Social Media Strategies

Marketing with Instagram?

taking photo snow

Instagram. Many people’s first impression of it involve cats, coffee, skies, all confined to little squares.

But to the marketer, Instagram is marked by its ability to foster strong brand communities – and well-managed communities grow quickly, too. Indeed, Instagram was found to be the fastest-growing social site globally, according to Techcrunch in early 2014.

But what are the secrets to a well-managed Instagram community?

Inc reviewed some Instagram powerhouses and asked what their strategies were.

One of the more interesting insights is  to be authentic. ‘Authenticity’ is a pertinent advice to almost all social media marketing. Consumers are increasingly cynical of companies and marketing, they shun corporate presence and demand ‘conversations’ with brands.. Authenticity is therefore a good starting point with Instagram marketing.

Another important factor is engaging influencers.  This is not exactly a new idea, according to the ‘diffusion of innovations‘ model (virtually a must-read for academic marketing). Early adopters, if satisfied, can be powerful evangelists for your brand. But gaining their support can be tricky, because they actively engage in social conversations- which means they may not be sparing in their criticisms.

Instagram marketing in Australia?

To achieve authenticity, the marketer is well advised to avoid solely presenting their client’s work. Consumers these days are not impressed by overt ‘marketing campaigns’. They want to be part of a conversation, and consume information that is relatable to their lives.

Thankfully Australia is an incredibly photogenic country. Stunning natural sights, interesting urban scenes, and culturally diverse.

There is never a shortage of interesting visual stories to tell, whether in your town, your city, or events that appeal to your target demographics.

Of course, there are times when you would like to showcase your client’s (or your own) brand. Traditional billboard-style advertisements on Instagram simply will not appeal; you gain a far better chance from presenting your brand in more relatable ways, such as:

* Events;

* Behind the scene quirks;

* Competitions

We have a fledgling Instagram community, showcasing the best of our local community in Sydney. We do hope you join our conversation some time!

(Image: Flickr/MunKuvia)

CIA, and being witty on Twitter

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CIA made its foray into Twitter on June 7 with this maiden tweet:

Both mainstream and tech media went abuzz, not only at having the US’s top spy agency joining social media, but at what was widely perceived as an attempt to be un-CIA-ly witty. In the ensuring month, CIA continued to surprise and bemuse commentators with tweets that you won’t expect from men in black:

And a shout-out to US goalkeeper Tim Howard ahead of their World Cup clash with Belgium:

And when talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres asked them to follow, they even invoked a celebrity moment:

Not everyone’s impressed. Business Insider Australia thinks CIA is being ‘too cute’ on Twitter. Slate thinks CIA’s experiment has ‘gone downhill fast’.

Horses for Courses

I wouldn’t be so harsh. Sure, CIA is a serious organisation – if its Twitter account is a person, it probably should be impeccably dressed, black tie and sunnies. But the humour is not entirely irrelevant. They attempted to interact with influencers (well, at least Ellen). They addressed questions (pertinent ones such as whether CIA could retrieve your Twitter password). I think the CIA has made an admirable attempt to be human, especially given its profile as a super-serious, secretive organisation.

But will wit work for every organisation?

The better question is, will ‘wit’ help or hinder your attempt to be build authentic relationships on social media?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution (surprise surprise). Which reinforces the need for individual organisations to truly understand its audience, and engage with them in a suitable manner.

(Image: The Telegraph)

Twitter now supports GIF – and what does that mean?

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Twitter – our favourite 140-character micro-blogging device (yes, using some old-school descriptions here) - now show GIF’s.

Hold up – what do all these mean?

GIF”s (Graphics Interchange Format) refers to a specific type of graphic file. These are unique because they are not necessarily static images – you can create simple, small animations from them.

Today, the mere mention of ‘GIF’s’ is taken to mean animated GIF’s.

Why should the marketer care about animation?

1. It helps with explaining complex concepts that are hard to visualise – as this study in Medical Education shows.

2. Animations are easy to consume, especially in this age of information overload.

3. They foster engagement because human emotions can be displayed better.

Looking for inspiration? MarketingLand has compiled the best brand GIF’s that’s already gone on Twitter.

And a very helpful overview on using animated GIF’s in your marketing via Hubspot.

Of course, GIF’s benefits extend beyond Twitter, or even social media. And certainly is more than just about cute cats. But the fact that a major social media platform now supports it is a significant step.

*PS: If you really want to get technical, Twitter doesn’t technically ‘support’ GIF’s – details can be seen here.

(Image: likegif.com)

Why is Facebook ‘engagement’ important?

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‘Engagement’. A term bandied about sufficiently often in social media marketing and research. But exactly what is it?

There are many ways users can engage with Facebook, some of them include:

* Commenting on a post;

* Liking a photo;

* Sharing a page to friends.

There are almost as many ways that ‘engagement’ can be defined as there are ways to interact with Facebook. The issue is further muddled by the fact that Facebook defines engagement at both ‘post’ and ‘page’ level - that is, users’ interaction with your page’s posts are measured separately from their interaction with your page itself; but those two metrics are interconnected – for instance, a user can like a post on your page, but may also like it through his/her own timeline (without ever accessing your page).

Engagement became even more contentious after a recent study by Simply Measured, showing that Facebook engagement has dropped alarmingly for some of the United States’ biggest brands, some by a staggering 90%. Much of this decrease was due to Facebook’s recent algorithm change, which was said to have lowered brands’ organic reach (that is, reach achieved by fans sharing and liking your contents, rather than through paid promotions).

For social media marketers on low budget who want to maximise organic reach, understanding of ‘engagement’ becomes even more crucial.

Social Media Today provided a handy ‘engagement’ metric:

In simple terms, engagement rate on Facebook can be calculated as the number of “People Talking about this” divided by the total number of likes.

Simply Measured also argued that marketers should encourage more sharing, rather than more liking:

A customer … posted a photo meme that received 123 shares, 419 likes and 6 comments… She posted a link the next day with a photo as a thumbnail (which Facebook now enlarges) and received only 27 shares, and 2 comment threads.

The meme photo with 18 times higher engagement had a Reach of 11,256 – only 1/3rd the amount of the link post, which Reached 26,288 unique users…

Even the solution to the organic reach drop problem varies between analysts. The same Simply Measured article also argued that you should post more often (so your posts get seen by more unique viewers); but another analyst contends that more posting doesn’t reach more unique viewers – a little paid promotion does.

Ultimately, your online media manager have a number of options:

1. Expend budget on paid promotion (to reach unique viewers), or

2. Develop contents that encourage your audience to share (which may involve some good old fashioned consumer insight).

All depends on your goal really – and your bottom line.

(Photo credit: Flickr/InTheRough)

Is there more to online marketing than click-rate?

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I’d like to think so – that marketing is about connection to the consumer, rather than gaming a system, presenting tangible numbers merely to impress clients.

And here’s an enlightening discussion on Forbes about the ‘Attention Web’ on social media:

So a share in itself is not a terrific sign of value, unless you really mean that you want other people to read what you actually read. That, actually reading it, he calls this shift the Attention Web. And he says it’s about being awesome.

 

What I’d like to know, actually, is how ‘awesome’ is measured, never mind quantified.

Is that a more youth-savvy way to mean ‘genuine consumer connection’?

Or is that code for ‘things that worked for me, but not for you, therefore I’m awesome’?

(Photo: Flickr/Martin Fisch)

How not to deal with social media controversies

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SmartCompany reported on a restaurant in Adelaide copping an absolute belting on social media, for making adverse comments about penalty rates.

In essence, the article showed the restaurant had issues on two fronts:

1. First, posting on Facebook a faux menu showing how much penalty rates would affect menu prices.

(People took exception to that – but that’s not when the firestorm began – until the restaurant posted this :)

2. ‘There has been no disrespect shown to our workers only the idiots who believe that rates of 2.75 times (over $50 an hour) are justified and are sustainable to any business…’

The result?

‘a torrent of criticism from social media users, many of whom said the post showed “contempt” for the business’ staff. Many vowed to never return to the restaurant.’

‘Really, do you have to say that?!’

Dear business owner, we all have our opinions on particular issues, even contentious ones. Politics, sports, justification on penalty rates.

But is social media really the right place to air them?!

And when confronted, is it really such a great idea to hit back?!

Psychological studies tell us that, once we’ve made up our minds on things, we’re predisposed to only see supporting evidence (1). You got evidence showing otherwise? My brain shuts off. That’s called confirmation bias, which I briefly touched on in a recent piece about the psychological implications of crowdsourcing decisions.

‘So how should I respond to controversial stuff on my business’s social media?’

Well, firstly it may be nice to not push political, sporting, or cultural boundaries on social media – unless you’re a politician, or sporting club (or you live in the area of your club)…

EConsultancy helpfully compiled 16 of the best social media guidelines of leading companies. Leading the pack: IBM – ‘don’t pick fights‘.

But sometimes the fight comes to you. Try these from online marketer Scott Levy:

1. Respond quickly.

2. Never show anger or engage in negative banter.

3. Be personal.

4. Work toward a resolution.

5. Talk offline when necessary.

Conflicts are unavoidable. But I hope, marketing friends, you won’t have to reach for these tips often.

Footnotes:

(1) Lord, Charles G.; Ross, Lee; Lepper, Mark R. (1979), “Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (American Psychological Association) 37 (11): 2098–2109

(Image: Anti-Social Media)

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Hiring a social media “expert”? What should you look out for?

Social media experts: a job title that didn’t exist a decade ago; but has become quite useful in the current digital climate. But when you seek help with social media, what should you look for?

Project Eve provided some helpful pointers on the kind of attributes to look for:

  1. Know more than Facebook or Twitter.
  2. Understands your business, industry, and audience.
  3. Hands-on experience.
  4. References/portfolio.

No. 1 seems intuitive. Facebook and Twitter may be the most famous platforms (by virtue of their market share), but other platforms may provide a better fit, for instance, visually-rich businesses should consider photo/video platforms like Instagram/Vine.

No. 2 is what separates the business-minded from the mere enthusiasts. Consultants are hired to solve problems; and social media issues do not exist in isolation, often tying in with more underlying business issues such as budgeting, marketing communication, or public relations.

No. 3 is, then, what separates the all-rounder from the purely business-minded consultants. Yes, you’d want to hire someone who’s business-conscious; but also someone who has had real experience in working with your platform. In fact, I’d argue that accurate selection and management of platform ties in with the consultant’s understanding of your industry. If you’re in the fashion industry, you’d hope your consultant knows something about Pinterest…

No. 4 is again self-explanatory: who hires someone without a decent CV?! – This is where, despite today’s technological advances, old-school due diligence still has a place.

What is ‘expertise’ anyway?!

I dislike the ‘expertise’ label anyway. I think it not only confers inordinate perception of power, but also implies a lack of system-wide, well-rounded business view. Even though every consultant has their native industry, they would not leaves themselves entirely unprepared for the challenges from working in another business environment.

Hopefully the above gave some useful pointers when you need help with your social media – someone who has a wider, system-based view of your business problem, rather than viewing social media as a mere silo.

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Businesses: Social Media is not an overnight fix

Many businesses, small and medium, are extending their marketing to social media. It’s hip, and information can travel quickly. But should you expect social media marketing efforts to yield immediate results?

Explore B2B, a blog on content creation, explains why social media is not an overnight solution - I can’t agree more.

Social media is about dealing with real humans, with the same underlying motivation and psychology. And that remains true even if one side of the conversation is a business.

Having said that, many consumers have a cynical view about businesses on social media. A latent expectation that whoever at the other end of their Twitter or Facebook page is trying to sell them something.

To help overcome this cynicism, it’s important to keep in mind that social media is about relationship building, not mere selling.

So what should the marketer expect from social media strategy?

1. Building fruitful connections with like-minded professionals.

2. Develop status as thought-leader among customers, by developing trust and ongoing communication.

3. Listen in on what others say about your business – people talk on social media anyway, whether you participate or not. If any issues arise, at least you have an opportunity to address them strategically.

4. Expect not quick results, but that results will grow from the expertise, trust and network you cultivate from social media.

What does Facebook’s Algorithm Change Mean for Marketers?

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Facebook announced yesterday a tweak to their news feed algorithm. In a nutshell, relevant posts, articles and news items are favoured ahead of meme photos.

What was a news feed again?

Facebook’s news feed is the first thing users see when they log into their account. It contains updates from their friends, “liked” pages, and (sometimes) Facebook announcement. In other words, Facebook news feed is social media prime real estate.

And why is the algorithm important?

What goes on each user’s news feed is not random. It is determined by Facebook’s own algorithm – like fast food secret recipes, the algorithm is only known to people inside Facebook’s corporate fortress. But Facebook’s own news room does announce how the algorithm is supposed to work.

Why should the marketer care?

According to the analysis site AllFacebook, there are three main aspects to the new algorithm:

  • Ensuring users see more useful news articles in news feed;
  • Highlight stories with recent comments;
  • Both favoured ahead of meme photos.

Facebook made this change because, according to their research, people prefer quality articles and relevant news about what they like ahead of memes.

What does this mean to the marketer? Facebook is rewarding interaction, which is fostered by news and information that individual users find useful, with which they could engage in conversations with other like-minded people. Marketers should therefore be encouraged to:

  • Understand their audience/potential clientele better;
  • Produce contents that acutely address that audience’s needs;
  • Seek innovative ways to enhance engagement, whether by comments, likes, or sharing.
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‘Best time to post on social media’ – does it exist?

“What is the best time to post to social media?” – Social media strategists often ask this question. And it’s time to investigate the efficacy of the answer.

Recently we examined some (limited) research into optimal social media posting times. One insight we gained is that there is very little consistent trend. And given the relative immaturity into social media metric research, not much conclusive evidence can be drawn.

But knowing the best time to post on social media makes sense, right? I mean, don’t most people follow a certain routine?

There are at least two reasons why such data may not be helpful:

  1. Time zone differences. If your business is strictly metropolitan or regional you don’t need to worry about that. But the ‘best’ time in Sydney, for instance, may not coincide with the best time in Perth. The Silicon Valley guru Guy Kawasaki repeats his tweets four times to cater for time zones – but is that always feasible for your operation?
  2. The research may not be applicable to your business niche. Most of the available research reviewed here did not differentiate between different industries. Buddy Media did attempt to examine optimal social media posting times by industries, but can your business fit into one of the categories?
  3. Competition – Yes, there are certain times when most people are on social media. But no, that may not be the best time to post, because every marketer would be posting at that time! – The implication of this point goes back to (2), where your niche may be sufficient specialised to actually avoid that rush. (The point was originally argued by PostRocket.)

So does that mean social media research is useless? – it doesn’t have to be that pessimistic. Even if no single research matches your business or industry, it is still possible to generalise from existing information through the process of induction – that is, use particular information to make conclusions about the general. Inductive reasoning may not give 100% accurate data, but can still provide useful guidance.

I do believe that ‘optimal social media time’ is a viable and important metric – however, for now, there are plenty of caveats to follow.