Street Lamps Say When It’s Time to Turn in for the Night

Mom used to always say that when the street lamps came on, it was time to turn in for the night. Time for relaxation to unwind, rest and get ready for the next day. Although, in a house full of six growing up, relaxation wouldn’t be the first word that comes to mind (but we loved each other anyway). Where did those days go? Life gets so much busier as you get older, especially when you love what you do, so you become so enthralled that you lose track of time. Do you ever have those super busy days when the “street lamp” comes on way too soon and you have so much left to do? Why is it that we struggle to find balance between work and relaxation?

And for that matter, when is there a sign that tells you when to stop when it comes to social media? First off, let this blog post be a sign slap in the face that if you’re incessantly posting pictures of yourself in a bathroom, in front of the mirror at the gym or of disgusting insects, please STOP. For all other posts, just like life, social media must be balanced. Just because you want to share a bunch of content doesn’t mean you should do it all at once. If you flood the newsfeed, people will start to tune out or unfollow you altogether. Your social media strategy is a marathon that requires pacing. Set goals and use metrics to track your progress. And remember that there is always that time of day when it’s time to turn in for the night.

Sometimes You Need to “Lego” of Old Ways

After reading an article by Michael McQueen titled “Change or die”, I was inspired by Lego brand’s story of adaptation and reinvention. The short of the story is that Lego grew into the pioneer toy business, hit a really rough patch in the 1980s, and had to embrace the digital age to not only stay afloat, but evolve into the giant brand and blockbuster hit that we know today. So what did they do to get back on track? In five steps, recalibrate, refresh, reframe, re-engineer and reposition. Fancy words for…they made some big changes while still holding on to their values of inspiring play and creativity. A key element of this change was looking at the business from a different perspective. As McQueen states, “Being able to view the world from a different frame of reference is, in fact, the key to innovation and invention”. He continues, “Such fresh eyes have no trouble thinking outside the box because they have no idea what the ‘box’ even looks like yet”.

When developing a social strategy (or a business strategy for that matter) it is critical to constantly adapt and evolve. Standing still gets you nowhere, literally. If you’re having difficulty coming up with new ideas or looking at things from a different perspective, get more eyes on the prize. Poke friends, family or colleagues for new thoughts. In fact, engage with someone that you know thinks opposite you. You know, the one that you always seem to get into an argument or heated discussion with because they always contradict you. Now, that’s a place to get a new angle.

Small Plates for Big Conversation

The idea of small plates is not a new one and has been trending for over a decade. Plates where you can order more than one to grant you the satisfaction of trying a little bit of everything. I love small plates. In fact, I could live off tapas and desserts (and maybe a little Sangria) every day. So, this got me thinking. As I enjoyed a lovely small plate of crab cake at Battery Gardens in NYC, I came to the realization that small plates that can really pull you in. They are small enough to digest, extremely enjoyable, and probably end up costing you a little more than anticipated. At the end of the meal, you don’t even care the cost, because you had such a great time eating and conversing with company.

So how is this any different than social media? We are all looking for those “small plates” on social media that get us in the conversation. For businesses, this means developing bits and pieces of content to distribute more frequently as opposed to waiting for huge campaigns to hit. Don’t serve the main dish and be done. It’s the small, digestible pieces of content that are going to make your customers happiest and give you the biggest return.

Measure 110% to Reach the 1% of Audience That Matters

Social media is changing the way businesses can, and must, engage with their consumers” (Powell, Dimos, Groves, 2011, p. 39). The audience is the most important aspect of developing a social media program and they can be categorized into three levels: influencers, individuals and consumers. Objectives must be set to attract these audiences by understanding what appeals to them, when and where. They should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) such as “Shift brand perceptions to a more youthful image to drive product consideration and lead generation on the brand website 5% by the end of the program”.

Once social media program objectives are set, key performance indicators should be attached to each one to monitor level of success. Measurement is essential to the overall marketing effort and determines what is worth the investment. Metrics such as overall sentiment, impressions, reach, likes, shares, video clicks, retention rate, engagement rate, website traffic, @mentions, hashtag use and even attendance rates at events or stores should be tracked. Online vendors such as Radian6, Adobe Social, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, etc. can assist in monitoring and tracking total engagement. Davis (2012) indicates that different campaign metrics should be used to match objectives:

  • If you want to measure awareness, use metrics such as volume and reach.
  • If you want to measure engagement, use metrics such as retweets and comments.
  • If you want to drive website traffic, use metrics such as clicks and conversations.

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For monitoring of an ongoing campaign, there needs to be constant checkpoints. I’d recommend tracking activity weekly and comparing it week-over-week. Davis (2012) states, “Depending on your schedule, monthly or quarterly reporting may work best, but weekly reporting may work well for others. No matter the schedule, make sure you’re checking in regularly on your metrics”. Weekly frequency will easily allow the company to modify posts accordingly so as to have a better impact moving forward increasing the likelihood of campaign success. For example, if your campaign is a concert series with messaging driving ticket sales, and the tickets sell out sooner than expected, the messaging strategy must now change to drive awareness and excitement. When reporting, it’s important to compare the numbers to what you expected to achieve by this point in the campaign and how they relate to competitors or benchmarks. The top line question should ask how the campaign is moving the needle for the company.

Some longer-term metrics that can impact major shifts in future strategy include amplification rate (number of times a piece of content is shared) and conversion rate. The amplification rate long-term will tell a company what content works best. With the right demographic data collected it can also indicate which groups are most likely to share to better utilize virality for the future. Conversion metrics categorized by lead generation or sales is a long-term signifier if the social strategy is gaining enough ROI for future investment. Warren (2015) states, “Metrics are not just a tool for observing what is, but for exploring what could be”.  What could be is that social media campaigns drive more sales than any other media spend. The trick is to figure out how based on tracked and monitors online behavior over time.

Social media metrics is a dream come true for marketers and managers because it allows the customer to tell you exactly what like want and what they like. No more money wasted on guess work. A key rule of thumb to note is the “90-9-1” ratio which indicates that 90% of visitors will consumer content, 9% will engage periodically and only 1% will drive the conversation. The challenge will be in converting more of the 90% to that 1% as brand advocates. As Powell et al. (2011) states, “the ability to get their [audience] attention of a particular brand is only going to get harder and harder” (p. 36).

Publically Safeguarding Private Data

Where social media bring benefits, it also brings risks. Acceptable online social behaviors are subjective and as companies increase their social media interactions, so too raises associated privacy and ethical concerns.

A key component of all social media campaigns is to ensure your content is directed to the right audience via such targeting demographics as age, sex, location, income, job industry and interests. Madden (2014) states, “Social security numbers are universally considered to be the most sensitive piece of personal information, while media tastes and purchasing habits are among the least sensitive categories of data”.  As indicated by the below chart, physical location, health information, private phone and email messages, and birth date are some of the top sensitive issues and I will add income as data in need of protecting.

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While 55% of Americans are willing to share information in order to use online services for free, the rest have concerns with the protection of their privacy. Madden (2014) continues, “Across the board, there is a universal lack of confidence among adults in the security of everyday communications channels”.  The Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report adds “the highest concentration of online security threats are on mass audience sites, including social media”. In order to get customers to engage with social platforms, websites, mobiles apps or online program offerings, companies must put into place safeguards that reassures privacy, security of information, and builds trust. Such next steps include:

  • Allowing individuals to set their own privacy settings and defaulting any platform updates to the highest of privacy settings.
  • Ensuring that their information will not be sold or shared with third-parties.
  • Evaluate data encryption processes and data loss prevention technologies to ensure they are secure.
  • Make transparent your use of their information by posting policies as well as the data protection technologies that are being used to safeguard the information.

If these steps are not taken, companies are at risk for a breach of company trust and confidentiality, loss of brand reputation, online brand defamation, and attacks and law suits aimed at the company, just to name a few. It is highly recommended that companies build strong social ethics policies and guidelines that are not only distributed company-wide but also followed. Appoint a team to monitor and audit online social behavior. Build a culture where social behavior online is just as important as offline. In fact, if everyone on the team has a say in developing the policies, they may be more likely to be followed.

Essie “Steel-ing the Scene” on Vine

Impress me in six seconds. Go! This is the goal of Vine, the app that lets you create 6-second videos inviting you to “create short, beautiful, looping videos in a simple and fun way” to share with friends and family. Vine is the strategic way for companies to tell their stories to a younger generation, ages 18-24, with attention spans shorter than goldfish. With over 40 million users, Vine is a platform that businesses should embrace.

One such company that has not yet jumped on the Vine bandwagon is nail polish giant Essie. With a vast social presence of over 1.3M followers on Facebook, 211K on Twitter, 10K+ on YouTube, 42k+ on Pinterest, and 1M on Instagram, there is clearly an opportunity for Essie to utilize some of their assets on Vine. How-to and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) videos are so popular right now and Essie is able to align with both. Topics could include hand care how-to videos or DIY nail art which are highly shareable. So, over the last 48 hours I took the liberty of exploring and creating Vine videos for the brand. Four Vine videos were originally produced on an iPhone 5 (low-quality equipment but it gets the job done) and posted once each day. Click here to view them all:

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The objective behind these videos was to raise awareness that nail color is the best accessory and that Essie has the perfect shade for every style. Messaging varied to establish the product, its features as well as its function. Both stop-motion and regular video were used but there are so many different types that Essie could tap into.

With a young, female target audience that is chic and vibrant, the video topics are situations that every woman has or can picture themselves experiencing. “There are over 300 colors, how do I choose?” “I don’t need any more nail polish, but I don’t have THIS color.” “What color would match best with my outfit?” These are messages they and their friends will relate to. Even my friends chimed in on one of my Instagram posts:

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In addition to simple videos with brief, colorful copy, I tagged @essiepolish in each post, added the post to the “Style” channel, and used the following hashtag strategy to ensure the content would be found in search: #essielove #essie #essienailpolish #essieaddict #nailpolish #nailart

In the short time frame of 48 hours, my 4 videos garnered 120 loops and 3 likes (and counting) and one Instagram post with 12 likes and 2 comments (note that my Instagram handle is private); but I have a small following. With the audience that Essie has, there is an increased reach potential. This content should be measured on total number of loops, likes, comments and if they post their Vines on their Twitter feed, they can garner even more favorites and retweets.

Essie is a brand known for its cleverly named bright colors proving that beauty is not just a pretty face. There is a color for every occasion from “chillato” on a hot summer day to “blushing bride” on your wedding day. Essie wants to be a part of every moment. Get your favorite colors today!

Eat Ice Cream in the “Sweetest” Community

When it comes to relationship building, Dairy Queen (DQ®) knows how to make you feel like part of the club. The Sweetest Club in the Solar System to be exact.

Since 1940, DQ, subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., has been serving great tasting food and scrumptious treats that all started with an experimental soft frozen dairy product. Since then, the company has evolved into the franchise giant that it is today with over 6,000 restaurants in the U.S., Canada and 18 other countries. Its success has revolved around pairing their products with enjoyable moments in life like a little league celebration or a birthday party. Their mission is clear: “Fan Food not Fast Food™”. Their recipe for success is simple: Satisfied customers lead to successful restaurants.

What makes DQ’s strategy so successful is that they listen and celebrate the fans. According to MarketWatch (2015), “The Cotton Candy Blizzard Treat makes its return as May’s Blizzard of the Month following a landslide vote from the DQ brand’s most loyal fans” as part of celebrating their 75th Fanniversary. They even offered a free cone day on March 16th, 2015 in honor of the Fanniversary. Barry Westrum, executive VP of marketing, states, “This is all about connecting with our fans and not just about telling them, but showing them how much we appreciate their loyalty” and DQ will continue celebrating their fans by surprising and delighting them throughout the year.

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DQ’s mobile app, website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Tumbler pages have wisely been executed to support their current #SUMMERNOW campaign. Their #SUMMERNOW campaign is a nation-wide call-to-action to grab a Blizzard, declare your favorite, and share it with your friends encouraging them to share their favorite as well. I declared Oreo Blizzard my favorite. Share yours here.

#SummerNow

DQ is taking advantage of their key product, the Blizzard as a competitive advantage over its competitors, Basking Robbins and Carvel. In just its first year, more than 175 billion Blizzard® treats were sold. They also capitalized on the summer season for their campaign which is when the urge for ice cream surges. It’s the right message at the right time.

Personally their Best Blizzard Menu Ever campaign is conjunction with #SUMMERNOW is genius and I would recommend that DQ take a page from Doritos playbook asking their fans to come up with new Blizzard flavors. Since a key target audience for ice cream is children, it would be great if they could tie it into a science or culinary lesson and make it part of school curriculum for a day. Another suggestion would be to develop creative that shows more family celebrations incorporating a more lifestyle approach to reach parents. Parents should see the content and think “I’m going to surprise my kids with ice cream tonight”. A final idea is to be inspired by Starbucks’ previous “Tweet-a-coffee” program and allow people to share a Blizzard via tweet. It’s social currency that is starting to trend and DQ can be at the forefront of the movement.