Archive | October, 2017

5 Social Media Content Marketing Trends to Watch Heading Into 2018

30 Oct

The field of digital content marketing is maturing, and companies need to make sure that their content campaigns and strategies are keeping up.

Above all else, it’s important to remember that good content is good content. It doesn’t matter what kind of technology you implement: If your branded content doesn’t resonate with your targeted audience, you have failed.

Just as traditional publishing advanced decades ago, digital marketing is following the same trajectory today. The only difference is the rate at which things are changing, and the fact that many digital brands forget to be human.

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing on stone or using augmented reality to get your message across: It must be interesting and relevant to motivate a reaction from the end-user.

Creating and distributing compelling content through social media is especially important from a branding perspective. The trick to the future of social media content marketing is using modern approaches at being human.

Here are five social media content marketing trends to watch heading into 2018:

  1. Increased investment in talent: By this point, most companies have acknowledged how crucial social media is from a brand-awareness and consumer-engagement standpoint, so they’ve invested in their social strategies. I believe we’ll see continued investment in a strong social strategy, but with added emphasis on finding and hiring individuals who can generate a consistent stream of content—for every social platform. Cross-promoting the same content on every platform is no longer enough. Now, the savviest companies will hire folks who not only know how to grow a brand’s audience on each social platform, but also how to create content to keep that audience engaged through every channel. These people need to be tech-savvy and highly organized, and they must know how to communicate beyond acronyms. Yesterday’s editor-in-chief in publishing is today’s content strategist in the digital ecosystem. You still need people to lead your storytelling. Automated sourcing is never the way to go if you can avoid it.
  2. More mobile-ready content: According to comScore’s 2017 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus report, mobile now represents almost seven in 10 digital media minutes, with smartphone applications alone accounting for one-half of all time spent engaging with digital media. Per comScore’s 2017 U.S. Mobile App Report, Facebook is the top mobile app of the year (as measured by its penetration of the U.S. mobile app audience), and Instagram and Snapchat are in the top 10, as well. Clearly, consumers are spending quite a bit of time using social media on their mobile devices. As such, we’ll see brands focus on creating content specifically for the small screen. Mobile-ready content should be simple, with few keypresses required to engage with it.
  3. Richer forms of content—especially video: Everyone who works in digital marketing should know by now that rich content drives the most engagement. What exactly does “rich content” mean? It depends who you ask, but most would agree that it refers to any type of content that can facilitate user interaction. For example, videos are considered a rich form of content because they typically require the viewer to click play (unless you’re using auto-play ads, which I do not recommend unless your goal is to annoy your target audience). A great example of employing rich content in a social media campaign is to run a Twitter poll, which allows you to ask Twitter users to weigh in on a certain subject. You’re distributing content that encourages user interaction while simultaneously collecting consumer insights—it’s a win-win.
  4. Leveraging user-generated content: According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report, 83 percent of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, and 66 percent trust other consumer opinions posted online. Those are substantially higher numbers than the 46 percent of consumers who trust ads on social networks. Because we know consumers trust one another’s opinions—and I mean average Joes, not social influencers and celebrities—I expect that we’ll see brands leveraging user-generated content more heavily in their social strategies. Simply reposting a happy customer’s Instagram photo is no longer enough. Brands will spend time finessing user-generated content and weaving it into social campaigns in an organic yet professional way.
  5. Doubling down on ephemeral content: Historically, marketers have focused on producing evergreen content that can be recirculated to drive engagement for months on end. That’s changing, especially in the world of social media. Snapchat really pioneered the idea of ephemeral content, and it has proven that consumers covet this kind of content because they know it won’t be around forever. It has an inherently exclusive component to it. Given how much engagement Snapchat Stories drive, it’s no wonder that Instagram and Facebookquickly followed suit and launched stories features of their own. As such, brands will continue to ramp up stories efforts on all three platforms in order to generate a consistent stream of ephemeral content that keeps consumers coming back for more.

Social media presents very exciting opportunities for using cutting-edge content to build meaningful relationships with consumers, and I look forward to seeing how things continue to evolve as we head into 2018.

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Five Killer Social Media Marketing Tools You Need to Use Right Now

23 Oct

While the future of social media marketing remains uncertain, there’s no denying it has affected the way businesses market their brands in a tremendous way.

As organizations continue to increase their spending on social media marketing, the pressure is on social media managers to ensure that each dollar spent generates results.

And as new social media platforms emerge and new features are added to the big social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat), companies and marketers have no choice but to adapt how they promote messages to their respective audiences.

This is where social media marketing tools come in. With the right set of tools, you can spend less time managing campaigns and more time developing effective messages and refining existing ones.

Below, we take a quick look at the best social media marketing tools the pros swear by.

Best Campaign Management Tool: Buffer

Any social media marketer who knows what he’s doing will probably use Buffer every day. But don’t let its popularity fool you. Buffer — which has free and paid options — is an incredibly useful campaign management tool that lets you schedule virtually any kind of social media post on any platform you can think of.

More importantly, Buffer lets you design specific posting patterns and schedules, whether it’s a post made every day at 6 p.m. or every other day on weekdays. Buffer also features an analytics dashboard for all posts within specific timeframes, allowing you to evaluate the performance and engagement of your posts.

Pro Tip: Use Buffer to make custom schedules for each social media profile you own, ensuring your posts are timed according to when your users are most active on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. If you upgrade to “The Awesome Plan,” you can make as many schedules for each platform, which can be very useful for A/B testing.

Best Customer Relationship Management Tool (CRM): Sprout Social

Like Buffer, Sprout Social (which only offers paid plans) is an all-in-one social media marketing tool with an added twist: customer relationship management. It still comes with the usual set of important features, such as scheduling capabilities, analytics platform, social listening functions and multi-level access for tight coordination between teams.

Sprout Social’s analytics features are unique in that they’re geared toward engagement tracking, allowing managers to foster and nurture relationships through fast and efficient responses to comments and requests.

Pro Tip: Zero in on your audience by using the Group Report feature on Sprout Social, which shows you analytics data of your audience, including engagement, gender, age and engagement.

Best Visual Content Creator: Canva

For social media managers whose weakness is graphic design, Canva has you covered.

As the majority of social media users gravitate towards visual content, it has never been more important for your images and videos on social media to be on point. This is where Canva (which has free and paid options) comes in, providing you with a suite of tools and templates to help you create stunning social media content for a wide variety of platforms. Whether you need to create simple ads on Facebook, complicated infographics, or even beautiful presentations and letters, Canva won’t disappoint.

While Canva is easier to use than, say, Adobe InDesign or Photoshop, it still requires basic design chops to use effectively. In other words, it may help to take a basic class on graphic design to get the most out of the tool.

Pro Tip: Canva is a great tool, but if you want to make killer graphics, pair it with a great source of beautiful stock images like Pexels and tools like Adobe Color CC, which let you create color palettes using a color wheel.

Best Content Aggregator: Feedly

If content ideation is something you can’t wrap your head around, Feedlycan be the tool you need to find inspiration and discover great content to share.

Feedly is essentially a content aggregator (which makes free and paid plans available) showing a feed of content across the internet assembled based on your reading preferences. Whether you want to read about sports, technology, marketing or business, Feedly will display a single feed of what it thinks are the internet’s most relevant stories.

Pro Tip: Running out of ideas for your content strategy? Feedly is a great way to maintain a pulse on current events and breaking news, giving you valuable ideas on what to put on your blog.

Best Content Shortener: Bitly

If your social media marketing campaign revolves around sharing your blog content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Bitly offers (for free and for a premium) a convenient way to shorten chunky URLs that will fit nicely on practically any social media platform. More importantly, using a Bitly URL allows you to track each shortened URL’s performance on a single platform instead of dividing your attention between different sources.

Pro Tip: Use Bitly for networks like Instagram and Twitter, which don’t play nice with links. You can then track your URL activity on the Bitly dashboard, showing you the number of total clicks for each URL, as well as the most popular click sources.

This list of social media marketing tools barely scratches the surface of what’s available to marketers on the internet. If you’re wondering what tool is best for you, think about your campaign’s biggest challenges. Each problem will always have the appropriate tool for the job — the trick is finding out what your most pressing issues are so you can solve them efficiently.

10 Secrets to Going Viral on Social Media

16 Oct

Your audience is on social media. According to a recent PEW study, nearly 70 percent of people living in the United States use at least one social media network. Over 2.5 billion people (a number that is growing rapidly) are on social networks worldwide.

If you’re an entrepreneur in this digital era, you need to be on social media. Creating a viral marketing campaign is a great way to create brand awareness using the power of social media.

Think of virality as an exponential curve. If two people directly related to the brand share a piece of content, and if that number doubles 30 times, it means that over a billion people will have shared the content.

Viral marketing is a powerful tool for businesses. It’s how organizations like Facebook and Lyft (among many others) quickly acquired new customers. You can create a viral social media campaign by following the viral-marketing principles practiced by some of the world’s best brands.

1. Master the target audience.

In order to create viral content, you must first understand your target audience. Viral content is only effective if it speaks to people so convincingly that they are eager to share the content.

Social media marketers should start a viral campaign by creating at least one marketing persona. A persona is a representation of the target customer that includes demographic and psychographic information, as well as information related to social media behavior and content preferences.

Build a marketing persona by speaking with real and potential customers to understand what is important to them as they consider a purchase and share content online. Armed with this information, it will be considerably easier for you and your team to create content that users are likely to share online.

2. Select the appropriate social media platform.

Every social media platform is different. Before creating content, choose a platform on which to specialize. Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are all good platforms on which to start a viral marketing campaign; however, the content you create will differ depending on the platform you choose.

If you choose to create content for Instagram, for example, a series of Instagram Stories or an image with a compelling caption can spark viral shares online. However, content that will perform well on LinkedIn is usually created from a Pulse article or from a thoughtful LinkedIn update.

The platform you choose should be informed by the information gleaned from your work creating a marketing persona.

3. Create content with high engagement.

Most social media platforms use an algorithm that ranks content based on the likelihood that the user will engage. Content that is expected to engage followers is usually ranked at the top of the page, and content that is expected to be less engaging is ranked toward the bottom.

Content that creates engagement is rewarded by being amplified to other users; content that does not create engagement is buried. Viral marketers should focus on creating content that has high engagement, since it will have greater reach and is thus more likely to be re-shared.

4. Time content for maximum reach.

To ensure that content performs as well as possible, time its release so that it will receive maximum visibility. Ideal timing will depend on the habits and preferences of your target audience, and on the social media platform you are using.

As noted above, social media platforms use algorithms that rank content based on the probability of user engagement. Timeliness plays a key role in that equation as well, which means that releasing content at just the right time can positively impact performance.

5. Boost visibility with advertising.

While not impossible, it can be difficult for a small organization to create viral content. Investing in paid ads on social networks can boost the visibility of a campaign. Consider creating ads that are targeted to a group of influential users. If these users re-share the ad, the ad will be broadcast to a wider audience in an efficient and cost-effective way.

6. Partner with a social media influencer.

Of the marketers who employ an influencer marketing strategy, nearly 95 percent believe that the strategy is effective. Social media influencers have the ability to provide brands with improved reach, and can add fuel to a viral marketing campaign.

7. Measure performance to create better campaigns in the future.

Marketers in today’s digital environment must use a social media analytics tool to measure performance, and to understand what is and is not working. It may take a few tries to create a viral marketing campaign. If you need to make adjustments or alter course, the metrics can help guide the changes in strategy.

8. Provide a clear call to action.

Don’t let social media engagement go to waste. Make it clear what those interested in the brand should do next, in addition to simply liking or re-sharing a piece of content. Brands like Facebook and Lyft didn’t just grow by creating brand awareness through social media; they encouraged members of the target audience to take a specific action.

In most cases, encouraging the target audience to sign up for a free trial or to make a discounted purchase are effective ways to use the power of viral marketing to grow customers.

9. Generate media attention.

If a viral marketing campaign really takes off, endeavor to amplify the message of the brand via various media outlets. When it is clear that the brand is doing something newsworthy, news organizations will be eager to provide brands with attention.

A great way to prove newsworthiness is to show media outlets that thousands or millions of people have responded positively to your brand’s campaign. When contacting a news organization, be sure to prepare a press release that contains all the relevant figures, as well as contact information.

10. Share novel content.

Original, unusual content is more likely to get engagement than content that is reminiscent of campaigns from other companies. Great content is remembered, like Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, or the ALS Association’s ice-bucket challenge. Content that is derivative of previous campaigns will be ignored, and may even receive negative press attention.

Conclusion

Creating a viral marketing campaign that is productive can be challenging. First and foremost, it is important to create content that speaks to the target audience in a unique way. Marketers should use a social media analytics platform to measure performance, and should focus on creating content that is timely and that generates engagement.

How Franchisees Can Build an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy

2 Oct

If you own a franchise, you’ve probably struggled to find ways to differentiate your business from other franchises. That’s because marketing for franchises presents some unique challenges, especially on the local level. Even when a brand pumps millions of dollars into a national marketing campaign, local franchise owners don’t always benefit.

One solution for franchise owners seeking to improve marketing ROI is social media. It’s an extremely effective outlet for not only telling a unique story but supporting customer acquisition and retention as well. By providing creative content, facilitating discussions and responding to negative and positive feedback in platforms that you manage, you can develop an engaged base of loyal customers for your franchise.

Some of the benefits of having a local franchise include targeting your customers with local promotions and posting content that’s directly related to local events. Social media lets you capitalize on those advantages.

Franchise marketing quirks

Social media is an important component of any marketing strategy, but as a franchise owner, using it effectively isn’t always easy.

According to a report from the BIA/Kelsey Local Commerce Monitor, roughly 51 percent of franchising organizations play an active role in shaping the social media presence of local businesses. Parent organizations can often help franchisees acquire content to fuel their marketing, and you should use this to your advantage if possible.

Franchises with a desire to be successful must equip their local franchisees with some level of autonomy and the resources to market locally. Franchise owners should advocate for this flexibility with their corporate office. Moreover, prospective franchise owners should inquire about this subject and carefully review the franchise agreement when assessing franchises to invest in.

While national companies rely on in-house teams to handle the day-to-day tasks that come with operating a corporate social media account, most franchisees don’t have this luxury. But, you can still get started on your own. Follow the guidelines below to launch a social media marketing program that works.

1. Clearly communicate your brand’s vision and mission.

The process of building your brand starts offline. Before you take to Facebook or Twitter, you and your internal team should take the time to craft a compelling story that contains your brand’s vision for the future and its mission statement.

Your vision will shape your strategy. Rather than base decisions on market trends, companies with vision make strategic decisions that get them closer to making that vision a reality, regardless of external factors.

If you think of your vision as your destination, then your mission statement is how you get there. It’s what guides your internal actions as a company, from hiring to developing new products or services, and it’s what keeps everyone within your organization on the same page.

When it’s time to start engaging with customers on social media, all of your communications should align with your brand’s vision and mission.

2. Automate whenever possible.

Consistency is key to success in social media marketing. You want to be consistent not just in your messaging, but in your frequency and volume as well.

Of course, a major advantage of social media is that it allows you to quickly react and respond to relevant current events and to provide ongoing engagement with customers. But, it’s also important to establish a general cadence to your posts — that way, you can ensure that important topic areas for your brand are addressed in your content. Take advantage of automation tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule the publication of your posts ahead of time. That way, you have the resources to improvise when the opportunity presents itself.

3. Monitor your social media channels.

These channels give you access to direct customer feedback, allowing you to gauge the perception and reputation of your brand. Utilize social media listening tools like Social Studio to get a better idea of what’s important or newsworthy to your customers.

By constantly monitoring your local social media channels, you can gain insights into the experiences your customers are having with your franchise, which gives you valuable input on how to better serve them. Good or bad, feedback is a gift. If a customer has something to say, listen. Acknowledge his or her feedback, and then use it to your advantage in your next post.

4. Observe your competitors.

Evaluate the methods used by other franchisees and industry rivals. You don’t want to copy a competitor, but if you see that a certain technique generates a significant number of likes or shares, brainstorm ways to apply that approach to your own efforts. Likewise, if competitors are receiving a lot of engagement by addressing certain topics, figure out how you can share your company’s unique perspective on those same topics. Just be aware of potential differences in audience size when setting expectations for your posts.

Franchises aren’t like other businesses, and as a franchisee, you face different constraints. It’s very likely that the parent organization will set guidelines and budgets that local marketers must adhere to. You’ll need to work within these parameters to develop a strategy that works for you. Social media will inevitably be a big part of that strategy, and with time, energy and the right approach, it could become your most effective marketing tool.