Social Media

Instagram

Instagram: Behind the Scenes of Business

Instagram: Behind the Scenes of Business 880 461 Marsh Williams

A few weeks ago we wrote about our favorite people to follow on Instagram, but we didn’t really talk a lot about how to use Instagram for business. Thankfully we’ve been provided a great example by Beauty’s Most Wanted.

Beauty’s Most Wanted teams up with Stylemakers to develop custom product lines for cosmetics and skincare which are all sold through Costco pop-up shops and online through their website.

Last week they had a video shoot with one of their Stylemakers, Jenna Hipp and they literally turned their Instagram account over to her during the shoot. The result, a great inside look at what goes on to make all those great images we see every day and usually don’t think much about.

Not only did Beauty’s Most Wanted give fans a look behind the curtain, they also got to promote their end product. Followers got a great sense of the fun and professionalism behind the brand and it’s clear everyone had a great time. Think about this as an approach for your company, products, and brand. Use Instagram to give followers an inside view of your organization, how your products are made, or who the people are behind the scenes that work so hard to make all of this happen.

In the end social media is about engagement and this is a great example of how to engage customers with your brand. A big Shout Out to the marketing and creative team at Beauty’s Most Wanted. Thanks for the lesson on how to Instagram right.

 

Photo Credit: Jason A. Howie

road

Instagram: Who To Follow

Instagram: Who To Follow 880 461 Shout Out Studio

What started as a smartphone app has quickly grown into one of the major social media platforms with over 200 million users. And with the 2012 purchase by Facebook, the popular photo and video sharing platform, Instagram, shows no plans for slowing down. The visual element and simplicity of use are undeniably attractive for businesses and consumers alike. Check out some the brands and people we love to follow and why.

Luke Pierce – Homage

Homage is one of my favorite home grown Columbus companies. They started with a simple shirt sold throughout some stores along High Street in Columbus, and grew it into a indie clothing empire, partly because of their social media marketing savvy. Their Instagram account is no exception to their awesomeness. Terrific photography coupled with throwback photos and Instagram exclusive deals keeps me a dedicated follower.

Marsh Williams – Our Open Road

I tried showing Instagram to a friend a while ago and the only response they had was, “why would I want to see someone else’s pictures?” I was hard pressed to provide an answer that wasn’t akin to “are you *&^%$#@ kidding me.”

I love Instagram, most mornings it’s how I start my day. Sitting down with a cup of coffee and my iPad. Seeing things through the eyes of others is amazing and the range of content and subject matter is extraordinary. One of my most recent “follows” is Our open Road. A family that took off from California about a year ago and has been documenting their nomadic adventure via their website and Instagram. The images and stories of adventure range from sublime to the ordinary, but the entire experience of following along is peerless.

As for companies on Instagram, I don’t know. I was not happy when advertising crept in but that’s just me.

Other people I follow just because I enjoy what they are doing are:

Luidanole—a very talented photographer who works long enough to fund his next photo journey and then hits the road (private profile).

JethroMullen—great nature and city scales.

Paulyvella—wonderful nature photography.

Kiwiboy—a true HDR junkie with a great eye.

Instagram takes me back to the great Life Magazine days. Later this year I plan to take off for a week or so and hit the Natchez Trace for my own adventure.

Gretchen Ardizzone – Sweetgreen & Nike Running

Brand consistency is huge thing for me when it comes to marketing, and what you put out on social media is no different. Many brands can perfect their tone of voice on Twitter or creatively craft the post that everyone will share on Facebook, but when it comes to Instagram, the visual aspect seems to sometimes present a challenge. So the brands that I love to follow manage to effortlessly showcase the epitome of their brand in true form.

Sweetgreen, the farm to table fast casual kitchen, is passionate about the food they create and the community relationships they cultivate. With a healthy mix of artful ingredients, drool-worthy food, and fanatical Sweetgreen followers you start to understand what living the “Sweetlife” is all about.

Nike’s branding has always aimed to empower you to “Just Do It,” and their Instagram equally delivers the motivation to move. Still photos show strength, and their 15 second videos capture a glimpse of aspirational activities. As a runner, I find NikeRunning the most inspiring. I can almost picture myself in their shoes with the wind at my back and my feet pounding the pavement.

Colin Smith – Go Pro & Taco Bell

The great thing about Instagram is the variety of content available. From the everyday photographer documenting their life, to professional photographers featuring their work, to brands promoting their products, you have a broad opportunity to look through someone else’s eyes. Instagram is a growing social media platform with a lot of potential for companies to connect with their customers in a different way. As they say, seeing is believing. So, my votes for the two brands who are doing Instagram right are as follows:

GoPro – When you claim to make “The World’s Most Versatile Camera,” Instagram should be a showcase of your product’s capabilities. Luckily, GoPro lives up to their slogan. They feature their photo of the day, chosen from user submissions, which gives a unique look at just how versatile GoPro really is. The photography is definitely worth the follow.

Taco Bell – A fast food chain may come as a surprise, but Taco Bell sure knows how to use their social media to engage their customers. With a variety of photos ranging from mouthwatering shots of food, to pictures of people brought together through their product, they take Instagram and build their brand through it. They even featured fan photos with the Doritos Locos Tacos in their television advertisement. Taco Bell sees Instagram’s potential, and they plan to take full advantage of it.

Honorable mentions: While these aren’t brands, they deserve a follow as well. Janske has some of the best landscape photography on Instagram. The awe-inspiring pictures are more than refreshing to see on your newsfeed. In Contrast, AdamSenatori is a pilot and photographer. The aerial shots of cities coupled with shots of attractions from around the world are truly beautiful.

Sonya Palmer – Sharpie & TrevLee

Despite my desire to be all digital. I have a serious crush on office supplies. File folders, binder clips, post it notes, I love it all.  And after years… YEARS of searching for the perfect pen, I found it in Sharpie’s Fine Point Pen. I love following their Instagram because they feature the people who use their products. Their Instagram consistently provides a break from my creative processes, while also inspiring me. When your head is buried in code and content all day, it’s nice to see what the outside world is doing with just pen and paper.

We had a rough winter in Ohio. Heck, we had a rough winter everywhere. Trev Lee is a photographer in Northwest Ohio, who spent a year in Yosemite. I cannot tell you how often his amazing photos of Yosemite reminded me that, yes… the outside is beautiful, yes…. Snow is even beautiful. There is life outside this house, there is life outside Ohio. He often made me want to climb rocks and trees and, well anything that was vertical!

Nathaniel Seevers – Steve Rodia and Hotel Lincoln

One of the best things about social media for me is the way we all build brand personas for the random strangers we cross digital paths with. Steve Rodia is one of those strangers that in my mind I’ve built into his own lifestyle brand. Steve’s Instagram glows of his interests; travel, great food, great bourbon. His is always the account I look forward to checking as I love to admire the places he visits, his panache southern attire, his appreciation of fine pork products and, of course, the fine bourbon he drinks. To me he is a lifestyle brand and blogger. To others he’s staff engineer at Honda.

Here’s where the duality of my taste comes into play. Aside from my love for a slower pace, grilled meats and bourbon neat, I do also love the urban pulse of certain cities. Few cities do I love as much as Chicago. During a long weekend stay for business last spring my wife and I decided to try out Hotel Lincoln as a change from our standard hotel stays. Right from check-in we felt welcome and quickly realized their friendly, eclectic disposition carried through social media. Their Instagram runs the gamut of shots of the funky interior decor of the hotel to neighborhood events in Lincoln Park to the occasional sighting of honest Abe himself.

Shannon Blair – WorldWanderLust

Similar to Marsh, I start my day with a cup of coffee and a good Instagram scroll. The person I follow that uses Instagram the way it was meant to be used, and with the most inspirational and amazing photos is WorldWanderLust. This gal was awarded as Skyscanner’s travel blogger of the year, and for good reason. Just this morning she’s in South Africa on a Safari. Last week? She was wandering around Lisbon. Seriously, she is one of those people who has built up her individual brand using the power of Instagram and by doing so she is able to travel around the world and take photos – just living her dream. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Photo Credit: Dirk Dallas

Mark Zuckerburg

New Facebook Changes

New Facebook Changes 880 461 Shout Out Studio

As of two days ago Facebook is on the move to make big new changes in ad features and privacy settings, in addition to Zuckerberg growing up and losing the hoodie.

Ads, privacy, no hoodie?! Oh my…

The fear of the big blue button:

The big new thing is Facebook has added privacy feature to log-ins. Zuckerburg stated during the conference that, “we know some people are scared of pressing the social log-in button if you’re not using an app that you don’t completely trust… then you don’t want to give it a lot of permissions.” Amen to that, Zuckerburg. This new version of Facebook with a fancy new way to log-in anonymously to apps without sharing personal information with developers, is a very welcomed change.

The Wall Street Journal sums it up by saying, “The changes, which Facebook says will be adopted by websites and mobile apps within the next year, will give users more choices about the personal information they share with third parties. By checking or unchecking a box, users will be able to specify if they want to share their friend list, their birthday or their “likes,” among others. Currently, people who log in with Facebook Login don’t control the information they share, including their email addresses, their friend lists and other personal data.”

New Ad Features: Facebook Audience Network

This is huge news to folks like the people on my team who run Facebook ads on a regular basis. Now we can apply Facebook ads that are better targeted towards mobile app users. According to Zuckerberg, this Audience Network will help developers show your audience ads that matter to them with Facebook’s powerful targeting.

So the real question is, what are these changes going to do to small businesses, especially when it comes to analytics and people (such as myself) who regularly rely on those numbers for Facebook ads and privacy settings? Well, I might have a few answers for you:

First, this new Audience Network will be a great open door to people we focus a lot of efforts on ads. We now have a new vehicle to use to target consumers who, like most of us, are on social media through our phones. The privacy feature, while putting a damper on developers, will help people feel more secure on websites and apps that require a log in with Facebook. Honestly, I have a habit of not falling through with those sites. I don’t want my Facebook feed knowing what dress I’m purchasing or if I took a quiz to see what kind of pizza I am. However, thankfully the Facebook team picked up on that and makes that little blue log in button seem a whole lot more inviting.

For more details, check out the full video for your viewing pleasure here: Mobile World Congress 2014

Image via fudyma

Vian’s Axiom: Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience.

Vian’s Axiom: Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience. 776 415 Marsh Williams

I have a great friend, Marty Vian, who has always said that “Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience.” I’ve named this Vian’s Axiom.

Now take that to heart for a moment and apply that to your customer’s experience. How much time to you spend extolling the benefits/virtues/outcomes of your product? How much time do you spend trying to cut through the noise and get potential customers to at least be interested or aware of your product?

If you’re like most companies this is the entire focus of your marketing and advertising effort.

Now take everything you know about your marketing and throw it away for the next fifteen minutes. Forget about all of the effort you’ve put into positioning, promotion and communications.

Make yourself a customer and do the following.

  • Respond to your own marketing offers.
  • Click on social media link, go to your website and pretend you know nothing about your offering
  • Post a question to your company on Twitter, Facebook, Etc and see who’s listening
  • Contact your customer support with an issue
  • Call your customer support phone number and see what happens
  • Call the main phone number of your company and see what happens
  • Send in an email inquiry through the website
  • Fill out a contact form on the website.

If you do these things the response/result you are experiencing is your brand: as Vian’s Axiom goes this what you’re actually delivering to your customers therefore it is your brand.

You probably know where to go from here, but make sure the response from these experiences matches your marketing…that’s real brand alignment.

Here are a few things we’ve worked with our clients to align, all the company names have been replaced with Green-Widget.

Do Not Reply

Don’t send emails out to anyone, under any circumstances, with a return email address that starts with “donotreply@gree-widget.com” all this tells the customer is that you don’t really care about what they have to say and you are making them look for a way to respond if they need to.

If you have to do this because your IT department is making your marketing decisions then provide a contact email in the body of the message. Never, ever make your customer have to hunt for a way to contact you.

You’re Valuable, but not That Valuable

Do not send an automated reply to a customer service inquiry that says

**This is an Automated Message to confirm that we have received your inquiry.**
Thank you for contacting Green-widget Support.
As a valued customer of Green-widget, you will receive support within 1 business day

How’s that for mixed messaging.

Setting expectations is a good thing but try something like, “Thank you for contacting us. We want you to know we have received your request and are reviewing it now. It may take us up to a day to review it and respond. However, If your matter is urgent please contact us at 123-123-12345 or urgentsupport@green-widget.com and we’ll get on it immediately.

To contact us…aww we’re only kidding

Recently we encountered a firm whose website contact page had no email address or contact form. It simply listed Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube etc

We sent them a question via Twitter…no response.

We sent the same question to them via Facebook…no response.

We looked up their Chief Operations Officer on LinkedIn and send him an InMail…no response.

We looked up their VP of North American Sales on LinkedIn and sent him an InMail…no response.

That’s their brand you hear talking, very loudly.

In Summary

If you want your customer to love you and what you’re doing listen to them, engage them, applaud them…but do not ignore them; what you say is marketing, what you do is brand.

 

Photo Credit: aldenjewell

Backstory on Photo

The Chevrolet Corvair was an entirely new approach to car design, fun, fuel efficient, inexpensive: a marketer’s dream. Then reality set in when Ralph Nader published Unsafe at any Speed. It crushed the Chevrolet Brand for years. Thus a great case for Vian’s Axiom.

Someone Was Listening

Someone Was Listening 880 461 Marsh Williams

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.

Photo Credit: Philippe Put

Person listening to a can

Benefits of Social Media Scheduling and Social Listening

Benefits of Social Media Scheduling and Social Listening 880 461 Gretchen Ardizzone

Managing social media, whether it be for yourself, another brand or client, requires constant activity and responsiveness. The most efficient way I think people can stay at the top of their social game is to utilize social media scheduling and social listening. Some individuals might see the negative in automating some of the process, but I want to share with you a few reasons why it’s efficient and can actually provide you the time you need to be more actively engaged with your followers.

Scheduling

There are a number of social media management tools that can be used for scheduling communications. Ask anyone and you’ll likely get several different suggestions. We’ve found great success with HootSuite and Sprout Social, it just depends on your particular needs and what might work best for you. HootSuite worked well for our own social scheduling, but as we’ve continued to grow and oversee social media for more of our clients, Sprout Social has been helpful to manage multiple accounts in one platform.

Why schedule? Since your audience is likely not online 24/7, you can select various times throughout the day to publish your content to test what time of day you get the most traction. Depending on the platform, you can also select messages to be published at the most optimal time for engagement.

When it comes to the content shared on social media, we believe in a balance of curated and original content. But curating the right content can also take time. Instead of having to hunt down news items to share, set up an account with an aggregator like Feedly or Scoop.It. You can also use notification services like Google Alerts, Talkwalker or Mention to receives alerts when a brand or topic is mentioned or a news item is published. By curating that content and scheduling, you can spend active time responding to mentions or comments, as well as reviewing other content that could be suitable to retweet or share.

Social Listening

Here’s where efficiency with your time leads to activity. Social listening can provide extreme benefits. To start social listening establish keywords and streams to track for conversations relevant to your brand. By doing this it helps identify opportunities for you to engage with both followers and non-followers. Here are a few additional areas you can gain insight from listening:

Trending Topics: Understand what topics are trending in relation to your brand. This could help you identify gaps in the marketplace for a particular product offering or service, or could help you establish positioning for a particular marketing campaign.

Content Ideas: If you see a trending topic, leverage for creating timely content. Maybe you notice over a period of time a lot of followers asking questions about a certain subject. Put yourself in an authority position by creating a how-to guide, e-book, quick tips, or anything else that might ease the consumer’s pain points around the matter.

Identifying Influencers: Pay attention to individuals that are often talking about topics that relate to your brand. These are ideal people to encourage to follow your brand to have them help spread the word. You can start by following them, sharing their content, and then progress into more genuine conversations. When the time feels right you can consider offering a product sample for review, or invite them to participate in a consumer panel to gather deeper insights. Some brands even scout out online influencers to serve as brand ambassadors or bloggers.

Recognize Advocates: Pay attention to brand advocates. They have powerful insight and can sometimes prevent you from making brand blunders. While they may love your brand, they’re often the first to speak up when they’re not happy. You may recall when Maker’s Mark announced they were going to reduce the amount of alcohol content in their product. Customers took to social media to address their displeasure and ultimately the brand (wisely) reversed their decision.

Geographic Targeting: It’s a big, big world of social media and while you have the capability to communicate with audiences all over the world, sometimes your marketing efforts require a more targeted approach. You can narrow your listening focus to help deliver locally relevant content, and could be ideal if you’re launching in a new market.

Responding to Customer Service Issues: I mentioned in previous post on customer service that not all issues are brought directly to you. By listening to online to consumer complaints you can identify opportunities where its advised to mitigate the situation. Turning a negative into a positive situation can be one of the best things you can do for your brand. But don’t just put on a social front, make sure you follow through with appropriate action. Don’t be a Lululemon transparent pants-gate (sorry Lulu).

Competitor Monitoring: Not only is it a good idea to listen to what consumers are saying about you, but it’s also advised to watch out (or listen) for the competition. You can identify customer disconnects and use them as brand advantages. It’s also good to see how you stack up, and what you can learn (and then do it better).

Again, the key point with social media scheduling is not just creating content, publishing, and walking away. Instead it’s about actively listening and finding opportunities to engage with people. It doesn’t mean less involvement, just a more organized and strategic approach, and when done right, can lead to great dividends in the end.

Are you scheduling your social media content and actively listening to online conversations? We’d love to hear how it works for you. Share your experience in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Melvin Gaal (Mindsharing.eu)

puppy laying on the floor

Brand Communication and Emotional Connections

Brand Communication and Emotional Connections 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Pepsi means something different to me than it does to you. I may love it. You may hate it. It may have nothing to do with taste. I may not even drink soda but still love Pepsi the brand. Pepsi can’t control that. They never will be able to. That’s ok.

What brands can control is their efforts to build emotional connections.

It’s the same reason why my wife thought I was somewhat cool and loveable and someone else thought I was a clumsy geek of a mess and said, “pass.” We can never truly control the reaction and perception of others but we can control the vibe we’re putting out and how we communicate our intentions. With brands, like with humans, a little self-awareness can go a long way.

Despite the accessibility to information buying decisions are still made primarily based on emotion. Social media has only amplified that. When we see stats like, 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals it’s easy to see the logic behind that. However, we as consumers seek even a small portion of logic in order to feed a larger feeling of comfort and affirmation about the purchase about to be made. It makes it ok to buy.

When it comes down to side by side choice, often times people can’t really pinpoint the reason for preferring one brand over another. It’s the emotional connection that wins out over price. Generational demographics matter not because of age and technology skills but more because of familiarity. It’s science. Processing fluency relates to the way information and memory is accessed. When fluent processing is attributed to the past it can create feelings of familiarity. “Processing fluency may even be the foundation for intuition,” the sort of “gut feeling” that can often override factual decision making.

So when building a brand adept at creating emotional connections consider:

  • Positioning your message based on what you want the customer to feel versus telling them your product or service is so good they’d be crazy not to buy it.
  • Leading with your brand values instead of a rebuttal to the competitor landscape.
  • Focused listening. Why stop at creating a realistic customer persona when you can survey the actual customer base?

Which brands do you feel are best at building emotional connections? Let us know in the comments.

 Photo credit: Lecates via Creative Commons

Switchboard Operators

Online Customer Service

Online Customer Service 880 461 Gretchen Ardizzone

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?

Photo Credit: reynermedia

person walking down street

Social Media Changes: What We’re Looking Forward To

Social Media Changes: What We’re Looking Forward To 880 461 Shout Out Studio

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

Social Media Habits 880 461 Shout Out Studio

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)

overcome your marketing fears

Overcoming Your Online Marketing Fears

Overcoming Your Online Marketing Fears 842 452 Shout Out Studio

We’re all familiar with the famous quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” made by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1933 inaugural speech. Well although times have changed much since then, the emotion of fear still has the power to paralyze our advancement, and the online world of marketing is no exception. Our team got to thinking about some of our own fears and those that others have shared with us, and how to overcome them. Here’s our advice for overcoming your online marketing fears:

Marsh Williams

My very first career was in broadcasting and at one point when I was faced with what I thought was an insurmountable problem, my mentor told me, “The worst decision you can make is to do nothing.” His theory was that even a bad decision moves you forward; it shows you your going the wrong way so you can turn around.

I’ve carried that around for a very long time and it really is at the heart of many online marketing decisions. No matter what we all like to think, there is a still a lot to be learned in this area and things change every year. In that environment, there are no absolutes, no matter what the experts/pundits might tell us. There is still a lot left to learn in The Undiscovered Country (Cha-ching, Star Trek reference out of the way).

While there are some best practices and a lot of things that we know will work, there is still so much to uncover. If you’ve got an idea, try it. Start small, see what can be learned and then analyze the results. That’s how we approach almost everything we do. It keeps the mistakes small and turns successes into math problems that can be scaled up when needed.

The best advice, try things all the time. Learn and try them again with refinements. It beats doing nothing and will always point in the right direction.

Nathaniel Seevers

Blogging is such a big word these days. Hundreds of thousands of people every day take to their keyboards to provide insights, prose, and expertise on every subject imaginable. Everyone has an opinion. Everywhere. All the time. All day long.

It can be scary to put yourself out there for review. To be read and critiqued or even worse, maybe to not be read at all.

When I wrote my first post ages ago I toiled over every syllable and sentence. I double checked links and ultimately when published I still found a damn typo. I remember thinking I was safer writing fiction than trying to be useful. My fear was being misunderstood or misguiding someone who might read my attempt at being helpful.

None of that matters.

To quell the fear we have to be ok with making mistakes. In fact, we have to revel in them at first as they become steps for our improvement. Not everyone is going to agree with our perspective every time. Just as Marsh stated above, doing nothing doesn’t help. As Zig Zigler once said, “You don’t have to be GREAT to START, But you have to START to be GREAT….”

There are few things more powerful than conquering the fear of being vulnerable and being ok with the fact that your voice might be different.

Luke Pierce

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the vastness of the internet. There are countless ways in which you can try to choose to interact with someone and I, like many people, have this tremendous feeling of necessity to try to tackle them all. When I realize I can’t possibly do them all that feeling then leads to helplessness, and pretty soon nothing of merit gets done in the way of connectedness for the brand.

It’s a fear that many people have about not having enough time to do everything or the expertise to execute everything, but the fact is you DON’T have to do EVERYTHING. The best way to overcome this fear is to start small. Realize that you can’t be everywhere and do everything. Take some time and figure out the ONE or TWO things that you can manage and will help you connect best with your audience. Whether it be blogging, a social media outlet, a site redesign, ad words campaign, or involvement in preexisting communities. If you start small by doing one thing really well, you can build on that in the future to try and tackle the vastness of the web one step at a time.

Gretchen Ardizzone

Striving for perfection is a daunting task in general but when you think in terms of the online world where there always seems to be a trail or trace of history, it can be tempting to want to pontificate the nuances and dwell on details. I’m not suggesting you skip spell check or just go rogue in relation to having a process for putting content out there, but understand it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect all the time.

The first time I had to to be on camera for a video recording, I was so focused on trying to make my points and say it perfect, that I forgot about just having a casual conversation and conveying what I needed to say. The fear of not being perfect can be stifling to your efforts, and sometimes end up changing the context of what you’re actually trying to say. Your marketing messages should come across in a natural way, and not as though they’ve been crafted and re-drafted a million times until they reach no resemblance to your brand.

Colin Smith

Digital Marketing can seem like a daunting task if you are new to it, a lot seems like The Land Unknown. With all that goes into digital marketing, where do you start? What I found to be the most help, is asking questions. A lot of them. It’s the best way to get the answers, without finding out the hard way. As with anything you are new to, someone knows how to help. It will also help you feel more confident as you take on more. In this case, it’s ok to dip your toes in before diving into the pool.

Shannon Blair

Finding and remaining who you are online is an honest fear of mine. For companies, it’s hard to find 0r even keep your voice in the online world. As individuals, it’s challenge to be yourself. How do you overcome it? You strive to be your own person (or company) every. single. day. You can so easily get swept up in being just like the guy next to you when you are online. Yet, being yourself is your own competitive advantage, and most people don’t realize it. Embrace who you are as a company and an individual.

Have any online marketing fears you’ve been able to overcome? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear your success story.

Photo Credit: wsilver
In use under Creative Commons 2.0

30 Minute Social Media Strategy

30 Minute Social Media Strategy 776 415 Shout Out Studio

I am constantly meeting people who are trying to use social media to help grow their business. The trouble is, they aren’t doing such a good job of it. Why? Time they claim. I get it, most small business owners are stretched extremely thin. But time shouldn’t be a barrier to doing social media well. As with anything else, if you go in with a plan your chances of success are much greater. If you follow these rules, tools, and to-do’s, time won’t be a barrier to being successful on social media. I promise.

The Rules:

  1. Don’t post the same content across all platforms – Why? Because you are giving your fans a reason NOT to follow you on all platforms.
  2. Don’t use social media as a megaphone – A lot, and I mean A LOT of people get this wrong. They think that social media is merely an advertising channel and they use it as such.
  3. Interact – This is the whole point. Get social. Go ahead, see other people. Experience new things. SHARE those experiences. Talk WITH people, not AT people.
  4. Take advantage of tools and aids to help you be effective – There are so many good resources out there to help you manage, curate, and communicate via social media. Make your life easier.

The Tools:

  1. Hootsuite – Meet your new best friend. If there is any one tool that will help you manage your social media in less than 30 minutes a day, it’s this one.  Make sure you use Hootsuite’s stream ability to monitor any keyword, search term, or list that pertains to you. It will make retweeting and mentioning a snap later. Schedule out your posts in advance, monitor topics, and stay efficient.
  2. Feedly.com & Scoop.it – Set up an account and set up monitoring on things that relate to your brand on social media.
  3. Google Alerts – Determine search terms that are similar to the terms you set up on Feedly or scoop.it and use Google alerts to monitor the web for them.

The Platforms:

The sheer amount of different social media platforms can be overwhelming but the important thing to remember is that not every platform is for every business or individual. There is no written rule that says every business has to have a Twitter account, or Pinterest account, or Facebook account, etc. Take a minute to think about the content your audience wants and choose the best medium to deliver it to them through. Especially if there is one person taking this on, don’t manage more than 3-4 platforms and don’t forget the first rule, keep each platform’s content unique to the others. Here is a list of some of the major platforms you may want to consider.

  1. Twitter: Perhaps one of the most engaging platforms running today, Twitter can take a lot of work but can pay off in dividends when running right. A lot of people don’t get on Twitter because they don’t think they have anything to say, but they are thinking of it in the wrong way. Instead of thinking you have to have something to say, think about sharing. Share things you find interesting. Pretty soon you will find you have a lot to say. Daily Tasks – Tweet something. Retweet something. Mention someone. Follow someone. Hashtag something.
  2. Facebook: A good Facebook presence has the most up to date information to your business possible. Especially if you don’t have a website you are proud of, use Facebook to keep your community up to date on what is happening with you or your company. Share events, give insight on new products or variations to existing ones and build your audience. Daily Tasks – Post something. Like something. Respond to each comment.
  3. LinkedIn: Get connected with like-minded individuals through groups. While individuals in your network may include long-term business connections or people you just met briefly over coffee, groups are a targeted audience that has similar interests, and essentially help filter the noise. Start small and join just a couple groups where you can monitor discussions. Set up alerts to get notifications when discussions are posted, take 5 minutes to review, and respond when you can provide knowledgeable insight on a subject matter. You can also make it a goal to post your own discussion topics, maybe once a month, so that you’re actively engaging with the community. And if you’re not participating in discussions, allocate those 5 minutes to share good content that you’ve written or read. It’s a less crowded space in terms of social platforms and stands a better chance of standing out. Daily Tasks – Share something. Connect with someone. Add to a discussion (or start a new one, don’t do this one day though).
  4. Pinterest:  The great thing about Pinterest is you don’t have to be a great photographer to use it well, you simply need to curate your content well. If Pinterest is a good fit for your business, the power of engagement can be incredible. For a deeper look at Pinterest, check out Pinterest for business. Daily Tasks – Pin something.
  5. Instagram: Although most social media platforms have some visual element to it, Instagram is almost purely visual. Though they make it easy to make your photos look amazing, not everyone always has amazing things to photograph. If you don’t have a visual product, i.e. if you are not constantly creating something try to find another approach. For instance, Instagram can be a great way to give a behind the scenes glimpse into your company culture. For more information on Instagram download our Instagram guide. Daily Tasks – Photograph something. Respond to comments.
  6. Google+: Although to some it may seem like Google+ is the social platform being shoved down everyone’s throats by Google, it can actually have a ton of benefit for your social media presence. For more information on how to get the best of Google+ download our guide.Daily Tasks: Post something. Add someone to your circles.
  7. YouTube: When thinking of social media platforms, YouTube isn’t often one to comes to peoples mind, but it is, in fact, a social media platform, and an incredibly powerful one at that. If you are taking the time to upload things to YouTube, make sure you have your own channel and monitor it well. Video may be a lot of work but can pay off dividends. Daily Tasks – Respond to comments. Weekly to Biweekly Tasks – Post a video.

The To-Dos:

*30/30 is an app that my colleague Nathaniel Seevers recommended to me. It has proven to be one of the best tools to keep myself on task for something like this. If you really want to stick to 30-minute social media management, this app is invaluable.

Sunday

This is Hootsuite day, and if you can spare the time you should block off an hour, but if you can’t it can definitely still be done in 30 minutes.

10 Minutes – To review what your Feedly, scoop.it and google alerts have caught for the week. See which articles pertain well to you or your product and pick a few to share throughout the week. While your skimming or reading through the articles, jot down lines straight from the text that you find compelling. That way when it comes time to share, you have an easy quote from the content itself. Also, this is where if you can take that extra time, do so. Use up to 40 minutes if you can spare it.

5 Minutes (per platform) – Take 5 minutes for each platform to schedule out your posts throughout the week. Use the content you just curated from the feeder services and shoot for 3 posts per platform, also schedule out posts about upcoming events or product information that your social community would find interesting.

Monday – Friday –

Your tasks throughout the week should really be focused on interaction, i.e. directly interacting with others and responding to people who are interacting with you. This is where your streams in Hootsuite become super important. Make sure you have them set up to monitor things like the name of your product or service, subjects and things that apply to your product or service, or anything else your community would talk about and be interested in.

7.5 – 10 Minutes (per platform) – Ideally you should be interacting in real time as things happen, but if you don’t have the means, block off your 30 minutes and divide the time up equally. Look at your streams and use it as a guide to interacting with people. Also, use this time to add more posts to be scheduled as things come up with your business throughout the week. For specifics, see the daily tasks under each platform.

Saturday – Social media never really take a day off, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Unless you have a special event, are responding to someone directly, or find something you just have to share at that moment take Saturday off and let the time you don’t use carry over to Sunday.

 

In conclusion, social media can be easily managed by anyone who is willing to prepare, use the right tools, and be diligent about daily management. Is there any other trick you know about to help with social media strategy? Share with us in the comments!

Photo Credit: Robbie Howellcc

Social Media Platforms of 2014

Social Media Platforms of 2014 880 461 Shout Out Studio

New forms of social media are popping up all the time, but the question is which ones are going to be the next big thing in 2014? I’ve heard about a few platforms through word of mouth and I’ve read about some online as well. However, I wanted to do thorough research of my own, so I downloaded the apps or played around on their sites to really test these guys and see what all the hype was about. Here is a list of the top social media platforms of 2014 to look out for, and if they are a thumbs up or a thumbs down:

Jelly – Thumbs Up

Jelly has already been brought up in our internal meetings more than a few times due to its rising popularity. The question is, will it take off? Available on the iOS and Android, the Jelly app is very new, but the creator Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is certainly not new to the world of social media.

The concept of Jelly is genius, yet simple enough to understand. Let’s say I’m walking around Columbus and I come across a statue or piece of art that interests me and I want to know more about it, I can snap a photo and ask my network of friends to get a response. According to the website, “using Jelly is kind of like using a conventional search engine in that you ask it stuff and it returns answers.” Here are the 3 key features of Jelly:

  • Friends follow friends. – Jelly is designed to search using the groups in your existing social networks so you can ask your friends.
  • Paying It “Forward” – Jelly works so you can not only ask questions or answer your friends’ questions, but it provides the capability to can be shared outside of the app accessing friends of friends as well.
  • Point, Shoot, Ask! – Being able to ask questions with images deepen their context. Snap a photo and ask away!

We Heart It – Thumbs Up

If Instagram and Tumblr had a love child, We Heart It would be its cute little baby girl. It’s built with a younger generation in mind but since the younger generation is taking over the Internet, the world, and everything else, we can expect this to take off as well. Similar to Tumblr and Instagram it’s a collection of who you are expressed through photos. I enjoy coffee, wine, and shoes so my page is a collaboration of those things in a pretty little package. My only complaint is this social media platform could do with more variety of photos, but with a growing user-base, this issue should fix itself sooner rather than later.

Shots Of Me – Thumbs Down

If you really enjoy taking photo after photo of yourself this app has your name on it. If you aren’t into that kind of thing, stop here. However, I will say if you want a good laugh check it out. Shots of Me is a Justin Bieber backed mobile app, helping you take selfies and only selfies. Without a real purpose, this app doesn’t particularly interest me, so unless Matthew McConaughey joins I won’t be getting back on this app anytime soon. One positive? It might be the key to getting all those selfies off of Facebook and Instagram. Can I get a hallelujah?

Sportlobster – Thumbs Up

You can always tell when a good game is on when you get on social media and dudes and bros from across the country are debating about bad calls. Sportlobster is giving users the ability to follow scores live, predict results, create content, and interact with other fans. You can follow your sport(s) of choice and jump right into the conversation within minutes of creating an account. When you join the app you can go through and select preferences about the sport(s) categories you are most interested in reading about. This weekend I chose to follow Tiger Woods and when I did so I learned that Sportslobster has a pretty awesome menu of your notifications, predictions, blogs, and news. If you go to your preferences such as Woods, you can check out his events, blogs, news, posts and who the fans are. Sportslobster provides awesome access to athlete specific info. This weekend I chose to follow Tiger Woods and discovered tons of relevant content about his events, fans, news and more.

The one negative about this app is its pretty European-based so there is more Cricket and Rugby than Nascar and College Basketball. They do have American football and professional basketball, so again, with a larger user base, we might see more universal content soon.

Whisper – Thumbs Down

Whisper is a social media platform that is anonymous for people who want to share and connect with other socials. Even CSBC got in on the action on this one posting an article begging the question if Whisper is the next big social media play. There are already 3 billion page views per month. Since this platform is solely based on animosity it really makes me wonder if it will stay strong. This sounds great, but my issue lies in the fact that the focus of being on social media is being social. If I’m on Instagram I’m on there to share my photos with my friends and family. Similarly, when I log onto Twitter during this award season, I’m on there to read what Perez Hilton is saying about Jennifer Lawerence’s dress on the red carpet. My point is, the main focus is that I know who these people are and that’s my point on being on social media.

So, I did my research. I got an account and looked around a bit. The reality is that from the position of a young professional, this app is not for me. When I was 14-15, maybe it would’ve worked. This app gives teens the ability to “whisper” on an anonymous social media platform and connect with other kids who feel the same way. While I may not be a fan, that doesn’t mean it won’t be huge this year because it has a target audience, and with 3 billion page views per month, the makers of this platform are reaching their goal.

Impossible – Thumbs Up

I am completely diggin’ Impossible. I get where they are coming from and I think the world could use a few more social media platforms like this, especially comparing to other social sites. Thank goodness for a little restoration in my faith of humanity.

Impossible is a new website and app that encourages people to do things for others for free. People can post wishes of things that they want or need help with and offer what they can give, which can be things or skills, even a simple hug. Impossible shows these wishes on their site and people can connect with one another to accomplish these wishes being turned into reality. It’s a great concept and aside from some people asking for gnomes and other odds and ends, I think this project could really take off. If a few large corporations get involved and the word gets out more this could be a really great thing.

That’s what’s on my social radar. Anything new you’ve spotted trending?
Photo Credit: thomasstache

How to Say Thanks to Your Clients

How to Say Thanks to Your Clients 880 461 Shout Out Studio

Saying thanks is one of the best ways to reward those you’ve rolled up your sleeves with and worked side-by-side all year long. But selecting that perfect way to give thanks can sometimes be challenging. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be that complicated, just heartfelt and sincere. Here are some ideas from the Shout Out team on how to say thanks to your clients:

Luke Pierce

This time of year can be tough. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great things about the holidays too but sometimes the pressure of shopping for the perfect gift can be daunting and that’s just for friends and family. What about the people and companies who make it possible for you to do what it is that you do? Well, the first thing is to stop thinking of it as a traditional gift. A great thanks doesn’t have to come in a box with a bow on it. Here are a couple things I think can say thanks to your clients in a big way:

Give them some social media love – If you are like us, you geek out when people talk positively about you. We love getting some love. We love a little boost of traffic to our site. I think your clients might like the same.

Give something meaningful – While we appreciate the notion when we all get a $25 gift card to Olive Garden, we often look at that money and see all the good things that could come from it. We would much rather see that money do some good for someone who really needs it. Find a charity, donate what you would have spent on gifts, and do some good on behalf of others.

Colin Smith

Giving a gift to someone during the holiday season is a chance to show your appreciation for them and everything they’ve done for you. Seeing them light up as they unwrap the present and realize what it is you’ve given them is as rewarding as it gets. But, it isn’t the only way to reach out to show someone your appreciation. A personalized card shows that you have enjoyed working with your clients, and the extra effort will go a long way. Cards are great because they present an opportunity to communicate with your clients on a personal level, without emptying your wallet. Whether the note is handwritten or printed, the content of the card is what matters most. Even a personalized e-card is a good way to spread some holiday cheer while showing the client that you enjoy doing business with them.

Nathaniel Seevers

As my big-hearted colleagues have alluded to in this post, it’s the type of thanks that gets you thinking outside the (gift) box that’s worth more than anything with a price tag. Time and sincerity go a long way.

Pick up the phone, call your clients and actually say thanks. Sincerely.

“Hey Bob, just wanted to call and say we really appreciate your business and the relationship we have with you and your team. Glad we had the chance to work with you this year. You and the family have a great holiday.”

Maybe schedule a lunch with your clients to say thanks. The important thing is, this is not the time to start talking about all the ways you’d like to extend the business and get more of their money. Save that for another conversation.

If just saying thanks doesn’t feel like enough, give time. Maybe you can volunteer at a client’s charity event or if applicable, donate X amount of your company’s time or a service to help a business that belongs to your client’s friend.

Gretchen Ardizzone

I’m a big supporter of thinking out-of-the-box when it comes to saying thanks. It’s the little extra creativity that shows your clients just how much you care. Use your skills whatever they may be and put some elbow grease into it. Make a video from all your staff about what you love about working with your client. No script writing or serious production required here, just use what tools you have at your access and make it sincere. Heck, it could even be a 15-second Instagram video.

Saying thanks is probably something we could all stand to do a little more and it’s often this time of year that we think to do it, but saying thanks should be something that happens all year long.

Shannon Blair

From the moment you first meet with your client, it becomes a relationship between your business and theirs. We typically celebrate giving thanks during holidays by showing our friends and family some love through presents, cards, and embarrassing posts on Facebook walls from your grandma. Yet, in the professional world, companies have to find ways to take it one step further. Another great way to say thanks to clients at the end of a great year is to give them a shout out on your website for all the hard work you two have done together. Whether it’s a shout out on the sidebar of your site, or a full blog post dedicated to a particular client – giving thanks on your site is a great way for your viewer to also see the potential in the people you work with as well as what your company has to offer. Plus it makes you look less Scrooge-like… bah humbug!

Photo Credit: arminho-paper

Blogger Outreach: Building Brand Buzz

Blogger Outreach: Building Brand Buzz 1920 700 Gretchen Ardizzone

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

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