I was pretty despondent when I walked through the door of my parents' home. I was 17 years old and had just had my first driving lesson. I thought driving was going to be a breeze; but inevitably I had stalled the car and made the multitude of mistakes most people do the first time they get behind the wheel.
As I passed my Dad on the stairs he asked, "What's wrong?".
"Do you think I will ever be able to learn to drive?" I murmured.
He quickly responded, "Have you seen all the idiots on the road?"
Of course, that was my father's way of saying "yes".
I meet company directors all the time who tell me they don't understand social media. They don't use Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter and wouldn't know where to start. I always want to use my father's quote, "Have you seen all the idiots on Facebook?"
Facebook is used by 1.3 billion people a month. It is designed to be user friendly. It is not elitist and it's not that difficult. Anyone who gives themselves some time on any of these platforms will quickly master the basics. Moreover, there are a plethora of online articles and videos that can help if you're stuck on a particular task.
Social media doesn't go wrong because people don't understand a particular aspect of functionality on LinkedIn or Twitter. Social media doesn't work for businesses and individuals because they don't understand the mindset shift that has to happen to make it work. Social platforms are very different from broadcast media. To put it simply, social media is not a platform; it is a mindset, a way of thinking, a state of mind.
The mind-shift is simple to explain and yet I am often surprised at how difficult people find the change of thinking. Quite simply, broadcast media was about "me". I would talk about my company, what we could offer, the benefits we gave and so on. This worked when the audience had no right of reply. In a world where there was scarcity of choice and information, audiences would allow themselves to be interrupted by messages they would not necessarily be able to access in any other way.
Social media, however, is not broadcast. It is a two-way communication. Audiences don't merely have the right of reply, rather your business is communicating in their channel. Social media platforms are the primary communication tool of choice for a growing number of individuals. Rather than pick up the phone, many individuals will prefer to send a Facebook message. Therefore, when a company communicates on social platforms, it is in its customer's space. This, of course, is what makes the channel so potentially powerful. It is also why it can go badly wrong.
To make social media work, you have to make your customers the heroes. This normally means allowing your customers to get involved and participate – by encouraging social sharing and feedback.
However, the more you can allow your customers to be involved, the more effective your social media will become. Great examples are Walkers Crisps encouraging customers to come up with a new flavour, JetBlue asking customers to share the story of their flight or Heinz asking its customers which bean they are.
These companies understand the importance of the narrative. Stories are what we tell each other. Stories are how we learn. Whether we obtain the story via word of mouth, books, TV or films, it is stories that have been capturing our imagination since the beginning of time. Before you unleash your communications on the world, ask yourself, "what is your narrative?". What is the story behind what you are doing or the story you are trying to tell? Is it compelling? Could it be improved?
Once you have the story, then you need to work out how the audience can take a central role in the story. If the audience are the heroes they will want to get involved and share the communication with others. And that is ultimately how your social media will be successful.
I don't mean going "viral", which is one of the most overused marketing terms; I'm talking about "social sharing". It only takes a small percentage of any audience to share your communications in order for you to reach a relevant group of potential new customers in the most credible way. After all, it is not you saying how good you are, but a trusted friend or colleague. Rinse and repeat this process on a weekly or monthly basis and that is a lot of potential reach over the course of a year.
Social media is not about the platform. That is merely the outlet for the communication. Social media is about great narratives where your audience takes the central role. David Bowie famously sang: "we can be heroes, just for one day". If you can make your audience the heroes, then your social media might just work.
Just this week I had to practise what I preach as I was having a problem with a big organisation's customer services.
I teach people how to open doors to long sought-after contacts and how to get themselves into the press. I applied my own teaching to a situation I was facing and it worked!
I was having some big techie issues with a very large organisation that does not have phone support. This organisation has been highly recommended to me by many people so I decided to take the plunge and use it, despite the lack of phone numbers.
Then it happened that I needed to speak to them urgently...I emailed their support daily. Zero response.
I kept on emailing thinking I would "break" them but I got no reply.
Then I decided to go all out and use my secret weapon, LinkedIn.
I Googled the company's marketing and communications manager and the business development manager and in so doing quite a few new contacts in the organisation popped up in LinkedIn.
So I sent all of these people (in this very hard to reach company) a personalised LinkedIn contact request.
Luckily one person accepted that very day. I took the bull by the horns and thanked her kindly for accepting me and then I wrote about my experience.
The next day: boom! My issue was resolved.
This doesn't only apply to customer services issues but also when trying to contact anyone no matter how high up or unattainable they appear to be. Try it! Use the back door to open the front door.
The use of social media has become an integral part of marketing a business but there are also pitfalls to watch out for. Here are seven tips on how to avoid getting into sticky situations on social media.
Sharing repetitive posts and overly-promoted or irrelevant content will turn off your audience, losing you likes and followers. Do your homework to work out which type of content works best for your audience. Find out when are they most active and which topics are most likely to be retweeted.
Social media can be time-consuming but if you rush things, you'll miss opportunities to engage online and mistakes are more likely to happen.
Social media tools such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite can make managing your social networks easier; helping you schedule tweets and monitor hash tags. In addition, Buffer gives you the opportunity to keep up-to-date with changing trends and timelines with user engagement analytics.
A lot of businesses make the mistake of signing up to and posting on all the social media platforms, even those irrelevant to their business. You know your audience better than anyone else; carry out research to determine what platforms are the most important for your target market.
Carelessly posting on behalf of your business can have a negative impact on the way your brand is perceived by your customers. So, carefully proofread any posts before hitting the share button.
Your social media accounts should be a reflection of your brand and represent how you want your customers to see you. Make sure that everything you send out supports this message, including the content that you are sharing.
Inviting criticism can be fatal on social media channels; a well-documented example of this comes from British Gas, who carried out a live Twitter Q&A with its customers on the same day that it put up its prices. As a result of this, the company was bombarded with criticism and negative feedback, all in the public eye.
Carefully consider who has access to and control of your social accounts to protect your brand. Putting control into the wrong hands can be disastrous. When HMV made 60 members of staff redundant in 2013 a stream of Tweets narrated the course of events, resulting in a backlash from the public. It was later revealed that the company had left an intern in charge of their social media account.
Copyright © 2015 Sophie Greenwood, account manager for PR agency Peppermint Soda.
Choosing the right communications channels isn’t easy. And the social and content bandwagons have added even more pressure to business owners that feel they have to use all channels.
But being disciplined about which channel to use for what enables you to create consistent messaging that reaches the right audience in the right way and at the right time in the sales cycle.
Here’s how to reach your audience:
Splitting audiences into broad demographic groups is not enough. An effective marketing strategy requires detailed information on who is buying a product or service. Big companies do this kind of thing all the time. But if you are a small firm selling to consumers, you should think about how much your prospects earn, what they do and how they spend their spare time. B2B firms can combine sales data with desk research to establish job functions and other key customer characteristics.
The Global Web Index Q3 2014 shows that the UK is one of the only countries in the world where time spent consuming traditional media still outweighs time spent consuming digital media.
For small firms, radio and printed press offer extremely valuable media opportunities. The GWI data shows that 45% of 16-24 year olds and 55% of over-55s still consume traditional printed press. The younger the audience, the more likely they are to consumer print press online.
Five years ago, it was a must to “do social”. The clouds are clearing now and most companies are recognising the need for appropriate and strategic social media activity linked directly to audience. But knowing which channel to use and how can be a minefield.
Facebook reported an increase in the number of daily users in 2014 showing that it is still a force to be reckoned with. Used by 81% of 18-29 year olds and 60% of 50-64 year olds, it’s the network of choice for the educated and affluent with 69% of users earning more than £48k a year. That said, Facebook’s organic reach is in decline so brands now need to look to paid for activity to get in front of audiences.
Only 18% of internet users are on Twitter and many users prefer reading than posting tweets. But just because they are not talking doesn’t mean followers aren’t listening. The media in the UK are also big users of Twitter so it’s also a good media relations tool.
LinkedIn is the key B2B network. Econsultancy suggests that it accounts for 64% of visits to all corporate websites after tracking two million visits to 60 sites over two years.
However, for consumer brands, the network has little value. For B2B firms, it’s an ideal tool for the targeted dissemination of news and content.
Pinterest can be a great way of getting products and content shared – and driving sales - assuming you have great imagery. UK users are now well over two million and 80% of pins are re-pinned from elsewhere on the site. For certain types of consumer brand - from fashion to food and interiors – it can be a great weapon in the communications channel armoury.
Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp have captured the younger market partly due to immediacy and partly due to concerns over privacy and “digital legacies”. However, these networks hinge on personal communication, leaving little or no room for brands.
Google+ is a great tool for improving the visibility of your online content. Often overlooked, it’s worth using if you want your content ranking as high as possible on Google as Google+ posts get indexed more quickly than content on other social networks.
It’s important to stress that all channels should be integrated to deliver best return on investment. But don’t be tempted to simply replicate content across all channels. Keep messaging and themes constant but tailor content where necessary.
Whatever communications channels you choose to use, build in KPIs and evaluate progress on a monthly basis. If activity is working, do more; if it is not delivering, then leave it behind.
Equally important is knowing when to call time on an activity. If you’re starting from scratch it’s probably going to take you six months to test the waters. With all integrated marketing there is a momentum that needs building so give it time.
However, once you’ve reached momentum, be ruthless. The moment results decline (or if they fail to emerge), change your tactics.
Copyright © 2015 Rebecca Scully, managing director at Smarts Illuminate.
The world seems to be obsessed with selfies. But is your brand maximising the benefits of this trend?
Many marketers look down on the selfie, seeing it as a teen trend, one that promotes narcissism and shameless self-promotion.
But on Instagram there are over 53 million photos tagged simply with the hashtag #selfie. Selfies are also trending on Twitter and Facebook.
To stay current in this fast-moving, saturated marketplace, brands need to take notice of trends. So why are so many brands are still ignoring the selfie? It may be vain but selfies can be used by brands as a marketing tool.
The selfie has been used to raise awareness for social good. The #nomakeupselfie campaign that took social media by storm last year is a good example. This campaign encouraged girls to take make-up free photos, post them online and then donate money to charity. It raised over £8 million for Cancer Research UK. The fact that Cancer Research did not come up with the campaign shows just how powerful the seflie is for engaging with an online audience.
For business of all kinds, the selfie is a fantastic way for brands to show a human side. Encouraging customers to post selfies with a brand-related hashtag also gives your business free marketing. What could be more powerful than hundreds of social media users posting images with your product or making use of your #brand?
Brands have reported huge benefits from including the selfie in their marketing strategy. Axe Deodorant, for example, ran a selfie campaign to coincide with Valentine’s Day, asking users to post images of themselves alongside the hashtag #kissforpeace. This generated more than 10,000 tweets with similar results on Instagram.
And who can forget Ellen DeGeneres famous celebrity-packed Oscar selfie? It became the most tweeted picture of all time, with over 33 million retweets. Some say the fact that this was taken on a Samsung mobile was a brilliant marketing idea from the company, although Samsung claims it was unplanned.
It’s clear that selfies can generate a huge amount of brand warmth. Asking customers to endorse your products and services through a selfie is much more credible than simply blowing your own trumpet online.
Businesses are actively trying to get user-generated recommendations and build social proof; the selfie could be a critical part of this.
Copyright © 2015 Emma Pauw, social media writer at We Talk Social.
Social media listening is a fundamental tool for any business owner — even if you’re not currently active on all social media sites.
The days of suggestion boxes and comment cards are long gone. Social media is now the first place people turn to praise or criticise a brand. For consumers, it has become the quickest and easiest way to directly contact a brand and get a problem sorted. So it is vital that your business is listening to these comments.
Listening on social media is about monitoring posts and conversations that refer to your brand, product, service or even competitor, in order to aggregate the data and find out what people really think about your business.
There are several platforms that can help you monitor social media, such as Meltwater Buzz, but there’s nothing to stop you from monitoring social mentions yourself.
Social listening must come first in any social media strategy. Once you have gained a sense of your reputation online, you can then engage based upon you customer needs. Knowing what people are saying about your brand allows for more proactive and reactive posting.
If you don’t want to invest in social media listening tools, setting up social media profiles and lurking online is just as effective. Using Twitter to search for your brand name will bring up all the tweets that mention your business and will allow you to gain a sense of how you’re faring online. It also allows you to check up on your competitors and see how their brand mentions compare.
Copyright © 2015 Emma Pauw, social media writer at We Talk Social.