Building Trust with User Generated Content

Multiple studies have shown that consumers trust user generated content more than other forms of marketing. Not surprising since we all read reviews, ask for recommendations, and are generally skeptical of ads.

Motivating users to generate (usable) content

Since sharing UGC seems like a no brainer, why don’t all businesses do it? Just because someone mentions your business, doesn’t mean it is something you’ll want to amplify. So how do you get UGC that you want to use? Ideally, you have brand evangelists organically. However, in reality, getting the right content is more than having customers who love you. Some solutions are to create a contest with very prescriptive rules or to give loyal customers a free sample or picture of themselves. Or simply asking for followers to use a specific hashtag and you’ll pick your “favorites” to share on your accounts.

Incorporating UGC into your content plan

UGC should only be one part of your overall content strategy. You should also share your own proprietary content and also curate content from industry organizations, trusted media outlets, and subject matter experts. You can share niche information or trending content – as long as it is relevant to your audience.

Check Your Marketing Health

It’s that time again, the start of a new quarter. That means one thing – it is time for your preventive marketing check-up. Preventive marketing includes tasks that can improve your current business, help with future planning, and diagnose potential issues before they become costly or time consuming.

  1. CONDUCT A MINI CONTENT REVIEW | A full content review should be completed at least 1x/year. However, regular interim reviews of digital tactics will make the annual task less daunting and time consuming. Plus, if messaging is updated mid-year, outdated tactics will not be in market for a full year.
    • TIP | Establish brand guidelines which include both visual identity and messaging guidelines, and ensure anyone who is creating content is following them.
  2. ‘GOOGLE’ YOURSELF | Search your name and/or your business name on Google. Consider other search engines if there is significant web traffic from them. Also include sites like YouTube and Amazon. Make sure what appears first is what is expected (and wanted). If not, cover the basics of SEO such as a site map, titles, and tags. Or invest in more strategic tactics such as writing content based on what the audience is searching for.
    • TIP | Set-up a Google Alert to see when any new items are published. Monitor top competitors this way as well.
  3. CHECK IN ON COMPETITORS | Review what top competitors have been up to – product offerings, marketing, pricing, etc. Check to see if there is a new company to be aware of or if they should added to the “top” competitors list.
    • TIP | Do the same thing for peer (non-competing) companies or organizations. They may provide new inspiration or insights.
  4. SCAN TERTIARY ACCOUNTS | While I’d always highly recommend timely review of any social media accounts, I understand the reality of small teams and limited time. At a minimum, I recommend taking a look at least 1x/quarter. Respond to messages (with a make it right note if necessary for a late response), see what’s new, and consider account deletion or more regular monitoring.
    • TIP | Even if a target audience is not on a particular platform, periodically monitoring it is helpful to identify any trends. Plus, the platform may have added a feature that makes it more interesting to an audience – e.g., Pinterest rolling out Story Pins.
  5. BREATHE | Leading a business, team, or family is challenging. Self care is a buzzword, but it is a buzzword I fully support. Establish “work hours” and personal time when working from home. Enjoy a hobby. Talk to a friend. Take a walk around the block at lunchtime. Disconnect for a few minutes or hours. Use this moment to reset.
    • TIP | Take care of yourself, so you can take care of business.

Account Based Marketing (ABM)

“ABM is a focused growth strategy in which Marketing and Sales collaborate to create personalized buying experiences for a mutually-identified set of high-value accounts.”

Source: HubSpot

Marketing and sales should work together in a continuous cycle
Gone are the days when the only interaction between marketing and sales is a hand off of a glossy sell sheet. Today the most effective sales and marketing teams are fully integrated to use ABM. Marketing can help sales identify high-value accounts by warming up leads or by providing customer profiles. Once a sale is closed, both teams should continue to work in tandem to support the customers – ensuring consistent messaging and appropriate retention and upsell offers.

Businesses without sales teams can also benefit from ABM strategies
If you own or manage a business without a dedicated sales team, you may not think ABM is right for you. However, a similar thought process can help you craft the right customer journeys. The concept of identifying high-value segments and customizing the offer and messaging to these groups is effective for all types of businesses. The tactics and execution plan may be different, but the relationship building is the same.

High-value does not always equal high-end
If you’re a luxury business, then high-value probably equals high-end. However, sometimes the most value you’ll get is by selling a value-based product or to an untapped or underserved segment. High-value should be your most profitable customers – whether it is a high ticket item to or a high lifetime value.

Kudos of the Month

Do you know an individual, business, or organization that deserves a little extra recognition? We’d like to highlight them for the good they’re doing in the community, a cool or innovative product, or simply a fun or creative marketing campaign.

Want to nominate someone?

Email us – include your name, who you are nominating, their social media account(s) or website, and why you are nominating them.

Time to Get Ready for Q2

Time really does fly when you’re having fun – or when you’re busy managing a business! The end of Q1 2021 is almost upon us, so now’s the time to prep for what’s next. Below are some tasks you can do to make sure your Q2 marketing efforts are as efficient as possible.

Get “e-organized”

As most days are filled with responding to emails, downloading files, and creating new files, there isn’t usually a dedicated time for document management. Use the end of the quarter as a reminder to clean up files including email and DM inboxes, local and cloud files, and any online tools such as Canva, Mailchimp, and WordPress. File and backup any important items and delete any that that are no longer needed or are duplicate copies. Once this cleanup is part of the ongoing plan, each quarter should be a shorter process.

Set intentions for the next quarter

Goal setting should be common practice as an employee / manager as well as goal setting for a business. However, creating a list of intentions is just as important. What’s the difference between intentions and goals? Intentions are the plans to get to goals. “I intend to [insert intention] to reach my [measurable goal].” For instance, I intend to learn more about video editing, so I can increase my YouTube followers by 25%. Separately, while goals should always be measurable, intentions can be non-measurable. An intention to learn more about video editing could simply be to learn a new skill for personal/professional development.

Recap marketing and business results

Lessons learned are crucial to any business – whether it is a Fortune 100 company or a microbusiness. The point is to review marketing and business results against the backdrop of you goals, gather key insights and learnings, and formulate next steps based on this information. Whether it is a formal deck or a working Google doc, the information should be the same. Note, depending on the type of business, lessons learned can also be collected on a less frequent basis. These also do not replace individual campaign reviews; they are a compilation of campaigns for a “big picture” view.

Review internal processes

Similar to getting organized, taking the time to evaluate individual and internal businesses processes on an ongoing basis helps improve long-term efficiency. For instance, the accounting and time keeping process can move from Word docs and spreadsheets to an online tool such as QuickBooks or FreshBooks as more customers are acquired or employees are added to the team. Or from an individual standpoint, answering emails throughout the day may cause unintended inefficiencies, so potentially scheduling time blocks everyday to respond to messages may be more efficient.

Take the time to do the “no-time” task(s)

Who doesn’t wish for an extra five or fifty minutes every day to complete tedious tasks? Oftentimes these tasks are simple and would take only a couple of minutes if that time could be dedicated to the task. Clean up that list by taking the time at the end of the quarter to cross at least one off – and like the other tips, the more regularly this is done, the easier it gets each time.

There are three weeks left in March, so there is still time to get these five tasks done. 😀

Dos and Don’ts of Graphics (Part 2)

Easy to use design platforms and design options in social media, website, and email programs have made creating graphics layperson friendly. However, there are several simple principles to keep in mind when creating these graphics to ensure what is being created will be effective in telling a story, selling a brand or product, or sharing important information.

The practical dos and don’ts are outlined in Part 1 of this series. However, this post focuses on the strategic decisions on how to use graphics on social medua.

THINGS TO DO

  • Do plan ahead. While capturing images in the moment are great, so is planning what images and graphics to share. Planning ahead can improve efficiency, allows for editing time, and
  • Do have a purpose of the graphic. Does the content require a graphic? Or perhaps another form like a video or text would better convey your message. Is the graphic supporting one of a marketing or business goal? What is the call-to-action?
  • Do consider participating in trends and memes. Keep in mind a few things. Don’t be a laggard – post when the meme is still trending. Make sure the version you create is unique, funny, or creative. And always make sure it is relevant to the target audience.
  • Do reuse content including graphics. Repurposing content can reinforce messaging and branding. Also, not all followers will see the original post. Think about a strategy on how to reuse – whether it is time based, engagement / conversion based, or any other intentional plan.
  • Do post in multiple areas (feed and story). Depending on the audience, some people flip through stories while other scroll through feeds. Double the chance of followers seeing the graphic by posting in all available areas. This includes cross platforms. One thing to note, not all stories should be feed posts – anything with a countdown or meant to reflect a spontaneous moment may be out of place in a “permanent” location.

THINGS TO AVOID

  • Don’t post for the sake of posting without any strategic or deliberate thought. Consistent posting is always recommended. However, any content that is questionable – either because it is off brand or doesn’t serve a specific purpose (see above) – should be evaluated against the benefit of simply filling a gap in a social media plan.
  • Don’t discard underperforming graphics that fulfill all the best practices of social media. Try a new caption or hashtags. Change the ad targeting. Test posting at different times of day. There are many reasons a piece of content may not have the expected or desired outcome.
  • Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. There is efficiency and then there is efficacy. The auto-Tweet that a new image has been posted on Instagram is one example. While some people may engage and click thru to Instagram for the image; others will not ever see the text only Tweet.

It is no secret that there is an art to graphic design. But the true secret sauce is the science behind good design. The right combination of color, composition, captions, and content will create the right chemistry for a perfect reaction.

The Semantics of Semantics (Part 2)

A few months ago, I wrote about understanding the real meaning behind particular marketing buzzwords. I recently watched the HBO documentary, Fake Famous, which was based on an experiment in creating social media influencers. The film highlighted the controversy around influencers and what makes a real influencer vs. just a person with fabricated influence. Which brought to mind the question, what’s the difference between a celebrity, an influencer, and an expert?

A celebrity endorsement helps build awareness

While the definition of celebrity is a bit of the crux of the documentary, in this context I’m using it as anyone who is famous for having a particular skill or expertise – whether they are a musician, politician, actor, activist, athlete, or anything in between. A celebrity promoting a product or service brings a recognizable face to a product (or service). Oftentimes, the celebrity and product are related, e.g., an athlete and a sneaker brand. Other times, the celebrity has nothing to do with the brand – they are used to grow brand awareness since they are famous and, thus, an influencer.

The right social media influencers can help you go viral or at least reach a specific audience

Traditional celebrities are one type of influencer, but some every day people have become influencers. So what differentiates an influencer from a celebrity? An influencer is anyone who has a “large” following regardless of skill or expertise. Although, I suppose the ability to create an enviable life via social media posts is a skill.

Within the influencer world, there are macro-, micro-, and nano-influencers. These terms are simply describing the number of followers that person has. More is not always better – sometimes nano-influencers will have a more targeted following or more influence amongst their followers than a macro-influencer. They may even be subject matter experts.

However, this is where the gray area begins when people believe all influencers are also experts.

Subject matter experts bring credibility – especially to more complex businesses

Experts can come in all forms – someone with lived experience or someone with educational or professional experience. There is no set of credentials that make someone an expert, but there are standards within each industry. For instance, a medical degree would bring more credibility to an expert than someone who reads WebMD as a hobby.

In other fields, it may not be as easy to identify an expert. Simply because someone posts beautiful shots of them on vacation does not make them a travel expert. Or just because your meal photographs beautifully doesn’t mean it tastes good. As the film and other sources have shown, people often fake an experience or expertise for likes and follows.

But does it matter?

It depends. Let’s start with the serious side of social media (and media in general). If you’re promoting something that is health and safety related, be very careful with who you partner with and amplify. While this should be a given, trust scientists and medical professionals – as in real experts with the credentials to back it up. On the lighter side, if you’re selling a t-shirt, then follower counts and general aesthetic of an influencer’s account are equally as important as any potential fashion degrees or experience.

And a very important final note – whether you are working with a celebrity, influencer, or expert, make sure they align with your brand and organizational values.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning, at a high level, includes creating a vision statement, a mission statement, and core values. A strategic plan should also include measurable goals and executable actions to fulfill these statements. All businesses and organizations regardless of industry or size should have a strategic plan.

Fulfilling your mission with the right products and people 
What problem are you solving for with your organization? A mission statement describes what you offer, who you are trying to reach, and why you are offering the product or service. If, for instance, you’ve shifted to virtual classes, e-commerce, etc. during the pandemic and intend to keep these as part of your business model, then consider if you need to update your mission statement.

Determining your vision
What do you as an organization or solopreneur aspire to be or want to accomplish in the future? A vision statement should be clear and a future looking view. While your vision statement should not necessarily change frequently, the past year saw so much change that this may be the right time to revisit your vision statement.

Discovering what your values are
What do you stand for? Core values are the principles the organization follows and uses as guidelines for their actions. They are the basis for your organizational culture and one way to help determine potential fit of future employees and vendors.

Follow, Like, Comment, Share

Holidays can be easy reminders for simple but important marketing efforts. Valentine’s Day is a good placeholder to remind you and your business to amp up your social media engagement by showing “love” for other individuals and organizations. How do you show your love?

Review who you are following

Making sure you are following appropriate accounts is helpful for a variety of reasons.

  1. Keeping this list updated allows you to easily see what content they are posting. Whether it is a competitor, vendor, or customer, you can see what others are sharing without having to remember who to look up. Note, not all posts will organically be shown in your feed on many platforms, so you may need to do a little extra work to see everything.
  2. Reviewing accounts you follow also makes sure you are only following trustworthy accounts and accounts that you want to be associated with. While you should always do your due diligence before clicking follow or like, sometimes things change.
  3. Following others not only shows that you value their content but they’ll often follow you back.

Like, comment, or share other content

While you should do this on an ongoing basis, use this as an opportunity to increase your efforts. Starting to engage with other accounts and posts during this time will hopefully start a dialog with the author, get your name/account more exposure, and set the precedent that you are an expert or contributor to that topic. Sharing curated content including user generated content is not only a way to show your love of whatever they’re posting but also can be value add to your own followers if implemented correctly.

Showing love is a great way to support a business

We all know that reviews and recommendations can help potential customers make purchasing decisions. Taking the time to support your favorite businesses can be one simple way to show the love for a fellow entrepreneur or business owner.

What is Microcontent?

“A type of UX copywriting in the form of short text fragments or phrases, often presented with no additional contextual support. Microcontent usually communicates key messages in a concise form: it can be used to describe an article or long blog post, add clarity to an interface, or encourage a desired behavior.”

Nielsen Norman Group

While not part of the original definition, microcontent has evolved to also include images (static and gifs) and videos because of the ubiquity of social media and mobile dependence.

Why is microcontent so effective?

  • Are you still reading? 😀 Our attention spans have become shorter.
  • Many people are visual learners. A picture is worth 1,000 words.
  • No need to click or scroll for more information.

How can you make your microcontent more effective?

  • Post it to your (social) stories, so it is top of feed and top of mind.
  • Review the image/video out of context (without captions, hashtags, etc.).
  • Balance creative copywriting with clear insights or call-to-actions.

What are the most efficient ways to create microcontent?

Oftentimes it’s easier to start with a longer form tactic to create microcontent. For instance, Tweets can be snippets from a blog post. Or if you’re producing a video, stills or edited clips can be utilized as microcontent. Regardless of the inspiration or source, microcontent should be treated like any other marketing content. It should be edited for clarity and accuracy, communicate a clear call-to-action, and be associated with a specific business goal.