Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Emotional Connection is the Key to Brand Loyalty

Ten years ago, the idea of emotionally connecting to a brand was something we did, but never thought about. The idea of connecting to a bank or insurance company was unheard of! Today? I was so moved by Chase Bank
’s commercial full of puppies that I had to tweet them immediately and tell them. Happy it was my bank and that like me, they loved puppies, I told them so through a tweet. Within seconds they tweeted back about Chase loving dogs. Immediate emotional connection. I was happy that they acknowledged my tweet to them and responded with a great response, and I was happy that I was with a bank that I had something in common with. While that still seems odd, even writing it, emotionally connecting with consumers is the key to brand loyalty.

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario: You have been purchasing a certain brand’s hair color for the past 20 years since you began coloring your hair. You love the color, the price is reasonable and you are always able to find the product at your local store. Then you read a blog about this new company that’s come out with what looks like the exact same color. Suddenly on social media, you see more and more people mentioning this new brand. You get in the car and go to a store looking for this product so you can at least check it out for yourself. It’s a few dollars more, but you decide to pick it up to see what the buzz is about. You color your hair and while it’s not exactly the shade you have always done, you like it. You tweet the new company to let them know you tried it but that it’s too expensive when you’ve already got a product you like. Within minutes, they respond to your tweet in a positive way, and ask for your email to send you a coupon. If this were me, I would make the switch to the new company. I am a firm believer in “We vote with our dollars,” and I support companies that I believe in. Having shown me that they are listening and willing to do something to gain my business is enough for me to make the switch. I’m immediately emotionally connected to a company I feel has my best interests at heart and wants to do better by me.

What drives us as people? My answer: emotions drive us. Have you ever gotten bad service at a restaurant that made you so upset that you immediately went to leave them a bad review? On the flip side, has someone in a store ever gone out of their way to help you and you filled out a comment card commending them? Those are both examples of being driven by our emotions.

We are all a brand. Some of us work solely for our personal brands while others of us have brands as clients or our own companies. The easiest way to create emotional connections with our audience and our community is through social media. It has broken down that “fourth wall” and made it easier for people to come to us, they don’t have to jump through hoops and codes and pages to send us an email on a website. They don’t have to wonder how long they’ll be on hold if they call our help departments. Its real time, and we are (hopefully) always there to answer them.

In everything I do for marketing clients, I keep one sentence top of mind: People buy from people they trust. Social media gives us the opportunity to create trust with people on a daily basis. How do we do that? The same way you would build trust with a new friend. You are consistent. You show up. You respond when someone speaks (tweets) to you. You try to be helpful. I am a big believer that the online world is no different than the offline world. There are just different people you know there. Think about where your friends hang out. Aren’t there some people you go to one specific restaurant or bar to meet some of them at, and another to meet another group of friends? I look at social networks like Facebook and Twitter the exact same way. Those are two additional places for me to see my friends.

Social media makes connection to people scalable. You aren’t just throwing out words to the masses, hoping that something will stick in the ‘right’ person’s mind. You are able to have 1:1 conversations with people to build brand trust and loyalty. You will get to know the people in your community and they will get to know you. The companies that are excelling and will continue to get this. They know the power of having a brand voice that people relate to. It’s less of “new marketing” than it is a shift in focus to more personalized marketing.

How do you get started? The same way you would get started with a new friend. Ask questions. Be interested and interesting. Share parts of yourself, and be there when people share parts of themselves to you. Consistently show up. Follow through, do what you say you will do. Keep conversations relevant. Be helpful. What can you and your brand do to make peoples’ lives better? Don’t just talk about yourself. Today, it’s more about the people behind the brand than it is about the actual product. Your stories add faces to the brand, and people connect with those faces and those stories.

What tips would you add? Tweet me @lucyrk78 and let me know!


Monday, June 29, 2015

Brands & The Art of Storytelling

Brands telling stories is nothing new; what is new is the focus on the concept, with the rise of content marketing and social media. 17 years ago when I first started in marketing and branding, we knew that what we were doing was telling stories, but I’d never seen the term in a marketing plan or strategic document. Today, I hear and see it all the time.

We are more accustomed to seeing brands tell short stories through the use of print, radio and television advertising. There would be a short plot somehow tied to the product (albeit at times a bit too loosely) and the brands would hope we’d quickly connect to the idea or story presented in the ad and remember their product. If the brands were a product that could easily be demonstrated, we would get a bit more robust story of the brand via in person appearances, if the brands were lucky enough to catch our attention as we passed them in say, a grocery aisle.

Storytelling is as old as humankind. Perhaps the first glimpse of it is seen in ancient hieroglyphics, stories depicted as pictures on walls. Fast forward – what would a campfire be without friends sitting around telling stories? We like stories because we can relate to them. We can see ourselves or people we know in them. It shows us that we aren’t all as different as we may appear.

All brands, just like all people, have many different stories to tell. Without those stories, products and brands are just that, but with stories, they become human, living and breathing. Brand stories are often what makes us choose one brand over another with a similar product. If I can see myself using a product, or hear a brand story that shows me how that brand will make my life easier or better, and much more importantly – when a brand reaches out to me and continues a conversation with me, I am much happier choosing them over a competitor. Even if I’ve used another brand for years.

Traditional marketers always needed to rely on their creativity, but didn’t often have to have much in the way of writing skills. That has all changed for today’s marketers. In today’s “new marketing world,” brands often have people with job titles like “Brand Storyteller” or “Creative Content Director.” Does that mean that only those with an MBA in journalism or fiction writing are getting marketing jobs these days? Not at all. Many strong marketers have long realized the necessity of being able to tell a good story (in the true, honest sense) and possess those capabilities. The marketers in highest demand today are those that can find a way to reach consumers through emotional and relatable stories, getting people more involved in the brand through the use of content marketing and social media, as well as finding ways to be involved in the “right” events i.e. right place right time to offer consumers an experience with the brand.  

So many stories to be told!
Are these skills marketers can learn? I believe they are. I think there are certain intrinsic qualities that draw people to the field that most with marketing jobs possess, but I also believe that the right marketer can grow and develop people to find their own strengths in the industry. At the same time, I also fully believe there are certain intrinsic qualities that will prevent certain people from excelling at branding, content marketing and storytelling. If you don’t have the inner knowledge of yourself and ability to be honest, open and at times vulnerable within your community and with your audience, I think you’ll have a hard time connecting with consumers. Brand storytelling is no longer a static ad, it’s a real person standing in front of you, or also sitting in front of their computer engaging with you in real time. If that is hard for you to with people in general, it’s going to be even harder to get people to relate to you and your brand online. That’s not to say you need to be a comedian or constantly “on” with people. It just means that you are going to need to be able to find emotions that live within you that your consumers can relate to.

Is all content marketing storytelling? No, and I believe this is a big misconception some brands are sadly operating under. Sometimes content is there to provide proof, numbers, hard data. That’s not storytelling. There is nothing I can emotionally relate to when just handed numbers. Storytelling on the other hand, is all about emotion, evoking feelings in your community, consumers and potential consumers. Storytelling is both inspirational and aspirational. It is the art of getting someone to want to join your brand’s journey.

How do you know what stories to tell? As with everything else with branding and social media, it will all come through listening to your community. They will tell you what they need, what they want – it’s all of our jobs as marketers to listen to them, and get to know what drives each one of them. This isn’t a one-time thing, you have to be constantly and consistently engaging as a member of those communities to learn as much as you can. Just like people evolve and change and grow and even as they change their minds or beliefs, so must your brand and your marketing and your stories. A good marketer will always be ready to pivot and shift tactics to keep your community and audience inspired and connected.

I’d love to hear what brands you are finding are doing really well with brand storytelling. Tweet me @lucyrk78 and let me know?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Creating A Content Marketing Strategy

No matter what stage in the lifecycle of your brand that you are currently in, you have undoubtedly heard of Content Marketing. You might even already be creating content. Or, you might have recognized the need to begin creating a Content Marketing Strategy, but aren’t quite sure where to start.

Content helps your community and your audience relate to you. The more helpful and relatable you are, the more people want to begin a relationship with you. Isn’t that how you began most of your friendships, whether they be online or off? By relating and finding things in common with people? Relationships deepen, you find you are able to be there when friends need you, they are there for you when you need them…The more you consistently put out great helpful content, the more people learn that you (your brand) are someone they can look to when they have questions, and that leads to trust. If you are a brand, trust is the most important goal I can think of – people buy from people they trust.

When I’m starting out to write, either for my own blog or on behalf of one of my brand clients, I always start out with 3 very specific questions to guide my words:

1.      Is this necessary?

2.      Is this needed?

3.      Is this helpful?

While it might first appear that Questions 1 & 2 are similar, they’re actually quite different. I look at Question 1 as – has what I’m thinking about writing or about to write filling a hole? Do I have the opportunity to help people find information on something I haven’t, myself, been able to find information on? While I look at Question 2 as – have I been listening and talking with my communities and have I found that they are asking for this information? If I can answer YES! to each of those three questions, I am more confident in sitting down to write. If I cannot answer yes to each of them, I remind myself that I’m not writing just for my own enjoyment (though I do, just to practice my writing), I’m writing for the people in the communities I keep myself in. When I am writing for a brand, I always try to keep top of mind – This isn’t about me. This is about my customers.

If I am aiming to create more of a Content Marketing “Strategy,” there are more things to consider, and it’s necessary to delve deeper. Before we begin any sort of plan, we need to ensure we know our goals and who we are creating content for.

1.      Have we defined our audience? Do we know who will be receiving the content we will be providing?

2.      Can we define characteristics of that audience? Do we know more about them past their buying triggers, so we can create a more comprehensive plan?

3.      What are our goals? What are our marketing objectives? How will our content marketing program help us get closer to achieving those goals?

4.      Have we spent enough time to begin to understand what content our audience is looking for? (While we will NEVER stop listening and talking with our community and our audience, we have to start somewhere)

5.      What format does our audience and community like to receive content marketing in? Is it infographics? Videos? Text? Blogs? Live Streams? Webinars?

6.      Where will we distribute our content – where is our community RIGHT NOW? Where is our audience? Where are the people we are not yet reaching but aim to?

7.      Do we currently have the staff, resources and budget for a true Content Marketing Plan to be effective? If not, where we will get these resources?

8.      How will we track and analyze metrics? How will we know we are getting closer to recognizing our goals?

The most important thing to remember is that although you have laid out a roadmap with your strategic plan, you always have to plan for the unplannable. You will need to be ok with the idea that your entire plan might need to be scrapped and rewritten at any time.

Do you have a Content Marketing Strategy? What have you found are the most important pieces in it? Do you feel that your strategy is allowing you to feel ready to begin creating content? Tweet me @lucyrk78 and share some of your content marketing ideas with me!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Instagram Updates Explore Tab - But Is It Enough to Rival Twitter?

Tuesday, Instagram users saw an update appear in their app store. The first part of the update now shows users trending topics, tags and places that is continually updated, allowing us to look at events and pictures in real-time that are happening nearby. If you are looking for a more worldly view, you can also select various locations around the word, rather than only viewing local content.

Coincidentally (not terribly), this update has come just days after Twitter announced Project Lightning – an update coming this Fall, where users will see even more timely events as they are happening. While I don’t think Instagram will ever rival Twitter for its ability to break news as it happens, this certainly gets my attention as a play to begin to compete. The problem as I see it is that Instagram isn’t updated as often or as quickly by users as Twitter is. That’s why the hashtag “#latergram” is so popular on Instagram. I believe more people tend to upload photos hours or days after a photo was taken. I know this is true for me. If I’ve got something I find exciting to share with my community, I will first go to Twitter with it, over Instagram, knowing that I can post a photo at any time to the latter’s platform.

The second part of the update now includes curated content. This content currently is chosen by the Instagram team (as opposed to each user) and offers a rotating choice of topics such as “NBA Rising Stars,” “Trending Places,” “Extreme Athletes” and “Towering Rocks.” It remains to be seen if a time will come that we will be able to choose our own topics, which personally seems like it would be more beneficial. I’m an NFL fan, I’d much rather see “NFL Rising Stars,” I don’t much mind missing out on NBA rising stars. Call me when Michael Jordan’s records are being obliterated!

For local marketing initiatives, the trending places will be helpful. Once you click on “Trending Places,” you are taken to another screen with both cities and venues. You can choose to see more of what is happening near your physical location, or satisfy your sense of wanderlust and explore exotic locations you might not otherwise have access to.

What I find most interesting is that Instagram still does not allow users to seamlessly toggle between accounts. As someone that manages the social media for multiple clients, this is a feature that I NEED. We know that the technology allows for this – Twitter has always allowed you to easily switch between accounts without having to log in and out and remember even more passwords. Even more interesting is that with all the people tweeting and mentioning and bemoaning the inability to do this on Instagram, there has been no response from the company. I would be pacified with even a simple “We hear you,” or “Here is why we don’t currently have that feature” response. Social media stats come out daily about how many people expect quicker responses when tweeting to brands nowadays, and to have a company as largely used as Instagram not address our concerns and opinions is surprising to me.

What do YOU think? How will you use the new Instagram explore tab? Will you begin to look to Instagram for another source of breaking news?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Building Online Communities

I hear and read a lot on Twitter lately about people looking for quick magic answers on how to build thriving online communities, and people looking for advice on “how to best reach our audience.” Those two things are not the same – communities are groups of like-minded people that get together for a myriad of reasons, but that always share knowledge, ideas and most importantly conversations. On the other hand, an audience receives this knowledge, these ideas, etc… The best way I can describe the difference is: a community is engaging and interactive, while an audience passively receives information.

A community is something that will live with you throughout the lifecycle of your brand, when built and nurtured “right.” They will get to know you, and you will get to know them. Both you (and/or your brand) and the members of the community will ideally grow as a result of your relationship.

Like any other relationship in your life, both online and off, it takes work. Think of the friends you have offline – how did that friendship begin? What makes it continue to grow, deepen and become more meaningful? Do those same things with your online communities. There is no reason to be any different online than you are offline.

If you are building an online community as a brand, there are a few steps I would recommend, to help you get started.

1.      See where people are already talking about you. If people are talking about your brand and excited about it more on Twitter, start there. If there are more people you see mentioning you on Facebook, start there.

2.      Get to know the people in the community as you build it. Again, all relationships take time. Give yourself time to get to know each member. What do they like to do? What other brands do they like besides yours? Where do they spend their free time? What sort of work do they do? These are all things I would like to know about potential close friends, whether they are online friends or friends offline.

3.      As you’re getting to know each member in your community, you might find certain members have more in common with others. Help make those introductions. Help them grown their own communities!

4.      Be you. Have you ever been at a dinner party and there’s that one guest that only is talking about himself, boasting about things that you couldn’t care less about? Don’t be that guy. You are representing your brand for a reason – your sparkling personality! Don’t be afraid to show it and let people get to know more about you, as well as your brand. Don’t let a keyboard make a conversation awkward or any different than it would feel if you were talking with a new friend in person. (for the record, I’m often quite awkward when meeting new people, but that’s ok! We’re human.)

5.      Be consistent. What do you say about those friends that make plans, then cancel them, or see you for a date and then disappear for 3 months? Honestly, we ALL have that friend. Personally? I call them flakes. And it’s not a good thing – it’s annoying, right? To never know if you can depend on that person or not, or know if you make plans, that they won’t fall through last minute? Again? Perhaps I’m repeating myself, but it’s one of my most favorite movie quotes, so I’ll say again, “Don’t be that guy.” Be reliable. It’s a good personality trait no matter what you’re doing.

6.      Remember to keep things relevant. If you were reading this article, and knew from the headline that it would contain tips about building a community online, and suddenly there were paragraphs about my dog’s fear of thunderstorms, you’d be pretty confused, right? That’s because how my dog feels during rain has nothing to do with steps in building community. It’s something you might find out being IN a community with me, as I talk about my dog all the time, but it has no relevance here. You might get sidetracked once in a while, but try to keep your voice and message consistent and clear, and most importantly, relevant. People joined your community for a reason – don’t give them reasons to leave, or find it’s not what they wanted to be involved in when you came together.

7.      Be a community insider. You are a member of the community just as much as anyone else there is. Don’t look at it as being any different – share successes of members of the community, comment on things they share with you, join conversations.

8.      Bring online, offline. As you grow and get to know your community, see if you can meet anyone for coffee. Do you travel for work often, as I do? Even better! Now you’ve got the opportunity to meet even more people! I like to organize “Tweet-Ups” in each city I visit, so not only do I get the chance to meet more people in person, but other members of the community get to meet each other. You’ll be surprised how many people live in the same city and don’t ever meet up. I like to bring together, and it’s always so much fun!

9.      Try to have an attitude of gratitude. At the end of the day, your brand is nothing without people that like it and support it. So why not continually remember that, and always strive to make those people feel as important as they are? Surprise gifts are fun, but not always necessary. Inherently, people like to be acknowledged. Don’t you? I know I do. A simple thank you isn’t always so simple to some people, it means a lot more than you think.

10.   Remember to always monitor the community. If you aren’t paying attention to certain metrics, how do you know if your community is growing and thriving? How will you know what you’re doing well within the community and what more people would like to see you doing?

I wish Top 10 Lists were about 20 items longer. I’m so passionate about the communities I’m fortunate to be involved in and would love to say so much more! For now though, I’d love to hear what YOU have found – what makes your community great? How did you begin to grow it? What have you learned from your community that you didn’t know before you started?

Here's a shot from a recent Tweet-Up in LA!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Understanding Faceboook Insights and Twitter Analytics

In yesterday's blog, we started talking about the importance of knowing how and why it’s necessary to continually be monitoring and analyzing your social media analytics. When I first began testing, I wasn’t ready to delve into tools and putting budget towards analytics just yet. Luckily, Twitter and Facebook have been doing more and more to allow users to monitor results on their platforms while in the app (or desktop).

Keep in mind – you have the ability to track almost any kind of data imaginable. That doesn’t mean that all is necessary and relevant to YOU. Sort through the data to determine what is most important for you to learn about your community to help further your ability to reach your goals and grow your engagement.

Facebook Insights                                                                                         

Each admin of a Facebook page has access to insights. You can find these by clicking the Insights tab in the Menu bar at the top of your page. This will give you ‘insight’ into your posts, your fans and your reach.

There are many things you can look at in Insights: weekly reach, how well each post has done, what is being looked at the longest…There are six ways Facebook breaks down the information:

1.      Overview – this shows how your page is doing, how many new “likes” you received, and how each post was received, how many people engaged with it, what times they saw it, how many people shared the content…

2.      Likes – This shows you how many new likes you have received and how many people have un-liked the page. If you are doing an ad campaign on Facebook, this is where you will see how many organic vs paid likes you have received.

3.      Reach – this data tells you how many people saw each piece of content you posted, if anyone liked it, clicked on it or shared it.

4.      Visits  looking at visits will show you the number of times the different tabs on your page (photos tab, info tab, timeline, etc.) were viewed, and how any times people came to your page from a website outside of Facebook.

5.      Posts – this might be the most important piece to look at. Posts show you a breakdown of the days and times your fans are online, the paid and organic reach of your posts, as well as interactions with them i.e. comments or likes.

6.      People - I like to break down the people that like my brand’s pages. You are able to see the gender of the people that like that certain page, as well as their age and locations. Having demographic data for your community can further help you tailor your content to relate the most to them. Some people call this “creating target audience personas,” but I’m not a huge fan of that term.

Facebook Audience Insights

               You can further break down the information on all the people that have “liked” your Facebook page. There are five ways Facebook has broken down this information: Demographics, Page Likes, Location and Language, Facebook usage (are your visitors coming from mobile, desktop, etc) and Activity (are people coming to your page to shop? Just to gather info?)

Once you become more comfortable looking at and analyzing this data, it will help show you what sort of content your audience is looking for from you, so you know what to post more of or less of. This information will also give you a better idea of what you might want to spend money on: posts that might be worth “boosting,” or whether you should begin Facebook Ads at any certain time.

This is just the beginning of all the Facebook Insights offers. Which insights have you found to be most helpful?

Twitter Analytics

Midway through 2015, Twitter rolled out their native analytics platform, available to all Twitter users. In Twitter Analytics, you are provided with a 28 day review of the response for each tweet – what people have RTd, mentioned, clicked on and marked as a favorite.

Just like Facebook Insights, Twitter offers you a variety of measurable metrics. The options that I have found most useful are:

1.      Tweet Activity -  If you click on any individual tweet, you are shown all the engagement on that tweet, including clicks on URLs if there is one in the post, how many people clicked your username in response to reading that specific tweet, and clicks on images if there is one in the post, expanded details.

a.      This is further broken down into 3 sections:

                                                    i.     Impressions – here you can choose a date range to see how many impressions you have received on your tweets. It is broken down by organic impressions and paid (promoted tweets, ads, etc) You are kept within a 91 day (random) window for the dates you can choose to analyze. Most valuable here could be the “Impressions by Time of Day,” so you know moving forward, when most of your community is available to speak with!

                                                   ii.     Engagements – There are no filters here, but you are given a wide range of information including: Impressions, Retweets, Replies, Favorites, and User Profile Clicks. What I have found interesting is how many times I have had a tweet retweeted, without the person actually opening the link included in the tweet. In my eyes, I see this as people beginning to have trust in what I (or my brands/clients) are tweeting and see it as beneficial. Also, that could show that certain words and headlines resonate with our community.

2.      Followers – This might be my favorite analytic on the Twitter interface. Not only can you see the demographics of your followers, their marital status and location, you can further break down the information via the Lifestyle tab. The information here shows you the Top 10 interests of your followers. By learning the subjects your followers tweet about the most, you are then able to join conversations about things that interest them, find things you have in common with to help begin engagement, and get a better understanding of the content your followers would be most interested in receiving from you.

Have you checked out your Twitter Analytics Dashboard yet? I’d love to hear what information and what tabs have been most meaningful to you. Tweet me @lucyrk78 and share some of your data with me!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Always. Be. Testing.

You have built or become involved with a great brand. You have done research and social listening to find where your customers were, and built social networks to be able to have conversations around the clock with these customers. You’ve even written a robust social media marketing plan and your community is growing, so it’s working, right? You’re done! Sorry, no. Not so fast.

Remember yesterday, when videos didn’t automatically play on Twitter? Just one example of how fast social media changes. It is constantly evolving and adapting and you have to also, in order to stay competitive and to ensure what you originally planned still works.

When you set your social media goals, they included clear KPIs, yes? If you’re not currently testing against those, how well are you really doing? If you aren’t measuring if what you are doing works and is moving you closer to achieving your goals, how will you know when you get there? One way, is to take a bit of advice from Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. Today’s “Always. Be. Testing,” is the new “Always. Be. Closing.”

But wait. Didn’t we go into marketing, so we wouldn’t have to ever do math? Now we have to look at analytics and extrapolate data from them? I was terrified of people that would mention A/B testing and data analytics. Just like I was scared to ride a bike, until I started to ride. Most things in life seem scarier when we think about them, than they are once we start them, aren’t they? Testing on social media was just like that for me. For a while, I got away with not testing. I was growing my brand’s social media presence, I was having amazing conversations and meeting some great people online, and sales were up! On the surface, everything was great. But it could have been BETTER. And why settle? My excuse (to mask my fear of the unknown, or my fear that I was too old to learn new things like testing) was “I work with startups! We just don’t have the budget for fancy tools.”

Good news. You don’t have to have a budget to begin testing. You can actually begin right this second to measure and monitor your social media presence and hopefully bring you closer to realizing your goals.

1.      Time of Day

When you post, is almost equally important as what you post. If you are posting life changing content and no one is online to see it, did it really happen? It certainly won’t achieve the results you are hoping for. Every industry and community is different, so there is no magic answer as to what time is best to post on what social network. It would be easy to say “Don’t post in the middle of the night, everyone is sleeping.” But some brands do a majority of their work in different time zones from where their marketing team resides, so the middle of the night for some, might be lunchtime to others.

My suggestion: Post the same message at different times of the day, then look at which of those posts is receiving the most engagement. What post are people responding to? Marking as a favorite? Retweeting? If you do this for at least two weeks (you want a large source of data, you can’t make a determination if you only test once) on every day of the week, you will find what times during each day are the “best times to post on social media” for YOU.

2.      Text Content vs Visual Content

Do your community members and consumers respond better to posts with photos? Videos? Straight text? Write a post and test! Once you’ve determined what the best time to post is on Tuesdays, for example, release this post the first week with no photo or video. The next week, release it again, but this time add a photo or video and less or no text. Which got more likes? Retweets? Comments? Try this again on different days of the week for a couple of weeks, and that will help you determine what your community likes to see from you.

3.      Posting Frequency

Is there any correlation to how often you post, and how quickly your engagement rates are growing? This is another test you run by simply trying it. On specific days (for example every Monday and Tuesday) try posting quality, relevant content to a specific social network (you can repeat this with each one, but let’s start with Twitter) twice during the hour that you’ve already found is your personal “best time to post on Twitter.” The next week, on the same days at the same time, try posting 4 times during the hour. Did you receive more engagement on those posts the first week or second week?

There are also a great many free tools you can use to help measure and monitor the work you are doing on social media, but the networks themselves offer great information, if you know where to look. Two of my most used are on Facebook and Twitter. (there are also free analytic tools available for LinkedIn – both for business pages and individuals, Pinterest and Google+)

Part II will discuss how you can use Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Be Who You Are

When I was 17, I started smoking. I was afraid that my parents would find out and be upset with me, so I hid my cigarette pack under the driver’s side seat in my car. Perhaps one of the most obvious hiding place, my mom found them. Her response wasn’t what I expected – rather than being upset with me for the act of smoking, she was more upset with my hiding it. I’ll never forget what she said, “Be who you are. If you smoke, say you smoke.” (yes, I've told this story before in a blog, but it's made a huge impact on the me of today!)

I wish I could say that from then on, I always had the strength of character to be “who I was,” but as I’m sure we can all relate to, that’s easier said than done. We still live in a pretty judgmental world. And I believe that as long as we do, we will care or worry what others think. Perhaps we don’t always suffer from those feelings of wanting to be liked or fit in more than we feel we do, but I don’t think anyone could honestly say that 100% of the time, they never think about it.

Personally for me, it has taken over 30 years to get to a point where I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe in, or share honest opinions and thoughts when asked a direct question. For a long time as a child I was really shy and didn’t want to share strong opinions. I’m not even sure I allowed myself to form them, content to just agree with the majority in hopes that would make me look like I was “one of them.” Trying to be “one of the crowd” has brought me through some experiences that were nothing if not learning experiences – of what NOT to do my life. I allowed myself to be led astray almost exclusively each time I tried to do something simply to fit in. That has played a HUGE part in shaping the Lucy of today. How do we build more of that self-confidence and self-esteem? My answer? By doing esteem-able things. And the more you stand up for yourself, the more I find your self-confidence and esteem grows.

Do I worry that people won’t like me for some of the things I believe or say? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it prior to sharing or admitting certain things, but worry isn’t the word I use. I hope that people feel like I do – I respect people more FOR sharing their beliefs and thoughts, whether I agree with them or not. Obviously there is a caveat to this – I wouldn’t respect someone if they said something in the vein of “I think we should kill all the people that _____,” but those people aren’t in the communities I keep myself in, so it’s a non-issue. I have friends of different ethnicities, religious beliefs, that work in different industries and that grew up completely opposite the way I did. How boring would life be if everything agreed with you? Would you not be a bit mistrustful of those people? I mean, how can anyone honestly think the exact same things you do? And if you were to find that 1 in a million person, what you could you possibly talk about? I find that discussions or debates, even arguments, always lead to my looking at things through a different lens. Does that mean I’m then swayed to their way of thinking? No, but sometimes.

When you know that someone speaks their mind and is constant in their thoughts and their actions and way they conduct themselves in life follow those thoughts and beliefs, it’s much easier to know how to engage with that person. You don’t have to worry about which “side of them” you’ll be dealing with, and you’ll know what people to have what conversations with. These are the people I find myself looking at as my “influencers,” those that I know are strong enough in their beliefs that if I want an honest opinion or thought or piece of advice, I can go to those people and not have to wonder if they’re just saying what they’re saying to appease me, or to make me like them more than I already might. I find it exhausting when people seem to “go both ways” on topics – it’s confusing, one day they say one thing, and the next time we talk about the same topic, they suddenly seem to have flip-flopped into thinking something else. I understand that feelings change and grow and that’s FINE, but I’ve seen it happen mid-sentence and that just makes me feel the person is saying what they THINK I want to hear. How well does that ever work out? For me? Never well. I’m not a mind-reader, and I don’t want to be one.

Does this always work in my favor? Nope. But because I have the courage of my convictions, I recognize that I might face disapproval, but I’ve gotten to a point in life as an adult that I believe in myself.  I, as much as I can, surround myself with other people that are confident in who they are, and people I can trust and believe when they talk. Does this make me arrogant? I hope it’s not seen that way. Just because I believe in myself, that doesn’t mean I’m right all the time. Haven’t we all had a situation we thought was 100% one way, and it turned out it wasn’t at all? I don’t find that confidence = arrogance, unless ego is involved. If you come from a pure place, ego doesn’t generally enter into it, right? Am I like this every minute of every day? Nope. I am not sure that’s even possible as humans. Of course I have self-doubt at times. But I work on it. Is it sometimes easier to just “go with the flow” and not express yourself or your differing ideas? Sure. We’re human, we make mistakes and sometimes it’s easy to take the easy road.

Have you ever experienced a time that you stood up for yourself and your beliefs and it wasn’t taken well? I’d love to hear some of your experiences with this….

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

You Could At Least Have Bought Me Dinner

As a blogger, I often find it hard to price my services. I find it easier when it comes to marketing and PR, but harder when it comes to giving out quotes for social media and blogging. Although it might not seem like it, the days of working as a full time social media person or blogger are still relatively quite new. There are as many variables as there are people looking for work – engagement rates, social media following numbers, conversion numbers, reach, what topics you write about with authority, what brands you have worked with – the list is almost never ending. 
Dinner in Exchange for Work?

I also find that because so many people see this as a way to be “livin’ the life,” i.e. working from home, seeming to set your own hours, looking at it as getting to be your own boss – prices fluctuate all over the board. Add to the equation, not everyone writes or creates content as their full time job. Bloggers and people that work as social media community managers and consultants rarely discuss their pricing with others – perhaps this is to remain competitive, or maybe it’s to avoid competition and bidding wars altogether.

Outside of blogging and social media, there are not many other industries where people would see no problem with asking someone to work for free, guest blogging, or helping with marketing plan writing or design…I had a handyman come over today to hang some pictures, install a couple locks and make a plan to put a fence in my backyard, and it would never occur to me to say to him, “Thanks for spending two hours here. I’ve got a soda to offer you, cool?” It would never cross my mind that he wouldn’t expect to be paid, so why do we, as bloggers and community managers?

I’m not sure I’ve got the right answer to this. I do, however, have a ton of questions that come to mind when I think about it. I’ll be asking you these questions during this Monday’s #contentchat (June 22nd, 2pm CST). I’d like to get YOUR thoughts on things like:

1.      Is low self-esteem an inherent trait in bloggers? Those that work in social media? Why else wouldn’t we feel strong enough to demand we’re paid what we’re worth?

2.      Is there ever a time it’s ok NOT to be paid?

3.      Is there any truth to the statement, “I am not yet expecting to be paid while I’m growing my readership” ?

4.      Why do friends think it’s ok to ask us to write for them for free? My friend is a lawyer, should I ask him to take on whatever case I might one day have, and represent me for free? Maybe for a free lunch, in exchange for all the hours he will spend on my case? (not to mention the cost that he incurred while attending law school, in order to put himself into a position TO help me)

5.      Does it make you feel good if people ask you to do blogging or consulting for them, but don’t offer to pay you? Does it make you feel like a ‘thought leader?’

6.      Is it just too hard to say “NO?”

I feel that as bloggers, and people that are regularly engaged on social media, we are already sharing a lot of our knowledge or “secret sauce” items that we’ve learned along the way, and picked up via experience working in the field. Why, then, do people still want to “go to lunch and pick your brain?” If they find what you have to offer so valuable, why would they expect us to simply give away what we do for a living?

On the flipside, how would our paying clients feel, after finding out we’re doing work for ‘friends’ for free? Wouldn’t that jeopardize all our other business relationships?

My biggest “problem” is that I love to help people. I love the moment of discovery when you realize that something you’ve said or shared gives them their lightbulb moment. So I can, at times, find myself in a position of sitting at “lunch” with people and freely sharing, only to feel later on down the road that perhaps I’d been taken advantage of.

I can’t wait to further discuss this with everyone in #ContentChat Monday! I hope you’ll join me – I’m sure a lot of us have experienced this very thing, yes?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Content Curation vs Content Creation - Which One is Right for You?

If you have spent any amount of time on any social network, one of the most heated and highly debated topics is content curation vs content creation. There are pros and cons to both, and I’ve found people are pretty passionate over which one they prefer. Then there are the fence people, those that refuse to pick a side so as to not to alienate anyone that disagrees with them. Stand up. Have strong opinions and don’t be afraid to share them, I say. Arguments and studies can be found showing the effectiveness of both.

So…how do you choose which is right for you? Which is right for your business?

First – let’s take a look at what each one means. (These are my own definitions)

Content Creation: The process of writing your own material to share with your audience.

Content Curation: The aggregation of previously written and shared content, to repurpose and share with your audience.

Next - let’s look at why someone might choose one over the other.

From deeply investigating, testing both options and speaking with people from all over the world, content creation easily wins when it comes to lead generation and being looked at as an authority on a topic. I would argue that when a potential customer comes to you or if your audience is looking to you for advice, they are looking for YOUR thoughts, YOUR perspective. This scores a point in the creation column. Creating your own content, relevant to your audience helps you and your brand be looked at as someone people can use as a resource for helpful, beneficial information. It contributes to thought leadership. When people realize that you are consistently sharing information created with THEM in mind, they will keep coming back for more, and bringing friends along with them, to share in the benefits of what you are creating. If someone earnestly wants to find out information on a topic, they can google the subject and find the very same information that you are probably sending out, if you are simply curating.

While the world might seem quite large, it is, in fact, extremely small. Most marketers all subscribe to the same daily digest emails, read the same blogs, and receive the same trade information. What if we were ALL curators? What original thoughts would ever be shared? If we’re all receiving the same information, wouldn’t we then just be curating the same information? Again, point in the creation column.

I’m not sure that people that vote for content curation over creation always have the best of intentions on why they have chosen curation. I think that many times, people will RT and share others’ content in hopes of being recognized by the author, mainly people they look at as “influencers.” I would venture to say that it’s a bit of manipulation on their part – “If I share ___’s writing, maybe they’ll mention or RT my post, and then I’ll get more followers from people that see what!” Don’t misunderstand this – having worked with “influencers” and in “influencer marketing” for more than 15 years, I understand the point and the advantages to sharing and supporting and amplifying other people’s content. If you look at it as a conversation, no one would continue conversing with you if you only talked about yourself and didn’t respond or share their thoughts. Hence, curation does help develop relationships – I acknowledge that. I am simply pointing out that there is a difference and often a disconnect between intentions and actions.

People will often cheer for curation in brand marketing by saying things like, “People don’t like to be sold to. You shouldn’t always send out information solely about your brand.” Marketing friends, if you are only writing about your own product each time you put out original content, you have way bigger issues to take a look at before you worry about a creation vs curation strategy. If you are responsible for your company blog, I am hoping we’re going into this already assuming that you already recognize you can write about whatever you want there – IF it is relevant to your audience. For example, I wrote a company blog for a sports drink company for five years. I rarely wrote about the actual beverage. I’d write about new extreme sports that were coming out, or fun races I was hoping to one day be able to run, or fun Q&A sessions of up and coming athletes, so people could get a behind the scenes glimpse into who they were when they weren’t competing.

A benefit of content curation occurs when people see content you are sharing with them and recognize that you are able to have a broader view on topics, above what you, yourself might feel or believe. It shows awareness of industry trends. Here’s the caveat – if you are simply reposting what others have said/written, there’s no relevance to your specific audience. In my opinion, curation solely “works” if you add even a sentence or two as to WHY you are sharing this content.

Content creation is much more time-consuming than content curation. Does that mean that curators are inherently lazy? Perhaps, but not necessarily. The best case scenario would be for you to have the time and resources available to you for content creation, with perhaps a bit of curation sprinkled in to augment your strategy.

If you want to create or curate, it’s not as hard as it may seem to find topics relevant to you. If you are consistent in your social media engagements, you will find a wealth of information from the people in your chosen communities as to what is important to them, what they want to learn more about or simply what’s currently on their minds. Your competitors are also a great source of content – what are THEY talking about? What are THEY sharing? If you have a similar product, your customers are probably also interested in those same topics. Take time to actually read (or at least skim through) the myriad of daily digests and emails and apps that curate content for you. I receive tons of them, and admittedly probably read less than half. I am a big fan of the information curated daily by Sway and the information that can be found on the Buffer blog.

So? Which IS best for you? Your business?

Not to be a fence person, but the honest answer is: it depends. What works for me, might not work for you. You know your audience and goals better than anyone else. What will work best for you is what is best for your audience, community and customer. Remember, you are writing for THEM, not for yourself. Also, in social media and in marketing and in LIFE, things are very rarely black or white. The gray is what makes life so full – curation and creation works much the same way. To come back to the relationship and conversation metaphor, you don’t have to pick one over and pledge allegiance to them solely forever. Find the gray area, and settle down there, with both of them by your side. The best advice I can give you is test each out, try using one more than the other for a week – measure the results. THEN make an educated determination as to what resonates with your audience best.

Hopefully I have brought up some ideas that help you develop your own ideas on why one might be better than the other. I urge you to really look at the benefits of both with an honest and open mind, and share your thoughts with ME! I love discussions on hot topics – tweet me @lucyrk78 and let’s talk!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My Twitter Chat Schedule

I talk a lot about how much I love Twitter chats and how transformational they have been for me. I tweet and write about them a lot too. I’ve found they are the quickest way to not only find your community but to find your niche within that community (or communities).

There are Twitter chats for just about every industry, and each industry is broken down even further, so you can find a Twitter chat for just about anything. I try to take part in as many as I can each week, because I always learn something each time I engage in one, and I always come out with new friends I’m excited to have met.

It takes a while to find the “right” chats for YOU. I’d advise giving each one you go to more than one chance – perhaps you didn’t connect right away, but you might with the next topic the next week, or the guest another time. Here is a great resource for finding almost all of the weekly Twitter Chats.

While I wish I could make every one of these each week, it’s just not feasible, but these are the chats I have found are the more important for ME. Keep in mind, we all work in different industries, different jobs, and different parts of the country, so what works for me, may not work for you. My chats all tend to revolve around the themes of social media, marketing, blogging (content), and PR.
What chats have YOU found to be most useful?
 I'm probably Tweeting.

All times listed are in Central Standard Time (CST).

11 am
2 pm
7 pm
8 pm
11 am
#JVMchat & #Chatwhirled (depending on time change)
1 pm
2 pm
3 pm
7 pm
8 pm
10 am
11 am
#SMchat or #SoloPR
1 pm
2 pm
9 pm
1 pm
2 pm
8 pm
9 pm
9 pm