Posts Taged marketing

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.

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.

Let it go: don’t worry about control on social media

brand voice social media

Brands put a lot of work into fine tuning their voice, and can understandably be protective of their image. Companies want their audience to talk about them a certain way, and marketing, advertising, and public relations all work together in the hopes of achieving positive buzz and brand loyalty. However, brands often have trouble getting their social media platforms to “play nice” and stay in control. The conversation on social media is tough to control, but brands should embrace this fact rather than fear it.

Social media channels don’t function the same way an advertising piece does, where the content is tightly controlled and distributed. You can put in hours of work into a piece of content, just to have it turn into an unflattering, viral meme. Social media moves quickly, and brands can struggle to keep up. However, companies shouldn’t bail on social media entirely or resort to a corporate, sterile voice on these platforms. Instead, brands should jump into the deep end with both feet and utilize social media platforms for what they are – customer experience tools, not a brand megaphone.

Plan, and then let it go

Social media still requires planning and knowing your brand voice inside and out before starting to post. Companies should make sure their brand voice and image is unified across all the channels they’ll be using, and have a set of guidelines in place for tone and style for whoever will be posting on their behalf. Know what your brand would say and would never dream of saying before beginning. Make sure posts are edited before going live.

Once the content is out there, it’s in the hands of your audience. Brands must be ready to “let it go” to a certain extent after this point, as the engagement that happens may not be what you expect. Whatever the response is, take it and run with it rather than try to change it. It’s bad practice to delete negative comments; instead, use them as a customer service opportunity (or a humor opportunity, if it’s right for your brand and the complaint being made). Engage with the positive responses too, and shine a spotlight on the users responding. In some cases, you can even take advantage of user generated content in response to what you post. It might not be the quality or style your marketing department would have chosen, but it makes an authentic connection with your audience, something an ad rarely does.

Choose transparency over control

The days of “no comment” in response to a crisis are long gone thanks to social media. Social media users have no tolerance for slow responses, no response, or robotic corporate responses. When a brand crisis arises, it will be talked about on social media. No matter how appealing it can be to state “no response” or stay quiet until you’ve had ample time to come up with a polished statement, this is rarely the right choice.

While having a few days to think and present a response spears to give a company the chance to get a handle on the situation, they’re losing valuable time with an audience that is already discussing it. Transparency is far more important than an illusion of control on social media. Sometimes it’s even fine for a company to say “we’re aware, and we’re taking some time to collect our thoughts” rather than avoid posting for a few days and then attempt to look like they were always in control. Honesty with your audience (and even admitting you were blindsided) can go a long way with social media users.

Social media is a PR tool, not a marketing one

Marketing and public relations departments must work together to achieve success for the brand, and social media is no different. However, given the inherent lack of control with social media, PR professionals are better positioned to drive these efforts. Public relations is a two-way conversation, as is social media. Marketing is a brand megaphone; great in certain circumstances, but not really a fit for social media. Social media users have an extremely low tolerance for ads, and have high expectations for authentic communication from the brands they follow.

Public relations should work with marketing to ensure that the brand voice on social media is up to par, but marketing should be comfortable with PR leading social and communicating with their audience without several rounds of content approval. Conversations on social happen at the speed of light, and the key to success on these channels is listening and jumping in quickly. When a brand remembers that social is more about their audience than their company, they’ll be able to stay on top of conversations while getting comfortable with letting go of control. The rewards of social media can be numerous when brands let go – for both companies and their audience.

How Brands Can Use Nostalgia

nostalgia marketing

It’s become almost an annual joke that Americans love fall so much. Mid-summer, plenty of your Facebook friends were probably posting about how much they’re looking forward to pumpkin patches, apple picking, and the sacred pumpkin spice latte. The autumn-love is at a fever pitch now that October is here, but just why do we all love this time of year so much? It’s the nostalgia.

Autumn and winter are seasons steeped in tradition and memories for many Americans. We gather at homecoming football games, share gifts with our loved ones at the several holidays scattered throughout the season, and reflect on what the past year has brought us. It’s a time where we remember the simpler periods of our lives, and spend quality time with those closest to us. Nostalgia makes people happy. Millennials in particular love nostalgia as shown by the popularity of Pokemon Go and the #tbt (Throwback Thursday) hashtag.

Brands can get to know their audience better through nostalgic marketing, and in turn help their customer base better understand their company culture. Here’s three ways your brand can tap into nostalgia in your communications this fall:

#TBT – Get Personal

One of the most popular hashtags across all social media platforms, #TBT is an easy way to connect with users. Don’t limit yourself to just posting stock pictures of a six pack of Surge; use real life photos from your staff! Baby photos, embarrassing prom pictures, and 90’s Nerf battles at a family reunion are all prime for sharing in the hashtag. You can also share photos from your company’s beginnings and memories including past office photos, last year’s office bake-off, and previous logo designs.

nostalgic marketing

Good Stories Weren’t Created by Digital Platforms

Storytelling is as old as life itself. Though digital platforms allow us to tell stories in new ways, these tools certainly didn’t create storytelling. Take a step back and reflect on how you used to hear stories when you were young. What made your grandfather’s war stories so riveting? How did you feel when listening to a scary story around a campfire with your fellow troop members? The tales you remember from your childhood and the storytellers that shared them can help illuminate the key parts of a good story. Use these components in your marketing pieces. You can even do a campaign around nostalgic stories directly, as long as it makes sense for your brand.

What’s Old in PR is New Again

Public relations is a constantly changing field, and brands are likely using very different tactics than they were 20 years ago. However, some of those “old” ideas can be worth dusting off and implementing in the digital sphere. We have lots of tools to communicate with users and engage with them individually, and yet, many users still feel that brands’ digital presences is highly impersonal. Consider how you would have reached individuals in your audience pre-internet. While you probably aren’t going to have the time to start knocking on doors and meeting the people who make up your consumer base, you can still reach out through digital media with the same enthusiasm. With every communication, remember there are real people on the other side of the screen. Look for ways to reach out to your social media audience individually – utilize live streaming to allow them to ask questions that you can answer by name, go the extra mile with a customer service complaint on Twitter and give them something they wouldn’t expect, or crowd source photos from your audience to make your new social media banner.

Round Up: How Businesses are Using Pokemon Go

pokemon go

Earlier this summer, Pokémon Go hysteria swept the globe. Fueled by nostalgia and one of the first widespread iterations of augmented reality, the app became the most downloaded app in a first week ever. Groups of Pokémon trainers traversing the streets, phone in hand, became a common sight in many cities, and many families found a fun activity together that involved exercise and heading outdoors.

Businesses quickly took notice of amazing marketing opportunity. While the app as taken a downturn in usage due to some botched updates, there’s still a great chance for businesses to capitalize at little to no cost, and have some fun in the process. In the future, Pokémon Go will likely have opportunities for businesses to pay to become a PokeStop or a Gym location, making it even easier to draw in players. Until then, here are some examples of businesses using the app in unique ways to boost sales and their reputation that you can steal ideas from.

A new way to explore the Denver Zoo

Soon after the app’s release, the Denver Zoo jumped at the chance to use it to boost attendance during their typically slow July weekends. Armed with $380 of in-game lures (a tool in the app that draws Pokémon to the area it’s dropped in for a set period of time), the zoo’s marketing team offered a $5 admission to guests who showed the app at the ticket window, and then spread the lures throughout their grounds. During the July 22-24 weekend, the zoo brought in $58,000 in revenue from Pokémon Go players and beat attendance projections by 5,000 people. Guests enjoyed catching the virtual creatures while also learning about the real life animals that live at the zoo and the organization’s conservation efforts.

mobile game apps

Board the Pokémon Express in Cheyenne, Wyoming

After a staff member of Visit Cheyenne noticed that there were around 40 PokeStops along the city’s historic trolley route, the tourism organization knew they’d hit a goldmine. They created a Pokémon Express Tour for two days in July. Participants paid $10 to take a slightly altered version of the trolley’s route, which included extended stops at particularly active PokeStops. The tours sold out quickly, and the organization offered four more in August and one in September, citing the great marketing opportunity for local businesses along the route.

A Michigan bank offers a social media contest and gift cards

Monroe Bank and Trust in Michigan put together a Facebook contest that nearly any business with a store front could copy. The bank announced in a post that they’d be dropping lures at select ATM and bank locations. When participants found the location and caught a Pokémon there, they could take a picture and share it on the bank’s page for a chance to win a variety of gift cards.

Doing good while catching Pokémon

There have been several great stories about Pokémon Go players finding ways to use their hobby to do good while they level up. An animal shelter in Muncie, Indiana teamed up with local players to walk their adoptable dogs while they played the game. A local news crew filmed a segment on the story which was then featured nationwide and provided a huge boost to the shelter’s Facebook page. Players have also organized groups to pick up trash in their cities while playing and simultaneously used other apps while on the hunt for Pokémon that donate to a selected charity based on how many steps you walk. Nonprofits have a unique chance to connect with local players by offering them the ability to play the game while volunteering.

T-Mobile offers free data for Pokemon Go trainers

T-Mobile jumped on the Pokémon Go bandwagon early with offers for their customers that included free, unlimited data for the app for a year and free Lyft rides to popular PokeStops. While the unlimited data portion of this plan is controversial due to how it may or may not set a good net neutrality precedent, T-Mobile is an example of how nearly any type of business can participate and connect with Pokémon Trainers.

What’s Next

For cities heading into winter, it’s possible that the app will see another down turn in usage thanks to players staying inside out of the weather for a few months. Still, since participating is relatively low cost for businesses, it’s still worthwhile to consider how your organization can use the app in your marketing. Inc. has a handy guide for jumping in – take advantage of the opportunity to connect with your customers authentically and try something new!

3 Takeaways from Digital Summit Portland 2016

digital summit portland content marketing

This past week, I was able to attend the inaugural Digital Summit Portland at the Portland Art Museum. A meeting of the minds among social media, SEO, content marketing, and UX experts, the conference provided a wealth of information and networking opportunities. Speakers from companies like Pinterest, Microsoft, Facebook, and Uber gave me some inspiration for our clients’ programs. The conference provided a guide on where the digital realm is going in the next few years. For the first year, the conference was very successful, and I’m looking forward to what next year’s event will bring.

Three key takeaways I found during the Summit:

Jump on the Pokemon GO Bandwagon Now

Pokemon GO hasn’t been live even a month yet, and it’s already taking over the digital world. Every single talk I went to mentioned the augmented reality (AR) game. Plenty of conference goers were catching the creatures on their cell phones in between sessions. By day 2 of the conference, the app had surpassed Twitter in daily active users on Android.

Virtual reality and AR are tools we already know will affect communications in the next decade, and Pokemon GO is one of the first wide-spread iterations of this technology. Because the game encourages players to visit real life locations that have been marked as “PokeStops” to collect in game items, savvy businesses have already taken advantage of PokeStops located at or near their stores. Users of any kind can purchase “lures” in the game to drop at PokeStops that will attract Pokemon to the site for a set period of time. If a PokeStop is near a business, the store can purchase lures and drop them during business hours to attract people hoping to catch the Pokemon drawn to the lure. This is a great idea for places like coffee shops and cafes. They come for the Pokemon, they stay for a coffee break.

Businesses will also soon be able to pay to be a Sponsored PokeStop if there’s not one near their location.

Content Marketing is just Marketing

Content marketing sounds like a “buzzy” phrase, but according to the experts at Digital Summit Portland, it’s really just marketing. Content marketing has been around for quite some time, and simply focuses on creating personalized experiences for the individuals in your customer base. Based on the discussions at the conference, content marketing is here to stay and will likely be considered a foundational piece of any marketing program in the next few years.

Influencers aren’t defined by follower number

Influencer marketing is a trendy communications topic right now. Social media lifestyle gurus constantly promoting the latest detox tea, work out gear, and makeup. Brands of all kinds want to see their products on the biggest influencers’ pages. However, according to a few panels I sat in on at Digital Summit, the largest, difficult to land influencers aren’t necessarily the best. Follower number doesn’t make you an expert. The key is to know what influencers exist in your arena, and how you can leverage them to talk to your audience. Whether they have 12,000 followers or 1,200 doesn’t matter. Those 1,200 might be key members of your audience you want to reach, and there may be only 500 members of your target audience in that 12,000.

Were you at Digital Summit last week? I’d love to chat with you about what your highlights were!

2016 Trends: The Year of Apps, Video Ads and Virtual Reality

Technology

According to insight from Forbes, 2016 trends will bring tried-and-true developments with a twist, while novel tech advances take center stage.

Video advertising will increase their presence on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and even search engines. In fact, Google is planning to bring them to search results. According to experts, under Google’s recent purchase of YouTube, video ads will start showing up in even more unexpected places.

The app market will experience its own version of an overhaul. As movement continues toward replacing traditional “mobile-friendly” websites with mobile-optimized, intuitive and accessible apps, 2016 will bring an upsurge of app innovation, reports Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers. Business owners are becoming more savvy about the utility of apps for customer acquisition and retention. In other words, the phrase, “There’s an app for that” will begin to lose its irony in 2016.

Perhaps most exciting for some, virtual reality (VR) will shift from science fiction fodder to actual reality. DeMers reports: “Oculus Rift, arguably the most hyped VR device, is set to release in the first quarter of 2016. Oculus Rift and other VR devices will introduce an entire new medium of online advertising, with integration to popular social media platforms, video channels, and even forms of direct messaging.” Experts also predict groundbreaking application development for video games and general use.

What marketing/tech trend are you most excited about for 2016?

Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising – How are They Different?

City Advertising

Rolling into my senior year of college, I have been asked the same question a number of times throughout my studies as an undergraduate. It has been asked by my family, friends, acquaintances, professors and anyone I’ve struck up a conversation with. It is the question I was hesitant to answer until two years ago.

“So, what are you studying?”

There are multiple answers to this question that I have come up with each time it has been asked thus far. Mass Communication, Public Relations (PR), Marketing and just simply Communications. All of these answers are different. What is my major? Mass Communication. What am I really studying? Public Relations. What do people usually answer when I say this? “Oh, so like, marketing and advertising, right?”

Well, not exactly.

The Difference

Anyone studying communications will know the difference between the three, but a large majority of people are still confused by what PR, marketing and advertising professionals really do.

It is common for most to lump public relations, marketing and advertising together. Although they are similar, they are not all the same. Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines Public Relations as: “A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” How does this differ from marketing and advertising?

The easiest way to look at it is that marketing is a large umbrella in which public relations and advertising fall under. Paid advertising and PR efforts such as social media are both marketing strategies. However, public relations centers on the public by planning and implementing an organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy, whereas marketing is more specific and looks to add value to customers, clients, and partners before looking to influence and educate the public.

According to Entrepreneur.com, Advertising aims to “call the public’s attention to your business, usually for the purpose of selling products or services, through the use of various forms of media, such as print or broadcast notices.” You can remember it by thinking advertising is paid media and public relations is earned media. Many companies argue that they do not need public relations efforts because they are happy with their advertising agency’s efforts. Michael Levine, author of the book, Guerilla P.R notes: “Depending on how you measure and monitor, an article it is between 10 times and 100 times more valuable than an advertisement.” 

All three fields are unique and often work together but it is important to understand that they are different. For those seeking out a career in PR – don’t be afraid to correct people when they assume all three terms are married. If you’re interested in the profession, check out these blogs and click on the helpful chart included in this post.

PR, Marketing and Advertising Differences

5 Associated Press Stylebook changes marketing pros should know

The Associated Press Stylebook isn’t just for journalists. For the best in clarity and consistency, corporations should use AP style in nearly all their written communications materials.

The stylebook is updated year-round based on current usage and feedback from an annual survey. Some changes make headlines: in 2014 when AP said that “over” was an acceptable alternative to “more than” when describing relative amounts, the copywriting community was up in arms. In a critical Washington Post op-ed Alexandra Petri claimed the AP was letting usage win over correct grammar with this change.

The 2015 revised book contains over 300 changes, none of which incited the same response as the “over”/”more than” update. Nonetheless, there are five updates that are most important for those who write or edit for business.

1. New terms.

A new entry has been added regarding suicides and suicide attempts. Overall, AP recommends avoiding detail on the methods used, with the following style change: “Committed suicide” should be avoided except in direct quote from authorities.

It’s also advised to use “Affordable Care Act” sparingly, as not all Americans recognize the law by its formal name. AP suggests using “President Barack Obama’s health care law” or “the health care law” on first reference, and “Obamacare”—in quotation marks—on second reference.

2. Food names and phrases.

The AP made dozens of minor updates to this category. Most relevant: “BLT”—formerly bacon, lettuce and tomato—is now acceptable on first reference. And “craft brewery” should replace the use of “microbrewery.”

3. Social media lingo.

“Favorite” is now an acceptable term for the Twitter button users use to “express approval for a tweet, and/or to bookmark that tweet, and any associated links, for later consumption,” according to the AP Stylebook.

“Favorite” can also be used as a verb, as in: I favorite all the tweets from PR Daily’s Twitter account.

Though social media professionals have used “memes” to increase online interaction with their audiences for a while, it’s now an official AP style term. A “meme” is “a piece of information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that’s shared verbally or transmitted widely, often in social media.”

4. Sports slang and organization names.

AP Stylebook now includes several standardized basketball terms, such as “Elite Eight” and “Final Four,” which are now capitalized.

The AP is also putting the brakes on sports clichés: “A team losing a game is not a “disaster.” Home runs are homers, not “dingers,” “jacks” or “bombs.” A player scored 10 straight points, not 10 “unanswered” points. If a football team scores two touchdowns and the opponent doesn’t come back, say it “never trailed” rather than “never looked back.” In short, avoid hackneyed words and phrases, redundancies and exaggerations.”

5. Index of terms.

Though not a style revision, AP Stylebook has added an 85-page index to its 2015 edition to help users find words more quickly.

What’s your favorite and least favorite AP Stylebook rule?

untitled

What Does it Mean to be a Thought Leader?

Thought Leader Word Cloud

 

As you may (or may not) have noticed, A.wordsmith has recently changed it’s descriptive title from “a boutique PR and marketing firm” to “a boutique PR and thought leadership firm.” Likewise, you may be thinking, “What exactly does that mean?” Well, I’m here to tell you.

Marketing for the sake of sales

By definition, marketing involves communicating the value of a product or service for the sake of promoting its sale. It is a tactic used by many businesses to procure monetary and economic reward. Don’t get me wrong – part of what we do at A.wordsmith does involve implementing programs for our clients with the aim of boosting their sales. But the main focus of Public Relations is not to help our clients “get rich quick” because that would be a less-than-sincere goal. What we really care about is exactly what “Public Relations” sounds like – helping our clients build strong relationships with and within the community so that they might have the opportunity to properly showcase the quality of their products/services and grow as the healthy companies/organizations that they already are.

Trust in a thought leader

Now, on the other hand, here’s what a thought leader is: an informed and well-trusted opinion leader who inspires people with innovative ideas and turns these ideas into reality. Note that they key words here are “informed” and “well-trusted.” When a business knows a great deal about its field and can answer any and all of its public’s questions, trust and respect is what results. And following its establishment of trustworthy expertise with its customers, it is able to thrive. Even Forbes agrees.

It’s easy to see that, when comparing marketing and thought leadership, marketing fails to build relational trust and respect where thought leadership excels at it. I guess you could boil it all down to a matter of sustainability – marketing seems to be an unsustainable tactic because it focuses on immediate and short-term effects, whereas thought leadership is very sustainable because it prioritizes creating and maintaining relationships rather than selling products. This is not to say that thought leadership doesn’t help clients’ profitability, because often it can and does. But the difference is that any  increased profitability resulting from thought leadership is the byproduct of something much more substantial: the public’s trust and respect for the company/organization itself.

In short, we here at A.wordsmith have changed the way we describe ourselves because we want the public to know that we strive to help our clients improve quality first, and quantity second. Hence why we have made it a point to re-identify as a thought leadership, rather than marketing, firm.