3 Ways Small Businesses Can Be Heard on Social This Holiday Season

Photo courtesy of Freestocks.org

 

Now that we’ve passed Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, social feeds will be filled with ads and marketing messages enticing shoppers to buy the perfect gift.

But when everyone from your cousin’s Etsy page to Fortune 500 brands are competing for eyeballs, clicks and dollars, how can a small business stand out among the noise?

Here are some ways you can meet your KPIs as the calendar turns to December.

1) Instagram Stories

Photo by Hans Vivek

Move over, Snapchat. The hottest time-bomb messaging program is baked right into Instagram. Boasting 300 million daily active users, Instagram Stories are becoming the go-to platform for brands big and small.

Users love watching Instagram Stories, and brands are able to include a Call to Action, such as directly linking to a landing page. Now you can even upload photos to your Instagram Stories that are older than 24 hours, allowing your marketing team to plan.

Instagram Stories allows companies to show off a fun, playful side — but the short life of posts means you can create immediate demand with limited-time-only sales.

For instance, Black Sheep Cycling used Instagram Stories to promote a new cycling kit. They announced the promotion in a traditional Instagram post, then used Instagram Stories to showcase the outfit — with a one-hour sale. They sold out in 30 minutes. You can also post coupons to drive in-store traffic, such as announcing a 50 percent off sale of a certain product or showcasing a hot new item.

Not only does this create immediate desire, it lets your customers feel like they’re in a special club with access to this discount. You can promote the Instagram Story sale on Facebook, or wherever your fan base is, to drive traffic there.

2) Be a Mobile MVP

By Jonas Leupe

It feels like old advice at this point, but it still needs to be said. Just having a great website or Facebook page isn’t enough. Increasingly, shoppers are checking mobile first, even if they convert on desktop or in store.

If you’re using Instagram Stories to drive customers to a dedicated landing page, make sure the mobile experience is top-notch. If you’re linking out to blog posts from Twitter, those pages need to load quickly, or else eyes will wander.

Adobe has predicted that nearly half of all retail website visits this holiday season will come via mobile (45 percent), nearly eclipsing desktop (46 percent). The percentage of mobile visits has grown considerably, up from 33 percent in 2015.

Unless you already have a dedicated userbase, don’t place too much importance on a mobile app. Adobe found that while 64 percent of shoppers have a retail app on their phone, only 32 percent would download an app specifically for holiday shopping. You’re better off driving traffic to your mobile-friendly website.

3) Charitable Efforts

 

By Nina Strehl

 

More and more, people want to make sure they’re spending responsibly. As companies come under fire for derogatory statements by leadership or wasteful business practices, today’s consumer wants their dollar to go somewhere worthwhile.

The uptick in cause marketing and the success of cause-based for-profit companies like TOMs shows how critical it is for brands to do good and be good.

This doesn’t mean you need to donate all of your profits to world peace or pivot to becoming a charitable nonprofit. You can tie sales goals to a cause that your customers care about, such as announcing via Facebook that you’ll give a percent of profits on a certain item to a local homeless shelter or posting an Instagram coupon saying customers can get 25 percent off by donating school supplies.

Holidays are the time to make an emotional appeal, whether that’s laughter or tears. Brands all over the world have put away the schtick this holiday season to connect with their customers emotionally. You can do that on a local scale, by showcasing yourself as a charitable neighbor.

Bay Area clothing retailer Oaklandish has this down to a science. The company embraces its standing, partnering with local organizations and giving back. They know they’re not just a business in Oakland, but a member of the community.

Find ways that you can emotionally connect with your customers by getting involved with causes close to them, and to you — and tell that story responsibly on social.

Written by Justin L.

 

Can Essential Brands Withstand Bad PR?

 

It seems like almost every week, a major brand is in the news for a public blowup. Whether it’s the off-color comments of their CEO, a viral video of customer injustice or reports of the company’s food causing serious illness, a cycle has been formed.

There’s an incident, news about the incident, public finger-wagging and threats of protests, projections about the doom of the company, thinkpieces after thinkpieces (Medium must salivate after a company does something dumb)… and then, nothing. A month later, another incident happens and we’re right back to where we started.

Companies such as Uber, United Airlines and Chipotle have made waves in recent months for various well-publicized scandals.

The battle between Uber and Lyft has been the most public example of bad PR at work. As more rideshare riders realize how Uber treats employees and drivers, they start to second-guess their decisions.

Lyft has capitalized on this, as the dominant Uber market share is starting to shrink. USA Today reported recently that Uber once held 90 percent of the ride-hailing market share, but over the past two years, that has slipped to 75 percent. Meanwhile, Lyft has gone from 21.2 percent up to 24.7 percent.

This goes to show that bad PR goes simply beyond harming the bottom line. It opens the door to competitors. It forces consumers to make a choice. Sure, Uber might be the cheapest way to get from point A to B, but is it something you’d want to contribute to? While Lyft has been the biggest benefactor of this, a host of other on-demand apps have risen to give Uber-hesitant consumers a more conscientious choice.

However, in the cases of United and Chipotle, they often have a dominating share of consumer choice. Unless you live in a major metropolitan area, your choices of airline might be slim. Likewise, for more rural and suburban areas, Chipotle is your best or only option at Mexican food that doesn’t come from a drive-thru.

You might think that in the case of these major companies, they’re able to weather the storm because they’re often the only game in town. That can change, though. Smart brands can disrupt these areas. Lyft can offer incentives to new drivers, undercutting Uber strongholds. Mid-range and mom-and-pop restaurants can establish footholds where Chipotle is the only place for a fresh burrito. Budget-friendly airlines such as Southwest could open a few more routes in underserved cities.

There is a definite long-term effect to bad PR on even the most infallible of brands. Hearing about unspeakable acts committed by high-profile executives or extreme injustices captured on video would make even the most fiscally conservative consumer pause. That hesitation, if scaled, can be a nightmare for brands.

Millennials, a growing force in spending power, want to make sure their dollar goes somewhere worthwhile. This is where the Uber vs. Lyft and United vs. Southwest decisions really matter. Consumers want to feel good about their spending.

Toxic PR may not always be enough to shutter a company in a day, but it definitely weighs on the decisions that consumers make day in and day out.

By Justin L.

3 Things Small Businesses Should Consider For Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Photo of Montreal’s Clark Street Mercantile

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve heard how influencer marketing has helped brands big and small, using trusted content creators to share their messaging.

Studies have even shown that each dollar spent on influencer marketing generates $6.50 in revenue. Consumers follow recommendations from their favorite content creators, as 92 percent of people surveyed said they trust an influencer more than an ad or endorsement from a celebrity.

 

Photo by Eaters Collective

But is partnering with an influencer the right move for your small business? Budgets for influencer marketing continue to increase, especially as top YouTubers and Snapchatters command top dollar for their services. The costs for influencer marketing are overwhelming, and can dominate your entire marketing budget.

Small businesses can still reap major benefits from influencer marketing, though they have to be more careful than Fortune 500 companies when partnering with a popular content creator. We’ve heard of businesses spending thousands of dollars to partner with an influencer, only to see little to no ROI from the campaign, as no relevancy was in place.

Here are three things small businesses should consider before partnering with an influencer, based on our own experiences:

1) Is the influencer relevant to your company?

The first mistake many companies make is getting seduced by follower counts. While it might look cool to have a well-followed influencer talking about your product in their podcast or vlog, the cost to get that conversation going often heavily outweighs the ROI.

You need to find an influencer who is relevant to what your company is trying to accomplish. If your company sells life insurance, trying to woo a beauty vlogger with a million followers could be a costly mistake.

The most important currency to influencers isn’t money, it’s trust. They’ve built a community on a solid foundation of trust and authenticity. While some lesser-known influencers might take the money and share your message with a disinterested audience, others will turn you down because your product has nothing to do with their messaging.

At the most basic level, find a content creator who shares similar messaging to your company. For instance, if you’re a hardware store, partnering with a popular DIY builder on YouTube would be a natural fit.

2) Is the audience relevant to your company?

This is the other big question you need to ask before starting an influencer marketing campaign. Look at the audience that the personality speaks to on a daily basis. Is it the same demographic you’re trying to reach? Unless these goals are in perfect alliance, it would be unwise to move forward.

If you’re trying to reach affluent Millennials (and have a product they would be interested in), working with a vlogger whose primary audience is tween girls could be a waste of time and money. Do some homework and study the audiences.

Audiences follow influencers not because they’re really great at reading ad copy, but because there is an authentic connection. These influencers know this, and usually only work with brands who have a message that resonates with their audience. An influencer marketing campaign absolutely has to tie into your main business objective, or it runs the substantial risk of not delivering ROI.

The trust between the content creator and their audience is crucial, but lucrative. Google found that 6 out of 10 YouTube subscribers would follow purchasing advice from their favorite content creator over their favorite TV or movie personality.

3) Is there a local influencer?

For most small businesses, the best pairing won’t come from an international superstar YouTube personality with a massive cache of followers. It will come from someone the local community trusts.

Hyperlocal influencer messaging is on the rise, as small businesses look for ways to break into new levels of conversation. Businesses are partnering with Yelp reviewers, popular local bloggers and podcasters, amateur athletes, creating relevant content specifically targeted toward local customers.

The major risk of influencer marketing is the lack of sustainable ROI. If you spend your entire marketing budget on a high-priced influencer just because they’re followed by throngs of subscribers, you’ll likely receive a temporary spike. Once that influencer moves on, so will their followers.

But by asking customers where they go to learn more about their community — whether that’s a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, etc. — you’re able to see where they voluntarily go for content.
The winning influencer for your company might be just footsteps from your storefront.

By Justin L.

As Brands Try to Sell “Woke,” Customers Wise Up

As social and political resistance movements make daily headlines, is there room for a brand in that conversation? A few companies have tried to make social awareness a focal point of ads or messaging, but have come off doing more damage than good.

Today’s consumers actually prize social responsibility — but not as a selling point. Sadly, some companies haven’t learned that lesson.

Recently, Pepsi and Lyft have tried to position themselves as socially-aware brands, but the pitches have backfired. Pepsi used Kendall Jenner as the catalyst of a fake resistance rally, calming tensions between the people and the police by delivering a Pepsi to an officer. Lyft has been trying to distance itself from its tumultuous competitor Uber, as cofounder John Zimmer called his company “woke.”

Pepsi quickly pulled its ad, but not before a wave of outrage from social media, and the ensuing mocking memes. The commercial was incredibly tone-deaf, making light of tense conflicts with the police. Lyft’s Zimmer saw his comments laughed off, as consumers pointed out that they don’t treat drivers much better than Uber. Customers are able to see right through these types of efforts.

By trying to look socially responsible, these companies have actually hurt themselves and barged into a conversation not meant for them.

Consumers don’t want social responsibility to be part of an ad campaign. They want to buy from companies that actively practice it — and not just in front of a camera.

Instead of showcasing your “wokeness” in an ad or staging a fake resistance rally just for product placement, brands can actually gain superfans by enacting more responsible practices.

A study by Nielsen shows that consumers will respond to true, authentic awareness with their wallets. In that survey, 66 percent of those polled said they’d be willing to spend more on products that come from companies committed to a positive social and environmental impact.

Here are a few ways brands can practice social responsibility (and not come under fire on Twitter):

Make it part of your mission

One of the key tenets of companies such as Salesforce, Patagonia and Adobe is charitable efforts. They encourage their employees to donate to charity and spend hours during volunteer work, often giving them a reward for doing so. This is a common and very effective way to practice corporate social responsibility without contacting an ad agency.

Highlight charitable practices

TOMS Shoes has become a popular brand, especially among Millennials, for their One for One program. For each pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair to someone in need of footwear. Brands big and small can find a way to tie sales to charitable giving, positioning themselves as the socially conscious choice through action, not advertising. TOMS’ philanthropic business model has become so industry-leading that other brands such as Warby Parker have emulated their One for One program.

Green up the office

The most basic way to become a socially responsible brand is to bring environmentally conscious practices in house. Whether it’s doing what you can to become a paperless office or ensuring that employees all through the supply chain are paid and treated fairly, find out how you can improve within your walls by looking into programs such as becoming a certified B Corporation.

Champion a cause close to consumers’ hearts

As you learn more about your customer base, you’ll find that they have causes near and dear to their hearts. For local brands, it could be cleaning up a local lake. For bigger brands (such as Target), it’s helping schools. When you use your name, money and workforce to be a champion of this cause, it will only strengthen the bond between your company and your customers.
It won’t be cheap or easy, but truly taking the steps toward corporate social responsibility will be worth it. Today’s consumers prefer to spend their money with companies dedicated to making the world (or local area) a better place. They’re savvy enough to see through a glitzy ad campaign, knowing which companies truly walk the walk.

By Justin L.

Good Job, Media! The 4 Best Articles We Read This Week

It’s been a while since we’ve done a roundup of the best articles that we’ve been reading. It’s not because we haven’t been reading great articles – on the contrary, the more a certain president lambasts the media, the more the media rises to the occasion – it’s mostly due to a certain amount of media fatigue. But we’re back and without further ado, here are the 4 best articles that we read this week:

PHEW! Did you hear that collective sigh of relief this morning? We sure did.

Today’s New York Times recap of 45’s failed health care reform bill is classic Grey Lady: Concise distillation of a complex issue, no sparkly prose or flowery language needed – just the facts, ma’am, with a couple of underhanded digs thrown in for good measure. Love it.

 

The term “National treasure” sure does get thrown out there a lot, and oftentimes the recipient is undeserving. But we’ll be damned if Rebecca Solnit isn’t a bona fide candidate for National Treasure. We’re lucky enough to be in the same city that Solnit calls home, and our local alternative paper, the SF Weekly, was nice enough to feature Ms. National Treasure on their cover. Read the excellent feature and see if you agree with us. And if you’re in SF, stop by the wonderful Green Arcade bookstore, owned and operated by yet another national treasure – Patrick Marks. There we go again, throwing that term out there!

Bonus props since this was editor/writer Pete Kane‘s first issue as the new Editor-in-Chief. Congrats, Pete!

 

 

Jia Tolentino‘s superb takedown of the perils of the “gig economy” is a fantastically written piece on a fantastically depressing sentiment that our country seems to praise: that of working oneself to death. Calling to mind the hilarious old “In Living Color” sketches where having one job was the pinnacle of laziness, the idea of hard-working Americans stringing together gig after gig to barely make a living should be the poster children for why our economy needs fixing, and not why the gig economy is “working.” Read the article while you’re waiting for your Lyft ride. It’ll make you think twice.

 

 

 

While it’s not an article but an NPR interview, the Fresh Air segment with writer/author Jane Mayer on the Mercer family is eye-opening and more than a little frightening. Hold on to your latte when you hear the story about the scientist that the Mercers are funding, a man who thinks that nuclear wars benefit humanity (!). It’s chilling stuff. The Mercers want to stay out of the limelight and it’s journalists like Mayer who are shining a needed spotlight onto who these people are and more importantly, what their motives are. You can run but you can’t hide from good journalism.

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook

 

 

How PR Pros Can Support Journalism In Trump Era

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In the new Trump era, it is more important than ever for PR professionals to support journalists and a free media.

As PR professionals, it’s in our self-interest to ensure that we have a free and democratic media. As U.S. citizens and members of this nation, it is in our self-interest to ensure that we have a free and democratic media.

Anti-media rhetoric is filling the mouths of talking heads – these so-called “surrogates,” many of whom are inexplicably and rather ironically paid by news outlets to spew rhetoric – and our very own president-elect. The public has grown increasingly hostile toward media. The media themselves don’t often help their cause. But don’t be fooled – the media is never more critical than during regimes like the president-elect’s.

Media absolutely must be held accountable when they make missteps and many of them treat ethics loose and fast. With a lack of training combined with the dangerously alarming speed that reporters must churn out non-fact checked articles, journalism itself has lost a lot of credibility. Despite that, it is not only unfair to malign all of media but detrimental to America’s health as a democracy to do so.

But this isn’t a post about the value of media – we don’t need to emphasize their importance. This is a call to arms to fellow PR professionals to ensure that we’re helping, not harming, the progress of this country. There are many things that PR professionals can do to contribute to a better media landscape, including:

Don’t work with dictators, liars, deceivers and corporations that do very bad things. It’s easy, just say no. You don’t need the business, it should be more important for you to sleep at night. Representing violators of human rights, dictators, oppressive government regimes and outright criminals is bad for business and bad for life. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Educate your clients on why it’s important to be transparent and honest, and why it’s better business. The public values honesty. Brands that have made mistakes that they’ve owned up to have often been forgiven. It’s the brands that continue to lie and obfuscate who never regain the public’s trust.

Fact check your own statements and reports that clients provide to you. Yes, you work for your client, but you also have a set of ethics. If something doesn’t sound right, take the time to research something to make sure you’re not disseminating lies. 

Support journalists by not lying or deceiving them. Share positive articles and don’t normalize behavior like threatening to kick journalists out of news conferences because they’re doing their job.

Ensure that you’re promoting factual news and striking down propaganda and click-bait. Work to ensure that platforms like Facebook and Twitter not populate these fake news links, and debunk any false reports and articles that do arise. As PR pros, media monitoring is an integral part of our job. We see the news before many others, so make sure you’re not spreading unverified stories and let others be aware of ones that are.

Give back and provide pro bono resources for organizations. Like Meryl Streep implored, the Committee to Protect Journalists is one that deserves your support. The Center for Investigative Reporting has also been doing standout work. Pick your passion and go.

Above all, we need to work with journalists to make sure that all of our voices are heard – every citizen, not just those who pay the most money. As public relations professionals, our obligation is to the public, first and foremost. We have a civic duty to use our skills to disseminate stories that are honest, truthful and provide value to the public that we all serve as citizens of this great nation.

By Katy L.

The Surprising Demise Of Vine

 

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I first realized that Vine was a thing when I visited my friend and her 13-year old daughter was doubled over on the couch in laughter. She was completely engrossed by what I thought were bizarre 6-second clips. When she showed me what had her in hysterics, I’ll admit, I shook my fist at the cloud and yelled “Get off my (digital) lawn!”

Vine was not for me, but it was undoubtedly a powerful, creative platform for millions of people. After it was acquired by Twitter, many thought it would become the YouTube to Twitter’s Google. Alas, Twitter’s woes befell Vine, and the platform was never able to monetize its own services, despite the fact that Vine “stars” were making hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Then Snapchat came along, and Instagram released their video functionality.

And Vine never recovered.

Despite all of that, I never expected Vine to be the service that Twitter offs, but sure enough, yesterday, Twitter announced that it was shipping Vine off to the digital graveyard (say hello to MySpace for us, Vine!) and thousands lamented its loss (including their founder, who, to be fair, can weep into his millions).

All of this is a long way of saying: You should read Maya Kosoff’s behind-the-scenes look at how Vine went from the talk of the town to the digital graveyard in SUCH a short amount of time (seriously, just 2 years??).

There’s a lot to learn from Kosoff’s article. But in the meantime, we’ll just keep watching this.

Rock on, little puppy!

By Katy L.

How To Capture Your Trolls: The Art of Social Media Customer Service

It’s every social media manager’s worst nightmare: the hate tweet. The “you suck,” Facebook comment. The “you’ve lost a customer,” response.

Unless your business consists solely of cat GIF distribution, you’ll probably encounter someone who can’t stand your brand.

So what are you supposed to do? Let’s go through some options.

DON’T: Ignore the complaint (unless…)

This is immediately the most tempting option, as it requires no effort on your part and doesn’t call attention to the situation. There’s also a slim chance that the person (or their friends) ever considers you again.

Sadly, a lion’s share of companies take this route. According to Sprout Social, nearly 25 percent of customers surveyed said they got annoyed with a lack of response on social. Sprout Social also found that only 1 in 10 messages on social media generate a brand response.

Even if you don’t have the time or staff to respond to every single comment, Tweet or Snap your company gets, make an effort to reply more often. Responding to an unhappy person on social can mitigate the hate or even make that person into a lifelong customer.

Even just a quick “contact us” response can make someone’s day.

dunkin

 

But what if the response comes from a real troll and not just a dissatisfied fan? Then you’ve got a new set of rules. While you can respond with kindness or facts, the goal for a brand in this situation is to not get dragged down into the mud.

If you feel the situation can be helped with a humorous or factual response, go for it, but don’t get sucked into an argument. If the troll is just spewing vitriol in an effort to get you to play along, don’t. It’s OK to use the block button in these situations.

DO: Snark it up (if appropriate)

If you’re a San Francisco Bay Area commuter, you’ve probably laughed at tweets from Caltrain and BART. In between service announcements and news about safety, these public utilities squeeze in some chuckles.

If you come at the king (of public transportation Twitter), you best not miss.

A discussion has to happen before your brand responds like this, though. If you’re a social media manager for a more buttoned-up brand and decide to go rogue without approval, you might find yourself building your resumé instead of your portfolio.

But if your brand is more whimsical — say a party-favorite alcohol, snack food or sports team — your fans might respond well to snark. If the company you’re managing has a more serious face, a well-timed light-hearted response could go a long way. In this case, we just don’t recommend punchlines for every response. Knowing your audience is the ultimate factor.

DON’T: Go full Trump

The Republican presidential nominee has some of the itchiest Twitter fingers in the game. As tempting as it might be to respond to critics with fire and brimstone as he does, it can only make your brand look worse.

Keeping with the mentality that everything you post online is both public and permanent, going with hateful rhetoric in the face of a complaint or troll attack can only harm your company’s reputation.

Remember the case of Amy’s Baking Company in 2013? After an embarrassing performance on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, the owners came under heavy derision on social media.

Instead of laughing it off or letting it blow over, co-owners Samy and Amy Bouzaglo struck back on the company Facebook page. Soon, their issues spread to Yelp and Reddit.

amys

You want your brand to get international recognition. This is an easy way to do it, but an idea better left in the draft folder.

DO: Respond mindfully

We know how tempting it can be to punch back at angry commenters. It’s something nearly ever social media manager deals with. Instead of taking this route, take five minutes to cool off. Watch a funny YouTube video. Listen to some Enya. Clear your head and come back with a more proper response — one that won’t get shared on Reddit for all the wrong reasons.

Many times on social media, the best offense is a good defense. Have a plan in place for handling trolls and know when to respond and when to deny satisfaction. Make sure there are standards in place for responding (quickly) to unhappy customers, many of whom crave either a response or resolution to their issue.

As Jay Baer preaches, don’t be afraid to hug your haters.

I think you should answer everybody, even trolls,” Baer said in a Salesforce Marketing Cloudcast. “That may sound bizarre, but let’s remember that ultimately you are not really talking to that person, you’re talking to everybody. The crazier the trolls or crazy complainers are, the more rational you should be—because it makes them seem even crazier in context. Then the whole community understands that you actually care.”

Written by Justin Lafferty

 

 

Good Job, Media! 3 Best Articles We Read This Week

The media has never been more important than in today’s rapid-fire, corporate-owned news cycle where fact checking and veracity are mere annoyances to getting immediate clicks. We read many, many, (too) many articles and often bang our heads on our keyboards. But every so often, we read articles that give us that ecstatic face emoji. 

Here are the three best articles we read this week.

Screenshot from Bloomberg's Hampton Creek article
Screenshot from Bloomberg’s Hampton Creek article

Bloomberg’s report on Hampton Creek (written by Olivia Zaleski, Peter Waldman and Ellen Huet), another health/food startup besieged with negative scrutiny, hits hard and peeks beneath the layers of PR obfuscation that enables companies to go unchecked.

Bloomberg has frequently had Hampton Creek in its investigative crossfires – the startup was recently busted purchasing its own products to attract investors, in another excellent piece from Olivia Zaleski – and this series is reminiscent of the Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou’s fantastic exposés of Theranos. One hopes that instead of lamenting articles like this, Hampton Creek instead gets a wake up call and changes their practices, putting consumers before profit. Nah? Yeah, I guess we were being idealistic. Carry on, Bloomberg.

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Maintaining the focus on Silicon Valley, The Daily Beast exposed Oculus Rift founder, and Very Rich Dude, Palmer Luckey, as the benefactor behind an Internet hate group supporting Drumpf. The revelation comes on the heels of fellow Very Rich Dude Peter Thiel destroying media outlet Gawker, and shows how important it is to know where the money is coming from.

It also casts a potentially negative light to the company that Luckey founded, despite its sale to Facebook. Will conscientious consumers think twice before shelling over their hard-earned dollars for an Oculus Rift device?

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Screenshot from Tim Kawakami’s article on Mercury News

We’ve always been a big fan of Bay Area sports journalist Tim Kawakami. For one, he doesn’t act like other sports journalists. He’s never been a “homer” like a lot of embedded sports reporters are. Plus, he’s one of the few Asian-American sports journalists. While many sports reporters are frothing at the mouth to vilify Colin Kaepernick because the quarterback dares to care about the troubling spate of black Americans killed by police officers, Kawakami writes this thoughtful article. Thoughtfulness in sports journalism is the true miracle on ice, so thank you, Tim. And don’t block us on Twitter.

 

 

 

Guide to Social Media Marketing For Startups & Small Businesses – Part I

Which social media platform is right for you?

This blog post is part of a series focusing on emerging brands, startups and small businesses that are just beginning their marketing/PR efforts. 

How are we defining a small business? Although the Small Business Administration typically defines a small business as less than 500 employees, this series focuses on businesses that are even smaller than that.

Photo by Mike Petrucci
Photo by Mike Petrucci

 

By now, social media is so ubiquitous that it feels like an everyday part of one’s life, no different than email (which, umm, why has no one disrupted this yet??). Yet the majority of small businesses (or even Small to Medium Business – SMBs) still lack basic social media strategy, with some lacking even a presence.

This series will focus on which social media platforms are optimal for a small business brand. This is NOT for social media advertising (which will come later) but for organic marketing on social media. We’ll discuss content, advertising and integration in later blog posts.

This particular series will focus on U.S.-based small businesses/startups that caters to consumers (not B2B), and that don’t have the budget to hire folks like us. They’ll have to start scrappy and do it for themselves.

With all of that out of the way, which social media platforms should a brand new small business catering to consumers focus on? Given that the small brand will have to DIY their social media marketing, and resources are extremely tight, only one or two platforms can be tackled for optimal ROI.

 

Photo by William Iven
Photo by William Iven

Facebook 

Facebook is still the #1 platform in the U.S. and will likely remain at that top spot for a while. There are few businesses and brands that Facebook doesn’t make sense for. However, Facebook is now pay-to-play (gotta justify that stock price!) so if you aren’t routinely “boosting” posts, then you’re SOL. Even spending $5 on one post per month will see your engagement skyrocket, compared to not spending any money at all. Does this suck for brands with extremely limited budgets? Absolutely. But we all knew that the free ride wouldn’t last, especially when Facebook went public.

While $5 for, say, a weekly post won’t break any budgets, it can add up. Unfortunately, depending on organic reach is a thing of the past. How can a small business get around having to pay-to-play? Hashtags have become as critical to audience growth on Facebook as it has on Twitter and Instagram. So #hashtag the #shiz out of that #ish (<–don’t actually do that – that’s really dumb). Another way to grow an audience is to tag/mention other pages.

But ultimately, content is still king. Videos can still “go viral” without plugging in your credit card number. And sometimes, a brand can just get plain lucky. Look at the Kohl’s Chewbacca mom video for proof of that. Treat your customers well and you might be surprised how they will reward your brand on social media.

 

Photo courtesy of FreeStocks.org
Photo courtesy of FreeStocks.org

Twitter

For many B2C brands, Twitter will be as important as Facebook. We have found Twitter to be the best platform for local brick & mortar businesses, in particular. The best businesses that thrive on Twitter are still ones like Kogi taco truck (the brand that revolutionized local social marketing on Twitter), that can tweet out a location, or a special deal, for customers who might be wandering nearby.

Be warned, however. Twitter has become a customer service platform, with customers routinely tweeting complaints to brands. B2C brands in particular bear the brunt of Twitter complaints. If you don’t have a way to address customer service complaints on Twitter, you’ll be digging yourself a hole that will be difficult to crawl out of. Even before you set up your Twitter page (or Facebook, for that matter), make sure you have customer service response plan in place. Whether it’s merely responding to a tweet with an email address to contact, or actually addressing issues directly, have a plan and don’t be caught unaware. Unlike Facebook, you can’t delete or hide criticisms on Twitter. It’s the most transparent of platforms.

 

Photo courtesy of Toronto Eaters
Photo courtesy of Toronto Eaters

Instagram

If you have even a somewhat visually appealing store or product, then Instagram is your best option. The engagement on Instagram is significantly higher than any of the other platforms; however, that doesn’t mean it translates into sales. If you’re suddenly rewarded with hundreds of likes for your photo, don’t get *too* excited. Instagram is not great at driving sales or traffic, primarily because it doesn’t easily allow for links. But what it’s great for is showcasing your brand in a visually compelling way.

The businesses that it’s particular great for: Consumer products, especially fashion brands; entertainment brands; stores such as bookstores and consumer goods; travel and luxury brands; restaurants/food brands.

Because so many Instagram users will take photos of your business, it’s important to acknowledge them (favoriting/liking their photo, via the heart icon, is a good start), and then engage and occasionally reward them (we’ll talk about engagement and rewards later).

When regramming a user’s photo/video, be sure to tag them and credit them (better yet, ask for permission first. Most users are more than happy to see their photos be picked up).

There are so many ways to be creative on Instagram. Leverage the layout, for instance, with a photo collage. Use the video function to drive traffic outside of the app, etc. It’s one of the best marketing platforms for any brand that can take a simple photo.

We’ll discuss the other social media platforms in part II of our series. Check back on bethechangepr.com/news. Hit us up on Facebook or Twitter as well.