Range of emotions

Back in September, we discussed how Facebook was considering giving users additional options to react to posts beyond the thumbs up / like button. As you probably heard last week, they finally did it! And just like the new feature itself, users – especially marketers – had a range of reactions to the development.

Most importantly: The long-anticipated change wasn’t simply a “dislike” button, as many had hoped for and requested. Instead, users can now select from a range of emotions – love, anger, stress, etc. – to better convey how a post makes them feel.

This has some marketers clicking the Stressed emoji. As we explained in September, their biggest fear is that Facebook has made it that much easier for users to react negatively.

Instead – as we also mentioned back in September – marketers should be welcoming the new system. For starters, they’ll get exposure to a richer and broader data set than they could previously access.

Secondly, it creates richer and broader opportunities when it comes to content strategy. Too often, marketers turn Facebook content into fishing expeditions, looking to lure in as many likes as possible. The new system lends itself to more versatile storytelling and more opportunities to connect with audiences on an emotional level – and, in turn, strengthen the emotional connection to their brand.

Bottom line: Like most things in life, the new system is not without its challenges and potential pitfalls. This doesn’t mean it should be feared by marketers, however; it should be welcomed as an opportunity to broaden their content strategy and tell more compelling stories. And that, as we said in September, deserves a big thumb’s up.

You can read our full post on the topic from September.

Mad science

Marketing, the saying goes, is part art and part science. Good marketing, the saying also goes, is determining how much of each part a client or campaign requires. Social media, it turns out, is becoming increasingly valuable when it comes to figuring out how much science is needed for success.

Of course, amassing and mining all that data used to be a Herculean – if not impossible – task for most in the marketing world. Social media has made the process of data analysis much more accessible, efficient and effective. You just have to know how – and where to look.

After all, each like, share, comment, retweet and regram on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc., adds to the growing, valuable pile of social data attached to your cumulative social presence. Facebook Insights, for example, makes it easy to see and understand everything about your activity and presence. That includes making it easier to answer the questions most commonly asked by marketers:

  • Are we connecting with the right people? Social sites make demographic data of your followers available, which helps to ensure the people you’re talking with on social media are the people you want to be talking with – your customers and other key audiences. Further, they are getting increasingly sophisticated at providing psychographic data as well.
  • What’s generating the most interest and engagement? You can view data attached to the content you’re sharing on a post-by-post level to determine which types of content generates the most engagement among your audience. Better understanding which content is most effective – and which content isn’t – helps you answer the next question.
  • What do we need to change? The additional beauty of social data is that it enables you to make changes or refinements to your strategy in real-time. If we find content that is performing markedly better than everything else, how can we adjust our content strategy to increase its role? Conversely, how can we minimize or eliminate the content that isn’t working? This can apply to every detail and aspect – even to the days and times you post.
  • Is what we’re doing working? Answering this question is the ultimate goal when leveraging social data, and answering each of the questions above, ideally, makes it easier to answer this one. It’s important to remember that this question – and how you answer it – is fluid and ongoing. Set touchpoints on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly) to sit down, dive into the data on a deeper level and reach this conclusion.

Data plays a crucial role in understanding the science part of the marketing game. Social media has democratized the process of compiling and understanding data – and using it to positively impact your overall marketing strategy and business success. That’s where the art comes in.

 

Getting in the game

It’s Super Bowl week, you guys! While most people get excited about the game, our focus is on the real stars of the show – the ads, of course.

Advertising in the Super Bowl is a wee bit on the pricey side, if you hadn’t heard; an average 30-second spot in this year’s game is now pushing $5 million. This astronomical cost helps to explain why so many advertisers want to get the most out of their spend by creating ads that will go viral, extending their shelf life indefinitely online. It also explains why most brands are eliminated from participating in advertising’s biggest day of the year – well, officially, at least.

This is mostly because a growing number of people don’t just watch the game – and its ads – on their TVs anymore. Increasingly, they’re bringing a second screen (phone, tablet, laptop) into their viewing experience. This second screen enables them to discuss and debate in realtime with their social networks via Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. It creates a conversation around the single most watched that is instantaneous, intimate and entertaining all at once.

It also creates ample opportunities for enterprising marketers. Sure, you may not be able to drop a couple million on a 30-second spot, but you can still take advantage of the most captive audience of the year, using your brand’s official social media channels. Here are a couple of relatively easy ways to bolster your brand during the big game:

  • Offer your opinion. So you couldn’t afford an ad yourself. Big deal! You can still share your opinion on the all the ads shown throughout the game. Use humor to discuss what you like about each spot – and keep a running list of your favorites to share after the game wraps.
  • Home in on hashtags. To take full advantage of the sizable second-screen audience, observe which hashtags are “official” or most widely used, especially when it comes to the game’s ads. This extends the reach of your tweet or Facebook post or Instagram post beyond your traditional audience in an exponential way.
  • Put out a little play by play. Sure, we’re partial to the ads, but some people like watching the game, too! Offer commentary about the game, especially on big plays. As Oreo showed a couple of years ago, you can make a social media splash even when the lights go out.

It may cost you some time out of your Sunday evening, but marketers can score a touchdown for their brands in front of one of those things that are increasingly hard to come by in today’s decentralized media world – a massive, captive audience. And it won’t cost you $5 million.

Chief Executive Cheerleader

Much is discussed about the importance of brands identifying and engaging with key influencers – the prominent customers and other leaders that stand tall in their respective industries – and turning them into social advocates on behalf of its products and services. And for good reason – their support lends an authenticity to your marketing that is hard to produce otherwise. We so often cast our gaze outward when identifying these influencers, however, that we sometimes forget the most powerful ones may be right in front of us.

Creating brand ambassadors and advocates out of our own employees offers significant upside for brands. After all, as this column recently reminded us, employees are a company’s most valuable and important asset. Beyond that, however, they are often regarded as its most trusted influencers.

At the same time, enabling employees to become brand advocates is not without its risks and potential pitfalls. To ensure employees are not just enabled but empowered to act as social advocates, marketers need to make sure employee advocates:

  • Know the rules. Establish an official social media policy for anyone and everyone who may represent the brand in any capacity via social media, and make sure everyone clearly understands it.
  • Know the story. It stands to reason that employee advocates should clearly know your brand’s voice and personality to ensure consistency of voice across all communications and touchpoints.
  • Know the game plan. Educate employee advocates on your marketing strategy – especially the role social plays in it – so they have objectives and goals in mind when developing content and engaging with audiences.
  • Are supported. Creating and/or curating high-quality content that reflects positively on your brand ensures employees are armed with the resources necessary to be consistent, compelling and sustainable in their activity.

The thought of ceding control to employee advocates can understandably make some marketers nervous. Done carefully and with proper planning and preparation, however, turning employees into social story-tellers can be a powerful, long-term marketing tool.

Search mission

For marketers, Facebook does a lot of things well. One thing it doesn’t do well for anyone, however, is search. Using the search function to actually find anything of value on Facebook – especially anything outside one’s own network of friends, family and page likes – has long been an exercise in futility for most, if not all, users. All of this all should change for the better very soon, as Facebook recently announced some big updates to its search function – and they could be of great help to marketers on the site.

Here’s the most important feature of SearchFYI, as Facebook is calling its new and improved tool: now, search results include posts from the entire Facebook universe, which is more than two trillion posts to date. Users will now be able to see search results across the entirety of content on Facebook, making it more of a true, Google-like search engine within the platform’s walled-off world.

Will this be a good thing for marketers? Absolutely. How and why? Well, that remains to be seen, especially as SearchFYI is just getting up and running. Even if it’s real implications for marketers aren’t fully clear just yet, SearchFYI does offer some immediate opportunities and reminders:

  • Content is king (forever and always, amen). As if you needed another reminder. Knowing your Facebook content will now be viewable to all users should emphasize having a solid content strategy and ensuring your page content is relevant, valuable and targeted.
  • Conversations in the key of life. With access to the full Facebook universe, marketers should be able to get a fuller, more comprehensive picture of conversations taking place around the keywords and phrases important to them. This includes keywords for their own brand/products/services, of course, but can also also include keywords for competitors, industry topics, thought leaders, etc.
  • One big ol’ happy focus group. Opening up all of Facebook to search gives marketers access to an amazing amount of input, feedback, insights, complaints, etc., about their products, services and brand. It will be ongoing and in real-time, making it the best kind of focus group you could imagine.
  • Facebook is still really, really important. Well, duh. This seems obvious, but it reinforces Facebook as a core foundation of just about any social media strategy for marketers.

A stronger search function on Facebook will not only help marketers be more successful on the platform; if they utilize it correctly, it can also help them be more successful marketers all-around and across all touchpoints.

 

Don’t hate me, bro!

You may have heard the news this week that Facebook is getting ready to unveil a “dislike” button. While the majority of users gave the news a big thumbs up – people have been clamoring for a dislike button on Facebook for almost as long as Facebook has been around – brands were less enthused. Now they have to worry about a deluge of dislikes? Should they dislike the dislike button?

First and foremost: The dislike button isn’t really a dislike button. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in announcing the feature, it’s more of an empathy/sympathy button. There are experiences/news/events people share on FB – the death of a loved one, loss of a job, injured child, etc. – where users want to commiserate, but the like button doesn’t seem appropriate. Now, users can share a frowny-face emoji or click a thumbs-down button, for example, for a “sad” post.

The ultimate goal, from Facebook’s perspective, is to give users more opportunities to interact with each other in more ways. Its goal is not to make it easier for users to trash or disparage brands – it’s those brands advertising on the site, after all, that keep FB in business. Does this mean brands shouldn’t be prepared for the button – should it come to full fruition – to be used in ways other than FB intends? Of course not. Conversely, does it mean brand pages will be overrun with dislikes on each post? Most likely not.

Remember: If someone wants to voice their displeasure with your brand, it’s already very easy for them to do so. They can leave a negative comment on any post. They can create a negative post on your page. They can publish a negative post on their own profile. They can like someone else’s negative comment or post. They’ve always had the means; this new feature – if it comes to be – would be just another way for them to voice criticism or complaint.

On the other hand, it can also be a way for brands to be more empathic, more personable, more human. It makes it easier to interact with their audience on a personal level, in turn strengthening their connection on an emotional level.

So is the dislike button adversarial Armageddon for brands? Almost certainly not. Is it something brands should be aware of and prepare for? It wouldn’t hurt. Can it be another opportunity to connect with your core audience in a meaningful way? Absolutely. And that, ultimately, deserves a big thumbs-up.

This just in

Where do you get your news? Like, really get your news? Think about it for a second – is it through traditional outlets (print, TV, radio, etc.)? Or are you part of the increasing social_media_desknumber of Americans who, according to a new Pew Research study, get their news from somewhat surprising sources?

Specifically, the study, which surveyed more than 2,000 adults age 18 and older, showed that almost 2/3 of people (63 percent) claim both Facebook and Twitter as primary sources of news for them. These social networks are becoming more than just places to keep up with friends and family; they’re now places to keep up with the world.

Beyond demonstrating the shifting definition of news and underscoring the ongoing challenges traditional news outlets face in this rapidly evolving landscape, the study offers some important reminders and insights for brands when it comes to their own activity on Facebook and Twitter:

  • You are a news source. That may seem kind of scary at first, but it’s actually a marketer’s dream. Remember: You are already an expert in your industry, and sharing industry news, trends and developments with your audience provides a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and authenticity. Sharing with and helping to explain industry news to your audience makes you a news source yourself.
  • Your content strategy is important. If your content mix right now consists of almost exclusively self-promotional posts, you’re doing it wrong. The easiest way to formulate an effective content strategy is to follow the “rule of thirds,” which says 1/3 of your social content should share ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry. Again, this makes you a news source for your audience in the process.
  • Your social activity should provide value. While it may not cost anything to have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, you are asking your audience to invest their time with you, and that’s no small thing. Ensuring that your content mix includes helpful information, clear expertise and insightful analysis in turn ensures that you’re providing a return on that investment.

Breaking news! If your brand is active on Facebook and/or Twitter, you are a news source. And if you follow some basic rules when it comes to your content strategy, you should be very excited about this particular piece of news.

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