Team building is so important and it is great to spend some real, meaningful time together – and not behind a desk!

2) I have written before about how WeWork works for a business like mine. It affords me the ability to offer “big company perks”, even though Sircle is still a small agency. I can offer the best of both worlds by plugging into their platform.

3) If you don’t take care of your employees, then they will soon work for someone else who does. For a millennial employee base, this type of benefit goes much further than others.

4) They deserve it- bottom line! They work so hard for me and my company and it is the least I can do to repay them.

BONUS: We also get photos like the one above (whole team, plus one random “adopted” bunk mate- top left) and the two below (which were featured in the Business Insider story too) that we can enjoy all year round! :)

Erinn and Alyssa at camp

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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: $5 in Facebook spend = $424 in revenue!

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We are big fans of paid social and we have shared our POV on the benefits of paying to play on Facebook here before.  With Facebook, sometimes the simplest of tactics can produce some really profound results.

In the image above we created a nice looking (Facebook optimized) piece of native content to help our awesome client Black Halo announce that they have new arrivals on their website. For a fashion brand that regularly releases new lines and updated SKU counts, this makes for some really simple and newsworthy information.  Sure we could deploy some really tactical strategic targeting (and we do of course) aiming at fans of competitors in the dress category, retargeting visitors to their dress pages and/or even members of their email list, but here it was a simple announcement and we just put $5 behind targeting their fans.

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For a brand who has not deployed any Cost Per Like (CPL) campaigns targeting new and unfamiliar users to meet their brand, their fan base is more “real and earned” than most. These are users who actually like the brand and their garments and therefore, new product arrival announcements are of real value.

As a result, $5 in guaranteed delivery to fans led to $424 in new revenue. That revenue was also the best kind, because it was on their own website and at full retail, which means it is the highest margin business they earn as a brand.

Mark that as a win for social media!


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Sircle Sessions: When is it time to hire an agency?

When running a business there are a myriad of decisions you need to make each day, week and month to be successful.  As a brand grows, you also need to start making some choices that will take you out of your comfort zone and allow you to leap forward, faster.

I always say that you shouldn’t hire anyone to do anything for you that you can do better and/or faster yourself. That being said, you also need to assess the bigger picture and realize that you can’t win by doing it all on your own. Sure, if you can save the cost (financial and opportunity) that might be best for you, but not if that means you aren’t focused on other areas of your business that might need your time and attention more.

Once a brand is in full stride and you make a threshold decision that you need to hire a person to handle social media (trust me you do) then an agency model makes a ton of sense. Most companies cant afford to guess wrong with this staffing move and given the price they want to pay, it is highly likely that they will with an inexperienced junior level employee.  Conversely, a high priced retainer that most agencies pitch is daunting and often leads to most businesses choosing to go at it alone.

An agency focused on outsourced social media management should toe the line and provide agency prowess at an entry level price point. Enter Sircle Media.

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