The number one metric in digital marketing? Eyeballs.
The problem? Consumers are doing everything they can to protect their peepers from brands online.
The latest news – a new survey showing ad blocking on laptops is now at 40 percent of all users. On mobile, the number is 15 percent and rising. After years of flashing, spinning and stalking banner ads, consumers have gotten sick of being sold to in certain ways.
What they still want though, are stories.
In a world where consumers are building walls, great online content can be a ninja for brands, sneaking over the wall and through the cracks to stand right next to their audience. Content wins the ad blocker game because social media users have already opted into a relationship with brands. That audience wants to be part of the give-and-take of attention and solid storytelling. But they will shut their eyeballs if that content is boring, trite, too salesy, predictable or not valuable to them. The challenge for content creators then is not a piece of code that could make your brand disappear, but an emphasis on quality which will keep it alive, well and visible.
— Mike Koehler
Smirk Slant is a series of short blogs offering quick reactions to the latest news in social media and digital marketing.
By Michaela Lawson
A local hashtag became the top trending topic on Twitter and even received national response on Friday amid other big ticket news items – Russell Westbrook’s extension and the 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony to name a few.
The hashtag #ShopEdmond was besieged with responses on Twitter Friday after the lifestyle magazine Edmond Active said it had trademarked the phrase.
The Twitterverse heartily rejected this assertion, and the hashtag was used by outraged users posting everything from silly pictures to heated screeds about marketing and intellectual property law.
The long and short of the dilemma stemmed from the publisher of the lifestyle magazine Edmond Active, Sherri Hultner, trying to defend a trademarked phrase when used for marketing and advertising purposes. Hultner said the tweet was intended for businesses trying to leverage #ShopEdmond audiences for their own business without advertising with Edmond Active.
However, the tweet requesting people not to use the hashtag was seen as an attempt to keep the public from using the hashtag as well, which is what seemingly fueled the negative conversation.
“It’s not even really a hashtag that the public uses,” Hultner said in a phone interview with The Oklahoman. “It hasn’t been an issue except for three or four people grabbing it for marketing.”
Not only did the original tweet offend, though, but the initial responses between the brand and upset Twitter users – including the blocking of local reporter Brianna Bailey – caused the controversy to continue growing until was a nationally trending topic and garnered a response from the man who created the hashtag, Chris Messina.
So, how could things have gone differently?
In any misunderstanding or issue involving brands, the biggest factor to a successful resolution ultimately lies in the immediate response by the brand. Here are a few things to keep in mind when responding to a crisis on any scale through social media:
- Step back and look at the whole picture
By allowing yourself a little bit of time to figure out the best response to whatever is happening, you automatically decrease the possibility of making the problem worse through hastily drafted responses. Allow yourself the time to have consistent, thought-out responses to defuse the situation.
Often times, having the right people in your corner can make the difference. Seeing a situation from multiple perspectives helps identify your blind spots for an overall better response. You may even need to consider having a marketing firm to consult with regularly to prevent and effectively respond to situations like these when they occur.
- Be upfront, honest and transparent
Own up to your shortcomings in the situation. If you said something you shouldn’t have, apologize wholeheartedly to those you upset and try to right the wrong. If there has been a misunderstanding, apologize for being unclear and reconsider your message. Understand where the outrage is coming from and address that concern directly. People are more graceful when you admit wrongdoing than trying to defend it further.
- Respond as quickly as possible
Once you figure out the right approach to resolving the issue, you want to respond to the problem as quickly as possible to try to get in front of the problem before it becomes overbearing in responses. Shaping your own messaging is important for being able to frame the issue correctly before someone else can write their version of your story for you.
- Consider what you could do differently
For ongoing issues, see if there is another viable option to resolving the problem without going to social media about the concern. For #ShopEdmond specifically, we suggest reaching out to the few brands using the hashtag without advertising with the magazine. By approaching them directly, you have the opportunity to express your concern and possible establish a relationship that would lead to a partnership opportunity with those businesses as well. The entire Twitter backlash may have been avoided using this approach.
Ultimately, if you need help in a situation like this, know who to call. Oftentimes, there is a fine balance between dealing with crises effectively and making them worse. By having a plan in place for difficult times, you are able to learn to effectively handle issues when they inevitably rise for your business.
Since working at Smirk, I don’t think a single day has gone by (okay, maybe that’s a little exaggerated) without hearing Allie say something about the necessity of putting money behind brand content on social media.
And, low and behold, a recent study by the American Marketing Association has found that to be absolutely true.
The Journal of Marketing reports that, based on their findings regarding company-generated content, social media is “most effective when combined with ads.” Even more than that though, they found that brand messaging on social media “indeed increases sales and customer profitability.”
Of course the report was quick to emphasize that other forms of marketing – the more traditional routes – are not to be neglected. Although 90 percent of customer responses were found to be generated from digital ads, “marketers should strive to achieve a synergistic approach so that ads in all platforms work together to reach audiences in cadence to an established tone and message.”
So, how do we integrate social media – backed by marketing dollars – into our overall marketing campaigns?
The first step to all marketing decisions starts with defining your target market, followed by framing messaging for optimal performance among those audiences.
Only then can you locate where the desired audience spends most of their time, which in the past few years is oftentimes social media platforms. Knowing where and how your target audience communicates allows you to engage customers according to their preferences.
Various features have rolled out in the last few months and years on social media platforms that allow for more specific demographic reach within those networks. These tools allow us to know who we are communicating with in very real and quantifiable ways more than ever before.
To neglect social media is corporate suicide. So, it’s about time marketers recognized the importance of spending money where the audiences are – social media. And with that, making sure the right people with the right training are running those messages and ads on social platforms for the best results.
In the last 12 years of the evolving social media world, the number of users on platforms are ever-increasing, while marketers lack the confidence and skills for effective messaging on the different networks. The missed opportunities and lost revenue continues to build as the social media skills gap goes unaddressed.
By taking note of some of the causes of the social media skills gap and providing solutions to each, businesses and brands can move from baffled marketers to skilled managers.
Cause: Ever-changing platforms and features
It seems that every few months, at least one social platform has changed a feature – usually Facebook’s algorithm is the culprit of this cause of the increasing skill gap. Some months, it seems as though every platform is rolling out something new: Instagram’s account switching, Twitter’s optional algorithm, etc.
With ever-changing platform features, it can be difficult for brands to keep up with the latest trends on each social hub while still running their business efficiently and effectively.
Solution: Staying informed
Make time to stay informed on the latest trends in social media platforms. Set up Google Alerts for social media news to be pushed to you, rather than seeking it out yourself. Get connected with social media marketers on various platforms to see what they’re talking about in the social media news.
Cause: Lack of understanding social media expectations
Where users previously expected brands to only talk about their products and services, social media allows for two-sided relationships between brands and consumers. The wide adaptability of social media among consumers comes with their expectations to get answers to their questions on whichever platform they decide.
Solution: Know what is being said about your brand, respond
When consumers have either an extremely positive or a negative experience a product or service, they often times take to social media to tell their followers about it. Knowing where your brand is being talked about and what is being said is half of the customer service model on social media. Platforms give brands the opportunity to respond to their critics – and fans – in real-time with their complaints or praises.
Cause: Not receiving the proper education on social media
Unavoidably, many business owners and brand managers did not have a course on social media when they were in school. As a newer trend, these courses didn’t exist, or if they did, they were not comprehensive.
Solution: Social media and younger work generations
As social media becomes more and more prevalent with every new platform, their importance is being taught to the next generation of business owners, marketers and brand ambassadors. For current brand managers and business owners, there are various seminars and courses offered throughout the year educating on the latest and greatest of social media.
Smirk New Media is dedicated to keeping information channels open between brands and audiences. Through media training sessions and workshops for small business owners, Smirk aims to help bridge the social media skills gap.
Facebook’s Reactions feature rolled out globally in February and was met with excitement and criticism – as most things are – by people everywhere. After the initial dissatisfaction of Facebook still not having a “dislike” button, the Reactions available to users were embraced with excitement… and some confusion. Like all new things, it will take a little while to fully utilize the new feature. Ultimately, however, Facebook Reactions allow for more authentic engagement with posts.
The Smirk team sat down to discuss their favorite reaction, least favorite reaction and the advantages of reactions for brands and marketers.
What’s your favorite new reaction?
“I love the idea of the multiple reactions because as a user, it gives me more appropriate responses. I think people have already gravitated to that idea.
So far, I like “wow” and “haha” the best, because I think that is going to give us the most insight on how we make content better for these audiences. You want to elicit emotions in order to get engagement and, for lack of a better word, stickiness in the relationship between the brand and the audience.” – Mike Koehler, CEO and Chief Strategist
“Since the smirk isn’t an option yet, my favorite new reaction is the “love” sign because it’s a much more powerful sentiment than the original “like” and can help us gauge what content is resonating with the audience.” – Allie Carrick, Managing Director
“I honestly like all of them, but I think the “wow” and the heart are a tie for me. As marketers, you want to create content that moves people. It’s easy to get a “like,” but to create something that someone loves or takes them by surprise is a powerful thing. And now we can more accurately measure that.” – Kevin DeShazo, Senior Strategist
“I think my favorite reaction so far is the sad face. Not the most positive reaction, I know, but I’ve seen too many statuses and news articles over the years that has a certain mood that doesn’t quite fit the “like” reaction.” – Samaiyah Islam, Strategist
“My favorite Facebook reaction is “love”. The shape and color are the most distinct and it appears to make a wholly positive impression wherever it is left. I have seen it used primarily in three ways so far: people posting life events (such as engagements), people posting that they’re feeling sad (the “love” then being used as an “I love you”/”I am here for you”) and people posting screenshots of conversations in which they are being funny/arguing with someone and the “love” being used as a reward (“love the way you shut them down”, “love your sassy response”). The uses are so varied! Side note: I love that all of the reactions are animated on mobile.” – Kailey Emerson, Sales Strategist
“My favorite is the “love” reaction because it shows so much more emotion than just a simple “like”. As a user of Facebook, I appreciate the ability to show a wider range of response to a post beyond just a like. It’s nice that I can show that I saw the post without saying I “like” something sad or serious that may have happened in a friend/family member’s life.” – Lennon Patton, Sales Strategist
What’s your least favorite reaction?
“I guess I like the “like” reaction the least then, because that isn’t giving us as much information to drill down with.” – Mike
“I don’t think I have a least favorite, as all have a place. There are times when a post will make you sad or angry, and it should, so while some may see those as fueling negativity, I see them as a way to respond to posts that, for good reason, make us sad or angry.” – Kevin
“Because I am already used to seeing the “love” reaction used in a comforting way, I just can’t get behind the “sad” reaction. It’s too simple. I almost think the appeal of the other reactions is that they can be used in a wider variety of contexts. Maybe I just haven’t seen “sad” shine yet.” – Kailey
What can Facebook Reactions add to brands and managers?
“If we have a brand that can be a little cheekier with, these nuanced responses will help us do more of one kind of content and less of another. More real-time insights on Facebook are always great, because they allow us to pivot faster on the content creativity.” – Mike
“We’re always looking for new and improved ways to measure brand sentiment for our clients and the prospect of going beyond the “like” in a quick, easy format is exciting. For years, users have expressed that “like” just didn’t go far enough when they feel passionate about a piece of content.
I’m hoping the new reactions are just the tip of the iceberg in Facebook’s efforts to help users and brands connect and understand each other better. When brand managers have a deeper understanding of a Page’s digital audience, we can elevate our content — resulting in a better overall user experience. Plus, the easier it is for users to engage with our content, the more valuable this platform is for advertisers.” – Allie
“I like the 6 they have now, but one option would be too add a “confused/confusing” emoji reaction, for those posts that just make us scratch our heads and wonder what in the world we just read/saw.” – Kevin
“The new reactions feature will be great for managers because it gives them an idea of how their content is performing. Rather than just relieving a “lazy like” from your audience, you can see if people thought your content was funny or offensive. If you are getting a ton of “wow” or “angry” reactions on content that you didn’t mean to be controversial, you can get in front of the crisis and handle it accordingly.” – Samaiyah
“I think it will be another interesting aspect of engagement to measure. Right now, people are using the reactions in such varied ways, but I think over time there may be a more standardized usage and from there we can figure out how best to measure them. I am excited to see what it will reflect.” – Kailey
Smirk New Media is changing today.
That sentence has been many months in the making.
When I launched “a company” in 2010, it couldn’t even really be called that. It was just me, a used laptop and a bag full of hope and gumption.
Fast forward to today: We have a great team. We are trying new things while working on audacious goals. But Smirk New Media isn’t big enough to do all that we want to do.
Today we are launching two new companies. The first is pretty exciting. Doble R Media is a new brand which will take all of the best practices we’ve learned about marketing and deliver them to clients who are part of (or who are trying to reach) the Spanish-speaking market in Oklahoma City. This idea grew out of needs our clients had in 2015 and blossomed when we brought Liz Ramirez on board. Response has already been great to this brand, even before its official launch today. Liz will serve as Doble’s managing director. Please check out the new Doble R website at www.DobleR.Media
In conjunction with the Doble rollout is the creation of another new company – Smirk Solutions.
Smirk Solutions is my attempt to be Warren Buffett. 🙂 Smirk Solutions will serve the umbrella over all of our brands – Smirk New Media, Doble R Media, ‘Merica Media (which serves political campaigns and clients) and Social Network Staffing. This will allow me to work on an overall vision for all that we do, while empowering our team to execute and work closer with clients.
This is a great day. I couldn’t be happier with the work everyone has put into the success we have had in 2016. If you have any questions about working with us, for us or beside us, please feel free to reach out.
Onward and upward,
Twitter Flight School? What is it? Twitter launched Twitter Flight School, a free online education program, in 2014 “to help agencies learn how to build buzz, launch products, drive sales, and instantly connect with a highly engaged audience on Twitter.” In 2016, Flight School is now available to advertisers around the world in 16 languages despite their affiliation with an agency.
Eager to see what it was all about, I decided to enroll in classes. The first step was to choose a flight path: Buying & Execution, Account Leadership, Executive Leadership or Planning & Strategy. For my first set of lessons, I chose the “Planning & Strategy” flight path.
Lesson 1: Twitter 101
Twitter Connects You to the World: The motivationally moving look into what can be achieved through using Twitter is set up in a continuous scrolling lesson format. The “lesson” depicts a community of people tweeting about like interests and includes a high-energy video compilation of tweets during the World Cup. Finally, Twitter 101 explains what Twitter is, how the timeline works and the mechanics and anatomy of a tweet. The fundamental understanding of the way Twitter works segues into how people use Twitter to connect to brands.
People Connect to Brands on Twitter: The social media platform uses tweets and videos from brands like General Electric and Paige Denim to emphasize the idea that brands can connect to their audiences through Twitter by making their messages engaging and novel. One way that this is highlighted is through the use of video, specifically native to Twitter itself. Finally, Twitter breaks down the importance of online research for marketers on twitter into a sleek and simple bar graph that indicates stronger customer intent to buy based on their emotional response to brand messaging.
Twitter Drives Business Results: Research has shown that people want to find out about new products and brands on Twitter, showing that 64 percent of people on Twitter report having purchased a product, and 57 percent of people report having used Twitter to choose what stores to visit. This section of the Twitter 101 lesson features various case study snippets in which Twitter drove higher business results for brands, including Samsung, Audi and Budweiser. These results were shown to strengthen message association, expose brand favorability and lift, produce direct action and show advocacy of followers for the brands the love.
Tweets from the Top: To wrap up the first lesson, Twitter Flight School includes a section of tweets from large brands that talk about why using Twitter for brand promotion has been key for their company’s success. (Hooray!)
Flight Check: Finally, the part of the lesson where Twitter sees just how much I was paying attention to the lesson. Three hypothetical questions are asked about how you would respond to people saying certain assumptions about a brand’s proper use of Twitter. My result: I passed, of course, by picking the most positively worded and jargon-filled options.
I passed Twitter 101 and it was a breeze, but then again I’ve been using the platform since its inception in 2006. So, perhaps this section of Flight School is better formulated for the Twitter novice. I guess we’ll see next time as I fly through the next lesson: “Ultimate Guide to Content Planning”.
Goodbye little league, here I come MLB.
The “most wonderful time of the year” starts with the recognition and thanksgiving for all the little things. This Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for the benefits digital marketing gives businesses and folks like us who manage social media for our clients’ great brands. Here are some of the things we’re thankful for:
1. Shared experiences
“I am thankful for shared Twitter experiences. Whether it’s the latest rumbling of an Oklahoma earthquake, the last seconds ticking down on a Thunder game or whomever is stumbling up the steps at the Oscars, being able to joke, snark, question and cheer on Twitter is now and always has been a blessing. I strongly believe that Twitter has strengthened our community’s muscles over the past few years and 2015 was no different. We keep growing up as an online community – we support folks who lose their jobs, help new events find their footing and keep talking in 140 characters or less. Just this year we did it with more photos, more GIFs and more moments.”
– Mike Koehler, president and chief strategist
“I’m thankful for community. That’s what social media is to me. Groups of people passionate about similar causes, ideas and industries who connect, interact, share, support and spur each other on. It’s opened my eyes to people and perspectives I otherwise wouldn’t have known or considered, helping to build empathy. Community is a powerful thing, and I’m thankful for the community that social media provides.”
– Kevin DeShazo, senior strategist
3. Higher marketing standards
“I am thankful that social media has not just changed the marketing game, but raised the bar. The traditional sales pitch is dead and I’m not sad to see it go. Unlike media outlets of the past, platforms, like Facebook, design their advertising standards putting the customer experience first to cultivate a captive audience. They limit overly promotional content and reward brands for creativity, originality and relevance to their target audience. Some see this change as an inconvenience, but I see it as a big opportunity. Those willing to adapt stand out amongst their competitors and are experiencing the benefits. Brands using social media well are creating more personal, conversational customer relationships than ever before, resulting in a positive impact on in their customer service, sales and community.”
– Allie Carrick, senior strategist
4. Local connections and information
“I am grateful that we live in a time where we can witness connections being fostered and help being given over social media platforms. It has been heartwarming to see local restaurants/suppliers reach out to nonprofits to supply food for Thanksgiving dinners across the state – like Other Options.
I am also thankful that businesses of all kinds are increasingly active on social media, as it allows us to find their Thanksgiving plans with ease; restaurants are tweeting their specials, their holiday hours, and generally connecting with their followers. Take Pie Junkie for example!”
– Lennon Patton, sales strategist
5. Creative sharing
“I’m thankful for the wealth of free or low cost creative sources available to the public. Artists of all forms contribute free resources of photos, graphics and fonts to make good content stand out. Programs like Canva give users with limited graphic design experience the ability to create professional graphics in preset dimensions for all of the digital platforms – social media, email, blogs, etc. Other low cost and free resources provide easy access to photography, mockups or graphics. More than the visual representations, however, the free resource of ideas, information and studies make content creation easier. By observing the digital world around us, these resources give us the ability to expand on ideas and create new trends.”
– Michaela Lawson, intern
Social media and the digital age have given us much more to be thankful for than just these perks, and the upcoming year will bring even more to be thankful for.
In an attempt to “give the people what they want”, Facebook announced a new update to the news feed for users. Individuals can now prioritize their news stories to show their friends, family and favorite pages before seeing stories from everyone else they follow.
The rest of their news feed will still update as normal beneath the prioritized information, but now people don’t need to see the mindless updates about spiders on porches and their former roommates’ seventh kitten before seeing their cousin’s engagement photos and favorite band’s newly announced tour dates.
The update also gives users the ability to unfollow people, reconnect with people they previously unfollowed and discover new pages based on previous liking activity.
As always, this change to the platform can be either harmful or helpful for brands. The challenge brands now face is being relevant enough to be deemed a priority by your audience . In that challenge, though, is the opportunity to be seen above the clutter by the people that care the most about your brand and the people that are more likely to take action based on your messages.
In the struggle of being heard among the masses, loyalty is key. Loyal followers are more likely to deem your information important and prioritize your posts above your competitors. So, you don’t get lost in the crowd of brand page posts and your treasured audience’s attention is all yours.
Last year, Facebook started making changes to the news feed based on user complaints about the promoted content of pages they followed. These updated news feeds resulted in pages being penalized for overly promotional and unoriginal content.
As Facebook continues to weed out overly promotional content from pages, brands have the opportunity to reform their sales pitches into genuine transparent relationships with the people that care about their message.
Brands have the opportunity now, more than ever, to give individuals personal relationships. People are increasingly interested in the behind-the-scenes exclusives that brands have to offer.
Facebook keeps digital marketers on their toes, to say the least. New ways of reaching audiences are constantly surfacing or being redefined. The once photo-dominated platform is now responding more and more to video content. In fact, photos only reach half of the audience that videos can, according to MarketingLand. Granted, the content still needs to be engaging, creative and unique to the audience. Here’s a breakdown of how much organic reach each mode of communication is receiving on Facebook:
But this landscape is ever-changing with Facebook’s announcement that the platform will now be supporting GIF (pronounced “JIF”) animation in the news feed. Now, users are able to express themselves in one of the Internet’s purest forms of expression – short, animated images played on a continuous loop.
These short snippets of hilarity seem endless in all their glory from social media to text messages, GIFs rule communication circles everywhere. Adding this ability to Facebook’s timeline allows users to continue expressing themselves through others’ captured expressions as they deem fit.
However, this option is not yet available for brands, but the inevitable extension to brands will ultimately change the face of organic reach on Facebook again. The use of animated GIFs, however, open new opportunities for businesses to succeed or fail.
GIFs on brand Pages have the potential to:
- Add personality to tweets and customer responses.
- Make content more viral and share-worthy.
- Creative way to feature new products or exclusives.
- Highlight brand culture with your own content.
Ultimately, Facebook has added another step to the pathway of communication today. And it’s a step that brands are desperate to be a part of to try and reach their audiences with one more outlet of communication.