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Influencer Marketing for Small Businesses

influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is a priority for brands in 2017. In 2016, influencers emerged as a powerhouse for brands looking to reach millennials in the personalized, authentic way that they desire. Celebrity endorsements have always been a tool for marketers with the right budget, but influencer marketing takes this concept to the next level. It combines star power with the more casual endorsement you get from word of mouth – social media influencers are typically much more connected to and familiar with their fans than A-list celebrities are. While some social media stars command big pay checks from the huge brands they work with, there are thousands of micro-influencers that are more easily accessible to small businesses with limited budgets.

Influencers with millions of followers aren’t right for every brand. Micro-influencers in specific industries are not only more affordable for smaller businesses, they’re more likely to reach the people who will become actual customers. Micro-influencers are often cheaper for businesses to work with, and may even do partnerships for free products or services. In exchange, they can offer direct, personal connections with consumers businesses may struggle to reach efficiently otherwise. Their reviews of products are much more authentic than major influencers with millions of followers that they definitely can’t connect with individually.

How to Find Micro-Influencers

You can find influencers who would be a great fit for your business in a variety of ways, ranging from free options to purchasing tools built for this purpose.

  • Start with your own followers: Take a look through your own fans on social media. For followers who have a few thousand followers of their own, and are already fans of your business, a partnership with your brand could be a natural choice for them.
  • Connect with local bloggers: Google is your friend here – search for popular local bloggers in your area. If their content is a fit, check out how they prefer to connect.
  • Hashtags: On Instagram and Twitter, browse popular hashtags related to your brand’s products. Chances are, some of the top tweets come from influencers in these topics.
  • Buy a tool to help: Buy a subscription to a service like Klear to get a more in-depth look at who holds influence in your industry.

 

What to Expect

When working with influencers, it’s important to pursue an authentic, mutually beneficial relationship. Treat influencers with respect, and they’ll be more open to working with you. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Research how the influencer prefers to be contacted, and respect what types of partnerships they’re willing to do.
  • Do your due diligence and research the influencer’s history and past brand sponsorships. This can help avoid a crisis for your brand later.
  • Plan to build a relationship over time. Influencers may not be open to a partnership right away, even if you’re willing to pay. They need to get to know your business first, and understand if it works with their brand.
  • Make sure all posts from your influencer clearly state their relationship to your brand – transparency pays off with your audience and avoids legal issues.
  • Ideally, plan for a long-term relationship and not a one-off sponsorship.

Women’s History Month Wrap-Up: 4 Brands Celebrating Women

International Woman’s Day has come and gone, and we’re approaching the end of Women’s History Month. Over the last few weeks companies and brands throughout the country and world have been celebrating women. Using a variety of strategies, many businesses utilized International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month to announce ongoing initiatives, campaigns or a commitment to a gender-related cause.

From paper towels to financial investors, here’s a quick review of a few creative favorites:

Proctor and Gamble #WeSeeEqual

The same company that launched the #LikeAGirl campaign during the Olympics last summer kicked off a campaign called #WeSeeEqual. The video depicts women and girls conquering their fears, loving on their families and achieving their goals.

Western Union

Western Union released the results of a global survey that found women across the globe believed education to be the key to advancing gender equality. Citing the survey, Western Union announced new education initiatives targeting girls on International Women’s Day, including a new global scholarship program.

Brawny #StrengthHasNoGender

The paper towel brand known for plaid and biceps produced a series of mini-videos about strong women. The move accompanied the announcement of a campaign called #StrengthHasNoGender. The Brawny website revealed its commitment to contributing $75,000 for STEM education programs to Girls Inc, a nonprofit that helps girls grow up to be healthy, educated and independent. They also created a timeline of important events impacting women throughout history.

State Street Global Advisors-Fearless Girl

This viral sculpture installation is now seeing requests to have a permanent residence on Wall Street. The Boston Globe reported that the fearless girl was commissioned and placed by Street Global Advisors as part of their initiative to encourage their investors to increase the number of women in leadership roles. SSGA’s official press release referred to the statue as “a Symbol of Need for Action”.

Photo credit: Reuters

Photo credit: Reuters

These campaigns are eye-catching and inspiring reminders that while there is still work to be done for girls and women, there is ample support behind ongoing efforts. While the month of March shouldn’t be the only time businesses evaluate their commitment to supporting women, it provides an opportunity to share stories of successful women and reminds us they’re all around us.

 

Inspiring Women in Graphic Design

To continue the month’s celebration of women’s contributions to history and the world, I thought it would be fitting to highlight five super talented women doing big things in the field of graphic design. There are so many inspiring women in graphic design right now; I love learning from their unique styles, career challenges and successes, and perspectives on what design means to them.

Take a look, and click through to see more of each designer’s work.

Paula Scher

scher_PP scher
 

“It took me a few seconds to draw it, but it took me 34 years to learn how to draw it in a few seconds.”

 Paula Scher

Marian Bantjes

bantjes_I-wonder-4  bantjes_sorrow-1
 

“My aim is juxtaposition and surprise, but also, while I have an affinity for the organic form, I can’t help the way my brain works, which is logically and in a very structured manner. I’m a sort of free-flowing control freak.”

-Marian Bantjes
 

Jessica Hische

Hische-Penguin-DropCaps-2013
 
jessica_hische
 

“To be a good artist / letterer / designer / guitar player it takes practice. A lot of it. More than you can even fathom when you’re starting out.”

-Jessica Hische
 

Laura Pol

lp_cards_bc_final  Laura-pol-art3
 

Jessica Walsh

walsh-5
 
jessica_walsh_NYT
 

“Play is the state of mind that we can use in our creative process to our advantage.”

-Jessica Walsh

Dark Social: Digital Word of Mouth

Cellars

“Dark social” isn’t as malicious as it sounds. The term was coined by Alexis Madrigal in an article for The Atlantic in 2012 to describe the sharing of information in emails and instant messengers – sharing that existed long before social media platforms were popular. Social media ROI is getting easier to measure, but dark social is more difficult. And it accounts for a huge portion of the referrals your website is probably getting.

When looking through your Google Analytics, you probably notice a large chunk of the referrals are listed in the “direct traffic” category. These hits can come from a variety of behind-the-scenes sources; a link shared through text, email, native mobile apps (like Facebook’s), messengers, Slack messages, Snapchat, and someone using a secure HTTPS browser all fall in this bucket. It’s word of mouth on the internet, but not the kind you can track easily through Facebook Insights.

The Struggle for Social Media Strategists

While it’s great to have so many avenues for your content to be shared, dark social adds to the struggle for social media teams in proving the value of what they do. If you can’t specifically show that these direct traffic hits are from people copying and sharing a link you put on Facebook, it’s tough to show true ROI. Social media marketers are under a lot of pressure to show concrete metrics, which is sometimes next to impossible. There’s no real way to say “yes, all of these direct traffic hits were from text messages sent in this market.”

texting

Dark social can also make optimizing content tough. Without knowing how the content is being shared specifically, marketers can’t design it for those platforms. These shares are likely hitting demographics that may not be on other social channels, like the 55 and older age group. When you can’t pin down the audience and the channel, it’s difficult to be strategic.

Shining the Light on Dark Social

So, what can PR pros and marketers do about dark social? Here’s a few things to focus on to get a better handle on this type of sharing:

  • Use Google Analytics’ customer URL builder. This can help with proving that your social sharing is driving dark social communication, and which posts are bringing in the most referrals. No matter where the link is clicked from, you’ll be able to see that it was that specific link you created for your latest Facebook post that brought visitors to the website.

 

google analytics

  • Invest in a tool made for dark social tracking, like st by Radium One.
  • Make shareable content a priority. Even when it’s hard to track, dark social is still sharing of your content. Make sure your social posts are shareable – find the emotional connection, keep text short, and include visuals whenever possible. You might not be able to optimize it for a Snapchat message, but you can still focus on creating content that resonates with your audience, no matter where they are.

The beauty of a brand manifesto

Mieux Derma Brand Manifesto

Mieux Derma Brand Manifesto

I’ve talked about the moodboard process, as well as the importance of brand guides, but have yet to touch on one of the other tools in the master brand toolkit: the brand manifesto.

What is a brand manifesto?

As a manifesto is “a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer” (Miriam-Webster), a brand manifesto is just that, publicly declaring the intentions, motivations and views of the brand. While not every company needs a manifesto, it can be a great way to get to the essence of a brand. The language that forms the manifesto helps excite and guide employees as they share the brand with the world, and also inspires and connects with consumers who interact with the brand.

Key elements

A manifesto can be a single page statement, or a lengthy, designed “bible,” but it needs to have some basic elements:

Impact – This is the call to action, for you, your employees, and your consumers. What do you want to enable/inspire/change/create?

Passion – This is main differentiator for the manifesto (compared with the straight brand guide). Stir the emotions, and open up. Be vulnerable, be authentic. If there’s something about your company’s mission or goals that makes your heart pound, put it down here.

Essence – What do you believe? Why are you getting out of bed everyday to do this? What really drives you?

Connection – A good brand manifesto will inspire and create excitement and connection, resulting in easy brand evangelism. Employees will enthusiastically sell and consumers will enthusiastically buy in.

Muse Manifesto

Muse Manifesto

Make it look good

Turn it into a designed poster for the office, a glossy brochure, or a beautiful hardback book. Just give it some design love—it represents the heart of your business, so should be considered and given special attention.

nike

Nike Running Manifesto

Put it into action

The brand manifesto is more than a fluffy brand exercise—it can translate into hard marketing strategy around your service or product. The emotion and messaging can be tweaked for target audiences and applied to marketing materials that will create strong brand connections. We’ve seen this a lot with brands like Nike, Levi’s, and Apple.

Levi's Ad

Levi’s Ad

A brand manifesto may be unnecessary or excessive for some companies. But for those attempting to connect with consumers on a human level, those experiencing the challenges of focus despite growth, or those simply needing to document the essential “why” of their business, a brand manifesto can be a beautiful part of their brand identity toolkit.

Is Jargon Bad?

Is jargon bad?

Forward-facing innovators can optimize deliverables by leveraging a holistic view of language.

Last weekend I used the word “optimize” while out with friends. My husband nudged me. “You’re using your business jargon in real life again,” he whispered. My work is a nonstop cycle of blogs, articles, brochures, press releases, POVs, web copy and white papers, many of them for clients in technology or management services. It’s no wonder these words are creeping into my daily conversations more and more. But is jargon bad?

Like most people in buzzword-laden professions, I have strong opinions on the specifics. Still, I’m careful not to write off jargon simply because it’s popular. Content that is all jargon is garbage, but so is content that is all metaphors, or exclamation points, or flowery language. Just as metaphors, exclamation points and verbal curlicues have their time and place, so does jargon. Some terms – including “evergreen” and “disrupt” – are actually delightfully tactile. I don’t like “game-changing” or “siloed,” though I’ll admit to using them. On the other hand, “synergy” and “actualize” make me want to pour hot tea over my keyboard and then bang on it with the mug.

It may be annoying, but is jargon bad? As a writer, it’s my responsibility to communicate messages well. Compelling content requires creativity; clarity is even more important. But writing doesn’t simply relay information: Writing relays specific information meant to leave a specific impression on a specific audience. My work must be unique but still aligned with the client’s voice and industry. Because most of the content and thought leadership projects we produce at A.wordsmith will be consumed by our clients’ peers and customers, they must fit the style that those audiences expect. Sometimes, that style is business-ese.

The business-ese code

The process is similar to code-switching. I don’t speak to my boss the same way I speak to my husband. I use a higher pitch when interacting with a three-year-old, and it’s different than the small talk I make with my Uber driver. I say “ya’ll” when checking in with old friends from Atlanta, throw in Yiddish phrases when chatting with family in New Jersey and dampen my energy with colleagues here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s not limited to verbal communication, either: Watch how President Obama greets a member of the coaching staff for the US Olympic basketball team and then, without missing a beat, changes his body language to address a player.

Is jargon bad?

Barack Obama code-switches like a pro

The change doesn’t indicate insincerity: Neither of these is “the real Obama.” We communicate differently according to our environment and interlocutors. It’s a practice called code-switching, and it’s a natural feature of language that we unconsciously use to indicate relationships, power and culture.

Business jargon is a kind of code that represents the culture of professional interactions. It uses sleek, trendy, smart language because consultants and tech companies acquire business and impress peers by coming off as sleek, trendy and smart. Using the appropriate verbiage establishes credibility by demonstrating that the speaker (or writer) knows what they’re doing and respects the norms of the environment.

Jargon on purpose

We need to get over the idea that jargon for the sake of jargon is wrong. Jargon actually serves a very specific purpose. It’s a hallmark of poor writing, but it’s also a component of skilled and appropriate business communications. My husband sees optimize as a ridiculous word, and, three beers in on a Saturday night, it is. It would be equally ridiculous to write “try really hard to do our very best” in a formal POV targeting CIOs. The challenge is to distinguish between the two, and then infuse the vernacular with enough energy and charm to make it stand out while still fitting in. Every word has a place, even the cloying business jargon we love to hate.

Except for synergy – synergy is gibberish.

4 Considerations for Contributed Content

Contributed content blog

Cision named contributor marketing as one of the top trends for 2017.  Contributed content is an incredibly useful tool for PR pros—whether you’re looking to raise the profile of your client or your agency. Contributed marketing is creating content then pitching it to appropriate outlets.  The demand for content is rapidly increasing. The Atlantic reported that “The New York Times publishes about 230 pieces of content—stories, graphics, interactives, and blog posts—daily. This number has risen by more than 35 percent this decade.” An increasing number media outlets are turning to contributors for content on their sites. Below are some things to consider when contributing content and some potential beneficial outcomes.

1. Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle Content

Work smarter, not harder. Many companies have their own blog (like the one you’re currently reading) with quality content. Re-using this material is beneficial in two ways. First, it saves you time. If your company blog content is strong, there’s no need to spend the time and energy wracking your brain for new topics. Spending time updating and polishing a blog post is easier than starting from scratch. Secondly, refurbished blogs that are posted elsewhere often point back to the original blog site. This can draw readers back to the first site and result in increased visits.

2. Establish yourself as thought leader + target online outlets

What expertise can you or your clients share? Craft this know-how into blog or article form and offer it to specialized publications. Many outlets have online sites that churn out an incredible volume of content—and also receive considerable viewership on their site. Most will also post recently published articles on social media platforms—another way to reach a larger audience.  CIO outlines some characteristics that indicate strong potential for contributor marketing including:  industries with cycles of innovation, customer problems, specialized information or an established online presence.

collaboration contributed content

3. Collaborate

We say it over and over: PR and earned media is about relationships. Contributed content is a great way to develop them. Bloggers are always on the search for fresh content and ways to draw readers to their site. Guest blogging and collaborating with like-minded, knowledgeable people is mutually beneficial. If the contributed post is successful on their site it’s possible that an established relationship will develop.

4. Research

The only caveat with guest blogging is ensuring the site you’re partnering with is legitimate. No one wants to read an a post (regardless of content quality) on a spammy sight with multiple obnoxious pop-up ads. Take the time to research different outlets to target the best platform for your content. Think about the target audience of each platform and who you’re striving to reach with your content. Do the two match up?

Hopefully these suggestions can help you move forward with a successful contributed content marketing strategy in 2017.

How to tie your social media strategy to your SEO

social media and seo

Public relations and marketing professionals have learned over the last few years that they can’t exist in silos and get exceptional results for their brands. Integrated strategies are vital for success. PR and marketing live in different sandboxes, but they have to learn how to play well together. This is particularly clear with the relationship between social media and SEO. These two areas can and do exist separately, but when paired together can produce stronger results for both teams.

Both social media and SEO are part of a long-term strategy. You might not get a million followers or a hundred new links within a month, but with the right foundation, these strategies can bolster your brand reputation and bring in new customers and leads. Together, these two tools can expand and strengthen the “touch points” where your customer interacts with your brand. With enough “touches” over time, you can create dedicated and repeat customers. Here are three tips for tying your social media strategy to your SEO plan.

Choose the right platforms, get them on brand, and update regularly

You don’t have to be on every single social media platform, but the ones you have add links to your online presence. Choose the ones that are right for your brand and focus on doing those platforms well. Make sure your content is planned out and integrated into your overall communications strategy. Update each platform regularly and with content targeted to your specific audiences on each channel. Facebook is different than LinkedIn, and LinkedIn is different than Pinterest, so be sure to craft and fine tune content for each. Be sure that the branding, logos, and overall tone of voice match across each platform. When someone Googles your company, they may click the Facebook link rather than your website link; be sure they get the same story and message (just honed for Facebook etiquette) that they would from your homepage.

Create shareable and engaging content

With social media, crafting and posting your content is step one. Step two is getting engagement, shares, and mentions from your followers – and in turn, boosted SEO results. The more people publicly share your content, the more links and mentions are available for your brand, which helps boost your reputation with search engines. To get your followers to share your content, it needs to be right for the platform, relatable, and well crafted. Sharing content on social media as an individual is often an endorsement of the thoughts and ideas within – it has to be great for your followers to associate with it. Posts that are short and succinct and include a photo or video are more shareable. It also helps if your content is tied into current social media and pop culture trends that are relevant to your brand.

Use your keywords on social

Though there have been changes in the way SEO works, a good portion of it comes back to the keywords you want to be tied to and optimizing your content with these keywords. This is also true on social media; you want your posts to be searchable by the keywords your brand is focusing on. Once you have a solid idea of the keywords your SEO campaign is targeting, find authentic ways to work them in to your social media content. This is particularly helpful on Pinterest and YouTube, where users are often searching for new content by keywords. It can also work on Facebook and Twitter, especially if your pages are well done and have a good reputation with search engines.

Download our Social Analytics POV

free social analytics

“Today, knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” – Peter Drucker

More than ever, public relations professionals are working to quantify PR’s value for their clients. This can be difficult for a number of public relations tactics, but social media is notoriously hard to pin down in terms of ROI. Executives and business owners have been told their business needs to be on social media, but without the hard numbers to back the “why,” many still aren’t on board with investing time and manpower into social. Social analytics tools exist that provide in-depth data for social channels, but these are often pricey, prohibiting smaller PR agencies and small businesses from using them.

Thankfully, there’s still hope for those who have tight budgets or are overwhelmed by the idea of tackling Google Analytics. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest all provide free, built-in analytics that offer a wealth of information. For businesses on these platforms, these free tools can tell you what’s working, who your audience is, and help you build stronger content for social. The key is knowing which numbers are important.

We’ve created a new, downloadable white paper covering our perspective on free social analytics to help you better understand how to use these tools strategically. Meaningful Measurement: The Social Media Data You’re Underutilizing— and How to Put it to Work for Free includes guides through Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest’s free analytics. Key stats on each channel are highlighted, are well as which numbers aren’t important.

 A few highlights:

  • Discover why page “likes” on Facebook don’t really matter
  • Learn how to understand the impressions stats on Twitter
  • Explore your Pinterest audience demographics in-depth

 

Download the full POV here, and start turning your social media stats into knowledge: http://awordsmithcomm.com/about-us/thought-leadership/

Designing for Gender Equity

On Saturday, the Women’s March on Washington took over not only the streets of DC, but cities all over the world. Participants had innumerable reasons for joining, but women’s rights and equality were clearly at the event’s core. No matter what your thoughts are about the march itself, it did bring attention to a range of women’s issues, one being the wage gap that persists for women in the workforce.

Half, but not equal

Despite great progress for women in recent history, equal opportunity and pay for women in the workplace is still lacking, across all industries. Though women make up nearly half of the American workforce, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “In 2015, female full-time workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent. Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. In middle-skill occupations, workers in jobs mainly done by women earn only 66 percent of workers in jobs mainly done by men.” Obviously your HR department can tell you how your organization is doing on wage discrepancies, but are there other ways companies could be addressing “softer” systemic gender biases?

(And what does this have to do with design?)
wl_equity_toolkit_image_5

Games for Gender Equity

The AIGA Women Lead Initiative has put design to work in a Gender Equity Toolkit, “a great set of resources including videos and a downloadable DIY activity set you can use to battle one of the leading causes of disparate access to leadership positions in the design field: implicit gender bias.” The kit is distributed to AIGA members with the design field in mind, but could certainly apply to other fields, as well. A series of games/exercises aims to help teams open dialogue, test assumptions, and hopefully begin to change subconscious biases.

wl_gender_equity_toolkit_image4
 

Turning the ship

Sure, a small designed kit isn’t going to end gender inequality in the workplace. But if it opens lines of communication, and helps teams thoughtfully consider how they incorporate all viewpoints, I’d say it’s a pretty cool effort. It also makes me wonder about what other design-driven tools will be useful for professional organizations in creating dialogue around perceptions, personal experience, and stereotypes. Obviously, respect for employee privacy is paramount, but teams also have to acknowledge how personal history and experience shape how individuals approach team dynamics and equity.