Tag Archives: Instagram

Getting Social

You might think that after a decade or more of social media as a legitimate channel through which marketers can engage consumers we’d be doing a decent job of it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s true for the bulk of the marketing world. In the interest of improving both results and the quality of the messages with which we’re all deluged, here are a few things I’ve found to be helpful when engaging in social media marketing.

First, research has shown that the vast majority of brands today invest most of their paid social media budgets into brand awareness marketing. I get that the sales cycle has to begin with lead generation and that begins with awareness, but if you’re spending all of your budgets on the news feed and not enough on conversion, retention, and service than you’re doomed to massive churn rates and ultimate failure.

Next, ask yourself how engaging you really are. The news feed, whether Facebook, Instagram, or elsewhere, is a place where consumers go to interact with their friends and to be entertained. It’s also becoming a primary news channel for many. Nobody is there to interact with you. Let me repeat that. Nobody is there to be sold to; they are there to be entertained. Are you doing that or are you the guy at the cocktail party who keeps asking all the guests if they have car insurance because that’s what he sells?

Whatever messages you’re sending out, how are you deciding about targeting? The holy grail of marketing is the right message to the right person at exactly the right time. It’s extremely tailored. If you’re buying big, untargeted audiences (Men, Women 18-34, People living in Maryland), you’re using a wrench as a hammer. It’s a misuse of a tool.

Finally, are you being you? Has your brand created a distinctive personality or is it all corporate ad speak? People don’t want to engage with robots so don’t sound like one. Be real and listen a lot more than you speak. Let your customers guide your marketing. Don’t respond to a question just with a “that’s on the FAQ page of our website.” Use it as the basis for your next blog post which then goes through the social channels.

I’m a fan of social media marketing even as I recognize that it’s full of landmines. You don’t want to be the company that “goes viral” for the wrong reasons (DiGiorno, Red Lobster, and many others) due to some social media faux pas. You want to be unique, interesting, relevant, inspiring, authentic, and entertaining while staying focused on your target audience and your own goals. Doable?


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My Totally Fake Life

I came across an article last week that I found disturbing. I don’t think it’s news to any of you there that it’s possible to buy fake followers on the various social media platforms. You can buy hundreds or thousands of “followers” on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook fairly cheaply. I had assumed that this was something that some (dumb) businesspeople did to make their metrics look better. More on that in a second. The article set me straight.

What it said was that researchers at:

Huron University College in Ontario, Canada, who surveyed around 450 participants ages 18-29 through an online polling platform, and found that 15% admitted to buying “likes” from Web sites for their Instagram profiles…25% of respondents said they engaged in digital plastic surgery before posting photos.

Yikes! I guess these people figure that by having large numbers of people following them on some platform that they appear to be more influential. The reality is exactly the opposite because it takes very little effort to figure out that those people are fakes. Running a Twitter handle through Twitter Audit showed me that some person who claimed his million plus followers as a reason to do business with his had, in fact, 96% fakes in that million. It’s ego gratification, the same reason why people lie about their age or their weight or name drop, and it makes for a serious level of insecurity. And yes, there are other tools for other platforms to help spot fakes.

The same can be said when we do this in our business profiles. Some warped social media person will buy likes to show the boss that they are becoming more popular and that the efforts they’re making to garner new followers are paying off. Of course, engagement rates will drop off to nothing (those fake names don’t interact), and in fact, could do your brand harm by becoming spammy through your account.

It’s a little frightening that many of us feel the need to live a totally fake life online. The study found that 31% of respondents said they edited out all the boring details to make their life seem more exciting, and 14% said they specifically craft their profile page to make it seem like their social life is much more active than it actually is. Maybe it’s possible that the people who are posting the most are actually living the least glamorous lives?

Maybe one benefit of getting older on a personal level is the realization that the only one with whom we’re competing is ourselves. More “stuff” – cars, clothes, or followers – can mean less happiness. On a business level, more can be great but fake never is. Your thoughts?

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I’m Confused

One of the newsletters I receive linked to a couple of articles today which deal with the same issue from opposing points of view. I’ll lay out what they say and I’d love to hear what you think.

The issue is how to deal with social media posts made by employees on the employee’s personal pages. On one side we have an article from the AP called “How to handle an employee’s offensive social media post.” On the other we have The Atlantic with a piece called “A Social-Media Mistake Is No Reason to Be Fired.” The former calls for swift action (read that as termination); the latter urges leniency. Here is the reasoning behind each but I think you see why this is a confusing issue for many of us in business.

First the AP piece:

Whether it’s comments about news events, long-held beliefs or a bad joke, an employee’s offensive posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites can damage a company’s image and profits. If the comments are racist, homophobic, sexist or against a religious group, tolerating discriminatory comments puts an employer at risk for lawsuits and losing customers.

Clearly, if posts of this sort are placed on the company’s pages, I’m in total agreement.  There is no middle ground – the person needs to be fired.  But what if, as is the case in some of the examples cited in the article, the employee is posting on their own page during non-work hours?  Are we as business people responsible for the political and religious beliefs of our staff?  What right do we have to regulate those beliefs and, moreover, what about the first amendment protections each of us enjoys?  The article says that many employers have taken to monitoring their employees’ personal pages to make sure that there’s nothing there that would be detrimental to the company.  Fair?

The Atlantic, on the other hand says:

Here’s what corporations should say in the future: “Sorry, we have a general policy against firing people based on social media campaigns. We’re against digital mobs.”

But note the one exception built into what I propose. Sometimes people do stupid things in the public eye that relate directly to their jobs… generally speaking, Americans ought to be averse to the notion of companies policing the speech and thoughts of employees when they’re not on the job. Instead, many are zealously demanding that companies police their workers more, as if failing to fire someone condones their bad behavior outside work.

The piece deals with the public shaming that bad actors often suffer.  The author believes this is punishment enough and is generally a short-term issue while a termination has long-lasting effects, well beyond the scope of the bad behavior.

So where do you come out?  Can you see why this is a confusing issue?

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Facebook Fadeout?

A basic law of gravity says that what goes up must come down and I suppose those laws apply to social sites as well. Witness MySpace, Zynga, and others. Now I don’t believe that social media is going anywhere. It’s become too important a communications channel and too ingrained into people’s lives. However, I do think that which social sites are the focus of social activity will continue to be an ever-changing landscape, particularly among the young and among early adopters.

I see far less activity on Facebook from my younger friends (by young I mean under 30 and under 25 in a number of cases) than I do on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, and other places.  You might have heard about the Piper Jaffray report stating, as TechCrunch reported,

that interest in Facebook seems to be declining heavily among teens. Though teens still dub Facebook their most important social network, Piper Jaffray reports that the numbers are down regarding how many teens see Facebook as the most important social media website.

What it more interesting to me is the report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that found that even though 94 percent of teenage social media users still have Facebook, more and more are jumping ship to Twitter and Instagram because of what Pew found as “increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful ‘drama.’”

Then there are brands who are trying to tap into that audience.  As usual, marketers tend to be their own worst enemies:

Retailers that push fewer posts, but better and more targeted ones, are gaining an edge over those that pursue volume when it comes to publishing Facebook content, new data suggests.

The 50 Social Retail Report from enterprise social media management company Expion analyzed 16,000 posts for the top 50 retail brands as designated by Interbrand. It found that as a whole, fan engagement and volume decreased for retail brands on Facebook, despite their increases in published posts – implying a need for more thoughtful earned and paid media strategies on the platform.

As we’ve discussed before, there really is something to be gained from listening and engaging rather than yelling and spamming.  Quality is demonstrably better than quantity.

All these reports tie together in my mind.  No matter how big a social site is, there are those who become bored and who move on to the next thing.  It’s like the old Yogi Berra quote about a place being too popular so no one goes there anymore.   Kids don’t want to be hanging out in cyberspace with their parents (or teachers or old guys like me!).  They don’t want to be deluged by massive amounts of marketing jetsam.  Is Facebook dying?  No.  But if you’re putting your marketing eggs in that basket in an attempt to reach the younger demo, you might be.


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Four Misunderstandings About Social Media

As you’ve probably aware if you’ve spent any time here on the screed, I take a great interest in how business folks think about social media.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

I am one of those people who believe that over time the word “social” will vanish as all media becomes more social and what we classify today as “social” media becomes more mainstream (although I’m not sure how Facebook could become more mainstream when it seems damn near everyone is on it!).  How businesses can use social media is one of the areas in which I advise clients and so I took great interest in an info-graphic I came across the other day entitled “How Small Businesses Are Using Social Media (and why they may be getting it wrong).  If you click through I think you’ll find some good information on it but you’ll also find four terrible misunderstandings.

In the section labelled “Why Small Businesses Are Using Social Media” there are four points.  Each one is, I guess, something that these businesses believe to be true.  Unfortunately, they’re not.  Take point one:  it’s inexpensive.  Sure the tools are free but supporting your business on each platform is not free.  In fact, to do social well and to cover all the potential social bases (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ for starters) in an active way that will engage your customers requires planning, writing, and responding.  It all takes time, and as we all know, time is money.

Point two: it’s easy to use.  Another half truth although I’m sure businesses believe it.   The tools are not overly complicated but creating great, engaging content is hard, as you can probably tell from the attempts to do so in this space.

Point three:  their customers use social media.  Yes they do, but as the term “media” indicates  they’re in a lot of places doing so.  The aforementioned “big” guys are just the tip of the iceberg, and new players emerge and grow every day.  Reddit, Vine, and Stumble Upon are just three places where a lot of the customers are but the brands aren’t.  Add to that the fact that to gain any sort of visibility with the majority of your customers on the big guys (Facebook and Twitter in particular) requires you to be a paying customer.  So much for “free.”

Point four:  It doesn’t take a lot of time.  Totally wrong unless you add “to do it badly” to the end of that phrase.  Supporting multiple platforms with engaging content and responding to consumer interactions takes a lot of time – ask any of the brands that do social media well.

That’s my take – what’s yours?

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Who Is Working For Whom?

Have you ever been in a clothing store where the customers were busy stitching together the goods?  Maybe there is a guy in the corner screening designs on to T-shirts or a grandmother doing embroidery on a scarf.  How about a restaurant where the customers cook the food (OK – I have been to one of those – many Korean places let you grill at the table but still…)?

I ask this because it’s something pretty common in the digital world.  After all, what would Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Quora, and dozens of other sites be without the user-generated content that makes them worth a visit?  Sure, each of those sites provides the platform and the tools with which to interact, but if no one ever posted anything what would they be?

What’s triggering this are a couple of things.  First, the Instagram fracas I discussed yesterday.  Second, Twitter is deigning to let users download all of their tweets as if Twitter had anything at all to do with the content itself.  It got me thinking of all the crappy students who got paired up with smart kids in school and got an “A” because the smart kid did all the work and wouldn’t let the team fail.  The least one can do is to have an appreciation of and respect for the horse that got you here.  The platform is a “C” student – it’s along for the ride in most cases.  The importance of the content to those sending and receiving it doesn’t change based on the platform although the platform can help get it into a form that makes it more digestible.

When any of us who run businesses start minimizing the contributions our customers make to us, we’re in trouble.  In the case of many digital businesses, where the customers literally make the stuff on which the business depends, we should be thinking of as many ways to reward those folks and how to say “thank you” each and every day.  Screwing around with privacy or your data use policy or being obnoxious about using your customers as currency (even though we all know we’re being sold) is a sure way to blow up the business.  You with me?

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Wiggle Room

Maybe you’ve been playing along with the home version of Instagram‘s TOS controversy.  The interwebs have been buzzing about it for the last couple of days and since I hate to miss a party I’d like to pile on.  However, I have a bit of a different take here, so before you turn away in disgust at my blatant attempt at link bait, please read on.

Via Crunchbase

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention (or who aren’t Instagram users), the basic facts are these.  Instagram, a widely used photo-sharing application, announced it was modifying their Terms Of Service to include this language:

“…you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Pretty clear what it means in my mind but I’m not a lawyer.  Actually, since these are for users to read and understand, I shouldn’t have to be.  In any event, many users were distressed that their images could be used without their permission in commercial ventures.  As one might expect, since there are quite a few professional photographers on the service, they were among the most alarmed, and posted that they were deleting their accounts.  So did many users.

The CEO of Instagram stated the following:

“To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

Intention?  Hmm.  Here is my take on the whole thing.  If you’re not going to do something, say so.  Don’t use careful, lawyer-like language – “not our intention”.  It makes you seem like you’re lying.  If your kid was dressing up on a school night and says “it’s my intention to stay home and do my homework”, you wouldn’t just leave it at that.  We need to be clear and honest with our customers and partners.  Wiggle room isn’t part of that.

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