Testimonials = An Effective Win for Q2!

This is a very unique time to be alive, let alone run a marketing and communications strategy for a brand. Though we’re living in uncertain times, studies have shown that social networks have seen increased usage and engagement across the board, as most Americans and bunkered down at home.

Right now, more eyes are on social than ever before and people are doing most of their product discovery online and at home rather than in-store. This means brands really need to hone in on their key marketing messages, including their USPs and their testimonials. Right now, what others say about your brand will be mission-critical in helping facilitate sales. One tactic we’ve found to be very successful of late is using more testimonials in-feed on Instagram. They provide a great vehicle to showcase the usage of a product by real customers and more importantly, to convey their sentiment and experience to new potential prospects.

At Sircle we’re constantly creating new ways to gather and present this content on our clients’ social platforms. Here are some ways we’ve done it:

1. Make testimonials an entry for a self-run giveaway:

         

Recently one of our clients, Ithaca Hummus, created a self-run giveaway using a video testimonial as one of the forms of entry to win a case of hummus along with some branded swag! Our design team then takes quotes from those video testimonials and turns them into eye-catching graphics. This is a great way to get your fans and followers more involved while creating outstanding content at the same time.

2. Create a #TestimonialTuesday in-feed to share customer feedback:

Bare Bones Broth, a line of Keto and paleo-friendly, Non-GMO bone broth, has made use of testimonials by creating a reoccurring #TestimonialTuesday & tagline “What People Are Saying” on their feed. Using bright colors and bold text is a great way to capture attention and to stand out from the clutter when users are scrolling through their feed.

3. Create branded Twitter/Instagram testimonials:

Another one of our clients, Buff Bake, a line of better-for-you protein cookies, plant-based protein bars, and protein powder, has seen solid engagement on branded testimonials from their fans. This is a great way to repurpose positive comments and feedback that already exists on social, by simply adding your logo as a backdrop. It makes for a very simple graphic that can have positive results, from minimum input.

4. Share customer testimonials that include product usage:

This longer-form testimonial posted by our client Truth Nutrition, a line of all-natural, vegan pre-workout, has bright coloring, clearly shows the product, and explains how the product is used. This type of testimonial not only informs your audience but also shares positive customer feedback in the process. It truly paints the picture for your prospects.

 5. Just get out there and ask for positive feedback from your customers:

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We like to practice what we preach and often include our customer testimonials in our own content. It helps humanize the experience AND paints a picture of how it might be when others experience your brand too. Make sure that picture is a positive one!

Q2 of 2020 will be a very interesting time, to say the least, and it is important to connect with customers and fans as much as possible. Not only does it help convert new consumers from consideration to trail, but it also fosters a sense of community when you share their feedback on your channels. These simple pieces of content pack quite a punch.

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Don’t Overlook The Power of a Self-Run Giveaway!

Social media is a vehicle to engage in conversations with customers and prospects. There are a number of different ways for brands to strike up a dialogue and some are more simple than others. One low input/high upside tactic is deploying giveaways.

The most common kinds are multi-brand giveaways with two or more brands pairing together to combine their audiences for optimal reach and awareness, as well as vanity metrics such as follows and likes on a post. While this giveaway tactic is a proven winner, it isn’t the only way to go about it. If you have a full strategy in place, including paid social, targeting and solid prizes, a self-run giveaway can be highly effective too.

One of our clients, @lovegracejuice, a line of gourmet and GMO-free juices, smoothies, and elixirs ran four different self-run giveaways throughout the month of January. The prize was a cleanse package, which comes with a significant price tag and therefore more of a CTA than most.  As you know, January is a time of healthy resolutions, many of which don’t always stick. To appeal to Love Grace’s target audience of health-conscious individuals, we ran a juice-cleanse giveaway each week to keep that motivation up throughout the month! This giveaway resonated extremely well with our target sets and earned an average of 300+ comments per post.

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The client also wanted to start harvesting more emails for ongoing marketing purposes. To that end, we made it that the cost of entry was to enter an email on a separate landing page. We earned over 1,000 link clicks to the Love Grace landing page and a ton of new emails. On top of that, it generated a retargeting audience of website visitors and a lookalike audience of that group too, that we can now market to in the future,

To ensure delivery of a promotion like this, you need to invest dollars into Facebook and Instagram Ads. The intent of these should be link clicks (drive traffic to the landing page) and not just awareness (impressions). An ancillary benefit of boosting this giveaway was an uptick in actual web sales for January.  Who doesn’t like revenue? ;)

You need to take action to produce action. A well thought out self-run giveaway is entirely in your control and the awareness is all about you and your brand, with no Costar. It only makes sense though, if you know what success looks like upfront and then put all of the pieces in place to maximize that result.

Once you find a winner, double down and run it back!

 

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Nowadays, Giveaways are a smart way to hack exposure!

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With Q1 2020 quickly approaching, it’s essential to take inventory of your social media strategy from 2019 and adjust where necessary. Here at Sircle Media, we’re always staying on top of social media trends and making awareness, consideration, and trial the top priorities for our clients.

In 2019, giveaways were a surefire way to help increase followers and awareness among niche audiences, especially when collaborating with multiple brands.  If you strictly want eyeballs on your packaging and/or some usage cases, then side by side collaborations with likeminded brands remain a smart, and low-cost play.  The rub though with some of these collaborations is that users will often only follow the brands involved in order to receive a prize, rather than turn into a true fan of the product. This leads to a drop in followers after the giveaway has closed.

I would argue that this is ok and a byproduct of the strategy, as long as you got views on your solid content showcasing your product. BONUS: you picked a winner that is likely someone from your core target demo and you got the product into their home. If the product is good, repeat trial is likely. Also, all of the losers give your social media manager some targets to strike up a dialogue with and see if he/she can convert them with community management and/or surprise and delight tactics, such as delivery of coupons/discount codes, etc.

In 2020, take your giveaway strategy a bit deeper, by running some self underwritten promotions with larger prizes AND even include a CTA to one of your primary sales channels. To that end, recently, one of our clients, Energice, a line of vitamin-infused frozen hydration pops, held a giveaway where the prompt was to follow the Energice account for a chance to win a “40 Energice variety pack” and a $50 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card.

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Energice is an attractive product for professional athletes and active individuals in general. Their pops have an isotonic formula of electrolytes, B vitamins, and potassium for peak performance. Energice is sold through their website, Amazon, and at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

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The Dick’s Sporting Goods $50 gift card was the ideal add on prize for this giveaway, considering it is:

1. The retailer at which the product is sold, and we created awareness around the partnership.

2. A relationship we really want to protect and grow.

2. Where Energice’s core target audience loves to shop and gives them a prize they can cash in on, above and beyond our client’s product.

All of the above made the giveaway extremely attractive to the exact target audience they wanted to speak with.

Rather than boosting this giveaway through The Facebook Ads Manager which we traditionally use, we boosted it through the Instagram App which has the button “View Profile”, making it even easier for Instagram users to find the Energice page. It also helps pad vanity metrics a bit, in the feed which helps incentivize others to join in.

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The results of this giveaway were favorable for the brand. First off, Energice received 400 new followers (not my most important KPI, but one the brand cares about nonetheless), and we only targeted new eyeballs, which means these are new prospects for the brand.  While they clearly didn’t follow the full instructions (the first ask was to LIKE the post and only 95 people did) it still earned a nice amount of impressions and significant comments. It also was a great advertisement for our shelf space at Dick’s and is a solid show of partnership for their salespeople to share with the buyer.

In 2020 it is important to get a little more creative with these exposure hacks, especially as Facebook and Instagram Ads will start to increase in price as the Presidential election draws near. Id recommend everybody consider, multi-brand, dual-brand, self-run, influencer supported and some retailer focused collaborations in the first quarter. Get out there and make it happen!

 

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Influencers provide eyeballs and content, but do they produce revenue?

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Creating memorable content is so important when trying to convey to a user how your product might perform. When it comes to food, performance is best conveyed through taste and usage cases, such as recipes. Influencers are an excellent resource to rely on for compelling content, especially since they are the ultimate customer and can convey a more authentic narrative to other users and potential buyers of your product.

When it comes to influencers, we think some are great for influence (providing eyeballs) and some are great for content (food stylists and/or photographers) and the best ones provide both. The truly special partners are those who are judicious in their brand selection and therefore are deemed more reliable than others who seemingly date a different brand every day. These ingredients (pun intended) are what makes Ashley Cuoco (@ashcuoco) one of the best in the game. You cant overuse her because she is selective and ultra-authentic, but when you have a good pairing, as we do with our client Mutti, you have a truly special partnership.

Not only has she produced wonderful content and exposed their brand to other impassioned foodies on Instagram, but it has also opened up a number of great opportunities to have a conversation within the comments.  While community management is the least sexy component of social media, it is probably the most important. Remember, that this is an uncontrolled communications medium and you want to engage in a dialogue with consumers. This is what makes it “social” in the first place and differentiates the efforts from traditional, controlled media, such as PR and branding. Having a true fan of your brand as your influencer partner activates solid word of mouth activity and can directly lead to new business.

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Some brands sleep on the comments and are even completely unresponsive at times. They are happy (sometimes) with the awareness and/or the photo they received, but ironically it is the comments that will most likely lead to actual sales. All brands want to see increases in revenue and that’s why our team pays close attention to the comments section – it’s where the business happens.

We see this especially when a brand works with an influencer that people actually respect and are influenced by. When they post about your product it will often directly lead to questions such as “where can I find this?” or “what are the ingredients?” These are literal buying questions and give you the opportunity for a sale right then and there. Rather than telling and selling, you are responding and facilitating. This is a much better position to be in for a brand.

Below you can see an example of this in action. In May, Ashley posted about a Tomato Confit recipe using Mutti’s Canned Tomatoes. The asset was beautiful and it opened up a dialogue with various users.

Another micro-influencer, @gatherweekly, commented on Ashley’s post and the influencer and brand both responded quickly and provided ways to secure the product through various distribution channels. This is excellent ammunition for the client’s salespeople, especially in retail, to showcase demand.

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The lesson here is that you should be working with authentic influencers that can provide you with both content and influence. If you do, it is then mission-critical to be in the weeds on the comments on both their profile and your own. Marketers are obsessed with scale and volume metrics (like impressions and reach) as well as ROAS analytics (Spent X and made Y) but these types of small ball activities are perhaps the most valuable and underrated. We spend quite a bit of time here for our clients and although it is a lot of work, it is certainly worth it.

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Boost Brand Awareness with Facebook’s CBO!

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Over time, we’ve seen organic reach become non-existent on social. These days it really is a paid social ecosystem and if you know what you are doing and you are committed to testing and experimenting it can bear a lot of fruit. Not only do you want your product in front of new eyes, but you want your product in front of the right eyes.

Creating your own, solid branded content is important and while it doesn’t need to be your entire diet (we actually believe it should be about 50-60% of your content mix) it should be a significant portion of it. Once made, if you want that content to be seen you need to pay to make that happen. Then, when you boost content, you need to target the right audience for better results.

That’s why we’ve been utilizing Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO) within the Facebook Ad Platform. CBO takes your top audiences and puts dollars behind posts that perform the best organically. CBO creates higher reach, engagement, and even follows.

In order to utilize CBO to its fullest, boosted posts should be high quality and have engaging captions so your target audience is as responsive as possible. This is one of the many reasons we believe in investing in quality content as well as experimentation. You want to make sure the asset is powerful so that if it does get seen, it is memorable and then you also need to try out different tactics to see what resonates. It is very important to not just sit back and play it safe.

One of our clients, Driftwood Jeans, is a unique denim line with chic embroideries that has been seeing incredible results from CBO. For the past few months, we’ve been experimenting with this tactic on many of their posts. First, we created four audiences to be assigned to Driftwood’s top-performing organic posts. Facebook then pushes funds to whichever audience AND post perform best. Then, at the beginning of each month, we swap out those audiences and continue experimenting with new ones.

We created a specific audience, one of many that we have created for this client, (that we cannot share here) that has really stood out. Then, CBO paired it with one of our PFC (Product Front and Center) video posts.

This was an engaging video and had an interactive caption. Because the post was also targeted to the perfect audience, we saw 568 likes, 32 comments, and most importantly, 24,956 video views. For a nominal investment, this asset packed quite a punch!

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Organic reach is nearly zero and less relevant than ever before. It is so important to have someone on your side that is well versed in paid social and not just acquisition experts looking for the best possible ROAS. If you are in the social media game, then you need to be creating content at scale, experimenting with different types, styles, cadence, and captions and then putting funds behind guaranteed delivery of that content to a variety of audiences.  If you stay the course and use tools such as CBO, then sometimes things catch fire.

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Stop, Collaborate & Listen!

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Over the years we have managed countless examples of successful collaborations between like-minded brands. They are proven winners with regards to improved awareness, increased followers/reach/email captures and they just really add to and augment overall metrics for a brand’s social strategy.

One of the most common ways for brands to collaborate is through a giveaway. The most common formula we like to deploy is to have two or more brands give a prize to a random winner who follows all brands included, leaves a comment on the giveaway post, and tags a friend in the comments. This alone immediately increases followers, engagement, and reach.

Sometimes we will loop in an additional brand that might be outside of the vertical but still appeal to a similar consumer. Just this week, one of our clients, Simply Tera’s, a line of organic and deliciously flavored whey and plant-based protein powder, teamed up with well-known healthy CPG brand Carrington Farms, as well as the outdoor equipment brand Yeti, for an epic giveaway.

The giveaway offered a prize of Simply’s Tera’s Chocolate Organic Whey Protein, Carrington Farms’ Coconut Oil Go Packs, and a Yeti insulated mug to create the perfect cup of joe for #NationalCoffeeDay, a popular social media-based “holiday.”  These types of days add extra juice to collaborations because the hashtag is trending and there is already a conversation around it. Add in a nice piece of creative and a solid prize and you have a winning formula.

Tera’s was acquired by Carrington Farms, back in March of 2018 and became a Sircle client soon after. As a way to grow each brand’s following and pair the two together in the minds of consumers, they began partnering in a series of collabs in June of this year.

Not only was it important to cross-pollinate a bit, but it was just as important to appeal to new audiences too. To help with this, we decided to loop in a 3rd brand in each giveaway to guarantee even more reach and engagement among new eyeballs.

The first giveaway launched in June with a Keto theme, which included a prize of Tera’s Simply Whey Vanilla Protein, Carrington Farms MCT Liquid Coconut Oil, and a sampler pack of the delicious Keto Bars.

The giveaway received an uptick in 100+ followers with extremely high engagement on all brands’ posts.

Their next collaboration launched in July and featured the popular blender brand, Ninja. The collaboration included a smoothie bowl recipe using Tera’s and Carrington’s products, and a blender included as an extra incentive! This giveaway was posted on July 10th and ran until the end of the month, creating a longer-runway for entries. When giveaways run for a longer period of time, there’s even more opportunity to advertise the giveaway through Stories, paid social, email and WOM, which affords users more time and entry points, to follow all brands, engage and enter! Running this longer giveaway created an influx of 200 new followers throughout the month.

Our team has mastered the art of a successful giveaway and to do so you need to double down on the tried and true, while also always be willing to experiment with the new. When collaborating, it’s important to think outside the box and create giveaways you believe your audience will love. Try to pair with like-minded brands, create assets that are compelling (VERY IMPORTANT) and make sure you’re promoting your giveaways via as many tactics as you can to improve your results.

If any brand wants to collaborate, we are all ears!

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Social Media: Planning For The Now

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Lately, I have been having a lot of conversations with Founders and Marketing Directors about social media and I find that there are a lot of blanket statements being thrown around that are built on very soft foundations. It is so important to really understand the value or opportunity each social network can provide and then map that against your product or offering. You also need to take into account current usage and tools and trends on each, to make sure you are approaching it the right way, for right now. Sircle Media issues a general roadmap for our clients that is revisited each quarter, but each brand needs to take that a bit deeper for their own business.

We suggest a quarterly re-assessment for brands that reviews the current state of the union on their top platforms and takes into account the most pressing needs for that brand in the immediate future. For example, if a brand just landed their first big order with a major retailer, the most important thing for the company at that moment is likely supporting velocity so they can help ensure that (even more) important second order. If this is the case you might need to:

1- Run hyper-local and super targeted Ads to underwrite the relationship and potentially drive foot traffic.

2- DM local influencers on Instagram and try and get them to engage with you and perhaps even pay them to go to the store and hype the shelf space.

3- Create content that specifically highlights the relationship (your logo and their’s) and then boost that content or run them as Ads at fans of said retailer and your competitors.

When the company needs to triage and be narrowly focused on a top priority like this, you have to have a smart plan of attack in place to improve your chances of winning. You don’t want to be stuck in the mud, with edits and debates over general lifestyle photography when your most pressing need deserves more attention. You also don’t want to be single platform reliant, as I think many Brand Managers are with Instagram right now. You need to have a holistic plan of attack and not dismiss any platform or component of a platform without research and thinking.

You need to have a current game plan built upon what is in front of you and not be so romantic or so set in stone about what did or did not work before. Social platforms and how best to use them are constantly evolving and it is imperative you are evolving with it. Think about what you want to happen and then reverse engineer from there.

You don’t necessarily want a certain amount of Instagram followers. You want a retailer to shelve your product and you think that your Instagram count is a necessary step to get there. I will admit that for a long time it was, but nowadays you have more savvy buyers and some realize that your follower count is not the only measure of your influence. If you are smart about using FB/IG Ads and influencers the way you should in q1 2019, then you are actually accomplishing what your follower count used to imply. You are proving that you are able to support the retail relationship with awareness and attention that benefits you both.

That is playing the current social game the right way…right now!

 

 

 

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Don’t sleep on August: Take some time to assess and plan your social media strategy…

On this episode, I talk about the importance of taking some time to plan during August. When many brands and individuals slow down and go quiet, I think it is a smart move to lean in and think strategically. Don’t want until after Labor Day to turn the engines on and make sure you are in full stride come September.

When it comes to your social media strategy:
1- Look around at the competition and see what they are doing when it comes to content, cadence, frequency etc. Most are moving towards less posting and higher quality!

2- Remember Instagram/Facebook followers/fans are irrelevant. It is a paid ecosystem now and the faster you get your head around that, the better off you will be. Allocate a budget, force rank your KPIs and GO!!!

3- To that end, take a look at the Ads others are running! In an effort to be more transparent with users, Facebook rolled out the ability to see all of the Ads a page is running even if you are not the intended target audience. This translates into a very powerful tool for brands to learn more about their competition and vertical and to see what other “best of breed” brands are doing.

Bottomline is that social media is not static and as it pivots, so too should you. Spend some time really investing in understanding what you want to have happen and then deploy social media strategies for the now and the future, rather than holding onto the past. Use August to learn, and attack and thank me in September!

 

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On trusting your “trainer” when it comes to social media…

I wrote a blog post last year about sometimes feeling like a personal trainer when doing my job as the owner of a Social Media Strategy. The post actually received some positive feedback and I wanted to get into the topic again. On this episode, I took it a bit deeper and added my thoughts via voice which is a more popular format it seems these days. However you choose to consume it, I think it is a simple yet important one to hear.

If you are hiring a trainer for something as serious as your health OR an expert for something as serious as your business’ marketing success, it is imperative to choose a good one and then let them do what they do. Dont second guess or undermine along the way, especially in areas you might not be super well versed in.  Remove the hedge, follow blindly and see what comes from it.

I know for certain it will lead to better results with Sircle Media…

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On balancing the art and science on social media…

On this episode, we talk about balancing the art (brand) and science (sales) in your social media strategy. For a brand looking to win online, it is imperative that you have a balance of both. It doesn’t need to be 50/50 but it also cannot be 100% on either extreme.

Sometimes brands try to be too cool with their branding and messaging and they lose out on sales opportunities. You shouldn’t get too cute with your imagery and copy and risk losing out on transactions. If you have a brander or designer running point, you risk leaning too far this way.

Conversely, if you have a salesperson or E-commerce lead running point you will tend to lean too far in the ROAS/ROI direction and come across too sales-y. If you are only looking for the money, then consumers won’t feel a brand connection and your product or offering becomes less relevant and important. You need to have a brand and a POV to stand out and be sticky in the minds of your consumers.

Our recommendation is to constantly be looking to find a balance that works for you. Look at your feeds, review your strategies and tactics regularly and listen to your audience. You don’t want to feel like an art gallery or a telemarketer. You want to convey who you are and what you stand for, and then make it very easy for those who are listening to transact with you. Social networks make this very easy to do, but the tools only work if you know how to use them the right way.

 

 

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