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You are What You Tweet - Social Media for Restaurants

You are What You Tweet

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Today, social media’s impact on restaurants is more significant than ever. Whether that impact is positive or negative depends on how a restaurant executes a social media strategy. If done right, social media can have massive marketing power at a minimal cost.

But just creating social media accounts and aimlessly pushing out self-promoting content is not enough. These basic social media marketing tips will help increase your restaurant’s reach and engagement and get more people in your door.

Know Your Audience

Before creating a social plan, you first have to define your restaurant’s audience. Age, gender, location, and interests are just a few of many qualities you may want to consider. Once you establish the audience, the next thing to do is determine on which platforms that audience is active. These platforms are where you’ll start.

Taco Bell, whose target market is 18-34 year-olds, knows that 71% of Snapchat users are between 18-34 years old. So, naturally, that’s where their social media efforts are focused. They post daily on Snapchat, and only about one or twice a week on Facebook and Twitter.

Once you know your audience and what platforms they’re on, the next step is speaking their language. Taco Bell does this by using phrases made popular by millennials and Generation Z like “it’s lit” and “extra.” But this can backfire if you’re not careful. Being genuine is key on social media. Avoid posting anything that seems unnatural to you because if it seems forced to you, it probably seems forced to your audience too.

Word of Mouth Marketing 

The restaurant industry has always relied heavily on word-of-mouth marketing. Organic word-of-mouth is when a friend goes to a restaurant and raves to you about how amazing their experience at that restaurant was. Next time you’re looking for a place to eat, you may consider this restaurant based on your friends’ recommendation.

Social media word-of-mouth is the same idea. Except instead of personal recommendations, people may look to tweets or Facebook reviews. In fact, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

You can’t afford to ignore feedback on social media. If your restaurant receives a negative review, it’s crucial to respond as soon as possible by acknowledging the problem, apologizing, and offering an incentive to get them back in your door. This builds credibility and trust with that specific reviewer, and with everyone else who visits your review page.

Addressing positive feedback is also helpful. A customer that goes out of the way to share a good review is a customer you want to keep. Responding to their feedback is the cherry on top of their experience that can turn a one time reviewer into a lifetime brand advocate.

Share Valuable Content

Valuable content, whether it’s informative, engaging, or entertaining, gives customers an incentive to follow your restaurant and keeps them continually coming back for more.

You should share anything that may affect your audience’s ability to visit your restaurant, such as construction in the area, holiday hours, special events, and more. This kind of communication helps customers feel involved and ultimately can establish customer loyalty.

“Behind-the-scenes” content is also a valuable tool. This could include employee spotlights, a “sneak peek” at new menu items, and other back-of-house happenings. When you pull back the curtain, you’re creating a sense of inclusivity and developing an emotional connection with your customers. Having this kind of relationship with customers is invaluable to a restaurants success.

Encourage User-Generated Content (UGC)

With more than 260 million posts tagged #food on Instagram, food pictures are undoubtedly one of the most popular types of content on Instagram. There’s a good chance your customers are posting about your restaurant with or without your interaction.

To capitalize on these posts, many restaurants implement campaigns encouraging customers to use a hashtag unique to their restaurant. To further incentivize customers to share, restaurants often make it a competition, offering SWAG or gift cards to the most creative post.

Not only can user-generated posts take some content building responsibilities off your shoulders, but it also acts as a valuable endorsement, since consumers value peer opinions more so than a brand’s cleverly written sales pitch.

A First Step to Find Your Advertising Audience in Social Media

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Finding the right audience in social media advertising can be a challenge – especially when you’re trying to get to find the ideal mix that gets you the most clicks, impressions, ROI and any other goals you and your digital marketing team are working toward. However, one of the easiest places to find your audience is already provided for you.

Your social media channels.

When was the last time you checked out your Pinterest or Twitter audience insights? In the depths of those often-overlooked tabs you just might find your answer. Anything from what their interests are, to who else they are following. Then what should you do? Create audiences within Facebook advertising for each platform and test it. They all might be a little similar, but each provides different insights into your audience’s interest.

Twitter has a “followers” tab you can check out that contains information from most unique interests, top interests to even who your followers are following. Use this information to fill out a custom audience. Are they interested in fashion, technology, music? Use their interest!

Pinterest audience interests are a little harder to find. You have to go to the analytics tab, then hit ‘interest’ (close to the top). Here you will see what boards/interests your Pinterest audience is interested in. Design, healthy eating? You can create a new audience in Facebook to send ads out to. Compare and contrast Twitter and Pinterest by running the same campaign back-to-back and seeing which works best.

Don’t forget Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a fantastic tool to use to see where your audience is coming from to your site. The best part is you can use that information to your advantage when targeting audiences to advertising using Facebook (or other platforms).

When all of the Facebook audiences have been tested you can take that same strategy to other platforms. Try doing the same test on Pinterest or Twitter! It’s all about working with what you already have in front of you, and then testing other audiences as you go!

JetBlue Uses Social Media for a Social Movement

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Social media is a powerful business tool, but it can also be an amazing vehicle for doing good. JetBlue recently caught my eye when I heard about what they were doing to embrace social media and create a social movement by giving back to their travelers in the form of social sharing. With their Fly It Forward Campaign, they’ve asked individuals to tell them “If you were given one flight to spread good where would you go?” The goal is to provide fliers with a ticket to make the world a little better with the one request that they pay it forward.

It takes the simple action of traveling and makes it something much, much more. It’s about what you will do when you get there. The brand is investing and empowering travelers to give them access to making their dreams real and doing something that truly matters. JetBlue Senior Vice President of Commercial, Marty St George said it best, “It’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of travel and overlook the reasons why people travel. Everyone travels for their own reasons. It’s those stories, those connections with individuals that inspire us all.”

Fly It Forward started first with crewmembers nominating members of their communities they thought were worthy of a flight. Tameka was selected a first. As a director of I Grow Chicago, she provides a safe-haven for at-risk community members by connecting them through yoga, urban farming, art, and culture. Her purpose is to teach community ownership and help individuals realize that they matter. With JetBlue, she had the chance to visit the United Nations as a delegate and learn from other communities who fight against similar obstacles in order to bring it back and share what she knows.

The next evolution of the experience is the process of passing it on. The beauty of it is that these individuals have never met. It’s not a good friend or a co-worker that they know who wants to go somewhere amazing. It’s about giving these travelers a chance to hear the stories of other like-minded individuals who want to make a difference or want to experience something that would be life-changing and passing on that same opportunity. You can follow the stories as they take flight and unfold on jetblueflyitforward.com and help continue the mission by nominating yourself or submitting a worthy traveler’s story through Twitter using #FlyItForward.

 

If your brand can take consumers to a place they never thought they could go, give them the vessel to do that. Whether it’s through communicating encouragement, empowerment, or physically providing them with the tools they need…that’s a powerful position to be able to do something good.

What Instagram Can Do For Your Business That Twitter Cannot

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I don’t follow a ton of people on Twitter but I’ve carefully built a feed of:

1) people or brands who share and create useful content
2) people or brands I know or those I’ve connected with in some fashion and
3) folks who are simply kind, entertaining and engaging online.

I’ve built some rewarding relationships on Twitter, met great people and even collaborated on ideas and projects. It can be a valuable platform as long as you’re giving as much as you’re taking away.

Despite all of this deliberate cultivation of tweet sources, Twitter can feel like a social media Groundhog Day – a loop of the same “6 Ways to Whatever” and a broken record of links. To combat this problem Twitter has better integrated images and videos into tweets over the passed year. And it has helped. Stats show engagement rates increase as much as 151% on tweets with images. We’re visual people. Our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text.

So imagine your brand’s visual story being told on a platform inherently geared toward images. Instagram isn’t all selfies and lattes. Companies large and small across a variety of industries are finding creative ways to utilize Instagram as a vehicle for social communication.

What Instagram Can Do For Your Business:

Help You Show More Culture: Consumers, in general, you, me and we, want to know more about the people behind the brands we engage with. It’s easier to connect and relate brand voice and brand tendencies with a person or group of people than it is to a logo or name or product packaging. That hasn’t necessarily changed from consumer interest 20-30 years ago but the way it happens and the scale at which it happens certainly has.

Instagram is the chance to provide a glass door look into your culture; from philanthropy to pumpkin carving, Instagram is a chance to show the human side of the business and even activate employees to do the same.

Help You Show More Quality and Value: If you create a product Instagram is the perfect place to provide proof of quality, from the materials you use in the process, to the packaging. If you provide a service give folks a peek at the brainstorming. Let them see the breadth of team, skills, and work that goes into delivering a great service experience.

Help You Show More Travel: Heading out for a conference, client meeting or event? Use Instagram to capture highlights and local interests. Relevant hashtags and location tagging helps you connect with audiences that could ultimately turn into buyers.

71% More Likely to Purchase Based on Social Media Referrals

This stat is from a 2012 article but even if that number is skewed slightly the fact remains that social done right builds trust. Instagram provides a visually driven way to communicate and connect. More Instagram How-to’s here.

How is your company using Instagram? Share your challenges and successes in the comments below.

Social Media Success Summit – Part 1

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This month we’re participating in Social Media Examiner’s 6th Annual Social Media Success Summit. The online conference focuses on all things social media with more than 45 of the world’s leading social media pros. Last year’s conference drew in 3,000 like minded marketers. Since we’re halfway through the conference, we thought we’d share a few highlights from some of our favorite sessions.

Twitter

Amy Schmittauer, founder of Savvy Sexy Social, hit home three key points: Be Human, Be Relevant, Be Giving, during her session on “How to use Twitter to Build Relationships that Lead to Business.” On the surface that may just seem logical in the realm of social media, but it’s how you do it that makes a difference.

Conversations are crucial. Amy advised “Listen and talk to people. If you do nothing but this, you’ll find success.” It shows people that you DO talk to people, and you’re listening and interacting. People judge a follow on how much you engage with your community. The nice thing is that Twitter discussions don’t take up the news feed, like tweets on your timeline, because its just a dialogue between two people. So go ahead and carry on.

How do you get more engagement on Twitter? Go find conversations!! Everyone who wants to have conversation isn’t necessarily looking for it. Find conversations you can be a part of, and tweet with people you follow. Or tweet with people who are following you, but maybe you haven’t followed them back yet. Check out their timeline, find out what they’re talking about, and if there’s something that interests you.

We’ve mentioned before how much we like Twitter lists, but Amy recommended taking it a step further for engagement and consider utilizing for a specific event, such as a conference. You can list speakers or acquaintances that you want to connect with before or after the conference.

Visual Content

Another presentation that caught our attention was, “How to Use Visual Content to Drive Massive Social Media Engagement,” by Kim Garst. The statistics that Kim provided on visual content were staggering:

  • Visuals are processed 60 times faster by the brain than text
  • 90% of all info that is transmitted to the brain is visual
  • 40% of visual content is more likely to be shared
  • 46% of people think website design is #1 in deciding if a company is legitimate
  • 65% of people are visual learners

With statistics like these backing up her presentation, it’s clear that companies who aren’t capitalizing on visual content are missing out. Kim also mentioned three key things to consider when creating visual content: 1) It’s not about you, it’s about them. 2) Consider what your audience cares about, outside of your product or service. 3) Your visual content has to appeal to your prospects’ lifestyle. Most importantly – Be Real! So many companies out there put out content that isn’t authentic. Kim advises that you post a photo of your co-workers ‘behind the scenes’ rather than stiff stock photos.

LinkedIn

Lastly we couldn’t resist the chance to check out Viveka von Rosen‘s session on “LinkedIn Prospecting Gold! 5 Steps to Finding, Engaging and Closing Leads with LinkedIn.” LinkedIn has huge applications from a B2B perspective, but many users seem to still struggle with how to get the most benefit out of it. Here’s a look at some of the advice that Viveka shared:

Like Google your profile must be optimized if you want to be found by prospects. Check your connections’ skills sections, and those are great keywords. For premium users, utilize the new keyword tool to incorporate keywords into your summary section, interests, and experience description. When you add keywords, add them to CONTENT! Two to one people will find you through the keywords in your content.

Save your searches. Once a week LinkedIn will send you an email of three leads that fall into that category from your searches. Seems kinda like a no brainer, right? When you search company pages don’t forget to click on “People You Know,” to see who you’re connected to. Find out what groups they’re in and you can join and look for an opportunity to connect. For a little extra help on any additional information you need, use an eGrabber Account Researcher tool to get phone numbers, email addresses, and public company information about a prospect.

Utilize LinkedIn Connected. It allows you to tag people or create lists according to what they are to you. And, because tags are private, you can send messages to a group of people. Viveka said it’s a little time consuming to set up, but worth it. You can also add private notes right on their profile. For example, a note about where you met someone or specifics of your conversation. You can also set up reminders to follow up with them.

Lastly, use messages as opposed to email because email can sometimes get caught up in spam filters. You’re 20% more likely to have your message read than an email.

We’re looking forward to the upcoming sessions covering video, content and Instagram marketing. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our highlights of the Social Media Success Summit.

 

 

Twitter

Twitter: Feeding the Need for Change

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Feeling pressure from investors to change, Twitter is speculated to be introducing an algorithm-driven feed, much like you might be familiar with on Facebook. Currently what you see in your Twitter feed is a continuous flow of content from those that you follow and the occasional insert of a promoted tweet.

At the Citi Global Technology Conference earlier this month, Twitter CTO Anthony Noto said: “the reverse-chronological system that Twitter users for its timeline isn’t the most relevant experience for a user.” Ironically, it’s the very reason why many are such fans of the feed, myself included. I prefer to know that what I’m viewing is the content that’s being posted most recent, and there’s no circulation of tweets from the prior day mixed in with content that’s being published today.

Why the change then?

Even with its 271 million monthly active users, Twitter feels the pressure to continue to grow. And one of the things they believe holding them back from that is the complexity for first-time users (hello, have you been on Google+?). So the speculated reaction is an algorithm-driven timeline feed to organize content.

What does this mean?

Organic reach on Twitter will much likely meet the demise we saw for businesses on Facebook. It might be time to become an adopter (if you’re not already) of Twitter ads and at least start testing to see what works best for you or your brand. If you still want to get the exposure you currently get, you just might have to be willing to pay for it going forward.

What can you do?

If you want to have more control over your feed, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with Twitter lists. It’s not a new feature, but sometimes the benefits are overlooked. A list allows you to see the tweets from the list members you’ve created as a separate Twitter timeline…I like to call it my “clean feed.”

Twitter lists allow you to organize people based on relevant areas of interest. For example, I might create the Twitter list for myself that focuses on Content Marketing or Search Engine Optimization. That specific list then becomes a go-to-guide related to that subject matter; eliminating all the conversations in your feed, but content focused more on the specific topic of immediate interest.

You can set Twitter lists to be public or private. If you’re using your list as a business-prospecting tool or maybe to monitor your competitors, private may be the way to go. There are some perks to making your list public though. When you add someone to your list they’re notified and if they’re not already following you it sometimes encourages them to follow back. It can also establish your credibility as being an authority on a particular subject and you might find others will subscribe to your list. Subscribing to others’ lists is a nice way to monitor that feed, but without having to follow all of the members. And lastly, sometimes it’s just an easy way to introduce yourself to someone by letting an individual know you’ve added him or her to your list.

What else can we expect?

Other rumored changes are a more sophisticated search feature and group chat function. What one change I’d love to see is editable tweets! Facebook finally caught on that users wanted that capability to edit their posts. Even in 140 characters, it’s easy to make mistakes. And while that tweet may be short-lived with the average life cycle of a tweet only lasting 18 minutes, I prefer my spelling, mentions, and punctuation to be on-point for the followers who are viewing.

My hope is that Twitter doesn’t succumb to the presses to change from a follower-based feed. My biggest fear is with the continuous updates that all of these social media platforms are making, will we get to a point when no one is unique?

Photo Credit: BeauGiles

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Seasonal Social Media Campaigns

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In retail, cadence calendars are the crux of keeping the in-store environment fresh with seasonal floor set changes to window and graphic signage programs. But do you consider seasonality for your online experience? Social media is a great way to connect your in-store environment with your online presence. After all, your customers don’t live in your store, but they’re (almost) always online. Here are a few examples of how brands are using social media to celebrate the seasons.

Kate Spade 

As summer is often the season of travel, Kate Spade launched an Instagram campaign to build off their “Live Colorfully” tagline. And you know “Kate” doesn’t just live colorfully, but she “Travels Colorfully” too. The brand launched a contest to encourage followers to show how they #TravelColorfully for a chance to win a $250 Kate Spade New York gift certificate. Now through the end of August fans can submit their photos of their colorful travel using the hashtag. Giving the fans some inspiration, the brand shared some other own associates’ colorful travels. And the benefits for Kate? A plethora of user generated content for them to use!

They also recently launched a giveaway in partnership Travel + Leisure (who I think knows a thing or two about travel) to visit their stores to enter  a “Make Waves in Rio” sweepstakes to win a sunny escape to Rio de Janeiro, a $1,000 gift card, and a summer-ready tote filled with the season’s essentials. The promotion takes place online, but ultimately encourages fans to come in-store.

This two-part approach, campaign and giveaway, satisfies both the in-store and online shopper who may not have access to a Kate Spade New York store. A great way to reach multiple audiences.

Anthropologie

If you’re not lavishly traveling around the globe like the Kate Spade fans, Anthropologie is capturing the customer who plans to entertain at home this summer. Looking for ideas and trends in outdoor entertainment venue, the brand lunched a Pinterest #PinToWin contest. Pinners were encouraged to create their own boards around summer gathering themes like cocktail parties and poolside lounging; each pin identified with the hasthags #Anthropologie and #PinToWin. Three winners will be selected to win the  “Ultimate Outdoor Spread,” $500 worth of Anthropologie dining and entertaining items of their choosing.

What’s interesting about this contest is that it doesn’t require participants to pin only Anthropologie product, but it gives participants free range to incorporate whatever product brands they want in their boards. By doing this it doesn’t limit the consumer to existing products, and helps Anthropologie identify what future products might be of interest for the brand to create. It also gives them an opportunity to spot any new outdoor trends, for example popular colors, patterns or even new themed events.

Travelocity

Sometimes it’s just as simple as a statement. In this case, “I wanna go.” The Travelocity social media contest featured on both Twitter and Instagram encouraged followers to share their dream destination with a photo or just a tweet the hashtah #IWannaGo. Two winners were selected from thousands that submitted to win the trip of a lifetime. Check out this brief video featuring the brand’s ornamental globetrotting garden gnome, Roaming Gnome, promoting the contest.

While the contest was relatively simple for participation, there’s more to it said the brand’s CMO, Bradley Wilson. “It’s a way to celebrate the universal truth of wanderlust and to encourage travelers to share their travel dreams with others,” he said. “Whether it’s booking a quick trip to see family and friends or traveling to far-off lands and exotic destinations, we want to hear about it…we also want to help you get there. We want to know, where do you wanna go?” The brand also cleverly ran advertising spots during commercials for the Amazing Race; an audience which one might think would be inspired to travel the world.

Seasonal social media campaigns and contests have tons of benefits for brands when executed properly. The goal should be bigger than just gaining a following (which is okay too), but use it as an opportunity to learn something about your followers, fans, and customers.

Photo Credit: Boudewijn Berends

Someone Was Listening

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So a couple of weeks ago we blogged about social listening and it’s power to help connect with people. Well it works, or at least it worked for Liquid Web. Last week our major hosting provider Bluehost had a major outage and we Tweeted about it to our clients and followers.

Well, lo and behold, about 3 minutes later we got a follow from Liquid Web and a request for us to follow and get a direct message. They had “heard” our Tweet about the Bluehost problems and were asking us to give them a try. So we have. We set up our first Liquid Web account and are trying it out to see if it’s a possible alternative.

For the record, we think Bluehost has some of the best support in the industry, but this was their second major event in a year and even great support can’t overcome issues with reliability.

At any rate, Liquid Web was listening and this is just meant to be a very quick example of how this all comes together to create new customers.

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Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Business

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In business a new year often means new goals and a plan to achieve them. Next thing you know, several months go by and sometimes that means things get a little cluttered or you might even find yourself slightly off track. Spring is always a refreshing turn of the season, because it not only signifies that you have survived the less than desirable winter, but it’s an opportunity to organize your enterprise. From the collective crew at Shout Out, here are a few Spring cleaning tips for your business:

Nathaniel Seevers

When a company has a product or service they’re passionate about they want to tell the world; tell them everything, every feature benefit and scream it from their homepage mountain. It’s understandable but what can often result is a bloated, busy, confusing first impression when someone hits your site.

For a spring clean homepage purge consider:

  • Reducing the number of slides in your slider. Online attention spans are short. Few visitors stick around to see more than 2, 3 slides at the most. Getting more concise with your benefit statement helps you in other areas as well. Even challenge yourself to reduce to one static main image. Get really good at being captivating.
  • Attracting your visitors to specific click-throughs for diving deeper into content versus telling the whole story in one spot
  • Implementing a heat mapping tool like Crazy Egg to see what people are clicking on, hovering around and ignoring. This can help you better understand what’s working and what you can cut.

Gretchen Ardizzone

To many businesses a customer email address is like a golden ticket. But how much is that ticket worth if it’s extremely out of date? My tip is take time to clean up your email lists. Why waste time and energy communicating to a vast group of people who hardly even read your stuff, can’t remember when or why they subscribed, or frankly they may question how they ended up on your list to begin with. Spend your time communicating with those who want to read what you have to say or see what you have to offer.

If you have an old list, don’t start re-engaging by sending them a promotional email, instead consider a quick reminder email to make sure they remember who you are and want to continue to receive your communications. And if it’s been a little while it doesn’t hurt to include an opportunity to opt-in again. Give them a couple of chances to opt-in before finally removing them.

If your email list raises some questions to begin with, you might want to check out this MailChimp article titled “Is my list ok to use in MailChimp.” While this may be intended for importing lists into MailChimp, I think many of the questions they ask are still applicable in evaluating the quality of your list. If you’re anything like us, you’ll enjoy the humor and appreciate the advice.

Shannon Blair

Ah, Spring… you begin cleaning out cars and closets – but what about social media? Yep, there are quick and simple ways to clean that up too.

Twitter: Go through your Twitter lists and followings and clean those up by unfollowing the ones that are inactive or who aren’t posting content that’s relevant to you or your company.

LinkedIn: Have you updated your resume, done some networking, or moved positions in your company? Dust off those cobwebs and update all that information and connect with new contacts!

Pinterest: You can comb through your Pinterest boards and tidy up by creating new boards or deleting old, irrelevant ones.

Google+: Clean up those circles, people!

Facebook: Get on Facebook and check on your information and update content that needs it – also give your Facebook a facelift by adding a new photo or header.

Luke Pierce

This winter was a tough one in central Ohio. It is easy to let the clutter accumulate in that kind of weather, not only around the house, but digitally as well. For whatever reason, I let my desktop on my computer get overcrowded, hardly emptied my browsers cache, and let hundreds of things pile up in my downloads folder. This week I decided my spring cleaning was going to take place on my lap top. I cleared my desktop, getting everything in organized folders to where it needed to be. Emptied my browsers cache. And cleared out my downloads folder. Not to my surprise, my laptop started functioning loads better. It always amazes me how easy it is to make things better and it makes me wonder why I don’t keep up with it all the time. Next up: properly back up my laptop on a regular basis.

Do you have a Spring cleaning list of your own? Share your tips in the comments below.

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Switchboard Operators

Online Customer Service

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Good customer service can make or break obtaining and retaining a customer online. It’s no different than in-store. Nordstrom has thrived for years as being the brand that is best known for providing excellence in customer service. The truth is that customers have those same expectations for your brand online, and as eCommerce continues to grow customer service is going to be the key differentiator for where consumers want to invest their money. It’s also one way that small businesses can level the playing field with big brands. Here are some things to consider in providing customer service online:

Real-time Resolutions

Make it easy for your customers to contact you should they have a problem or issue they need to resolve. You’d be amazed at how difficult it can be to find contact information or customer service resources on some sites. Make it clearly visible for your customers to find, you don’t want them leaving your site in frustration. If you provide a service that could need customer support 24 hours a day, consider a service infrastructure that will allow you take care of customers’ whenever they need you.

Warby Parker uses their Warby Parker Help YouTube channel to post video responses from team members to questions posted daily to Facebook and Twitter. Amazon offers on-device tech support through Kindle’s Mayday button to let you connect with an Amazon expert via video. And while those may seem like more sophisticated methods, consider service agents that are simply skilled to support your brand. Online retailer and mens fashion brand, Jack Threads, offers a live chat service provided by university students with a keen fashion sense.

Make Sure You’re Listening

Not all customer service issues come directly to you. Customers may utilize your social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to express their issue. Monitoring your social media platforms for this type of management is crucial to respond quickly. Use social media scheduling tools like HootSuite or consider other social listening platforms like Sprout Social or Meltwater to track customers talking about your brand.

Respond Strategically

Understand that you can’t please everyone though. You may have unsatisfied customers from time to time, but it’s best to have a planned response strategy. The key is not removing the content (unless it’s offensive to others), but managing the response. Sometimes people think the best thing to do is to remove negative comment or block the person, but that could actually add more fuel to the fire. If you’re at fault, admit the error and offer to resolve. You’d be surprised how many unhappy customers might be put at ease by being acknowledged for their complaint.

Take Notes & Pass Them On

I mentioned Nordstrom at the beginning of this post and while most of the magic of their customer service takes place mostly in-store, there is a great takeaway that can even be applied to managing customer service online. The fashion retailer collects customer service examples, “Nordy stories,” from their employees and publishes to share with other employees. It goes beyond protocol for instances of handling returns or out-of-stock product, but serves as a guide to teaching employees how to be the best at serving customers.

Follow Up

Yeah, you’ve made the sale, but one great way to ensure your customers come back is to show that their feedback matters. Encourage them to provide a review about the product or service, but reward them for sharing their opinion. Maybe it’s access to an exclusive product or a free product sample. If they’re a first time customer consider offering an incentive for returning, possibly a discount of their next purchase.

Truly Serving Your Customers

Your customer service should go beyond just managing issues or getting return visits. Use your customer service as a competitive edge; make your brand unique or memorable in the consumer’s eyes. Let your service be another story they share.

I still have fond memories of staying at the Soho Grand in New York a couple of years ago. Sure it’s a fantastic hotel alone, but the amenity that caught my attention was a simple goldfish. The pet-friendly hotel offers guests a “goldfish team member” at no charge to accompany guests for the duration of their stay. It was a thoughtful gesture to make my stay more enjoyable.

Want to hear more inspiring stories of customer service? Check out this amazing collection of 10 Unforgettable Customer Service Stories by Help Scout. It just might leave you asking what have I done for my customers lately?

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Tips and Tools for Increasing Your WordPress Skills

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WordPress: You’ve got the basics but where to next? While learning as you go can get you to your destination, it wouldn’t hurt to have the tools and resources help make the process easier. A simple search of “Wordpress Help,” or something of the like, could end up leading you on a wild goose chase for the  guidance you were looking for. One easy way to expedite this is to know what you’re searching for, the second is to know where to look.

Having a solid foundation is the key to improvement. Knowing the basics of WordPress will allow you to turn your ideas into reality. Here are some ways to improve your WordPress skills:

WP101  is a site that provides you with step-by-step video tutorials to guide you through the beginning stages of WordPress. They also have a Q&A Forum for you to find the answers to the questions they may have not covered.

WPBeginner is a great website which includes tutorials as well as a Beginners Guide and other resources specifically for new WordPress users.

Your foundation is set, but you still have questions when it comes to development. These sites can help you on your way:

WPArena goes talks through some of the more in-depth subjects regarding WordPress. Their blog’s content includes how-to’s, plug-ins and theme suggestions.

You have your basic WordPress set up, but now you want to learn how to make it more customized. That’s where WPModder’s  tutorials can help.

At this point you have some references and have developed your knowledge to where you are comfortable tackling your own site. Now you want to keep up to date on news, advancements and general conversations regarding WordPress. Or maybe you want to see examples of other peoples work for inspiration. Either way here are some great sites to keep you in-the-know:

Manage WP

WPMudev

WPCandy

Tips and Tricks HQ

Smashing Magazine

Pingable

Another great way to keep up with news and trends of WordPress is through Twitter. If you want to fill your feed with posts and updates related to WordPress, here are a few to get you started:

@TheTorqueMag: The self proclaimed Wordpess news core.

@wplift: Dedicated solely to WordPress, WPLift covers everything from tips, to plug-in reviews.

@DavidWells: David is a WordPress designer and developer, as well as the founder of Inbound Now.

Learning WordPress, or developing your skills, is not a lonely journey. There are endless sites and sources to help you on your way. Finding sites that answer the questions you have, or the content you desire, will help WordPress go from a foreign or overwhelming site-development tool to a place you can be creative and deliver your content in the way you desire.

Photo credit: Nicholas Wang

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Social Media Changes: What We’re Looking Forward To

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In the competitive world of social media platforms it seems like the only thing that is constant is change. Over the last couple weeks Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all made major announcements for change. While some of these updates have rolled out in a phased integration, others (including us) wait in anticipation. While we wait though, we’re not shy to share our perspective on what this means:

Nathaniel Seevers

Word on the street is a new Twitter layout is on it’s way to a profile near you and including you. I haven’t received mine as of this publish. I’m not one of the cool kids I suppose but based on some early reviews and screenshots I can already make some educated guesses about parts of the new design I anticipate and parts I dread.

Excited to see more: tweets via a new mosaic, less straight line vertical format. The new design takes a queue from the Facebook timeline’s not so side-by-side content “tiles” to provide more information in a single view and even multi-column layout (pictured here) for photos and videos.

Not so excited to see more: arbitrary cover images. I’m confused as to how it’s useful or relevant to a micro-blogging/information resource/celebrity stalker platform like Twitter. I’m all for a little more visual tweet, the summary cards are cool and useful, but a 1500px X 500px cover image?

The bigger design question becomes, how does it all translate to mobile? Does the mobile side change at all? According to a report on TechCrunch back in October Twitter said, “75 percent of its 218.3 million+ monthly active users are accessing the site from mobile devices — or 161.25 million users. And mobile accounts for 65 percent of all its ad revenues.”

They’re a savvy bunch so maybe that’s what I’m anticipating the most; how it all ties into a larger overall strategy for my favorite social platform.

Gretchen Ardizzone

My first instinct when I heard about LinkedIn rolling out its publishing platform to all users was why would I want to blog on LinkedIn when we have a well-built, beautifully designed blog platform on our company website? So as I evaluated the functionality of this new feature, I had a few questions and considerations:

Will people be duplicating content they’ve published on their blog or will it be unique? I’ve already noticed some of the influencers I follow on Twitter linking to their LinkedIn posts, but I’ve also noticed some of it to be repetitive to the content I’m seeing published on their blog. That’s a big best practice no-no for me because you’re training me to stop following one of your channels of communication. It’s going to have to be original.

What kind of metrics can I measure? LinkedIn has some metrics around company pages, but there’s little around individual users to track who’s really reading the content (from what I can tell). We utilize several analytical tools to track our website traffic and can even identify posts that are most read. I’m all about generating the right content to the right audience, but part of being able to do that is having the analytics to support.

Does this shorten the time-span of content? Whatever post is published last will appear to any visitors of their LinkedIn profile. The only issue with that is the next post trumps the prior content. There’s no search feature to allow people to find the content they want based on relative topics. Some of our blog posts, while published maybe a couple months ago, still have application to business today and are not necessarily time-sensitive.

What can we expect from the quality of content we might start to see published? Most blog platforms are relatively easy to use anyhow, but from what it appears the simplicity of the LinkedIn posts take things to a new level. Will everyone adopt a blogger mentality? Yes, folks you still need a beginning, middle and end, and spell check is still required.

Will I start to see an increase in individuals who want to join my network that I don’t know? It’s one thing to follow me on Twitter, but I’m more selective of who I give access to in my network of connections. Just because my content resonates with you may not mean I’m ready to invite you into my inner circle…we may need to have coffee first.

With that said, we’re a digital marketing company and we’ll test it for ourselves before we close the book on this one. It does offer another platform for content to be published that our network might not otherwise reach. And honestly, I’m excited to see LinkedIn’s continued evolution. It’s not my favorite (or first-priority) platform, but I’m pulling for the continued changes because I see potential. The further blending of business and social is an opportunistic position for platforms.

Luke Pierce

If you read the news, are ever on the Internet, or simply converse with people on a regular basis you have probably heard of the staggering 19 billion (yes with a B) dollar acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook this week. This is one of the biggest acquisitions in the tech industry for over a decade and is the biggest news in social media in 2014. What I am struggling with is how to feel about it. I needed to take a closer look at the deal and answer some basic questions.

Why did Facebook want WhatsApp?

Given Facebook’s goal of trying to connect everyone on the planet, WhatsApp and its growing 450m users was a good way to take another step in that direction. But it wasn’t just the fact WhatsApp has 450m users, it was how it got there. WhatsApp reached 450m users faster than any other social network to date, including Facebook. In addition, they are adding users at a rate of 1m a day. Another staggering statistic is how active it’s users are with over 70% of WhatsApp users interacting with the app more than once a day. To put it in perspective, WhatsApp users generate the same volume of SMS messages as every carrier in the world combined.

What does it mean?

For now, not much. The CEO of WhatsApp has been brought on to the board of directors at Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg has said that WhatsApp will continue to operate as its own company. Mostly the acquisition just means that Facebook bought 450m users for its overall network, what they will do with them is to be determined.

Is it good or bad?

At this point, it’s hard to say. My hunch is that it is a good thing that WhatsApp went to Facebook and not Google, who were rumored as willing to pay more than the 19 billion Facebook paid for the app. The rumors said that Google was willing to pay more solely to keep WhatsApp out of the hands of Facebook, which sounds to me like they might have smothered the app if they acquired it. Anything with a user base growing as fast as WhatsApp, I want to see what it evolves into. However, with an acquisition this big there are bound to be some changes. The CEO of WhatsApp is very anti-advertising, but I would be surprised if that continued through the life of the app. If you are currently a user of WhatsApp it would be safe to assume you’ll see some changes in the future.

I’m excited.

When I read more about the acquisition and gathered my thoughts, I decided that I am excited. WhatsApp was, and is, growing at an incredible rate. Faster than anything we have seen before. With it’s mere 55 employees and relatively low yearly revenue, it’s hard to say if WhatsApp would be able to accomplish the same things that it can now with Facebook’s resources backing them. Overall, I’m just excited to see what WhatsApp might grow into.

Are you using one of these platforms in their new form or have an opinion on the updates? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear.

Photo Credit: SomeDriftwood

Social Media Habits

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They say a habit is a routine or behavior repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously. But as we know, not all habits are good. Recently the team at Shout Out got into a discussion of social media habits in particular and realized we all had some that we wanted to build and some that we wanted to break. Here’s a look at some of our individual goals around our social media:

Luke Pierce

Admittedly I am usually better at looking at a business’ social media, formulating a plan, and executing that plan on a rigid schedule than I am at operating my own social media. My habits up until now have been more reactionary than anything else. I often find myself only checking Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook when I am prompted. As an example, yesterday I didn’t check Twitter at all, but I found myself sending 15+ connection requests on LinkedIn because someone accepted a request I sent last week. Too many times a week I find myself being interrupted with a social media distraction of this nature. I think it is causing me to spin my wheels socially, so to speak. I want to change that.

To change my habits I am going to set a personal plan with some personal goals. I am going to incorporate social media into my morning routine setting aside time specifically for the purpose of interacting and furthering my social media presence. To illustrate further, here is my rough plan: 30 minutes will be set aside after my morning emails (using one of my favorite apps 30/30 to time myself). I will divvy the time up between the three social networks I focus on, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Each network will have specific daily tasks to perform, but all will have the simple goals of growing my network and engaging in meaningful interaction. Like exercising, sleeping, hygiene, and many other things, I know I will achieve my goals much easier if I start to form better habits.

Gretchen Ardizzone

I’m admittedly a news junkie. I feed off of the constant flow of information and can’t wait to be the first to discover a great article or post. Today though showing appreciation for the content you read has been easily whittled down to a retweet, like, or share.

Understanding how important audience input is to gauge what will resonate, we recently asked our social network for feedback on what people wanted to read in our upcoming newsletter. I quickly grasped that I can’t expect others to share their opinion if I don’t take the time to share myself though. Which leads to a suggestion from our very own Luke, and a goal for myself, who encouraged us all to leave a comment on the content we share with followers. If it’s good enough to share, I should have an opinion on what makes it great, and make a statement.

Colin Smith

When it comes to my social media use, I have been trying to make sure I post relevant content. Sometimes it can seem like you are yelling into an empty room hoping for a response. I’m trying to do a better job at limiting my posts to content that is engaging and interesting. Another thing I’m trying to be better at is limiting how much I post to each social media platform. Oversharing can deter followers and annoy the remainder. In a time of over-stimulation, I think it is important to be aware of what you contribute to each social media community.

Shannon Blair

I’d love to grow an audience on social media that has some backbone to it – this is honestly one of the many resolutions on my list for 2014. Currently, I still have a large following of college friends who are still posting on Thirsty Thursdays, and this is something I’m trying to change. This year I’d like to have more of an audience and continue to follow more people in the small business and digital marketing community. You have to start somewhere right? Why not social media. 2014 is my year to reach out individually as a young business professional and develop my social media into one that shows the knowledge I possess, which may be more things about Harry Potter than actual marketing…but hey, it’s more educational than retweeting Perez Hilton (which I’m also guilty of… I’m a work in progress people, I promise).

 

 

Photo Credit: (davide)

three shadows in the street

Utilizing User-Generated Content in Your Content Strategy

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Your content marketing plan likely includes a combination of a blog, eBooks, whitepapers, video content, social media, and possibly a few other mediums, but one of the most compelling forms of content is created by your consumers. It’s emotional, passionate and powerful. Businesses have a huge opportunity to leverage user-generated content, and here are a few brands seeing success with this strategy:

BaubleBar

BaubleBar’s Co-Founder Daniella Yacobovsky recently spoke at National Retail Federation’s annual Retail’s BIG Show and shared how incorporating user-generated content is a highly effective tactic for BaubleBar. The brand currently integrates selfie snapshots on their website with the customers sporting their various sparkly baubles in a shoppable slideshow. Customers simply share their pic on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #BaubleBar or upload it directly to the website. According to Yacobovsky, “A third of site visitors engage with it and the conversion rate for those who do is 2.5 times higher than those who don’t.”

What’s great about this approach is that it gives the consumer a realistic view of how the product might look on them and inspiration for how to style the accessory. Much more compelling than just seeing the product on a white background, and consumers are able to relate more by seeing it on an everyday person rather than a model. And giving the consumer even more reason to share, the brand also selects three of their favorites every month to win $100.

I’ve mentioned before the value Pinterest can provide for businesses, and BaubleBar is no exception here. What’s interesting is though, the brand realized that “pins posted by others drove 10 times more traffic than BaubleBar’s own Pinterest content, so to encourage shoppers to pin, they redesigned and emphasized the “Pin it” button on product pages.” Instead of just thinking about your Pinterest strategy as a separate entity, think about how you can make it useful in the shopping experience and integrate into your website. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited websites and pinned items to my style board to serve as a virtual reminder, and essentially a trail of crumbs to where I can buy the product when I’m ready.

Juicy Couture

To promote its new sports apparel product line, Juicy Couture has engaged with the photo-sharing platform, Snaps to get consumers involved. Snaps is similar to Instagram but allows consumers to edit and add graphic content to their photos. The app has a two-fold purpose for the Juicy Couture brand: to allow consumers to add Juicy graphic elements related to fitness and working out, and share with friends and family, as well as try on Juicy Couture Sports product to see how it looks on them via their mobile device.

The method is effective in branding the images beyond just a hashtag connection and gives the consumer the chance to virtually try on a product, but the user-generated content has potential greater than just the selfie.

Warby Parker

I’ve praised Warby Parker in previous posts for their genius marketing efforts, and this may not be the last. The online eyewear brand with a home try-on program wholeheartedly believes in word-of-mouth marketing has found a way to incorporate user-generated content. The brand encourages consumers to use their social network to help in the selection process of their perfect frame by posting a pic of themselves wearing the various options on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.  Warby Parker’s Co-founder and Co-CEO, David Gilboa, says, “Customers who post photos of themselves in frames are buying at twice the rate as those who don’t.”

It doesn’t have to be just about promoting the product when it comes to utilizing user-generated content, it can also benefit promoting the overall brand.

Nike

While I may be a marketer, I’m no stranger to my own contribution to providing user-generated content. In 2013 sports apparel brand, Nike carried out one of the most creative initiatives which I was lucky enough to be able to participate in, which resulted in a community of individuals sharing content like you wouldn’t believe…all for a great cause. Nike organized a Women’s 10k event to raise funds for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, oh and did I mention it was all virtual? Given the fact that there was no specific destination for this event to take place, you might think the participation would be low. Think again though.

So how did it work? Everyone had to register and pay the $40 entry fee. Each runner had to commit to running a 10k distance (6.3 miles) over a 2-day period (March 9th or 10th) whenever and wherever they chose—trail, track, road or gym—using the Nike running app to record their efforts. In true race fashion, each runner received a technical race shirt (Nike branded of course), with a blank space for runners to write in the various reasons why they run…for fun, for a cause, for those who can’t, just to name a few. Runners were then encouraged to share their route and run using the hashtag #letsturnitup.

Participants professed great satisfaction with running for a worthy cause, and over the course of the two days, runners logged 29,524 miles on the Nike running app, and filled Nike’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter news feed full of stories of individuals and groups participating in the run. Not to mention, raised almost $50,000 for LLS.

Many runners had never used the Nike running app and were exposed to a new run tracking method, at the same time feeling the reward of accomplishment. And while the event may have been virtual, that day connected thousands of individuals through social media. Well done, Nike.

While the brands I mentioned may have big marketing budgets, small brands and entrepreneurs can successfully utilize user-generated content without a significant investment, but with a sound strategy.

Photo Credit: The Real Estreya

notebook with notes

Tools For Content Curation

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In order to have significance in the online world, you have to post relevant and timely content that means something to you and your audience. However, the process of finding great content to share, as well as deciding when or how to share it can be challenging and time-consuming. Here are a few tools to help you get the ball rolling:

Feedly and Scoop.it

Feedly is one of the most popular tools for content curation, and personally – it’s a great tool. You add the URL’s of the pages or blogs you follow and when they are posted they show up in a magical stream of great content that you can share. Essentially you subscribe to these blogs through Feedly and each time you open your account the latest blog posts are available. Another helpful tool to use is Scoop.it which is similar to Feedly except you use keywords instead of web addresses and you store the information you want to share on categorized boards. These are really good resources used to generate content that is specific to your industry. The best part of these tools is they are completely tailored to fit your content curating needs.

Google+ Communities

Google+ Communities are advantageous because you can use them to not only distribute content but gather content as well. For example, if you are looking for “Marketing” content in Google+ Communities you can simply search marketing in the ‘Communities’ field, where you will find prime resources for information. The first three communities that come up under “Marketing” are “Social Media Marketing,” “Content Marketing and Social Media,” and “Social Media Marketing for Business Owners.” All of these communities and plenty of other communities are full of good information to take a look at.

Twitter Lists

Like many social media platforms, Twitter is valuable for content in general, whether it’s from participating in chats to using Twitter for directly searching for content either with hashtags or keywords. However, Twitter provides one tool that is a useful way to get your hands on some relevant content –  Twitter Lists. Twitter Lists are fantastic because they are similar to Feedly and Scoop.it because they provide a completely customized list of the information you want to read, but instead of just looking at websites and articles on the web, you’re looking at tweets from specific people or companies.  The best way to use Twitter lists is not only for influential people, but for those who inspire you, motivate you, or even people who just make you laugh. It’s a simple and easy to use tool.

Hootsuite

HootSuite is simply the bee’s knees when it comes to content curation. You can use this tool with multiple social media platforms to make it easier to share the content you find and can schedule it accordingly. You compose your awesome information into a message and it can disperse your posts to various social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare, or even WordPress – that’s all there is to it. Hootsuite doesn’t only help you share content, it also helps you find great content. Within Hootsuite you can search for information by searching hashtags that are relevant to your accounts such as #businesstips or #marketing. You can also keep an eye on your feeds on various platforms, all in one place. Now let’s talk scheduling. With Hootsuite there are two options: Auto schedule, which is when Hootsuite estimates is the best time for that message to be posted, or when you choose – and then Hootsuite provides a calendar for you to schedule a time for the post.

Calendars

Now that you have tools to find content and a dashboard where you can share your content, it’s time to find a tool to layout the content you find so you can schedule it accordingly. Although Hootsuite is a beneficial tool and has a scheduling calendar built in it, it’s a good idea to also have a separate calendar to not only make your content curation more effective and efficient, but to help you keep your head on straight. You can always use an editorial calendar, however, the most important part of keeping track of your content and when it’s being published is when and how it’s comfortable to you. If you struggle to understand or simply don’t like the layout of some of the calendar tools out there you should always look around. Evernote has a great calendar, or you can connect your calendars with others with a resource like CoSchedule. Another option is to keep it simple with Google calendar or the handy little iCal. Look around for what is comfortable for you!

Remember, each piece of content you share should have a purpose:

  • To inform
  • To instruct
  • To inspire
  • To entertain
  • To start a conversation
  • To express an opinion
  • To share industry knowledge or resources

If your content doesn’t have one of these purposes, then it shouldn’t be shared with your audience.

Photo Credit: *s@lly*

Blogger Outreach: Building Brand Buzz

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If you’re a young brand looking to grow, but don’t have the capital to pay big bucks to get your product out there, word of mouth marketing in today’s terms might just be the right thing for you. What am I talking about? A blogger outreach campaign.

According to Nielsen Media, there are somewhere over 181 million blogs on the Internet with 6.7 million people publishing content on blog sites. That’s a whole lot of blogging going on, and a whole lot of opportunity to create some buzz. Using a blogger outreach campaign as a part of your marketing strategy can be beneficial to create brand awareness and exposure to relevant, targeted consumers.

Why does a message coming from a blogger sometimes have better reach than your marketing message? Trust. 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs, and 61% of online consumers have made a purchase based on a blog’s recommendations (Source: BlogHer). One of the ways that you can utilize this influence is by getting your product in the hands of these bloggers to conduct a product review and post content around their experience with the product. Here a few recommended steps for a successful approach:

Establish your goals: First things first with any marketing initiative it’s important to understand what the goals are for your outreach campaign. Do you want to increase foot traffic to your website, gain a following on social media, build brand awareness, introduce a new product, etc? Understanding this upfront will give you something to benchmark and determine if your strategy was a success.

Find the influencers: Next, establish your criteria for qualified bloggers. You can use Technorati, Alltop or even Google’s blog search to help you locate them. Use tools like Pagerank and Alexa to determine what kind of traffic the identified blogger is getting. This will help you save time in the long run. Why waste energy pitching to someone who isn’t relevant or the end result won’t get your reach.

Establish rapport: You don’t ask someone out on a date before you get to know them. Establish rapport first before you approach. This means following them, engaging with them on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+), commenting on and promoting content that you like (honestly).

Outreach: After you’ve had some time to “get to know” them, you’re now ready to reach out. This is a big step though. Depending on how well known the blogger is they might receive thousands of emails just like yours. Your message needs to be genuine, personal to them, and creative. Something has to make them want to read it. If it sounds like a blanketed message, then chances are you’re just wasting your time. This part of the process does take time, but it’s worth it to put in the extra effort to connect with someone. That’s what will get you noticed. The key is not to be long-winded. Yes, what you’re sharing is great, fabulous and awesome I’m sure, but anything too long might get ignored. Be concise and to the point as far as what you’re asking for them to do.

Provide incentive: Be prepared to offer them something in return. What are you going to do for them that gives them a reason to even respond? Are you offering a complimentary product, are you willing to sponsor/fund a post? Sometimes bloggers (especially with greater reach) will only participate if you’re willing to provide a financial investment. It’s important to know upfront if that’s something you’re willing to consider. And if not, it’s good information to know and could be useful in the future.

Follow up: So you’ve sent your message. Next requires follow up, but make sure you’ve given the appropriate time to respond. Pay attention to automatic messages. If you get something stating, “Due to a high volume of emails,” you have to take into consideration that if might take them some time to even see your email. Wait a week. A lot of bloggers won’t engage until the follow up response. Planning your blogger outreach campaign well in advance will help allow for the turn around time it sometimes takes to get a response.

Support content creation: Once someone has agreed to participate, make it as easy for the blogger to develop his or her content. Provide them with information about the product. Is there a unique backstory about how it was created? If so, make sure to share, consumers care not only about the product, but a good brand story can help capture someone’s attention. Are there specific product features or benefits they need to know? The blogger may not know these intimate details so make sure you include. Many times bloggers will take their own photos of the product, but sometimes supplying additional imagery helps to support content. They may be featuring one product style, but if you want to show the breadth of a product line, that can be communicated through an additional photo.

Track your results: So your product has been featured, it’s time to track your results based on what you established as your goals. Monitor your website traffic, social media following and engagement. Make sure to thank the blogger for their efforts, you could be establishing an ongoing relationship with a blogger that may be interested in featuring your product more than once as you introduce new styles, limited edition collections, etc.

Be prepared for the negative: Something to keep in mind with this type of program though is you don’t have complete control in the process. You have to be prepared to hear the negative. There’s always a possibility your product won’t be a hit with everyone. It may mean the product isn’t right for them or it could be an opportunity for improvement based on some honest feedback.

Consider alternative outreach opportunities. Blogs are not the only platform brands have an opportunity to conduct outreach. Each social media platform (Google+, Twitter, Instagram) has influencers that create a potential for you to connect your brand with consumers. An interesting Instagram example was one carried out by shoe brand Puma. With a goal to increase their followers, the brand reached out to influential Instagrammers and sent to events (even some overseas) equipped with a camera to document “awesome places that shoes take you.”

Another unique example is how Audi utilized Twitter. After a raving Audi fan created a hashtag, #WantAnR8, around her desire to acquire an Audi R8, the brand made notice and gave her an Audi for the day to experience, document and share with her Twitter community. Audi promoted the event via twitter and encouraged others to do the same, resulting in a giveaway of eight more R8s. What’s interesting about that example is that the consumer created the opportunity, Audi was just smart enough to be listening.

The more unique the approach, the greater opportunity your outreach will standout in the crowd and gain a following. Start by considering what platform for outreach might be appropriate based on where your customers are spending their time online.

photo credit: Mylla
modified by Shout Out Studio

Great Marketing in 140 Characters or Less

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Twitter is something special. We all know that now. There are many elements that contribute to its uniqueness and influential status. Twitter helps connect people and movements, it eases the spread of radical ideas, and it creates a forum for the world to debate on. But one of the core ideas of Twitter is what gives it relevancy in today’s overly indulgent world; it’s tricky and thought-provoking 140 character limit. The character limit forces everyone to think about what they are saying and how they are saying it. It makes everyone pause to determine if what they are saying truly gets to the heart of the message they are trying to convey.

At Shout Out we often ask ourselves how we can help people and their businesses. That conversation almost always leads us to think about what great marketing really is, and more often than not, it gets a little long-winded. Today we thought we would take a moment to think about what we really think great marketing is, and then say it with gusto à la Twitter style.

Gretchen Ardizzone

“Great marketing is storytelling with confidence. It’s real, engaging and ever-changing.”

Luke Pierce

“Great marketing is creating passion, emotion, a deep sense of loyalty, and a tremendous desire to share and spread those feelings.”

Shannon Blair

“Great marketing is having pride in what your company can do, with the confidence and knowledge to do it.”

Nathaniel Seevers

“Great marketing is listening and understanding before speaking. It’s a two-way street. It’s dialogue.”

Marsh Williams

“Great marketing is getting the person you are “speaking with” to want more. Always give them just enough to make the decision to want more.”

Digital Marketing Horror Story

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Cue the blood-curdling scream…

It’s that time of year when the weather changes and we all prepare for the usual Halloween activities like trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, horror flicks, hayrides and haunted houses. Given the seasonal timeliness, the subject matter of our marketing meeting yesterday ended with each of us telling our own Digital Marketing Horror Story. Please avoid these terrifying tactics at all cost.

Luke Pierce

You know that iconic vision of a haunted house? Those once beautiful Victorian homes that have sat lonely on a hilltop rotting and decaying for years? Well, the Internet is riddled with their website equivalents. It’s horrifying.

Some believe that a website is a one-and-done type of thing. They believe that once it’s built, it will sit in pristine condition until the end of time. The truth is, it is just like our haunted house. It decays over time without attention. It gets forgotten about. People stop visiting. It starts to inhibit ghosts of your copyright past. Frankly, there is nothing that scares the shit out of me more than when I log onto a website and see 2002 ©.

Marsh Williams

So… we’ve all been there. We’re looking for something and we click a Google ad and poof… we’re magically transported to the mystical land of landing pages. Once I’m there I resist the siren call to give them all of my information before I learn more about the product. I attempt to go to the corporate website and read some more, but noooooo, I’m trapped! I’ve fallen for the oldest of gambits, next to “Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line,” and there is no way to leave the landing page. No link to the company home page, no hidden link in the company logo, no link anywhere to other information the company would probably want me to know about. Yes, worse than a corn-maze with no exit, a landing page with no way out.

By the way, I’m still stuck on the page and can’t seem to find my way home. Send pizza…

Many thanks to read more

Hands typing

How to Deliver a More Concise Online Message

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Let’s get to the point.

Editing in writing and design is often the most critical step. In this age of instant information, instant access, instant gratification, here today gone yesterday attention span, it’s important to be concise with your communication.

Helping companies, and ourselves, get a message across we often find the need to streamline large blocks of copy. Even when there’s consensus that it should be done it can still become a laborious task where pride and feelings can become the defendant of sentences.

It’s easy for all of us, in the middle of a writer’s high, to fail to think about how we ourselves engage and buy online. Our time is precious. Our attention spans short. Our desire for the right information, right now, is great. Yet when it’s our turn to hit the keys, one more paragraph is no problem.

What if we could approach the online communication process better right from the beginning? What if thinking inside the box, a box, helped us to develop better content?

Here are some thinking and doing tips for delivering a more concise online message: read more

Admirable Brand Marketing

Admirable Brand Marketing

880 461 Gretchen Ardizzone

We spend a lot of our time helping brands increase their marketing effectiveness, but yesterday we sat back and took a moment to appreciate those who are doing it right. Here are a few brands, big and small, we admire for thinking holistically when it comes to marketing and telling their story.

Gretchen Ardizzone—Warby Parker

When thinking about admirable brand marketing, for me, it’s got to be Warby. I watched this brand go from undercover indie to mainstream cool, all while managing to maintain their authentic, genuine, do-good attitude. Warby Parker launched in 2010 with its home try-on program and a mission to offer boutique-style glasses at affordable prices.

What makes it admirable is what they’re marketing is bigger than just eyewear. The brand evokes a physical representation of literacy. Heck, the name was even born from two character’s names, Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper, from writer Jack Kerouac’s journal. read more

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