The missing Link?

Most people think of LinkedIn as an individual, as opposed to organizational, marketing tool. And sure, it’s quite a potent tool for a lot of professionals – salespeople and HR teams, for example. (And aspiring motivational speakers, judging by one’s feed on certain days.)

Companies who overlook or neglect their company pages on LinkedIn, however, may be overlooking an important and undervalued weapon in their enterprise marketing arsenal.

In addition to the marketing value LinkedIn offers individuals, its company pages can be a potent tool for organizations as well. While they function most similarly to Facebook pages – content posting in a single-column, reverse-chronological feature – their features (and potential benefits) differ slightly. For almost all brands, the most important features and benefits of a well-managed LinkedIn company pages include:

  • A captive audience. People are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al, for personal experience as often as for professional reasons, if not more. Not so with LinkedIn, where users are almost exclusively focused on professional stuff.
  • Corporate communications tool. A LinkedIn company page provides an excellent secondary channel for corporate communications like press releases, product launches and links to positive media coverage.
  • Culture communications platform. Company pages can be a real asset for HR teams in their recruiting efforts, by providing a good platform for highlighting all aspects of company culture and employee experiences.
  • Industry research and intelligence source. Company pages for competitors, vendors/suppliers, trade media, etc., can be rich sources of industry trends, developments and opportunities.
  • Content marketing. Company pages are also great secondary channels for blog posts and other content you’re already generating as part of an overall content strategy.
  • Driver of website traffic. Facebook’s ultimate goal with everyone – brands included – is to keep them contained within Facebook as much as possible. LinkedIn company pages, on the other hand, can be a useful tool for driving incremental traffic to your website on a consistent basis.

It can be easy to overlook the LinkedIn company page as an important tool for brands, especially when dealing with limited time and resources. The good news? They can also be easy to integrate them into an overall social marketing plan – and almost always worth the time and resources.

Twitter turns 10

Twitter is all grown up! If you hadn’t heard, the social media stalwart turned 10 recently. From a marketer’s perspective, milestones like this are a good chance to more closely examine a particular platform – what do we like? What don’t we like? And is it working for us?

After 10 years, Twitter has undoubtedly become an integral part of the social media landscape. Millions of users – and thousands of brands – consider it an indispensable part of their daily social lives.

As a platform, it’s far from perfect, however. Indeed, it may be the most controversial or oft-debated platform when it comes to marketers and where they allocate social marketing resources. We decided to look at the good and bad of Twitter for marketers:

The Good

  • Passionate user base. While its overall user base dwarfs in comparison to Facebook and Instagram, those who consider themselves regular Twitter users really, really like it. Brands successfully using Twitter regularly find creative ways to tap that enthusiasm.
  • Savvy user base. Regular users tend to be savvier and progressive when it comes to technology and trends. Brands can create a positive halo effect by presenting themselves as savvy and forward-thinking in the same way.
  • Improving content capabilities. Twitter’s come a long(ish) way from the days of 140 characters. While the character limit still exists, they’ve made it much easier for users to integrate multi-media assets like photos, videos and even GIFs into their content. This is particularly important for brands.
  • Potent customer service tool. Brands that really excel at Twitter leverage it as a conversational tool. Moreso than even Facebook, Twitter enables true one-on-one customer interaction, which can be of great value for companies.

The Bad

  • Labor-intensive. Utilizing Twitter well can require a lot of your time. It’s fire-hose delivery requires near-constant monitoring and observation.
  • Short content shelf life. The rapid-fire nature means your social content has a very, very short shelf life comparative to other platforms. This feeds directly into the issue with it being labor-intensive and requiring constant observation to maximize engagement.
  • Relatively small user base. It may be passionate, and it may be savvy, but it’s still relatively small comparative to the other major platforms. When so much of what determines success in social marketing is driven by data and sheer numbers, Twitter’s small audience can make it hard to justify the effort when compared with the outcomes.
  • Steep learning curve. Twitter pales in comparison to counterparts like Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat when it comes to attracting and retaining new users. This is because figuring out how to use Twitter – despite the platform’s best efforts – is still pretty much a nightmare. Those that tough it out and stick with Twitter almost invariably end up loving it. It’s just those are still a small percentage of people who actually try to do so.

As you can see, Twitter can be a dynamic and important platform for brands – but it is not without its challenges. It is certainly growing up before our eyes as a marketing tool through the continuous addition of new features and benefits – but we’re still not sure if it will ever grow up enough to truly play in the big leagues.

Social Anxiety

Company CEOs are responsible for a lot. From setting the long-term strategic future of their companies to driving their short-term health and success, CEOs play several important roles. There seems to be one role, however, too many are avoiding.

A recent study from CEO.com shows that more than 60 percent of large-company heads have no social media presence at all – not all that surprising, actually, when you read further and find how many view an active social presence as more negative than positive, especially when it comes to their brands.

Those leaders opting to stay on the social media sideline are missing out on big – and unique – opportunities, unfortunately. While still in the minority, the list of CEOs becoming active on social continues to grow – and continues to demonstrate daily why it’s a smart marketing move for CEOs and their companies:

  • It sends a message about their brand. Perception is reality, we’re reminded all too often, and usually because of negative circumstances. On the flip side, however, savvy consumers perceive CEOs who maintain an active presence on social media very positively. And that perception often extends across the entire brand.
  • It’s where your customers are. As companies grow, so do the layers of insulation around CEOs. Sometimes, this insulation gets to the point that it’s hard for a company’s leader to truly know what’s taking place on the front lines, especially when it comes to customers and their experiences. In addition, social provides a window into what customers really think about their services, their products, and their people.
  • It helps build trust, inside and out. CEOs must consistently fight against the perception – there’s that word again – that they’re removed, insulated and out of touch. An active presence on social media can help leaders change those perceptions – and build a stronger level of trust with both employees and customers in the process.

If you’re a CEO fearful of becoming active on social media, fear not! Instead, embrace it. Employ it. Enjoy it. You, as well as your customers and employees, will be glad you did.

 

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.

Eat a Peach

The social media world worked itself into quite a frenzy late last week after the launch of Peach, a new social network that popped up pretty much out of nowhere – almost immediately generating a sizable amount of hype and buzz. As happens any time a hot new network sprouts up, marketers everywhere are asking themselves one question regarding Peach: is it worth taking a bite?

In this instance, the answer is almost invariably “no.” Most brands won’t find a strong value proposition or ROI to establishing a presence on Peach, especially right away. This is true for a number of reasons – adequate resources, sufficient manpower, platform experience/expertise, etc.

The sudden rise of Peach does raise an important, broader issue for marketers, however, as this new social app is just the latest example of what seems to be a perpetual challenge for marketers. With both the multitude of existing, established networks and the seemingly endless parade of “next-big-things,” which networks should we be active on? And why?

The natural tendency, of course, is to be everywhere – or everywhere established, at the very least. After all, setting up a presence on a social network is free, so why not be there?

Well, because time isn’t free. Like money, time is a finite resource, especially when it comes to deciding how to most effectively and efficiently utilize it for something you need to get a return out of. Therefore, social media – like all other aspects of marketing – comes at a cost.

Regardless of the buzz, the answer to which social networks marketers should focus their attention on comes down to one simple question: which network or networks are most important to your most important audience? If you don’t know the answer to that question, spend some time really getting to know your most important audiences. If you do know, then you’ve answered the question as to whether Peach – or any other social-network-flavor of the month – is worth a bite out of your social approach or not.

New year, new you!

Learn a new language. Take up juggling. Master a martial art. ’Tis the season for most of us to declare (and then quickly abandon) our New Year’s resolutions.

Just because most people neglect their resolutions before the bubbly is even warm, however, doesn’t mean marketers have to. In fact, we’ve got some 2016 resolutions for marketers that are simple, straightforward…and sustainable.

We’ve taken some of the most common resolutions people pledge at the beginning of each new year and given them a marketer’s twist. Each offers a way for brands to enhance, expand or energize their marketing efforts in some way.

Exercise. Successful exercise is built on habit, routine, calendar. Successful marketing is no different. If you don’t already, make a detailed marketing calendar part of your strategy for 2016. Map out and schedule your advertising, social media, media relations, product launches, trade shows, etc. Build a habit of mapping your marketing activity just as you’d schedule your exercise – to the point it becomes instinctive.

Make new friends. Customer base, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, sales prospects. You’ve worked hard to build your network of “friends” (your key constituencies, primary audiences, etc.). But, we can always have more friends. So how can we continue to grow our audience? What other ways can you continue to grow your email database, social followers and prospect pipeline? Email marketing, social contests, product promotions and giveaways are sure ways to help you make new friends.

Be more introspective. We’ve discussed the power a proper audit can have on your marketing efforts, and what better time to step back and engage in a little marketing introspection than the start of a new year? Spend a bit of time taking inventory of all your marketing presences, activities and efforts. What’s working? What’s not? What can we do differently to be more effective and efficient in 2016 and beyond? A little self-reflection and soul-searching – taking the form of a true marketing audit in this instance – can go a long way.

Learn a new language. In this case, the language of data! Resolve to do more with all the data you’re collecting and compiling all the time – from customers, from prospects, from your website, from email, from loyalty programs, etc. How can you become more fluent in the language of data so you can be more successful as a marketer?

This year, resolve to do more with your marketing! And unlike resolutions having to do with real exercise, actually stick to them. Your customers will thank you.

 

Push and pull

We talk a lot about social media, content strategy and digital marketing ‘round these parts. And for good reason, of course; an active and engaging social presence, backed by a high-quality website, provide your audience a high-profile destination befitting of a leading brand like yours. This very important aspect of your overall marketing shouldn’t exist in a vacuum, however. After all, what good is a great destination if no one knows it exists – or how to find it?

In the marketing world, we call it having a healthy balance of “push and pull“. The “pull” comes from your destinations – those platforms you manage (website, social channels, etc.) The “push” is how you proactively connect with your audience, promote your pull presence and, ultimately, drive them there.

It was this article, in fact, that got us thinking about push and pull – and about ensuring that “push” in particular is a key component of your overall marking effort. The important question, then: What are some ways we can push awareness of our social media and digital presence and pull them to it? Here are a few for you to consider:

  • Email marketing. An incredible, outstanding example of which you’re reading right now! Odds are, you have an impressive database of email addresses for current customers, prior customers, vendors, suppliers, etc. Email marketing – developing and delivering an informative/education email on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, etc.) – is a great way to both demonstrate your company’s industry expertise and to drive them toward your social/digital presence.
  • Email marketing. Wait, what? Didn’t we just cover this? We did, but there’s also an easier way to use email to drive awareness of your social and digital presence – include it in your email signature. While, at first thought, it may not have the same impact as the email marketing discussed above, consider the cumulative effect of everyone in your organization including links to your social presence in their email signatures – and then how many emails you send on a daily basis. That can drive a lot of awareness.
  • Everything else. Do a deep, comprehensive audit of all the many different touchpoints you have with your current and prospective customers – business cards, print ads, signage, product packaging, on-hold messaging, etc. How and where can you drive awareness of your social/digital presence on any or all of them simply by adding links and/or logos?

From your own email marketing strategy to simple email signatures, there are a number of effective ways you can drive awareness of your social presence to your key audiences and pull them in. All it takes is a little push to get started.

 

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.

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