We’ve all known that middle-aged relative that tries too hard to be hip with the times. They start conversations with sayings like “the good ol’ days” and tales of “when I was your age” and frequently asking what “you kids are calling it these days.”
Some brands have crossed the line of relatable and, in doing so, became THAT middle-aged relative, making their messages something to sigh about rather than respond to.
These brands grasp at the waves of trends and end up looking like fools among the masses of millennials. Referring to your newest item as “clutch” does not appeal to the younger generation and infiltrating snapchat translates as an invasion of their privacy. Instead of following the ever-changing trends, brands need to be generating creative, yet appropriate messages that have a voice of their own.
Creating a Voice
Find a tone that communicates your brand’s items, products, services or mission effectively, while maintaining the interest of your audience. Especially if you’re not targeting teens, why would your brand sound like one? Instead of jeopardizing the loyal fan base you’ve already established, focus your efforts on catering to your niche network. Brands should not be chameleons, changing their ways to entice and fit in with every crowd. Instead, brands should own their image and be consistent with it.
Reaching Out vs. Selling Out
Being part of the trending network is not always creating trends in your messages. Brands can be an active part of conversation if their business or product is directly intertwined with the topic at hand. Consumers do not expect businesses to participate in every trending topic. In fact, most audiences get annoyed with brands that they perceive are trying too hard to insert themselves into every conversation. There’s a difference between participating in a conversation with your industry and fitting your products into trends that do not pertain to your brand at all (square peg, round hole).
Stand Your Ground
Everyone can respect a brand that knows their voice and sticks with it. No one expects an oil company to know the ins and outs of the upcoming Oscar awards. Knowing your avenues of conversation is the first step to successful relationships with audiences. Understanding the when, where and why of all messaging is essential to survival in the muddy waters of trends and slang.
Don’t be the brand that people are rolling their eyes at for referring to your product, service or customer as being your “bae.” Be a contributor of useful content, not more noise.
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.
By: Kurtis Wiles
A new study conducted by TNS on behalf of LinkedIn found that 81 percent of small businesses (SMBs) are currently using social media to drive business growth and 94 percent are meeting marketing objectives through the integration of social media.
The study, called Priming the Economic Engine, surveyed nearly 1000 SMBs to glean insight about their industry and how implementing social media or not implementing social media has impacted their business over the past few years. Almost three out of every five SMBs say that consistent social media integration has played a key role in their business gaining new customers. Not only is there growth in new customers, but according to the study, SMBs are seeing a lot more customer interaction and engagement from existing customers – especially customers who have had positive experiences with their organization.
The fact: Businesses that have devoted themselves to integrating social media as a marketing tool have met marketing objectives through stronger customer acquisition and retention.
According to another LinkedIn study, conducted by Borrell Associates, there is a strong correlation between SMBs that have increased social media spending and those that have achieved “hyper growth.”
“Through the study, we found that SMBs that are in growth mode rely heavily on social media for multiple activities in their value chain,” said Jennifer Grazel, category head for financial services at LinkedIn.
Hyper-growth companies with significant year-over-year increases in revenue are among the most active in social media marketing, finding the most effective social media practices to include branding, word-of-mouth, lead generation and content marketing.
The fact: Increasing financial resources in social media efforts and effectively “practicing” your brand through social media often leads to successful growth – even hyper-growth in some industries.
According to the U.S. Small Business Association, seven out of every 10 new jobs are created by small businesses. To learn more about the new social media positions that will be seen in 2014 (maybe even in your own small business) click here.
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.
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.
According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, when Facebook first started, the news feed was filled with mostly text and now it’s nearly 50% photos and visual content.
Today reporters and social media fans around the world got a glimpse of Facebook’s updated news feed design at a press conference at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The new design has bigger images and places more emphasis on visual content, which is what Facebook thinks users want their profiles to center around.
Limited rollout starts on the web today. Users can join a wait list here and could be selected to try the changes before they’re launched for the masses. A broader audience may see the changes in the next few weeks.
A Personalized Newspaper
Zuckerberg described the new design as a personal newspaper. Users will now have a Photos Feed showing every single photo friends are posting in chronological order. Another feed addition is the Following Feed. On the Following Feed users will see all the posts from pages and public figures they like on Facebook in chronological order. Local businesses, large brands and celebrities will be included on this feed.
Links will change to make articles and attachments more prominent and noticeable on profiles. Publishers logos will be visibly included on posted links. When someone become friends with someone else, the new design will show a bigger profile photo and show the friends users have in common included on their feed.
Site navigation will change in this redesign. Calling it Global Navigation, they’ll allow users to go through one page to another without having to go back to the homepage. Also, users can choose the feed they want to view from a drop down switcher menu at the top of the page.
Facebook product design manager Julie Zhou emphasized the need to rid the news feed of clutter. Depending on the things and pages you’ve liked on Facebook in the past, they want to show you trending articles that are most relevant to you.
Zuckerberg told reporters in a Q&A session after the presentation, “I think it’s almost 60 percent of people who use Facebook come back every day.” Facebook wants to build on these stellar numbers because the result is more monetary value for the company.
Another big focus of the presentation was mobile consistency. The company is finally combating that users want Facebook to look and feel the same on every format: PC, tablet and mobile. It’s important for Facebook designers to provide a platform that publishers and brands can know how their content will look across all screens.
Tablet and phone navigation won’t change much, but instead the desktop version was designed with mobile in mind. Facebook knows the numbers. Web traffic is moving to mobile. Mobile traffic is predicted to beat desktop traffic in a few years. This design seems to have been created with that prediction in mind.
The Questions and Concerns
Quite a few questions remain after this announcement.
What about Edgerank? Edgerank is the ranking algorithm Facebook used to determine what updates users would see in the past. Facebook said they aren’t changing anything about the ranking algorithm. From the presentation, the new feeds will feature posts in chronological order. So, at this point there’s a disconnect.
How will the new design impact ads? Zhou said the redesign will make ads richer like everything else. There has to be a monetary incentive to this redesign. The new news feed will allow for larger, more visual brand advertsing that companies should enjoy. Also, users should be able to see all your brand’s updates in the Following Feed, if they choose to look at it… I’m concerned this change could negatively impact how brand’s interact with customers on Facebook, but we’ll only know for sure after we can experiment with it ourselves.
Check back with Smirk in the coming weeks for more information on how Facebook’s news feed redesign might impact how your brand reaches its audience.
By definition, marketing is the action or business of promoting and selling products or services. But many in executive management positions at small- to medium-sized companies find it difficult to grasp the concept that engaging in social media isn’t about pushing your product or service.
Traditional marketing as we once knew it revolved around a specific activity – say a direct mailer, television advertisement, pay-per-click ad or print piece – that explained what your product was, where to find it and how it was going to improve your life. Then, using mathematical equations, marketing directors would track if the activity generated a positive ROI (Return on Investment) or if the strategy was wrong and another marketing tasks needed to be implemented.
Social Media, on the other hand, is about connecting and sharing, not necessarily selling. In some ways, social media is really more akin to branding than marketing. Marketing genius Seth Godin defines a brand as “A set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” If you think about social media for corporate use, it’s about making your product or service memorable. You want your product or service to become the talk of the town.
Let’s look at an excellent example of using social media to create a memory that is hard to forget.
I give to you: Moore Liquor. This small liquor store located in Moore, Oklahoma has decided to use social media for two unique purposes that do not in any way relate to trying to sell a bottle of Johnny Walker. Their first Facebook page (found here) is dedicated to making us laugh. About once a week, they post a new message on the marquee in front of the store to give patrons a good laugh and also post it on their Facebook page. A recent photo says “If you value fame more than your freedom, shoplift here.” posted on the marquee. This message itself might not seem hilarious, until you check out their other Facebook page (found here) and learn that recently thefts were becoming a big problem, so they began posting images (via their surveillance cameras) of people stealing alcohol from the store. The pictures are posted and there is a reward offered for anyone who is willing to message the store with the name (or names) of the individuals in the photos.
Their Facebook pages are so popular, with over 6,200 on one page and almost 2,700 on the other, that they have more likes than the popular Original Hideaway Pizza location that has been a campus favorite in Stillwater Oklahoma for more than 50 years.
Social media is about engagement and building a network of people who like similar things. If all you do is talk about the products you are selling- you’re doing it wrong and your social media success will be marginal at best. Determine what your target audience likes (and doesn’t like) and work that into your social media strategy. Make it fun. Make it interesting. But mostly, don’t make it all about you.
Design a policy on acceptable use of social media during work hours and open social media up company-wide. There’s untapped value in these tools and your team can benefit from using them to collaborate and to help in identifying potential customers. Social media has streamlined the hiring process and can do the same in a lot of different areas. Your sales team can use social media to generate leads and easily communicate with customers. Research and development teams can use it to brainstorm new ideas by seeing what is popular and what people are asking for. Design teams can derive inspiration for the next big idea from pins on Pinterest. The possibilities are endless for productive activity on social media.
According to comScore’s 2012 U.S. Digital Future in Focus, the time spent on webmail by 18-24 year olds decreased by 50% since 2010. Email is ceasing to be the only and best way to accomplish team tasks. Google made functionality strides when it converted traditional emails to long-running conversations in Gmail, but things are changing and Gen Y will operate differently than any other generation. More than 200,000 companies worldwide are using Yammer, a social site designed to streamline team collaboration. With both free and paid features, it operates similar to Facebook and Twitter, but exists only for company collaboration, file sharing and knowledge exchange. It’s a web-based and mobile capable platform to encourage productivity wherever your team is working from.
A big mistake businesses often make is allowing one person sole access to all the company’s social profiles. This is setting you up for disaster. I’m not saying you can’t designate one person to be in charge, but other staff members need to have access as well. If someone leaves the company, you could before forced to start over if you don’t have the account information and passwords. Also, if that individual is employed elsewhere, it could also lead to another company receiving your followers. In your social media policy, it should be clear the company owns social each social profile and can revoke an individual’s access at any time.
Especially if you work for a company with more than 10 employees, monitor what’s being said publicly about your company by potential customers and employees. Don’t be caught by a surprise social media scandal. Searching the different platforms occasionally for public mentions of your brand will help you stay ahead of negative attention.
More and more companies are having branded social media training programs created for their employees. Sprint employees complete a two-hour workshop called the Sprint Social Media Ninjas. After becoming certified ninjas, Sprint employees are continuously asked to contribute ideas for new ideas for the company’s social profiles. Doing nothing is not option. Blaming an employee for a social media regulation that didn’t exist, after an embarrassment, helps neither party. Designing programs specific to each business or organization is a Smirk specialty. Contact us for more information on social media company policies, monitoring or training your staff.
Social media provides so many opportunities to connect with the public instantly. The downside of the positive opportunities is the possibility for instant embarrassment.
Twitter isn’t the top used social media network, but could arguably be the most powerful. Reckless personal use of this platform has caused politicians to resign, gotten a Greek triple-jumper banned from the London Olympics and lead to the firing of a Chrysler marketing executive.
It’s obvious that in a moment, with a careless decision, a bad post on social media networks could negatively affect your life or brand. Posts can be deleted, but not always forgotten.
In the Chrysler case, a marketing executive was fired after tweeting an expletive filled rant about Detroit’s driving issues. Chrysler has just released a new marketing campaign promoting its made in Detroit status and the controversial was the exact opposite of its branding message.
Simply, think before you post. But, it can’t be that simple because if it was possible for people to just change behavior, they would. The larger conversation is that social media training is now necessary in the workplace.
Implementing a code of conduct will protect some employees from themselves. Negative actions on social media are usually dealt with after the fact. Your employees must understand their behavior is a reflection of your brand. With any behavior correction, the punishment can’t effectively prevent embarrassing behavior without a warning.
Social media training doesn’t have to be approached as a negative experience. It’s an opportunity to understand the dynamic of personal social media use before committing an action that can’t be reversed.
Nothing is truly private in the digital age.
Smirk New Media offers social media training services that can be tailored to individual situations. Let us know how we can help you.