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
  •  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
  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.