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
A while back, we published a series of cheat sheets for graphics on different social media sites. Because, frankly, I was tired of Googling it. But in the time warp of the internet, anything more than a few months old is inevitably outdated. Change marches on – and with it the formatting of our favorite platforms.
So here are the latest and greatest cheat sheets for social media graphic sizes, courtesy of Smirk New Media. Provided today: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Coming soon: Pinterest and more.
With the rapid growth of social media as a strategic business tool, communication students in college are expected to have current knowledge about best practices.
To that end, Oklahoma Christian University has partnered with Mike Koehler, president and partner at Smirk New Media, to provide students with a strategic social media and reputation management class. Koehler is uniquely qualified to teach the class as his Oklahoma City-based company specializes in social media strategy, online content and digital and web-based success.
“I’m thrilled to be able to offer this class to the Oklahoma Christian community,” Koehler said. “Social media is a passion of mine and I’m glad to share that with students. Social media is becoming a more powerful part of public relations and marketing every day, so equipping students with the skills to manage and create strategies is going to be key for their careers.”
According to Larry Jurney, chair and professor of the university’s communication department, the class will help OC students continue to stand out when seeking internships and post-graduation employment.
“Social media is a powerful force in our society, as evidenced by today’s headlines such as the ice bucket challenge,” Jurney said. “Our students need to know how to maintain a good reputation through social media and how to protect it. They also need to know how to use social media correctly. It can accomplish great things for good, especially in service to others.”
The class will include lectures, discussions, online and in-person guest professionals and applied assignments. A few national experts in social media will Skype into the class or lead a live Twitter chat with students. In addition, the students will develop a comprehensive social media and reputation management plan for a real organization. Students will also present their ideas in the form of a strategy pitch.
“I want students to have practical knowledge that gives them a foundation to build upon,” Koehler said. “Effective management of social media and reputation requires a truly strategic, long-term plan. This class will emphasize how important strategy is. I believe this experience will helps OC’s students get a head-start on achieving career success.”
About Smirk New Media
Smirk New Media has helped organizations large and small create robust social media strategies, craft quality online content and protect their brands’ digital reputations. Smirk New Media’s social media consulting team in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City and Springfield, Mo., works hard to promote and protect its clients’ online successes. Before launching Smirk New Media, President and Chief Strategist Mike Koehler led the new media development for Oklahoma’s largest website and its largest public relations firm. For more information, visit www.smirknewmedia.com.
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.
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.
The devastation in Oklahoma yesterday is almost unimaginable. I’ve lived through this before, and even wrote about it. Oklahoman’s are amazing people. Any time tragedy strikes, we rise up and take action. It’s a great feeling to know so many people have my back if the need calls.
Many of my readers ask: How can I help? Non perishable donations are always great, but oftentimes monetary donations can be used for the weeks and months to come when needed the most. Here’s a list of current organizations you can donate to:
(As of May 21st, 9am)
- American Red Cross: Text REDCROSS to 90999 for a $10 donation or visit Red Cross Central & Western Ok
- Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma: Text FOOD to 32333 to donate $10 to Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma or visit their website for online donations here.
- Salvation Army: Text STORM to 80888 to make $10 donation or visit the Salvation Army website.
- Feed the Children: Click here for their website or drop off donations at the KOCO station located at 1300 E Britton Road today until 4pm today or at their distribution center 29 N. McCormick Ave in OKC.
- Catholic Charities OK: Visit https://ccokc.ejoinme.org/?tabid=406485 to donate to the OK chapter
- Central Oklahoma Humane Society: Donate online at http://www.okhumane.org/ or drop off donations at 7500 N. Western Ave. Oklahoma City
- Bella Foundation: Donate online: http://www.thebellafoundation.org/
- The Oklahoma Blood Institute will need donations from now THROUGH JULY. Find a location here: https://www.yourbloodinstitute.org/donor/schedules/geo
- People’s Church is taking donations for storm victims at both their Midwest City and Oklahoma City campus. More information at www.peopleschurch.tv/storms