What would we do without social media? Seriously, do you know how little trust consumers have these days in advertising, marketing and PR? Not to be the bearer of bad news, but people really don’t believe many of our taglines, headlines, subject lines ...
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Five Great Storytellers on Social Media

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Five_Great_Storytellers_on_Social_MediaWhat would we do without social media?

Seriously, do you know how little trust consumers have these days in advertising, marketing and PR? Not to be the bearer of bad news, but people really don’t believe many of our taglines, headlines, subject lines and claims to this, that and the other thing anymore. Especially millennials.

But they do believe what we say on social media. Well, not everything we say there.

To be fair, the writing has been on the wall about traditional media for a long time now. As authors Rick Levine, Chris Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger said in their landmark book, The Cluetrain Manifesto, around the turn of this century…

“Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It’s going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in.”

We can’t say we weren’t warned.

As a careerlong marketer, thank heavens I embraced social media in its infancy, around the same time I began writing my blog, A New Marketing Commentator, in 2004. While I saw these newfangled online channels as different ways to send different messages, I was still targeting the same audiences as always with the very same objectives in mind. I saw social media marketing as a mashup of not just advertising, marketing and PR, but of broadcasting, journalism, publishing, newsmaking and storytelling.

Yes, storytelling. We’re now in the business of capturing people’s attention in one way, shape or form and holding it for as long as possible.

What can we do to establish common ground with the people whose time and business we covet? We can enthrall and enrapture them in words and pictures. We can spin true, enlightening tales that resonate with a mass audience. We can strike emotional chords that give rise to admiration, trust, respect and loyalty.

Gone are the days of monotonous, top-down, one-way, interruptive communications. Authoritative talking heads pitching products from the proverbial bully pulpit are history. Today’s marketplace is a remarkably level playing field on which both consumers and businesses enjoy mutually beneficial interactions.

Entertainment. Education. Information. Insight. That’s what people expect to receive from you. Not the hard sell. Not the promotional puff piece. Not the same old elevator speech.

Incorporate your unique sales proposition into an engaging story that pushes all the right buttons and triggers all the right actions during the course of the long customer journey.

Who really understands the magnitude of this change in how businesses and brands connect with constituents? Who has successfully embraced the transparency and authenticiy of this new wave of marketing?

Frankly, a surprisingly large percentage of marketers have fallen behind. They’re stuck in the past and mired in the weeds. They’re second-guessing their own strategies and tactics yet still reluctant to adapt. But there are still many good examples of great storytelling on social media. For instance:

1. Red Bull

Want a lift? Take a swig of a Red Bull. Want to see a master storyteller in action. Take a look at this brand’s online presence. From special events to celebrity endorsements, YouTube to Twitter, clever copy to ridiculously awesome visual content, these guys are as good at marketing as they are at making their popular energy drink.

2. Prudential

You might not have expected to see an insurance company on this list, but Prudential goes above and beyond across a variety of social media channels to enlighten and entertain, to inform and inspire, to do everything but sell. And that’s why they’re so enjoyable to follow.

3. Tough Mudder

I’ve run everything from marathons to 5Ks, and as challenging as they are, many of these races can be monotonous. From what I hear, though, a Tough Mudder is quite the opposite. It’s an adventure in tenacity, grit and determination. Watch their videos. Read their posts. Check out their pictures. But give yourself more than just a few minutes. Like a good book, it’s hard to look up from this iconic endurance event brand’s social media channels.

4. Samsung Mobile

Here's to shining brightly in #2017. #lights #GalaxyS7edge #Newyear #stars #shine

A photo posted by Samsung Mobile (@samsungmobile) on


What on earth could be included in a social media story on mobile computing devices? Everything on earth. Seriously, Samsung Mobile’s Instagram photos are from all over the world, many of which are taken with a Galaxy smartphone, too. Talk about a win-win marketing strategy. Not only does such a diverse array of visual content have the potential for massive reach and appeal, it shows off the capabilities of the product at the same time. Combined with a liberal use of timely, topical hashtags, this account’s got it all going on. It’s a travel journal. It’s a celebration of life. It’s a perfectly produced porfolio of the company’s products in action.

5. Guitar Center

 

Check out this musical instrument retailer’s YouTube channel and you’ll find a vast collection of videos focused mostly on people, not products. Talented musicians. Fantastic performances. Fascinating stories. All of which will leave you mesmerized, enthralled, dazzled and delighted. Such compelling content has you on the edge of your seat wondering what you’re going to see next. Guitar Center has certainly captured your attention, one of the first steps necessary in any brand’s relationship with a consumer.

Note: This post, “Five Great Storytellers on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on January 16, 2017, here, on LinkedIn on February 26, 2017, here — and a version of it was published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on January 23, 2017, here.

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Don’t Think Twice About Doing Video on Social Media

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2017-03-18_2253Andy Warhol was right when he said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

On second thought, maybe he was putting it too mildly. The future has arrived, and thanks to social media everyone now has the opportunity to be famous for an indefinite period of time, not just 15 minutes.

Look at Casie Neistat. Or King Bach. Then there’s Amber Mac. Kim Garst. And Jay Baer. I could go on and on. Funny. Serious. Amusing. Smart. The list of people who have become famous thanks to the emergence of social media is as long as it is varied.

Each of these people has done what every corporate brand and business should be doing on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the like. They’ve leveraged both written and visual content to take advantage of these platforms and stand head and shoulders above everybody else when it comes to copping their share of the spotlight. They’ve shared knowledge and expertise, laughs and entertainment, news and information, facts and opinion. They’ve put it all on the line in the name of promoting their own personal brands. And they’ve succeeded in a big way.

What they’ve done isn’t rocket science, though. Nor is it that difficult, as long as you’re willing to put in the time. Success in this space is determined as much by tenacity as it is talent. Online video, live or pre-recorded, is incredibly popular, and anyone in business who isn’t doing it today is missing a huge opportunity to attract more customers and clients, never mind more fortune and fame.

Unfortunately, most people out there are afraid to be in front of the camera for a multitude of reasons, especially if the shoot has to do with their jobs. It’s nerve-wracking to say the least.

But that tune has to change in 2017. Never mind that anyone in senior management should be prepared to take a starring role. If your responsibilities have anything to do with marketing, advertising, PR or social media, you can’t afford to be camera-shy in this day and age.

It’s not enough to simply muster up the courage to be a talking head, either. Forget trying to win the award for best actor, actress or picture, but don’t be afraid to let your guard down and portray the human side of your brand. The authenticity, transparency and immediacy of your videos on social media count more than whoever has the biggest budget or the most sophisticated production values.

Be yourself. Cool, chill. Keep it real. Spontaneous and off-the-cuff. Have an outline in mind before the action starts, but don’t risk appearing stilted and stiff by feeling you have to stick to cue cards or a script. Too much preparation will invariably result in a product that is simply too polished to believe.

You’re telling a story when you’re in front of the camera. You’re taking your audience on a trip to the intersection of your world and theirs. Whether you’re talking about your products and people, services and successes, interests and insights, you’re talking naturally, spontaneously, sincerely and openly. You’re talking about something that you have in common with your audience, something they can relate to, something they will gravitate towards and embrace.

According to this Social Times article written by Nicole Teeters…

“It’s increasingly the norm for brands to be active on mediums like Snapchat, Instagram Stories, Facebook Live – places where social storytelling is informal and direct. In this environment, brands need to let loose and allow for marketing that is less polished but that will come across as much more genuine.”

The irony is that you need to sacrifice the polish for the sake of the credibility of your videos. Homemade recordings are like homemade brownies. Not only are they more appreciated, they’re often even better than those you can buy. Whether you do it yourself or not, though, do it without overthinking it, overproducing it, overrehearsing it. Don’t think twice about doing video on social media.

Note: This post, “Don’t Think Twice About Doing Video on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on January 4, 2017, here, on LinkedIn on February 5, 2017, here — and a version of it was published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on January 11, 2017, here.

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10 Mistakes Businesses and Brands Make with Social Media

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2017-02-26_1202With social media reach and engagement rates having dipped so precipitously over the last year or so, paying to play is almost not an option anymore.

But what about businesses and brands that can’t afford to advertise on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like? Not everyone is willing, never mind able, to carve out the budget necessary to keep their content in front of a critical mass of relevant followers on a regular basis.

Those organizations can be particularly creative or incredibly persistent, but the most effective strategy they can embrace may be to get all hands on deck in the form of an employee advocacy program.

Of course, to go in this direction, every team member needs to be on board with their new tack, despite an abundance of reasons to be uncooperative, unknowingly or not. Employers need their employees working together toward the same goal if this social media strategy is to be effective. And in many cases, that’s just not going to happen anytime soon without proper training, guidance, incentive and rewards.

Here are 10 BIG mistakes many businesses, brands, teams and their leaders are making with social media…

1. Not providing enough education. Social media isn’t rocket science, but it requires a huge leap of faith for the uninformed and uninitiated. Not only can it be daunting, it can be downright difficult for a newbie to craft even a simple tweet, never mind write a blog post or record a video. A comprehensive, mandatory educational program is key to bringing employees up to speed.

2. Not providing enough incentive. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that job descriptions seem to include everything but the kitchen sink nowadays. So why not add learning social media to employees’ list of responsibilities? Seriously. Everyone’s a marketer. Everyone’s in sales. And everyone’s on social media. Which should mean repping your employer every once in a while.

3. Not connecting with others. There’s power in numbers, especially when it comes to propagating content. No reach, no engagement. Don’t be afraid to suggest that team members broaden their networks, even if their roles have nothing to do with sales and marketing. Employees shouldn’t be kept under wraps. After all, there’s a lot to be said for the multiplier effect.

4. Not sharing organizational content. All for one, one for all. That should be an internal team’s creed. Someone writes a white paper, everyone shares it. That’s a no-brainer if you ask me. Every employee – certainly those in marketing, advertising, PR and social media – should be sharing content created under the corporate roof. Their personal brands should include the professional brands for whom they work.

5. Not producing original content. There’s a rule in group communications called 90-9-1. This rule suggests that 90% of the members simply lurk while 9% add something to the conversation and a mere 1% contribute the most. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can’t be effective on social media if you’re being anti-social. Key employees and related stakeholders should be more than encouraged to create their own content, they should be rewarded for doing so on a regular basis.

6. Not keeping up with changes. Call them luddites, laggards, naysayers or just plain stubborn. Whatever you call them, call them late to the party, almost too late to gain entrance. Anyone serious about their career in this day and age who hasn’t at least started to use social media risks falling dangerously behind their colleagues, connections and competition on the job. And looked upon as being not that serious after all.

7. Not looking at the big picture. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people dismiss social media as a passing fad or an inconsequential trend despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. By 2018, 33% of the world’s population, or 2.44 billion people, is expected to be using social media. Social media is the biggest revolution in mass communications since the printing press. Anyone who can’t see that by now can’t see the forest for the trees.

8. Not brave enough to experiment. A tendency to take risks isn’t one of the hallmarks of a corporate executive, so any fear and trepidation among this set isn’t surprising to me. But this is not the time for analysis paralysis. Social media represents a transformative change in the way people, not just business people, communicate. Like it or not, it’s not going anywhere soon, so resistance is futile.

9. Not aware of their capabilities. Most employees don’t realize how easy it is share content on social media, contribute to the conversation at large and actually help move the algorithmic needle in favor of their respective organizations. Whether they’re intimidated, confused or just plain misinformed, they think social media is difficult, complex and ineffective, while it’s actually quite the contrary. They can do it if they try.

10. Not leading by example. People will rarely take it upon themselves to share work-related content on their personal accounts. They’re afraid it’s irrelevant and off-putting to their audience. But if leaders are doing it themselves as an example to their teams, that’s another story altogether. Employees will quickly see the benefits of supporting their employer’s brand if they see senior managers practicing what they preach and walking the talk on social media themselves.

Note: This post, “10 Mistakes Businesses and Brands Make on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on December 5, 2016, here, on LinkedIn on January 7, 2017, here — and a version of it was published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on December 13, 2016, here.

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Cats, Dogs, Brands and Social Media

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2017-02-03_2212It was absolutely hilarious, if you ask me.

It was just a few weeks ago, on a Tuesday night (October 4). Two men vying for the second highest office in the land, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, were debating each other before an audience of millions and frankly, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

I was looking at a Facebook Live video being broadcast on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s Facebook page that was showing the television broadcast of the event. However, in front of the screen was a large pen full of cute, little kittens divided by two separate carpets, one red and the other blue, with a box of kitty litter in the middle labelled, “Undecided.”

I was literally laughing out loud.

If you’re looking for attention from the masses, you can’t go wrong by hitching your social media wagon to anything to do with this year’s tumultuous election season, of course. All eyes have been on that runaway freight train of a news story. It’s been a perfect newsjacking opportunity if ever there was one.

But the time and circumstances have also been quite rare. At least let’s hope so.

What’s always in vogue are cats and dogs.

After all, pretty much anything to do with politics is a hot-button issue. Cats and dogs? Not so much. People love their pets, not necessarily their elected officials. And the savviest social media marketers will try to take advantage of this fact.

For instance, here are 10 ways businesses and brands – excluding any pet-related brands, per se – include cats and dogs in their social media to attract an even bigger audience…

1. TODAY Show on Instagram

Charlie was very excited for #KingsOfLeon! #TODAYShow #KingsOfLeonTODAY (photo via @photonate)

A photo posted by TODAY (@todayshow) on


What a cute picture! What a great idea! Add a puppy to the cast of regulars and you have a win-win all-around. Charlie follows in the paw prints of his predecessor, Wrangler, who left the Today Show to “work” as service dog for Guiding Eyes for the Blind https://www.guidingeyes.org/. Charlie is being trained to be one of America’s VetDogs http://www.vetdogs.org/. In the meantime, he’s taking advantage of more than his fair share of photo ops on the set.

2. Boston Red Sox on Twitter

Not that the Red Sox need any help in filling seats, but this sure is a great way to attract a few fans, including those of the four-feet variety, to the ballpark. If every dog has his or her day, what could be better than spending that day at Fenway Park (even if there isn’t a game being played)?

3. Best Western on Instagram

"This is your 38th selfie this morning, John… Ok, one more!” Leave a hilarious caption for this travel dog. #TravelCaptionSaturday

A photo posted by Best Western® Hotels & Resorts (@bestwestern) on


I love the fact that Best Western made the dog the star of this photo. How can you resist looking at it, never mind wanting to caption it? Man’s best friend is a marketer’s best friend, too.

4. Ralph Lauren on Twitter


Thanks to the emergence of social media and the ubiquity of pop culture, every day is a holiday. And the savviest brands among us make sure they’ve included themselves in that celebration, newsjacking the conversation about it on social media in some way, shape or form as Ralph Lauren so smoothly does here.

5. Katy Perry on Facebook

She’s a big rock star and a huge brand who, according to Trackalytics http://www.trackalytics.com/the-most-liked-facebook-fanpages/page/1/, has the 25th most-liked page on Facebook. She’s Katy Perry, her fans are KatyCats and this is a purr-fect example of how well felines play on social media.

6. Target on Twitter

Demonstrating a knack for newsjacking, the team behind Target’s Twitter account does a great job of taking advantage of a trending hashtag not only to be cute, but to drive traffic back to the store’s pet costumes for sale before Halloween.

7. 29 Sudbury on Facebook


Happy Hour may be illegal in the state of Massachusetts, but no one said anything about Yappy Hour. What a great idea! Not only is this a very clever way for 29 Sudbury to attract customers, it’s an excellent example of cause marketing, promoting your business while also raising funds for a good cause.

8. Volkswagen on Twitter


In this clever video, Volkswagen jumped on the International Cat Day bandwagon and used a handful of fluffy felines to demonstate how its Driver Alert System works, showing them springing to attention whenever the warning bell sounds.

9. American Express on Instagram


Blending in nicely with the Instagram environment, American Express includes a clever, colloquial caption along with this picture of a dog and his or her shipment of treats, toys and Tchochkies from BarkBox. This post has got it all going on – product placement, hashtags, URL, you name it – and nearly 1,000 likes to show for it.

10. Gemmyo on Twitter

I don’t know what a pink cat has to do with precious stones, but apparently this French company’s advertising is as innovative as its phenomenally popular line of personalized, made-to-order jewelry.

Note: This post, “Cats, Dogs, Brands and Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on October 27, 2016, here, on LinkedIn on December 14, 2016, here — and a version of it was published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on November 3, 2016, here.

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Paying to Play on Social Media

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2017-01-07_2023Rumors to the contrary, it’ll cost you if you want to run a successful social media program.

It’ll cost you both time and money, not to mention all the skills and experience you’ll need to help ensure a positive outcome.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no more gravy train when it comes to social media success. There is simply too much competition among businesses and brands for eyeballs and wallets for any of these channels to be able to afford to give you a free ride.

Organic reach has declined precipitously. Algorithms rule.

You’ve got to pay if you want to play – and win – on social media.

Seriously, have you looked at the statistics lately?

Unless you’re paying to promote them, you’re lucky nowadays if your messages are reaching in the vicinity of 5% of your audience on Facebook and much less than that on Twitter.

Unless you’re a celebrity or an iconic brand name, the chances of your voice being heard are few and far between.

All is not lost, however. Far from it. Social media is still in the throes of its emergence as the biggest revolution in communications since the printing press.

Being active on these newfangled online channels is not an option, it’s a necessity.

Think of social media like you would TV and radio. From building the audiences to providing the lion’s share of the content, the channels themselves have done a lot of the work already for their advertisers.

While you’re not interrupting anyone with a commercial announcement on social media, you are piggybacking on the popularity of a particular medium. Not only do you need a steady cadence of organic content scheduled to be disseminated at all hours of the day, you need to promote at least some of your posts in order to reach the right people at the right time with words and pictures they simply can’t ignore.

For those who are looking for you, make sure they can find you. Be conspicuous in your presence on social media with a variety of quality content that is optimized for search, sales, marketing, PR and branding.

But don’t take a strong presence alone for granted. It’s simply not enough anymore. Don’t overlook the importance of paying to play on these channels.

On Twitter, your first step should be to enable Twitter Cards, of course, which make it possible for you to provide a rich, robust media experience to your audience, whether you’re advertising or not.

Once that’s behind you, run campaigns to increase followers, engagement, clicks and traffic. There are many different campaign types you can deploy there, but one of the easiest might be Twitter’s Quick Promote tool, which will help you put your very best content in front of a much larger audience in a short period of time.

On Facebook, pay to promote your page and posts. Drive fans to your website. Attract an audience for a special event. Raise awareness of your products and services. Find local customers. Increase the number of app installs or white paper downloads. Move your constituents to take action in some way, shape or form that deepens their relationship with you and your brand.

LinkedIn. Instagram. YouTube. Pinterest. It’s pretty much the same no matter which social media channel you use. Choose your audience, determine your budget and go full speed ahead. In most cases, it’s like bidding at an auction. You’re deciding how much you’re willing to pay to have people who are predisposed to doing business with you see your ad and react to it. You’re in the driver’s seat.

How much should you be budgeting for these initiatives? In addition to all of the required time and resources, both human and technological, you’ve got to pony up, but there’s no magic number. Your mileage will vary.

According to this article, “social media marketing has accounted for about 11.7% of marketing budgets this year,” but how much of that exactly was allocated toward advertising remains unclear. We do know that worldwide spending on social media advertising is projected to eclipse $30 billion this year.

It doesn’t matter how much you yourself spend, though, as long as you are at least heading in that direction, beginning to carve out a modicum of dollars to be allocated toward advertising on social media. After all, if you’re not paying to play now, you’ll find yourself falling quickly behind your competition on these channels, if you’re not out of the picture already.

Note: This post, “Paying to Play on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on September 28, 2016, here, on LinkedIn on November 7, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on October 6, 2016, here.

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