Archive for ‘Marketing’

January 15, 2015

Think twice about using the #MLKday hashtag to promote your brand – remember last year?

MLKday

The day this blog post was published, January 15, 2015, would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 86th birthday. Each year, Americans observe a national holiday on the third Monday of January to recognize Dr. King and the American Civil Rights Movement.

Marketers, PR folks, and advertisers are always looking for ways to get their message in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Often, this means trying to piggyback on an existing major event, celebration, or holiday. A great example of this was Oreo’s famous “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet sent during the power outage at Super Bowl 47. It was clever, timely, and a bit funny as it made light of an awkward situation. The Super Bowl blackout had nothing to do with cookies, but after this tweet, it did.

MarCom professionals can run into challenges when they apply this strategy to events with a very serious nature: Remembrance Day (Common Wealth Nations), Veterans Day (US), Martin Luther King Jr. Day, etc. Brands run the risk of looking too opportunistic as they try to cash in on the importance and sacrifice of others.

Last January, several public figures and brands made questionable (to put it nicely) social media posts trying to cash-in on the popularity of the #MLKday hashtag used to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Reviewing a few of these missteps from last year has led me to three key thoughts on the subject.

The tone of your message should match the spirit of the observance

As a brand, you should seek to create and share content that serves to match and even enhance, the serious nature of the holiday. A few examples from last year that missed the mark:

1. Book a party bus for MLK Day?

2. The infamous “Freedom to Twerk” event that was planned for the good folks in Flint, Michigan drew attention to itself after the promoters Photoshopped Dr. King’s head onto a body of a Man wearing a gold watch, chain, and medallion while making what appears to be a “west side” hand gesture. After this poster gained notoriety, the party was eventually cancelled. Several people weighed in on the issue, including MLK’s daughter, Dr. Bernice King, who was appalled by the poster.

FreedomtoTwerk

3. Sarah Palin’s tasteless political grandstanding starts with quoting Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, and concludes with her telling President Obama “no more playing the race card.” Yikes.

You may not be as funny as you think

Humour is tough. Attempts at humour during otherwise serious situations may be interpreted as your brand’s attempt to make fun of, or devalue the purpose of, the event.

1. This misguided tweet from Nyquil reads like a joke that didn’t quite hit the mark.

2 & 3. Two other notable attempts at humour came from the Chive, and a pornographic website. In both instances they used humour in a way that some would consider distasteful, but considering that the source of these jokes were the Chive and a pornographic website, they pretty much lived up to expectations. Instead of posting these attempts at humour on davidhallsocialmedia.com, I’ll let you google those two tweets yourself.

Don’t make a big stretch to connect your brand with the event

This is obvious self-promotion. It looks insensitive, self-interested, and opportunistic. If you are going to run an MLK Day promotion, make sure it makes sense within the context of the observance. Be aware of the nuanced difference between an event designed to celebrate as opposed to one dedicated to recognize something. What the heck do potato stamps, cereal,  apples, diapers, or a day at the salon getting pampered have to do with the civil rights movement?

PamperesMLKday

This Pampers Facebook promotion is particularly cringe-worthy because (as a current diaper customer) I can tell you that 10 rewards points is what you get for buying about $5 worth of baby bum wipes. They almost couldn’t have offered less.

For any organization thinking about joining the #MLKday trending topic this weekend, I encourage you to focus on respect, not referrals; honour, not sales; legacy, not leads; person to person, not business to business; and to make sure your content reflects the nature and tone of the observance. Without question, Dr. King serves as a hero to millions of people around the globe, and is absolutely a hero of mine.

September 29, 2014

The Science of Marketing – 6 Key Takeaways [Book Review]

science-of-marketing

August is the only month on my calendar where I get a bit of time to catch up on my personal reading list. This year, I spent much of that month reading book after book about social media, marketing, communications and leadership. One book that had immediate actionable content for social media community managers, was The Science of Marketing (2013) by Dan Zarrella. Working for HubSpot since 2009, Zarrella has access to the tens of thousands of data-sets he uses to identify trends and make process and content recommendations on how to improve your organization’s social media presence. Once you get past Zarrella’s description of himself as a “Social Media Scientist”, you’ll find some rather useful information that can help you benchmark and experiment with the social media communities you manage.

This is a tactical book, not a strategy book. If you are looking for ways to tweak your Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, email marketing, blog, and lead generation efforts, this book is well worth the 200-page read. A few key takeaways:

  1. Content is still your biggest ally, and the most important piece of the social media puzzle. Zarrella’s response to the question “how much should I be blogging/posting” is “more than you are now”. He even suggests that, to increase engagement and shares, the optimal amount of blog posts is three per DAY.
  2. Blog posts published on Saturday and Sunday get more comments than posts published during the week. Zarrella considers two reasons for this. First, weekends allow users more time to actually read a blog post. Second, fewer companies publish content on the weekend, which means less competition for attention. In fact, Zarrella suggests that we should seek to publish our content when others are not. He calls this “contra-competitive timing”.
  3. Sentiment is important. Posts that are positive get the most comments, shares, and likes. The second most effective are negative posts, which leaves neutrality as the last place finisher. In other words, neutral is boring. If you are going to post something, make sure it contains your tone and think positive first.
  4. Calls to action work. The primary example used in this book is the correlation between retweets and asking for retweets. Zarrella found that simply asking people to retweet your content delivers four times more retweets than tweets that don’t make that request. I wouldn’t use this tactic for every piece of content I tweet, but it’s good information to know if you are responsible for managing an emergency/crisis situation where you need information to spread very quickly.
  5. If you want to catch your audience’s attention on Facebook, photos are by far the best option. Zarrella’s research indicates that photos are the most sharable form of content on Facebook, blowing text, video, right out of the water.
  6. He even gets down to a very granular level of detail by looking at where within a tweet is the best place to include a link in order to maximize clicks. The answer: right in the middle. He even provides lists of the most, and least, sharable/retweetable keywords.

All of these ideas, and about 100 more, are laid out in simple language and charts in this book. The author is quick to mention that his findings are in no way the set-in-stone way to do things that will guarantee success on social media. They are merely data-backed observations that can help marcom professionals tweak and tailor their social media program. In essence, what Zarrella has presented in this book is a look at trends in social media engagement. It’s now up to us as social media managers to use this information to benchmark and experiment and see what works in our communities.

You can find this title on Amazon for about $20, well worth the investment.

December 12, 2013

Infographic: Consumers are 64% more likely to purchase a product after watching an online video

YouTubeFormulaWe all know that content is king on the Internet; and when it comes to types of content, it looks like video is at the top of the food chain. Video is everywhere online, from feature-length films, to sales pitches, to amateur videos of people at the zoo. Year over year, YouTube comes out with statistics showing staggering growth in videos uploaded and viewed.

The good folks at MultiVisionDigital published the infographic below to put into perspective how the omnipresent video is affecting consumer decision-making and behaviour. If you are trying to sell products or services, you may want to add video to your online strategy (if it isn’t there already) as consumers are 64% more likely to purchase a product after watching an online video.

The most unexpected finding was that video has a lifespan of 4 years. That’s an eternity. Considering that the average lifespan of a Facebook post is 3 hours and 7 minutes, a four-year shelf-life for a video is astounding. To put it in perspective, exactly 4 years ago, on the date this post was published, Taylor Lautner was hosting Saturday Night Live making jokes about Kanye’s stage crash of Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs…but you know what, I still like that Kanye video so the 4 year lifespan checks out.

The infographic also shows that video is not just used for traditional B2C decision-making, but executives are using videos to inform their B2B purchasing choices.

  • The average user spends 88% more time on a website with video
  • 60% of consumers will spend at least 2 minutes watching a video that educates them about a product they plan on purchasing.
  • 96% of IT decision makers and tech buyers watch videos for business
  • 75% of executives watch work-related videos on business websites once a week

VideoSalesFigures

What do you think? Do online videos impact your decision-making? When was the last time you made a medium-sized or large purchase without checking out YouTube to see the product in action? Leave a comment and let me know.

November 11, 2013

You are what you tweet: Researchers predict users’ gender with 92% accuracy

How often do you think about what you are telling the world about yourself when you post an update to your social media profiles? Well, it turns out that you are being studied, whether you know it or not. Earlier this fall, PLOSone published a study that aimed to link the vocabulary netizens use with their age, gender, and select personality traits. The unique twist on this study was the methodology. Instead of using known word correlations to base their analysis on, they adopted an open vocabulary approach in an attempt to “find connections that are not captured with traditional closed-vocabulary word-category analyses”.

The use of the open vocabulary approach yielded some interesting results:

1. Men are much more likely to use profanity and talk about gaming while women seem to be much more positive and upbeat. *The size of the word in the word clouds below indicates the strength of the correlation; color indicates relative frequency of usage. Underscores (_) connect words of multi-word phrases.

MenvsWomen

 

2. Your age can be determined based on whether you talk about school, work or family.

Age

 

3. Extroverts like to party, introverts like the internet, neurotics use angry and depressed language, and the emotional stable like….basketball?

PersonalityTraits

 

4. Finally, the people in your social media networks who’s updates are negative, profanity-filled, and often tiresome, may rank low on the agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness scale.

Agreeable

Beyond simply being “interesting”, these correlations will further help communicators and marketers get their message in front of the right audience – You need to know where your audience “lives” before you can influence them. Be sure to check out the full study “Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach” for the complete methodology and findings.

January 31, 2013

The ONLY Super Bowl social media account you need to follow

This Sunday. 6:30 p.m. EST. Finally. For the first time since January 29, 1995, my San Francisco 49ers have made it to the Super Bowl. This is a big deal to me because the sports teams I root for typically don’t make it to the final game (Toronto Maple Leafs last Stanley Cup – 1967) ( Toronto Blue Jays last World Series 1993).

But when any of these teams were last at the big dance, social media was nowhere to be found…it just didn’t exist. Now the non-stop flow of photos, tweets, taunting, scandal, and general nonsense is almost nauseating. ESPN posted an inforgraphic about who to follow on Twitter; Hootsuite has a dashboard where you can track what quarterback has the most tweets, day-by-day; and at last check, social media mega-blog “Mashable” has 144 recent stories tagged “Super Bowl”. It can all be a bit overwhelming.

Don’t get me wrong, the enjoyment of these global events is enhanced by social media. I love being able to connect with fellow sports fans and chat about game. My favourite fan to connect with is the one who is actually there. Enter the Twitter account from the New Orleans Host Committee. If you are looking for one social media touch point for the big game, this is it. The @nolasuperbowl account is entirely focused on fan (user) experience, and they sure are responsive. Powered by a team of over 100 volunteers they field questions, suggest places to eat, share interesting stories about the game, promote their activities (#NFLexperience), and share photos from the festivities.

A few examples:

I’ll definitely be watching the @nolasuperbowl along with the game this weekend with a big thanks to all the volunteers that make it happen. The video below provides a decent idea about what it’s like to be inside the command centre during Super Bowl Week. It’s a recap from last year’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis, but it does a good job explaining what they are looking for, how they find it, and how the team of social media volunteers go about responding.

Well, I guess there’s only one thing left to say: #Go49ers #QuestForSix

UPDATE (01.31.13): As a further comment to their responsiveness, after I initially shared this post on Twitter, the @nolasuperbowl account was quick to RT. In fact, they were the first to do so.

September 5, 2012

Social Media ROI for Higher Education [Stats]

This week marks the return to classes for many students here in Canada and around the world. It’s great to see the kids skipping off to class, the school buses making their rounds, and freshmen on college campuses moving into residence, eager for new experiences. It’s also a great time for colleges and universities to connect with their students and make them feel a part of the community and, at the same time, to lay the foundation to recruit the next round of students.

I’ve worked at a post secondary institution for nearly 7 years (6 of those in the Marketing and Communications department). As the leader of our social media planning and execution strategy, I often had conversations about the return on investment (ROI) of social media. We batted around questions like: “Isn’t social media just something else to add to my to do list?”, “Why spend thousands on outdoor bus advertising when digital marketing is easier to track and less expensive?”, “How can other departments of the school take advantage of social media”, and of course “What is the ROI of social media?”

The last question bugged me the most. Maybe because it’s hard to answer, maybe because it’s the go-to question for social media non-believers, and maybe because the same people who are asking us to put a dollar figure on social media couldn’t identify the ROI with any of the other communications tools in their office. I would think, “What’s the ROI on that pen set on your desk?”, or “Explain to me the ROI of giving every employee a laptop,” or “what’s the ROI on company-specific email addresses?”

But ROI is important, and we should try to establish some benchmarks to measure our successes and failures. The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research agrees, and has been watching social media usage trends at US colleges and universities since 2007. In their latest study (2011-12), their research shows that social media cuts costs for the Recruitment/Admissions Office.  Consequently, many schools are planning to increase investments in social media initiatives as a way to better reach their target audience.  Their news release highlights the following key findings:

  • Traditional media is becoming less important/used. Schools report spending 33% less on printing, 24% less on newspaper ads and 17% less on radio and TV ads. One third of schools say social media is more efficient than traditional media in reaching their target audience.
  • 92% of undergraduate admissions officers agree that social media is worth the investment they make in it and 86% plan to increase their investment in social media in the next year.
  • The most useful tools for recruiting undergraduates include Facebook (94%), YouTube (81%), Twitter (69%) and Downloadable Mobile Apps (51%).
  • Less than half of those surveyed have a written social media policy for their school.  In the 2009-10 academic year, 32% had a policy. That number increased to 44% in 2010-11, and stands at 49% in 2011-12.
  • 29% of the schools surveyed report having NO social media plan in place for their Admission Office, and an additional 15% report not knowing if there is a social media plan in place.
  • 78% of schools say that social media tools have changed the way they recruit.
  • Umass has created a rudimentary infographic with more details if you’re interested in learning more about this study.

Although these findings provide a good look at where colleges and universities stand on the marketing side of social media, there’s still work to be done to get a better picture of the post-secondary industry’s use of social media. I’d like to see further studies that focus on social media use and how it affects: student retention, customer service, campus life, and learning inside (and outside) the classroom.

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