POV: Three types of paid social media

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If you pay attention to any content put out by Sircle Media, then you would know we are big fans of paid social (meaning paying social networks to market on their platforms).  We have historically broken that down to paid acquisition and content boosting and awareness. The truth is there are really three categories and the middle lane might just be the most important. I recently recorded a podcast episode that breaks them down and below I dive in a bit more.

Categories: 

1- ROI/ROAS type marketing: Think driving top of funnel clicks and awarness and down funnel sales and conversions. This is true marketing via social platforms and very easily measurable and attributable. If you are looking to sell products online, this must be in the mix and will probably provide the best bang for your buck. Many brands will hire an acquisition firm or employee to run point here and they are typically measured based on their return on spend. Some brands need a return that is higher (i.e. 4X1 ROAS) and some can go 1X1 (or even lose money) depending on their product and LTV (lifetime value).

Regardless of a brand’s specific formula, whoever is running point will typically not want to get involved in the other key categories I break out below. Mainly because every dollar spent there directly impacts and compromises their ROI metrics. If only measured in that way, it makes sense but for the actual brand, it is a myopic and potentially dangerous stance. Yes, you want to sell and transact, but to have a transformational business you must also build a brand.  You will need to invest money in awareness for said brand, and it is likely not your acquisition team that will want to (or should) manage that spend,

2- Awareness and Branding: Think unpublished (dark) posts, video view campaigns, A/B testing different marketing messages and different niche target groups. Essentially using the Facebook Ads platform to market your wares and putting your key messages out at scale and/or in front of highly targeted audiences.

This takes some planning, testing and experimenting with theories.  Some of the metrics will seem counter-intuitive. i.e. you might actually aim for higher CPMs if that means you are hitting a more coveted and highly targeted audience, and you need to be ok with that. It is really about leveraging this insanely powerful advertising platform and thinking more about brand pushing at scale than ringing the register. It is more like TV than DR, but imagine if TV could truly segment and guarantee delivery and consumption to a bunch of different audiences for pennies on the dollar.  Sounds great right? Well that’s what it is…

3- Boosting of published content: Think about all the time you spend on carefully crafting your content (assets and copy), so you should now want to guarantee delivery of those posts to specific groups. This can be done by a layman, but still requires some expertise and a fundamental understanding of how Facebook and Instagram Ads work in general.

If you sweat brand look and feel (which most brands do) then you should take the time and invest the funds to make sure that content is actually seen. If you publish and just count on organic exposure, you won’t have much luck. A little bit of money goes a long way here and if you experiment some and get a feel for which audiences perform best it can be very powerful. It is also worth noting, that if you optimize for reach or engagement you will get drastically different results and both are important.  If you want to just reach a ton of people and have them see your product (awareness and consideration) then you optimize for reach, but if you want to get them to take action (trial and purchase) you want to optimize for engagement.

Paid social is a battlefield and you need to be attacking it on all three fronts. Each has tremendous value on its own and can often be run by different parties on your team. Ultimately, having all of them running together can really transform your brand from being good to great or unknown to relevant. If you fully understand the purpose each one serves, then the investment of funds and effort in each component of paid social will pay off!

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On the importance of a website, even without E-commerce…

On this episode, we talk about the importance of a website even if E-commerce is not your main focus. Some brands punt the website experience or seriously under-invest in it if they aren’t selling product there. This is a mistake and it compromises your social media efforts and limits your ability for exposure and conversions on Amazon and/or at retail partners.

You need to invest more time and effort into your web experience and create some deeper connections with customers and prospects. You can set up retargeting, couponing and/or email captures all of which have value regardless of where you transact. You can also set up your future E-commerce aspirations by spending time harvesting interest and engagement on your non-sales oriented website now.

Don’t sleep on it!

 

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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 selling more stuff…


In this video, Chris Heller, our Managing Director of Digital, talks about the idea of not just focusing on land grabbing for new customers all the time. While it is always a good idea to be prospecting and acquisition is still the main pillar, it shouldn’t be the only one. You should be focused on retaining customers too and you should think about how best to do that on a more consistent basis.

Not only do you want to improve your Life Time Value (LTV) per customer, but you can also be more strategic at the point of sale to increase average cart order value too. We encourage clients to find ways to upsell and add more revenue per transaction. So you need to split your time trying to get more customers, getting them to spend more when they transact and getting them to come back and spend more frequently. That is how you win online!

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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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On winning in Q4…

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Another Q4 is upon us and it is time for brands to really lock in and focus on finishing the year off strong, if they want to win the social game. We shared this piece on our thoughts about how to think about the 4th quarter last year and all of it remains super relevant again now. Give it a read!

This year we are encouraging our clients to really be smart in these key areas:

VIDEO:

We have published a bunch of pieces on our POV on video this year and all brands should read up and become better versed on the topic as they tackle Q4 and/or start their budget planning for 2018.

This doesn’t mean that they should just be pushing out random disjointed videos with no plan. We recommend that brands rethink video and make sure to put it where it works best. Some should be simple and native (slideshows, boomerangs, GIFs and live) and not only super structured or stylized ones.  Others should be of higher quality, and showcase the product and/or key attributes and USP’s.  Assess top KPI’s and create videos against them!

INSTAGRAM STORIES:

All brands should be highly active with Instagram Stories in Q4, as it represents underpriced attention on the platform where users pay the most attention. Given the ephemeral nature of the content, we encourage clients to not overthink it. We recommend a “document over create” mentality and it warrants some experimentation. It should be looked at as inexpensive impressions, in front of an interested and highly attentive audience.

We wrote this piece highlighting Instagram Stories back in August, that is worth a read.

LIVE (Facebook and Instagram):

All brands should be getting involved with Facebook (and even Instagram) Live. Once again this represents very underpriced attention and it is a way to hack increased exposure on Facebook. Fan bases are mostly irrelevant these days when it comes to organic content and for brands looking to contact more people on Facebook with their content, this is now a must. Rather than talking about why it won’t work, you need to be cracking the code on what will.

We created this post on Facebook and/or Instagram Live that highlights the need and breaks down some small ball tactics to help clients glean even more value from their efforts. Live video is watched 3x longer than videos that aren’t live anymore, AND users comment on Facebook Live videos at 10x the rate of regular videos.

ANCHOR:

For brands really looking to put out consistent content about their brand or industry, Anchor represents a very easy way to get into the podcasting/audio game. Some people might prefer audio over video, and this would be a path to do so seamlessly. This is only a recommendation for the most consistent content producers, as it takes time and commitment to stick the landing. It is probably a little early for most, but given the emergence of voice and podcasting it is worth investigating at this point. Don’t sit on the sidelines and get involved!

These are just some of the key areas of focus right now, and ones that we feel will pay dividends for our clients. Get your team in position and go and win this quarter!

 

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