• How to Take Your User-Generated Content from Good to Great

    If you’re on the fence about purchasing a new product, whose word are you going to trust more: the brand that’s trying to sell you the product, or a regular person who’s already made that purchase and loves their item?

    Yeah, we’d trust the regular person too.

    That right there is why user-generated content, or UGC, can be so powerful. Used correctly, it can be the content marketer’s best friend – but only if you know how to make that content great.

    Used correctly, user-generated content is a marketer’s best friend. Click To Tweet

    So how do you inspire your followers to create content that grabs users’ attention? That turns those on-the-fencers into loyal customers?

    Just follow these tips, and you’ll see your UGC go up in both quality and quantity.

    Commit to building a strategy.

    Tons of brands share what their followers post, but not nearly as many have a clear strategy that helps them decide when, where, and how to share that content.

    Engagement, of course, is key to a successful social media strategy, but engagement by itself isn’t a strategy for encouraging user-generated content.

    Instead, think of your UGC strategy like any other marketing campaign.

    First, you need an objective: do you want your UGC to inform, or to entertain (or, optimally, both)? Do you want it to build awareness of your brand at large, or help promote a specific product or service?

    Next, decide where you’ll be hosting the campaign. Where do your users congregate? Facebook? Instagram? Comb through your analytics to decide which platform is likely to give you the most successful results.

    Finally, you’ve got to decide what it is that your customers will be creating. Will you be running a video contest? Requesting hashtagged selfies with your product? Asking users to share favorite moments with mom? The sky’s the limit.

    Create a concise, specific ask for your users.

    If you want to generate high-quality content, it’s essential to give users a clear, specific ask.

    Starbucks’ Red Cup Contest is a perfect example. Every year when the holidays draw near and Starbucks’ red cups start popping up at the coffee shops, the company asks customers to share artful images of their red cups on social media, with the tag #redcupcontest.

     

    The instructions are easy to understand and to follow, and to make it even better, there’s a reward – a $500 Starbucks giftcard. This yearly contest regularly gets thousands of entries, generating some seriously stunning UGC for the company.

    To inspire great user-generated content, include a clear, specific ask. #ugc #digitalmarketing Click To Tweet

    Use hashtags wisely.

    When you’re soliciting UGC, the right hashtag is very important. You’ve got to have a hashtag so that users – not to mention, you – can find all the other amazing content that their peers are posting.

    How do you craft the right hashtag? For the long answer, check out “Winning the Hashtag Wars: How to Use Hashtags to Increase Your Reach and Strengthen Your Brand.”

    The short answer, however, is:

    This might mean that you can’t use a hashtag as simple as your brand name. If that’s the case, be creative, but not too creative. You still want people to immediately associate it with your brand. In the end, that’s much more important than being clever.

    Review your UGC religiously.

    While users can be some of your most effective brand ambassadors, there are those internet trolls out there who can wreak havoc on your brand with a single offensive comment.

    You’ve got to review your comments, interactions, and posts that are tagged with your brand in a timely manner to make sure that you don’t accidentally allow something horribly distasteful to stay on your page.

    With UGC, you need to be just as vigilant – and not only because of trolls. User-generated content contributes to your brand’s image, so if you’re getting a bunch of blurry selfies tagged with one of your hashtags, that’s not going to make your brand look so great.

    Of course, the beauty of social media is that it’s a two-way street. You can’t control everything that users post about you, and you shouldn’t want to – that’s why social media can be such a powerful tool for brands.

    But there are certain things you can do to improve the quality of your UGC. One is to offer rewards or giveaways for the best picture, or video, or comment, or whatever it is you’re requesting. People won’t post as haphazardly if there’s a chance of winning a prize.

    You may also want to look at the guidelines you’ve given users. If they’re not specific or clear enough, you can find yourself with submissions that don’t make sense or that aren’t cohesive with your overall campaign.

    Finally, when you’re looking for UGC to share on your own social media channels, keep your standards high.

    You don’t need to share every post that mentions your brand positively. Be selective – choose the most beautiful photos, most meaningful stories, and the most interesting comments.

    In fact, it’s important to note that you can share things that are simply in keeping with your brand persona. They don’t have to have something to do with your product.

    Patagonia, for instance, is an outdoor clothing brand with a strong set of environmental values. On Instagram, they share beautiful images of nature and outdoor activities taken by their fans, like this one:

    A burst of sun over the horizon affirms the correctness of the path well-chosen. Photo: @andrew_burr

    A post shared by Patagonia (@patagonia) on

    Focus on highlighting your customers’ stories and experiences, instead of just their interactions with your product.

    For more on creating amazing content, read our post “10 Remarkable Strategies for Content Marketing.”

  • Why You Should Up Your Paid Social Ad Spend This Year

    Google’s been announcing some major developments in the past few months.

    In November, they announced that the search engine would be moving toward mobile-first indexing. Then this June, Google’s Senior VP of Ads and Commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, posted an announcement that the search engine had joined the Coalition for Better Ads, an organization that works to improve the online ad experience.

    The Coalition released a report recently detailing guidelines for creating better ads – in other words, ads that people don’t find annoying.

    Google pulled some of these guidelines for a post on their DoubleClick blog, which you can read here. And while we won’t go into all the details, suffice it to say that what people find least annoying are ads that blend the most seamlessly with the content they’re consuming.

    Maybe it’s just us, but that sounds like paid social ads, in our opinion.

    Now, it’s important to note that the DoubleClick post refers not to paid social ads, but to the more traditional digital ads that we all see, on content publisher sites, especially.

    However, the takeaway is highly relevant: 

    Internet users today want ads that don’t interrupt, that are relevant to their interests, and that are immersive. 

    That’s why paid social is having a banner year in 2017 – analysts have predicted that social ad spending will top $35 billion this year. Judging by the past several years, which have each seen consistent growth, that growth will continue into the future.

    So while we certainly wouldn’t advise any brand to dump their traditional digital advertising, we can tell you that – as long as you do it right – paid social is an excellent investment in your brand. Here are 5 reasons why.

    Paid social is a necessity if you want your brand to be seen on social media. 

    Organic social is fine and dandy, of course, and it’s still important. However, if you want your posts to be seen, it’s really a necessity to pony up for some paid social ads.

    Why? Well, there’s this statistic, for example:

    There are more than 2 million brands advertising on Facebook, according to Sprout Social. 

    That means that when you post something on social media, you’re competing with at least 1,999,999 other businesses – and those are just the ones that are advertising. Realistically, there’s no way that your posts are going to get engagement from more than a few people unless you pay to promote them.

    This is exacerbated by how sophisticated social media algorithms are getting.

    Social media providers know that users don’t want their feeds cluttered up by branded posts, and so they’re always working hard to make sure their users have the experience that they expect and desire. Because, you know – that’s what great brands do.

    So while this may make you feel like throwing up your hands and saying “How will I ever stand out?” what it should really make you do is pay closer attention to what your users want – immersive, relevant advertising that doesn’t feel like advertising – and give them more of that.

    Paid social allows you to target users with incredible specificity. 

    It’s really amazing how specific you can get with your ad targeting these days.

    Look at Facebook, for example. You can customize your audience by everything from level of education and field of study, to online activities, to simple demographics.

    image of Facebook Ad manager targeting box, targeting people with an upcoming anniversary, who work in B2B Cultural and Recreation industries, and use iPads and iPhones.

    via Facebook

    We just picked some random categories here, but you get the idea. You can even target an ad to people who only use the iPhone 7, which is great for app and game developers.

    This ultra-targeting means that you’re a lot less likely to be wasting your ad dollars. Instead of showing your ad to people who almost certainly aren’t going to buy what you’re selling anyway – men and maternity clothes, for example – you can expect that most of the people who see your ad will at least have some interest in your product or service.

    This is good for business for two reasons.

    First, you’re not annoying people with ads for things they’d never be interested in.

    And second, you’re cultivating an audience. Even if the people who see your ad don’t make a purchase today, seeing that ad may awaken an interest in your brand that eventually leads to a purchase, a second purchase, and ultimately, a loyal customer.

    It’s highly resource- and cost-effective.

    Making a Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram ad isn’t an instant process, but it’s something most people can learn fairly quickly – as opposed to, say, the full-on graphic design skills needed to develop great banner ads.

    What’s also helpful about paid social advertising is that there are levels of complexity you can rise through.

    So when you’re just starting out, you can create relatively basic ads with relatively basic targeting.

    Once you’ve done that, you can take a look at your metrics (you are looking at your data, right?) and see how your ad is doing. You can even do split testing through Facebook Ad Manager, allowing you to test out two different versions of an ad to see how each one performed.

    While social media expertise certainly helps, and you really should have a dedicated social media manager on your team, you don’t have to be an expert in order to get started with paid social.

    Another thing you don’t need with paid social: a huge budget. These ads, across all platforms, start at quite reasonable prices – roughly between 16 cents and $1 per click, based on factors including your company size, your budget, the number of people you want to see your ad, and many more.

    However, you don’t need to worry about suddenly facing a $1,000 ad bill because you had a particularly good click-through week. With Facebook (and Instagram, since they’re owned by Facebook), you set a daily or weekly budget and your ad stops running once it’s reached your max spend.

    So if you set a budget of $5 per day, you know you won’t be spending more than $5 a day. Period.

    This is especially helpful for small businesses that don’t have a lot of wiggle room in their budgets. And marketers agree that in general, the ROI on social media ads is significant – certainly worth the investment in the ads themselves.

    Paid social is here to stay, and it’s only going to grow – at least in the foreseeable future. Learn more about developing a great social media presence with “9 Harsh Truths About Your Social Media Marketing – and What to Do About Them.”

  • What Google’s Move toward Mobile-First Indexing Means for Your Digital Marketing Strategy

    In November of 2016, Google announced that it was moving toward a “mobile-first” system of indexing, after using what could be called “desktop-first” indexing for its full history.

    It’s a huge shift – but it’s one that reflects the way users are searching the web today.

    As early as 2015, Google announced that it was getting more searches on mobile devices than on desktop devices. That trend has continued, and while the growth is hardly explosive, the numbers – and your own usage, if you pay attention – don’t lie.

    The stats: mobile vs. desktop web searches

    According to a Google blog post from May 5, 2015 , “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.” The company declined to share specific numbers.

    It’s important to note that at this point, at least, Google was grouping tablets with desktops – so those mobile searches don’t include the number of searches coming from tablets. It’s unclear whether Google has changed its grouping since then.

    Either way, mobile searches are outnumbering desktop searches across the board – and especially in certain industries. As you can read about in a great article on Search Engine Land, a 2016 report from Hitwise found that about 58% of all searches in the US are on mobile devices, and breaks the searches down by industry in this graph:

    via Search Engine Land

    Those stats are why Google has decided to experiment with mobile-first indexing. Those stats are also why, if you don’t already have a mobile site, you should probably make creating one a priority.

    What is mobile-first indexing?

    Indexing is how Google collects information on all of the web’s billions of webpages, which it then “indexes” into a big, huge catalog.

    From there, Google’s algorithm decides what search results you see when you search for something.

    Until November, Google uses the desktop version of webpages as their primary source – and while they included mobile pages in their index, they were treated as less important. Now, those two are switching places: Google will be using the mobile webpage as the primary, with desktop pages being relegated to second place.

    What does this mean for my brand?

    It means a few things, depending on what kind of sites you have.

    If your site is desktop-only, then Google says you shouldn’t worry about changes in search rankings. They’ll still use your desktop site to rank you.

    Where this will hurt you, however, is with the users who are primarily searching using their mobile devices, but that’s a separate issue.

    If you have a site that’s about the same across both desktop and mobile, then you really don’t have to do anything. Since they both have the same content, your search rankings won’t really be impacted.

    The most significant impact will be on brands that have a mobile site that is different from their desktop site.

    If this is you, there are a few things you need to do.

    First, evaluate your mobile site. Is it lacking a lot of the content that’s on your desktop site? Is it essentially a stripped-down version of your regular site?

    If the answer is yes, this will affect your rankings. Google indexes sites based on their content – not just the keywords, but the amount of content, the quality of content, the rate of updating, and more criteria that no one but Google knows about.

    So how do you fix this?

    The first step would be to make sure you’re using responsive web design principles in your site building. That simply means that each page responds to the size of the screen on which it’s being viewed, so you can have the same content on mobile that you do on your regular site.

    The next step is a big one, and it may need to be done over months: migrate any missing site content from desktop to mobile.

    This might necessitate some site building – if you have a blog on your regular site but not on your mobile one, you’ll obviously have to create a tab and a place to house your blog.

    There’s no question that this is intensive work, but it’s absolutely worth it – and not just for the Google indexing.

    The real payoff is in the user experience, as a good mobile experience is vital to keeping your site visitors happy. It always pays to remember that there are billions of sites out there and your customer could be visiting any one of them.

    Don’t give them a reason to leave yours.

    How will mobile-first affect my digital marketing strategy?

    While the indexing itself shouldn’t really affect your marketing, it’s wise to take this move by Google as a sign of what’s to come.

    We’re moving toward a much more mobile-centric world, and you need to ensure that your digital marketing strategy reflects this reality.

    The mobile site, of course, is the foundation of any mobile digital marketing strategy, so make sure that’s in place before you move onto anything else.

    Once that’s done, you can focus on elements of your strategy like paid social. Make sure that the ads you’re creating for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. are mobile-friendly.

    You may even want to adopt that “mobile-first” mindset as you’re designing.

    After all, we know that more than 50% of all web searches are on mobile devices. So unless your brand simply isn’t suited to mobile devices, and you know that your users primarily access your site through desktops, it’s a good bet that more than 50% of searches for your site are on mobile, too.

    If your brand is suited to it, you may also want to consider developing an app. These are especially useful in the retail, dining, banking, music, and travel industries, just to name a few.

    One important note about mobile marketing, however, is that it’s got to be focused on inbound, rather than outbound.

    In other words, mobile screens don’t accommodate the same number of ads as desktops – and the ads that do pop up on mobile tend to frustrate users far more than on desktop screens.

    One last thing to consider is that while your own content should be a top consideration, you should consider your curated content, as well. If there are sites that you regularly share links to, make sure that those sites or pages are mobile-friendly.

    The wave of mobile-first is picking up speed. Is your brand ready?

  • Want Killer Marketing Videos? 5 Keys To Writing Scripts

    There’s probably nothing as sleep inducing as a boring video. Just think back on all those clunky, dry-as-dust videos you had to suffer through in school. And how about those painful orientation and training videos you had inflicted on you at your first job? Remember what a struggle it was to stay awake?

    That is exactly what you can’t afford to have happen with your social media marketing videos.

    The competition is getting much keener and the marketing video arena is getting more crowded. Out of all the B2C companies in North America that engage in content marketing, 82% use videos. So your online marketing videos have to stand out, and it all starts with the script.

    Content Marketing Institute

    Here, then, are the 5 keys for writing knock-’em-dead video scripts for online marketing – scripts that will keep viewers engaged and will rise above the competition.

    Know Your Audience and Address Them Directly

    One reason the videos we mentioned just above were so ineffective is that they weren’t produced for a specific audience. Because they were aimed at everyone, they didn’t really appeal to anyone.

    So the first key to writing an effective video script is to consider your audience. You need to know everything you can about the people – the potential customers – who will view your video. For example:

    • Gender
    • Age
    • Geographic location
    • Socio-economic level
    • Education level
    • Occupation
    • Hobbies and interests
    • Religious and political affiliation
    • Problems, pain points, and concerns

    And, then, your video should address their problem(s) – in a way that targets and engages these specific people. Talk directly to your audience – your specific, laser-targeted audience – about the things they care deeply about and develop that essential trust relationship. They’ll be receptive to your solution for their problem(s).

    Get Your Message Across in the First 30 Seconds

    Kissmetrics Blog

    Attention spans are getting shorter, and your potential viewers also have their attention pulled in many competing directions – email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TV, smart phones . . . and on and on. Psychological research suggests that the average sustained attention span is now about 20 minutes. But for online videos it’s only about 60 seconds. That’s just one minute! 

    So you simply have to get your message – your elevator pitch – across in the first 30 seconds of a social media marketing video. A good way to do this is by using the old tried-and-true journalist’s inverted pyramid. 

    Journalists have known for a long time that a lot of readers will read only the first paragraph or two and will skim the rest, if that. So when they write a news piece, they put all the important information at the beginning. The rest of the piece, while interesting, isn’t essential. 

    Be sure, then, to structure marketing videos in the same way. Try to get your message across in the first 30 seconds of the video. 

    Make Sure Words and Visuals Are Complementary 

    The words in your video script and the images in the video itself must be closely allied. The words should belong to and explain the images, and the images must reinforce and illustrate the words for greater impact. It works much the same way a musical score in a movie heightens the emotional mood in a particular scene. 

    But if we have to choose, visuals come in a close second to the words. Even very simple visuals can work well as long as they reinforce and enhance the voiceover. The temptation many times is to get so caught up in producing stunning visuals that they detract from and distract viewers from the message. 

    Tell a Compelling Story 

    Any good copywriter will tell you that the best copy tells a story. And the same holds true for marketing videos. 

    In order to really grab viewers, a good video for online marketing has to tell a story. It doesn’t have to be long – it just has to have all the elements of a story. Why? Because stories have emotional impact, and we remember them.

    Long-form content, short ad copy, novel, short story, or video – it doesn’t matter. If it’s good, it has a compelling story in there.  And it can be just a few sentences. If there’s a character with a problem who is seeking a solution, if there’s dramatic tension with rising action, and if there’s falling action that culminates in a resolution (a solution to the problem), then it’s a story.

    A story can help your potential customers better understand what it is you offer and what it can do for them. They’ll understand the benefits at a deeper emotional level than a mere explanation allows for.

    Use Humor Judiciously 

    Think back once again to the painful videos you had to sit through in school or at work. Remember the awkward and lame attempts at humor? Sure, you laughed, but it was the laughter of ridicule, wasn’t it? You weren’t entertained a bit. 

    Now, humor can be a highly effective tool to get a message across and make it memorable. That, of course, is why so many speeches, sermons, and talks kick off with a joke, usually a bad one. Just make sure you use humor judiciously. 

    As with the visuals, humor should support and enhance your message. It must be seamlessly integrated into your story as a seemingly necessary support – not a crutch. Done right – in the right place, with obvious appropriateness – it can be very effective. Having a little fun along the way can help people connect with your brand. 

    Top-notch videos can be a powerful weapon in your social media marketing arsenal. Just remember: it all starts with the script.

  • Social Media Must-Haves: Proactive and Reactive Social Strategies

    If you’re just starting out with your social media marketing, you’re probably spending a lot of time planning out your social media calendar, posting images of your products, and finding other influencers in your industry to follow and chat with.

    Although you may not have stopped to consider it – you’re just trying to build a social media presence, after all – this is called proactive social community management.

    As you might have guessed, there’s an inverse of this strategy, too: reactive social community management. And while the balance between them will differ for every brand, you do need to incorporate both tactics as you put together your social strategy.

    What is proactive social media strategy?

    Proactive social media strategy involves a lot of the elements of social media that you probably think of when you think of “social media strategy.”

    The daily, weekly, or monthly posts that you put up just to let your followers know what’s going on with your brand – those are proactive.

    via @5Gstudio

    In this tweet, for example, Yen Ong of the Dallas-based 5G Studios architecture firm is sharing a snapshot of a new project the firm is working on. Ong and 5G are letting followers in on what’s new at 5G, offering them an unfiltered glimpse of the process.

    Of course, that’s one of the greatest advantages, and most revolutionary effects, of social media – brands are able to talk directly to their followers and customers, without having to hide behind formal communications channels.

    There’s more to proactive social, however. Think of proactive customer service. Social media has long been established as a powerful customer service tool, and countless brands have put it to work when it comes to communicating with their customers.

    The eyeglasses brand Warby Parker is a superstar in regards to providing personalized, 21st century customer service. Among other things, the brand often posts short “thank-you” videos to people who say nice things about them on social media:

    Another use of proactive social? Sharing your content. Blog posts, webinars, infographics, curated lists and links – these are all important parts of proactive social.

    Advantages of proactive social strategy

    Proactive social has a lot of advantages.

    For one thing, you can plan it out.

    It’s not a response to anything, so you can schedule posts days and weeks in advance. You can develop campaigns around proactive social. You can schedule a photography session of your brand-new beautiful workspace, and use those photos in posts for weeks.

    If an event like a company anniversary, founder’s birthday, or a relevant holiday is coming up, you’re able to develop great posts that can piggyback on that event.

    Drawbacks of proactive social strategy

    It may seem like there really aren’t any drawbacks to proactive social, since it gives you time to showcase your brand’s best side.

    However, there is one major drawback to focusing solely on a proactive strategy: it makes you seem out of touch with the rest of the world.

    No one wants to hear someone talk about themselves all the time, right? Well, it’s just as true in the social media world as it is in real life. If all you’re posting is proactive social content, you’re missing a lot of opportunities.

    You’re not responding to customers, whether they’re singing your praises or airing grievances.

    You’re not commenting on trends or events happening in greater world.

    You’re not taking risks.

    And that is why you need another side to your social: reactive social media strategy.

    What is reactive social strategy?

    Reactive social is the flip side of the coin as far as social strategy goes.

    It means, of course, that you’re reacting to things. That could be a comment by a fan, or a breaking news story that’s relevant to your industry.

    Reactive social is often fast and agile – it’s a perfect opportunity to show that your brand is quick on its feet. This isn’t always the case, of course, but reactive social is often where some of the most memorable posts come from (like the Oreo Superbowl tweet, for example).

    via Slate

    There are a few uses for reactive social.

    The first is simply building connections with other users. Giving a shout-out to an influencer who blogs about your brand, and then later sharing another excellent piece of his or her content – even if it has nothing to do with your brand – is reactive (although, admittedly, you could make the argument that this is a proactive strategy as well).

    Conversing with your fans about topics that are important to them – that’s reactive.

    These are fairly simple things to do, and most brands do them well. Where it gets more complicated is with newsjacking or what some call “culture jacking.”

    Newsjacking involves jumping on a current event, or breaking piece of news in order to capture tons of social media traffic and – hopefully – gain new followers.

    The problem is that it takes finesse to do so tastefully. There are far too many stories of brands that attempted to use a major event in order to pull in more followers, and only succeeded in offending people.

    While this fact ought to be obvious, it bears repeating: newsjacking stories of human suffering is never ethical, and never a good idea. Natural disasters, revolutions, terrorist attacks – the best thing your brand can do when these tragedies strike is either to stay silent or express sincere sorrow.

    So what kinds of events are appropriate to take on? It depends on your brand, of course, but in general, things like the Superbowl, Fashion Week, the Oscars, and other pop culture events can all be good opportunities to jump into a trending conversation.

    Politics is usually a bad idea, unless your following leans decisively one way or another. If that’s the case, there are times when commenting on politics can help your brand.

    The bottom line with newsjacking or culture jacking: be sensitive, be smart, and don’t tweet anything without truly thinking it through.

    How do proactive and reactive social strategies work together?

    You need both a proactive and reactive strategy because neither one all by itself will allow you to accomplish your goals.

    Let’s say you want to gain some new customers. That involves a lot of proactive social – posting new content, searching out relevant influencers, making sure your feed is active and interesting on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

    But how about when those new potential customers reach out to you with a question or comment? You’ve got to be able to react quickly and thoughtfully. Maybe that means posting a quick video like Warby Parker, or simply saying “thank you!” and giving that new customer a shout-out on Instagram.

    On the flip side, what if you’re trying to increase loyalty among your current followers? They certainly don’t want to be talked at over and over and over – they want interaction. They want you to notice them, talk to them, give them opportunities to share their own thoughts and wants and needs. They need reactive strategies to make them feel like they’re valued.

    At the same time, if you don’t give your current fans something to keep them interested – namely new content – they’ll eventually drift away. That’s where your proactive strategy comes in.

    Navigating the social media waters can be a delicate task. Need some help? Read our post “Social Media Management Hacks That Will Save You Hours Each Week.

  • 5 Reasons Huge Brands are Turning to Micro-Influencers – with Massive Results

    Call it the next advance in the evolution of authenticity in marketing.

    Instead of automatically turning to Instagram’s biggest celebrities to promote their products, major brands are beginning to enlist users with much smaller, but more loyal, followings for their influencer marketing needs.

    According to some industry experts, these “micro-influencers” – social media users with fewer than 30,000 followers – are turning out to be a more effective choice for many brands looking to use the power of influencer marketing.

    Here’s why.

    Some consumers, especially in Generation Z, are growing wary of celebrity product endorsements.

    Influencer marketing has been around long enough now that consumers know how it works. We’re wary of the idea that Khloe Kardashian actually uses Express Smile Atlanta’s teeth whitening kit, for example.

    I mean, sure, maybe she does. But it’s a lot more likely that she just posted about it after receiving a huge check for the endorsement and free product. That knowledge diminishes the influencer power a bit, especially among Generation Z.

    Now, it’s true that with tens of millions of followers each (Khloe has almost 68 million as of this writing), the Kardashians could post about garden fertilizer and it might very well be worth it for the brand. But few brands can pay the upwards of $200k price tag that a single Kardashian Instagram post goes for.

    That means that for most brands, a post with that kind of reach just isn’t a possibility. So they’re faced with a different choice: find a traditional celebrity with a huge following (but not quite as huge as Khloe Kardashian’s), or opt for someone with far fewer followers, but potentially higher engagement levels.

    While it will always be pretty cool to see a celebrity you idolize using a product that you could go out and buy, too, most of us are starting to trust those “regular people” a whole lot more. In fact, according to a 2015 Deep Focus report, 63% of Gen Z prefer advertising featuring “real people” over ads with celebrities.

    It depends on your product and your audience, of course, but it’s worth considering whether an endorsement from a micro-influencer might go further for your brand than one from someone famous.

    You can likely find a micro-influencer among the fans you already have.

    Micro-influencers can be similar to brand advocates. These are regular people who already like and use your product or service, and whose praise of it will therefore be far more authentic than that of an influencer who isn’t already familiar with your product.

    One of the great things about finding micro-influencers who already love your brand is that you don’t have to spend time developing a relationship from scratch. You should nurture and develop that relationship, certainly – but the basis for it already exists.

    This can greatly shorten the timeline for getting a strong influencer campaign up and running.

    Micro-influencers can be far more cost-effective.

    Forget $200k for a single social media post. Posts from micro-influencers are much, much less expensive – in some cases, micro-influencers may be happy to post something in exchange for a free product.

    Although costs vary, these are the general ranges for branded posts from micro-influencers, according to a Bloglovin’ Influence survey:

    • Instagram: $250-$500
    • Blog post: up to $1,000
    • Facebook: $250-$500
    • Twitter: $150-$200

    Here’s the full graph of their results:

    Source: Bloglovin’ Influence

    These do not take into account the costs on the brand’s side as far as developing the campaign, sharing the post, etc. However, it’s easy to see that working with micro-influencers is a far more realistic route for most brands.

    Micro-influencers elicit higher engagement.

    One of the key advantages that micro-influencers offer to the brands that partner with them is higher engagement levels.

    There are a few reasons for this.

    One is that micro-influencers’ audiences are more finely targeted. They’re not trying to reach millions of people all over the world.

    Instead, they’re aiming their posts at, say, Chicago foodies. Or moms in Toronto. Or women who love playing tennis. Micro-influencers are talented at developing their niches, and then posting things that are relevant to that niche. This helps automatically up their engagement levels, because a higher percentage of their followers are likely to be interested in whatever they post.

    Another reason is that micro-influencers have more at stake when it comes to the brand partnerships they choose to enter into.

    For a mega-influencer who gets hundreds of promotion requests a week and has millions of followers, there’s not much danger that the stream of requests will dry up or that their fans will leave them en masse after a post that misses the mark.

    Micro-influencers can’t afford to make those mistakes, though. If they agree to a partnership with a brand that has no relevance to their followers, or if they drown their feed in posts that are blatant advertisements, their audience will go elsewhere without a backward glance.

    The great micro-influencers, then, are going to vet their potential brand partnerships thoroughly. While that might mean that you have to work a little harder to find someone to say “yes” to your partnership offer, it also means that once you do find that person, you’re going to get better results than you would otherwise.

    Finally, people simply trust micro-influencers more than they do huge celebrities. In fact, according to a study by Expertcity, 82% of users are “highly likely to follow a recommendation” from a micro-influencer. That’s a pretty incredible statistic.

    Micro-influencers are much more likely to be posting their own content, engaging with their followers themselves, and making their own decisions about whether or not to partner with a brand.

    Followers know this, which means that they’ll be a lot more willing to learn more about your product when they see your promoted post pop up in that micro-influencer’s feed.

    It’s usually easier to develop a strong, long-term relationship with a micro-influencer.

    Since micro-influencers work with fewer brands at a time, it’s usually much easier to develop a real, authentic relationship with them.

    Your request isn’t one of a hundred that they get every week – it’s one of a few dozen, say, or fewer. They’ve got more time to spend discussing ideas with you and fewer distractions from brand that are competing for their attention with bigger monetary offers, or flashier product offerings.

    Then there’s the fact that micro-influencers are simply more accessible than the bigger-name influencers. They haven’t yet built up the layers of people between themselves and brands that celebrities and other major influencers have: publicists, agents, and the like.

    So when you get in touch with a micro-influencer, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be talking to the influencer him- or herself.

    In case you’re not yet convinced about the power of micro-influencers, take a look at this infographic from HelloSociety:

    Source: AdWeek

    Want to learn more about making your influencer marketing as effective as possible? Read Approaching Influencers: The First Step to Influencer Marketing, Outreach, and Digital PR.

  • 9 Harsh Truths About Your Social Media Marketing – and What to Do About Them

    Social media marketing has too often been portrayed as the silver bullet for the challenges brands regularly face.

    Need to improve your customer retention? Post more on social media!

    Need to expand your customer base? Post more on social media!

    Want to grow your business by 5,000%? Post more on social media!

    You get the picture.

    And while social media is certainly something that you can’t afford to ignore, we’re sorry to tell you that it’s not going to instantly – or even eventually – solve all your business problems.

    It’s a bummer, we know.

    But all is not lost. When you know the truth about social media, you can figure out how to best put it to work for your brand. With that in mind, here are 9 harsh truths about your social media marketing, and what to do about them.

    Some “guaranteed” social media tricks just won’t work for you, no matter how much they work for other brands.

    You can find all kinds of information online about social media tricks that are “guaranteed” to get you more leads, to increase your reach, to get you noticed by top influencers, etc.

    While there’s likely at least a grain of truth to most of these tricks, none of them work for every brand.

    Some of them don’t even work for most brands.

    And some might seem to work for every other business you talk to – just not you.

    You could become discouraged by this fact. The smarter path, however, is to improve your ability to tell whether or not the social media tips you come across are likely to work for you.

    You do this by getting to know your own brand better, as well as your audience. What’s your brand voice? Is it clearly defined? Is it effective? Where does your audience hang out online? Where do potential customers hang out online?

    Once you’ve got a strong handle on that information, you’ll be better able to see through the social media fog and discern the tactics that truly have the potential to deliver for you.

    No matter how great your content is, lots of people still won’t consume it.

    Content takes time to produce – even a single tweet has to be carefully considered before you unleash it into the world.

    With all the emphasis that digital marketers place on content – it’s vital for expanding your reach, for example, and it’s huge for SEO – it’s easy to think that a great piece of content should spur a great reaction from your online audience.

    But this just isn’t always the case. You could spend hours putting together a web course that you know will help people achieve their most challenging fitness goals. You could curate an epic list of the best grilling and barbecuing blogs on the web that you know your followers will love. And yet, sometimes, the reaction will be much less impressive than you would have expected.

    But here’s what you do: instead of focusing on the people who aren’t paying attention to that awesome piece of content, focus on the ones who are. Engage with them in an authentic way. Find out what they liked about it, and then make more content like it.

    For the ones who aren’t listening to you yet, try different formats and styles of content to see if something else might resonate. You’ve also, however, got to accept that some people will never be interested in your brand, no matter what you do.

    Now, if your content is consistently getting low views and low engagement, that’s a sign that you need to take seriously. It means you need to rework either your approach or your sharing strategy.

    Mistakes are inevitable. But big mistakes are not.

    Everyone makes mistakes – even experienced marketers. Some mistakes are passable, something to just take note of and make sure not to do again.

    But then there are the big mistakes. The mistakes like a misappropriated hashtag that creates a major firestorm online. Or a misidentification of a celebrity, like Total Beauty did during the 2016 Oscars:

    Source: CIO magazine

     

    That’s Whoopi Goldberg, not Oprah, by the way.

    These are the mistakes that can really set your brand back, causing your customers to turn their backs on you.

    Prevent these faux pas by entrusting your social media accounts to employees whom you trust implicitly, and who take their responsibilities seriously. You may also want to have some kind of process for approving tweets or posts that are likely to be seen by a much wider audience – say, those that go out during a major event like the Oscars.

    Long-form content is what readers (and Google) want these days. It’s time-consuming and resource-heavy.

    You probably know that the internet is moving toward more long-form content – long, researched, expert posts that provide lots of value to readers.

    This is a huge step forward for the quality of content on the internet. Just think, for example, about what the content farms of the early 2000s were churning out. That’s what we had to read online.

    Today, you can take full courses online with real professors, learn business leadership strategies from actual successful CEOs, read short stories in progress by talented published authors. How far we’ve come.

    That said, creating this kind of content takes time and talent. Be prepared for that when embarking upon your next content marketing campaign.

    You can’t make something go viral.

    There’s not a whole lot to say about this one. No one’s definitively figured out what makes something go viral, although there are a lot of strategies you can employ to improve your chances.

    There are just too many different factors that go into to virality: what’s going on in the news that day, the time of day content was shared, the general popularity of your topic at the time you shared your content, etc.

    Instead of trying to make something go viral, just try to create compelling content. That’s a much more worthy – and achievable – endeavor.

    Your Facebook LiveStream might only get a small number of views at first.

    Like social media itself, live streaming is something that brands can’t afford to ignore these days. The internet is becoming ever-more video-centric – in fact, according to an oft-quoted Cisco report, 82% of all consumer internet traffic will be video traffic by the year 2020.

    And live streaming is becoming more and more mainstream, mostly thanks to Facebook Live.

    But before you jump on the live streaming boat expecting to skyrocket your engagement, it’s important to realize that you may not get all that many views the first time you broadcast – or even the 5th time. It takes some solid strategizing to get your live streaming to the point that your fans are setting calendar reminders so they don’t miss it.

    For tips on how to make your live streaming successful, read “10 Ways to Amplify Your Brand Reach with Live Streaming.”

    It’s really hard to be funny online.

    Some brands – like Old Spice, for example – have become absolute masters at being funny online.

    However, plenty of other brands fail at comedy every day. The people behind those tweets and Facebook posts might be hilarious in real life, but funny doesn’t always translate to the virtual world.

    That’s why it’s safer not to try too hard to be a comedian online – unless you’ve got a full marketing team behind you that can help you craft that persona. Be clever, be quirky, be amusing – really, just be yourself (or your brand’s self). By being genuine, you’re bound to step into funny territory at some point or another.

    Often, you can’t predict which of your social media campaigns will be major successes.

    Analytics are crucial, and they can help you predict future successes and learn from past mistakes.

    However, in the world of social media, it’s a harsh reality that it’s often hard to predict whether a campaign will be truly transformative. This is true no matter how in-depth your analytics are and how adept you are at interpreting them.

    Instead of chasing the proverbial whale, then, your best bet is to simply focus on using your analytics to create effective campaigns. Set specific goals, like increasing your number of qualified leads, and build campaigns that are designed to help you meet those goals.

    Just like you can’t control whether something will go viral, you can’t control whether a campaign will blow through all your previous traffic records. You can, however, control the thought, effort, and strategy you put into your campaign development.

    Social media success is not instant.

    Succeeding on social media, in terms of benefiting your brand, takes time – likely, more time than you expect. Even if you see a huge increase in the number of followers you have, it may still take some time for those followers to convert into customers.

    The key is to be patient and be proactive. Watch your analytics, stick to your goals, and don’t be afraid to pivot as needed.

    Social media can be a jungle, but if you stick it out and keep learning, you’re bound to succeed. To improve your chances, check out our post “12 Must-Have Social Media Skills for Every Digital Marketer.”

  • 5 Essential Components of a Top-Notch Digital Marketing Strategy

    Crafting a digital marketing strategy is a complex, ever-evolving undertaking. There are so many different elements that you can include: paid social ads, giveaways, influencer posts, Twitter campaigns, Instagram takeovers…the list goes on.

    So with all these options, how do you know what you absolutely must do, and what’s just a nice addition? How do you know what parts of a digital marketing strategy are truly essential?

    Take a look at this list to find out. Note that this list assumes that you’ve already completed the business planning portion of your strategy: setting goals and objectives, deciding on metrics, etc. 

    1. Powerful, original content 

    In today’s digital landscape, powerful, original, and valuable content is an absolute must. There are a few reasons why.

    First of all, great content will vastly improve your organic search rankings in Google – in other words, how close to the top of the first page your brand will be when someone searches using relevant keywords.

    Second, creating original content will give you and your fans something to share on social media. You can curate content all you want – and you should curate some, certainly – but if you don’t also have some kind of content creation efforts going, your fans are going to lose interest.

    While most brands begin with a blog, that’s far from the only kind of content you can focus on. Podcasts, original image galleries, webinars, and infographics are just a few more options. Get creative and try different formats to see what kind of content fits with your brand and, most importantly, resonates with your audience.

    2. Comprehensive mobile capabilities

    While some industries – retail and fitness, for example – rely more heavily on mobile than others, every brand must have solid mobile capabilities if they want to attract and retain customers.

    According to Smart Insights, mobile usage makes up 71% of all digital minutes in the U.S., and outweighs PC usage in 8 additional countries:

    Source: Smart Insights

    And mobile usage outweighs PC usage in three out of four dayparts, most importantly the “prime” daypart, defined as 8pm-12am.

    Source: Smart Insights

    So you can see that if you’re not working a strong mobile strategy, you could be missing out on a whole lot of potential customers.

    What do you need in your mobile strategy? Today, you have to do more than just optimize your website for mobile visitors. You’ve also got to employ mobile-friendly ads, possibly offer a mobile app, and most importantly, create a seamless customer experience no matter what device those customers are on, whatever their location in the customer journey.

    Remember, your mobile strategy is not simply an extension of your overall digital strategy. It needs to have something unique, some element that caters specifically to mobile visitors. Think about the company apps you like the best. They’re not just a mobile version of the company website – that would be pretty boring, right?

    3. Paid social ads

    While you can get a great deal of cost-free amplification by building up your social media presence organically, don’t underestimate the power of paid social ads.

    For one thing, they’re set up in such a way that you can set your budget wherever you’re comfortable – even at a very low amount – to test how your ads are affecting your overall traffic and conversions.

    This means that the ROI on paid social ads can be extremely high, especially if you pay close attention to your metrics each time you post one.

    In addition, the advent of ultra-targeting – targeting users based not only on general demographic data, like age, gender, and location, but also by interests, activity, and countless other criteria – allows you to ensure that you’re only targeting people who are likely to be interested in what you’re selling. That means no more wasting ad dollars on people whom you know will never buy your product.

    For a longer guide to paid social advertising, read our post “4 Critical Tips for Getting the Most Out of Paid Social Ads.”

    4. Email marketing

    Yes, the powers that be have lamented the imminent death of email marketing many times now. But every time it turns out to be a false alarm.

    Email marketing is still alive and well, not to mention necessary. It’s actually one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your site, with incredibly high ROI. According to 2015 research, for every $1 spent, the average return is $44.25.

    So how do you create an amazing email marketing strategy, one that earns you more customers rather than turning them off of your brand?

    Here are a few pointers.

    Email regularly, but not more than 3 times per week and not less than 1 time per month.

    Generally, twice a week is about right. However, some customers may actually want 3 emails a week, especially if your industry is a fast-moving one where knowing something first gives them an edge. That could be anything from when your exclusive clothing line is going on sale, or when they can get on a waiting list for a limited-edition spice blend.

    Segment your audience.

    Just like ultra-targeting with paid social ads, segmenting your email list allows you to better target people based on interest and activity.

    For example, let’s take the above rule of emailing no more than 3 times per week. While your baseline might be sending 2 emails per week, there may be some customers – more frequent buyers, or people who click through your emails more frequently than others – who would be good candidates for 3 emails a week.

    Those who shop less frequently may only want 2 emails a month, or even 1.

    By segmenting this way, you lower the risk of losing customers because they think you’re emailing them too much.

    Pay special attention to your subject line.

    You’ve surely heard this one before, but it’s so important that it bears repeating. Your subject line is vital – a great one can mean that your open rate goes way up, while a so-so one can mean your open rate plummets.

    A great subject line is one that’s specific, honest, and short – in fact, as we’ve written about before, research shows that subject lines fewer than 10 characters long have an open rate of 58%, while personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened.

    5. Strong influencer relationships

    Influencers are key to growing your business online. Why? Because people trust them. In fact, this Forbes article cites research from MuseFind finding that 92% of people trust influencers more than traditional celebrity endorsements or advertisements.

    When working with influencers, the key word is “relationship.” If you want to start working with influencers, you’ve got to remember that it’s a two-way street. Your goal should be to work toward a mutually beneficial agreement, not just to have someone with a wide audience tweeting about you.

    If you sell a product, one good idea for getting started with an influencer is to ask them if they’d like you to send them one of your products for a review on their blog.

    That allows them to first, decline if they’re not interested; and second, if they are interested, to say what they really think without worrying about your response.

    If the influencer likes you and your brand, you can continue building that relationship by sharing their content (and not just the pieces that mention your brand) across your platforms.

    Ready for a deep dive into influencer marketing? Read our post “Influencer Marketing from A to Z: A Complete Guide for Businesses.”

    While these 5 elements are absolute essentials for your digital marketing strategy, you shouldn’t stop there. Take your strategy to the next level – read “7 Ways to Update Your Digital Marketing Strategy Right Now.”

  • 6 Storytelling Secrets for Forging Connections with Your Customers

    Storytelling is as integral to digital marketing as pictures to a picture book.

    You can have all the clever tweets, amazing hashtags, and beautifully styled Instagram photos you can come up with, but if there’s no cohesive brand story behind them, they won’t win you loyal followers.

    Why? Because you can’t build a connection with a series of tweets, no matter how clever they are. And in the digital age, marketing is all about building connections with your customers.

    If you’re lagging behind in the storytelling department, put these tips to work for your brand.

    To tell a great story, start with the basics: Freytag’s Pyramid.

    Think about every Hollywood blockbuster you’ve ever seen. They’re pretty formulaic, right? You know there will be a buildup to the climax of the movie, the hero will face a serious obstacle, then everything (or at least something) will work out and the film will come to a satisfying close.

    We love to bemoan formulas because they’re so predictable. And yet, if you think about your favorite books, movies, or TV shows, they’re all built on a formula, no matter how well it may be hidden.

    That formula is based on Freytag’s Pyramid, otherwise known as dramatic structure. Gustav Freytag was a German novelist and playwright (a rather nationalistic one, incidentally) who constructed the pyramid as a result of his studies of Greek and Shakespearean tragedy.

    Source: JD Spero

    Now, your Instagram story, 3-minute video, or Tweetstorm won’t have nearly as complex a story as a novel or movie.

    However, you can still apply this formula to any story you’re trying to tell. Just use it as a guide.

    Let’s say you’re making a brand awareness video, designed to introduce people to your brand. This is how you could outline it, according to the pyramid:

    Exposition: Brief background about your company – who you are, what you do

    Inciting incident: The problem your brand was founded to solve, a crisis in your founder’s life that led to the formation of the brand, etc.

    Rising action: Development of your product or service

    Climax: Your product/service launch, or explanation of your brand’s values, mission, and offerings

    Falling action: How your product/service is helping your customers today

    Resolution: Tie everything up! Link to your website or social media profiles, explain how customers can get in touch with you, etc.

    You can modify this structure as needed, but if you really look closely at the brand stories that you admire, we’re willing to bet that they all follow Freytag’s Pyramid to some degree.

    You can even use this structure for a product demo video. For something as clearcut as a product demo, your structure might look something like this:

    • Pain point or problem that your product addresses
    • Your product and how it addresses that pain point successfully with a demo
    • Happy customer testimonials

    Forge an emotional connection

    Stories must create some sort of emotional connection in order to succeed.

    The type of emotion you go for is up to you and what is relevant for your brand – it really doesn’t matter if you’re trying to evoke empathy, laughter, sadness, fear, or joy (although generally speaking, positive emotions will give potential customers a better feeling about your brand than negative ones.)

    There are so many ways to do this. For one thing, you can create a fictional story, like brands do for their TV commercials, that illustrates your brand values or mission.

    If you have a particularly powerful brand history – maybe your company has been in your family for generations, or your brand’s founder experienced a personal crisis, hardship, or epiphany that led to your brand’s founding – then focus on sharing that.

    Get visual

    There’s a reason that so many digital marketers are incorporating video into their marketing strategy these days.

    It’s incredibly effective.

    In fact, according to Hubspot, including a video on your landing page can increase your conversion rates by up to 80%.

    But video isn’t the only visual medium you can use to effectively tell your story. It can be as simple as including images in your blog posts, or creating infographics to illustrate your points.

    Try out Instagram Stories, or post photos and text to create a Twitter Moment.

    Create a 360 video or virtual reality experience.

    Not every business has the bandwidth to create something as resource-heavy as a 360-degree video or virtual reality experience.

    However, these tools are incredible ways to tell your brand’s story in a truly revolutionary way: by immersing viewers right in the middle of the action.

    You can see some of our favorite branded virtual reality experiences in this post, “The Immense Power That Virtual Reality Can Have for Your Brand.” They include this cool 360 video by TOM’S, the world-famous one-for-one shoe company. The video is a Virtual Giving Trip that lets viewers experience “where the other pair goes.”

    Engage in story-building, rather than simply storytelling.

    As Peter Minnium writes in Marketing Land, brands should be moving from a linear storytelling model – of the sort you’d see in most books or films – toward a story-building model.

    While you might create a single piece of content using the linear model, your overall brand content must be based on story-building. That means that each piece of content you create helps build your brand’s narrative.

    In order to do this well, of course, you need to know what your brand narrative is. What’s the overarching story behind your company? What are its goals, values, mission? What is its origin story? This takes some time to develop, and it may morph as your company evolves.

    Be patient, and experiment with some small storytelling projects to get some quick wins.

    Patience serves us well in nearly every endeavor, and digital marketing is no exception.

    Effectively incorporating storytelling into your digital marketing efforts will not be an overnight fix for what ails them, be that low traffic numbers or low social engagement.

    However, if you build upon it consistently, a storytelling approach will absolutely improve your engagement over time. One way to help yourself get over the hump is to work on some small storytelling projects – a single video, for example, or a cool infographic. Release them out into the world and see how they do.

    Stay data-driven.

    Data and storytelling may sound like diametrically opposed concepts, but they don’t have to be.

    For one thing, including data in your blog posts can increase the chances that you’ll get inbound links, which in turn improves your search rankings on Google. It also earns you greater trust with your readers.

    But being data-driven means much more than that. It means staying attuned to your metrics to see what’s working and what’s not.

    For example, let’s say you’ve just written a lengthy opinion piece on Medium sharing your brand’s take on a current event. You craft a tweet to share the post with the Twitterverse, and send it out. The next day, or next week, you craft a slightly different tweet to share the post – maybe it uses emojis, or switches out a couple of power words.

    Then you can look at the data to see which tweet performed better, and use that to inform how you share posts in the future.

    Incorporating effective storytelling into your digital marketing will give your customers something more to latch on to than just your product or service. For more related tips, read “6 Tips for Creating Content That Converts.”

  • 4 Critical Tips for Getting the Most Out of Paid Social Ads

    Turning out high-quality content, working with powerful influencers, and using video strategically are all huge elements of any digital marketing strategy.

    Although these concepts have been around for years – decades, even – the way they’re being used today is an extremely recent development.

    However, just because the rules of marketing have changed over the past few years, prioritizing endorsements from “regular people” over celebrities and inbound tactics over outbound ones, it doesn’t mean that the entire playbook gets thrown out.

    There’s one strategy that people (and companies) that have something to sell have been relying on for hundreds of years: paid advertising.

    313 years, to be exact: that’s when the first American newspaper ad, an announcement that a Long Island estate was for sale in a 1704 edition of the Boston News-Letter, appeared.

    That’s not to say that advertising looks much like it did back in the 1700s – or even the 2000s.

    As both advertising platforms and consumers become more and more sophisticated, advertising is undergoing changes on a yearly, if not monthly basis.

    Just look at digital advertising.

    A few years ago, you couldn’t advertise on Instagram (they opened up the platform to advertisers in 2015).

    Go a few years further back, to 2010, and Twitter was just rolling out advertising in the form of Promoted Tweets.

    Today, you can advertise on virtually every social media platform – and with ever-more-accurate ad targeting, you can reach your advertising goals more quickly than ever.

    With all the potential behind paid social ads, you want to make sure you’re getting everything you can out of them. Here are a few tips for maximizing your paid social ad results.

    Here are a few tips for maximizing your #paidsocial ad results. Click To Tweet

    Pick the right social platform.

    As with any digital advertising endeavor, you’ve got to be selective.

    It’s true of content marketing – for example, there’s no point starting a profile on Medium if you’re not going to product long-form content on a regular basis.

    It’s true of social media. Why throw resources toward creating a Pinterest account if your audience doesn’t hang out on Pinterest?

    And it’s especially true of social ads, especially because you’ve actually got to pay for those things.

    It’s generally agreed-upon among marketers and brands of all shapes and sizes that Facebook produces the highest ROI for social ads, so Facebook advertising is pretty much a no-brainer. Just check out this chart from eMarketer – the stats were taken from a 2016 report called “The Future of Social” by Firebrand Group, Simply Measured, and Social Fresh.

    Source: eMarketer

    But after Facebook, you’ve got choices to make. Just looking at the chart above, there’s Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest – how do you decide which platform is right for you?

    First, you’ve got to look at your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? Let’s go with a fairly simple example.

    If you’re a B2B company that sells consulting services to financial organizations, then you’re going to want a platform that will reach financiers. LinkedIn is likely the best bet.

    By contrast, if you’re a social gaming brand whose customers are mainly between the ages of 18 and 24, Snapchat is probably a great platform to explore.

    Instagram and Pinterest can also yield excellent results, but only if you’re able to take advantage of their visual format. If your product or service doesn’t lend itself to compelling video or photo content, you may want to skip these platforms.

    Target, target, and target some more.

    Social advertising platforms have gotten so good at segmenting consumers that you can target your ad based on extremely narrow criteria. And lest you think that sounds like you’re just casting a smaller net, know that this kind of highly specific targeting is a good thing. A very good thing.

    What it means is that you’re not having to waste dollars showing your ad to people who aren’t going to have any interest in it anyway.

    In the old form of advertising, you bought an ad and hoped that it prompted a few people to take the next step toward buying your product or service.

    Today, you can greatly increase your ROI by targeting your ads narrowly. You’ll start by choosing location, gender, age, and language, and from there you can really start to find your audience.

    On Facebook and Instagram, which use the same advertising tool, you can choose among these categories:

    • Demographics – this includes everything from Education level and Income, to specific Life Events, Politics, and Job Titles.
    • Interests – Facebook determines this from users’ activity on the site. Selections include Food and Drink, Sports, Clothing, etc. You can get more specific within each category.
    • Behavior – This involves how people interact on Facebook, and includes everything from whether someone is looking for a new car, to whether they make charitable donations and to which causes.

    You can see, then, how ultra-targeted your ads can be.

    Ultra-targeted social ads will give you the most bang for your buck. Click To Tweet

    And while you don’t want to get so narrow that you miss out on potential fans, you do want to get the biggest bang for your buck. So take advantage of these options, and experiment with different audiences. Then pay close attention to the analytics so you know what works and what doesn’t.

    Learn the difference between Power Editor and Ads Manager.

    Since we’re already talking about Facebook, we may as well cover another important Facebook ad-related topic: the difference between Power Editor and Ads Manager.

    To put it most simply, Ads Manager is the standard ad tool that most users use. Power Editor is for more experienced ad managers who want to run more advanced, complex campaigns.

    For example, let’s say you wanted to duplicate a successful Facebook ad campaign or ad set that you ran last month. Using Power Editor, you can select by campaign, ad set, or individual ad and duplicate them with a single click. By contrast, in the Ads Manager you would have to copy each ad individually.

    After you’ve duplicated what you want to duplicate, you can customize each ad, ad set, or campaign as needed. That’s a huge time-saver for anyone who runs lots of Facebook ads.

    Another advantage of Power Editor is the ability to edit multiple ads at once. If you need to change the headlines or content of many ads – if you have five or 10 campaigns of several ads each, say – Power Editor allows you to do that quickly and efficiently.

    So how do you know which ad tool is better for you and your brand? It really comes down to how experienced you are at creating Facebook ads.

    If you’ve been doing it for a while and you’re comfortable with how the Ads Manager works, you may want to try out Power Editor. Once you get the hang of how it works, it can save you a whole lot of time.

    Design your social ads to fit mobile devices as well as desktops/laptops.

    Fully 8 out of 10 internet users accessed social media on mobile devices in 2016, according to the Global Web Index.

    So if you’re not designing ads to work for mobile, you might be turning away huge numbers of potential customers.

    Of course, designing mobile ads isn’t the easiest thing in the world. They’ve got to be easy to read and view on a small screen, “swipeable,” and able to communicate at a glance whatever it is you want users to understand.

    A few important pointers:

    • Make your text big enough to be readable, but not so big that it takes up too much image space.
    • Ensure that viewers have a readily visible way to close the ad if they don’t want to see it.
    • Pay close attention to color. Bright, harsh color combinations can be extremely off-putting when viewed on smaller screens.

    If you need some inspiration, check out ad galleries online – our favorite is HootSuite’s AdEspresso, which lets you browse thousands of real Facebook ads.

    Social ads can offer huge ROI if you know how to maximize their potential for your brand. For a broad overview of online advertising, read our post “Understanding the Basics of Paid Advertising Online.”

  • Social Media Management Hacks That Will Save You Hours Each Week

    When you’re managing social media for a brand, you don’t just bang out tweets and Facebook posts with abandon – at least, we hope you don’t.

    Instead, you might be spending 30 minutes putting together the perfect status update. Taking an hour or two to sift through the day’s industry news to find a few great news articles to share on your Twitter feed.

    Crafting your brand’s social media voice is a full-time job (literally: it’s called being a Social Media Manager). And because the internet never sleeps, social media managers need all the time-saving techniques they can get.

    Time-saver #1: Schedule your posts.

    Have you ever found yourself checking the clock at 4 p.m. on a Friday and thinking “Oh no! I forgot to send out that tweet / post that update / share the link to that influencer’s site!”

    Then you scramble to put something together that people will actually see before they leave the office for the weekend, and hit send at 4:58, the sweat running down your fevered brow?

    That’s not exactly a fun place to be.

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #1: Schedule your posts. Click To Tweet

    So instead of doing that, try scheduling your posts throughout the week. Use a social media management tool, like Hootsuite or Twittimer, to schedule posts for when you want to send them.

    That way, you can take a couple of hours each Monday to plan out your posts for the coming week. Schedule them to go out when you want, and you won’t have to worry about having nothing to send out come Friday afternoon.

    You’ll still be posting throughout the week, of course, as you find relevant and valuable information to send to your followers. But you’ll be able to rest assured that your baseline social media posts – the ones you need to keep your brand active and engaged – are already taken care of.

    Time-saver #2: Set aside time to review and respond to comments. 

    Push notifications are great for staying abreast of all the comments, mentions, and direct messages that your brand receives, but they can also be a huge, monstrous time suck.

    If you’ve become like Pavlov’s dogs, automatically picking up your phone or clicking on a link every time you hear that “ding!”, then you’re definitely not using your time efficiently. What you are doing is interrupting yourself between 5 and 50 times a day (depending, of course, on how much engagement your brand gets online).

    Of course, you might be thinking: “But that’s my job! I’m supposed to stay on top of our social media activity!”

    And that’s true – you are. However, you’re also supposed to be managing your overall social media presence in an effective and efficient way. Processing each and every comment as it comes in is the very opposite of efficient.

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #2: Set aside time to review and respond to comments. Click To Tweet

    Instead, try this time-saver and best practice. Set aside 10 minutes (or 20, or however is reasonable) every few hours to review your notifications and attend to any comments or messages that need it.

    That doesn’t mean you need to ignore your notifications completely. You can still glance over now and then just to make sure that nothing needs immediate attention, like an offensive or inappropriate comment, for example.

    Time-saver #3: Adapt your existing content for your various social media profiles.

    If your brand is creating solid content on a regular basis – webinars, blog posts, e-books, infographics, etc. – then you’ve got a huge leg up when it comes to social media management.

    Use that content across your social media profiles to really maximize its potential, and adapt the content as needed.

    So, for example, if you have a blog post with an embedded infographic, post that infographic on Instagram and link to your post. For Facebook, you might excerpt a short paragraph and include your header image, rather than the infographic. And on Twitter, you could take out a few different “tweetable quotes” and use those to direct followers to your post.

    Of course, if a particular piece of content is evergreen – in other words, it’s not tied to a specific event or time period – then you can reuse it after enough time has passed since you initially shared the content.

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #3: Adapt your existing content for your various social media… Click To Tweet

    That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be posting new, high-quality content as often as you can, but if you’ve got a webinar or infographic from years ago that is still consistently bringing in strong traffic, it might be time to highlight it again on social.

    Time-saver #4: Crowdsource your social content from coworkers and colleagues. 

    Your coworkers and team members can be a great help when it comes to cultivating your social media engagement – not to mention, having that extra assistance brainstorming will take some of the pressure off of you.

    While asking your coworkers to brainstorm a few good social media ideas with minimal direction can always work, you might find that it’s more effective to ask for something more specific.

    One idea we love was shared by 9lenses’Swetha Venkataramani shared on the DrumUp blog. She suggests coming up with a topic or theme that your coworkers can share something about on their own social media channels. That could be something like #WorkLifeBalance, or #contentmarketing, or #NationalDogDay – whatever you’d like to emphasize on a given day or week.

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #4: Crowdsource your social content from coworkers and colleagues. Click To Tweet

    Then, your brand can retweet or quote your coworkers’ posts, resulting in more mentions and higher engagement.

    Time-saver #5: Share curated content.

    Want to know something truly awesome? You don’t have to rely on only your own, original content to up your social media engagement.

    Curating content is an essential element of content marketing, and if you’re not doing it yet, it’s time to start. To get a better idea of how you should be balancing your original and curated content, read this post, “The Ultimate Content Marketing Battle: Creation vs. Curation.”

    All curating content means is finding content by others that is relevant and valuable to your audience and sharing it with them (always giving proper credit).

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #5: Share curated content. Click To Tweet

    By curating great content and sharing it with your followers, you’ll end up saving yourself a huge amount of time. That’s because you can easily search for content ahead of time and schedule it out in advance, ready to go.

    What’s more is that as you begin curating, it will become easier and easier. You’ll know what sites to check first, which influencers to partner with, and whose Twitter feeds to follow to find the best, most interesting content for your audiences.

    Time-saver #6: Carry a notebook (or just use your phone) so you can write your good ideas down. 

    Sometimes the perfect tweet just comes to you. When that happens, make sure you capture it by writing it down or typing it into your phone.

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #6: Carry a notebook (or just use your phone) so you can write… Click To Tweet

    If you do this regularly, you’ll end up with a list of excellent social media ideas that you can pull out any time you’re feeling stumped. Then, instead of staring at that blinking cursor for 20 minutes, you’ll be able to refer to your list, type something out, and hit send – and then move right along to your next task.

    Want to learn more about social media management? Read our post “12 Must-Have Social Media Skills for Every Digital Marketer.”

  • 16 Invaluable Guidelines for Managing Your Social Media Comments

    Social media. It can really bring out the worst in people, can’t it?

    From all-out trolls to plain old rude and offensive people, social media threads can become perilous places. That’s especially true for brands, which must tread an extremely fine line when it comes to comments.

    Obviously, they can’t tolerate anything overtly offensive – but they also don’t want to be seen as exercising censorship over their followers.

    You want your fans and followers to feel encouraged to engage with your posts.

    You want them to feel confident that their views will be respected.

    And you want them to know that personal attacks and inappropriate comments will not be allowed on your site.

    How do you pull this off? How do you create an open, engaging forum for the exchange of opinions without allowing it to get out of hand?

    The answer: A robust, clearly-defined comment management policy. These 16 guidelines will help you get there.

    1. Establish a moderator. You need someone who’s committed to moderating your comments every day – not every few days, not once a week, but every day.

    That way, you won’t log onto your social media page one day to find that a blatantly racist comment has been left to fester there for days, prompting a massive negative response from your more civilized followers and – who knows? – a boycott of your brand.

    It’s happened before.

    A moderator will prevent this from happening by checking your social media comments regularly throughout the day. How often will be determined by how many comments your brand generally receives.

    2. Decide what constitutes harassing comments, and ban them.

    One of the most important functions of a comment policy is to ensure that your followers feel safe while engaging with your brand on social media.

    After all, that’s the whole point of having a social media presence in the first place: encouraging your customers to engage with you. If they get called names or otherwise harassed when they comment, they’re going to back off your site all together.

    Decide what you won’t tolerate, and put it plainly in writing. Here’s a pretty standard example from the Huffington Post.

    via Huffington Post

    3. On that note, don’t tolerate hate speech – ever.

    Hate speech has no place – well, anywhere, but certainly not on your brand’s social media pages. Your customers deserve better than that.

    If you have a commenter who repeatedly posts hateful speech or derogatory comments, you can either reach out to them privately to let them know they will no longer be allowed to post on your page, or you can simply remove them.

    It’s important to know that social media networks have their own hate speech policies, as well as policies for banning certain people from commenting on your page. Make sure you follow the guidelines for whatever social media site you’re on.

    4. Decide whether or not you’ll accept anonymous comments.

    While social media sites don’t allow anonymous comments, your website or blog may. Whether you accept those is up to you.

    Organizations that deal in sensitive areas – women’s shelters, for example, or groups that assist vulnerable populations – may need to enable anonymous comments for the safety of their customers.

    If, however, commenters are using anonymity simply to post terrible things, there’s no point in allowing it.

    5. Don’t allow spam.

    People don’t like spam on their conversation feeds any more than they like it in their email. How do you decide if something is spam? Anything that is solely promotional, that links to a malicious website, or that is clearly irrelevant to the post at hand constitutes spam.

    6. Delete inappropriate comments quickly.

    As mentioned earlier, the last thing you want is to leave an offensive or inappropriate comment up on your brand’s page for days. Delete problematic comments immediately, or notify the moderator if you’re not the one responsible for handling the comments.

    7. Consider pre-moderation.

    If you have the resources, you may want to consider pre-moderating your site’s comments. This simply means that comments must be approved before they go live.

    This can go a long way toward eliminating potentially inappropriate comments, but it also requires that someone go through your comments daily to approve or delete them. That can be a big time commitment if your commenters are fairly active.

    8. Remember that constructive criticism is not inappropriate.

    Maybe someone says something about your brand that you deeply disagree with. Maybe they post a strongly worded complaint on your page, right in front of everybody!

    These sorts of comments may be uncomfortable to deal with, but they’re not inappropriate. Deleting them sends the message that you’re not willing to listen to your customers. Instead, the best tack is to engage respectfully with the commenter. Acknowledge their opinion or complaint, and then see if there’s anything you can do to help change their mind.

    9. Establish timelines for responding to inquiries.

    Jay Baer of Convince and Convert has found that 42 percent of customers who post complaints on social media expect a response from the company in as little as 60 minutes. 24 percent expect a response within 30 minutes.

    And while the other 34 percent may be a bit more lenient, you can bet they’re not going to be pleased if you take a week to respond to their comment of post. That’s why it’s so vital to respond to inquiries or complaints in a timely manner.

    10. Use a social media management tool.

    If you have multiple social media accounts, a social media management tool like Hootsuite can be of invaluable help.

    These tools allow you to keep tabs on your profiles and comments from a single dashboard, rather than having to switch back and forth between different browser tabs. You can also set up email alerts that notify you each time there’s a mention of your brand.

    11. Start conversations.

    One way to get more high-quality comments is to start conversations. Pose an open-ended question, request images from your fans, ask for feedback on a new product – all of these are great ways to up your engagement.

    You’ll get even more, of course, if you offer an incentive, like a discount or giveaway.

    12. Identify your brand values, and ensure your comment policy and social media behavior uphold those values.

    Knowing your brand values is an essential part of developing your brand’s voice on social. It’s also essential to managing your social media comments well.

    These values should always be guiding you when you’re moderating comments from others, or posting your own.

    13. Keep jargon and overly technical language out of your responses. 

    No one likes a show-off, so unless there’s truly no other way to say what you’re trying to say, don’t use jargon or tech-speak when responding to customer comments.

    14. Be kind and polite.

    Unless snark is part of your brand’s persona, your best bet is to always be kind and polite in your comments.

    And if snark is part of your brand’s persona, you’d better be really, really good at it – like the UK grocery chain Sainsbury’s:

    via econsultancy

    15. Make sure your commenting policy includes the consequences of violating one of your guidelines.

    Commenters should know what will happen if they violate your commenting policy, whether that’s by posting spam or saying inappropriate things.

    Don’t allow anyone to be totally blindsided by having their comment removed – that can end up backfiring on your brand in a big way.

    16. Update your policy as needed.

    As your brand evolves, you may find you need to update your commenting policy or your tactics for engaging with your followers. Don’t fall into the trap of doing something that’s no longer working, just because you’ve always done it that way.

    Want to learn more about managing your social media presence? Read “12 Must-Have Skills for Every Digital Marketer.