• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    An Introduction to Employee Advocacy

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • As National Hot Dog Month comes to a close, this post takes a look at the top hot dog brands on Facebook to see which one does the best job engaging advocates, building community and growing brand love.

    92% of Americans buy hot dogs. With 7 billion of those wieners consumed between Memorial Day and Labor Day, hot dog brands across the country have been ramping up their digital efforts to reach consumers this summer. Using the Crowdly platform, we sought out to find what brand has been the Top Dog on Facebook at engaging advocates, building community and growing brand love.

    Here’s what we found:

    • Applegate, Ball Park Franks, Oscar Mayer and Hebrew National are the largest hot dog brand communities on Facebook

    • In those four communities, the majority of the hot dog-related conversation is driven by men (54%)

    • While Oscar Mayer has a base of brand advocates that largely skews female (80%), the majority of their engagement is tied to the brand’s Turkey Bacon product, considered a healthier option

    • Despite being the best-selling hot dog brand, Ball Park Franks has the fewest fans, lowest engagement and largest gender disparity (92% male) in its Facebook community

    • Hebrew National looks to be the most well-rounded of all Facebook communities, with the smallest gender disparity in its brand advocates (22%) and excellent, topical conversation among its members


    Photo Credit: Applegate Facebook Page

    Most Engaged: Applegate

    Applegate has more people talking about hot dogs in its Facebook community than any of the four brands we looked at. The natural & organic meat brand’s “Cleaner Weiners” are a big hit on social, especially with women. This bodes well for them, as the healthy eating trend is popular with that demographic. Nearly 50% of women say they want more green choices, and Applegate provides them with exactly that in their meat. In a slumping market (overall hot dog sales were down in 2013), natural and organic hot dog sales were up by more than 14%. With a base of 87% female advocates, the brand is using that to spread the word about its beef, as 86% of those fans discussing hot dogs are women. As the brand creeps up on close to a million likes, it has a serious opportunity to toast the competition with a targeted campaign towards its extremely engaged base of fans.

    Most Influential: Hebrew National

    Hebrew National’s Facebook fanbase is exactly what a healthy brand community should look like -- engaged, responsive and influential. By responding to comments, the brand keep conversation threads going and encourages others to chime in, share and like posts. Fans share everything from preferred condiments to grilling methods and that kind of engagement has made Hebrew National’s brand advocates extremely influential on the topic of hot dogs.

    The visible advocacy couldn’t come at a better time for the kosher brand of beef, as kosher products are projected to generate $17 billion in sales in 2014. Even more encouraging is that only 15% of that customer base is doing so for religious reasons. Instead, consumers are seeking out kosher products for food quality, general healthfulness, and food safety. Those numbers must have ConAgra-owned Hebrew National excited at the potential as the summer winds down. Turns out, being the Chosen hot dog is looking good on the 115 year-old brand.

    Most Likes: Oscar Mayer

    As the former top dog, Oscar Mayer has lost ground to category leader Hillshire’s Ball Park Franks and now sits as the second highest grossing hot dog producer at $523 million. The brand has to do more than rely on its famed Weinermobile to sample its dogs to summer crowds if it wants to make up lost ground going into fall. It hopes the release of its Bacon Dogs will help the Kraft-owned brand overtake the $42 million of market share it lost. In a category worth $2.5 billion, there’s room for both brands to grow.

    Despite the size of the category, more health-conscious consumers, higher beef costs and competitors like Nathan’s are gaining steam with heavily promoted national events. Oscar Mayer needs to utilize its large and diverse fanbase on social media to help it avoid the hot water. Luckily for the brand, the Ball Park Franks community has an advocate base that is nearly a third of its size. The opportunity to market Oscar Mayer products to a receptive and influential community is there for the taking.

    Hot Dog infographic

    This week we hosted another Social Media Today webinar as part of the Best Thinker webinar series: "Customer Service Is the New Marketing: Turning Satisfaction Into Sales."

    This week I moderated another Social Media Today webinar as part of their Best Thinker webinar series, this time on the topic of Customer Service is the New Marketing: Turning Satisfaction Into Sales. Our panelists were: Frank Eliason, the Director of Global Social Media for Citibank; Nick Ayers, the Director of Social Marketing for Intercontinental Hotels Group; and Hansen Lieu, the Director of Product Marketing for SAP. This webinar was sponsored by SAP, who also set up a special hashtag for this event (#TSSUHeartofmktg) and a special LinkedIn group to continue this conversation in the weeks leading up to The Social Shake-Up Conference in Atlanta on September 16-17. One lucky person will have their story featured as part of the discussion in Atlanta from the submission on the LinkedIn group, so be sure to share your favorite customer service story, either good or bad.

    Hansen Lieu started the webinar by setting the stage with a discussion of why customer service is the new marketing. He showed some stats that were well received on Twitter namely 8 out of 10 customers, research half of their total shopping time researching products online even before they step into a store. In fact studies have shown that when people are ready to engage a sales person, they are already 60% down the purchasing process.

    Frank then responded with a historical view of how social media got involved in customer service. He cited stories from Dell and Comcast where were turning points in the connection of social media to customer service. Frank also discussed what metrics can do to your customer service which prompted some discussions on what are the right metrics to be watching. Frank has long been a thought  leader in this space and also just launched a new book called @yourservice.

    Nick took over and give us an inside view of the social media team at Intercontinental Hotels Group. Nick has 3 teams in 3 different time zones covering the IHG customer 24/7/365. They also provide service in 5 different languages: English, German, Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino. It was great to get an inside look into the challenges of a global “always on” social team and a glimpse at some of the ways they have been able to surprise and delight their customers.

    Now, if you have ever been on a Social Media Today webinar before, you know they are very “participant-driven” and we love to ask your questions of our panelists. Many of the questions from our audience revolved around topics such as: Best practices in listening for social customer engagement? What KPIs do you use to measure customer care success? How do you prepare for the 24/7/365 nature of customer care?

    If that piqued your interest, and you want to hear the replay of this webinar, please check out this link. Otherwise we hope you will join us on another Social Media Today webinar! The next webinar is on Transform Events into Meaningful Experiences: Lessons in Real-Time Marketing. Sign up for it or just view the schedule of upcoming webinars here.

    Hashtags: when used properly, they are a kind of glue that can hold your social media marketing campaigns together across networks and bring you new business. When used improperly, they can be the most annoying thing about social media, period. So what are the right and wrong ways to use them?

    Hashtags. When used properly, they are a kind of glue that can hold your social media marketing campaigns together across networks and bring you new business. When used improperly, they can be the most annoying thing about social media, period. So what are the right and wrong ways to use them? The first thing you need to understand is that simply placing a hashtag in front of words doesn't make those words any more powerful. In fact, it can make them less powerful in some situations. There aren't many hard and fast rules for using them, but data suggests that there are a few guidelines you should definitely follow if you want to increase your SMM success rather than be #completelyannoying.

    A Unifying Force

    The beauty of hashtags is their simplicity and their ability to unify your campaigns across social networks, your website, TV advertising, and more. Almost every commercial you see on television today has a hashtag displayed on the screen somewhere, which is a way for the brand to let you know that if you search for that hashtagged phrase online you will find out more information about whatever they are promoting. That could be a product, a service, a fund or donation drive, or just about anything else. While the hashtag started on Twitter, it has spread to every other social network and well beyond, becoming a staple of modern marketing. On the other side of the coin, there is no denying that it has been overused in the extreme by many people, as is hilariously portrayed in the now famous sketch by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.

    Here's how to avoid that trap.

    Twitter: The Originator

    It started on Twitter and it continues to be a driving force there, with trending topics almost always beginning with #. Although it's now been cited more times than some can count, the research on Twitter hashtags can't be overstated. According to it, tweets with one or two hashtags doubles the chances of engagement. Be careful though, because if you exceed two hashtags in a tweet your chances of engagement actually drop by 17%. There's a fine line between 2 and 3 with Twitter hashtags. It's also important to note how "engagement" is defined in this research. Only 22% of engagement with a brand's tweets are replies. However, 78% are retweets and a whopping 92% are link clicks. So if you include an appropriate hashtag or two in your tweets as a brand, you are massively increasing the chances of exposure and click-throughs on the site. Going from 10 to 20 - in retweets or link clicks - is a huge deal. Surprisingly, only about one quarter of the tweets they measured included hashtags in them. Now that you know the research, you'd be foolish not to implement it immediately. As a side note, Pinterest uses hashtags the same way that Twitter and Facebook do. There isn't much else to say about that, except that they are the second largest social site in the US in number of users and the highest revenue-generating social site for businesses hands down. Probably worth remembering...

    Facebook: Proceed with Caution

    Facebook is another story entirely. Yes, they allow hashtags and yes, people use them. Way too much. In fact, three months after adopting the practice research that used EdgeRank information found that Facebook posts with hashtags had less engagement than those without.

    Further studies from earlier this year show that, similar to Twitter, less hashtags mean more engagement. This means that using hashtags on Facebook is like a double-edged sword, and requires testing out your practices to see how your target audience responds. Concluding that you shouldn't use them on Facebook at all is probably not the best answer, since you lose the cross-network cohesion that will serve you better in the long run. Just keep them to one or two, just like Twitter, and use them wisely and purposefully rather than just for the fun of it.

    Google+: #blackops

    I know that there are probably some out there who are tired of hearing me prattle on about how great Google+ is. Especially since you don't hear much about it other than the standard line that "no one uses it but Google employees". Get over it. The key point is still, and always will be, that it is slowly but surely becoming the center of Google's universe, which makes it the center of the internet's universe, user count be damned.

    Let that sink in a second. If you post on G+, even if you don't use a hashtag, your post is automatically assigned a hashtag and made searchable through the largest search engine in the world. Are you really going to disregard that?Google does more behind the scenes than they do on stage in front of everyone, and the same is true of G+. With hashtags, they are working overtime. Even if you don't use a hashtag in a post on Google+, Google assigns at least one to your post using the post text and the headline of the link if there is one. Then they organize hashtags by category and add them to Google's searchable database, as well as using them to compile trending topics like Twitter and Facebook.

    Instagram: Keep 'em Coming

    Instagram is an outlier when it comes to hashtags. While the other sites give you a diminishing return if you use more than one or two, on Instagram the rule is the more the merrier. You can load up your pictures with an infinite number of hashtags, and the more you use the more likely you are to get them noticed, liked, and shared. The posts with the highest number of interactions have 11 or more hashtags attached, so go crazy. Go figure.

    Choosing and Tracking Hashtags

    You don't want to just pick any word or phrase that comes to mind and create a hashtag from it. It's best to know what hashtags are already in use and in what context. It's very possible (it's happened more than once) that you could use a hashtag that you think fits your business or campaign perfectly, only to discover later that someone else has already been using it in a completely different context. Then you've wasted an opportunity.

    There are several tools you can use when deciding on a hashtag. Hashtagify.me and RiteTag are good places to start. You can also browse the Twubs hashtag directory to find ideas and what is already in use. If your business benefits from local traffic, Trendsmap will tell you what are the most trending topics in your geographic location. To optimally use hashtags across the social spectrum, nothing is more helpful than a good social media management tool that will give you a single platform for distribution as well as a way to track and analyze your campaigns with reporting.


    Feeling guilty? Did you fail to publish a post last week? Are you beating yourself up because that ebook, podcast, or product didn’t get launched? I understand how you feel. However, my friend, you need to suck it up.

    Feeling guilty?

    Did you fail to publish a post last week?

    Are you beating yourself up because that ebook, podcast, or product didn’t get launched?

    I understand how you feel. As a content marketer, I understand the need to constantly publish useful stuff that readers adore but it isn’t easy. Plus, publishing content probably isn’t your only job. I get it. This isn’t simple or convenient.

    However, my friend, you need to suck it up.

    Marketing isn’t an option and it has to get done. It’s your business and vision on the line and we have to make it happen. You need new content to attract new readers, cultivate new prospects, and convince customers to trust you. Creating content is the 2nd most important thing to do in your business after creating an amazing product.

    So, let’s go ahead and hit the “PANIC” button and see what we need to kickstart your content creation.

    Here’s a radical, crazy, and effective suggestion.

    Create a Public Deadline.

    This is a deadline strapped to the back of a rocket engine. Public Deadlines are so effective that I regularly use them to produce high quality content . Public Deadlines work because it uses three important behavioral hacks to keep us on track.


    A public deadline puts you on the hook to deliver or be exposed as a “flake”.
    I’ve discovered that most people would rather lose a finger than be humiliated (or feel stupid).

    A public deadline uses this motivation hack to spur you to take action. The more public the deadline the more effective it is.
    Think about it. I’m sure you have a bunch of “private” or “internal” deadlines. I’m willing to bet that most of these deadlines are toothless tigers that you regularly push back when it suits you. Yep…I thought so.

    Procrastination Assassin

    Also, a time-based deadline is a guaranteed procrastination buster. Think back to the last time you had to produce on a deadline. Didn’t it get easier to prioritize your day as the deadline approached?
    I find that my coaching clients become ruthless time management ninjas when facing a deadline. They kill and bury low priority, non-urgent, non-important tasks that previously dominated their day as they focus on the task at hand.

    Nothing forces this type of focus like a real and pressing deadline.

    Done Trumps Perfect

    I hear this often:

    “Stan, I’m willing to take the time to get this done right. I don’t want to publish crap.”

    Hogwash. This is an excuse with lethal intent. Perfection is a moving target that the perfectionist never catches.

    Perfectionists confuse activity with achievement and are rewarded with bankrupt businesses, empty bank accounts, and disappointed readers.

    Sure there are famous perfectionists that achieved incredible success. Steve Jobs comes to mind. But what Jobs disciples overlook is that Jobs was a ruthless deadline enforcer. Perfection had a deadline.

    When faced with a deadline done is better than perfect. Michael Hyatt says that shifting his mindset from product as final to product as software squashed his anxiety about perfectionism. Software is a work in progress. It gets updated and refined over time. Your content works the same way. Finish, publish, and revisit your content to make it better.

    Let’s Get It Done

    Ready to get serious?

    Do this.

    Publish your Editorial Schedule

    • Login to your blog’s admin dashboard.
    • Create a new sidebar text widget.
    • Title the Widget: “Upcoming Posts”
    • List the titles of the next 5 blog posts on your editorial calendar.
    • Under each title include the date when the post will be published.

    Now write an email to your email list: Here’s an email script:

    I’m committed to giving you the best information I can. I know you rely on me and I want to honor that.
    Our blog posts are a big part of our commitment to giving you our very best. We thought it would be helpful for you to see our editorial calendar for the next 30 days:

    Here it is:

    • Blog Post Title | Publishing Data
    • Blog Post Title | Publishing Data
    • Blog Post Title | Publishing Data
    • Blog Post Title | Publishing Data

    You’ll receive these articles in your inbox at 9AM on the day they are published.
    Let us know if you don’t receive them.

    Thank you for trusting us with your time.

    • Click Send.

    Now you are on the hook. Make creating content a priority or keep making excuses. It’s up to you but at least you have a little accountability.

    Can You Do This?

    procrastination / shutterstock

    Brands are not publishers. In the eyes of the readers, the bar is actually higher. What's a brand to do? First, slow down.

    Let’s be honest: Content created by brands is not the same as content created by an independent media company or even by an independent individual.

    It’s no wonder that as more brands take up content as a marketing tactic, readers are confused. A spate of studies from various sources has shown that show the weakness: Readers don’t know what to trust. While 86 percent of business executives said they are interested in “branded content,” according to a recent survey by Quartz, a different study, by Contently, said 54 percent of Internet users don’t trust “sponsored content”–and those who do only trust it if they already trust the publication running the content or the brand itself. Content created by brands comes loaded with a whole set of burdens that must be overcome–the presumption of bias or self-interest, a history of pitching products or services, a world view that puts the brand in the center of the universe (and excludes competitors completely), a reluctance to take risk, and often an amateurism that undermines even the best intentions.

    The confusion has a real impact on how effective brands can be in their content-led communications efforts. In yet another study, this one conducted by Forrester in conjunction with the Business Marketing Association and the Online Marketing Institute, just about half of marketers said their content marketing efforts are not creating value.

    Our own study, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit in association with marketing communications agency Peppercomm, shows a significant disconnect between what business executives want from branded content (substance, utility) and what marketing professionals are providing (marketing), often because marketers do not know how to judge the success of their programs. We will be releasing the details of our study shortly. Watch this space.

    And yet the amount of branded content continues to grow as both brands and media companies look to it as an alternative to advertising.

    What’s a brand to do?

    First, understand that while anybody can use the tools and resources of publishing, brands are not publishers. In the eyes of the readers, the bar is actually higher. Readers come to publishers with the assumption that content will reflect a certain level of quality and independence. Not so for brands. They have to rise above the built-in biases that readers bring to branded content–and this means rising above the brand’s own structural and cultural biases, too.

    With that challenge in mind, slow down. Before diving in to your next content-led program, spend some time educating your senior leadership in order to set expectations about what a successful program looks like–and how it fits into a larger marcom program. If content marketing is about stepping out of the sales funnel to help prospects, then success is more about engagement over a long period of time and less about direct conversion metrics. Does management understand your content goals enough to judge the program on the right measures?

    On an executional level, creating content that will be truly valued likely means thinking about resources differently–hiring people who don’t have traditional marketing backgrounds, and working with outside help who can bring a different perspective and skill set to the task. With the right resources in place, do the hard work of thinking about the reader. Know who the content is for and think about how you can distinctly be of help. Tell your readers something they don’t know, simplify a complex idea, connect the dots between ideas that are already out there, provide context to emerging trends, and be meaningful.

    Most important, acknowledge your own place in the marketplace of ideas. Yes, there are important parameters to keep in mind, but brands have a legitimate role in the publishing ecosystem. You have an insight into the readers’ work lives that media companies lack. Do for your readers what nobody else can do.