GUEST POST: Is Less Control of Your Social Channels Better for Your Brand?

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GUEST POST: Is Less Control of Your Social Channels Better for Your Brand?

Most organizations, regardless of industry or size, struggle to come up with compelling ways to tell their brand’s story. Oftentimes, this inability to resonate with consumers results from a lack of trust or willingness to relinquish control.

But by partnering with advocates (both within and outside your organization), your brand can actually add a great deal of dimension as well as authenticity to its overall narrative.

Social media provides the perfect place to start. Guest contributors not only bring in diverse perspectives, but they also elevate your brand’s thought leadership through more meaningful dialogue.

If you’re ready to test the waters by opening up your social channels to outsiders, here’s what you need to know.

MANAGE EXPECTATIONS

First, know what you, your partners and your audience want to get out of your advocacy program. While most brands across all industries are publishing 3.2 promotional messages for every 1 reply, that doesn’t mean you should use your advocates to pump out overly scripted messages.

Instead, establish flexible guidelines that address each step of the social management process. Guidelines should aim to prevent any missteps and make it easier for your partners to provide content with a distinct voice—without restricting them too much.

Below are a few key considerations to take into account when building out your advocacy guidelines:

  • Create a style guide: Define where your brand stands, and map out how this positioning should be conveyed across all social channels. A style guide should offer insight on the direction of takeovers and specify rules account owners should follow, such as how often they are expected to publish, what type of content is permitted and what is deemed completely inappropriate.
  • Establish a timeline: Decide on which social channels each person will be responsible for, and determine how long they will provide content for that channel.
  • Define account access and ownership: Clarify which department should train account owners, oversee administrative duties and measure the program’s success.
  • Budget accordingly: Allocate resources for additional content creation or distribution costs associated with your social media takeovers.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT BRAND ADVOCATES

It’s true that giving someone else ownership of your social accounts will add depth to your brand’s overall online presence. But you also want to choose an account owner who accurately represents your organization, thereby alleviating any internal concerns.

Objectives, goals and results will vary based on who you enlist to manage your social accounts. Influencers can provide high-quality photo assets at a fraction of a studio’s cost, while staff members can help support your organization’s HR initiatives. Depending on the partnership, there are a variety of factors to consider.

AMPLIFY YOUR STORY WITH CONTRIBUTORS

Influencer-focused campaigns require a good amount of attention. At the same time, they can quickly increase engagement on social by tapping into a large, established audience. High-profile brands recognize the potential of influencer-led social takeovers and are constantly handing over their accounts.

In anticipation of his return to Old Trafford, Manchester United gave David Beckham control of its Instagram account and promoted the takeover on Facebook.

MTV meanwhile has had Azealia Banks, Tyler Posey, Victoria Justice and other celebrities take over its Snapchat.

Similarly, Capital One used Instagram influencers to increase engagement and boost ad recall across multiple demographics. The bank handed its Instagram account over to three influencers for five consecutive weeks, instructing participants to share personal stories about what was in their wallets, using the hashtag #walletstories.

Photos were published on Capital One's Instagram as well as each influencer's personal account. The brand used nine of the submitted photos as paid Instagram advertisements and tested how the photos performed. Ad recall increased by 25% for Instagram users ages 45 and up. And between 21- and 24-year-olds, brand favorability grew by 3%.

Benefits of an influencer-focused social media takeover include:

  • The ability to reach a large demographic on specific social channels
  • Relevancy to your most loyal audience
  • Familiarity with social best practices

ESTABLISH A CULTURE OF EXCLUSIVITY

If your brand isn't quite ready to hand over its social accounts to an influencer, you can use the talents of your staff members instead. Dividing up content creation among multiple staff members should reduce your team's workload and bring your company’s culture to life.

Community Outreach Manager Sarah Nagel, for example, takes over the @SproutSocial Twitter account once a week to host a special #SproutChat for industry professionals wanting to tackle topics related to social media management.

These weekly chats have not only built up Sprout’s Twitter community, but they have also inspired an entire advocates program that spans a wide range of marketing channels.

Birchbox leverages its employees in a similar way. Each morning, a different team member—from HR to PR—takes over the beauty brand’s Snapchat account to give followers a behind-the-scenes look into life at the company’s NYC headquarters.

 
 

With staff members sharing whatever they want, content on the Birchbox channel is constantly changing. And while each employee is unique, collectively, all the content tells a unified and interesting story about workplace culture.

Teen Vogue encourages internal reporters and editors to take ownership of its Snapchat account as well, showcasing a raw and authentic side to the often refined and polished fashion industry.

 
 

Your brand can do the same by highlighting product reviews, office footage and glimpses into life outside of work across your social channels. Empowering your staff members to participate in these ways will:

  • Build morale
  • Position your employees as industry experts
  • Save your company time and money
  • Strengthen your brand voice

BUILD BRAND LOYALISTS

You also should give your customers a chance to impact your content strategy.

In an effort to drive tourism, the Swedish Institute launched Curators of Sweden. Someone who is either living in Sweden or a Swedish citizen living abroad controls the @sweden Twitter account for one week. To encourage free speech and candor, participant guidelines are purposely kept loose.

When the account was owned for a week by Emelie, a teenager who runs her own YouTube channel, Tweets focused on playful facts about Swedes, anti-Trump sentiments and personal photos of her dogs.

Eric, a 28-year-old comedian, used the platform to share a wide range of Tweets, from humorous Vines depicting his workday to more serious topics on gender equality and feminism.

According to the organization's website, Tweets are only deleted if they violate Swedish law, pose a security threat or promote a commercial brand. That means the campaign has at times been outright offensive—with one Twede of the week waxing poetic about Hitler’s name and making light of AIDS victims.

That’s not to say the overall campaign hasn't been successful. Since 2011, the Swedish account has gained more than 88,000 followers, attracted a ton of free media and won numerous awards. From Iceland to Ireland, a host of other countries have since followed suit.

Of course, as a brand, you may be less comfortable handing over your social accounts so freely. As an alternative, you might consider hiring a photojournalist to go out and capture compelling customer stories. AARP has done this by investing in a separate Instagram account dedicated to highlighting its members in a human interest sort of way.

When identifying potential customer partnerships, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Choose customers with a proven commitment to your brand.
  • Identify customers who have distinct personalities.
  • Remember that a customer is meant to serve as an organic endorsement—a large social following shouldn't be a requirement.
  • Again, manage expectations by clearly communicating exactly what the partnership will entail.

Choose partners who fit with the long-term goals of your organization. Keep your initial partnership program manageable by implementing a short timeframe with a small number of participants. Use a social media management tool such as Sprout Social to measure the results of your efforts—from outbound Instagram hashtag performance to Twitter content and engagement habits—and use that data to build out your initiatives and make more informed decisions for the future.

 

THE NEXT CHAPTER OF ENGAGEMENT

A compelling brand story will set your organization apart from your competitors and keep your social community engaged. Brand storytellers are an accessible extension of your organization. With the proper partnerships in place, your brand can transform its social presence from a broadcast channel to a dynamic content hub.


ABOUT OUR GUEST CONTRIBUTOR:

Erin Nederbo is a Content Specialist at Sprout Social, a leading provider of social media engagement, advocacy and analytics software solutions for more than 16,000 agencies and brands worldwide.

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GUEST POST: You’re Doing What?! The Marketing Bandwagon We’re Jumping On This Year.

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GUEST POST: You’re Doing What?! The Marketing Bandwagon We’re Jumping On This Year.

I personally couldn’t be more against jumping on the “New-Year’s Resolution” bandwagon. All the goal-setting, foregoing of the things I love and trying to pep talk myself into getting through just one more day without cracking…

I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

But, from a professional standpoint I believe it's necessary to set new goals and make new resolutions for the year ahead.

And this year, we’ve found the perfect bandwagon to jump on; one that’s based on cold-hard facts, trending data and overwhelming consumer support.

It’s social video.

I know, I know; you might be thinking that’s not exactly the most groundbreaking marketing epiphany...but stick with me.

Social video became a prevalent new buzz-phrase last year with the rollout of livestreaming platforms like Periscope and Meerkat, and significant growth in platforms like Snapchat. But few people truly understand how GIGANTIC social video is going to get this year.

All Roads Point to Social Video...

At the same time, we saw changes in our social platforms, as more and more began to introduce native video features.

Coincidence? I think not…

We saw the rollout of Periscope, the brief hype that surrounded Meerkat, Facebook’s jump into the native video game, Snapchat’s continued growth, and Twitter’s recent foray into autoplaying Periscope videos in its mobile app.

In as little as a year, the distribution of video views has shifted dramatically, with current stats looking something like this:

(source: Edelman)

Why Marketers Should Care…

  1. We need to start rethinking our video strategies and which platforms to focus on. YouTube has long been the king of video advertising, but that crown has clearly been knocked clean-off by Facebook. With 8 billion video views per day reported in 2015, Facebook will certainly surpass YouTube for daily video views this year.  And with campaigns yielding video views for less than 1 cent per view (yes this is something we’ve been able to do for some of our clients), it’s crazy how inexpensive it is for marketers to place a compelling brand message in front of their target audience. Couple that with their superb customer targeting and data reporting capabilities, Facebook is becoming the place to focus your video marketing efforts. 
  2. We can get up-close-and-personal; just the way our audience likes it. Personalized content is exploding, and with social platforms unveiling new video capabilities all the time, it’s never been easier to point, shoot and post a personalized video to our audiences in seconds. In fact, videos with personalized elements increase viewer engagement time and conversions by up to 40%! All of which provides opportunities for customer engagement like we’ve never seen before.

  3. With new capabilities constantly being added, we can expect at least a few new ways for us to reach our audiences in 2016. The possibilities are endless, and it's going to be the creative, agile teams who take advantage of these new avenues, that win the social video game. Now is a great time to examine our team structures to add/shuffle resources in ways that allow us to fully participate in this new arena.

Bottom line: video is an inherently mobile medium, and it always will be. So when our audiences want their information faster, in shorter, more entertaining formats, and with just the right hint of personalization, only video can provide it all. So, how will your team add social video to your strategy this year?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Danelle is the Client Services & Marketing Coordinator at Amplomedia. 

Amplomedia, an innovative digital marketing agency that specializes in motion graphic video production.

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GUEST POST: In Search of Grass-Tops: Starting an Ambassador Program

GUEST POST: In Search of Grass-Tops: Starting an Ambassador Program

What if we told you that you can reach your audience in an incredibly impactful way using your existing content and without increasing your marketing budget?

You (yes, you!) can do it and we’ve got some advice to help get you started. You can thank us later!

Here’s the nitty gritty of it—every brand has a story, and the most powerful storytellers of all are your own brand ambassadors. Some of your most promising brand ambassadors are what we call “grass-tops”: influencers that are committed to your cause and want to help spread your message.

How do you find, active and leverage these brand ambassadors? The Alberta Cancer Foundation’s iMedia session on March 12th will give you lots of case study examples and advice on building a successful social media ambassador program. But in the meantime, here are five quick tips and tricks to get you started:

 

1.    Make a “Wish List”

By sharing your content, ambassadors will become an extension of your brand. Therefore, it is incredibly important to ensure you’ve hand-picked the best candidates based on the following attributes:

  • Their views must be consistent with your brand’s voice
  • They should fall within your target audience and/or communicate frequently with members in this audience
  • They need to have a credible online presence as well as a willingness and reputation for sharing relevant content

Seems straightforward, right? Now onto the next step…

2.    Supply Compelling Content

Now that you’ve hand-selected a winning team of ambassadors (look at you go!), you will need to supply them with compelling and relevant content to share with their networks. Remember to give the ambassadors creative freedom to adapt the supplied content to fit their unique voice and tone. You want them to feel comfortable sharing the message and to add their own special flare to it!

Our fave guideline when developing this type of content is, “Tell, Don’t Sell!”  Storytelling versus push advertising will draw your audience in. Try to captivate their imagination so that you and your message will be remembered.

3.    KISS!

Sorry to get your hopes up, but by KISS we mean applying the “Keep It Simple Stupid” principle. Your ambassadors are volunteers; therefore, you want to reduce the amount of work needed on their end. Provide them with everything you can–pre-made tweets, Facebook posts, email copy, relevant hashtags, logos, photos, videos, etc.– so they literally just have to copy, paste and share the content with their networks.

Remember: remove the guess work & KISS!

4.    Spoil Them Rotten

You should remember to SPOIL your ambassadors! They are an amazing group of VOLUNTEERS who are allowing you to reach new audiences in the most impactful way possible by using your existing content and without increasing your marketing budget.

You obviously love them, but you need to constantly make sure that they genuinely feel the love. The extent of your ambassador stewardship plan will depend on the resources available, but just keep in mind that something as simple as a handwritten card, that includes the progress they made possible, goes a long way in making someone feel appreciated. Your number one focus is to ensure your ambassador constantly feels appreciated and excited about helping your organization.

 

5.    Beware of the “Over-Ask”

Your stewardship plan for ambassadors doesn’t just stop at the “thank you”; it continues on throughout your entire marketing strategy. It is important to keep a record of the number of asks you are requesting from each ambassador to ensure you are being strategic and avoiding the “over-ask”. After all, your ambassadors are volunteers and this is something they do on the side because they are passionate about your brand. We definitely don’t want to lose that passion by annoying them with too many asks! 

Another reason why it’s important to be strategic in the number of asks is to ensure that your ambassadors’ networks aren’t constantly being bombarded by your brand.  If this is the case, the content won’t feel genuine and the message will be ignored by audiences.

So, avoid the “over-ask’ at all costs!

 

That’s it! Short, simple and successful!

We can’t wait to dive deeper into how you can find, activate and leverage your brand ambassadors at the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s breakout session at iMedia 2016! See you there!


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ABOUT ASHTON: 

A BCom graduate from the Alberta School of Business, Ashton Paulitsch started working with social media through Co-op student positions at Alberta Women Entrepreneurs and the Edmonton International Airport, later opening her own small business to build marketing and communications solutions for a diverse portfolio of clients.

In 2012, Ashton was pleased to join the Alberta Cancer Foundation as a Communications & Marketing Associate and was responsible for the growth of the Foundation’s social media presence into an award-winning program with a strong, province-wide community of ambassadors.

ABOUT BREANNE: 

After completing her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Alberta, Breanne started her career with Poppy Barley leading Customer Care and Marketing Insights while serving as a committee member for various events at the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

In 2014, Breanne was pleased to join the Alberta Cancer Foundation full-time as the Chief Bust-a-Mover for the Bust a Move for Breast Health event, a 6 hour fitness extravaganza that has raised over $1.6 million for breast cancer research at the Cross Cancer Institute. 

GUEST POST: Content Marketing for YouTube

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GUEST POST: Content Marketing for YouTube

A lot of people treat YouTube the same way Kevin Costner treats his baseball field in 1989’s “Field of Dreams”. They film great video content on the hopes that if they build it, viewers and subscribers will come. When their first 10 videos fail to garner 100 total views some producers throw in the towel, which is a shame because many of them publish good material. What they needed was a taste of success to motivate them to continue and to encourage them when they hit on something that worked. It’s kind of like blogging. Actually, it can be almost identical to blogging.

“Content Marketing” is a broad term that kind of means “producing content that people want to find, read, and share”. Shocker, right? There’s lots of techniques that work wonders for Content Marketing:

  • Matching content to explicit demand (my favorite)
  • Comprehensively answering common industry questions
  • Lists
  • Controversy
  • Demos and tutorials

The trap that so many new producers get into is that they exactly emulate the strategies of leaders in their space and fail. That’s because leaders are sometimes doing things that work with established large audiences. If you don’t have any subscribers, doing a vlog with weekly updates or opinion pieces won’t work because no one cares about your opinion just yet. Before then, you have to produce content that people want to find.

Early Content Strategies for YouTube

Early on in your YouTube career, you’ll want to get some sort of critical mass. A sustainable way to do this is to build content that will rank well in YouTube’s search results and Suggested Videos section. The important bit here is to research what topics are in demand, to use those keywords in your title and tags and to make sure your videos are better than the alternatives. Don’t add a mediocre video to a sea of competitors, find the topics that don’t have good videos and ravage them: be the best video for your topic/keyword. Some people call this “evergreen content”, but I think it’s just good SEO for YouTube. The nice thing about this traffic is that it sticks and becomes your base level of traffic. As people find your videos and watch them, some will watch all your back-content and then subscribe. Find related videos and comment on them. Use genuine interaction, don’t just comment a link to your video!


Medium Size Channel Content Strategies for YouTube

Once you’ve got a bit of steam and have established a base, you’ll start to attract subscribers and you’ll need to start thinking of what your channel looks like to a subscriber. You’ll no longer be able to just throw out videos like before. You’ll need to think of pacing out your video releases so that you’re not slamming your subscribers with tons of content in a short period of time or leaving your subscribers waiting months on end without any updates. People unsubscribe because you haven’t put out content in a million years, or if you put out content that they dislike. At this size, you may want to put effort into learning more about YouTube via their Creator Academy.


Large Channel Strategies for YouTube

People get their channels to a large size by knowing what their audience likes and dislikes. Pay attention to your YouTube analytics to see what your key demographic is and what your user persona is like, and then cater to them! The bigger you are, the more likely you are to be successful by reaching out to other channels for cross-promotion and collaboration projects.

YouTube is currently growing their list of channels that make $100k+ by 50% year over year, are you going to be one of them?


ABOUT ADRIEL: 

With an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing, Adriel has been an essential part in the growth and development of both the SEO team as well as the company as a whole.

He designs and executes marketing strategies built to provide measured results for our clients, and hopes to grow the company to a dominant and influential position in online marketing for Alberta.

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GUEST POST: Community Management: What to say when you'd like to say #$@! off

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GUEST POST: Community Management: What to say when you'd like to say #$@! off

I have a sticker on my copy stand from Scott Stratten: “Ignore the haters. You’re not the Jackass whisperer.” While I admire the sentiment (and it makes me laugh when I need it), with some social communities, you can’t. So, when you can't escape from crafting responses to angry people, take a deep breath, and remember 4T2P. 

TRANSPARENCY

When it's not readily apparent (e.g., when you're responding on someone else’s blog or off one of your official social media accounts), always disclose your affiliation to the organization and your role within it. Signing as a real person also may temper ... well, tempers. Sometimes it's easier to yell at a logo than the person behind the posts. 

TONE

The tone of your reply should be professional, yet in keeping with the medium. It’s okay to use the lingo of the medium—hashtags and word shortening on Twitter, for instance—but not at the expense of good grammar, spelling, punctuation, or your brand voice. 

That being said, if your brand is a little edgy, sometimes it’s okay to use that voice, too. Take this response from One Stop Biker Shop, to a comment they got when they posted on a snow day (for the rest of us, “SOA” refers to the cancelled show "Sons of Anarchy": 

THIRD-PARTY

If the nature of your response is to correct misinformation, you should link to more information where possible. This also is a way of linking to a longer, more nuanced reply on your own blog or website, especially if you’re required to respond on Twitter. Depending on the nature of the misinformation, linking to other sources is a good idea, too. 

TIMING

You’ve probably heard that on social media, timing is everything, and you should aim to reply as soon as you can. 

However, if you have to reply to a very vitriolic post, give it 30 minutes to an hour. If you answer back right away, your chances of being sucked into a nasty discussion are higher, because the poster may still be focused on you. By waiting a bit, you give the poster a chance to cool down and get distracted by other things. You also give yourself a chance to check for errors, run it by another set of eyes, and make sure your response isn’t emotional, either. 

PROFILE

If you need to triage, focus your efforts on responding to high-profile commenters. Doing so ensures the most eyes on your response with the fewest resources. However, you should only triage when it is impossible (not just inconvenient) to respond to all. If you've only got a handful of replies to make, answer them all.

PRIVACY

Do not disclose confidential or proprietary information in your reply. Sometimes this requires you to get creative—request ing permission to direct-message the person, for instance. Usually, a response like “We need to protect your privacy. Can I DM you some info?” will work. 

Fun fact: both FOIPP and PIPA legislation require the organization to protect people from their own stupidity (not the actual words in the legislation, of course). If one of your clients, employees or publics is disclosing private information on a channel you control, the law expects you to protect their privacy for them—by removing it, for example. “We had to remove that comment to protect the author’s privacy.” D’awww. Problem solved. 

Hope that helps. If not, there’s always wine. 


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ABOUT NIKKI: 

Nikki Van Dusen, MA, has worked in public relations and corporate communications departments for more than 15 years. A winner of a 2015 IABC Gold Quill award, she has emerged as a leader in social media strategy and web-facilitated communication. 

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