An Updated {Short} Beginner's Guide to Instagram Strategy

An Updated {Short} Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Strategy

About two years ago I wrote a short primer on beginning your Instagram strategy and since then Instagram has taken the world by storm. Today, I present to you and updated version of that post. If you want to read the original, for fun, you can here.

 

Before we get started, let’s look at the stats now:

  • 800 million monthly users
  • More than 800 million daily active users
  • 8 million business Instagram accounts
  • 72% of Instagram users have bought a product they saw on the platform
  • Over 50% over businesses are posting Instagram Stories

Source: http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/important-instagram-stats/

 

Sprout Social mentioned in one of their Instagram marketing guides, “As people join Instagram in droves, brands have a unique opportunity for engagement with their fans: Instagram posts generate a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%, which is 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter.”

 

Before you jump headfirst into using this platform (or if you are already there but needing a bit of guidance), there are some basic elements to consider when crafting your plan for your business. Let’s take a look…

Why are You Using it?

Like anything you do for your business, you have to know why you are using it. Are you trying Instagram because you are tired of Facebook? Maybe you want to be your competition to the punch? Before taking on more than you can chew, make sure you have the time, energy and resources to dedicate to doing this right. Once you have, start crafting your Instagram strategy. To save time and not reinvent the wheel, I’m going to recommend you bookmark Sprout Social’s Instagram Strategy Guide (it’s linked at the end of the article).

Which Photos Will You Use?

Photos are the backbone of this platform – without them, Instagram simply wouldn’t exist. Choosing what graphic to post is very important. Here are some simple things to keep in mind:

 

  • Optimal photo size is 1080px x 1080px; for Stories, 1080px x 1920px
  • Will your photo be landscape or portrait?
  • Filter or no filter?
  • Does it match the message you are wanting to convey?
  • Is it appropriate?
  • If I’m sharing someone else’s content, do I have permission?
  • Photos with faces get 38% more likes.

 

Unfortunately still at this time, there is not a direct way to upload a photo via your computer. I’m sure one day we may have this option, but right now, there’s not. Here are the most common ways to post your photo to Instagram:

 

  • Take a photo on your smartphone or tablet and direct upload from the device.
  • Create a DropBox folder or a folder in Google Drive and upload the photos you’d like to use and sync it with your smartphone or tablet. You’d then download the image from the cloud onto your device and post from there.
  • Repost App. This is an app that allows you to share other people’s Instagram photos. When you open it, it brings up the feed of who you follow and you just tap the photo you want to share and it allows you to open it up in your Instagram account to post.

What About Hashtags?

Hashtags are very important when using this platform for your business. 70% of hashtags on Instagram are branded. Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those without. Like Twitter, these allow you to be found when someone searches. Instagram’s guidelines on hashtags can be found here. Jenn Herman of Jenn’s Trends is one of the top Instagram strategy people I know. She wrote an article about using hashtags on Instagram and here’s what she says (and I suggest as well) –

  • Use relevant keyword hashtags
  • Don’t use too many hashtags
  • Use industry related hashtags
  • Keep your audience in mind
  • Don’t hijack hashtags (basically using a popular hashtag to butt in on a trend or conversation)

 

One of her best suggestions on using hashtags was to create a list of hashtags and save them on your mobile device, “On your mobile device, I recommend you create a notepad note (on whichever app you prefer) with your favorite/preferred hashtags. You can even create multiple lists if you have multiple types of content you share on Instagram. Set the list with your core hashtags and simply copy and paste it into your Instagram post caption to save you having to type them in each time. It’ll also make sure you don’t leave any out!”

How About Following People and Having Them Follow Me?

On Instagram, in your feed you will only see the posts from those you follow. If you click on eyeglass at the bottom, it pulls up the search where you see photos from people based on the people you follow. You can also search people and hashtags as well. To be found and get followers, it’s important for you to use hashtags (see above). Most people you follow will follow you back, however here are some tips when you follow people and getting people to follow you back:

 

  • Have your bio completely filled out and include a link to your website. Also, make sure you have a legit and professional-looking profile photo (read: no bikini pictures or topless (if you are a guy), no vulgar expressions, etc.).
  • Post relevant content. Your stream should not be a collection of selfies.
  • When you do follow someone and they follow you back, do not immediately unfollow them. This is my biggest pet peeve. I’ll have people follow me and I’ll follow them back if I like their content and 2 days later, I’m scrolling through my followers and see they are not following me anymore. Talk about rude. Beware of those who follow you who are following A LOT less than follow them.
  • Check out who is following your competitor and follow those people. Keep in mind to only follow quality people.
  • Comment on other people’s posts. If someone comments on mine and I’m not following them, more often than not, I’ll follow them. Of course, look at their bio and what they’ve posted first.
  • Use relevant hashtags.

Promoting Across the Web?

Of course you’ll want everyone to know you are on Instagram now. When you launch your account, make sure you have your Instagram link on your website. Also, post a status update with your link on your other social accounts. I have several I follow on different social media platforms and their Instagram posts are much different (for the better) than their Facebook updates. Here are some ideas to promote your Instagram account across the web:

 

  • Status update on your social platforms.
  • Link on your website.
  • Write a blog post about why you’re using it.
  • Share your Instagram photos to Twitter and Facebook.

How Often Do I Need to Post?

Like any other social media platform, you have to use it regularly to benefit from it. Posting once per week is not going to do it. Plan on posting 2-3 times per day. The more active you are, the more your account with grow. As of January 2018, you can now schedule and post directly to Instagram through the major social management programs, such as Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Buffer, etc. Another option is Schedugram. Of course, Instagram allows you to share your photos to other platforms, but if you do choose to go that route, I would only recommend sharing the photo to Facebook. Twitter only show the link and caption, not the image.

Tracking Analytics?

Last but not least, you need to be able to track and measure your Instagram efforts. Fortunately there are two options – Iconosquare and Sprout Social – to help! Both programs let you manage comments on your Instagram photos and gives you analytics on your accounts. Sprout’s Instagram services are included in their social management software while Iconosquare is a stand-alone program.

All of this can be applied to Stories as well. And videos.

 

Using Instagram can be A LOT of fun. It’s a great way to get a behind-the-scenes peek into the daily lives of business and individuals. If you use it the right way, you’ll see your presence grow.

 

What are you doing with your Instagram strategy?

 

Follow me on Instagram –

Personal Account – @mandyedwards0821

Business Account – @memarketingservices

 

Instagram Resources I Recommend:

18 Instagram Stats Every Marketer Should Know

Hashtags on Instagram

Sprout Social’s Instagram Strategy Guide

Schedugram

Jenn’s Trends (take a look at her Jenn’s Friends Program too!)

Sprout Social (Link takes you to a free 30-day trial and is my referral link).

 

5 Ingredients For a Successful Holiday Social Advertising Campaign

5 Ingredients For A Successful Holiday Social Advertising Campaign

Whether or not we want to believe it, the holiday season is upon us. We see turkeys and pumpkin pie everywhere we go. The pre-Black Friday sales are going on. Christmas music is starting to filter through our radio stations.

Is your business ready?

The holiday season is one time of year that it seems advertising dollars are unlimited based on the traditional ads we see. Social advertising, however, has been slow to warm up to those levels. I believe that social advertising is more effective in reaching your audience – and this is coming from a former print advertising sales girl.

If you are using social advertising this holiday season, you want to make sure you are getting your biggest bang for your buck. In this article, I am going to share with you 5 tips for a successful holiday social advertising campaign.

You’ll find out –

  • Why having a budget is important.
  • Why you need to get creative.
  • Why you need to know your audience.
  • How targeting works for you.
  • Why tracking is a requirement.

Know your advertising budget.

In a perfect world, businesses would have advertising budgets as big as Santa Claus’ toy bag. With an unlimited amount of money to spend, just imagine what businesses could do. Unfortunately, that is not the case in our world. Company budgets are run tight, often cutting sales and marketing first. When you advertise online and do not set specific start and end dates, it’s very easy to run up a high advertising bill. That’s the last thing  company needs in the 4th quarter.

Having a budget is important because:

  1. It controls cost. You can keep track of where the money is being spent accurately.
  2. It’s easier to calculate ROI when it’s over. When you track the response of your ad against how much you spent, it’s easier to figure out that elusive number as compared to traditional print or broadcast ads.
  3. It shows you just how much you can accomplish with social advertising when putting it up to a traditional form of advertising.

Think outside the box.

Since so many companies are vying for your customers’ dollars, the gloves really come off where creativity is concerned. This is a time of year when you need to start thinking outside the box and leave your comfort zone. You need to be seen and heard among the Targets, Macy’s and Wal-Marts of the world. This is where creativity comes in. Think of the successful holiday advertising campaigns you’ve seen. The ones that come to mind to me are:

  1. Coca-Cola. The Polar Bears are so endearing that it makes an emotional connection with the audience.
  2. Hershey’s Kisses. The Kisses as bells playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is my favorite holiday TV commercial. They have aired the same commercial every year for as long as I can remember. Continuity definitely says something.
  3. Elf Yourself from Office Max. 9 years later, people are still getting elfed each year.

Now take a look at what made these successful – it wasn’t your normal run-of-the-mill advertising – they set out to really connect with people. Whether it was from an animated character, musical chocolates or making an elf in your image – they all started as something outside the box.

Know who your audience actually is.

Ask any business who their audience is and you’ll see a lot of similarities – people who like to spend money and have money are just two. Knowing who your audience is and being able to relate to them is key. You’ll know exactly what to say – and how to say it. The way you’d phrase an ad you want moms to see would be much different from ads geared towards teens.

For example, you are a clothing store targeting teenage girls. For an ad targeting their moms, you would say something like “We help 14 year olds look like 14 year olds.” (Disclaimer: I’m a mom of a tween – trust me, clothes these days do anything but make them look their age – moms are looking for ones that do) For the tweens, it would be, “Look totes adorbs & wow your friends.” Just knowing how tween girls talk helps you relate to them and get in front of them easier.

Knowing your audience is much different than just knowing the demographic stats. Know what they like, how they talk, who they interact with. That will help you put together a more successful campaign.

Targeting is your friend.

Once you really know who your audience is, you know who and how to target them. Facebook and Twitter have hands-down, the best targeting options out there in the realm of social advertising. With these two platforms, you can get in front of your competitor’s followers (Twitter), target people based on their net worth (Facebook), get in front of people talking about or watching certain TV shows (Twitter) or target trendy moms specifically (Facebook), just to name a few.

Targeting will help you:

  1. Use your advertising budget more effectively.
  2. Get you in front the exact person you want to reach.
  3. Stay within the goals of your campaign. Your ad won’t be the needle in the haystack.
  4. Separate yourself from your competitor.

Track your ad’s performance again and again and… again.

Any social advertising platform includes analytics on how your ad is performing. Knowing what these metrics mean and how they are performing will determine the success of your campaign.

Tracking can show you:

  1. What wording and/or graphics work best. Use A/B testing to see what resonates with your audience the most.
  2. Your ROI. With social advertising analytics, you can see the number of impressions for your ad, the clicks and if you have a conversion tracking pixel installed on your website, the number of conversions. Take your number and compare it with what you spend and bada-bing – you have your ROI. Ask a print or broadcast ad rep if they can get that specific.
  3. How wise you are using your advertising dollars. This does relate some to ROI, but you can watch your ad and add or subtract money from your budget at any time. Is your ad off the charts? Add some more money to it! Is it totally bombing out? Then lower it.

Not only can these 5 tips be applied to your holiday social advertising campaign, but also to your everyday ads you run online.

Social advertising is going to become the dominant form of advertising. Just watch over the next 5 years or so. With people using their mobile devices more for internet searches and social networking or just doing pretty much everything online, it’s just a matter of time before we see more social ads than we do on TV or radio. Fortunately, social advertising is affordable for every business from your mom and pop store on the corner to the behemoths like Wal-Mart or Target.

Question is – how are you going to make it work for you? I hope these 5 tips help you out this holiday season. Have a tip you want to share? Comment below and let me know!

photo credit: roitberg via photopin cc

Facebook Marketing 101- Where do you Begin

Facebook Marketing 101: Where Do You Begin?

For all the bad press Facebook has gotten recently in regards to fake news, Russia, and the removal of advertising options, it’s still one of the first places you need to go to start your social media strategy.

 

So why use Facebook?

 

  • 79% of American adult internet users are using Facebook (Pew Research Center)
  • 76% of Facebook users log in daily (Pew Research Center)
  • As of July 2016, there were over 2 billion searches per day on Facebook (TechCrunch)
  • For my local readers – approximately 68,000 people in Bulloch County alone, ages 18+ on Facebook (which also translates into approximately 51,680 Bulloch County residents logging in each day to Facebook).

 

Of course, you do not need statistics to tell you why you need to use Facebook to market your business. I could list over 100 statistics to show you why you need to be on there. Simply ask people how they stay in touch with people and how they find out what’s going on. I guarantee you more than half of your answers will be ‘Facebook’.

 

That being said, I’ve put together a short and sweet primer below on Facebook Marketing 101, which originated from a Facebook Marketing class I taught at and for my local Chamber of Commerce. Let’s get started.

 

If you are going to use Facebook (and you should), where do you start?

 

Start with your “WHY”. Why are you using Facebook in the first place? Like anything you do on social media, everything you do on Facebook should come from your “why” and every goal you set should help you achieve it. If your actions to not attribute back to your “why”, start over.

 

If you are using Facebook, who am I going to target?

 

When thinking about who you are targeting, think about your “why” from above. Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Why are you targeting them?
  2. Will targeting this group help you reach your goal in using Facebook?
  3. Is this group someone you want to actually spend money with you? (Remember, not everyone is your client/customer)

 

Like I mentioned above, if these groups do not help you achieve the goal of your ‘why’ statement, start over.

 

Now that I’ve decided to market on Facebook, what do I post and how often?

 

Think about your target audience – their likes, interests, etc. – and craft your content strategy around that. What is your online voice? Your Facebook presence is the digital extension of your brand. When establishing your voice – are you fun or serious? Sarcastic or punny? Are there common phrases your business uses? Take all of this into consideration.

 

Facebook did research this year into what people are looking for in their Facebook content. First, they found that people on Facebook want and value meaning, informative stories.

 

In their algorithm, Facebook looks at a user’s personal signals, such as “how close someone is to the person or page posting, stories they’d want to talk to their friends and family about, spend time reading, and videos they’d spend time watching.” Also taken into account is the post’s overall engagement.

 

People value content that is informative as well. Think about what you take time to read or share, or even comment on. It is content you find meaningful and informative. You should put yourself in the your audience’s shoes and post the type of content they will spend time on, much like you would.

 

Watch out for promotional messaging. 46% of Facebook users will unfollow a brand on social for posting too many promotional messages (Sprout Social). A good ratio to keep is 80% educational/20% promotional. For every self-promotional messages you put out, you need 8 that are not. You can share articles relating to your industry, tips, behind the scenes of your business, etc. Just do NOT publish sales pitch after sales pitch.

 

Second, Facebook found that people on Facebook value accurate, authentic content. Facebook users have told Facebook that authentic stories are the ones that resonate with them the most, so Facebook ranks those types of posts higher in the News Feed. Some tips from Facebook include:

  • Clear headlines – do not mislead the person viewing the headline.
  • Spam – “do not deliberately try and game the News Feed to get more distribution.”
  • Accurate Information – make sure what you are posting is true.

 

Be friendly and helpful in your posts, not snarky and sarcastic. Emotional connections drive Facebook shares. The science behind a viral post rests on our knee-jerk emotional reactions to it. The more extreme our emotional reaction to it, the more likely you’ll share it. In psychologist Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions concept, he identified the emotions that drive our sharing behavior. The inner circle denotes the eight emotions to think about when creating content.

 

Make sure to respond. People want you to respond to them. 68% of consumers want brands to participate in conversations they’re mentioned in, and 83% want brands to respond to them (Sprout Social). And the percentage of posts that go unresponded to? 86%.

 

Create your own graphics and if you do not, know where you are getting them from. Make sure any graphics you use are on-brand and most importantly, make sure you own the rights to them! You can create your own at Canva (a personal favorite!) or download free graphics at Pixabay, UnSplash, or Pexels.

 

Let’s briefly take a look at the six main post types on Facebook:

  • Status – simple updates, seen more commonly from your friends than pages.

  • Links – Trick: Post the status you want, then the link, remove the link preview altogether and add a picture to the post. This will get more reach than simply inserting a link and having the link preview on. Keep in mind, you can no longer edit the link preview!

  • Video

  • Photos and Photo Albums

  • Products. If you have a Facebook Store, you can add products into your posts.

  • Take action: Sign Up, Get Messages.
    • CTA posts to encourage your fan to take action immediately. Use sparingly.

 

Your post frequency depends on your business – it’s not a one size fits all, so be weary of every “Best Time to Post” article you read online. My recommendation? Post minimum 3-5 times per week, no more than twice per day, unless you’re at an event. To find out the best times for your business, look at your Facebook Insights to see when your fans are online and schedule/post around those peak times. (see example below).

 

What about Facebook Advertising?

 

Everyone is doing Facebook ads, you honestly, you may as well too. With Facebook’s algorithm, it’s almost a requirement to boost some posts in order for your content to be seen. But don’t worry – it will not bust your marketing budget.

 

On Facebook, desktop ads have 8.1x higher click-through rates and mobile ads have 9.1x higher click-through rates than normal web ads. Social media advertising is the most cost-effective way to advertise in this day and time, with Facebook leading the way with the various, and amazing, options available to businesses.

 

Here are some easy steps to setting up a Facebook Ad –

 

  • Step 1: Figure out what you are promoting and select an ad type. When running a Facebook ad, you need to know what you are promoting and why you are promoting it (much like your overall social media and/or Facebook strategy).
    • There are three decisions to make –

What are you promoting?

Will your ad run via auction or reach & frequency?

What type of ad will you choose? (Hint: Awareness ads are best for small budgets)

 

  • Step 2: Select an audience. Selecting your audience is the most important part – more important than the ad itself. When selecting your audience, you are narrowing in to target the ideal customer/client.
    • Your choices are to either –

Create an audience from the options you are given (which can make unlimited combinations).

Use a custom audience.

Use a lookalike audience.

 

  • Step 3: Ad Placement
    • Your choices for placement are:

Desktop

Desktop Right Side

Mobile

Instagram

Audience Network (this lets you extend your ad campaigns beyond Facebook to reach your audiences on mobile apps, mobile websites and videos. We use the same Facebook targeting, measurement and delivery to make sure each ad on Audience Network helps you reach your campaign goals at the most cost-effective price.)

Instant Articles (See more here: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/825186870955247 )

In-stream Video

If you’re not sure, Facebook will recommend using the default placements for your objective:

Brand awareness (including Reach & Frequency buying): Facebook and Instagram

Engagement (including Reach & Frequency buying): Facebook and Instagram

Video views (including Reach & Frequency buying): Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network

App installs: Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network

Traffic (for website clicks and app engagement): Facebook and Audience Network

Product catalog sales: Facebook and Audience Network

Conversions: Facebook and Audience Network

For more information on ad placements, visit: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/175741192481247?helpref=related

 

  • Step 4: Set an ad budget and schedule
    • Ah, the budget. Here’s where you determine how much you are going spend for your ad. You have two choices: daily budget (how much you spend per day) or lifetime budget (how much you want to spend for the entire campaign). Yes, you can run an ad for as little as $1/day but not every ad will let you do that. Here are the spend minimums:
      • If the ad set gets charged for impressions, its daily budget must be at least $1 a day
      • If the ad set gets charged for clicks, Likes, video views, or post engagement, its daily budget must be at least $5 a day
      • If the ad set gets charged for low frequency events like offer claims or app installs, its budget must be at least $40 a day
      • For more information on ad spend minimums, visit: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/203183363050448

 

  • Step 5: The ad. Now the second-most important part of the whole process – creating your ad. You can choose an existing post as your ad or you can create one from scratch. If you are creating an ad from scratch, you have 5 formats to choose from –

Note: Formats will vary based on the ad objective you have chosen.

 

  • Step 6: Track your ad. How do you know if you Facebook advertising is working (or did work)?
    • You can view the results of your ads in the Campaign Dashboard and view each ad (as shown above). You can customize your reports through Columns and Breakdown.

 

If you’d like a more detailed guide to Facebook Advertising, you can download my Facebook Advertising 101 Guide here.

 

Of course, how do I know if my Facebook efforts are working?

 

Welcome to Facebook Analytics!

 

There are many programs on the web that can pull detailed information for you about your Facebook page and your Facebook content (Sprout Social, Simply Measured, etc.), but Facebook Insights work just as well.

 

Here are some main metrics to track:

  • Engagement
    • Clicking a link, sharing your post, making a reaction, or leaving a comment
    • The more people interact with your content, the more they will see it and the more it will show up in Facebook’s algorithm because it signals to Facebook it’s popular.
  • Reach
    • The number of people your content is seen by by either paid or organic efforts.
  • Impressions
    • How many times your posts were seen (does include multiple views by a single person).
  • On your website – how much traffic Facebook is referring to your site. You can view this in Google Analytics.
  • Page Likes & Follows
    • Look for growth each month. Give yourself a goal of 5-10% growth each month.
  • Video Metrics to track:
    • Video retention – how long people are watching
    • Video engagement
  • Advertising Metrics to track:
    • CTR (click-thru-rate). Average across all industries is 0.9%. When Facebook sees your ads are getting impressions but no clicks, it logically assumes your audience doesn’t find the ad relevant. This can result in paying more per click and overall poor performance.
    • CPC (cost per click) & CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Average CPC across all industries is $1.72.
    • CPA (cost per action). Average cost per action across all industries is $18.68.
    • Ad frequency

 

That was A LOT of information thrown at your about Facebook Marketing. But it’s not all that hard and it’s easy to manage. Here are some tips:

 

  • Schedule Posts on the Page or through a program such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social.
  • Check analytics at least once per week.
  • Have a Facebook advertising budget.
  • Do not be afraid to go out of the box and try something new!

 

Facebook can be a great place for your business to see success in the social sphere. If this still seems daunting to you, don’t worry – we offer Facebook management in our social media management services and would be happy to talk with you about it!

 

Did I leave anything out? If you have questions about your Facebook strategy, contact me or comment below!

Digital Marketing Strategy

Digital Marketing Strategy 101 for Boring Brands

Over the past decade, and especially within the last five years or so, digital marketing has more or less infiltrated every area of our lives. Online advertising has evolved in leaps and bounds thanks to the internet and social media platforms.

You’re unlikely to escape the sponsored ads on Facebook, promoted tweets on Twitter, or those pesky popups on websites you like to visit – and everywhere else in between. We can thank the latest and greatest digital marketing plugins and algorithms (and other technical things, such as tracking pixels, which I won’t even pretend to understand).

Regardless of whether you consider current digital marketing techniques to be effective or “creepy/stalkerish,” many brands are finding success with using them.

In a recent article for TopRank Marketing’s blog, Ashley Zeckman pinpoints three attributes of a successful digital marketing strategy:

  1. Authoritative (having or showing impressive knowledge about a subject – Merriam-Webster)
  2. Credible (able to be believed – Merriam-Webster)
  3. Trustworthy (able to be relied on to do or provide what is needed or right – Merriam-Webster)

Sounds simple enough, right?

Sure, but how can I apply these digital marketing strategy attributes to my essential, but boring brand?

First of all, let’s determine what type of brand might fall into the “boring brand” category. These are brands that also want to creatively market their products, such as those for feminine hygiene, or medication for hemorrhoids, toilet paper, or auto insurance, for a few examples. You know, mundane things people don’t typically talk about in their everyday conversations.

And so, in a nutshell, the marketers for boring brands are tasked with creating and promoting brand awareness, starting conversations about and ultimately driving sales for these necessary, yet “blah” things – but for their brands.

For some time now marketers for this unique niche of brands are often left scratching their heads in the past when it comes to developing effective digital marketing strategies. They may be wondering, is it really necessary to “reinvent the wheel” just to gain more attention on the internet?

The short answer is, “yes.” Although many of us have become accustomed to seeing ads for these boring brands on television or hearing them on the radio, there is an entirely new and growing audience online. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of time before we fully embrace ads and other content for the so-called “boring brands” on the internet as well.

One issue the marketers or boring brands face is determining why their products and/or services don’t seem as easy to promote with the digital marketing tactics currently working for those not so “ho-hum” brands and how to work around it. The good news is that even though it may seem difficult to attract and retain an audience, it certainly isn’t impossible.

Scott Ayres has written an inspirational post for boring brands of all sizes for Post Planner, a social media engagement app. The post, which is titled, “36 No-brainer Social Media Tips for Boring Brands & Products,” provides an excellent list and resource guide that is perfect for creating content to use on social platforms or anywhere online.

Here are a few of Ayres’ tips you may wish to consider as you begin creating a digital marketing strategy for your own “boring brand”

  • Don’t be “salesy” — The 70/20/10 formula for content is ideal! This includes 70% informative, 20% other people’s posts, and 10% sales
  • Be personable — people want to see the personal side of your brand, and also use humor if appropriate
  • Share customer reviews/testimonials – potential clients often trust what others say about you and your brand
  • Create and share “How to” content related to your product or service through blogs, video or social media
  • Share posts from “experts” in your brand’s niche or industry

How real “boring brands” are finding real ways to reach their online audiences through digital marketing

As I have seen in my own experience there is truly no one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy for any type of brand. There is a lot of essential research, testing, and trial and error involved in achieving success online.

However, there are several brands of various sizes and within different industries that are seeing positive results.

Here are a few examples:

1.  Charmin

Regardless of who you are, you probably (hopefully!) use toilet paper. It’s one of those essential, yet mundane products I referred to above with few marketable qualities.

In 2014, Charmin drummed up brand awareness when they launched a hugely successful social media campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #tweetfromtheseat. The tweets prompted interaction with the followers and provided some humor for the brand’s followers.

 

 

2.  General Electric

Although most B2B companies have had mixed results with their digital marketing efforts, General Electric (GE) has successfully boosted their brand using social media and other online marketing platforms.

One surprising platform where they have excelled in introducing their industrial products to a mainstream social media audience is Pinterest. Pinterest is still a widely popular visual platform. As of 6/8/16, Pinterest has 100 million active users according to Expanded Ramblings.

As for GE, Gina Hutchings says the following in her post for digital marketing site Receptional:

As a visual medium GE set up a ‘Badass Machines’ account to share images of not just their own work but also amazing innovations worldwide. The whole portal of the page is that ‘engineering is cool’ it’s new and exciting and something you would want to be part of.

 

3.  The Zebra

Car insurance is yet another one of those essential items people need. When it comes to gaining brand awareness it’s typically not an industry that attracts loyal online audiences by using the digital marketing strategy and techniques that work for more common consumer products.

The Zebra has taken steps to set themselves apart from some of the other car insurance providers online. As a startup in 2013, The Zebra’s goal was to be the “Kayak for auto insurance,” by aggregating quotes to provide car insurance shoppers with the best options. Consumers are also able to do this comparison shopping anonymously and without any obligation.

One unique way The Zebra is boosting its digital marketing strategy to attract the everyday, mainstream consumer is through providing free car insurance advice on demand through their website. Their page, “Ask an Agent,” promises fast, accurate, trustworthy – and 100% free – expert answers and tips from licensed and experienced insurance agents.

 

Zebra Ask an Agent

 

Which digital marketing techniques do you see working well for “boring brands”? What are other examples boring brands you think have been successful online? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

 

17 Tips for Connecting on Social Media

17 Tips for Connecting on Social Media

One mantra I’ve adopted while working in social media is to connect with intent. I have to have a reason to connect with someone because I don’t believe in connecting for the sake of padding my numbers.

A few years ago Jennifer Hanford and I did a series of 101 posts on the subject of connecting. In this post we’ve compiled and updated them, giving you a list of great tips to use when making new connections on all of the major social media platforms.

 

Facebook

With over 1 billion people there, Facebook, of course, is the largest social network. You will have many connection opportunities that span the globe. Here are 6 tips to keep in mind.

 

When Connecting Personally…

  • When connecting with someone on a personal level, make sure you know them. I know this sounds silly, but it’s true! I get friend requests from people all the time that I have NO clue who they are…even if we live in the same town. For me, I have to be able to place how I know them – an online group, a conference, school, church, etc. If I can’t, then sorry, we won’t be connecting today.
  • See who your mutual friends are. There are some that I do know but do not agree with who they associate themselves with. People will not admit it openly, but everyone gets judged by the company they keep.
  • Are the only online to play Farmville or Frontierworld or Cooking World or some other silly Facebook game?? There are some who are only interested in the online gaming and only want to be friends so they can move up to the next level. Unless you don’t mind your newsfeed being filled with endless game requests and “so and so just beat level 1,002”, I wouldn’t accept. Unless it’s your mom. Then you have no choice.

 

When Connecting Professionally…

  • I reiterate points 1 & 2 from above – since there are over one billion people on Facebook, for your safety make sure you truly know them.
  • If you connect with someone, do not invite them to every.single.page you manage. Same goes for events. There are those out there who connect only to spam you with “Like this page” or “Like that page”. That’s screaming a one-way relationship.
  • If your competition is wanting to connect, it’s okay, but be forewarned. I always joke to keep your enemies close, but your competition closer. Yes, it may seem like a good idea to accept your competition’s request to connect, but unless you’ve activated some really detailed privacy setting, they will get to see what you are doing. You may see it as showing what all you can do, but they will see it as things they need to do better or one-up.

 

Instagram

When Instagram was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and launched in October of 2010, the service brought a whole new meaning to online sharing. Instagram, as you know, is known for its photo and video sharing (and selfies and pictures of your dinner plates). There are many ways to connect with the millions now using this network.

Instagram is a great social media platform that provides people from all over the world to share their personal photos with friends and family, and it is a great place for users with common interests to connect and come together to share and discuss content. Here are 4 main ways to connect –

 

Connect through Photographs

You’ve heard the old saying: “a picture is worth a thousand words.” And that’s absolutely true.  It is easy to connect with others by capturing the world from your viewpoint. Images allow us to connect with one another on a different platform simply by displaying a message to one another. Whether the message be about your experience at a concert or your favorite food, Instagram allows for others to discover and understand the world through photographs.

 

Connect through Exploring

One of the easiest ways to connect with others on Instagram is on the ‘Explore’ tab. This feature consists of 15 most popular ‘liked’ images from all over the world. This allows you to venture out and view images you may not see on your normal feed. While also providing different content, exploring can connect you to other users. The great thing about the explore tab is that it is constantly changing. It updates the most popular 15 pictures every few minutes, allowing us to connect to even more people.

 

Connect through Hashtags

If you are looking to connect with new Instagram users, adding a hashtag to the picture you upload is a great way to do so. Displaying a specific hashtag connects you with more like-minded people. This feature allows you to share your photo to a wider audience who probably would not have seen the photo without it. If you are at an event, use that event’s hashtag to connect with others there.

 

Connect through Stories & Live

Now that Instagram has Instagram Stories, you can tell a story while being authentic. People will see the real you. If you’re account is public, anyone following you can see these and some may just pop up in the ‘Explore’ tab. And much like Facebook’s Live option, you can go live on Instagram as well and connect live to people.

 

Twitter

I opened my first Twitter account in the fall of 2010 for the intent purpose of following University of Georgia football. Never in a million years did I think I could actually make friends and connect with businesses. It’s now my favorite social media platform to use for business. It’s the platform I’ve gotten the most clients from too.

I’ve written two previous articles on Twitter following – 8 Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter and 8 More Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter – that really touched on some general, cosmetic points. However, here are some deeper connecting tips for Twitter that will make you a more seasoned and polished Twitter user.

 

Connect with like-minded people.

In any business, reputation management is very important. People will look and judge you on who you are surrounded by. By following like-minded people, you will find a community you can grow with and learn from.

 

Tweet people you want to get to know.

Even though that person you want to meet has 100,000 followers, if you don’t tweet them and let them know you are there, they may never find you. I’ve developed relationships on Twitter with people I normally would not have access to simply because I started tweeting (and retweeting) them and started a conversation. Anyone reputable on Twitter will not ignore someone who is trying to strike up a conversation. It may take them a day or so to respond but the serious ones will respond.

 

Give credit where credit is due.

Did you like a blog article and tweet it? Give the author credit in the tweet. Liked a tweet and agreed with it? Again, credit the author in the tweet. When you credit the author it’s mentioning them and they will take notice. Taking the time to give credit to the original author or the one who shared it on Twitter (you can use “h/t” for “hat tip to”) will show that you care and are purposeful in using Twitter.

 

LinkedIn

Making connections on LinkedIn will help you realize the power LinkedIn holds as a social platform where professionals interact and engage with others.

First things first, you never have to pay to make connections on LinkedIn. The free version provides you with the same connection and networking abilities as the paid version. Secondly, you do not need to be an “open networker” to connect with anyone you wish, but know that most users prefer to connect with meaning and intent on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, LinkedIn attracts a lot of spammers, but the platform does provide easy ways to report and ban them. If you do not mind occasional spam and want to connect with a large volume of people from all over the world though, you may consider joining open networker groups.

 

Here are some of the basics to get you started:

 

Put your best foot forward with your LinkedIn Profile

  • Your profile gives people their first impressions of you so make it count!
  • Make sure your profile is complete and current with a professional picture, employment information and relevant qualifications.
  • Always be honest with the information you provide, especially if you are seeking employment or potential clients.

 

Where to find your connections on LinkedIn

  • One of the first places to find new connections is on LinkedIn’s home page when you are signed in. There is an entire section called “People You May Know.” Based on information you have filled out for your profile, LinkedIn makes suggestions for you. Do not be too surprised when it shows you people you may not really know.
  • You can also find people with whom to connect through the advanced search function. This allows you to search for people by name, company, job title or location.
  • Another way to meet people is through joining and participating in LinkedIn groups. People typically join groups in order to network with like-minded people. With a group association, it becomes easy to connect since you most likely have common interests.
  • As you connect with people, you become “1st-level” connections with them. You are then able to view their connections; their 1st-level connections are now your 2nd-level connections. You can also see when your 1st-level connections make other new connections. As a result, you now have a larger network and more people with whom you can connect directly.

 

Mind your manners when connecting on LinkedIn

  • When you are ready to connect, make sure you are sending personalized invitations. Introduce yourself when sending invitations to people you have never met, and briefly explain why you would like to connect with them.
  • When you accept someone’s invitation to connect or they accept your invitation, it is good practice to respond and thank them personally.

 

When using social networks and connecting, the quality of your own personal experiences depend very much on your own level of involvement. The more time you spend on those platforms and engaging with others, the more connections you’ll make.

 

Speaking of connections, Jenn and I would like to invite you to connect with us! You can find Jenn on Twitter at @jennghanford and myself at @memktgservices.

 

Connections make the social world go ‘round. What are some connection tips you would add?

 

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