Social Media

The Missing “Link”

LinkedIn is one of my favourite social media platforms to use. Like many of you, I use it to conduct business development activities, discover potential new talent, and find out what some of my peers are working on. As a business owner and marketer, I also use it as a platform to target my potential clients and “tout” my expertise through the sharing of my company’s updates as well as industry-related articles.

LinkedIn has two distinct options: the LinkedIn profile page which most of us have to showcase our personal “resumes”, and the company page that is set up for your company.

While I know many business owners and marketers have an LI profile, many small businesses still do not have a company LI page. So what exactly is the difference between a profile page and a company page on LinkedIn? A LinkedIn profile is probably the most powerful tool you can use for business development as it allows you to highlight your professional experience, connect with your peers or potential clients, join industry-related groups, post your blogs or other articles, and share awards and updates.

I have seen many companies use the profile page as their company page, but LinkedIn has a distinct company page that provides your business with the opportunity to engage with followers with targeted and regular news and activities, share career opportunities, and expand your online brand presence.

If you are a business owner or marketer with a B2B business, an LI company page is a must! If you have a B2C business, it is still a good idea to have some presence on this platform, as this platform is great for SEO and for expanding your reach to influencers.

Here are some reasons I‘d recommend considering using an LI company page for your business:

1. Show How You are Unique

In the description on your company page, emphasize how you stand out from your competitors. You might want to include company news and share information about your company culture. This will help you reach potential customers and also new hires. Support the content with professional videos, or images to help you show how your company is different.

2. Improve SEO

We all hear about SEO, but did you know that Google and other search engines rank LinkedIn company pages and posts highly in the search engine results pages? Having the page and posting on it frequently will help you increase your SEO and increase site traffic.

3. Share Content

It makes sense that you need to write posts that your viewers want to see and share with others. The more you can engage your viewers, the more likely you are to expand your global reach and influence. You can also link your post back to your website for more information and to convert them into a warm business lead. It’s a good idea to create a media mix on this platform as well, so consider using different formats such as SlideShare business presentations, blog posts, infographics, webinars, podcasts and videos.

4. Measure Success

Like most social platforms, you can view analytical data about your company page to help you gain deeper insights into your page performance.

Having a LinkedIn company page will help you network and prospect to a targeted audience for quality sales leads, while establishing your business’ public image on a global scale as a reputable and trustworthy organization. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer!

Can’t Buy Me Followers

In December, Instagram announced Selena Gomez as the most followed celebrity on the platform with 103 million followers. As a small business owner, I could only imagine having a following that large on my business’s social platforms, and what it could mean for my brand awareness. Social media, as we have been led to believe, is a numbers game.

Recently, I was alerted to the fact that websites promising fake social media followers exist. I can see the appeal. Who doesn’t want to have more followers? Having more followers generally means you have a popular account, and in turn, a popular product or service. However, using a website to generate or purchase fake followers is a faux pas in the marketing world, and here’s why:

First and foremost using a third party source to gain followers is against the code of conduct of most social media websites, whether you pay for the service or not. For example, Twitter outlines in their rules and regulations that any accounts found to have used a third party source with the intention of gaining fake followers will be shut down. One particular problem associated with these websites that promise followers is that they have access to your account and therefore can easily compromise it at any time. These websites have the ability to spam your account and your followers, which just happens to be another practice that will get you suspended from a social media channel.

Rules against these websites have been around since these fake follower generators have been, and they’re becoming especially necessary today. With all the fake news going around, social media platforms are cracking down on the amount of fake content shared on their channels, and one way to do that is by eliminating accounts that appear to have purchased followers or spread spam-related content.

To that extent, it’ not difficult to find accounts with fake followers. “Ghost Accounts” are easy to spot because they have strange names, follow a lot of people with minimal followers themselves and only post spam-related content.

As a consumer, I follow a number of brands on their social media channels. Say I go on to check out my favourite retailer’s page and I look into their followers. If I find a bunch of empty spam accounts, I’ll know they’d have likely purchased or subscribed to fake followers, and my trust in this brand will have almost diminished. While every brand aspires to have a lot of followers or likes on social media, deceiving your audience into thinking you have more than you really do positions you as untrustworthy.

In a previous blog I discussed the importance of Google Analytics. If a large majority of your followers are coming from third party sources or unlawful social media practices, the metrics will be thrown off. As a marketer, I adjust marketing plans based on the data I see from analytics, so if the numbers aren’t accurate, it’s difficult to come up with effective marketing strategies. In order to see a return on investment with social media, you need to be able to get your message across to the right people and create authentic content that will engage them. It’s hard to get engagement when your audience is 90% spam bots.

One thing I suggest to my clients when they want to generate more engagement and followers in a short amount of time is to boost content. Most social media platforms offer businesses an option to reach wider, more targeted audiences at a cost. Boosting is an authentic way to encourage people to check out your brand.

I have been working in this industry long enough to have seen the tricks that can be used to try and engage audiences and attract followers, but as a professional marketer and business owner I always want to provide my clients with honest marketing services that follow best practices. As much as we all like to see high numbers of followers on our social sites, if the followers were generated by a spambot site, then what value do they really have to your business? In marketing as in business, honesty is always the best policy.

 

 

 

 

 

Marketing in 2016 and What We Can Learn From It

What a year! 2016 has been an amazing year to showcase the power of marketing. From the unanticipated election of America’s first president-elect who has never held political office before, to the explosion of Snapchat marketing; it’s been a busy year. We have covered a range of marketing stories from 2016 in our blogs this year, like this one on the blurred lines between social media and advertising.

In my final blog of the year, I’d like to take the time to reflect on some of the marketing lessons we have learned throughout 2016.

Social Media is more powerful than you think. Donald Trump was elected largely due to his participation in social media, mostly on his notorious Twitter account. Years ago, it was unheard of for high-ranking political figures to speak directly to their voters in such a medium. Now, anyone and everyone has a platform to reach out to their target.

Even if you think your small business doesn’t need a social media presence, you could be missing out on audiences just waiting to listen to what you have to say.

Fake news is dangerous. In marketing, we always make a point to create authentic content. However, 2016 proved that not all Internet content abides by these same rules. The “pizzagate” scandal has left a lot of people confused about what’s real news and what’s not. Facebook’s algorithm issue has also contributed to this fake news epidemic.

For businesses that run their own social media accounts, this could be a problem. If you’re sharing engaging social media posts from a fake news source, you’re hurting your brand’s reputation. As someone who has been in the marketing world for a number of years, I may see through these fake stories, while many others may not and that is concerning. In 2017, audiences need to learn how to be more media literate and dismiss fake news stories instead of sharing them with a larger audience.

You get what you pay for. As a marketer, I am constantly writing. It takes time and effort to communicate a message on behalf of my clients, and I often speak to them about what their opinions are on topics I would like to write about. That’s why I was surprised to hear that this year, there has been an increase in public interest for websites that promote pre-written, paid content. On these sites, you can plug in some information you would like to write about, and then it will be outsourced to a writer from anywhere in the world to write about this topic.

From a marketing perspective, I need to know my client before I can write for them. I find out who their target audience is, and how this message should be communicated. While these paid-for content websites may be a cheap alternative to authentic content creation, it’s no substitute for quality written work.

After this hectic year, I am interested to see what’s coming next in 2017. Will VR make its mark in the marketing world? Will Twitter still be as popular a platform after the buzz of the election dies down? I’m looking forward to seeing what surprises the New Year brings into the marketing world, and I hope you are too.

The Social Media Election

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been glued to the American presidential election since it began to heat up earlier this year. This election is different from others for a number of reasons. For the first time ever, a woman is the Democratic nominee for president. Her opponent, the leader of the Republican Party, is loudly entering the political arena for the first time. Whatever the outcome is tonight, the 2016 election will be looked upon as a “social media election”.

In the 2012 American presidential election, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were the first candidates who really used social media to gauge voter interest in their campaigns. Facebook was a reliable channel for distributing key campaign messages for both parties, and Twitter was just starting to make waves. Obama successfully generated almost 20 million more followers than Romney did on the platform, and secured the presidency in November of that year. Obama’s victory tweet after winning the election became the most retweeted piece of content on the platform up to that point.

While social media had a huge influence on the last election, nothing can top how it’s altered the current presidential race. The two candidates have been using social media for years, thus allowing voters to tap into their past posts. Take this tweet by Donald Trump, for example:

Somehow I can’t see Ronald Reagan saying something like this.

The use of social media allows presidential candidates to give minute-by-minute updates on their campaign and gives voters direct access into their professional and private lives. Donald Trump has been successful in using his Twitter account to influence his voters throughout his presidential campaign. His brash language and brutal honesty has positioned him as a “no-nonsense” candidate. While some voters find this behavior unsettling, he has appealed to the untapped demographic of American voters who want to abolish political correctness.

Hilary Clinton might not be as “honest” as Donald Trump, but she also has an impressive social media presence. Her slogan “#ImWithHer” has been shared millions of times all over social media. Due to her large celebrity fan base, Democratic social media influencers like Katy Perry and Lena Dunham continue to share supportive messages and images.

Trump relies heavily on his Twitter account while Clinton has broadened her social media presence through Snapchat, blogs and apps. While running completely different campaigns, both candidates have secured a huge social media following. Twitter and Facebook accounts are free to use, but don’t let that fool you into thinking social media hasn’t cost each campaign dearly. Donald Trump’s campaign spent $200,000 to purchase the promoted hashtag of the day, allowing it to be seen from every Twitter user in the U.S. through sponsored posts and the trending hashtags sidebar.

What has me so concerned as a marketer is that social media has provided voters with an inside look into the candidates, but it might not be the most reliable way to judge a future president. As we all know, social media is great for storytelling but that doesn’t mean it always reflects reality. One thing I have noticed throughout this entire campaign is that we’ve begun to lose sight of the actual issues at hand. Stories about Donald Trump’s latest misogynistic tweets are as much of a story as the crisis in Aleppo. While social media has played an important role in this election, it’s important to note that it is not the only factor Americans should be looking into when electing their next president.

So where do we go from here? I think it’s safe to say that neither candidate will have their own true voice on social media if they are elected President of The United States.

From a marketing standpoint, both these candidates have utilized social media to their advantage by creating consistent content marketing campaigns to appeal to their voters. However, voters in the United States need to consider that a candidate’s social media personality is likely to change once they have been elected, so they need to be confident in their candidate as a leader, not a tweeter.

Marketing Needs PR: Handling Crisis

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more of a convergence between marketing and PR. The shift comes, I feel, as a result of the increasingly blurred lines between advertising and public relations as I mentioned in a previous blog, but also in part because marketing is so much more in the public eye than ever before as a result of personal brands.

As marketers today, it’s not uncommon for us to look at influencers, sponsor social content, and engage bloggers with opportunities to invest our marketing budgets. These approaches, one could argue, would typically have been part of a PR campaign, but with this paradigm shift many of us in marketing are taking note and making sure our marketing strategies include public relations.

The need for PR as part of your marketing can be highlighted in a situation of crisis. We see it almost daily: big brands make headlines after a bad social media post or a viral video, and because now bad social means bad PR and bad PR can mean a loss in customer and brand loyalty, these PR crises can become marketing nightmares.

As marketers, we need to have resources at hand to handle any scandal or branding nightmare. It’s important to have a plan in place should a crisis develop. In true PR fashion, but with a marketing twist, here are my tips for handling a branding crisis.

 Act quickly- but not recklessly

Once you’ve heard the bad news, it’s important to gather your team and address the situation. Find out what went wrong, and how you can fix it. If you speak first, you control the story, but it’s important that you have all the accurate information you need before you release any information to the public.

Take responsibility

While you might not feel like this was your fault, if your company was in any way responsible for this crisis, it’s important to take ownership. Shifting the blame around just makes consumers think you are dishonest and untrustworthy.

Create a solution

After you have received all the information needed and have accepted the fact that you need to apologize to the public for what has transpired, you need to come up with a solution. People want to know that you see where things went wrong, and you know how to fix it. After apologizing for your company’s wrongdoing, outline how you are going to ensure this never happens again. Once people know that you are fixing the problem, they will begin to move on.

 Rebuild

In the moment, it feels like this situation will completely ruin your business, but it’s important to remember that eventually, a new scandal comes along and people will forget about your organization’s indiscretion. In your effort to rebuild your brand, focus on creating positive buzz for your company, especially if it counteracts the original scandal.

I hope scandal never erupts in your business, but better to be prepared, which is why I advise clients to have a crisis PR plan in place as part of their marketing strategy. This will allow your business to act quickly and effectively, making sure your organization and brand comes out unscathed.

Second Place Is A First-Rate Strategy

With almost 20 years in this business, it’s not that often that I come across a TV commercial that actually gets me excited, but Classico’s pasta sauce competition commercial has done it. It’s not because of the creativity or the out-of-the-box thinking, but because of the strategy! The commercial establishes a pasta sauce competition, the opponents being a group of Italian “Nonnas” and Classico pasta sauce chefs. When the winners are announced, the Italian Nonnas take home the gold, while the Classico group stands cheering. It ends with a voiceover that says:

“Homemade pasta sauce will always win, but with inspiration from the regions of Italy, we’re a close second.”

WOW! I wasn’t expecting that ending! And that is why the commercial is so effective. The commercial has the ad sponsor, Classico, celebrating the fact they didn’t win a pasta sauce competition, and promoting the fact that their brand was, indeed, second place in the pasta sauce game.

Brands usually don’t take this type of risk by admitting defeat, but by doing the unexpected and taking this risk, and creating a strategic approach, it’s a win-win.

Classico hasn’t created a major marketing campaign for over 10 years, so this ad needed to create some serious dialogue. After conducting some market research, Classico found that their consumers frequently make homemade pasta sauce on the weekend and believe that a store-bought pasta sauce will never live up to something made from scratch. They also found that; while their consumers appreciate homemade sauce more, “for those nights when they want to deliver a great meal, but don’t have a lot of time, they want a high quality pasta sauce alternative.”

Knowing this, Classico launched their “Second only to yours” campaign. Admitting their sauce will never beat a delicious homemade sauce appeals to consumers looking for brand honesty, and as I discussed in last week’s blog, honesty is key in a marketing campaign. Classico knows their consumers value high quality sauce, so by informing them that while they are not going to beat their homemade version, they are still a close second, appealing to this busy target market.

In 1962, this strategy was also met with great success when Avis embraced their second-place status as a way to hype the brand’s customer service with the tagline, “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder.” They retired the slogan last year after finally slipping into third place behind Hertz, 50 years after the tag line was created.

As we can see, this risky strategy worked well for both companies. Classico’s ad has now become a viral video, and Avis produced a popular slogan that was used for half a century. However, if everyone started a marketing campaign claiming they were number two, we might be in trouble. These two case studies are great examples of how well-researched marketing strategies can go against the grain and pay off big time.

The Blurred Lines Between Advertising and Social Media

When Ronald Reagan’s Chesterfield cigarette ads premiered, did we really believe that he smoked a pack a day? Probably not, because we knew it was an advertisement. When we see pictures of Kylie Jenner posing with her FitTea on Instagram, do we think that she drinks it every morning to maintain a healthy weight? Maybe.

The introduction of social media has blurred the lines of advertising and real life significantly. Before we had Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we were able to recognize advertisements easily. Now, it’s difficult to determine if our favourite celebrity really does like Coco White Teeth Whiteners, or if they’re being paid to say they do.

Influencers on social media have thousands of people following their every move, so it makes sense that companies would want them to advertise for them. The problem is, a lot of influencers are not informing their followers that they are being paid to post. As a result, Ad Standards Canada has revised its rules regarding advertising with blogs, celebrities, and social media influencers. Bloggers are now required to include statements in their posts that acknowledge they are working with a company to advertise a product, and social media influencers will be required to include hashtags like #sponsored or #ad to ensure the public knows they are being paid to post.

After working in the marketing and communications industry for over 20 years, I am able to spot an ad on my social media feed easily. Unfortunately, a lot of other Canadians are not as media literate and are therefore feeling tricked after they have purchased a product discretely advertised on social media.

One of the main functions of marketing is increasing brand loyalty. Customers are unlikely to purchase a product or stay interested in a brand when they find out they have been lied to. Customers look for authenticity in the brands they follow, so acknowledging that a celebrity is being paid to promote your company is just better business. While famous celebrities might not actually use your product in their everyday lives, if your overall marketing strategy is strong enough, people will want to buy your product.

If you or your organization is considering social media advertising with an influencer, make sure your customers know they are being marketed to. Having a celebrity face is a great way to increase interest in your product, but honesty is key to maintaining customer loyalty.