Online Brand Management
We’ll admit it: We got a little verklempt when we watched the (now viral) video of Stanford physicist Andrei Linde get word of a major confirmation of his Big Bang research. Imagine working on a theory back in the 1980s, never expecting to live long enough to receive validation of your idea, only to have it knock on your front door. In shock, Linde asked his colleague delivering the news to repeat it (twice) and still, like a good scientist, only allows himself the barest of hope that the results could be real. After all, that’s what we want in a physicist: A daring combination of dreamer and skeptic, searching for evidence until the very end, more interested in adding knowledge to man’s understanding of the universe than in proving himself right. Guys like Linde spend their lives striving to contribute a tiny drop of truth to what they know will require oceans of effort over hundreds of millions of years (assuming humans are around that long).
That’s one helluva long game. And it got us thinking: What do we hope to add to that ocean? True, not everyone can (or should) be theoretical physicists. We’re not all going to unlock major secrets of time and space. But each of us is here for only so long, and each of us has a unique set of experiences and talents that, when combined, produce insights. At least, they can produce insights when people carve out enough time to read, reflect and just… be. Some of those insights might lead to a new level of achievement at work. Others might lead to a work of art. Still more might lead to a breakthrough in terms of understanding and supporting a loved one — or even understanding and accepting ourselves.
Regardless of what your personal insights produce, they’re not going to happen by themselves. They require intentional investment of time and energy over months and years. But time is a luxury that so few of us have anymore. Today’s culture of immediacy rewards action rather than reflection, breadth over depth and speed above all else. The dominance of emails, texts, blogs and social media as our preferred forms of communication prove that we’ve become all about the short game. Naturally, insight-building time gets pushed aside unless insulated from such attacks.
So each of us has a choice: How do we want to spend our lives? If you’re interested in adding your own tiny drop of truth to the ocean of existence, it’s time to take stock of how you currently spend your time and delegate the distractions. And if you’re in charge of your company’s marketing or public relations, a great place to start is to hire someone else to deal with your social media management and blogging. Why? Because very few tweets will go down in history. Cute though they are, emoji-filled Facebook comments can’t advance our knowledge of humanity. We’re even willing to bet that no LOL cat meme will ever be pointed to as the turning point in a political revolution. In other words, don’t you have better things to do with your time?
We don’t know much about the Big Bang or about the intentions, if any, of a creator-type figure or force in our universe. But we do know that a life lived with intent is crucial to developing life’s long game. And we do this stuff for a living — not just so that you don’t have to, but because it’s where our unique blend of talents and experiences led us (sigh). We like doing it, and it shows in our timeliness, our spot-on copy and our creative tie-ins — all things atypical of social media and blogs run by people who would rather be doing something else.
So when you’re ready to leave the social stuff to us and start working toward your own insights, call us. We’ll jump right in and inform your audience about your products or services (with or without LOL cats per your needs) and leave the big thinking to you.
Today, we’re going to talk about how turning up the transparency volume on your social media channels can help your business get and keep more customers. After all, that’s why you’re reading this blog. (It’s OK… We know that’s why you’re here. Full disclosure: That’s why we’re writing it.)
It all boils down to one word: Authenticity. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube and blogs may be unique platforms, but they’re all part of the social media movement, which is about consumer-to-consumer interactions rather than top-down messaging. Sure, you have some static content on these channels, but the great majority of the work your company does on social media is via interactions with customers and potential customers. You’re mostly answering to them rather than pushing out information. And that key difference is what sets social media apart from other forms. Word of mouth, ratings and comments play a huge role in this part of the world, allowing potential customers to feel as though they’re getting the straight scoop. Social media also provides a public forum for your company to get credit for the amazing customer service you do, day in and day out. (You do have an amazing and transparent customer service platform, right? With eighty four percent of consumers telling Nielsen that they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from people they know, and social science proving that customers who have a bad experience will tell five people but those who have a good experience only tell two, it’s clear that the cost of going the extra mile to make a customer happy is far less costly than not doing so. If you don’t have such a system in place, see to that first and get back to us.)
Transparent social media interactions also are key to establishing personal relationships with potential brand ambassadors. Let’s say you manufacture dog toys. Your Facebook wall serves as a platform for your brand enthusiasts to spread the love (Fido LOVES his toy!) or report a problem (The toy broke). The first case is easy: You thank the fan for their enthusiasm, throw in a specific reference to their post so they don’t feel like they’re getting canned corporate speak, and everybody goes home in a limousine. The second case is slightly harder — but it has way more potential for converting that customer into a true brand believer: When a customer comes to you with a complaint, resolve it above his or her satisfaction in a polite and straightforward manner. Treat them like people, because they are (and you are, too). Simply doing this sets a company apart from its competition faster than any Olympically-expensive advertising campaign can. Solve their problem and reaffirm their belief in the human race and suddenly you’re buddies! They’ll do anything for you, including help you build brand awareness among their inner circle.
One last word for those of you still not using social media (or only occasionally checking in as an afterthought): As more and more traditional and new media advertising vehicles get filtered, spammed, do-not-call listed or otherwise avoided by your target market, businesses have fewer opportunities to inform their publics. If you don’t have the kind of time necessary to devote to relationship-driven, transparent social media practices, hire someone who does. Full disclosure: We just happen to know a few.
You are what you read. So we’re glad you’re reading our blog, packed with content tips and social media management tricks. After all, we’re experts. But what else should you be reading to ensure you get a balanced diet of noggin nutrients to maximize your digital engagement strategies?
Social media watcher Mark Hayes recommends Social Media Examiner, an information-dense, main dish type of resource. It’s the meatloaf of social media information consumption, if you will.
“This user-friendly site offers valuable tips for leveraging your opportunities on Facebook, Google+, Twitter et al,” he writes. “Whether you’re using Facebook for contests, Twitter for quickie ads or message forums to provide links to sites, you’ll find ways to enhance your marketing strategies. Social Media Examiner offers everything from advice on how to deal with website emergencies (such as security issues) to how to set realistic goals for your marketing campaign.”
Favorite side dishes around the office here at Brandsplat include Social Media Today for timely insight and analysis (like a spinach salad to add muscle to your social media plans), 12 Most for list-building inspiration (sweet potato fries, anyone?) and the smart, once-weekly Brain Pickings for discovering interesting new things (our version of spicy Indian-inspired green beans).
We also like Mashable for dessert. You don’t want too much of this sugary, image-dominated sweetness, but it’s a nice way to wrap up your reading. If you’re more of a cheese plate aficionado, try Forbes’ Social Media section. Less fluff, more substance.
Still, like any good diet, variety and moderation are the keys to good health. You wouldn’t want to consume information from just one of these sources and consider yourself well-informed. And don’t forget to exercise: Take some of the ideas you read out for a walk with you. Clear your mind and use them as a springboard for fun ideas you’d like to implement in your own diet (ahem, website). Then give us a call and put us to the test as to how we can help you realize those dreams.
But what say you, readers? Which blogs, news sites or other web-based sources do you rely on to ensure you’ve got a healthy amount of social media know-how? Sound off in the comments section below!
At midnight on Thursday, Queen Bey wowed the entertainment world with the news that she was releasing her fifth solo album. The self-titled work represents a first in many categories — including, in a nod to the visual aspect of music entertainment, more videos than songs — but will be remembered for its stealth: No one outside of her recording label, Columbia, knew to expect it. And where did she break the news? On Instagram, with a short promotional video for the project and the one-word caption “Surprise!”
That’s it. No weeks of dribbling out singles, no media interviews, no daytime talk show appearances.
According to a press release from her label, Beyoncé herself was behind the change. Columbia called her decision ”an unprecedented strategic move by the artist to deliver music and visual content directly to her fans when she wants to and how she wants to, with no filter.”
“This unique approach allows music fans to be the first to listen, view, engage and form their own opinions void of any middleman,” the release continues. “Stripped of gimmicks, teasers and marketing campaigns, this project is truly about art before hype.”
Regardless of where you stand on whether the lack of pre-release marketing is a gimmick all its own, the popularity of appealing directly to consumers through social media can’t be denied.
“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” Beyoncé is quoted as saying in the release. “I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.”
And her fans, of course, ate it up. On Monday, Apple reported that her album has become the fastest-selling album ever on the iTunes Store with an unprecedented 828,773 albums sold in just its first three days. In addition, it broke the U.S. first week album sales record with 617,213 sold and soared to No. 1 in 104 countries.
But what does it say about the state of consumer-centered marketing? Simply put, consumers are eager to play a central role in spreading the word about their favorite brands.
“This is very much in line with what’s happening right now in marketing, which is this idea of marketing without marketing, or anti-marketing, where you appear to be just delivering your product directly to the consumer without any mediation,” Jason King, a musician and professor at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, told National Public Radio. ”This seems like a direct gift from the celebrity to the consumer.”
A gift that keeps on giving, judging by the 1.2 million tweets posted in the first 12 hours. Why not let your army move your product? But what do you say, readers? Are you convinced that relying on your brand’s social media followers to be the main drivers of your marketing efforts will pay off? Let us hear from you in the comments section!
Digital brand engagement never had it so good. Just when we feared social media marketing was the last unicorn, gamification came along to restore our hope in humanity. But you’re still not sure if it’s right for your company. Well, get off the fence, because adding gamification to your site will help engage and motivate visitors — all in the name of fun! — and it’s not as hard as it looks.
First, for those of us who don’t attend GSummit, just what is gamification? Simply stated, it’s what happens when you add aspects of game playing to other parts of life. Remember how great it was when your second grade teacher had you earn marbles for good behavior? You know, the ones which she added to a jar which, once filled, got you a class pizza party? Even. Funner. For the purpose of digital brand engagement, gamification is a reward system that leverages the natural desires of your customers to compete, achieve, earn status, express themselves and experience closure — you like it already, right? — while learning all about your products or services. Points, badges, free stuff, bragging rights… You get the idea. Gamification motivates, entertains, even distracts — in a word, engages — your target audience for you, making learning fun.
But how does one employ aspects of gamification, especially as a small or mid-sized business? Good news: It’s more than just bells and whistles.
According to Search Engine Watch’s Howard Jacobson, the key is to concentrate on “tiny conversion opportunities.”
“Treat every visitor engagement with a button, link, form and scroll bar as a micro-conversion, a mini-outcome leading to the desired one,” a sale, Jacobson says.
That doesn’t mean you need to set up an elaborate game on your website that features your products. It just means you must learn what motivates your customer when designing or tweaking your webpage.
“Every click should be rewarded,” he adds. “What exactly does your visitor want at the moment they click the ‘learn more’ link? Figure it out and give it to them.”
And once you think they’re into you — i.e., ready to give you their email address in exchange for more information — add gamification features to that process. As the visitor enters information into each field, greet it with a smiley face (or a frowny face should they opt not to include the information). As anyone who has been close enough to hear its siren song can tell you, it’s an incredibly seductive thing.
“The small rewards are not meaningful enough to get me to do anything I don’t already want to do,” Jacobson adds. “It’s not like you could use checks and Xs to get me to sign up for the Miley Cyrus Online School of Dance. Yet they grease the skids and provide tiny momentum boosts that can keep me going in the face of momentary hesitation or unanticipated interruption.”
The Internet for the win (again)!
But what say you, readers? Are you game-happy or happier left alone? Sound off in the comments section below!
Here’s another little something we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving: The emergence of an acronym that might finally help us beat back the demands of search engine optimization (SEO). Online Audience Optimization, or OAO, echoes what we’ve been saying all along: Write it well, and they will come.
Essentially, OAO utilizes a massive realization: People like to read and learn and explore, not just search. You know this. We here at Brandsplat know this. And now it seems the rest of the Internet is catching on, too. It really is as simple as it should be: Write something worth reading, worth sharing, and then step back and watch it fly. So unless you are uploading a catalog and want Google to know that your super-special square lacquered trays come in fifteen different colors, including aubergine, tangerine and aquamarine, you don’t have to count characters or cram all the keywords into the first half of your sentences.
So what do you need to know to take advantage of this new approach?
1. Relevance is an inside job — OAO allows us to focus on our message rather than playing a game of cat-and-mouse with our prospective audience members. If something is key to communicating with your audience — be it a single word, a phrase or a philosophy, it ought to be communicated first to all members of your internal team, including your webmaster and content writer. Every word on your website should be relevant, says Linda Ruth at Media Shepherd — to your audience, not just to Google’s algorithm of the week. By sharpening your vision, YOU ensure that you’re as relevant to your audience as possible.
2. Yes, Virginia, you really can stop obsessing over keyword density — Google’s most recent update, Hummingbird, continues the company’s quest for its algorithms to act as human as possible, meaning it now looks increasingly for organic content that provides real information rather than list a bunch of words. Yes, you could go out and learn all about long tail subjects, but wouldn’t it make more sense to continue writing as a human for other humans? Why not stay one step ahead of the machine?
3. Audience participation remains vital — Either way you slice it, both SEO and OAO reward time that your audience spends interacting with your brand. SEO puts that amount of time into a calculation which boosts your search results ranking, while OAO’s rewards are more intrinsic (visitors stick around and buy! Imagine that!). Either way, your site is strongest with fresh content that gets visitors talking, be it through comments, polls or sharing across platforms on social media.
4. You’re still not expected to do it all yourself — One potential catch related to the rise of OAO is that many people will make the mistake of believing they now can handle all of the content production for their company. After all, they’re human, and they know how to write for other humans. And certainly this is the case. But what they probably don’t have is more time than they used to before they heard the term “online audience optimization,” meaning that no matter how human they are, and no matter how well they write, they’re still going to have just as much work in their inboxes as they did before. That’s why the smartest of humans hire us to assist them. You direct, we execute, they visit and BAM! Everybody goes home in a limousine.
But you tell us, dear readers: What is it you’ll miss the least about translating your thoughts into Googleze? Sound off in the comments section below!
With the tagline “Nobody’s Unpredictable,” global independent market research company Ipsos makes a bold statement about what their potential clients can expect: that with the powerful research Ipsos brings to its prediction-making, anyone’s actions can be understood. Ipsos provides its clients with insight into six areas: advertising; marketing; media, content and technology; loyalty, quality and customer relationship management; opinion polls and social research; and survey management, data collection and delivery. Once Ipsos’s clients understand why the individuals in their target markets act the way they do, they can better select the best messaging to engage them.
“Nobody’s Unpredictable” also extends to the company’s North American blog, Ipsos Ideas Spotlight. It provides — predictably — just enough insight into the work Ipsos does to whet their potential clients’ appetites. Ideas Spotlight covers a wide array of subjects and frequently makes use of the knowledge experts inside the company who author the posts, from who’s watching what on TV (*cough* … Walking Dead … *cough*) to whether Mystery Shoppers or customer satisfaction surveys provide better insight into how a retail outlet is performing (the answer: they’re not interchangeable… use both!). Blog readers don’t get the same in-depth information the company provides to its clients, but the fact that the blogs leave us wanting more is no accident. They keep Ipsos’s name top-of-mind so that we already know the answer when we find ourselves asking, “Who can we call to find out more about that?” The media also take note of the snappily-written bits and keep Ipsos experts programmed into their mobile phones for regular interviews.
And while we here at Brandsplat think it’s a great idea to feature posts written by your employees, not every company is set up that way. Even if your company has subject matter experts who write well and manage to find the time to sit down and regularly compose a blog (so, yeah… maybe just Ipsos?), it’s still a good business decision to turn to content experts to help keep your blog fresh and interesting. We happen to know a few good ones.
As Ipsos would say, there’s nothing unpredictable about success.
Today’s big brand, Fiskars, dominates its market segment without necessarily being a household name, proving that depth can beat out breadth any day. Fiskars sells scissors. How do you get people excited about scissors, you ask? Well, if you’re Fiskars and in need of blog marketing, you turn to the crazy world of crafters. You know, all those knitters, quilters, crocheters, scrapbookers and upcyclers — in other words, the people who use scissors a lot!
Back in 2005, Fiskars was looking for a way to connect with the crafters that use its products. The company went on a multi-city casting call, looking for the loudest and proudest crafters in the country. They selected four scrapbooking fanatics who gladly exhibit their craft-love (along with the tools they use), and asked them to blog for the company. Customer engagement, coupled with brand engagement, has turned the brand’s blog into the giant crafter’s community that it is today.
Fiskateers — which is both the name of the company’s blog and what Fiskars’ faithful followers call themselves — uses blogging to generate excitement around the many different kinds of crafting. The blog features project spotlights, events, challenges, contests and even tutorials. Events and contests are tailor-made for blogging, and using other social media to promote the events to point people back to the blog is just smart business. The Fiskars Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram pages are a crafter’s heaven, with each one promoting the iconic orange-handled scissors that we know and love.
Chances are your company is selling something more compelling than scissors. So why isn’t your company blog as great-looking and useful as Fiskateers? Maybe you need to focus less on the numbers side of the business and more on how your customers use your products or services. Maybe you need an agency to help you ghostwrite some blogs. Either way, the more you know about your customers — the more you embrace and empower them — the better your blog will be. But don’t take our word for it; give it a try and see what happens. And let us know what you discover in the comments below.
If you only read five awe-inspiring, toe-tapping, marker-moving stories this week, make it our weekly list of five things you might have missed!
1.) Sweet Screams: Fandango wants fans to scream their heads off on social media. According to ClickZ, “From October 1 to 18, Scream-Off fans can submit videos of their best ‘blood-curdling, skin-crawling screams’ on Instagram or Twitter, with the hashtag #FandangoScreamContest and @Fandango.” Fandango will pick a Scream of the Day and feature it on the site before moving it to the next round of competition. The best screamer gets a stay at the legendary Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, where The Shining was filmed.
2.) IPOh!: Late Thursday afternoon, Twitter filed its paperwork with U.S. securities regulators in hopes of being a social media IPO that really delivers. Twitter is hoping that the ever-exploding mobile market will give it a leg up on Facebook. Social media marketers can expect Twitter’s decision to go public to mean a larger emphasis on advertising and mobile-friendly campaigns. But Twitter (or TWTR, as it will be known on the stock ticker) has a long way to go until it can bring in the ad bucks like Google or Facebook, so it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
3.) Drawn Together: Beer maker Steinlager wants its consumers to “be the artist, not the canvas” in a new spot which shows a mischievous young man who draws on his friends who have had too much to drink. The smart and funny commercial is accompanied by a “be the artist” app which gives users a chance to make and share their own ink masterpieces.
4.) Adstagram: We knew it would come to this… Instagram announced this week that it would finally start delivering on the promise of introducing advertisements into U.S. feeds. Only a select group of brands that are already Instagram users will get to show ads first. The ads will slowly start appearing over the next few months. In contrast, complaints about the ads have already appeared on pretty much every other social network.
5.) Bless You: Wrapping up our list is a little slice of online video creation that perfectly mixes “eww” with “aww.” The fine folks at Kleenex remind us not to get caught without a tissue by using people with signs telling their true sneeze confessions. It’s a simple, short and very memorable spot for a brand on the verge of a hipper, lighter digital makeover.