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.
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,
It is important to be conscious of current events when managing social media accounts. While using trends and events can be effective ways to relate to public through the things they’re talking about, we all know the stories of people retracting posts because of lacking sensitivity during events that should not be leveraged on by companies.
The Hall of Shame is lined with brands met with criticism from the public by seeming to use tragedy to promote their brand through social media. In September 2014, DiGiorno used the trending hashtag #WhyIStayed, used by abuse survivors following former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s termination, without knowing its context. Earlier this month, the Seattle Seahawks used Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an opportunity to plug their involvement in this year’s Super Bowl, drawing comparisons between civil rights and a football game and ultimately offending the public.
While instances may arise where interacting with trends make sense in light of the greater marketing goal, deciding if a tweet is tasteful and beneficial for your company requires considering the following rules of thumb:
Pause and review. Always know exactly what messages are scheduled in your campaign and be prepared to pause it if and when a large-scale event happens. Review the content consumers will see and the searches that will trigger it. Advertising on searches that address a tragedy or crisis event may appear insensitive to consumers and victims. For a roofing company, “tornado repair” may seem like a great term to attract new customers – unless a major tornado has resulted in excessive and tragic damages, like the Moore tornado in 2013.
Consider changing the content. If possible, alter ad content to help your audience deal with the situation. In the case of the roofing advertiser, changing the content to reroute to a hotline for filing claims, rather than an ad soliciting new business, can help shift company image from exploitative to responsive. Localizing campaigns can be especially beneficial in these situations. You may even consider creating informative content about charities taking donations or organizations helping victims. Your quick response in times of crisis can make a large difference to a current or potential customer and lead to deeper connections.
Have a backup for your backup plan. Assign an experienced marketer to keep up with current events and formulate alternative marketing plans. Having a substitute campaign ready will enable a quicker, more thoughtful response when it becomes necessary. This is especially helpful in a team, so that someone is always available to deal with crises.
Be genuine in doing good for others. Brands benefit from having genuine human response. Since social media allows for real-time interaction, consumers have heightened expectations of critical information. Failure to meet this new standard could mean you may miss an opportunity to do some real good in this world and possibly get unfriended or unfollowed on a national level.
The other day I got an email: It was the 7th anniversary of joining Twitter.
Had it really been that long? Yep. Sometime in the Summer of 2007, in what was surely a slow day at the offices of The Oklahoman, I logged into the web, followed a link here or there talking about the latest thing online and decided to try out Twitter.
I’d heard that shorter usernames were better, so at that moment “@MKOKC” was born, to be scribbled on “Hello my name is” stickers for years to come.
(Footnote: There is a @mikekoehler on Twitter. His tweets are protected. His follower count is 50. What a legacy.)
Twitter has always been my native social media land. Facebook came along much later. And LinkedIn, while incredible helpful, is not somewhere you hang out and talk about the Thunder game.
Without Twitter, there wouldn’t be all of this. There wouldn’t be a Smirk New Media, or an office downtown, or a friendship and partnership with Stephanie Bice (or Kevin Deshazo or Allie Carrick and so many others) or all the other twists and turns of what up until 2007 was a straight line through the world of journalism.
What Twitter brought into my life and many others, I think, was a sense of connection and community. It was forged in those earl days, when people started to get hit by the recession and just started to wonder what was going on outside their windows and cubicles. It was forged during our bouts of severe weather, when you were able to get a real sense of “was everybody OK.”
I literally worked in a dark, glass tower for years, cut off from anything that was happening downtown, in other organizations or in the lives of people I would love to know.
For me, Twitter was a real-time stream of light and life, peeking in through the blinds.
Now did I take it a step farther? Yes. During that heyday of Twitter adoption in Oklahoma City, as I transitioned from journalism into consulting, I reached out to the people I met on Twitter and dared to meet them IRL. Those “Twitter blind dates” as my wife called gave me a crash course into PR, marketing, networking and thinking about business (and myself) differently.
And when the time came to leap into the void and start my own business – selling this service that had so radically changed the world – the net I dove into had been knitted by those friendships and relationships found on Twitter.
This is one of the reasons I take social media so seriously, when others still want to put it in a box or make it a punchline. Social media had so much to do with how my life has changed since 2007 – along with, no coincidentally a recommitment to church I made the same year – that I can never discount its impact.
When you open your phone to day, or pull up your computer, and start to send one of those 140 character gems, think about how different your life is now that we have this expectation of real-time communication with hundreds and thousands of those around us.
Think of how different life is now that we have made this community.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Smirk New Media, one of the region’s most successful social media consulting firms, is branching out to help businesses find qualified employees for digital marketing and strategists positions.
Social Network Staffing – and its website SocialNetworkStaffing.net – goes live today.
According to CareerBuilder.com, 2014 will see a great increase in businesses needing and hiring full-time social media strategists. Smirk New Media’s new division will provide an efficient way to identify qualified candidates of businesses in the region. Social Network Staffing will initially serve Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri.
Social Network Staffing will collect, review and recommend qualified applicants who can take on the job of using social media channels to effectively represent brands online.
In addition, Social Network Staffing can also work alongside the new hire with its “Running Start Program,” in which new social media strategists and their companies get help in developing social media content, digital campaigns and techniques for audience growth.
“As businesses get serious about the integration of social and digital media into how they connect with their customers, we saw a great opportunity to share our advice and expertise with them through SNS,” said Mike Koehler, CEO and President of Smirk New Media. Koehler is confident that Social Network Staffing will have a profound impact on the hiring, integrating and training of new social media professionals as they enter the business spectrum.
“In 2014, we’ve moved beyond social media-for-social media’s sake,” said Koehler. “Companies need qualified strategists who understand the depth and impact social media can have on their business. Our system of identification, recruitment and placement of training will be a win for businesses and our Running Start program will be the difference-maker for how digital marketers are hired in the region.”
Kevin Deshazo, who works as a senior strategist for Smirk New Media and has more than five years of experience in the recruiting and staffing industry, will work with businesses seeking social media help. Social Network Staffing is also forging relationships with area colleges to create a pipeline for students interested in digital marketing.
“Matching the right person with the right company is critical, especially when that person is going to be the voice of that company. We take that process seriously,” DeShazo said. “We at Smirk pride ourselves in being the bridge that connects a working culture with an individual who understands and appreciates that culture and is able to effectively portray it through social media.”
ABOUT SMIRK NEW MEDIA
Smirk New Media was launched in July 2010 as a professional services agency focusing solely on social media and digital communication for government agencies, non-profits, brands and businesses. Smirk New Media serves its region with strategists in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City and Springfield, Mo. With a client base of more than 30 companies, Smirk New Media helps create and implement digital strategy from Fortune 500 corporations to small businesses. Smirk New Media provides experienced and well-thought social media strategy as well as reliable service managing social media accounts. Smirk New Media allows our clients the peace of mind knowing they have consistent and relevant digital content on all of their platforms, while also having experienced consulting monitoring conversations and creating interaction.
Facebook began as a medium for teenagers and college students to interact, hang-out, and socialize without the necessity of a physical interaction. However, 2014 may leave Facebook singing a different tune, and marketing to a different audience.
According to a recent Social Ads Platform study, released by iStrategy Labs and published in Time Magazine, there are now over 28 million users over the age of 55 on Facebook – around an 80.4 percent increase since 2011.
On the flip side, there are now 4,292,080 fewer high-school aged users and 6,948,848 fewer college- aged users than there were in 2011, a 25.3 percent decrease and 7.5 percent decrease.
Where are all of the millennials going, and why the steady increase in older users?
The rise in people older than 55 logging onto Facebook could have something to do with simply being a loving parent. Facebook is an avenue for parents to not only monitor their children, but connect with them on a different level that no generation of people have ever explored before now.
The parenting and family connection trend has been around for some time, even an article posted on CNN.com in 2009 revealed this to be the case. Almost five years ago, a 56-year-old Houston, Texas mother is quoted as saying “We call [Facebook] our living room. We call it our living room because everybody can tell what everybody else is doing.”
Many folks are not only able to monitor the well being of their children and interact with them in a new way, but are also connecting with people they previously lost all contact with before. A simple search may now reveal a long lost pen pal or high school sweetheart. Facebook provides the need human beings have to easily connect with other people, no matter how far away, and the older generation is latching onto the significance of connecting with the past.
So what about the millennials?
Many millennials don’t view social media as a way to connect with the past as the older generation does, they are constantly seeking the next best thing, and if the iStrategy study is any indication, millennials appear to be moving on to greener social media pastures. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have all seen an increase in the number of newer, younger followers (in the past six months especially) and the bus doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
In 2014, we should see Facebook facing an interesting new challenge as attempts to integrate multiple generational marketing strategies and interface updates will have to be made to appease the older generation while keeping the millennials engaged. Facebook remains at the top of the social media food chain (with all ages) for the time being when it comes to sheer numbers, but will shifting demographics change that soon? If Facebook’s recent attempted acquisition of Snapchat proves anything, it’s that
Facebook isn’t planning to wait around and find out.
Welcome to the world of “Not Provided”.
In a move that has rocked the digital marketing world, Google has announced that it will encrypt all of its search results. While that may sound wonderful for privacy advocates, it torpedoes the ability of marketers and website owners to see which keywords are bringing in visitors.
Two of the top sites in our industry – Hubspot and SearchEngineLand.com – have looked at the issue. Basically, instead of Google Analytics showing the search keyword(s) that visitors used to get to your website, Google will block that info – posting “Not Provided.” For people familiar with Google Analytics, the percentage of searches coming up under that term has grown over the past two years.
Google has said that more search data will be available as part of its Google AdWords program … hmmm.
I asked Smirk New Media Business Development Director Stephanie Bice, who oversees all things SEO and Pay-Per-Click for our clients, her reaction to this news. Here are her thoughts:
“How can you write content, unless you know what potential customers are searching for? If I’m a business and I think the keyword phrase ‘flower shop OKC’ is how customers are finding me, but they are searching for ‘flower shops in Oklahoma City,’ I won’t know that using Google Analytics.”
“Essentially, everyone (will now be) guessing what kind wording they should be using in order to drive traffic to their site.”
“Social media may end up play a bigger part in driving traffic to your site than organic searches. You’d be better off on spending your money on growing your social audience. At least you are going to be able to measure results, because of the information about the audience you will have, instead of guessing.”
Combine this with Google’s recent tweaks to it overall search algorithm and it adds up to how to get the best results: consistent social media activity and quality content.
This article recently ran in the Summer 2013 issue of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association’s Oklahoma Restaurateur magazine. How businesses are managing their social media is a key issue for Smirk New Media. We hope this is the beginning of a discussion of who manages online content for a company, and how it is managed strategically and creatively. Knock yourself out in the comments. – mk
Original headline: A Tiger By The Tail: Getting a handle on social media is a challenge for restaurateurs
Social media can be a scary creature for businesses — an open door for complaints and problem based on confusing tools that would be better if they just vanished.
But the truth is that social media isn’t going away. The digital generation is growing up using websites like Facebook, Twitter and Yelp as its first stop to decided whether or not to visit a restaurant and then as a quick stop to praise or complain once they are there.
This is where the fear comes in for restaurant operators. How do you best handle all of these incoming comments and questions from customers (and potential customers), while trying to get the best information out about your business? With in-house staff, an outsourced consultant or just not at all? There’s not one definitive answer, but ways to protect yourself, your business and your brand.
Some have decided to ignore social media all together, figuring it is too big of a Pandora’s Box to open. Those operators allow the conversation to go along without them and don’t track if there is any impact from a bad review or a food blogger’s rave.
Others scramble online only to put out a fire. If you watch the news, similar stories like these happen regularly. A photo posted on Facebook of an employee doing something disgusting. A horror story of bad food. After that, some restaurant may set up a presence online, just to fight the damage.
But social media needs more than just to be shut out altogether or shut down during crisis. It’s a tool that can have great benefit, day in and day out, if managed properly.
How it’s managed is the key to controlling social media and making it work as it should: As a direct connection between business and customer, which accentuates a brand, quickly solves services issues and gets more business through the door.
The debate really shouldn’t be whether a restaurant needs a social media presence, it should be how that is handled, how content is created and issues are monitored.
More and more restaurant brands are deciding to go in-house, not with a full-time marketing staff, but by adding social media management on top of the existing staff duties. Often these are shift managers, administrative assistants or even hosts and hostesses.
As a social media consultant, this raises all sorts of alarm bells. While restaurants may be able to survive with a setup like this, they definitely are sailing into dangerous waters. Here are the pros and cons of a part-time in-house social media manager:
- They should know the brand and the product.
- They can easily communicate with other staff and management.
- Who is monitoring social when the staffer is doing their full-time tasks – cooking, servicing, hosting?
- Are they skilled and trained in social media (and all of the changes that come along with the platforms), content creation (can they write well?), customer service and marketing strategy?
- Do they know best practices?
- Are they reliable and can they be trusted?
- Who has control over password, account access and what’s posted? Will your brand’s social media suffer if they leave for another job?
- Do they know how results and return on investment are calculated?
“Leaving your social brand management in the hands of someone who is not dedicated to the practice is dangerous,” says David Schwartz, a restaurant branding expert out of Nashville, “It shows a lack of appreciation of the medium and how quickly something can go spiraling downward.
“My biggest issue with this type of practice is that it sounds like an execution without a focused, strategy and plan.”
There are restaurant brands in the state which have had great success in making an investment in hiring a full-time social media marketing coordinator on staff. This works especially well for restaurants with multiple locations or groups with multiple brands.
For restaurants who want the benefits of social media, but may not have the resources of a full-time commitment, there are of course other options. One might be to develop, with outside help, a solid training and execution strategy that an in-house person could follow. Part of this strategy would be customer service and crisis plans.
Another option is to outsource your social media to an experience team of marketing and content strategists. Some operators think by doing this, they give up control of their platforms and what’s being said. That’s not the case though, as this is strategically the best of both worlds, with the brand helping craft (and approve) the content posted, while the strategists set up and monitor the accounts. Many restaurants in the Oklahoma market and beyond use this plan to get success and never miss an opportunity to promote themselves online throughout the day and never miss out when a customer is talking about them.
Social media is just another in a long line of tools to market your restaurant. How it’s used is always up to an individual operator. Just as some businesses have great ads, jingles, menus and signs, ones that show a commitment to social media strategy and execution will thrive. The only difference is social media moves a lot faster and reaches a lot more potential customers than just about anything else these days. It’s up to you to figure out how to tame it — and not be scared.
So here we sit, three years after the launch of Smirk New Media.
When this time of year comes and everyone scatters out of town for vacations, work slows down and businesses do what they can to tread water until school starts, I have to wonder – “what was I thinking?”
But despite being launched in the middle of the summer in the middle of the Great Recession, our little company has survived and thrived.
And there is oh-so-much more I would love to tell you about. We are fast approaching a time of incredible growth and clients I couldn’t have imagined back in the one-dude-at-Starbucks days.
In the past three years, I have seen the social media world ebb and flow, just in our market, let alone across the virtual world. Much to our great benefit, companies now understand that having a consistent commitment to the social community to going to help their business in the long run and many of them are smart and humble enough to understand that they may need help getting there.
For a while, it looked like we would have to fight every day to just be noticed in what quickly became a pretty crowded space of social media strategists in 2011. It seemed like there were a lot of shingles being hung out, which caused me a great deal of stress a couple of years ago.
But some very wise friends taught me a valuable lesson: focus on what we were doing, what Smirk New Media was all about, and deliver as best we could to the clients who were generous enough to have us. Don’t lose sleep over competitors who will come and go. Just do what you can do.
And that’s what these three years have been. Trying, delivering, stumbling, correcting, praying, writing, trusting and growing.
Smirk New Media sits in a great position today, largely by ourselves as a agency devoted solely to social media and web content. We don’t design web sites (still) and don’t try to deliver every marketing, public relations and consulting service under the sun.
Words on the web. That’s all.
That focus has allowed us to keep away from temptations and rabbit holes. There have been blind alleys and mistakes, but all our lines have been pointing upward and the future looks very bright.
If I had any advice for anyone wanting to start any business, no matter the industry and no matter the economic climate, it would be this: Surround yourself with people who love you enough to tell the truth, help people when you can and pray.
I have many, many people out there who have been patience beyond measure and supportive beyond imagination. I hope they all know just how much I appreciate them. If I haven’t told them lately, then I will tell them again today.
All of this is because of all of them. Clients, the OKC online community, friends, brothers and sisters at church, my family, my incredible, incredible team at work and the indescribable foundation at home.
The best is yet to come.