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5 Social Media Tips to Help You Drive Sales

18 Jun

The evolution of social media and technology has completely reshaped marketing. Today, data is plentiful and insights are easy to gather, allowing social media savvy marketers to drive tremendous results.

Social media allows you to build a loyal following and share your message in a unique way, resulting in generating sales and ultimately building a successful business. It’s quickly becoming one of the most effective forms of online marketing. Here are five tips to helps you use social media to drive more sales for your business.

  1. Use the same handle for all of your social profiles.

It’s important to use the same handle on all social media — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. While it sounds like a small detail, it’s a branding play that can have a significant impact on your growth across social media.

Consumers have become accustomed to remembering usernames, and most assume a brand’s handle is the same across the board. Something as simple as maintaining a consistent brand, username-wise, ensures that you will always be found, regardless of the social media platform.

Personally, when I am creating a new consumer brand from the ground up, I always make sure the brand name handle is available on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Once I know they are all available, along with the exact-match “.com” domain, I will begin my trademark research.

  1. Re-post content from real people using your product.

There is no better testimonial than real people posting about your product on social media. Re-posting this content on your social media pages is more effective than any forced-advertising. You are letting actual customers do the selling and convincing for you.

By sharing content created by consumers who have already purchased your product (or use your service), you are putting out content that instills trust. Consumers love reviews and endorsements by real users — give them incentive to create this content for you. Create a branded hashtag and incentivize its use by creating contests or giveaways.

  1. Target the social networks your audience is active on.

You don’t need to have a social presence on every platform, but you do need to have a strong presence on the platform’s your audience is active on.

  1. Speak your audience’s language.

When building a relationship with consumers, it’s important that you use their vernacular.

This is especially true if you are asking a user to take a specific action — like comment on a post, tag their friends or even purchase one of your products. A great way to show that you understand your target consumers is to speak their language and use keywords, phrases or emojis that resonate with them.

When you make that personal connection, your audience is more receptive to your marketing message. Let your brand voice and personality shine.

  1. Link to the product you’re trying to sell.

At the end of the day, driving sales from your social media efforts is all about making it easy for your followers to convert into customers. If it’s complicated in any way, a potential customer will turn their attention elsewhere.

Make it seamless for consumers to click-through from your social media page to your website. You can include links in your bios, as well as within your content. If a user can’t access your product page in one or two clicks, your conversions will be extremely low. The social networks are constantly making changes to help their business users perform well, like Instagram’s product tagging.

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Social Media Engagement is the New Social Media Marketing

11 Jun

Social media is as much about engagement with other people as it is about sharing content.

It’s why we call it “social” media.

Here are just a few reasons why social media engagement is a vital part of any social media marketing strategy.

  1. Simply broadcasting content results in low reach and referral traffic

Over the last few years, organic reach (on Facebook in particular) has dropped so dramatically that some people have questioned the viability of organic posting at all.

In 2017, Buzzsumo analyzed 880 million Facebook posts and uncovered a sharp decline in engagements. This is linked to a perceived push by social media platforms to encourage brands to use advertising to boost their reach.

In 2018, Facebook also announced that they would change their post ranking algorithm to prioritize personal posts over brand page posts in the News Feed. A key part of the change is that they are using “meaningful engagement” as an important signal that a post should be prioritized.

In other words, posts with more active and thoughtful interactions will get more reach.

  1. People expect businesses to respond on social media, and fast

Twitter and Facebook have become the first places people go to for customer support, product enquiries or just to say thank you to businesses.

Back in 2013 it was estimated that 67% of consumers use Facebook and Twitter for customer service, and that was five years ago! With the rise of Facebook Messenger usage, that number is likely to have trended upwards as over 8 billion messages are exchanged between people and businesses on Messenger alone each month.

The speed at which business respond is also important. According to research commissioned by Twitter in 2016, 71% of their users expect a response within an hour.

  1. Social media engagement increases loyalty and generates word of mouth.

People love positive interactions with brands on social media.

There’s also a ton of data that suggests that answering complaints on social media increases customer advocacy and reduces churn. For example, Jay Baer’s research found that answering a complaint on social media can increase customer advocacy by as much 25%.

On the flipside, in Sprout Social’s research they discovered that 30% of customers who are shunned by brands on social media are more likely to switch to a competitor.

What’s more – social media experiences are, by design, both public and easy to share. This creates a compounding impact on positive experiences, compared to say, an email exchange or phone call.

The benefits of social media engagement seem clear, so why haven’t more brands fully embraced it as a marketing strategy?

I believe there are three key challenges that, on the surface, seem quite daunting for marketers and their organizations.

  1. Finding the resources to engage with all relevant conversations
  2. Quality control: maintaining a consistent, authentic voice and tone
  3. Measuring the impact of social media engagement

The best brands on social media turn these challenges into opportunities, and this is how you can nail your social media engagement too.

After Facebook and Snapchat, What’s Next for Social Media Marketing?

4 Jun

We’re in an interesting time, to say the least, for social media marketing.

Today, for most large brands, small businesses and creators, it’s hard to stand out from the digital noise on social media without investing large sums of money into advertising and content that includes investing in resources (people) for graphic design and video production.

In spite of the social media landscape continuously evolving through algorithm changes and Snapchat’s recent redesign, which has made it harder for users to get views on their content in both cases, there’s still value to be had from a sales and marketing standpoint if businesses go back to the basics of 1-to-1 marketing and accept the reality that organic reach is depressed without ad spend.

Is Snapchat for business dead?

For the greater part of two years, Instagram has made significant improvements to its platform that have resulted in a mass movement of marketers and creators who once believed that Snapchat would, in fact, be the next Facebook over to Instagram. A recent poll in the Social Media Masterminds group on Facebook indicated that less than 10 percent of professionals are using Snapchat in their business. While Snapchat is not dead completely, the potential reach isn’t there for most businesses unless their target demographic is between the ages of 13 and 24 years old.

Facebook ads

Whether you’re a florist, a local gardener or a dry-cleaning company, the easiest way to reach local buyers in your city or town is through Facebook ads. Personally, I work with real estate agents and I often recommend setting aside a minimum Facebook ad budget of $300 per month or $10 per day to get their content in front of the right audience versus posting their content to an unknown user base. With such a small percentage of page fans seeing your content these days, running Facebook ads is not an option – it’s a requirement.

Chatbots and AI

Bots are a practical tool for businesses that can’t invest in hiring a dedicated community or social media manager. Within your own Facebook page you can set up a Messenger bot assistant within a couple of minutes (for free) whereby anytime someone clicks on the “Send Message” button on your page she will receive an auto-reply message whereby you can let your visitor know that you’re currently away but to leave you a message and you will get in touch ASAP.

5 Video Apps to Revolutionize Your Social Media Posts

28 May

In the early days of social media, it was enough to post regularly about interesting and relevant material. As various social media platforms became more crowded, it became necessary to create more visually appealing content to ensure people would stop scrolling long enough to see what you had to say. This could be accomplished with great images or inspiring quotes on an attractive static background.

Unfortunately, neither of these tactics are enough to garner the kind of interest and engagement now needed to captivate the attention of the algorithms that determine how many people will actually see the post you’ve worked so hard to create. According to most social media marketing experts, video is one of the best tools to take your business to the next level.

Fortunately, many businesses have developed apps to make creating compelling video and animation accessible to all business owners.

Canva has been a popular graphic design tool for years. It has been used by individuals and marketers of all levels to make stunning flyers, social media posts, business cards and so much more. Recently, Canva rolled out Canva Animator, which gives users the ability to create the same beautiful posts that can now be animated with six different effects for free or a small fee. This is a fantastic feature, especially for brands that are already accustomed to working with the Canva platform. Even those who have never used Canva or any other graphic design software will find the mechanics very user-friendly. Once the design is ready, you can download your animation in either a GIF or movie format, depending on where you wish to use the post.

Spark Video is a true game-changer. This tool is completely free and made by Adobe, which is a leader in the graphic design industry. The easy-to-use interface creates beautiful videos that can contain your own graphics, video clips, icons, images or text. It also gives the option to search for free graphics covered by creative commons license or the Adobe digital library, which has an extensive collection of materials you can purchase.

The platform has a remarkable number of free themes to make it easy for anyone to create stunning videos that feel professionally crafted. The free music library further elevates the final creation. This platform has a robust support team that’s constantly finding creative ways to offer new features.

Crello is similar to Canva in many ways. The functionality and ease of use are at about the same level, and Crello is also free. Where Crello jumps to the next level is the fully customization of animated posts. While Canva allows you to animate the text of your post, Crello provides fully animated post templates. All you have to do is add your text, save and upload to your favorite social media site. These files are saved as MP4 and can be played anywhere that allows video.

Lumen5 is a great option for businesses of all sizes that produce regular blog content. Of course, you want to use this content to inform your audience, but how much engagement does it get when you post a link on social media leading back to the new post? According to some of the latest statistics, it probably isn’t all that much. However, Lumen5 allows you to easily turn blog content from any website into a stunning video. The free service automatically pulls images and words from your posts, which you can then customize as needed to create a video that tells the story for you. Make it interesting enough to keep people watching, but leave the audience wanting more to encourage them to click through for the full story. Free, pro and business plans are available.

Quik is a free phone app that allows anyone with an Apple or Android device to quickly and easily piece together images and videos into captivating movies. Even if it’s only a few seconds long, Quik can make the difference in how engaging your content is. It offers a huge selection of templates that you can individually customize to make it look as though hours of editing and design went into each video you create. Do not discount this powerful piece of software simply because it is on mobile platforms.

Remember, there are many ways to use animated posts, GIFs or videos other than as posts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter. You can use them as a profile or cover image and in advertisements. In all of these venues, moving images convert better than text or static images. Once you become proficient in creating high-engagement animated or video posts, consider implementing them in other areas to earn even more interest and attention in your brand.

Customer acquisition on social media — with your own data

21 May

In the battle for customer acquisition, data plays an important role in marketing strategy, along with a desired product and excellent creative. There’s also the challenge of reaching a target audience where they spend most of their time, which today is within mobile apps and browsing social media.

When we look at Google, Facebook and Amazon from the perspective of an advertiser, we see that they utilize much more data for their own benefit than they make available for audience segmentation.

Amazon’s data has always been a walled garden. Their incredibly deep historical data on buying behaviors and patterns gives them a sizable advantage, leading to what many argue are cutthroat product decisions and incredibly targeted product recommendations.

I expect Facebook will increasingly become a walled garden after overexposing and ineffectively monitoring third-party data use. By shutting down their Partner Categories program, they’re reinforcing to their advertisers that Facebook audience data is the primary source for campaign segmentation.

How to cope in such an environment?

While numerous data sources are available for targeting across most digital properties, one of the most effective ways brands can target is by bringing their existing opted-in datasets to social media. This frequently provides a competitive advantage over the “walled gardens” of the major technology players, as your own data is typically much more relevant to your marketing efforts.

The four major sites — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat — all provide advertisers the ability to create custom audiences using their own data, and in some cases to use third-party data sets.

The workflow is similar across all sites:

  1. Prepare your data.
  2. Upload it.
  3. The social media sites hash and de-identify the data.
  4. Your data is then matched to the social media site’s user base.
  5. Your custom audience is created.
  6. And your original data file is deleted.

Typically, the most utilized datasets to match against are email addresses, identifiers/tags provided by the social media sites themselves and mobile advertising IDs. Most sites require a minimum of 1,000 records in order to create a custom audience. This is for privacy reasons (to ensure data is aggregated and no individual could be identified), and to ensure that the segment is large enough to deliver appropriately.

The perks of using your own data

The ability to create custom audiences on social media allows advertisers to reframe many of their existing marketing tactics. They can encourage repeat visits, whether in-store or online, from existing customers, or try to win shoppers from competitive locations.

Brands without physical locations that seek to go directly to the consumer can use custom audiences to reach their market on social media as well. Most sites also allow advertisers to create “lookalike” audiences to help increase the scale of the campaign. They look for common characteristics from the audience you’ve uploaded and find similar consumers for your campaign to reach.

One final example of how you can use your own data is to drive mobile app acquisition. Building a custom audience from existing customers creates a segment with a much higher propensity to download and use a mobile app, especially when paired with appropriate incentives.

A key component of such strategies has always been, and will continue to be, ensuring that the datasets you’re using have opted in to marketing communication and advertising. Expect to see more transparency required on behalf of the end user, especially as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect next month.

Aside from being able to reach a relevant audience, bringing your own data to a social media site can also result in performance improvements and cost savings. The cost savings stem from being more relevant — in Facebook parlance, this is having a higher relevance score — which can result in lower cost-per-click fees because you can potentially win the auction for a given impression at a lower price.

Brands, advertisers and the agencies they work with have been hungry for the right data to help them reach the holy trinity of right time, right place, right person. Using their own opted-in data sets will become an increasingly important tactic for the marketer’s overall customer acquisition strategy to achieve that goal.

How Social Media Marketing Can Adjust to Meet Waning User Trust

14 May

There is always a learning curve for society when it comes to new technology.

This has always been true, even long before the Internet or social media came onto the scene. But while there’s always been a slight, resistant tension between people and the tech that’s pulling them into the future, we have largely gone along with the development of social media as it has grown over the past 15 or so years. We’ve created accounts and shared personal information; we’ve posted terabytes of photos and written memoirs in status updates. Digital marketers know what this trade-off entails—a fun, convenient service in exchange for personal data—but it’s also easy to forget that ordinary users without a marketing background don’t readily understand the scale of how their social data is used.

And while platforms like Facebook have made middling attempts to explain their platform to their users, they’ve continued to pull them along—and it seems the tension may have finally snapped.

While watching the Facebook hearings a couple weeks ago—an exercise that taught us less about how social media works and more about how much the government has also been left behind by the rapid development—I found myself thinking about how crazy the past year has been for social platforms. While Facebook takes heat for data security and giving access to third parties, Twitter continues to update their account banning policies in an effort to keep up with complaints of unsavory content and bots, and Reddit also struggles to prune back tides of fake or automated accounts.

Social media as a whole is undergoing an intense stress test that, hopefully, will translate into systematic improvements to the platforms we know and love to use. But the stress test has come at a cost, and platforms are paying for that cost by expending audience trust.

How a Leak Turns Into to a Flood

Users are rapidly losing trust in many of the social platforms they love to use. Today, Facebook is the clearest example, having struggled to maintain a younger audience last year only to then lose more users and approximately $70 billion in light of the Cambridge Analytica data leaks. Twitter has had a less dramatic struggle in recent months, touting their first profitable quarter in nearly 12 years—largely driven by international growth while their US audience declined by a million users.

When this shift in trust is examined on a larger scale, the issue only becomes more pronounced. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer—a massive, global study conducted every year to measure public sentiment towards major institutions—rightly subtitled this year’s report “The Battle for Truth.” In it, they found that the world as a whole has become more distrustful over the past year, with the US leading the charge, dropping 23 places in global ranking for the informed public’s trust in media outlets.

Specifically, where social media is concerned, trust in social platforms continued to decline as it has since 2016, nearly bringing us to an even 50-50 split between trusting and distrusting audiences using social media. An interesting note, however, is that journalistic outlets have seen a significant increase in the percentage of the population that trusts them, jumping by 5 percent since last year to nearly 60 percent. And in this, there may be lessons for marketers to take note of.

Speaking to Distrust

Brands that want to maintain effective social media marketing during this tumultuous time need to fundamentally reorient how they approach social media.

To date, social media marketers have by and large taken a “hear no evil, see no evil” approach to social media management. We offer content and conversation on our pages only to also run promotional social advertisements that we just simply don’t speak to. We use demographic targeting and audience insights to boost posts or plan for distributions, but work to ensure every step of our audience interaction comes off as solely organic. We exist on platforms embroiled in technological, political, and societal turmoil, but work to prune those conversations out of our comments and conversations.

This approach has worked for a long time because users were willing to engage with this fantasy—they also did not want to see, hear, or engage with the fact that the platform they used was collecting their data. But the coin has flipped, and now users are in a place where they more readily associate silence on social media matters with complicity rather than comfort.

Brands need to begin taking a more active role in earning audience trust if they hope to maintain it.

Embrace Transparency

As users become more comfortable understanding and talking about the ways in which their data is used, transparency into brands’ practices becomes a highly sought-after commodity. Rather than disengaging or ignoring conversations about how your brand interacts with user privacy and data, try to proactively explain your processes and how you protect your audience.

Be Idealistic

One of the primary drivers of distrust recently has been a disconnect between spoken ideals and active ideals practiced by brands (for instance, Facebook promoting the idea of building community, but then selling inordinate amounts of data to third parties). This offers an opportunity for brands that are willing to speak openly about their ideals and back it up with content and action. Brands are seeing success with this tactic in even the most extreme, politicized scenarios, which formerly would have been considered PR suicide.

Respond Promptly to Criticism

Even if your brand comes under scrutiny during this time, this doesn’t mean you should back away from hard conversations with your audience. Rather, take steps to engage your audience to understand what they would consider to be a solution, and implement it publicly to earn trust rather than defeat. You don’t have to take this as far as Elon Musk did and completely delete your Facebook presence, but listening and reacting will always go a long way.

Marketers are working at a unique time in history when society is contending with what privacy and big data can mean for them on a personal level. While the Facebook hearings may be done, these conversations are far from over, and it remains unclear how these conversations will shape the platforms we use, or how users interact with those platforms in general. What is clear, however, is that trust remains a consistently valued commodity throughout time, regardless of how our means of communication change. Brands that seek to be accessible, communicative, and responsive to the needs of their audiences will always find marketing success. But during times when trust is held at such a high premium, brands might also be able to turn success into even greater opportunity for growth.

6 Social Media Trends That Will Dominate Summer 2018 Marketing

7 May

Keeping up with social media seems like an impossible task some days. No sooner do you perfect your marketing on a platform than a new one springs up or begins to rise in popularity.

On top of that, the makeup of your Internet audience is constantly changing and shifting.

The best way to figure out how to plan your summer social media marketing campaign is to look at upcoming trends.

1. Event Tie-Ins

One way to up the presence of your brand on social media is to figure out which summer events you can relate to your industry.

One of the easiest ways to tie into summer activities is to first look at major holidays — Memorial Day and Fourth of July, for example. Next, look at major national and global events, such as the Summer Olympics or big festivals.

Then, you can piggyback off the marketing for these events by tying into a hashtag or running specials of your own during the same timeframe. Expect to see summer marketing tie into various summer events, both in the specials offered and hashtags used. For example, the brand Omeka uses hashtags such as #summer2018 on their Instagram page along with images of sandals and baseball caps to pull in new customers.

2. Local Trends

In recent years, businesses have come to recognize the value of local SEO. Tie into local events to gain more traffic to your site.

For example, if there is a popular festival in your area, can you rent a small booth and then share images on social media of the event? Perhaps there is a famous artist headed to your area for a concert, and you name a sandwich in your restaurant after him. Figure out how to reach people on a local level and drive them to your brick-and-mortar stores.

Summer equals beautiful weather, and people are excited to get outdoors and experience life. For summer 2018, this means a lot of different events. As a business owner, take advantage of local events by creating a Snapchat geofilter and including your snaps at events to engage current customers and connect new ones. One example of this is Churchill Downs adding snaps to their Snapchat story about the Kentucky Derby. Anyone who searches for the word “derby” sees these snaps.

3. Strong Images

Even though big, beautiful images are not a new trend, they are worth mentioning because they are such a vital part of any social media marketing campaign.

Across the board, social media posts with images tend to get shared more often than other types of posts without images. On Twitter, a post with an image is about 150% more likely to be retweeted.

Because summer is about cooking outdoors and hanging out with friends, expect to see more food images in the summer of 2018. For example, Food Lion shares recipes on their website and then uploads similar posts with strong images on their Instagram account.

4. GIFs and Emoji 

Millennials, in particular, prefer emoji, GIFs, and stickers over words and relate to them better. If you want to reach people in this age range, expressing yourself on social media with these icons is a smart move.

Expect to see brands tie images into their posts in new ways. Instead of lengthy posts, you might just see a happy-face emoji combined with a symbol for money to symbolize a store that’s having a flash sale, for example.

Summer means the kids are out of school and looking for engaging brands in the summer of 2018, and brands are looking to engage them. Vodafone clearly sees generation Z and millennials as key to growing their mobile carrier service globally, as evidenced by their Instagram posts including plenty of GIFs.

5. Social Causes

Some companies have jumped onto social causes and are engaging in marketing strategies with a cause. For example, Adidas used Lean In to help promote gender pay equality with their #20PercentCounts campaign.

The campaign encourages employers to look at pay levels within their companies and to close the gap so pay is equal based on experience rather than gender. Summer brings time with family and awareness of the struggles family members face, so expect to see more companies adopting causes in the summer of 2018 and beyond. Marks and Spencer adopted the cause of breast cancer, and they share similar images on their Instagram account along with pink-themed photos.

6. Lightheartedness

There are a lot of serious issues in the world, but when summer hits, people want to have fun and enjoy the warmer weather. Lightheartedness seems to be well received on most social media platforms and was trending in the first quarter of 2018, which can be expected to continue into summer. After all, summer is about cooking out in your backyard or going on a boating adventure with friends. Summer equals fun, so expect to see fun posts from brands in the summer of 2018. Budweiser taps into this trend with their Snapchat posts that feature elements such as festival food and a bottle of their beer.

Social media trends for summer 2018

Each new season brings new challenges and new trends in social media marketing.

These six trends are an excellent source of ideas for your social media marketing calendar, but don’t overlook the value of staying up to date on current hashtags and trending topics online.

The key to a successful social marketing season is looking at the big picture and not being afraid to try new ideas.