• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    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.
  • BeverlyMay
    Beverly May on August 13, 2014

    Countdown to the UX Awards: Get Discounted Tickets and Vote Now for the Winners!

    We're a partner with the UXies, the premier global awards for exceptional digital experience, which is in downtown San Francisco on September 11 after 3 years in New York!
  • A surprising number of organizations continue to fear the prospect of employees on social media, and by doing so are missing what could be one of their most powerful opportunities to achieve marketing lift.

    Increasingly, organizations are terrified of the specter of employees on social media. What could go wrong? How can they protect themselves?

    Despite even my own words of caution in my recent Forbes.com column, Can An Employee’s Tweet Land An Employer In Court? I can attest that with a few preparatory steps, not only can organizations alleviate most risk, they can turn their employees’ social media activities into branding benefits and revenue gold.

    A global law firm Proskauer Rose LLP recently completed the third of its annual studies on social media as it pertains to employers and law. The study is far from comprehensive –in a field of 5,000 invited participants, this data is based on the responses of just 110. But here is what they discovered: Of the 110 companies that responded

    • 78 companies took precautions against misrepresenting the views of the business.
    • 74 took precaution against “inappropriate nonbusiness use”
    • 70 took precautions against employees making disparaging remarks about other employees or the business or employees (an area in which companies need to proceed with care to be legal, according to International Law News)

    So it’s clear there need to be social media ground rules, and thankfully the majority of organizations are taking positive steps. But what can they do to turn this prospective risk into a great opportunity? We can sum it up in two steps: 

    1)  A social media policy that combines the input of legal and HR with social media expertise to give employees a clear understanding of what they can and can’t do on social media on company time (and even on their own time). The policy should provide full education of the reasons for guidelines, and the ramifications of violating these rules. Employees should confirm by signed agreement that they understand and commit to the policy as well. With this forethought, education and commitment in place, companies can move to the greater potential of social media on the job—the emerging realm of employee advocacy.

    2)  Employee advocacy provides willing and qualified employees with additional education and guidelines to act as thought leaders and brand advocates on the organization’s behalf. This is not a function of using employees as thinly veiled “shills”—it is a chance for employees to gain additional skills, visibility, and promotability within the organization (or any future organization). Employees learn to present, to blog, and to communicate more effectively in a way that also amplifies the company’s branding messages many fold. Research by my own organization, Everyonesocial.com, shows that an organization of 1250 can (among other things) increase revenue by 19% and an earned media advertising value of $1.2M.

    Why are these advantages so great? With a properly managed employee advocacy program, the messages are, quite simply, consistent and consistently amplified. These benefits are simple math. But beyond this benefit, the companies who maximize their employees’ use of social media are increasingly gaining an “X factor” benefit as well—the employees who choose to advocate on their companies’ behalves become more capable themselves better. Some call it the Service-Profit Chain and have researched and documented the connection from employee loyalty to excellence in customer service to customer loyalty and ultimately to profit.

    I prefer to call it the “Cycle of Love.” But in any respect, the education, involvement and advancement of employees in a company’s social media programs is a virtuous cycle in which everyone wins.

    In summary, today’s organizations shouldn’t fear the prospect of their employees on social media. Instead, they should provide employees with the right level of social media tools and education to allow both the employees and their organizations to succeed.

    The Facebook “like” has become an empty gesture, almost a reflex action. You must structure your posts properly to get true ROI from your Facebook fans.

    mcds.jpg

    Facebook reporting often comes down to meaningless metrics. The people upstairs want some numbers to justify using social, so things like likes and shares become the focus of reports.

    However, these are among the most empty measures of social success. It would be akin to judging your popularity by the number of people at work who say “good morning” to you (that’s just something people say, whether they like you or not). Much like a standard “good morning,” The Facebook “like” has become an empty gesture, almost a reflex action.

    Unfocused Posts = Unwanted Comments

    This McDonald’s post about having a coke with your best friend was liked over 17,000 times. However, a look into the hundreds of comments shows a lot of dislike. Nearly every comment is focused on people’s issues with McDonald’s food or service. None of the comments focus on the content of the post at all.

    Comments included, “McDonaldz (sic) uses human meat in their food” and, “She found a cockroach in one of the Happy Meals.” Not one comment is about sharing a Coke with a friend.

    This shows two things:

    1) This post does not inspire people to comment on it’s content.

    2) McDonald’s has much deeper issues. People are skeptical about the quality of their food, ingredients and service.

    McDonald’s could benefit themselves by using these comments to start to create Facebook content addressing some of these controversies. By addressing some of these customer concerns head-on, they could head off some of the discontented customers who are using the brand’s other posts as a place to vent.

    I noticed that many other brands, such as Best Buy, suffer from the same issues – off-topic comments that reflect dissatisfaction with the brand rather than the post itself.

    Of course, the main problem is that many of these brands do have bigger issues – issues they are not being upfront with customers (and like themselves) about. These issues can haunt a brand unless they are addressed.

    However, McDonald’s post is also poorly structured. It is so ambiguous that it opens itself up to becoming a forum for complaints. This post offers no opportunity to learn anything valuable about your customers, and is – in essence – a waste.

    Structure Posts to Keep Conversation On-Topic

    Let’s look at a post that is well structured from Lay’s.

    This post asks a question: Which flavor of these chips do the people in your office like best? This sets up the post for on-topic comments, as you have asked readers to make a specific choice. Even if someone writes, “I hate all the flavors,” it is still an on-topic comment that tells you something about your audience. None of the posts are off-topic messages like “Lay’s puts rats in their chips.”

    In addition, it creates an opportunity to learn about your customers. Just by reading the comments, it is clear that the Wasabi Ginger chips are the clear favorites. Through this post, Lay’s has turned their Facebook page into a giant focus group.

    This well-structured Express post also ask fans to make a choice between dresses 1, 2 and 3. This simplifies things even more. You won't get as much rich detail in comments, but it is very useful as a quick measure of customer preference.

    Analytics for Measuring Engagement

    You don’t need to measure results of every single Facebook post that you run. However, you should run a periodic campaign to start to learn something about your fans and start learning how to truly measure engagement on Facebook.

    Run a five-piece collection of posts over a week with the understanding that this will serve as your sample size to learn about your audience. Make sure that the posts ask questions and engage. Avoid questions like “Who is ready for Friday?” That doesn’t tell you anything about your brand – everybody like Friday. Always think with the end result in mind: “What do I want to learn from my fans with this post?”

    Look at the responses:

    How did the audience react (positive/negative/neutral)? What percentage of each in responses?

    Did they follow the lead of the post or go off-topic? An off-topic response can indicate that your post was not engaging or that your company has some greater issues that are not being addressed.

    Who responded to your posts? 

    Who responded to the most posts? Who responded the most quickly? Finding this information can help you start to build a picture of who your influencers and brand ambassadors are.

    These are the people who are going to share your content and help you get around Facebook’s pay barrier. Start looking at what posts interest them.

    Always Post With Intent

    As you move forward with your social planning, always try to gain some sort of insight into your audience. No more posting cute kittens or "Happy Friday." Learn something about your audience, and create real ROI!

    The popular image-sharing network has risen in popularity since its inception. But it still features a disproportionately high ratio of female versus male users. Pinterest and its fans are making efforts to rectify this phenomenon, but how can you do so without resorting to gender-based stereotypes?

    Most e-commerce brands understand the importance of social media to their digital marketing strategy, but they may not have harnessed its full potential. One of the social networks many companies have yet to build a strong strategy for is Pinterest.

    The popular image-sharing network has risen in popularity since its inception. But it still features a disproportionately high ratio of female versus male users. Pinterest and its fans are making efforts to rectify this phenomenon, but how can you do so without resorting to gender-based stereotypes?

    Below is a discussion of Pinterest’s gender problem and how brands can appeal to men and women alike on the platform.

    How is Pinterest doing right now?

    As of August 2014, Pinterest sits at #4 on the list of most popular social networks. It represents 255 million users, which is close to the entire population of the US. However, Pinterest continues to lag behind Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

    According to Morgan Johnstonbaugh of Crimson Hexagon, Pinterest also presents significant crossover value in social media. For instance, “1.5 Tweets were written about Pinterest” in the past three months, Johnstonbaugh points out.

    The most popular topics tagged on Pinterest these days consist of crafts, interior design, fashion, and food. Sixty-four percent of Pinterest users are women, which indicates a significant disparity between females and males on the platform.

    But is this due primarily to users’ self-selected preferences or does it suggest a systematic exclusion of men?

    Pinterest’s efforts to draw in more males

    Fully aware of the limitations of domination by one gender, Pinterest has launched a concerted marketing effort to attract more men to the platform. Their goal is to show men that the site is about more than traditionally female-driven categories and encourage them to participate in the community.

    Pinterest’s campaign to bring more men to the pinning table has included:

    • Marketing imagery. Images on the registration and sign-in pages now feature noticeably more men than they used to.

    • New head of marketing. Pinterest recently hired David Rubin, the former VP at Unilever responsible for Axe advertising campaigns, to head up its gender-inclusive marketing efforts.

    • Encouraging a wider array of pin topics. Although Pinterest has developed a reputation for being a planning forum for weddings and baby showers, the network continues to market itself as a place for businesses and individuals to share pins on everything from investing tips to tech trends.

    Does your business need to amp up its gender-inclusive Pinterest strategy?

    Businesses currently active on Pinterest are among those that contribute the most to the diversity of content on the social network. Rather than focusing on traditionally “male” or “female” topics, they share their latest innovations, ideas, and inspirations.

    Leaders in a variety of industries are helping to shatter stereotypes when it comes to which gender a specific kind of content appeals to. Whether you run a crafting business or an investment firm, your Pinterest strategy can (and should) come as close as possible to reaching the widest array of audience members.

    Regardless of the dominant genders of their followers, brands succeed best at pinning as a market strategy when they:

    1. Pin useful and relevant content. Although Pinterest is a fun place to peruse interesting images, the content that will most attract the interest of potential customers provides valuable advice or tips.

    2. Share new products and inventions. Industry leaders such as GE use Pinterest to release initiatives to their followers. The people who interact with you on Pinterest should feel as though they are privy to the latest news with regard to your brand.

    3. Encourage user-generated content. Rather than telling audiences what they should use or how they should use it, let them show you (and everyone else). Ask followers to pin pictures of how they interact with your product, and everyone will benefit from their ingenuity.

    4. Create a community. Facilitating a forum where customers from all over the world can share their insights makes a brand’s Pinterest page a gathering place rather than a marketing gimmick.

    With authenticity and thoughtful leadership, Pinterest and the businesses that use it can transcend the question of gender and come closer to being the social network of choice for all users.

    How has your brand leveraged Pinterest to appeal to diverse audiences?

    Our infographic explores the Whys and Wherefores of when to think about using social video, and how to get the best out of it as a brand. Our four pointers take you from ideas to measurement. Enjoy!

    Video is captivating and easily consumed; it can be more informative than even the most well-informed blog post. Its sharability and potential viral nature draws marketers in from every vertical imginable.

    “There has never been a better time for a brand to invest in creating and distributing content that causes people to laugh out loud, tingle with anticipation or feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand on end.” - Olly Smith, Commercial Director for EMEA, Unruly Media

    As both consumers and producers in the digital space, we see videos as a great catylyst for engagement. The ability to drag a brand up from nothing, or even to revitalise a stagnant entity, makes the alluring draw of social video ever more prominent. Our infographic explores the Whys and Wherefores of when to think about using social video, and how to get the best out of it as a brand. Our four pointers take you from ideas to measurement. Enjoy!

    Digital Marketing | Social Video infographic

    In his recent social media bestseller, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook,” Gary Vaynerchuk tells marketers and businesses what boxing can teach them about marketing. The rules of boxing haven't changed over years, and the same holds true for marketing.

    In his recent social media bestseller, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook,” Gary Vaynerchuk tells marketers and businesses what boxing can teach them about marketing. The rules of boxing haven't changed over years, and the same holds true for marketing.

    You should get the book, it’s great, but let me explain how Gary illustrates social media marketing.

    A boxer spends a lot of time analyzing his own strengths and weakness, as well as those of his opponent. When two boxers step into the ring, they already know each other well from countless hours of analysis and strategic planning. This step is crucial to win both in the ring and social media. Effective boxers use a combination of jabs and right hooks to win the fight.

    A knock-out in boxing needs to be carefully set up by a series of jabs. It’s no different than when you tell a good story; punch line has no power without the foundation that comes before it. There is no sale without the story; no knockout without the setup. The right hook gets all the credit, but it’s a series of well-planned jabs that come before it that set you up for success.

    Right Hooks. Right hooks are the knockout punches. For marketers, those are the next highly anticipated campaigns that are going to increase revenue and make users engage in a cult-like following. A CMO’s dream. Right hooks are calls to action that benefit your business. They are meant to convert traffic into sales and ROI. Except when they don’t….

    Jabs. Jabs are a series of conversations, interactions and engagements, delivered one at a time, that slowly but authentically build relationships. Jabs are the lightweight pieces of content that benefit your customers by making them laugh, snicker, ponder, play a game, feel appreciated, or escape.

    Jab, jab, jab, right hook = give, give, give, ask

    Boxing080905 photoshop.jpg "Boxing080905 photoshop" by Wayne Short - Edited version of File:Boxing080905.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

    What 8 years of agency experiences taught me about social media marketing

    Fortune 500 clients change their agencies frequently. Everyone is in constant pitch mode, planning the next right hook and trying to sell it to the c-suite. It’s a dog and pony show, cluttered with credentials, client logos, and case studies with no meaningful metrics.

    Creative agencies compete on whose right-hook idea is the boldest. It’s all about swinging hard knock-out punches that will take the brand ‘to the next level.’ That’s your average social media strategy.

    draper

    No one really talks about the jabs or what it takes to learn a platform. Or how to assemble a team that can respond in real-time to social media opportunities, such as Oreo’s black-out campaign during Super Bowl XLVII. Here is the usual…

    “Just throw all those ideas under the community management slide.” What?

    “There is a section about the social media dashboard in the back of the deck, you can put your ROI slide there.” Thanks!

    Big brands still get away with ignoring jabs because they can put large paid media budgets behind their right-hook campaigns. Facebook ads will bring needed traffic just fine.

    "Look at all the Likes we got last time!" No Comment.

    Most common end result: The campaigns reached the eyeballs.

    People saw them but they didn’t care. The chain reaction follows. Another RFP out. New strategy, bigger idea, more ad dollars. Another pitch, another agency, same outcome.

    Know Your Platform, Act Like a User

    Jumping on Reddit with your big marketing idea that worked great on Facebook may be disastrous. Why shouldn’t you throw all your TV ads on YouTube? In theory, it sounds like a great idea to promote your services by answering questions on Quora.

    You can’t just throw your sales pitch and marketing  material created for one platform, throw it up on another one, and then be surprised that people don’t engage or are turned off by your efforts.

    You have to take the time to understand each platform and take a long view approach to developing a community. If you want to become influential on the platform, you need to act like the user. However, no matter how ‘native’ to the platform you are, your content has to be amazing. Effective social media marketing is about engaging your audience in compelling stories. That’s a constant.

    Gary’s little dirty social media secret:

    “Though I get to things early and can often see the future, I am not Nostradamus. I’m not even Yoda.* I’m just the kind of person who shows new platforms the respect they deserve. I won’t predict what platform will see 20 million users in a year, but once it feels to me like it will, I will put my money and time there, testing new waters, trying new formulas, until I figure out how to best tell my story in a way the audience wants to hear it.”

    *It should read, ‘Yoda I am not even,’ should I point out.

    Social Media Marketing Done Right

    Your number one job is to tell a story. No matter who you are or what you do, your number one job is to tell your story to the consumer wherever they are, and preferably at the moment when they are making decisions. Adding a social media layer to any platform, especially SEO, increases its effectiveness. Social media is overtaking the search engines the same way TV overtook radio and the Internet overtook the newspaper. From now on, everything you do should have a social component.

    There is no 60-day, there is only the 365-day marketing campaign, in which you produce content daily. Period. Do not cling to nostalgia. Ignoring social media platforms that have gained critical mass is a sure way for a brand to look slow and out-of-touch.

    Think conversation, not campaign. If you really want to start understanding your audience, you need to know what drives them and what their buying behaviors are. You can’t do this by sharing kitten memes or quotes, and you certainly can’t do this by only allowing for one-way conversation

    Like boxers, great storytellers are observant and nimble. A great storyteller is keenly self-aware and attuned to his audience, he knows when to slow down for maximum suspense and when to speed up for comic effect. No boxer uses the same sequence of moves over and over again.

    A story is at its best when it’s non-intrusive. On social media, the only story that can achieve business goals is one told with native content. If you want to talk to people when they consume entertainment, you need to be entertainment. It doesn’t require you to alter your brand identity — you shouldn’t.

    Content for the sake of content is pointless. Businesses are on social media because they want to be relevant and engaged, but if their content is banal and unimaginative, it only makes them look lame.

    Content is king, but context is God. Even great content that goes onto your social channels can fall flat if you ignore the context of the platform on which it appears. In summary, getting people to hear your story on social media and act on it requires: — using a platform’s native language; — paying attention to context; — understanding the nuances and subtle differences that make each platform unique; — and adapting your content to match.

    Marketers who understand social platforms at that fluid level will succeed. Get out there. Be human. Take the time to understand each platform and act like a user. Talk to people in ways that are native to the platform and you will win.

    The ideas included in this post are discussed in more detail in my book, SEO Like I'm 5: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Search Engine Optimization.