Monday, December 21, 2015

4 Ways Social Listening Can Benefit Your Business


Admit it, marketers. There are times we have a bit of trouble finding the right balance between talking about ourselves and talking with our communities. Are we truly listening to people that take the time to talk with us, write about us, spend time chatting about us and our brand? Are we really listening to what consumers are telling us, or are we listening while we think of a way to interject our brand into their conversations?

Social media listening is often also called social media monitoring. It is the process of finding out what is being said about our company, products, brand and team and analyzing that data. Done right, social listening can be one of our most important tools to gather intelligence from our customers. We then have the ability to take that intel and use it in our content, business development, R&D, customer service and real-time marketing campaigns.


Seen in San Francisco
But I’ve got a Facebook page! I tweet every day at the optimized times! Social listening is more than simply setting up a Google Alert to see what people are saying about us on their social platforms. It’s about finding where those conversations are taking place, and engaging with the people having those conversations: responding, delivering content to them that they have shown an interest in, helping them with problems where you can that they have mentioned, and giving them offers that will enrich their lives.


If our goal is to reach a targeted group of consumers, the way to their hearts is through relevant, personalized and engaging content. How many times have you shaken your head at an ad you’ve been shown on social media, wondering how you possibly were targeted by that brand? It happens to me almost daily, lately. Think of it in terms of your own life – if you had a friend that constantly tried to have conversations with you that weren’t based on anything you were interested in or wanted to engage about, how long would that friendship last? When you focus on social listening, you can avoid being tuned out by the people you are trying to reach, by getting to know what they want to talk about.

Here are 4 ways social listening can benefit your business:

1.      Get An Edge Up Over Your Competition

You can set up keywords to monitor words and phrases that relate to your product. My tip – do varieties of your product name, as well as common misspellings (if there can be any). You may find that people are complaining about a competitors product or customer service, then step in and ask them to explain what shortcomings they are finding. From there, you can show them that you are there for THEM, that they are important to YOU, explain your product’s benefits and that you are available to them. This can then lead to finding new customers for your business! People will see that your brand cares about the people that are building the brand, and that makes you more attractive to potential consumers, watching your interactions. I’m willing to bet your competitors are already monitoring your brand and what is being said about it, so it’s only fair for you to have the same advantage.


2.      Identify Influencers and Brand Advocates

Finding out who is sharing your information and organically spreading positive attributes about your product or brand is a great way to find relationships to begin building. Who are your brand advocates? Once you know, you can reward them for their unaided help in spreading the love for your brand. A happy customer that talks about you without being asked is marketing gold. Continue to build upon those relationships!

3.      Find Your Tribe

With social listening, you don’t have to guess where the best place to focus your marketing efforts might be. Guess work and lost time is saved by knowing what platform is best for your social media marketing. You can see where people are having the conversations surrounding your product and talk to them there. It might be on Twitter, or Facebook or Instagram…join those conversations and get to know both your current and potential consumers.

4.      Improve Customer Service

When you are focused on listening, you will hear both positive and negative feedback. It can easily be argued that negative feedback is better to find, because then you are being directly told how to improve. If someone is taking the time to complain, they are not yet a lost consumer! That is them showing you they still DO like you, your product or brand, and are open to being helped through a problem.
Social listening requires patience and empathy to understand consumers’ points of view. It might be hard at first, but try to listen with an open mind. Do not get overly defensive while you are gathering data and finding out what people are saying. There are a great number of additional benefits social listening can provide your business. So…let’s get out there and start learning!

 

 

 

Friday, December 11, 2015

10 Questions to Ask When Hiring A Social Media Consultant


Today, more than ever, people are leaving in-house marketing jobs, choosing instead to begin their own consulting business. Even I did it. After 12 years in corporate America, working in-house as a Senior Marketing Manager, I chose to break off on my own and open my own consulting company.

There are both pros and cons for small businesses looking to hire a consultant. The pro is that you can find people with years of experience and can hire them as consultants. Not bringing them in-house means you save money on their insurance, bonuses and at times, even equity. The cons come in when you realize there is a lower barrier to entry now; anyone with a personal Facebook page and a large number of Twitter followers can offer their services to you. While they might be more affordable, it is sometimes hard to discern if they have experience building brands, or if they’re simply good at promoting themselves.

Once you decide it is time to outsource, you will want to strongly vet potential consultants and/or agencies. Here are 10 things I recommend you ask or consider:

1.      Can they show you a proven track record? Ask what brands the person or agency has worked with and is currently working with (to ensure they are not working with a competing brand). Don’t be shy about asking for references. Ask about a brand they worked with where something did not work out – how did they handle that? Were they able to quickly adapt and change course? Do they have the necessary experience in your industry to properly advance your business? The more they know about your industry, the less of a learning curve there will be, and the more resources they will bring to your brand. What are their first steps when taking on new clients?

2.      Where can I find current and past examples of your work? Anyone with experience will be readily able to show you a portfolio of work as well as links to initiatives they have run or been involved in creating. Look for campaigns that have been repeated. You know things are working when you keep doing it! Have the campaigns led to brand exposure? Sales leads? Will this experience help your market?

3.      Who will be handling my account and what background does this person come from? The background of each person working on behalf of your brand is important. If you are looking for marketing, PR and/or social media help, you want people that have leveraged those skills working with prior companies. Do these people have knowledge and experience with trends in these areas, or have they recently realized how easy it is to call themselves a consultant and pitch for your business?

4.      How will we track ROI? We know that not everything will have immediately ROI that is trackable when it comes to social media, but most is. You want to know that this consultant or agency isn’t simply looking to add likes, followers or fans, but is actually able to analyze conversion rates. Brands that hire an outside agency will want to know that the agency or consultant is consistently monitoring results, and is being held accountable. You will want to know there is a standard monitoring and reporting process in place that works for both you and the agency or consultant.

5.      What is their process for reporting? How often will you meet with them? How often will you be provided status updates or check-ins? If the agency doesn’t have a method to suggest immediately to you on how they will communicate, it might be a red flag that the agency isn’t as connected with their clients as you will want to be, or that they haven’t even thought of this yet.

6.      What will you do if something goes wrong? How would you handle a social media crisis? Marketing campaigns that look great on paper can go wrong in application, no matter how seasoned the consultant is.  How will they react? How do they respond to negative reviews? Tweets? Negative Facebook comments?

7.      How do they come up with strategic plans? How much does writing content figure into their experience and plan for your business? A good consultant will have a workflow that works for them and you. They will know how to integrate social media with PR and traditional media. They will want to talk to your sales team and find out what plans they have and will know how to integrate them into all they are doing.

8.      How will content be developed? And, will you have to approve all of the content written on behalf of your brand? Will it all have to be planned, or will you trust this person or agency to create on-the-fly content for you? Does this person have the experience necessary to understand the nuances of writing content specific for each platform? Content developed for your brand needs to be likeable and shareable. A consultant or agency should be able to show you examples of previously created content for other clients, as well as their content calendar, or what their content creation process looks like.

9.      What does success look like, and how will we measure it? Brands that are investing in consultants and agencies must have clear goals in mind when starting this process. An agency should be able to help you achieve your KPIs. The consultant or agency you choose will help you establish these KPIs and will (with you) write strategies and tactics to hit those goals.

10.   What will this cost? Outside of the monthly retainer or fee you agree to with the consultant or agency, you want to know that your budget is being kept in mind in all they are doing. Are there going to be additional costs in monitoring brand mentions? What is the process for getting additional budget approved, before this consultant agrees to something? Do they have a plan for ads on Facebook and Twitter? What will that cost?


By no means is this an exhaustive list. Choosing a consultant or agency is a big decision for every brand. You are entrusting your baby to someone outside the “inner circle.” You want to know what influencers they are friends with and for how long, what their personal social media profiles look like, how they conduct their networking…What other questions would YOU ask? Are there any questions you wish you’d asked prior to hiring a previous agency or consultant?

 

 


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Marshmallow Dreidels for Chanukah


Tonight is the first night of Chanukah! Here is one quick and super easy dessert I will be bringing to my family's Chanukah party this evening.

What you need:
  • Wax or parchment paper
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Microwave safe bowl
Ingredients:
  •  1 1/4 cups chocolate chips or candy melts (I used chocolate chips)
  • 12 large marshmallows
  • 12 thin long pretzel sticks, salted or unsalted
  • 12 chocolate kisses
  • 1 tube white icing for the Hebrew letters
Directions:
  1. Line a baking sheet with the wax or parchment paper
  2. Insert a pretzel stick into each of the marshmallows, you will want the pretzel to go in almost to the bottom of the marshmallow. I then cut off the top of the pretzel stick so the "dreidel top" wasn't too long
  3. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips or candy melts. Do not over heat or they will begin to burn.
  4. Stir the chocolate chips or candy melts, then dip the bottom of a chocolate chip into the melted chocolate and stick it onto the bottom of the marshmallow, on the opposite side of where you have inserted the pretzel stick
  5. Place the marshmallow on its side on the wax or parchment paper to allow the chocolate kiss to set. Repeat with the remaining marshmallows
  6. Place the cookie sheet into the fridge for 30 minutes to ensure the kisses stay attached to the marshmallow
  7. Reheat the chocolate chips or candy melts so that it is soft again. Using the pretzel stick as a handle, dip each of the treats into the chocolate so that it is coated up to the top of the marshmallow
  8. Place the dipped desserts back onto your lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining marshmallows
  9. Put the cookie sheet back into the fridge for 30 minutes so that the outer shell of chocolate can set
  10. Taking your white icing tube and add Hebrew letters onto one side of the dreidels
  11. Let the dreidels set for 30 minutes
  12. Serve and enjoy!

     

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tis The Season


Many businesses realize that affiliating themselves with charities are not only a great opportunity to get involved in giving back, but it is also a powerful marketing tactic. The business gets to develop a larger network and it helps others at the same time. Consumers like to associate themselves with businesses that support causes – while they may not have the means to donate regularly to a charity (even if they wanted to) it makes people feel good that they are giving back while purchasing something they need.

This idea is nothing new – the idea of companies “giving back” goes by many different names and uses a variety of marketing slogans: Social Corporate Responsibility (CSR) and “Voting With Your Dollars” are the two I tend to hear most often. Simply put, CSR refers to the idea of participating in initiatives that benefit others.

As a marketing or brand manager, it can be confusing and overwhelming to decide what charity to align with. Once you have done your research and found charities that are worthwhile, transparent with where the donations they receive go and have similar views and visions, how do you pick one? When I do this with clients, I tend to choose charities that I am personally drawn to, and also ones that seem to be close to my consumers’ hearts. It is more important that the chosen charity would be one that my current and target consumers would support, than if I would support it with my own money.

The next criteria to choosing a charity from a brand standpoint, is one that gives the brand a broader reach than they would get on their own, and brings a meaningful and engaged community to your brand. This is a win-win for both you and your charity. Charities, like brands, are interested in building their membership base. Partnering with a charity not only brings their community to you, but it also allows the charity to get their message out to all the people your brand interacts with, with the goal being to bring new members to support them, as well as your brand. Cause marketing is actually no different than any other partnership you might form between your brand a for-profit business. You are looking for another like-minded company, where by coming together, you both will have the opportunity to amplify your messaging with a shared voice.

As you build up the relationship between your brand and the charity you have aligned with, you will want to get in front of the employees that work with the charity and explain your product or services to them. Most charities also have people that follow the charity or support the charity in some way. These people are all target consumers by indirect association. As the relationship deepens, you can look to these people to become brand ambassadors, as their charity will also benefit from your brands success. Perhaps you are donating a specific portion of your brand’s sales to the charity- you can invite the charity to help get the message out that they will be the beneficiaries of sales during a specified time period.

While you are working on a charity marketing initiative, it is important to keep your motives clear. I would suggest that the end goal is always helping people, making a difference.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Chicago Cubs' Postseason Dreams Unite


We are a Cubs family. When I was in elementary school, we were season ticket holders for years. Dad and I would go to games, but Mom never had much interest. As I got older, I got to bring my friends from school to the games with her ticket. My dad spent a week in Arizona at Cubs Fantasy Camp, my parents have an “A Cubs Fan Lives Here” sign in their front yard, and my dad has had CUBZ FAN on his license plates from the day you were allowed to go from 6 characters to 7.

Mom doesn’t understand any sports. She listens to me when I go on and on about stupid plays Jay Cutler made, or when I rave about Aaron Rodgers, and she spends time reading every article I write for NFLfemale.com although I imagine for her, it’s the same as if I were to hand her an article written in another language. Yet, she is absolutely glued to each Chicago Cubs game, since the Postseason has begun. She texts me throughout the game with comments and anxiety and thoughts on the plays. She doesn’t understand the rules, but that doesn’t matter. We can still watch the games together in our own homes and share the excitement of the chance.

It’s not easy to be a Cubs fan. We haven’t won a World Series in any of my family members’  lifetimes. Chicagoans like a challenge however, and we’re up for them and aim to overcome. It’s not like Southern California is some mythical place, we know it exists, we recognize that there’s no snow there, yet we still stay in Chicago despite freezing pipes, cancelled school days and brutal winters.


Chicago is consistently named one of the “Top 5 Friendliest Cities.” Chicagoans love to talk, and we especially love to talk about Chicago. Our city gives us a lot to connect on, we’ve got two Major League Baseball teams with their respective fans depending on where on the city map you grew up, we have the Chicago Blackhawks and their own winning records, and of course, we have the Chicago Bulls. Mention you grew up in Chicago to anyone over the age of 20 and somehow Michael Jordan’s name will still be brought up in the conversation. Walking through Chicago, you might think there is a game being played year round with any of our teams. We wear our pride on our clothing, with flags hanging from the windows of our cars, and many Chicagoans sport some sort of Chicago tattoo. We also connect around our city’s world-class food scene, the weather, and have you seen our architecture?

Social Media has facilitated the unity the Cubs postseason continues to provide. On social, we connect with like-minded people in various communities, and #FlyTheW has helped us to establish new communities, and find other Cubs fans within our existing communities in cities around the world. Maybe it’s a bandwagon, maybe people like to root for an underdog, or maybe hard-core MLB fans are just happy there’s still baseball being played in late October. I’m fine with it. Join us. We’re friendly, right? And just as welcoming. There will always be seats for new Chicago fans on our wagons. It’s fun to watch the Cubs games on Twitter. I enjoy seeing who is rooting for and against me, and I’ve even got some friends in New York that I look forward to smack talking with before each game and after each scored run. I’ve met more people online to chat with because of the Cubs. I’ve found I’ve got more things in common and more to talk about with friends, both online and off, because of the Cubs.

In what might be the ultimate literal symbol of unity, Mom has agreed that if the Chicago Cubs win the World Series, she will get a Cubs tattoo. I have 32 tattoos. 16 years ago, the day before I was going to get my first one, I asked her to come with me. Our family dog had just died, and I was going to take one of my mom’s photographs of him and get it tattooed on me in remembrance. She wouldn’t come. Throughout the years as I added to my tattoo art collection, I’ve asked her to join me and still, she wouldn’t come. I told her I would accompany her to HER first tattoo, and I, too, would get whatever Cubs image she chooses. More ways the Chicago Cubs Postseason will hopefully be uniting us. So, Cubs, win or lose, I’m already winning.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Building a Thriving Online Community


We have all heard the saying “Your vibe attracts your tribe,” and know that an engaged social media community is key to online success, but how exactly do you go about building an online community? What does it mean to have a successfully engaged community?

For a brand, your community is the number one reason to join social media. Not only is your community made up of current and potential consumers, but it’s also where you will find both brand advocates and brand ambassadors – people that will help amplify your messages to their networks, so your reach is spread way beyond just that of your own. More and more, you can find studies that show that people trust recommendations from friends and family over brands, so these social media advocates are gold for companies.

An online community is simply a group of like-minded people, that have gathered together around a common interest, idea or goal. It builds as people find your content and your brand, and begin to engage with it. Engagement can take many forms, depending on the social media platform. It can be simply following you, or deepen to include engaging with you, sharing and promoting the content you put out, and talking about your brand both online and off.

Most importantly, you need to keep open two-way communication with your community. I am a huge advocate of treating online and offline relationships in exactly the same way. When you meet someone new in person, you introduce yourself and find out what you have in common, how you can relate to this person. You take an interest in them and find out what THEY are interested in. There is no difference when you meet people online that are members of your same community. If you are running the social media for your company, you aren’t above or outside any of the community members, you are one of them, the same as everyone else is.

Creating meaningful relationships online means you will be doing a lot of listening in the beginning. You want to find out what is important to the other members, what they want to know, and then you are better able to begin crafting and sharing content that provides value to your followers and fellow community members. Yes, your content will sometimes talk about your company and your product, but the focus needs to go far beyond that. You will be focusing more on the personal interactions, rather than broadcasting information or talking AT people. You will need to be able to respond to all comments and questions that come from members of the community, not shying away from anything negative they might bring up. In fact, sometimes negative feedback is the best way to learn and grow! At first your followers will be just that – people that have gathered because they heard about your brand, or want to learn more, but if you nurture each relationship, they will turn into loyal community members.

What’s next? How do you keep your community interested and engaged?

Here are some of the tips I have learned:

1.     High Quality Content: The most important tip I have learned is that is not ever about you. It’s about the community. You want to consistently provide the highest quality relevant content possible. Content varies. Sometimes it takes the form of a how-to, or it can be something inspirational that will resonate with your community members, or something written or shared to entertain them – the key is to listen and talk with people long enough to find out what they want to know, and then provide that to them in a unique way.

2.     Consistency: How often do you post? Do you disappear after posting an article, until the next one comes out? You want to build trust and let people see that you are someone to use as their go-to for information, so being consistent in your messaging and responses is important. Consistency goes beyond posting schedules. It means that all your messaging is the same, no matter who it comes from in the company. It means that you do what you say you are going to do and always follow through. You are credible and build trust through being who you portray yourself to be.

3.     Honestly Care About Your Community: What if suddenly everyone in your community jumped ship and went to follow a similar brand? You would have no company any longer. The people in your community are your brand’s life blood and if you look at them that way, it is easy to be grateful for each and every one of them. So let them know! Respond to each comment or post. Remember that people have millions of choices of what brands to support and they’ve chosen YOURS! We’re all busy, but they’ve taken the time to chat with YOU! Show people your gratitude. Maybe that means reposting a blog post they have written, or asking about their day when they’ve posted about having a tough time. Again, this is no different than how you would treat an in person relationship with a friend. Say thank you when someone shares a photo or a post. A simple acknowledgment can be makes someone’s entire day.

Remember that all relationships take time. There is no overnight success when it comes to building, nurturing and growing an online community. There are ebbs and flows and sometimes people leave. Prepare to work really hard at these relationships, but know that the time spent will be worth it.

What are some of your tips? Tweet me at @lucyrk78 and let me know!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Facebook Says Relax: No Dislike Button Is Coming


Mark Zuckerberg didn’t quite break the internet, but he may have broken some people’s hearts Tuesday. During a Q&A session at Facebook’s headquarters, Zuck said, “I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years. Today is a special day because today is the day I can say we’re working on it and shipping it….What [users] really want is the ability to express empathy,” Zuckerberg added. “Not every moment is a good moment.”

Previously, he has been adamant about not offering a “dislike” button alongside the “like” button, for fear of the negativity it could (and most likely would) invite. Is this truly something being given to the users because they (we) have asked for it? Or, is this new button going to be offered so Facebook can find out more information about it’s users?

It should come to no surprise to any user that Facebook is based on a series of algorithms that curate your News Feed. Each time you go to Facebook, the algorithm shows you top or “most recent” posts from your friends and brands you have liked, in order of what you’ve told the site you want to see most – what you “like” most. Posts that receive the most likes are shown higher up in your feed, because that is what the algorithm has determined will attract the most user engagement. What throws this off, is all the posts that express emotions you don’t want to necessarily be seen as “liking.” Think of the time your friend posted about something sad – you didn’t know what to comment, but you wanted that person to know you felt for them – wouldn’t some sort of empathy button have helped?  Perhaps you didn’t even see that friends post, because the algorithm had already buried stories of that sort, from lack of likes.

This new button that for now, we seem to be calling the “dislike” button, would help you balance out those posts that would be odd to “like.” I imagine that what Zuckerberg and his team is working on isn’t a “bully” button, to hate on people, but will be a way to still interact with posts you don’t want to hide, but also don’t want to “like.” These sort of posts will still be viewable and come up high in your News Feed, and you won’t have friends coming to you weeks later inquiring why you didn’t mention anything about their father passing away.

Who does this help the most? Us? Facebook? This early on, I’m still a bit divided in my own thoughts. I think this will give us a chance to see more of what is important to us and our friends, at the same time giving Facebook the chance to keep us on their site longer, and find out more about our feelings, which leads to more ads and more dollars in Zuck and Facebook’s shareholders pockets.

What will this new button look like? A thumbs down would provide the yin to the yang of the thumbs up “like” button, but that doesn’t seem to be what Facebook wants to portray. Perhaps what would be more helpful would be a button that signals to the person that put up the post “I saw this,” or “I hear you.” In my eyes, that would be more of an empathy button, whereas a thumbs down button (and we do not yet know that is what this new button will be) gives off more of a judgmental feel.

However, will hitting “dislike” really show empathy? Or is it the lazy man’s response? Will it be more of a show, like “I want people to see that I don’t like this. But I can’t take the time to write out a true comment or express my feelings, so phew! I’ll just hit this button.” Liking something doesn’t actually equal engagement. Sorry, but it’s true. Actually engaging, sharing thoughts and feelings – that is what creates engagement, not the push of a button. Even the most perfectly placed emoji seems to create more engagement and has the ability to show more empathy than a “dislike” button push.

Honestly, I think it’s too early to start hating on this new button just yet. I don’t think Zuck would take the chance of alienating the 1 billion users by giving us all something that could offend and hurt people, or turn the site into a negative Reddit rabbit hole. We just don’t know what exactly is being created right now, and it seems too judgmental to fully express opinions on it without having all the information.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Spaghetti Squash Zucchini Casserole

I used to really love cooking. Living alone now, I tend to cook more for my dog than I do for myself, however. Though I hate to admit it, I'm pretty lazy when it comes to making my own meals. I will spend four hours making chicken, sweet potato and carrots for my dog, but will settle for a microwave dinner or something easy to grab for my own dinner.

Last week, someone was at my house and said, "You have such a pretty kitchen." So I decided to start using it! I'm back to running daily and it makes less and less sense to not eat well when I'm treating my body better.

So! Healthier eating starts today.


Spaghetti Squash Zucchini Casserole
Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash
1 tbsp. garlic
1 bottle spaghetti sauce
1 large tomato                                                                      
3 medium zucchini
1 package light shredded mozzarella
1/2 package shredded parmesan

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Poke spaghetti squash all over with a knife and cook in the microwave for 9 minutes, or until soft.
3. While squash is cooking, add garlic and zucchini to a non-stick pan and sauté over medium heat.
4. Once squash is soft, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and with a fork, scrape the flesh. It will come out easily in long strings, like noodle spaghetti.

5. Place the spaghetti squash "noodles" into a casserole dish.
6. Add the cooked veggies, diced tomato, sauce and most of the cheese. Mix well.
7. Sprinkle leftover cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is bubbly.
8. Let cool slightly, serve and ENJOY!




 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

7 Tips Towards Building Your Personal Brand


Until recently, the word “brand” only referred to companies, to businesses. However, in today’s world, we are more aware that every one of us has our own personal brand. I liken each of our own brands to what we used to call our “permanent record.” Remember how scary it was to hear “This will go down on your personal record?” With the internet and especially with social media, that personal record is no longer a mythical list of our wrongdoings – it’s searchable and at anyone’s fingertips at all times. Your digital footprint is available to future bosses, spouses, trolls…

Whether or not you are actively building your personal brand, it is still being built up with every tweet you post, every selfie you take, how you dress, what faces you make when people speak to you and every email you send. It’s up to you if you choose to nurture your brand, or let it be defined for you, without you. More and more your reputation is the most important part of you, and your personal brand can craft, to an extent, how people see you.

Here are a few of my own suggestions on how to positively contribute to the growth of your personal brand:

1.      Start with an audit: What is the current perception of you? How do people feel about what you share, how you act, what you say? Before we can begin to better strategize on how we’d like to be seen, we have to understand how we are seen right this second. What comes up on the first page of a Google search for your name? Ask other people how they would describe you, what they think are strengths you possess, and what they would suggest are areas you could work on.

2.      Figure out what you stand for: It takes a long time for some of us to truly “find ourselves” and perhaps even longer to really understand ourselves. You have undoubtedly seen people on social media that seem to change their views often, perhaps in an effort to gain favor from thought leaders, or garner attention from people they look up to on social media. You want to have a strong understanding of what YOU believe in, what you stand for, and be confident enough to publicly make those views known. Your beliefs will guide your action.

3.      Be YOU! Authenticity is the key to each of our personal brands. This isn’t something we can fake our way through, nor is a personal brand a persona. In time, people will see through that, and you will have a pretty steep mountain to climb to change perceptions. The essence of your personal brand is all the parts that make you, you. What do you like? What don’t you like? Where do you like to eat, shop, spend time on weekends? Authenticity also means that you do what you say you will do. You walk your talk.

4.      Identify your goals: What are you goals in your personal life? In your professional life? What is it you would LIKE to be known for? Once you define your goals, you can develop ways to then go out and grab them!

5.      Find ways to add value: Social media is often referred to as “noisy” but have you ever found someone that helps you annoying, or talking for the sake of talking? I haven’t. I try to be of service both online and off, and would like a big part of my personal brand to be someone people can rely on.

6.      Show people what you’re good at: The best way to do this is through content marketing. Write blogs or articles, or use Twitter to become a trusted resource within your community on topics you have expertise on. When people want to find information on something, rather than immediately going to Google, they go to people that they trust and those people that have helped them in the past…become that person for at least one other person! What differentiates you from everyone else that studied the same topics?

7.      Take it offline: We don’t all live solely online. When I see someone that has a strong personal brand, it is because they are the same online as they are offline. There are always ways to network offline – all industries have meet up groups you can attend, and if you can’t find one, you can host your own Tweetup. I find Facebook Groups to be the most meaningful parts of that platform for me and my own personal brand, to meet more like-minded people.

Your personal brand isn’t going anywhere. Just like you yourself are, your personal brand is ever evolving. Building your own brand takes time, but it’s infinitely worth it. The more I stay mindful that everything I do contributes to my personal brand, the more I find I learn about myself.

What are some additional items you would add to this list? What has worked for you in building and nurturing your own personal brand? Tweet me @lucyrk78 and let me know!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Rising Above The Noise


As someone that works in social media, we often hear how “noisy” it is. Naturally what follows next is people wondering how to cut through that, how to get heard in a social media atmosphere that more people are delving into each day with their own messaging. Personally, I don’t find social media to be noisy. Perhaps a topic for another blog, but I find that if you are analyzing your data and joining the communities you truly fit into, as well as spending the most time in the communities where you want to be heard in, you won’t find it noisy at all. I believe that the more people, brands and companies that join a “space,” the more credence it lends to being IN that space or industry, and the more it is able to grow and thrive.
Don't Be Afraid to Stand Out!

For many startup companies, I think the “noise” they are seeing can be pretty overwhelming. Brands and people come into social media with no concrete plan or strategy and that is when I recognize noise. That is when social media turns from a WE activity, to a ME activity. Here are some tips I’ve found to help combat some of that and work towards joining a community where you can be heard, as well as hear others:

1.      ABT√† Always Be Testing: Your analytics are a goldmine of information. Paying attention to them will teach you when your target audience is online, what posts you put out get the most attention, and what topics your community most responds to. You can use that information to then tailor your content to fit into what your audience and community wants more of, they will begin to see you as the resource we know you can be, and you will begin to garner more attention.

2.      Let Go Of The Ego: Remember, a group of like-minded goal oriented people will always accomplish more than the one person that thinks they know it all and can do it alone. Grow your community by being the same person online as you are when you meet new people offline. You don’t walk up to potential friends and introduce yourself, then go on to pitch them on what you do for a living and how they can buy in, they’d get bored and walk away. Rather, you introduce yourself to people and ask questions about them, try to get to know them, see what they are interested in and where you have things in common.

3.      Focus on the Consumer: This is a bit of a follow up to #2. When people feel that they are important to you, they pay more attention to you. Thank people for posts or sharing your posts. Ask questions that help you get to know people better, and when you are asked questions, answer them honestly as YOU. We all know there are faces behind each brand, let your personality come out from behind the brand as well. Allow yourself to be the fun, engaging and relatable person you are offline, online!

4.      Do More Than Just Listen: Active social listening is one of the most important items in any social media plan, in my opinion, but you have to do more than simply listen and place people into little persona boxes. You have to have open two-way, mutually benficial conversations with them. I believe that is the only way to truly get to know people, find out what’s important to them, and find ways you can help make their lives better. We already know you’ve got the best product/brand/service in the world, how can you let your communities know that as well, without directly telling them?

5.      Add Visuals: Look at your own timeline, and take some time to scroll through. What catches your eye? The miles and miles of text, or a picture or video that pops out? I’m willing to put my money on the visuals! Use one-of-a-kind photos (best if you take them yourself!) that represent you or your brand and intersperse them with your text.

6.      Be Consistent: Keep your core values top of mind through all content mediums and platforms. Each time someone has a touchpoint with you or your brand, they should be able to recognize it as the same from another medium, without thought. Consistency also leads to reliability and reliability leads to trust. And trustworthy people and brands always stand out!

When you are able to put all or some of these items together, you can better create a top-notch user experience for your communities, consumers and potential consumers. People will begin to see you as helpful, responsive, someone who cares about their needs. When you speak to people as they like to be spoken to you will have no problem with any noise on social media.
What stands out to you on social media? What brands are doing this well? Tweet me and let me know @lucyrk78!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Building an Authentic Brand



The more time you spend on social media, especially in Twitter chats, the more you’ve heard the term “authenticity” being thrown around. It is often discussed, and we as marketers, are always told that building an authentic brand is the only way for companies to survive in these digital times, but how often do you actually hear people talking about building a strategy around authenticity? I hear people say that to be authentic you have to be honest, but it goes much deeper than that.


Authenticity is a vital component for any brand. It relates to how you are perceived, and how much trust you garner from both potential and existing consumers. What does “being an authentic brand” mean to you? To me, an authentic brand is one that is relatable, doesn’t seem like a large corporate entity but does business on a personal level, and is one that I feel comfortable spending money on because I feel I can trust in the company and the people that make up the company.

 

I know that these days, there are many people and companies that feel you can “learn on the fly” – especially because social media and “new marketing” is ever changing and evolving, but I am a big proponent of putting plans to paper, with goals, strategies, tactics and firm ways of measuring where I (my brand) is at any given time. When I consult with my clients on building an authentic brand, here are a few strategies I suggest starting with:

1.      LISTEN! The only way to connect authentically with your community is to find out what is important to them, who they are, what they value, what they’re looking for. I am a firm believer that if you are truly listening to people, really actively listening (as opposed to listening while thinking of what you’re going to say next) people will tell you everything you need to know. Getting to know people as your brand is no different than getting to know new friends. It is a give and take relationship. How many friends would you keep around you that only talked about themselves, and never asked about YOU or cared what YOU had to say?


Allow people a peek inside!
2.      Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Brand’s Personality Without the people making up the brand, there is no brand. Consumers are savvy enough to understand that there is someone (or a group of “someones”) behind the corporate handle on social media platforms talking with them and sharing with them. Let people get to know those people “behind the brand.” You have hired them and put them into the position of leading your social media for a reason, and I’m willing to bet it’s because there was something about each of those employees that drew you to them. Let your communities be drawn in by them as well.
 
3.      Use Images Images help people see what it’s like to be a part of your brand. If you post a picture of you in your office, people will be able to have an image in their minds of who they are chatting with each time they see you in their social media streams. People connect easily with images and if you show behind the scene images that instantly helps your brand come off as more authentic, over another brand that hides what is going on behind the curtain.

4.      Keep Scheduled Posts to a Minimum this is a hot button topic in social media these days. I am not a fan of scheduling or automating posts at all, unless it’s for A/B testing. While it might seem more convenient to schedule your posts, so you can get more done, authenticity comes from posting in real time, in my opinion. I believe that if you’ve got the time to talk with people about the posts you’re putting out (and isn’t that the point? Why post something if you don’t want any engagement on that post?) then you’ve got the time to post it, and then respond when people respond to your post.

5.      Be Available Nothing builds authenticity faster than being available for conversations when your community wants to have them. Social media allows you to have honest 1:1 conversations with people, take advantage of that! Even if you only find one person each day to chat with, people will see that you are a brand that cares about people and your community, and perhaps something you say to someone else will make them want to speak with you the next day.


6.      Admit When You’re Wrong There is nothing worse than watching a brand deleting negative comments or avoiding talking about a mistake that was caught by the public. Brands can establish authenticity on social media by immediately taking responsibility for mistakes, being public and open with their apologies and not hiding or becoming overly defensive about their wrongdoing. Depending on the error, you might lose fans or consumers, but I believe you might GAIN fans or consumers by how well people see you owning up to your mistakes and promising to do better moving forward.


7.      Tell (true) Stories Stories help create an emotional connection between your brand and your consumers/community. People trust people, so let your stories not only be about how your company began, but about the people that make up your company. Tell stories that help people relate to your brand, so that they can see how your brand slides effortlessly into their daily lives. The goal is for people to feel that your brand is just like them, has similar values and goals, and makes them feel better about themselves for being a part of your brand story.

A truly authentic brand isn’t born in a day. It takes time, and you will need to be patient and allow yourself the time to create authenticity and trust. The more you understand your consumers and the communities they are a part of, the easier it will become to align your content, messaging and marketing activities to fit with their needs in a relevant way. Embracing authenticity is a long term strategy for brands. Whatever time it takes will be worth it, as you build loyal consumers that want to do business with you for years to come.
Children are great examples of living authentically

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

5 Ways To Turn Consumers Into Brand Advocates


As marketers in industries such as CPG, one of our main goals is often turning casual consumers into repeat buyers. There are a few ways we can do that, through methods such as influencer marketing, consumer education, sales…but one of the most important and best ways to grow brand loyalists is to take your consumers on a path from people who simply buy your product, to people who advocate and live with your product. Simply put, brand advocates will do more for you than your own marketing ever will.

Having worked in the CPG industry from the beginning of my career 15 years ago, and learning from amazing companies I have had the fortunate opportunities to be a part of, I work hard FOR my brand advocates. What may surprise many people, is I do this strictly organically. I have worked with some of the best, brightest and biggest brand champions and have never once paid them.

 

Any company can “pay to play” or throw money at people to talk about their product. How effective is that, though, really? I’m a firm believer that the more honest and trustworthy people are, the more we will listen to what they say. No-brainer, right? People trust friend’s reviews and recommendations more than they trust brand’s recommendations, as we know, so the more unbiased peer advice is, the better. So to me, it would only follow that my consumers will trust my brand advocates more if they know they’re not paid to talk about my product, and are doing so because it truly fills a consumers need, to enhance their lives.

It is definitely the harder route, developing brand advocates based on emotions and relationship building, as opposed to giving them money to do things you ask of them. However, it leads to more fully engaged people talking about, using and purchasing your brand, and I’d argue it is much more of a long-term strategy. I also will often see companies, SMMs and brands using the terms “Brand Advocates” and “Brand Influencers” interchangeably, when they are quite different. It is not unusual to not pay Brand Advocates. That is part of the misconception.

Brand Advocates willingly share your brand with others via WOM, social media, etc because they truly enjoy and get something out of your brand. They are motivated not by cash from the brand, but the ability to be looked at as thought leaders within their own networks, as they continually recommend things to their communities that people also get something out of. They thrive on helping the people in the groups they keep themselves in and getting recognition from brands for doing so.

Once you have identified who your most loyal consumers are, you can begin to join them along a path towards Brand Advocacy.

Here are a few ways that have worked for me, to transform casual consumers into powerful brand advocates.

1.     Focus on What’s in it For Them, not What’s in it For Me? You’ve got a product or service that you stand behind and one that has been designed to fill a need in consumers lives. What more are they looking for? Recognition from the brand? Doing product reviews on their sites that you bring to your community, offering your advocates a larger reach and more eyeballs on THEIR products as well as yours? As in any other relationship you are growing, you want it to be beneficial for both parties.

2.     Be Grateful. Without people purchasing your products/services, you have no brand/company. Without your brand advocates, you don’t have credible help growing your sales, sharing your offering to a larger audience or bringing more people to you. I don’t see a way not to feel grateful for these people! Let them not just see yu saying thank you, but you want to ensure you are making them FEEL thanked and that you are happy to be working with them. I’d advise having a tracking procedure in place prior to beginning to work with your advocates so you can keep track of what each of them are doing with you, and how you plan to keep them happy and continue to build on what you’ve started with them.

3.     Give Them An “Inside View.” Your advocates are great people to give first looks of new products or campaigns to. Allow them to feel the exclusivity of being the first ones with knowledge or sneak peeks into your content. Let THEM do the sharing of this new information, rather than you as the brand.

4.     Share Your Passion. The more your passion is for your brand is communicated to your consumers, the more they can get excited and inspired by you and begin to feel that passion for themselves. How do you create an emotional connection with complete strangers and your brand? Share your brand stories, the stories of your employees and encourage your consumers to share theirs with you.

5.     Offer Incentives. Besides getting inside knowledge, I like to seed my advocates with product. They already are purchasing and love your product, why not ensure they always have a stash available to them? Through the building of relationships, networking and sheer time I’ve been involved in the industry, I am also able to offer my advocates access to things they, on their own, might not have access to – backstage passes, tickets, unique experiences….people will always remember how you make them feel, I try to always make people feel appreciated.

Marketing is no longer a one-size fits all approach, nor is it done by sending out messages to the masses. It is built one personalization, creating an emotional experience between consumers and your brand, and via the building of honest, true, long-term relationships. Your investment into your brand advocates translates directly to their investment with your brand.
I'd love to hear what tips have worked for YOU! Tweet me and share your stories? @lucyrk78