social media

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

CIA floor 2

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)

tape

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.
calendar drawing

‘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.

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Social media risk management for small business?

In my marketing investigation rounds, I often hear small business owners and organisations wanting to get into social media, but for one reason or another chose not to do so.

Sometimes they simply say “we don’t want to”, and then (often without prompting) declare one of the following:

  • “People say stupid things on social media.”
  • “You can’t control what people say about you.”
  • “Once something (about your brand) is out in social media, it’s out there forever.”

All very valid concerns. And the plethora of social media horror stories in business may be no coincidence – a survey into social media risk management revealed that only 36% of companies provided employee training, even though 71% of companies were concerned about risks.

But there are things small business owners can do to alleviate them without going completely abstinent. Here is just a small collection.

1. Develop social media policy for staff

If you hire staff, and they use social media, they may say things that you (as the boss) are unhappy about. An extreme way of dealing with this is to ban all social media use – but that’s simply not practicable, especially if your staff post in a private capacity.

Techrepublic’s first tip on protecting your brand from social media risks was to establish a staff policy:

The policy should cover employee use of social media — for example, employees’ own Facebook or Twitter accounts – and use by the business.

2. Owners should also be careful

Technewsdaily sagely advised, among other things, that even though Facebook and Google+ has particular privacy options, never assume that things are only visible to those within your private circles. How Randi Zuckerberg’s private family photo (with brother Mark in it) got publicised was case in point.

3. Address customer feedback in an appropriate manner

You can’t please every single customer. If your brand is on social media, even if you do everything right, there’s no guarantee that a customer may say a negative thing or two. This fear alone holds back many of my investigative clients – but it shouldn’t.

Forbes suggested several ways in which high-profile brands addressed customer complaints in social media, and their first advice was: yes, you should reply.

You may want to crawl in a hole and disappear, but ignoring the comments won’t make them go away. Remember: Your goal is to make your company appear transparent, open, and approachable. 

Inc.com helpfully provided “Four C’s” in providing good response: Care, Comment, Correct, and Compromise.

Of course, business can still thrive without social media; but if you want to dip your brand into this dynamic world, hopefully these tips will help your investigation.

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Pushback – where more connectivity doesn’t mean more happiness

Social media marketers often say you should connect all your social accounts together. But being too-connected also causes people to  periodically disconnect from social media.

Marketers’ reasons for connectness are sound - better SEO (search engine optimisation) through links, more touchpoints, capturing more channels, etc. I certainly won’t dispute that.  But to keep tabs on the networks takes time and effort, and can lead to “pushbacks”, according to University of Washington’s A/Prof Ricardo Gomez and Stacey Morrison.

As Salon identified, the researchers found that the most important reasons for pushback are deeply emotional:

Emotional dissatisfaction is the most frequently reported reason to push back and resist online connectivity….

Ultimately, in social media, real relationship and engagement matter. This research shows that exclusively one-sided communication not only turns off customers, but also won’t do the communicator much good either.

(Image credit: blog.sumall.com)

social media clock

When is the best time to post on social media?

‘What time should I post on social media?’

A vexing question for any social media-savvy marketers. Despite its obvious importance, a clear answer remains elusive, mainly because many of those metrics are difficult to define. It had been argued that social media metrics, being a relatively new phenomenon, is not yet matured enough to clearly predict campaign effectiveness. Even one of the seminal metrics – CTR (click-through rate) – was found by Nielsen to be poorly correlated to return-on-investment on marketing budget.

Nevertheless, I’ve managed to dig out a few patterns from previous studies (with several good reviews from Buffer, starting here). Given the uncertainties in metric definition (or if you must, ‘opertionalisation’), these studies must be considered in light of your business’ particular circumstances.

Twitter engagement:

Day: weekdays generate more clicks (Argyle found 14% improvement overall; Dan Zarrella found most optimal clicks between Thursdays and Sundays. Somewhat conflicting results, but late in the week seems the overlap between the two.)

Time: most retweets are received around 5pm; most clicks are received at 12pm and 6pm (found by both Argyle and Dan Zarrella – the latter warned against dinner time tweets where activities drop (6-8pm)). Conversely, in a study involving Bitly link shorteneers, Raka found the best click-through rate is achieved at between 1-3pm on Mondays to Thursdays.

Best mobile usage (181% improvement) is during morning and evening commutes (8am, 2pm, 4-6pm), according to a Twitter study.

Facebook:

Days: Buddy Media found that engagement is best on Thursdays and Fridays (with Sundays somewhat positive), whilst business industry engagement peaks on Wednesday, closely followed by Thursdays.

Time: Buddy Media again found that early morning (6-8am)/ late night (9-11pm) are times when most brands don’t post, which provides opportunity to reach the top of fans’ news feeds,

For blog posts:

* KISS Metrics found that Mondays, and 11am on a particular day, are highest for blog-viewing. However given the lack of cross-tabulation, it is not immediately clear whether Monday 11am IS the best time for blog viewership.

* Dan Zarrella, meanwhile, found that blogs posted at 8pm receive more likes; and those posted at 6pm receive more shares. He also found that weekend blog-posts receive more likes (but unclear on whether shares differ by days).

A caveat on engagement – one of many!

If your goal now is increased engagement, that’s fine, higher likes/ shares will be good enough.

But if you want your business to be profitable, or build real relationships, then does engagement necessarily translate to those objectives?

As I mentioned in the second paragraph, the maturity and agreed framework on social media metrics remain debatable. In other words, do click-throughs necessary mean better ROI? (recall that Neilsen research said no) Do likes generate better brand image? – some of these questions are asked in good-old-fashioned marketing, well-predating social media. But that’s a topic for next time.

(Image credit: PosBisnis.com)