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5 Essential Elements of a Useful Social Media Plan

social media plan

photo credit: mkhmarketing via photopin cc

Living inside the bubble of the social media marketing world, it’s easy to forget that many organizations still don’t know how to reconcile social media into their everyday sales and marketing routine.

I taught the executive team of a very successful organization the basics of social media this past week and it was a great reminder that focusing on tactics without an organized strategy is still the greatest source of frustration for many businesses.

Yes, you eventually must get around to embracing certain tactics and tools specifically related to social media, but the key to determining both still lies in tying your actions to meeting your stated marketing and business objectives.

In order to create the proper context for social media inside this firm’s overall marketing plan I broke social media participation into five core elements and corresponding tools and tactics and mapped each to previously identified marketing objectives.

Collect

The first order of business in developing any social media strategy is to understand how to listen and collect useful market artifacts. You have to plug into the rich vein of useful information coming from your customers, prospects, competitors, journalists and other industry influencers before any of this makes much sense.

For this element we set up key alerts, created lists of influential industry players, setup Feedly RSS reader to subscribe to relevant blogs and setup Diigo to bookmark articles and email newsletter content.

Curate

The next element I wanted to address was the ability to curate important industry information as a way to inform clients and internal stakeholders. By aggregating and filtering a great deal of the industry content using some routines from the previous step you can become a source of insight for your customers and help them cut through some of the noise.

For this element we turned to RSS reader as well as several content curation tools like Newsle, LinkedIn Pulse and Scoop.it.

Create

One of the core marketing strategies for this firm is to establish a thought leader position for a very specific topic in their industry. They are busy turning a great deal of the industry data their analytics software produces into content objects that will draw a great deal of industry buzz.

For this element we established a sharing routine based on a set of core topics, LinkedIn Publisher program and owned content assets.

Share

In order to develop an expanding network in social media sharing must be a key activity. This does include sharing your own content and ideas but it also includes intentionally networking with and sharing content and ideas from others.

For this we turned to Feedly, Buffer and Hootsuite to establish a habit of sharing a set number of pieces everyday.

Engage

Finally, with many of the tools and routines above in place we could turn to the most obvious reason to participate in social media – to engage customers and prospects. With habits of listening, curating and sharing established members of the executive team and sales team will be able to more easily engage individual prospects, influencers, journalists and customer stakeholders by socially surrounding them.

For this step Hootsuite, Salesforce and Salesforce Chatter are the primary tools.

And, of course, where available the mobile apps for many of the tools employed were added.

By breaking social media participation into a specific set of core elements, each driven by strategy, every person in an organization can find the role that makes sense for them.

The focus then becomes less about tools and more about how a specific set of activities might help you better serve your customers.

Why It Might Be Time to Start Taking Gifs Seriously

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Danny Groner – Enjoy!

Gif Images

Photo credit: shutterstock

You’re probably familiar with gifs. You see them in stray articles on social-media-minded sites like BuzzFeed. They are playful and lighthearted. And when you’re in the mood for that, they can really hit home. But as the lines between entertainment and marketing continue to blur, the techniques for one are starting to find their way into the other. After all, what works, works. All kinds of experimental native advertising are popping up in unexpected places.

Right now, we’re living through a time of transition and exploration that may frighten some but excite others. Gifs are the natural next area for small business owners and marketers to conquer. There are a number of different ways to incorporate them into your materials and your website. For example, some companies, on the About Us pages of their sites, are going in a slightly different route than the traditional one. Take a look at what your competitors and other companies have written in that space; these pages are full of unthoughtful writing and wasted space. Plus, many are chock full of professional-sounding jargon that doesn’t mean much of anything.

Now, consider what others are saying about themselves, their companies, and their approaches to customer service with the inclusion of some motion graphics and gifs. They are giving off the clear impression that they’re digitally-savvy and in touch with modern trends. Instead of a picture of their employees sitting together and smiling, they have gifs showing them hanging out and having fun. Pictures don’t deliver the same punch that gifs can.

But that’s just a small opening. There are bigger and better ways to make a solid impression through gifs. Content marketing, the hottest form of marketing this day and age, is pretty much whatever you make of it. It’s so open-ended by design that you can put your own staple on your projects. But this isn’t as simple as just turning a photo into a rotating series of them.

You’ll want to start with a brainstorm about what your customers expect from you and how content marketing can add value to their experience with your company. What’s most important to remember, though, is that people have preconceptions about what gifs are and what they do. They fall into the sillier side of the marketing you’ll do, and there’s room to maneuver there without sullying the service you offer. Once you have identified the direction you want to go in, and what emotion the content is aiming to evoke (happiness or something else), you can get started with the content creation.

Content marketing can be shared on social media, or it can exist for social media. With the advent of and addition of Vine and Instagram video to your social media repertoire, you can try things out. These platforms are built along similar lines as gifs, which you can use to your advantage. If someone on your staff has a good idea, let them test it out on Instagram and see how it resonates with your audience. Then take what you see is working and apply the methods and messages elsewhere.

Everything you do for digital marketing should convey a certain consistency of your brand. Start by thinking like a consumer and what he or she is interested in when not at work. Appeal to that sentiment. Every company is trying to show consumers that they are similar to them. Gifs can help you get there fast.

Danny GronerDanny Groner is the manager of blogger partnerships and outreach for Shutterstock. He encourages everyone to consider how they achieve visual storytelling in the age of desktop editing and publishing.

 

 

5 Ways Buying Facebook Fans Can Hurt Your Business

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Chris Norton – Enjoy!

traffic-sign-209196_1280

photo credit: pixabay.com

Amazingly, many brands still measure social media success based on ‘counting metrics’, not on more meaningful indicators such as engagement, referrals or share of voice. Fueling this is the ongoing trend toward buying fans; usually bots that offer nothing of value what-so-ever. However, what many don’t realize is that this approach can in fact be actively harming your brand online. So, how can fake social media fans and followers be damaging? What kind of metrics should you be interested in, and why should social marketing success never be measured in LIKES alone?

1. Fake Likes Don’t Help Credibility

Purchasing of Likes may give your company an impressive image at first glance, but this alone isn’t enough to build a good reputation. With well-known crackdowns on fake accounts from the likes of Facebook in recent years, chances are your new ‘fans’ could suddenly disappear, or worse still, you could be publicly named and shamed. Think of the consequences; should you be exposed as buying fake fans, you risk instant scrutiny from the online world who won’t be shy in making their feelings known, and in the long term, this could damage your brand integrity, especially if you profess to be a transparent organization.

2. Fake Likes Don’t Turn A Profit

Contrary to popular belief, having a social media page full of fake likes or followers generally won’t help you achieve your marketing objectives – including driving sales. Anyone buying fake fans should check out their insights, and they’ll quickly see the majority of the accounts – even if they are real – are based in countries that they don’t even operate in. The same goes for any call-to-actions you are making through your social networks. How can you expect people to click through to your website or engage with your content if they’ve got no interest in your brand what-so-ever?

3. Fake Likes Don’t Measure Success

Many businesses, especially those starting out, believe the amount of Facebook fans are a measure of their company’s success and brand awareness. It is not. In fact, fake fans and followers can make your brand look worse online. If you’ve got a highly engaged online community of a few hundred, then any content you share will be received warmly, discussed and shared. In simplistic terms, Facebook’s algorithm will recognize this, and will then broaden the reach of the post to your wider community. Conversely, if you’ve got 1,000 fake profiles, then the initial reach of your posts will be worse, given that it’s being sent to un-engaged bots, not real people. This will subsequently reduce its natural reach, as Facebook’s algorithm recognizes this lack of engagement and interest in your content.

4. Fake Likes Will Mess With Your Metrics

A strong understand of social media metrics is essential if you ever want to improve your social media success. This includes knowing what content people are engaged with, and gaining an understanding of your online community’s dynamics and norms. However, the influx of fake profiles – which offer nothing in the way of engagement or meaningful action – will only impede your ability to measure your community’s behavior, leaving you with a dense smokescreen to negotiate.

5. Fake Likes Can Be Harmful

It’s often the case that the illegitimate individuals behind the fake likes and followers are professional hackers who use unsuspecting members of the public as their guinea pigs, without them even knowing a thing about it. The software in use by these people is also harmful to computers in general as spam links are commonly sent when the hackers are working their black magic. For any brand serious about behaving ethically online – which let’s face it, you should be – then buying fans should never be an option.

ChrisNortonChris Norton is MD at specialist social media and PR agency Prohibition.

How to Set Social Media Up from Scratch

We just started working with a mid-size software company and, in digging in to build their marketing system, it quickly became clear they had no real social media integration.

social media set up

photo credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc

Sure, they had several Twitter accounts, many of their top folks were on LinkedIn and there was a Facebook page, but nothing was connected, no routine was established and certainly no strategy existed for taking advantage of the fact that their clients were increasing social.

In order to get them taking advantage of the strategy we were to recommend we first had to get social more deeply integrated into their daily work processes.

My experience is that this scenario is still quite commonplace – even as the buzz and hype around social has died down a bit.

So, since we needed to basically start from scratch to help them employ a routine for listening and sharing internally and externally, I thought I would document a bit of the process we put them through as it could be a good starting place for many organizations.

1) Created a list of industry related blogs that included publications, influencers, journalist, clients and competitors and set up subscriptions in Feedly RSS reader. (Used IFTTT recipe to make it easy to tag content to Salesforce Chatter)

2) Created list of alerts for key terms, brand names, clients and topics in Talkwalker and Mention. (I like to use both as they seem to pick up different things)

3) Set up Hootsuite for marketing team with Saleforce app integration. Used TacticsCloud tool to create and upload Twitter list of clients, journalists and influencers

4) Created Buffer account and added Buffer bookmarklet for scheduled sharing of content from Feedly or the web to all social networks.

5) Located and Liked Facebook pages of clients, prospects, publications and journalists.

6) Located and joined a number of active and relevant LinkedIn Groups and followed several industry related channels in Pulse.

7) Added mobile apps for Feedly, Hootsuite, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

8) Created Cyfe dashboard for single reporting interface to monitor and measure ongoing social media impact. (Also created some custom segments in Google Analytics and integrated it with Cyfe)

This basic set-up doesn’t get into the daily and weekly amplification, sharing and posting routine that we are also working to install, and there certainly are other more sophisticated ways to set this up, but this is a fairly simple and repeatable plan to work from.

Why Social Is More Important to Sales Than Marketing

social selling

photo credit: Le.V3T via photopin cc

From day one it’s been said that the proper use of social media is for engagement, not sales.

But when you think about it – effective selling has always been about engagement first, because true engagement happens between people.

Now that social media is considered a foundational element of marketing, I wonder if that’s the best place for it. Far too many marketing departments treat social as a mass marketing tool and additional broadcast channel. While this view may indeed create more awareness, how much engagement does it actually generate?

Sales folks that have embraced the best use of social media use it to:

  • Identify very specific ideal clients
  • Connect with friends of friends of existing clients
  • Mine networks for potential opportunities
  • Keep tabs of what’s going on in a client’s world
  • Personalize content on a case by case basis
  • Engage in sharing with and for clients and prospects
  • Make introductions that turn into referrals

I don’t know about you, but the entire list above sounds like engagement and relationship building of the highest order – the kind that can’t really happen in a mass, detached way – the kind that successful salespeople have always employed.

If an organization is to derive the most benefit from social media today it must be driven deep into the organization so that it can be used as a tool for individual connection rather than simply a metric on the marketing KPI spreadsheet.

I would much rather see an organization reward a salesperson for being connected very deeply in one client’s network than stand up and cheer because they got their 10,000th follower on Twitter.

You see, social media really is all about selling, just not in the way some have long incorrectly viewed that art.

Every superstar salesperson knows effective selling involves networking, nurturing and connecting on a one to one basis and they grab whatever assets they can to build and sustain meaningful, long-term relationships. Now that we more fully understand social behavior and the impact of social media it’s time for organizations to wake up and move it to the sales team.

Facebook Adds Call to Action Buttons on Page Posts

Facebook recently added a feature that may help click throughs on Facebook page posts.

With just a little bit of extra work you can now add native call to action buttons to your organic Facebook page updates. Initial testing suggests this can greatly improve clicks.

The post below features a call to action for a webinar, but this type of post would be equally effective for newsletter signup or even as a buy button for a product or service.

Facebook Call to Action

The call to action buttons are also available to Facebook advertisers, but the fact that they have made them available for any status update is what interests me here.

Starts with Power Editor

The only tricky part for some is that you must install and operate a Facebook advertising tool called the Power Editor. Veteran Facebook ad pros will be familiar with this useful tool, but many who simply want to do what I am outlining in this post may not.

The Power Editor only works in the Google Chrome browser so you’ll need that as well. To access and manage the Power Editor go here. You can also get some instruction on using the Power Editor here.

Calls to action in posts

Once you have set the Power Editor up you simply navigate to it and make sure you see your page loaded in the left sidebar. (You can manage any number of pages from this editor so if you manage more than one you may see an entire list.)

Facebook call to action button

From here choose Create post (You can also create an new ad from here)

You will have the option then to create your post text as well as the link for the call to action, add the call to action button from a drop down list, description, photo and display headline and link. You will also want to select the display as post button at bottom.

Once you are satisfied with your post (you’ll have the option to preview it on your page), you must choose publish post (you can choose to publish now or schedule a publish date and time in the future). Once you do this you must also choose Upload Changes from the green button at the very top of the editor.

publish changes

This isn’t a major change for Facebook but I do believe it’s a useful one for those promoting any call to action. For the moment, the native Facebook call to action button has a lot of appeal.

How to Make Content the Voice of Strategy

I talk about marketing strategy a lot. It is for me the most important element when it comes to building a long-term, sustainable marketing system.

content strategy

photo credit: Giandomenico Ricci via photopin cc

Your strategy informs every marketing decision. It must be considered when you decide what products you will offer, how you will serve your customers, what your packaging looks like, what your followup entails and how you generate leads.

Today, the common thread in almost every element of delivering on strategy is content. Content is how you move people from know to like to trust. Content is how you give your marketing strategy a voice and, because of that, you must take a strategic and systematic approach to how your content is developed.

I know I’ve said this before and I know I’ll say it again: Waking up every morning and deciding what you are going to write on your blog does not scale.

Below is a refresher of my approach to developing and implementing a content plan with your overall business objectives and strategy in mind. I’ve updated the calendar element with my plan for 2014.

A Total Content SystemTM approach allows you to plan, delegate, curate, create, collaborate, repurpose and generally get far more out of every piece of content you produce. Once your system is in place it will build momentum with each passing month and begin to multiply in value to your organization.

The Total Content System goes like this:

  • Create a list of monthly Foundational Content Themes
  • Develop your Content Delivery Platform
  • Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Foundational Content Themes

Either through your own knowledge or by using a keyword tool like MOZ or Wordtracker, develop a list of core content topics and assign one to each month for the next 12 months.

Each theme should be a substantial topic related to your business or industry and represent an important keyword search term. It might be helpful to think about it like a book. Each month might represent a chapter in what will ultimately make up an important body of work by the end of this year.

You can also designate terms that you know you would like to rank higher for, but currently have little or no content that leads people online or off to you.

I’ll use my organization as an example to help illustrate this point. My business and model may be significantly different than yours, but examples always seem to help fill in the blanks for people.

My editorial themes for 2014:

  • January – Planning and organizational development
  • February – Offline marketing
  • March – Content marketing
  • April – Inbound selling
  • May – Outbound marketing
  • June – Marketing automation
  • July – Marketing strategy
  • August – Mobile marketing
  • September – Networking/Referrals
  • October – Community practices
  • November – Social media
  • December – Personal growth

These are all topics that I believe my community is interested in learning more about and that I personally have an interest in developing more content around. (I’m working on a sales book and will be heavy into daily writing on that project in March – all content has a purpose!)

Develop your Content Delivery Platform

Now that I have my list of foundational themes I can organize my Content Delivery Platform components accordingly. Again, this is my model, but many of these elements work for any kind of business and should be considered in your business.

  • Newsletter – I put out a weekly email newsletter. I will add themed content to each issue either through some of my own writing or by finding other people’s content related to the theme and highlighting it.
  • Blog posts – I write a daily blog post and may schedule a post related to the theme on a weekly basis. This still gives me lots of room on topics but helps me focus both from a content and SEO standpoint.
  • Guest posts – We currently run one guest post a week and use our monthly theme to suggest topics to potential guests. (If you would like to submit a guest post see the themes above for guidance and submit your idea here.)
  • Podcast guests – I produce a weekly audio podcast and the monthly theme really gives me guidance in lining up topic experts well in advance.
  • PR Pitches – We use our themes to promote stories and pitches to the media.
  • Sponsored pitches – We receive invitations to write sponsored content and conduct sponsored webinars and use our theme to guide these pitches. We also reach out to organizations that might have a special interest in a particular month’s theme with sponsor opportunities.
  • Webinars – Since we are creating all this rich, topic specific content we host monthly online seminars to deliver the content in a new form.
  • eBook – People really seem to love eBooks and they are an essential element in our list building efforts. Most themes lend themselves nicely to an eBook compilation.
  • Curate a Scoop.it topic – As we are doing the research and preparing all of the ideas for our own content, we bookmark tons of other people’s content, books, experts, tools and the like related to our theme and save the entire collection as a curated topic on Scoop.it. This allows us to attract even more readers and creates a nice library to draw from.
  • Create a content package – The final step is to take all of this content from each month and create a membership or community offering that would allow people interested in the monthly topic to access the entire package in one tidy resource. One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that while so much content is free and available, people will pay for content that is packaged and delivered in the way they want it. Figure that piece out and you’ll really make your content efforts pay directly.

Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Okay, so now you’ve got your themes plotted out and you’ve got a plan for creating, filtering and aggregating all manner and form of content into your delivery system. It’s time map your content plan to your core business objectives.

This step allows you to better understand how to get return on your content investment and how much you should actually invest in creating a certain form or package of content.

For example, if one of your stated annual objectives is to dramatically increase the sale of information products, you would produce content with product creation in mind. Or, if one of your stated objectives for the year is to significantly increase your subscriber list, you would focus on producing, delivering and sharing content that attracts email capture, links and strategic partnering.

One of the most important aspects of a Total Content System plan is that it changes the lens you use to view all the information that comes at you all day long. When you know what your theme is this month and next month all of a sudden books, tools, articles and conversations take on new meaning and seem to somehow organize themselves for the benefit of your ongoing, long-term approach.

How Should Business Adapt to the Facebook Paper App?

By now you’ve probably at least read about Facebook’s newest app called Paper. If you own an iPhone and live in the US it’s also possible that you’ve downloaded and experienced the new app. (Really silly name and too bad because there’s a totally awesome iPad app already called Paper)

Facebook Paper

The first thing you must understand is that this is not the new Facebook app, it’s a new way to experience Facebook. The Facebook app remains as do Facebook Messenger and Pages apps. Paper is a decidedly visual way to view your news stream as well as aggregate content from other categorized content areas such as tech and sports.

Flipboard users will recognize the magazine like layout and swipe gesture pros will appreciate the many ways to move and consume content. Probably my favorite element is the “Ken turns” effect that allows you to change the view of a full screen image by tilting the phone this way and that.

I’ve played around with for a day now and I would say I’m mixed. It’s certainly more visually appealing and the content it turns up is very readable, but I don’t know if I need another app for that. Hardcore Facebook users might not like it as the primary way to interact with their friends.

Initial reviews, however, are quite bullish on this new, potentially game changing mobile view of Facebook. but what does it mean to marketers? Well, here’s what seems obvious.

No ads for now

The app launched ad free but something tells me this is the perfect platform for story telling, entertaining ads much like you saw from Bud Light during the Super Bowl with the Llama ad. Start thinking promotions as episodic content.

Long form content on mobile

The layout lends itself to long form content that mobile users seem to be coming around to. Other aggregation apps, particularly iPad based apps, have seen this same thing. Start thinking Mediumesque story lines.

Visual media focus

The app features full screen images with panoramic functionality and auto play video settings. Facebook is clearly signaling that the text only update isn’t welcome. Start designing posts with the image impact first.

Facebook and Google have both experienced their share of misfires in the social mobile space but Facebook may have chalked one up on the positive side with Paper.

Somehow this feels fundamentally shifty and not in the traditional sense of the word. Facebook seems to have decided its best play is to spread and conquer rather than simply try to create the biggest castle and users are responding to the multiple app play.