Sunday, 21 February 2016

Social media word-of-mouth: you have to own it to earn it

Homer Parrot

So you've got your all of your shit together on your main social media channels. That's great. Well done. Your Twitter looks brilliant - it's growing. Your Facebook looks beautiful. Your Instagram and Youtube offerings are so slick and clean that you could eat your dinner off of them. You respond to people when they get in touch with you. People get in touch with you because they know where to find you.

That's great - you're roughly 25% (if that) of the way to being a truly social business. Sorry to break it to you. If it's any consolation, I felt the same way too when the penny dropped.

Let me break it down for you: You've got a great product, and through some excellent marketing, other people know about your product. They know what it is. They're contacting you about it. But are you earning that little extra bit of goodwill? Are people recommending your products to other people on social media. Because that, my friends, is the next frontier.

If you're basing your social media strategy on waiting for your customers to come through the door, to come to you, to follow you, then your missing out on a whole lot of love on social media. Yes, having a great-looking shop-front and friendly staff (I love a good bricks-and-mortar analogy) is a good start, but that is exactly that: a start. The next bit is the hard bit - earning your social media props, almost unprompted, from your adoring public. Full-on, moon-landing, Buzz Aldrin in the back of a car in his spacesuit levels of adulation.

Here are a three quick and dirty tips to get you started on the road to getting some good earned social media from your audience:

1. Make it easy for them: your audience have better things to do that talk about you. It's true. Do you think that I spend my whole day telling people about great products and services? I don't. I'm not a walking billboard. But I hope that means that when I do mention something, people sit up and take notice.

This is a fact: according to Nielsen, 84% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products. And when it comes to B2B, that number rises to a whopping 91%. So make sure it's easy for them to recommend you: ensure that you have sharing buttons placed strategically around your site, and make sure that customers can leave reviews on your products or services - good, average or bad.

2. Make it easy for yourself: here's the good news - your customers are probably already talking about you online. This could either be brilliant, or terrible. Either way, you probably don't know yet, unless they've mentioned you directly. There are lots of ways that you can tap into this information. Social media listening tools like Brandwatch and Sysomos have access to millions of listening points, and you can use boolean (I love that word) search to refine your searches.

Additionally, make IFTTT your best friend. It's a triggering site (not in the 'scares the shit out of you' sense), which allows a multitude of different platforms to talk to one another in a way that benefits you. I'm going to write a full-explainer on it next week, so I'll pop it up here at soon as I have it. In the meantime, get to know it. In addition to this, make sure you've also made friends with the advanced search functions on Twitter - they're actually not bad.

3. Give them an incentive: according to Software Advice, more than 50% of people are likely to give a referral if offered a direct incentive, social recognition or access to an exclusive loyalty program. So what are you waiting for? This is gold-dust. These people are literally asking you to be part of a loyalty program. They're asking to be marketed to. They're asking to hear about the coolest stuff first. That's an incentive for creating one for you. If you make it easier for them to share this information with friends, colleagues and family via social media, this is the closest thing to an open goal that you can get. Look into creating an early-access/sneak peak program as soon as possible. Make sure that you are sourcing active social media users. Their mentions are gold-dust for you. Make them feel special.

I hope you've found these tips useful. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and I want to crowd-source as many tips as possible, so please feel free to leave your own tips below.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Social Media: still not engaging? TOUGH LUCK: you no longer have a choice

old man yells at cloud

We've all been there, as social media professionals. You're sat in a meeting, and across the table there's somebody in a suit, looking you up and down like you're a red rag and he's the bull. You finish explaining your social media strategy for the year to them, and generally, people seem quite happy. Except for this dude.

'Any questions?'

Quick as a flash, he asks 'What's the return on investment? What's the ROI of social media?'

This is a direct challenge to you. How do you react?

For years, I'll be honest, I didn't have the best answer. I'd mumble something about engagement, and happiness, and innovation, and hope that I'd done enough to get away with it. Be honest: we've all done that. It's not that our ideas are bad, or not fully-formed, it's just that sometimes we haven't done what our maths teachers used to beg us to do: show our workings. It's okay to have the answer, in fact it's what you're hired for. But if you can't walk people through your answer, you're in trouble. To be a good social media pro, you have to take people with you. To be good in business, you have to take people on the journey with you.

But that doesn't mean you have to take the easy route. When you're challenged on social media, sometimes it's okay to rise to it.

Want to know what the answer is?

'Because you no longer have the choice not to.'

Face facts. Social media, messaging apps, dark social, content marketing - it's here, and it's not going anywhere. We can no longer hold up our hands and say 'our customers aren't on social media'. It's bullshit. They are. Saying that your audience isn't on social media is like saying nobody in Canada owns a toilet. They do - and they're probably sat on it checking Facebook, Snapchat, Medium, Tumblr, Twitter, the full caboodle.

(As a side note, I'd love to know how much the sales of toilet books have dropped since the advent of the smartphone - I bet they've gone down the shitter, so to speak.)

So, what you should be asking, and what the guy who challenged you should be asking is: what do my customers want on social media? How can I give them a return on their investment they've made by following us? How can I create content that benefits them?

You have no choice but to take an active part in these platforms. You do have a choice in how you approach it - and it shouldn't be self-centred. But you no longer have the choice on whether you can engage.

If the first thing you think when it comes to social media for your business is 'what's in it for me?' You're doing it wrong. But if you're reading this article, it's not too late. I implore you: don't be the dude in the meeting asking what the ROI is on social media activity. Ask how the strategy is going to work - ask about the platforms being used. Challenge, by all means. But bear in mind that the time has passed for asking about the ROI of social media for us it. We should be asking what the ROI of our social media activity is for our audience. If you can provide a good enough answer for that, then there's a pretty good chance that things could work out pretty well for you!

Change is natural in social media: be a winner and embrace it

apu don't ever change

 If you're a social media user (let's face it, if you're reading this, you are), you may have noticed #RIPtwitter trending last weekend, and picked up on some of the news coverage. To a certain extent, some of the coverage was correct - Twitter has changed its approach to the timeline, but not as much as people thought.

In fact, this change could actually be beneficial, once we start to see how the algorithm works. But in the meantime, here's what's actually changed:

1. When you log in, the first thing that you may see is a selection of the best/most popular tweets from people you follow that will appear in reverse chronological order, but from the time since you last logged in (so for example, if Stephen Fry tweeted something really cool at 2am, and you log on at 2pm, you'll get to see it at the top of your timeline).

2. After you've scrolled through these, all you need to do is swipe down on your timeline to refresh (on mobile devices), or simply refresh on your desktop, and you will be presented with the same timeline you've always seen as a Twitter user: everything in real-time, in chronological order.

3. You can opt-out of this new setting any time you like - visit their support page to find out more.

Here's what Twitter had to say about the changes:

Here's how it works. You flip on the feature in your settings; then when you open Twitter after being away for a while, the Tweets you're most likely to care about will appear at the top of your timeline - still recent and in reverse chronological order. The rest of the Tweets will be displayed right underneath, also in reverse chronological order, as always. At any point, just pull-to-refresh to see all new Tweets at the top in the live, up-to-the-second experience you already know and love.

We've already seen that people who use this new feature tend to Retweet and Tweet more, creating more live commentary and conversations, which is great for everyone. To check it out now, just go into the timeline section of your settings and choose ' Show me the best Tweets first'. We'll be listening to your feedback and making it even better over time. Then we'll be turning on the feature for you in coming weeks - look out for a notification in your timeline. We love it and think you will too. If you don't, send your thoughts our way, and you can easily turn it off in settings.

Scared yet? You shouldn't be.

As a social media manager, one of my key roles is to manage the businesses I've worked with through any of my changes. I've been doing that since 2004. If you're new to this game, and you're wondering how to do it, here are three little tips to help you get through these changes:

1. Don't panic: whilst everybody about you may be losing your head, don't lose yours. Change is the most natural thing you'll ever encounter in nature, and it's no different in social media. Platforms evolve, change, grow, grow some more, and sometimes die. It might be upsetting to some people within your business who have worked hard to build up a following or engagement on that platform, only to have that following rendered totally useless by changing tastes - but that's life. It really is. If nothing changed, we'd still be using cave-paintings or tapestries to launch our products or reach our audience. As a social media pro, you have to manage people through this change, and get them to...

2. Follow the flow of your audience: you can't keep your audience in a glass jar - it just doesn't work. Audiences on social media are like water on the surface of the earth: if the landscape changes, the water pools there. Soon it becomes a puddle. Shit, it might even become a lake one day (Twitter). One day, it might become an ocean (Facebook), or an underground network (Whatsapp, email, text) of interconnected lakes. If you try to keep water in one place, it stagnates, and you lose the benefit of it. Your audience on a social platform are not there forever - they're just passing through. They'll pool somewhere else. The smart businesses will follow them. The less smart ones will stay on Myspace.

3. Keep telling your story, and keep the conversation open: this is vital. The platform isn't important to your users - it's intuitive for them, it's built for them to communicate with their friends, family and other things they like (in that order). You have to master it and find out how to fit into their feed, stand out, and tell your story.

The most important thing to remember when you're doing this is that change needs to flow through you as a social media manager, and as a person. If that sounds new age-ey and naff, well tough. Change is a fact of life, and we all have to deal with it. You can't control other people's behavior, you can only give it a nudge here and there. So get cosy with change - embrace it. It'll be one of the smartest things you ever do in social media.