Make Your Own Luck Using Social Media

The luck of the Irish might be with you this weekend, but it takes more than luck to create a successful social media strategy. With diligence and persistence, your social media plan will begin to fall into place and luck can be seen as the extra cherry on top. So stop searching for that elusive four leaf clover and try the following social media tips.

Study Each Platform – There are different “rules” and nuances for every social media platform that you need to familiarize yourself with before jumping in. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are ideal platforms for visual content and Facebook also lends itself to initiating conversations.

Start Small - After researching the best social media outlets for your users and overall strategy, start small. It takes time to get the hang of each cyber community and to truly maximize your efforts and reach your intended audience. Select one or two outlets to focus on and once you get the hang of the routine, expand to more social media outlets, if appropriate.

Network - Reach out and begin to follow key players in your industry. If you don’t know who these people are, do your research. Begin by listening to relevant conversations and influencers within your industry. Also, ask your followers who they are engaged with — this gives you insight on who to follow and also begins to cultivate a relationship between you and your followers.

Be yourself. Show your followers who you are — loosen up the corporate tone. It’s OK to be more casual on certain outlets (i.e. Facebook) and reserve a more business tone for others (i.e. LinkedIn). Identify your audience for each outlet and it will help you decide what tone is most appropriate, but always stay true to you or your brand.

Be Visual -  Spice up your social media content with some great visuals. After announcing the most recent changes to Facebook’s News Feed, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared that almost 50 percent of News Feed content today is photos and visual content (hence the new visual-focused News Feed design). According to HubSpot, photos generate 53 percent more likes than the average post and 104 percent more comments then the average post.

Not only can visuals be more interesting to your readers, but we naturally process visuals quicker then text. WIth so many other companies competing for a user’s attention, this is key to marketers.

This isn’t just a strategy for Facebook either. Facebook reached 100 million users in four years, but Instagram is on pace to beat that record. Check out this article from Mashable to help put this in perspective.

Do it Daily – Make your social media strategy part of a daily routine. This will allow you to give timely responses to any questions or comments from users. According to Socialbakers, only 48 percent of customer queries are addressed by surveyed companies. That number is steadily increasing, but think about the competitive edge this could give your brand. Be persistent and you might just make your own luck.

[photo via]

Customer Service: Engaging your customers could hurt you too

How many times have you had an awesome customer experience and then shared it with your virtual community? Have you ever had a really bad experience and used social media to get notice from a company? It used to be a typed letter or a phone call to an 800 number, but now those complaints, and sometimes resolutions, can be created in minutes.

Customer Service Via Facebook

It happened to me last weekend. I left my wallet in a grocery cart outside a store and didn’t realize it until I was home over an hour later. I called the store (after first freaking out), and the manager told me one of their employees found it and placed it in the store’s safe. They had tried to find me via my loyalty card, but it had an out of state address attached to it (oops.) When I went into the store to get it, I could not tell them enough how thankful I was. They felt it was no big deal, but it was huge to me. Since then, I have told anyone and everyone in my virtual community about it, and also sent a note to the corporate office singing the praises of the store’s employees.

On the flip side, this fall I submitted a negative customer survey response to a rental company regarding a condo I had rented in Charleston. Within a week, I received an apologetic letter along with a certificate for a free week of rental within the next year. Frankly, I was a little embarrassed as getting free stuff was never my intent. I just wanted them to stop renting dated condos that had half the lights not working. I expected better from them.

I find though that others don’t share my sense of embarrassment. There is word of a disturbing trend right now that business owners are dealing with customers threatening to write negative reviews unless they receive a refund or upgrade.

Fight Back

TripAdvisor, one of the company’s that is having this problem, has decided to fight back with a new management tool to help business owners who are being blackmailed. A business can report potential blackmail or threatening behavior before a negative review is submitted and the TripAdvisor support team will investigate the issue.

TripAdvisor is currently the world’s largest travel community with more than 60 million monthly visitors, 32 million members and 75 million reviews and opinions. Imagine if even just a fraction of these reviews were problematic, and the associated cost for them to be investigated. It’s certainly a business cost that TripAdvisor doesn’t want to incur, but they have to because their site relies on honest reviews.

Every company should and generally does have a process to address every type of customer issue, but many didn’t see this coming and are scrambling to put measures in place to eliminate these threats from “less then ideal” customers.

I love to hear the great customer service stories you find on social media and I secretly enjoy the bad ones too. I guess I would just like to ask consumers to consider their true intent when giving comments. Make it constructive and don’t expect anything in return except that maybe you saved another customer from having a similar experience.

[photo via]

Marketing and Communications Digital Trend Review [DOWNLOAD]

Making sense of today’s evolving digital marketing techniques

If you live and work in the world of marketing and communications, you are no doubt aware that the way brands are sharing information and engaging with customers changes daily. In fact, making sense of all of these new changes and trends can easily become a full-time job.

To help you stay on top of the latest and greatest trends, we’ve audited the marketing, branding and communications industries to see what’s working and what isn’t. We have defined what we see as seven trends likely to stick and play a leading role in 2013 marketing strategies across the globe.

To spark some ideas in your 2013 planning, download our Marketing and Communications Digital Trend Review to learn how LEGO, Target, Subaru, ExactTarget, Banana Republic and others are leveraging today’s hot marketing techniques to engage customers today.

Find it here.

Surviving businesses demand smarter partnership

Foundations Conference: recap part 3

Editor’s note: This is the third and final post recapping and expounding upon the information that was shared at the Foundations Conference presented by Hanley Wood in late September. The first focused on the economic outlook for the commercial and residential construction industries, and the second centered on some interesting market research surrounding trends in different geographic markets.

I’ve saved the most fascinating portion of the seminar for last. In an effort to bring some real-world focus to the conference, a roundtable panel discussion was conducted during the seminar. The moderators asked quite a few questions, but the floor really belonged to the manufacturers, whose questions sparked great discussion.

The panel consisted of:

  • A commercial architect
  • A professional sales/distribution exec
  • A builder
  • A remodeler who does larger remodeling projects as well as quick repair projects

Overall, the feeling of cautious optimism was echoed here, as well as throughout the entire two-day event.

Surviving business owners take charge

A common theme throughout the whole roundtable was that the panelists are not passive business owners. They are very forward-thinking and invest in the future of their business. It is, quite frankly, how they survived the housing bust. They all felt that this was very important for success. The housing market has changed dramatically in the last five years, and future survival is dependent upon adapting to this new model. One consequence of the slowed housing industry is that many contractors, skilled laborers, etc., moved on to other jobs in entirely different industries during the downturn. A good number of these workers are re-entering the housing industry and need to update and refresh their skills.

YouTube, social media help connect with customers

The builder on the panel, DSLD Homes, is incorporating a value-add to their customers by teaming up with building-product manufacturers to create a YouTube channel. Videos on the channel will explain proper maintenance and replacement of specific items in the home to help ensure long-lasting satisfaction.

Social media is an important tool for this group, which makes sense given their forward-thinking approach. They look for content from manufacturers to share, and they view any touchpoint as a value-add. They do not want to be intrusive, however. Being respectful of the audience was important.

Residential homebuyers slow to embrace green benefits

Green is becoming expected in commercial building, but it is slow to become the norm in the residential market. It’s viewed as expensive, and an “amenities first” approach often puts green second in the minds of residential homebuyers. The builder said that he works green products and benefits into many projects without out the homeowner knowing. All said that they follow the legislation closely but don’t go above and beyond unless specifically asked.

Strengthening partnerships: how to connect and communicate

Part of the panel discussion focused on the best ways to connect and communicate with the targets represented on the panel. All are definitely looking for support from manufacturers, such as shareable content; online tools that align with the overall brand; how-to content (installation, fixing, servicing); testimonials and case studies; CEUs; and new product training. They also value manufacturer support of key associations (AIA, NAHB, etc.) and general thought leadership in the manufacturer’s respective industry.

Takeaways for marketers

Many of the strategies and the tactical deliverables we recommend to clients in the building-products industry support these ideas—such as market/audience-specific emails, print and online ads that complement each other and focus on value, etc. But we can’t be complacent.

Our clients’ customers are not resting on their laurels and sitting passively waiting for the housing market to improve. With that in mind, it’s incumbent upon manufacturers to be as forward-thinking as their customers. It’s good to take calculated risks that can provide a measurable result.

Related posts:
Vertical market impact
Young interior designers discuss relationships with manufacturing companies

8 ways to host a boring, lackluster event

Or, how to ignore ExactTarget’s example

As working professionals, we’ve all attended good events where our basic needs are met, the speakers are competent, and we come back to the office with a few nuggets of useful information. We’ve also attended bad events, where we get lost trying to find the room and the presenters read endless stats straight from their text-heavy slides.

But when we get the opportunity to attend a truly GREAT event, it stands out. These kinds of events are rare gems. I got to attend one of these great events last week: ExactTarget’s annual user conference, Connections, at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

These folks really know how to host a top-notch event. Not only did I come away inspired and with lots of great digital marketing knowledge, but many other aspects of the conference helped to take it over the top.

But if you want to ignore ExactTarget’s example, just do these eight things:

1. Branding? Forget that. Want to confuse people? Throw consistency to the wind and use every color under the sun for your event materials. While it can be tempting to get creative and make full use of a multicolor palette, sometimes you get the most bang for your buck if you just embrace your signature color. It makes you hard to forget. ExactTarget’s primary brand color is orange, and boy, do they own it.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff: Event planning can be overwhelming. But your guests do notice when you’ve put thought into the little details that make their experience unique. Do you know what I heard people at Connections talking about right off the bat? The dispensers of orange soap in the restrooms. Another little detail I appreciated: at registration, they offered travel-size bottles of dishsoap so we could clean the reusable (orange) water bottles in our swag bags.

3. Let your guests fend for themselves: If your event takes place in the one and only room in the building, sticking a sign on an easel may be sufficient. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s never been to your facility, though. From the moment I arrived at the JW Marriott—where the conference occupied three floors of meeting space—at no time did I question that I was in the right place. ExactTarget had signage everywhere directing guests to the right locations: outside, in the lobby, overhead, behind the registration desk, on the tables in Starbucks… When you have 4,000 people to corral, clear directions are important.

4. Cut costs in the food budget: Hungry, thirsty people are distracted and lethargic. Want to ensure your guests are paying attention to the presentation? Make sure they’re sufficiently caffeinated and their stomachs aren’t growling. Snacks don’t have to be fancy to make people happy, and to help you cover the expense, you can make it a sponsorship opportunity. For example, during two separate breaks at Connections, they offered us single-serving bags of trail mix and chocolate-covered pretzels—emblazoned with a partner’s logo.

5. Choose a facility that doesn’t offer wi-fi access: iPhones, iPads, tablets, laptops… Your attendees will be bringing multiple connected devices, and they will use them simultaneously. Make sure your facility’s wi-fi will be able to handle the load ahead of time, because people do get irritated when they can’t connect.

6. Ignore social media: If your event is something small and for internal audiences only, then by all means, don’t worry about incorporating social media in your plan. But when you have a great event, people want to talk about it. Let your attendees be your publicists by clearly communicating where they can find you on social media and establishing event-related hashtags.

7. Fail at Marketing 101: You’re a marketer—you know people respond to incentives. If you want people to fill out your feedback surveys or be your brand’s publicists, give them an incentive. Money and gadgets are easy bets. On the last day of Connections, I noticed people wearing orange (of course) tshirts with ExactTarget’s user-community name, 3sixty, on them. Were they wearing them just because they wanted to? Perhaps. But the more likely reason was because of incentives like this:

It’s a great combination of incentive + event hashtags, and a nice reason not to forget to use the basics you learned in Marketing 101.

8. Entertainment? What’s that? One way to take your event from expected to exceptional is to think in terms of hosting guests, not just attendees. Treat them like friends and help make their stay in your city more enjoyable. While cocktails and dinner parties are expected and necessary, get creative—some of the extracurricular events ExactTarget organized:

  • Live entertainment: The enviable budget of Connections included an exclusive concert at Victory Field by The Fray and a midnight concert by Mayer Hawthorne. Very few events can organize evening entertainment of that magnitude, but it’s the idea that counts: can you arrange for some discount or free tickets to a performance? Or bring in a local band or performance group? How about tickets to a sporting event?
  • Pub crawl: Take the cocktails offsite and give your guests a walking tour of your city. Plan it ahead of time with the bar owners and treat your guests as VIPs.
  • Morning run: Not all activities need to happen in the evening. Your more health-conscious attendees (probably those who didn’t pub-crawl the night before) will appreciate organized fitness activities. It can be as simple as establishing a meeting time and place to go for a run, like 7:00 a.m. in the lobby of the hotel.

Events of every size and scope can be extraordinary. It’s less about budget and more about the consideration you show your guests.

So tell me: What tips would you offer for hosting a great event?

Humans have personalities. Robots don’t.

A brand’s personality makes it unique

I love a great, entertaining movie. Action, adventure, drama, romance, comedy… I have favorites in just about every genre.

But there are two kinds of movies I purposely stay away from: Dog movies, because I can’t stand to see a dog in peril—and 99% of the time the dog in the movie will be in peril. And robot movies, because they seriously creep me out. I’m all for advancing technology, but I’ve seen enough films to believe that we probably shouldn’t be trying to create artificially intelligent machines.

One thing that (for now) separates robots from humans is the machine’s lack of a personality.

Brands are made of people

Until robots become entrepreneurs, all brands today have humans behind them. So a brand should have a personality—a combination of personable characteristics that defines it. Because of the unique makeup of the humans inside it, no two brands can be exactly alike.

And yet many brands are afraid to let that personality shine—even if that personality could be the key element that draws a customer in.

Personality makes each brand unique

I’m not talking about going crazy—a brand can take expression in baby steps, gradually becoming more comfortable with sharing its personality. But take this recent Twitter exchange between AMC Theatres and Oreo: These two brands, in knowing themselves and their audiences, and allowing flexibility in their social media presences, saw amazing engagement not when they engaged with their customers, but when they engaged with each other.

It’s no secret that movie theatres don’t want you bringing outside food and drink into the theatre. They want you to buy your sweets and salties from them. But it’s also no secret that people sneak in food anyways.

But rather than put a corporate smack-down on Oreo—or ignoring it entirely—when the cookie brand asked a question of its Twitter followers about sneaking cookies into a movie, AMC Theatre’s Twitter voice, Shane Adams, had the freedom to show some personality. And Oreo’s Twitter author responded in kind, leading to both brands garnering positive attention among fans, followers and marketers alike.

Adams shared the background story and his thoughts following the exchange on his blog afterward, summarizing it perfectly: “If you’re a brand representative in social spaces, be sure that you understand your brand voice. Fight for an amount of autonomy where it makes sense so you can be agile and respond not just to customer service-related questions, but to the pop culture zeitgeist as well.”

Take a page from Oreo and AMC Theatres’ books

What we can all learn from this exchange, B2B and B2C brands and stewards alike:

  • Put people you trust in positions to represent your brand
  • Trust those people to represent you well, and let them do their jobs
  • Brands are made of people, so they shouldn’t sound like robots. People have personalities.

So go on. Embrace your humanness.

Because who wants a world where scenes like this become commonplace?

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There is no General Public

Even large audiences have unique qualities

A co-worker and I recently volunteered to help a local organization judge communication and marketing plans, campaigns and tactics for another state’s annual awards. We judged roughly 10 of the nearly 100 entries, and were shocked by the number of communication and marketing professionals who felt their campaign, plan or tactic was geared towards the “general public.”

Let me make this clear, there is no such thing as the “general public.”

Even the campaigns for the current Presidential candidates and a new brand of sugar-free fruit snacks are not targeted to general audiences, but rather specific groups of people. You would never launch a new product or initiative and toss it out into the world with hopes that it sticks to anyone who will listen.

Third-graders and baby boomers have different interests

One of the entries we reviewed was for an education institution that claimed a certain tactic was targeted toward the “general public.” My co-worker asked me what I thought about it, and my response was simple: “Would my eight-year-old niece be interested in this? No. Therefore, general public is an inappropriate audience.” My niece has zero interest in what’s going on beyond third grade and her gymnastics class. What might have made more sense in this particular case, would have been a defined audience of 18-54 year old men and women, living within a certain distance, who were interested in pursuing an education that could be flexible with the realities of working adults.

This is just one example of what we encountered while judging, but the unfortunate part is that out of the roughly 10 entries we reviewed, only two had well defined audiences. How does this happen? How can smart, educated marketing and communication professionals forget one of the most critical elements to any successful plan, campaign or tactic — the audience?

Define your audience, even when it’s broad

When identifying the target audience for a communication or marketing campaign, or specific tactics, it’s critical to define the audience. Which gender should receive your message; should they be within a certain age range; do location/proximity, education or wealth matter? What about psychographics? These are all questions that must be answered in order for any campaign or tactic to succeed.

In today’s hurry-up-and-get-things-done environment, it’s easy to maybe not review materials or documents as closely as we should, and if someone has worked with an organization or client for a long period of time, it’s easy to forget to communicate the fine details of the target audience, especially in a short award submission.

I’m confident that if most of the professionals who submitted the award entries went back and thought more about the question, “Who was the target audience?” they could come up with a more specific segment of the population than the general public. But, regardless, all of us need to keep the audience in mind when putting together materials and communication and marketing plans.

Frankly, my dear, I’m exhausted

A media director in Olympic-coverage withdrawal

The Olympics almost killed me.  I love watching the Games, both Winter and Summer, and really, I didn’t want to miss a thing. With over 4,000 hours of available viewing by NBC properties on multiple platforms, I didn’t have to. I did, however, have to stay up way past my bedtime for almost two weeks straight, and I could not help but launch my NBC Olympics apps (two of them!) constantly.  Spoilers?  Bring them on.  Live feeds?  I might have watched team handball while working at my desk.  I’ll not lie.

The results of this?  An epic TV, digital and social media hangover, and I know I’m not alone.  In my media-saturated mind, I feel I know swimmer Nathan Adrian personally, and since he was born the day before my daughter, I feel like they’re soul mates and should date.  I legitimately shed a tear when Jordyn Wieber didn’t make the all-around gymnastics finals, even though I cheered Aly Raisman when she did.  Her parents honestly wore me out.  Get them off my screens, please—all four of my screens.  Bela Karolyi is wet-your-pants funny and a great ambassador for his sport.

Keep up with four screens? Bring it on.

I enjoyed this sportsfest from the comfort of my command center – my chair in the family room – surrounded by my laptop, iPad and iPhone.  The dogs were upset that they had nowhere to sit.  To me, the actual competitions were secondary to the polls, trivia, Tweets, and personal backstories that I inhaled 24/7.  Finally, the icing on my five-ring cake was the constant photos and video of Kate, Will and Harry (who I still maintain looks surprising like James Hewitt – just sayin’).

Constant connectivity: help or hindrance for engagement?

Has this constant connectivity become too much?  More importantly, does it help you reach and engage your target without wearing out your welcome?  It’s a fine line, for sure.  P&G did a great job leveraging so many touch points with their “Thank You, Mom” campaign. I never tired of it, no matter how many times I saw it or where it appeared, but I will admit to feeling a little like a failure as a mom because I didn’t raise an Olympian.

The consumer used to be a one-screen consumer.  Then with the advent of digital, you could reach them visually on two screens.  Now with mobile and tablets, you can reach your targets multiple times and in so many ways that the combinations can only be calculated in a 400-level stats class.  Studies tell us that your reach and engagement increases incrementally when you add another platform, but some companies are still slow to embrace the multi-platform strategy.  It’s incumbent on agency partners to understand the benefits of this strategy and help educate their clients.

I think I am in the homestretch of my Olympics-overload recovery.  Only 535 days until Sochi in 2014.  I bet by then there will be yet another new technology for me to embrace.

What was your experience during the Olympics? Did you plug in and monitor the events on multiple screens? Or did you try to avoid all time-delay spoilers and get your coverage via television?

Related reading:
The Games of the 30th Olympiad
Staggering social media statistics from the Olympics [Infographic]
Olympic sponsors go for gold online [Infographic]

The Games of the 30th Olympiad

17 days of sporting (and media) spectacle come to an end

I am a complete and total Olympics junkie. I will watch anything and everything, for hours on end. The stories are inspiring, and the competition is so fierce and exciting that you can’t help but have a lot of national pride. Of course no can have as much national pride as Brazilians. They travel for their sports anywhere in world. Those people are bananas, and the Games in Rio de Janeiro are going to be off the hook.

Personal stories captured us all

Of course it’s easy to root for Gabby Douglas or Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte or Missy Franklin because they get a lot of quality media coverage. But I think it’s equally fascinating to hear the stories of those who might not be household names. Like Kim Rhode: she set an Olympic record, and tied a world record, in women’s skeet shooting by hitting 99 of 100 targets—and she became the first American ever to win five medals in an individual event in five consecutive Games. The women’s water polo team won a gold for the first time and were unstoppable. I won’t be watching water polo for another four years, but rest assured I’ll watching for the Americans in Rio.

How about runner Galen Rupp winning the silver in the 10,000 meters? American long-distance running is not at the forefront of our track-and-field repertoire, but our athletes were pretty solid in London. The resurgence of U.S. diving was also a welcome treat. Multiple medals and capping it off with gold for David Boudia in the men’s 10m platform was a great way to end the diving competition, despite Cynthia Potter being an insufferable announcer. Terrific stories were easy to find!

Advertisers brought their A-game

From a media and marketing perspective, these Games were definitely a fascinating fortnight. The P&G “Moms” campaign is incredibly touching, and the real-time additions of moms in the stands rooting for their children was top-notch. Great spots came from Visa, too. Kellogg’s, in particular, stuck with me, and I hope they capitalize on the power of the campaign that debuted during the Olympics.

The “Social Games”

The power of social media was also incredibly prevalent in these Games. Athletes were Tweeting with anyone who would listen and making friends with people all over the world. Facebook statuses, including my own, were consistently focused on the Games.

Constant coverage on multiple screens

The coverage was virtually constant, and you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing boxing or rowing or table tennis or even the modern pentathlon, which really isn’t very modern but is entirely interesting nevertheless. Any sport that involves swimming, pistol shooting, horseback show-jumping, cross-country running and fencing is one to watch. How does one get to be good at such a random cross-section of disciplines?

Now the Olympics are over, but luckily we only have to wait 18 months for the Winter Games, which are still exciting but not entirely the same. Rio is bound to put on a good show, and I can’t wait to see what they do.

However, they will not be able to close the Olympics with a reunion of the Spice Girls. How cool was that? It was pretty darn amazing to see all five “Spices” jumping out of cars and shouting “PEOPLE OF THE WORLD!!!” But did it seem like Victoria Beckham was not quite as into it as the others? Was it just me? I assume she decided that the other four have nothing else going on, so she’d throw them a bone. Bless her heart.

Kickin’ it old-school, in a digital world

Why it still makes sense to monitor your brand manually

In a digital world, we all have access to product reviews for those who have gone before. And sometimes we find the good, the bad and the ugly, both through “official” means and other ways.

The YouTube videos below review the Nike Fuel Band. The user took the time to record detailed videos of both his initial reaction to the product and his thoughts after using it. He asked questions like, “Is this product cool or just a gimmick? What is it like to open the packaging of this product?” and gave his opinion. Pros and cons. From a real person. A real customer.

Unboxing review:

Follow up, final review:

So, as marketers, what can we learn from this?  People are teesting your products. Contributing to your brand voice. And they aren’t afraid to tell the world what they think. They will tell anyone and everyone how your product stacks up to the competition, what they think of your packaging, even if you have a typo in your user manual.

Overwhelming for those of us who are in charge on owning a brand’s voice, huh?  There are lots of tools and services that you can utilize to automatically evaluate and monitor who is talking about your brand in social media and in the digital space. But sometimes, it is really beneficial to go old-school.  And just use our brains… and listen.

Google your brand. Search for your products and brands. Don’t just use an automatic tool/service, but use your mind, as well. What are you seeing? What are you hearing? You might be surprised.


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