Friday Nov 01, 2013

Let Me Show You Something: Instagram, Vine and Snapchat for Brands

PhotographerWhile brands are well aware of how much more impactful images are than text-only posts on social channels, today you’re additionally being presented with platform after additional platform for hosting, doctoring and sharing photos and videos.  Can you play in every sandbox? And if you do, can you be brilliant on all of them?


As has usually been the case, so far brands are sticking their toes into new platforms while not actually committing to them, or strategizing for them, or resourcing them. TrackMaven found of the 123 F500 companies using Instagram, only 22% of them are active on it.


Likewise, research from Simply Measured found brands are indeed jumping in, with the number establishing a presence on Instagram up 55% over the past year. Users want them there…brand engagement has exploded 350%, and over 1/3 of the top brands have at least 10,000 followers. BUT…the top 10 brands are generating 33% of all posts, reaping 83% of all engagement.


Things are also growing on Twitter’s Vine, the 6-second looping video app that hit 40 million users in August. The 7th Chamber says 5 tweets a second contain a Vine link. Other studies say branded Vines are 4 times more likely to be shared and seen than rank-and-file branded videos. Why? Users know that even if a video is pure junk, they won’t get robbed of too much of their valuable time.


Vine is always upgrading so you can make sure your videos are worth viewers’ time. You can now edit videos, and save & work on several projects concurrently. What you can’t do is upload a finely crafted video into Vine, but you can do that with Instagram. The key to success? Same as with all other content; make it of value. Deliver a laugh or a lesson or both. How-to, behind the scenes peeks, contests, demos, all make sense in the short video format.


Or follow Nash Grier’s example, which is to just have fun with and connect to your viewers, earning their trust that your next Vine will be as good as the last. Nash is only 15, has over 1.4 million followers, and adds about 100,000 a week. He broke out when one of his videos was re-Vined by some other kid with 300,000 followers. Make good stuff, get it in front of influencers, and your brand Vines could break out as well.


Then there’s Snapchat, the “this photo will self destruct” platform. How can that be of use to brands besides offering coupons that really expire? The jury is out. But with an audience of over 100 million and a valuation of $800 million, media-with-a-time-limit is compelling. Now there’s “Snapchat Stories” that can last 24 hours and be shared to the public at large. You might be able to capitalize on how much more focus gets put on content when there’s a time limit on its availability.


The underlying truth to all of this is, these are all tools. Very cool, feature rich tools, but tools. You can give the exact same art kit to 5 different people and you’d get back 5 very different works, ranging from worthless garbage to masterpiece. Brands are being called upon to be still and moving image artists. That’s what your customers are used to seeing, from a variety of sources. Commit to communicating with them accordingly.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Sep 13, 2013

What’s the Point of Your Social? Understanding the Path to Social Relationship Management ROI

You know what smart people do?  They seek out smarter people. So in an attempt to be smart, I grabbed Trip Kucera, Senior Research Analyst at the Aberdeen Group to see what they’re discovering about how organizations are approaching social ROI. Trip leads the Marketing Effectiveness and Strategy practice and is well aware that in many C-suites, ROI is the stick in the spokes that’s slowing down adoption of the socially enabled enterprise.


Spotlight: Why should CEO’s, CMO’s, and CIO’s start taking social seriously?

Trip: Several weeks ago, we witnessed the latest in a string of social media follies when a British Airways customer purchased a promoted Tweet to express his displeasure with the service. Social has long been an echo chamber of complaints, some warranted and some not, but this may be one of the first times a customer actually invested their own money to be heard. That’s a milestone in the evolution of the empowered customer and not the last of it we’ll see as advertising gets put in the hands of the average consumer.


Spotlight: Ah, so the damage an upset customer can do should be factored in to social ROI. There’s a cost to getting it wrong?

Trip: Disgruntled customers are nothing new, and brands are wise not to overreact to every complaint lodged on Twitter and Facebook. But such moments put a new wrinkle on how organizations consider the ROI of their social relationship management strategies. A social strategy that might have more effectively addressed the customer’s concern probably isn’t going to immediately generate revenue or reduce costs, but something beyond a 9-5 social presence as was the case for BA probably seems like a pretty good investment in hindsight.

Figure: Leaders Put Brand Image on Top



Spotlight: I know you’ve got research on how much brands are expecting social to directly result in leads, so spill it.

Trip: Over the last few years, brands have built up their social communities with the hope of eventually figuring out how to convert likes into leads. But we’ve seen an interesting evolution in the focus on social strategies in Aberdeen’s research. In late 2011, social demand generation or customer acquisition was identified as the top strategic action. But in Aberdeen’s most recent survey, the largest percentage of top-performing companies are focused on improving the image of the brand, with direct demand generation/customer acquisition coming in as the 2nd most adopted strategy, but the top among all companies combined and Followers separately. (Aberdeen’s methodology identifies the high and low performers in a given survey and uses this to identify best practices as the strategies and capabilities used by top performing firms)


Spotlight: So brands are coming around? They see social as belonging at the top of the funnel as opposed to being a “closer”?

Trip: Well, this prioritization suggests a maturing of social relationship management priorities and maybe a more nuanced sense of payback for investing in it. These firms are banking on the fact that positive social brand image will convert to brand equity.

The trust in this conversion is evident in the social metrics preferred by Leaders, which show a bias towards monetization. Seventy percent (70%) of Leaders rank inbound website traffic as “valuable” or “very valuable” in measuring the impact of social relationship management (4 or 5 on 1-5 value scale) vs. 54% of Followers; and 60% of Leaders indicate marketing leads/conversions as “valuable” or “very valuable” (compared with 59% of Followers). Interestingly, social sentiment, a direct measure of positive brand resonance on social, appears towards the bottom of the list.


Figure: No Vanity Here - Leaders Prefer Business Impact Measure



Spotlight: Now you’re making me dizzy. So they’re using social for brand image as a strategy, but they want to see leads as the metric.

Trip: This juxtaposition points to the evolution and maturity of social relationship management, along with an understanding that the path to value isn’t necessarily a direct line. At a strategy level, firms are focused on building capabilities that support positive brand image (and actively engineer opportunities for engagement), but they ultimately will measure the impact in terms of real, tangible business benefits, rather than vanity metrics.


Spotlight: So basically, the path toward becoming a brand Leader in social involves little more than getting it right…using the right tools and executing the right strategies.

Trip: It’s hard to tell exactly what the impact of a more proactive social relationship management initiative on the part of British Airways might have been. But aggregated data from Aberdeen’s Social Relationship Management study shows cumulative adoption of best practices makes a tangible difference for firms. One of the key metrics we use to determine Leaders is the year-over-year change in positive social mentions of the brand or product, directly aligned to the top strategic action. On average, Leaders generate 114% more website traffic from social activity vs. Followers (11.5% vs. 5.4%) and 55% higher leads/conversions from social compared to Followers (4.0% vs. 2.6%).


Spotlight: Now that I know Aberdeen has all this great data, you know I’m going to come back to you for more of it, right?

Trip: I’m looking forward to it Mike.  Social relationship management has clearly moved past the experimental phase, but there’s always a place for data that can help marketers and executives better chart their path.

@mikestiles
Photo: bschwehn, stock.xchng

Tuesday Aug 20, 2013

Social Images: How Are Your Brand Selfies?

babyfaceYou’ve heard it again and again.  Using photos and images in your social posts is the best practice to beat all best practices, increasing the likelihood your post will be seen in the news feed and win some engagement.

And while it’s fine to pragmatically know that, you’ll do much better to internalize just how wild the public has gotten about images, and why. Maintaining a constant awareness of this passion is the only way for your brand to match that passion for imagery, which will then drive the effort and quality of the images you use to show the world your brand’s face (your brand selfie).

While blogs and conferences and webinars and ebooks are advising brands on that elusive issue of “how to increase engagement,” the public is jumping up and down right in front of us, showing us the answer as clearly as they can.

  • 300 million photos uploaded to Facebook daily.
  • An average 7.3 million daily active users on Instagram as of August 2012.
  • Instagram's average daily mobile visitors up 724% leap in 6 months.
  • Total unique visitors to Pinterest up 2,702.2% in one year.
  • Average 257 minutes per user spent using Instagram on mobile in one month.
  • Average 1 hour, 17 minutes spent by Americans on Pinterest.
  • One new user gained per second on Instagram
  • 58 photos uploaded per minute on Instagram


Is there still a doubt that images on social can move the needle and get you the attention and engagement you want?

  • Over 80% of Pinterest pins are repins.
  • 59% of Pinterest users bought an item they saw on the site.
  • 79% of Pinterest users are more likely to buy things they’ve seen on Pinterest.
  • Articles with images get 94% more views than articles without.
  • Pictures on Facebook get over twice the engagement of text posts.
  • Facebook posts with photo albums get 180% more engagement.
  • Tweets with images get twice the engagement of text tweets.
  • After Twitter added built-in photo sharing, photo sharing increased 421%.
  • When searching, 60% are more willing to consider or contact a business if an image shows up in search results.

rosepiano

Your fans are taking photos, uploading photos, liking photos, sharing photos, commenting on photos, and shopping from photos. Which means your social marketing success is quite tied to how well you execute on imagery. Brands are starting to get it. Indeed.com found jobs requesting Instagram skills are up 644% from 2012. 25% of F100 companies have Pinterest accounts. And the number of photos posted by brands is up 20% over last year. But just why is imagery so powerful that it (along with video) is key to social marketing?


Aside from pictures being eye-catching, fast & easy to consume, worth a thousand words, and transcending language, Robin Kelsey, a professor of photography at Harvard says pictures aren’t about capturing and storing memories anymore. They’re becoming the real-time way we communicate. Consider Snapchat at 200 million images per day, none of which are meant to survive. Wireless trade association CTIA sees images replacing texting. Texting was down 5% over the year, but MMS (multimedia messages) soared up 41%.


Still feeling stoked about your 50-page, text heavy white papers?


Brain scans
show us that seeing something attractive triggers the part of the motor cerebellum governing hand movement, causing us to literally want to reach toward what we see. Pretty easy to understand why food is the top content category on Pinterest, huh? 67% of consumers say the quality of a product’s image is very important when decision-making, even more important than product info, long descriptions, and ratings and reviews. They want beauty, they want to feel something, they want to be moved. So, your social publishing tool has to give you a canvas that can present your images in the strongest light.


If brands want fans and followers to “reach out” for their products, those selfies need to look really awesome.

@mikestiles
Photo 1: Benjamin Earwicker, stock.xchng
Photo 2: stock.xchng

Tuesday Apr 23, 2013

Easy Ways to Look Really Uncool to Your Fans

sleazeHave you as a brand ever paused to think about what an honor it is for somebody, anybody, to Like your Facebook page or choose to follow your tweets?  Outside of business reasons, how many brands have you followed on social? It’s a big deal for John Q. Public to invite you into their circle of friends and ask to hear from you. What kind of social content are you rewarding them with?

Below are quick, easy ways to immediately make someone regret Liking you. You see, they only want to self-identify with cool companies, and the things below make you markedly uncool.

Posting too much
A bigger issue on Facebook, but even on Twitter, each post should be new, breaking news type info. If you hog feeds, you’ll be seen as “clutter.” People like to clear clutter. Plus there’s no way you’ve got that much A-grade material. I’m not just making this up, a Lab42 study found posting too frequently is the #1 reason users unlike a brand.

Using social as a one-way megaphone
You’re not listening, you’re not responding, in general you’re making your fans feel like they’re there for you and not the other way around. The above study cites bad customer experience as the #3 reason fans dump brands on social. As for not listening, you’re only hurting yourself. 86% of consumer feedback online is being missed by brands, and 70% of marketers collect no social data about their competition.

Desperate selling
Do you really think your fans don’t know you want them to buy your product? So chill out and don’t make every post a breathless pitch. A Vanson Bourne study found 48% don’t want marketing messages at all. Another study (MediaBrix) shows people find ads disguised as content annoying, and 85% said it changed their opinion of the brand negatively if it had an effect at all. Yet…the study also found a great many marketers think this kind of disrespectful fake-out is effective.

Proving you’re uncommitted and/or lazy
Inconsistent posting that swings from radio silence to spammy barrage, auto-DMing that ruins the human-to-human social advantage, connecting social networks so Twitter hashtags show up in your Facebook posts, meaningless posts (“tell us your plans for the weekend!”), using an inhuman corporate voice, all prove to fans that for your brand, social is a pesky afterthought. Considering social makes up just 10% of brands’ digital marketing spend, and annual digital marketing operating budgets were a whopping 2.5% of company revenue in 2012, lack of commitment probably starts at the top.

There are certainly other annoyances: going hashtag crazy, not targeting or mis-targeting offers (studies indicate a 66% increase in engagement with proper targeting), asking fans to jump through hoops for you with no reward for doing so, etc.

But there are two bits of really good news. One; social management platforms now exist that make posting, listening, targeting, responding, and analyzing easier and more of an integrated process than ever. Doing social the right way is more do-able. And two; the rewards of not chasing fans away are great.

The Vanson Bourne report shows 68% of social users researched a product or service recommended by a friend, and 15% of those bought based on the recommendation. Win your fans’ trust, and they’ll get you new customers without a frantic hard sell. And 82% of respondents to the Lab42 study said Facebook is a good platform for interacting with brands, with 50% finding the page more useful than the brand’s www.

So your fans are quite predisposed to keep following you. Only you can mess that up and become the uncool kid they don’t want to be seen around.

@mikestiles

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